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American Health Care Treats Canadians Who Cannot Wait

Mon, 2019-07-15 13:08

Canadian Medicare, our northern neighbor’s universal health care system, generally receives rave reviews from proponents of nationalized or socialized health care, but the Fraser Institute found that more than 63,000 Canadians left their country to have surgery in 2016.

As Americans contemplate overturning our health system in favor of one similar to Canada’s, we must ask why so many leave.

The Canadian system consistently ranks low or lowest across numerous metrics in the Commonwealth Fund’s extensive survey on health care. With regards to specialists and surgeries, the United States ranked best or nearly best.

The Fraser Institute study did not examine where Canadians traveled for surgery, but given proximity and our much better metrics, most probably came here.

Surgeries are scheduled after patients are seen by the surgeon, and most people see surgeons only after a referral by either their primary care physician in America, or their general practitioner in Canada. In the United States, 70% of patients are able to be seen by specialists less than four weeks after a referral. In Canada, less than 40% were seen inside of four weeks.

After being advised that they need a procedure done, only about 35% of Canadians had their surgery within a month, whereas in the United States, 61% did. After four months, about 97% of Americans were able to have their surgery, whereas Canada struggled to achieve 80%.

America is significantly outperforming Canada in surgery wait times even as it’s likely that tens of thousands of Canadians come here to use the American system.

General surgery, procedures such as appendectomies, cholecystectomies, and hernia repairs, make up the largest portion of those who leave Canada for care. Based on the latest available date from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the total Canadian case load for many of these procedures is about 10% of America’s.

America’s health system is certainly flawed and in need of reform, but there is clearly something working well enough that our system, despite already treating 10 times more cases of appendicitis, can absorb the dissatisfied Canadians.

This has been a consistent trend since at least 2014, when an estimated 52,513 Canadians left for their medical care. In 2015, the number went down slightly to 45,619. 2016 exceeded the 2015 number with an estimated 63,459 patients seeking care elsewhere.

Moreover, both countries have had comparable rates of private health insurance coverage for the past 20 years, roughly 60-70%. But the Canadian private insurance market is entirely supplemental–it covers co-payments for services not covered or not entirely covered by the provincial insurance. Primary coverage, which is the predominant form of insurance in America, is all but illegal in Canada, and would be under “Medicare for All” as well.

In the United States, government insurance covers gaps left by the private market. Private insurance is the norm and Medicare and Medicaid provide a health insurance safety net for elderly or low-income Americans.

In Canada, government-provided Medicare is the primary form of insurance, and private plans merely fill in gaps in coverage for those with more disposable income or employee benefits. The two systems are mirror opposites of one another.

Health care is a product of the labor of physicians, nurses, technicians, and a whole ecosystem of health care workers. If making the government the primary payer for these services is so smart, why does the universal system next door shed patients by the tens of thousands to ours?

American health care can be improved and should be; American health care performs about middle-of-the-pack for many other items on the Commonwealth Fund survey. There are many inefficiencies, often government-imposed, that increase the cost of health care and restrict the insurance market.

The administration already has loosened some regulations that will give employers more flexibility in providing health benefits and has begun to push for price transparency which also should bring down costs.  

Whatever the case may be, reforming American health care should focus on enabling our strengths. Under no circumstance should we tear it down and build it anew to resemble the system whose citizens escape by the tens of thousands just to be treated in a timely manner.

The post American Health Care Treats Canadians Who Cannot Wait appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump’s Social Media Summit Spotlights Anti-Conservative Bias by Tech Giants

Mon, 2019-07-15 13:06

Donald Trump is America’s first true social media president, so it was only natural that he would convene the first-ever social media summit at the White House. I was honored to attend Thursday.

With few details made public before the event, many national news outlets sharply criticized the meeting – just as you might expect virulent anti-Trump journalists would.

CNN warned that “right-wing extremists” would invade the White House. The New York Times labeled attendees at the summit “right-wing social media trolls.” Vanity Fair even dubbed it a “troll convention.” And NBC News accused participants of “spreading false information.”

But those so-called journalists were the ones spreading fake news. Why? Because their power is threatened by social media’s reach and influence. Social media empower Americans to bypass these traditional gatekeepers with a few taps on a smartphone.

As Trump told us at the summit: “You communicate directly with our citizens without having to go through the fake news filter. It’s very simple. Together, you reach more people than any television broadcast network, by far. It’s not even close.”

Amazingly, attendees at the social media summit – through their personal accounts and organizations – reach more than 500 million people around the world. That’s an astonishing number and one of the reasons I’m glad Trump struck a celebratory tone at the summit.

The overwhelming majority of summit participants – about 250 digital leaders, social media influencers, and members of Congress – aren’t trolls and certainly aren’t extremists. But branding us as such serves a purpose: to undermine our credibility.

What I saw at the social media summit were freedom-loving Americans who believe deeply in the principles articulated in the First Amendment.

There’s no question that some attendees push the limits and engage in behavior I don’t support. But they’re doing something truly American – exercising their free speech. And they’re doing it through the transformative power of social media.

No one has benefited more from social media than Trump himself. His use of Twitter allows him to communicate directly with the American people, bypassing hostile journalists who put their own spin on it. He’s been able to wrest control away from the mainstream media with a single tweet.

“We hardly do press releases anymore,” Trump said, explaining his communications style. “People don’t pick it up. It’s me, same. If I put it out on social media, it’s like an explosion.”

Although Twitter gets most of the attention, Trump and conservatives are also having success on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, where increasing numbers of Americans get their news and information.

This is why concerns about bias and censorship from those who run the tech giants are so important and worrisome.

At the Heritage Foundation, where I serve as vice president for communications and executive editor of The Daily Signal, we have sometimes found our content removed by social media companies. Fortunately, we successfully used market pressure to reverse those poor decisions.

Last year, for example, Facebook removed a Daily Signal video of a pediatrician warning about the dangers of puberty blockers for children. The video skyrocketed to 70 million views at a staggering pace. Then suddenly it was gone – disappeared entirely from our Facebook Watch page.

We were outraged and let Facebook know this was unacceptable. It was thanks to the pressure we applied to Facebook that the video was eventually restored – with an apology.

More recently, a Heritage Foundation employee was suspended from Twitter for allegedly engaging in “hateful conduct” by using a pronoun the company considered “misgendering.”

FYI, #ResourceBank attendees – this is the outrageous tweet that landed me in Twitter Prison. pic.twitter.com/5U1C8DnFYL

— Greg Scott (@GScottSays) May 30, 2019

The accusation was absurd, and several news organizations pointed out the ridiculousness of the situation. As public pressure mounted on Twitter to reverse its decision, Twitter restored the account and apologized to the user it suspended.

There are numerous other examples of social media companies responding to market pressure to change their practices and reverse their decisions. Notably, these companies have hired conservatives to address their shortcomings and respond to such concerns.

Still, many users remain frustrated with their own experiences and the incredible power of left-leaning Silicon Valley to control their ability to communicate.

There are better alternatives than government to address these challenges. Everyone who cares about free speech, regardless of their political beliefs, should want social media companies to be responsive to their users, not government. And conservatives especially should be fearful of heavy-handed regulation as a solution to their concerns.

Trump promised to bring the social media companies to Washington for a follow-up meeting in the next month where he would push for “more transparency, more accountability, and more freedom.”

This article was originally published on Fox News.

The post Trump’s Social Media Summit Spotlights Anti-Conservative Bias by Tech Giants appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

The Moment Kavanaugh’s Foes Overplayed Their Hand

Mon, 2019-07-15 12:38

At 7:33 p.m., a lawyer named Michael Avenatti tweeted:

I represent a woman with credible information regarding Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. We will be demanding the opportunity to present testimony to the committee and will likewise be demanding that Judge and others be subpoenaed to testify. The nomination must be withdrawn.

Avenatti, who had become an anti-Trump hero for his hardball representation of the porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal tangles with the president, promised “significant evidence of multiple house parties” in the 1980s at which Kavanaugh would “participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs in order to allow a ‘train’ of men to subsequently gang rape them.”

Multiple witnesses would corroborate the allegation, he said, and they must be called to testify.

As far as the chattering classes of D.C. were concerned, if Kavanaugh’s confirmation had any life left in it before Sunday evening, it was indisputably dead now.

For Kavanaugh, the moment was brutal. This was precisely why he had feared delaying a vote on his confirmation. Delays allowed his opponents to troll for people who’d be willing to say something—anything—to discredit him. Time was not his friend.

>>> Purchase the book, “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court”

He wasn’t worried that the White House would pull his nomination. There may have been no White House in history more temperamentally suited to this fight.

But that was only half the battle. He knew enough about U.S. senators to worry about their commitment throughout a long and unrelenting smear campaign.

In fact, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who had served as a de facto adviser as Kavanaugh met with other senators, let him know that some senators were taking the Julie Swetnick allegations seriously. It was one of the only times that Kavanaugh reacted loudly, incredulous that anyone could believe such ridiculous claims.

He wasn’t reading the stories, not even the initial story in the Washington Post. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had advised him early in the process to turn off the news. But from the accounts he was given, he wondered who this person they were describing was. He had his flaws, but the media’s portrayals of him were simply unrecognizable.

Kavanaugh had to act, so he issued a response to Ramirez’s allegations:

This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.

The presumption of innocence survives in America’s criminal courts, but it seemed to have vanished from the court of public opinion by the time of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The #MeToo movement had drawn attention to the serious difficulties women had experienced in reporting sexual assault and harassment, but activists were now demanding complete credulity in response to any accusation, despite the prominent and recent cases of fabricated sexual assault charges against the Duke lacrosse team and a fraternity at the University of Virginia.

When asked, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, refused to say that Kavanaugh enjoyed a presumption of innocence, suggesting, remarkably enough, that his judicial philosophy made him somehow less credible. “I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases,” she said.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., was even more direct, stating the next day that Kavanaugh “bears the burden of disproving these allegations.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, “There is no presumption of innocence or guilt when you have a nominee before you.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks alongside Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., at a protest against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination outside the Supreme Court, Sept. 28, 2018. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It wasn’t just senators. Faculty, students, and alumni of Yale Law School, obviously unmoved by the collegiate connection, supported Ramirez’s call for an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh.

Four dozen faculty members issued a letter demanding an immediate halt to the confirmation process. Professors in the law school canceled 31 classes to accommodate students busy with a sit-in. And more than 1,000 female Yale Law School graduates signed a letter supporting Kavanaugh’s accusers.

Corroboration of the accusations could wait; signatures were being collected even before the New Yorker published its article about Ramirez.

>>> Watch or attend The Heritage Foundation’s July 16 event on the new book, “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court”

At the same time, it began to appear that Ramirez’s story might not hold up under scrutiny. The New Yorker article itself contained details that undercut its credibility.

It acknowledged that Ramirez had “significant gaps” in her memories, that she was reluctant to speak with certainty about Kavanaugh’s role in the incident, that it took her six days of “assessing her memories” and consulting with an attorney provided by Democrats to name Kavanaugh, and that a robust effort to find eyewitnesses failed to turn up anyone who could confirm that Kavanaugh was even present at the party.

Four other classmates, two of whom were allegedly involved in the incident and a third whose husband was allegedly involved, all said the story was ridiculous.

“The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending,” said her classmate Dan Murphy.

Karen Yarasavage said she was best friends with Ramirez at the time and had never heard of the incident. “We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening,” she said.

Perhaps most damaging to the credibility of the story is the effect heavy drinking may have had on Ramirez’s recollection of what took place in 1983 or 1984. Ramirez admitted she “quickly became inebriated” at the party, ending up “on the floor, foggy and slurring her words.”

Protesters flood the steps of the Supreme Court hours before Brett Kavanaugh’s final confirmation vote in the Senate. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Acknowledging Ramirez’s extremely impaired mental state and never quoting her directly and plainly saying that Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself, Farrow and Mayer nevertheless draw surprisingly strong conclusions about Kavanaugh’s guilt.

The facts that they actually present are that “a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction” and that Ramirez remembered being on the floor flanked by that student and another male student. They go on to report that a “third male then exposed himself to her” and quote Ramirez as saying, “I remember a penis being in front of my face.” Kavanaugh was standing to her side, they write, and they quote Ramirez as saying, “Brett was laughing,” “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.”

National Review’s Charles Cooke wrote that he was “struggling to remember reading a less responsible piece of ‘journalism’ in a major media outlet.”

Even The New York Times admitted the story’s failures. Noting that the New Yorker had not been able to confirm with other witnesses that Kavanaugh was even at the party, the paper conducted its own interviews with “several dozen people” but “could find no one with firsthand knowledge” of the allegations.

The Times learned that “Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.”

It was at this moment that a number of people on Kavanaugh’s White House team suspected the anti-Kavanaugh forces had finally overplayed their hand. The tide was turning.

Kavanaugh, as he had done from the beginning, stayed on offense, sending a letter to Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that made it clear he would fight back as a matter of principle to clear his name:

These are smears, pure and simple. And they debase our public discourse. But they are also a threat to any man or woman who wishes to serve our country. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service. As I told the committee during my hearing, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last-minute character assassination will not succeed.

Kavanaugh’s defiant statement called to mind what Clarence Thomas said to Sen. Hatch at his confirmation hearing:

I’d rather die than withdraw from the process. Not for the purpose of serving on the Supreme Court, but for the purpose of not being driven out of this process. I will not be scared. I don’t like bullies. I’ve never run from bullies. I never cry uncle, and I’m not going to cry uncle today, whether I want to be on the Supreme Court or not.

Kavanaugh wasn’t going to cry “uncle” either, but would he make it to the Thursday hearings? The media, which had sided overwhelmingly with his accusers, were defaming him around the clock. Something had to be done.

This edited excerpt has been taken with permission from Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino’s new book, “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court.”

The post The Moment Kavanaugh’s Foes Overplayed Their Hand appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Podcast: This Liberal’s Been Married to a Conservative for Decades. Here’s Her Advice.

Mon, 2019-07-15 03:01

Jeanne Safer, author of the new book “I Love You, but I Hate Your Politics,” joins The Daily Signal Podcast to discuss how we can maintain relationships with friends and family despite political differences.

Safer, a psychologist, should know: While liberal herself, she has long been married to National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser.

“Never start any conversation with, ‘How could you possibly think … ‘” Safer explains, “even if you’re not shouting. Or, ‘Did you hear the obnoxious tweet or the stupid thing this person said?’ These are not conversation starters, they are insults. And your partner, the person you care about, will interpret them that way.”

Plus, we cover these news stories:

The Daily Signal Podcast is available on the Ricochet Audio Network. You also can listen on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or your favorite podcast app. All of our podcasts can be found at DailySignal.com/podcasts. Enjoy the show!

The post Podcast: This Liberal’s Been Married to a Conservative for Decades. Here’s Her Advice. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

I Went to a Socialism Conference. Here Are My 6 Observations.

Mon, 2019-07-15 03:01

While you were enjoying your Fourth of July weekend, I was attending a national conference on socialism.

Why? Because socialism is having its moment on the left.

Since there’s often confusion as to what socialism really is, I decided to attend the Socialism 2019 conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend.

The conference, which had the tag line “No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries,” contained a cross-section of the most pertinent hard-left thought in America. Among the sponsors were the Democratic Socialists of America and Jacobin, a quarterly socialist magazine.

The walls of the various conference rooms were adorned with posters of Karl Marx and various depictions of socialist thinkers and causes. 

Most of the conference attendees appeared to be white, but identity politics were a major theme throughout—especially in regard to gender.

At the registration desk, attendees were given the option of attaching a “preferred pronoun” sticker on their name tags.

In addition, the multiple-occupancy men’s and women’s restrooms were relabeled as “gender neutral,” and men and women were using both. Interestingly enough, the signs above the doors were still labeled with the traditional “men’s” and “women’s” signs until they were covered over with home-made labels.

One of the paper labels read: “This bathroom has been liberated from the gender binary!”

While the panelists and attendees were certainly radical, and often expressed contempt for the Democratic Party establishment, it was nevertheless clear how seamlessly they blended traditional Marxist thought with the agenda of what’s becoming the mainstream left.

They did so by weaving their views with the identity politics that now dominate on college campuses and in the media and popular entertainment. The culture war is being used as a launching point for genuinely socialist ideas, many of which are re-emerging in the 21st century.

Here are six takeaways from the conference:

1. Serious About Socialism

A common line from those on the modern left is that they embrace “democratic socialism,” rather than the brutal, totalitarian socialism of the former Soviet Union or modern North Korea and Venezuela. Sweden is usually cited as their guide for what it means in practice, though the reality is that these best-case situations show the limits of socialism, not its success.

It’s odd, too, for those who insist that “diversity is our strength” to point to the culturally homogenous Nordic countries as ideal models anyway.

It’s clear, however, that while many socialists insist that their ideas don’t align with or condone authoritarian societies, their actual ideology—certainly that of those speaking at the conference—is in no sense distinct.

Of the panels I attended, all featured speakers who made paeans to traditional communist theories quoted Marx, and bought into the ideology that formed the basis of those regimes.

Mainstream politicians may dance around the meaning of the word “socialist,” but the intellectuals and activists who attended Socialism 2019 could have few doubts about the fact that Marxism formed the core of their beliefs.

Some sought to dodge the issue. One was David Duhalde, the former political director of Our Revolution, an activist group that supports Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and that was an offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Duhalde said that Sanders is a creation of the socialist movement—having had direct ties to the Socialist Party of America in his youth—but hasn’t maintained an official connection to socialist political organizations throughout his political career.

Sanders’ position, according to Duhalde, is “anti-totalitarian” and that he favors a model based on “neither Moscow, nor the United States, at least in this formation.”

It’s a convenient way of condemning capitalist-oriented societies while avoiding connections to obviously tyrannical ones.

It was also difficult to mistake the sea of red shirts and posters of Marx that adorned the walls at the conference—or the occasional use of the word “comrades”—as anything other than an embrace of genuine socialism, but with a uniquely modern twist.

2. Gender and Identity Politics Are Ascendant

Transgenderism, gender nonconformity, and abolishing traditional family structures were huge issues at Socialism 2019.

One panel, “Social Reproduction Theory and Gender Liberation,” addressed how the traditional family structure reinforced capitalism and contended that the answer was to simply abolish families.

Corrie Westing, a self-described “queer socialist feminist activist based in Chicago working as a home-birth midwife,” argued that traditional family structures propped up oppression and that the modern transgender movement plays a critical part in achieving true “reproductive justice.”

Society is in a moment of “tremendous political crisis,” one that “really demands a Marxism that’s up to the par of explaining why our socialist project is leading to ending oppression,” she said, “and we need a Marxism that can win generations of folks that can be radicalized by this moment.”

That has broad implications for feminism, according to Westing, who said that it’s important to fight for transgender rights as essential to the whole feminist project—seemingly in a direct shot at transgender-exclusionary radical feminists, who at a Heritage Foundation event in January argued that sex is biological, not a societal construct, and that transgenderism is at odds with a genuine feminism.

She contended that economics is the basis of what she called “heteronormativity.”

Pregnancy becomes a tool of oppression, she said, as women who get pregnant and then engage in child rearing are taken out of the workforce at prime productive ages and then are taken care of by an economic provider.

Thus, the gender binary is reinforced, Westing said.

She insisted that the answer to such problems is to “abolish the family.” The way to get to that point, she said, is by “getting rid of capitalism” and reorganizing society around what she called “queer social reproduction.”

“When we’re talking about revolution, we’re really connecting the issues of gender justice as integral to economic and social justice,” Westing said.

She then quoted a writer, Sophie Lewis, who in a new book, “Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family,” embraced “open-sourced, fully collaborative gestation.”

3. Open Borders Is Becoming a Litmus Test

It’s perhaps not surprising that socialists embrace open borders. After all, that’s becoming a much more mainstream position on the left in general.

The AFL-CIO used to support immigration restrictions until it flipped in 2000 and called for illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship.

As recently as 2015, Sanders rejected the idea of open borders as a ploy to impoverish Americans.

But Justin Akers-Chacon, a socialist activist, argued on a panel, “A Socialist Case for Open Borders,” that open borders are not only a socialist idea, but vital to the movement. 

Akers-Chacon said that while capital has moved freely between the United States and Central and South America, labor has been contained and restricted.

He said that while working-class people have difficulty moving across borders, high-skilled labor and “the 1%” are able to move freely to other countries.

South of the border, especially in Mexico and Honduras, Akers-Chacon said, there’s a stronger “class-consciousness, as part of cultural and historical memory exists in the working class.”

“My experiences in Mexico and my experiences working with immigrant workers, and my experiences with people from different parts of this region, socialist politics are much more deeply rooted,” he said.

That has implications for the labor movement.

Despite past attempts to exclude immigrants, Akers-Chacon said, it’s important for organized labor to embrace them. He didn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. 

For instance, he said one of the biggest benefits of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was that there was a brief boost in union membership amid a more general decline in unionism.

Besides simply boosting unions, the influx “changed the whole AFL-CIO position on immigrants, [which was] still backwards, restrictive, anti-immigrant,” Akers-Chacon said.

“So, there’s a correlation between expanding rights for immigrants and the growth, and confidence, and militancy of the labor movement as a whole,” he said.

4. ‘Clickbait’ Communism Is Being Used to Propagandize Young Americans

The magazine Teen Vogue has come under fire recently for flattering profiles of Karl Marx and promoting prostitution as a career choice, among other controversial pieces.

It would be easy to write these articles off as mere “clickbait,” but it’s clear that the far-left nature of its editorials—and its attempt to reach young people with these views—is genuine.

Teen Vogue hosted a panel at Socialism 2019, “System Change, Not Climate Change: Youth Climate Activists in Conversation with Teen Vogue.”

?? Teen Vogue panel SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE at the @socialismconf with @SatansJacuzzi @TeenVogue (Lucy) @SunriseMvmtChi (Sally) and me @usclimatestrike! Thanks @haymarketbooks! pic.twitter.com/oxyYIwv7tY

— Haven Coleman (@havenruthie) July 8, 2019

The panel moderator was Lucy Diavolo, news and politics editor at the publication, who is transgender.

“I know there’s maybe a contradiction in inviting Teen Vogue to a socialism conference … especially because the youth spinoff brand is a magazine so associated with capitalist excess,” Diavolo said. “If you’re not familiar with our work, I encourage you to read Teen Vogue’s coverage of social justice issues, capitalism, revolutionary theory, and Karl Marx, or you can check out the right-wing op-eds that accuse me of ‘clickbait communism’ and teaching your daughters Marxism and revolution.”

The panel attendees responded enthusiastically.

“Suffice to say, the barbarians are beyond the gates. We are in the tower,” Diavolo boasted.

5. The Green Movement Is Red

It’s perhaps no surprise that an openly socialist member of Congress is pushing for the Green New Deal—which would essentially turn the U.S. into a command-and-control economy reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti recently said, according to The Washington Post: “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.”

“Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti asked Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president in the Democratic primary. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Economic transformation barely disguised as a way to address environmental concerns appears to be the main point.

One of the speakers on the Teen Vogue climate panel, Sally Taylor, is a member of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-oriented environmental activist group that made headlines in February when several elementary school-age members of the group confronted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., about her lack of support for the Green New Deal.

The other speaker on the Teen Vogue climate panel was Haven Coleman, a 13-year-old environmental activist who has received favorable coverage for leading the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in March. She was open about the system change she was aiming for to address climate change.

She noted during her remarks that she was receiving cues from her mother, who she said was in attendance.

Haven said the answer to the climate change problem was moving on from our “capitalistic society” to something “other than capitalism.”

Interestingly, none of the glowing media profiles of Haven or the Climate Strike mentioned a link to socialism or abolishing capitalism.

6. Socialism Can’t Be Ignored as a Rising Ethos on the Left

According to a recent Gallup survey, 4 in 10 Americans have a positive view of socialism. Support among Democrats is even higher than among the general population, with a majority of Democrats saying they prefer socialism to capitalism.

But many who say they want socialism rather than capitalism struggle to define what those terms mean and change their views once asked about specific policies.

As another Gallup poll from 2018 indicated, many associate socialism with vague notions of “equality,” rather than as government control over the means of production in the economy.

What’s clear from my observations at Socialism 2019 is that traditional Marxists have successfully melded their ideology with the identity politics and culture war issues that animate modern liberalism—despite still being quite far from the beliefs of the average citizen.

Socialists at the conference focused more on social change, rather than electoral politics, but there were still many core public policy issues that animated them; notably, “Medicare for All” and government run-health care, some kind of Green New Deal to stop global warming (and more importantly, abolish capitalism), open borders to increase class consciousness and promote transnational solidarity, removing all restrictions on—and publicly funding—abortion, and breaking down social and legal distinctions between the sexes.

They were particularly able to weave their issues together through the thread of “oppressor versus oppressed” class conflict—for instance, supporting government-run health care meant also unquestioningly supporting unfettered abortion and transgender rights.

Though their analyses typically leaned more heavily on economic class struggle and determinism than what one would expect from more mainstream progressives, there wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.

The post I Went to a Socialism Conference. Here Are My 6 Observations. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Iran Is Using Russian ‘Gray Zone’ Tactics, in Echoes of Ukraine War

Sun, 2019-07-14 12:00

KYIV, Ukraine—The recent military tension between the U.S. and Iran underscores a new era of conflict, some military officials and analysts say, in which a country’s power on the world stage is no longer measured solely by economic clout, military force, or even diplomatic sway. 

Rather, the audacious use of misinformation to shape public opinion at home and abroad allows countries like Iran and Russia to punch well above their hard and soft power weight classes in shaping world events. 

To that end, experts say Iran has put into practice lessons in hybrid warfare that Moscow field-tested on the battlefields of Ukraine and later unleashed against Western democracies.

“Iran’s attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf resemble, in their intent, Russia’s hybrid warfare operations that we have seen in Ukraine and elsewhere,” said Nataliya Bugayova, Russia research fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank.

“Russia and Iran use hybrid warfare operations to advance their broader aims while trying to obfuscate reality on the ground and prevent the West from taking action to defend its interests,” Bugayova said, adding that Iran “has a history of learning from Russia on the battlefield.”

In this new era of hybrid warfare, adversaries are able to threaten American security interests and undermine the U.S.-led democratic world without resorting to direct military action. 

Instead, by shifting the burden of conflict escalation onto the U.S., practitioners of hybrid warfare test whether American leaders are willing to retaliate against nonlethal, “gray zone” activities with lethal military force.

“Future confrontations between major powers may most often occur below the level of armed conflict. In this environment, economic competition, influence campaigns, paramilitary actions, cyber intrusions, and political warfare will likely become more prevalent,” Navy Rear Adm. Jeffrey Czerewko, deputy director for global operations at the Joint Staff, writes in the Pentagon’s recently released, unclassified assessment of Russia’s strategic intentions.

Since 2014, Russia has used Ukraine as a testing ground for both its modern conventional and hybrid warfare doctrines, providing a case study for the new kinds of security threats the U.S. and its Western allies can anticipate from their adversaries. 

Iran, too, has turned to gray zone tactics to offset its own inferiority to the U.S. in terms of conventional military power. 

Tehran’s recent docket of gray zone activities include unconventional attacks by proxies, as well as nonlethal acts of aggression like the sabotage of oil tankers and pipelines. 

At every turn, Iran masks its operations behind the veil of barely plausible propaganda yarns—a key tenet of Russian hybrid warfare. So, too, is the concept of victim playing—the appropriation of false victimhood to justify one’s own bad behavior—which Russia has frequently invoked to justify its global hybrid warfare offensive as a legitimate counterbalance against alleged American imperialism.

U.S. warplanes launch from the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier off the coast of Syria, headed to destroy Islamic State targets. (Photos: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

“There are certainly parallels between Iran’s activities in the Persian Gulf and Russia’s activities in Ukraine, in the sense that they are both using clandestine operations as part of a broader conflict,” said Eugene Chausovsky, a geopolitical analyst who specializes in the former Soviet Union for the U.S.-based security think tank Stratfor.

Both U.S. and Iranian leaders say they don’t want war, but the prospect of an accidental conflict is increasing, experts warn. 

That prognosis nearly came to fruition on June 20 when Iran shot down a U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle with a surface-to-air missile. U.S. officials protested, saying the surveillance drone was operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. 

President Donald Trump authorized retaliatory airstrikes but reportedly called them off with only 10 minutes to spare. Ultimately, the U.S. opted for a retaliatory cyberattack, instead. 

On Wednesday, tensions flared again as Iranian gunboats reportedly attacked a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

“Such types of unconventional and clandestine operations are likely only to increase,” Chausovsky said.

‘Deep Battle’

In 2014, the United States and the European Union levied punitive economic sanctions on Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine. Since then, relations between Russia and the West have hit a post-Cold War nadir. 

Using cyberwarfare and an empire of weaponized propaganda, Russia has embarked on a hybrid war blitz against Western democracies. Looking back, it’s clear that Ukraine was the opening salvo of Russia’s ongoing war against that American-led, democratic world order. 

“Russian leadership sees itself as at war with the U.S. and the West as a whole,” notes Nicole Peterson, a security analyst, in the Pentagon white paper on Russia’s strategic intentions.

The war in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 as a hybrid conflict—today it is a conventional war.

“From a Russian perspective, this war is not total, but rather, it is fundamental—a type of ‘war’ that is at odds with the general U.S. understanding of warfare,” she added.

Hybrid warfare is the Kremlin’s contemporary take on a Soviet military doctrine called “deep battle,” in which front-line combat operations are supported with other actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory.

An evolving threat that spans every combat domain, hybrid warfare combines conventional military force with other so-called gray zone activities, such as cyberattacks and propaganda, both on the battlefield and deep behind the front lines. 

One of hybrid warfare’s most dangerous attributes is that it weaponizes many staples of everyday life, including smartphones, social media networks, commercially available computer software—and journalism.

“I think we’re generally moving toward a reality in which hybrid warfare will be the preferred modus operandi of states like Russia, China, Iran, over and above conventional warfare,” Aleksandra Gadzala, and independent security consultant and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told The Daily Signal.

“The way in which Moscow wages hybrid warfare has evolved and expanded rather significantly since the Euromaidan—ditto Chinese tactics since [Chinese President Xi Jinping] took office. Iran is no different,” Gadzala said, referring to Ukraine’s pro-Western 2014 revolution.

‘Poor Man’s War’

America’s military dwarfs Russia’s. U.S. defense spending in 2018 reached $649 billion, compared with Russia’s $61 billion that year, according to an April report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 

Economically, too, Russia is far from America’s peer. Russia’s nominal gross domestic product is about half that of California’s—roughly on par with South Korea. 

With that in mind, Russia’s hybrid warfare strategy is basically “a poor man’s war,” according to a June report from the Institute for the Study of War.

“[Russian President Vladimir Putin] is sufficiently in contact with reality to know that he will fail if he attempts to regain anything approaching conventional military parity with the West,” note the report’s authors. “Putin has every reason to believe that outright confrontation with the American military will end badly for him.” 

Despite Russia’s conventional weaknesses, however, the country is a hybrid superpower with an unparalleled ability to control the world’s attention economy.

Russia has weaponized information by deploying its state-run media organizations to undermine Western societies and democratic institutions. 

A U.S. F-16 fighter in Poland as part of a training operation intended, in part, to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Taking advantage of Americans’ historically low levels of confidence in journalism, Russia’s information warfare is precision-targeted on the American people through the internet and social media. These activities manipulate and inflame divisions within American society—often turning Americans against each other.

“Shaping the information space is the primary effort to which Russian military operations, even conventional military operations, are frequently subordinated in this way of war,” according to the Institute for the Study of War report. “Russia obfuscates its activities and confuses the discussion so that many people throw up their hands and say simply, ‘Who knows if the Russians really did that? Who knows if it was legal?’—thus paralyzing the West’s responses.”

On June 19—the day prior to Iran’s attack on the U.S. drone—international investigators charged three Russians and a Ukrainian for murder for their role in using a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. 

The missile was fired from within territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists, and its mobile launch vehicle belonged to Russia’s 53rd Air Defense Brigade and was sent back to Russia the next day, the report noted.

Putin dismissed the charges, telling journalists, “There is no evidence of Russia’s blame for the downing of MH17.”

“Russia has its own explanation of the crash of MH17, but no one is listening to us,” Putin reportedly said.

‘Be Careful’

The U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran in May 2018. Since then, renewed American sanctions have targeted Tehran’s financial and industrial sectors, dealing the country’s economy a devastating body blow.

With oil exports down by 90%, Tehran is quickly running out of cash while inflation skyrockets. The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by about 6% this year—an abrupt reversal from the Islamic Republic’s 4.6% growth rate in the previous fiscal year. 

Under pressure from U.S. sanctions, analysts say Iran has purposefully ratcheted up its gray zone activities to scare European leaders into making concessions on sanctions.

July 6 was the end of a 60-day deadline imposed by Iran on European nations to somehow ease the pressure of U.S. sanctions. With no help forthcoming from Europe, Iran announced July 7 that it was moving forward on uranium enrichment, violating the 2015 nuclear deal’s terms. In turn, U.S. officials are now mulling additional sanctions on Iran.

“Iran better be careful,” President Donald Trump reportedly said of the recent developments.

In 2015, Iran and Russia signed a military defense pact, underscoring a closer military relationship intended to counter U.S. influence in the Middle East. 

So far, the war in eastern Ukraine has killed about 13,000 people.

Russia supplies Iran with military hardware, including advanced surface-to-air missile systems. Russia has also helped to build some of Iran’s nuclear reactors.

It’s clear, some experts say, that Russia has also allied itself with Iran in the information war to paint the U.S. as a global aggressor. 

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on June 25, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council and a close aide to Putin, said Russia had intelligence to prove the downed U.S. drone was flying in Iranian airspace. 

Patrushev went on to dismiss U.S. intelligence proving that Iran was responsible for a recent series of attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East. 

“Russia and Iran are closely aligned and work to enable and shield one another’s efforts. In this instance, the Kremlin has been front and center with a broader information campaign supporting the Iranian regime’s false narrative that Iran is the victim and not the aggressor,” said Bugayova, the Institute for the Study of War fellow.

A Hybrid Failure

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014. The following April, Russian intelligence agents and special operations forces orchestrated a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, spawning two breakaway republics.

The Kremlin said its 2014 seizure of Crimea and the ensuing conflict in the Donbas were both spurred by grassroots uprisings created and led by disaffected Russian-speaking Ukrainians who believed the new government in Kyiv was illegitimate—the product of a CIA-orchestrated putsch to install a fascist, neo-Nazi, pro-American government in Kyiv.

Moscow had planned its Donbas operation for years, and many pieces were already in place before Ukraine’s 2014 revolution. Consequently, in its early months, Russia’s hybrid offensive was on the march, leapfrogging across the Donbas, taking town after town.

At that time, Ukraine’s regular army was on its heels. Depleted by decades of corruption, it could only field about 6,000 combat-ready soldiers when the war began. So, to defend their homeland, everyday Ukrainians filled the ranks of irregular, civilian combat units and set out for the front lines.

It was a grassroots war effort—an example of a society that didn’t need to be prodded into a war by propaganda. Rather, Ukrainians of all stripes simply took up arms, often with little or no formal military training, and fought to defend their homeland. 

Ultimately, this ragtag coalition of Ukraine’s regular and irregular forces stopped the combined Russian-separatist advance by using what the RAND Corp. described as “a siege warfare campaign, leveraging Ukraine’s vastly superior numbers, artillery, and air power to steadily encircle and push out the separatists from fortified terrain.”

A U.S. Air Force pararescueman on a mission over northern Iraq during the war against the Islamic State.

By July 2014, just three months into the conflict, Ukrainian forces had retaken 23 out of the 36 districts previously under combined Russian-separatist control. Then in August 2014, with its hybrid operation in shambles, Russia outright invaded eastern Ukraine. 

Ultimately, Ukraine sued for peace after the disastrous battle for Illovaisk, in which regular Russian units killed hundreds of Ukrainian troops. 

The subsequent September 2014 cease-fire stopped the war from escalating further. A second cease-fire, known as Minsk II, was signed in February 2015.

Yet, from an operational perspective, Russia’s original hybrid warfare plan in the Donbas was a failure. In a 2017 study, the RAND Corp. concluded that in eastern Ukraine Russia “failed to achieve the leverage necessary without resorting to conventional war and outright invasion.”

“Ukraine is a case study not in pioneering new nonlinear approaches but in the failure of hybrid warfare to deliver the desired political ends for Russia,” note the study’s authors.

Today, the war in eastern Ukraine remains a limited, conventional conflict. It’s a static, trench war, in which the two camps take daily indirect-fire potshots at one another—and in which soldiers and civilians continue to die. More than 13,000 Ukrainians have so far died due to the conflict.

With Europe’s two largest standing land armies still exchanging daily fire along the trench lines in the Donbas, there’s always the chance of an unanticipated event—a so-called Franz Ferdinand scenario—setting off an escalatory domino chain that leads to a far deadlier cataclysm. 

Case in point—a November 2018 naval clash between Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea nearly precipitated a bigger war.

Outside the Donbas war zone, Russia continues to use hybrid war tactics across all of Ukraine. Consequently, there’s hardly any part of Ukrainian life that hasn’t been affected. 

Russian cyberattacks have hit Ukraine’s power grid, water supply systems, the country’s banking system (shutting down ATMs), its largest international airport, and the electoral process. 

For years Ukrainian soldiers have reported receiving threats and demands for their surrender from their Russian enemies over cellphone text messages. 

Russian drones have destroyed Ukrainian weapons depots, and Russian operatives have waged a clandestine assassination pogrom across Ukraine, targeting key Ukrainian security personnel and Russian turncoats. 

Misjudgment

By using hybrid warfare tactics, contemporary Russian military planners are targeting the Achilles’ heel of any democratic adversary—public opinion.

The concept of “escalation dominance” was a key tenet of NATO’s nuclear deterrence strategy against the Soviet Union. In theory, U.S. military superiority would inherently deter the Soviet Union from going to war. 

The problem with the concept of escalation dominance, however, is that American public opinion could turn against a conflict well before the military has fully tapped its capacity for inflicting violence. 

Without public support, America’s material advantages aren’t enough to compel an adversary to give up without a fight.

Public opinion is “generally a weakness of any democracy,” said Vasyl Myroshnychenko, director of the Kyiv-based Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “And once an adverse power learns how to affect public opinion, it has the upper hand,” Myroshnychenko said.

Yet, hybrid warfare is not a one-size-fits-all formula. Rather, the Kremlin tailors its hybrid warfare tactics according to each adversary’s weaknesses.

“Russia’s gray zone tactics are most effective when the target is deeply polarized or lacks the capacity to resist and respond effectively to Russian aggression,” writes Czerewko of the Joint Staff in the recent Pentagon study on Russia.

Gray zone activities aren’t necessarily anything new, either, in terms of the history of warfare. Although it is significant to note, many experts say, that hybrid warfare is becoming the go-to strategy for America’s up and coming crop of adversaries.

For authoritarian regimes like those in Russia, Iran, and China—which lean on nationalism to retain their hold on power—hybrid warfare tactics offer a way to ceremonially push back against America for domestic consumption while tiptoeing around a conventional war.

“Antics like those we’ve seen from Iran in recent weeks, and which we continue to see from Russia and China, are those of weak governments eager to demonstrate their international importance and by extension bolster their domestic legitimacy,” said Gadzala, the Atlantic Council fellow.

In some respects, the old paradigms of the justice of war—which include time-honored metrics, such as the proportionality of the use of deadly force—are being challenged in this era of hybrid warfare. 

For instance, at what point does a cyberattack merit a lethal military response? Or, is it ethically defensible to launch lethal airstrikes in retaliation for an attack on a surveillance drone?

Compounding these ethical dilemmas, hybrid warfare is inherently designed to create battlefield confusion, primarily in the command and control process, clouding the situational awareness of both personnel in combat and their commanders controlling the war effort from afar. For Western militaries, which prefer precision strikes with minimum risk of collateral damage, that kind of confusion can be paralyzing. 

However, Russian and Iranian leaders are playing with fire, experts warn. 

In practice, the utility of hybrid warfare hinges on a country’s ability to accurately judge an adversary’s tolerance for gray zone provocations. That’s not necessarily easy to do—especially since the U.S. and its allies have not yet created their own rules on when nonlethal gray zone activities merit a lethal military response.

“The discrepancy between the Russian and the U.S. understanding of ‘conflict’ and ‘war’ will continue to grow, leading to a higher risk of escalation in future situations involving both nations,” notes the Pentagon study. 

“It is imperative that the U.S. establishes a consensus definition of ‘gray zone’ and reevaluates old paradigms defining war and peace, as we enter a new era of international politics which is defined by shades of gray,” the study continued. 

In its attack on the U.S. drone, Iran misread Trump’s red line and the two countries went to the absolute brink of war. For its part, Moscow’s gross misjudgment of Ukrainians’ resolve to fight in 2014 proved to be a fatal error for Russia’s hybrid war plan in the Donbas.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, analysts say. If Russia, purposefully or not, oversteps America’s red line for tolerating gray zone aggression—it could spark a nuclear war. And Iran’s brinkmanship campaign against U.S. interests in the Middle East is hovering on the razor’s edge of igniting a regional war.

Analysts also warn that Iran’s use of proxy forces is a major concern. One lesson from Russia’s operation in eastern Ukraine is how erratic those proxy forces can be—and how a rogue element could spark an unplanned escalation. 

Accordingly, U.S. officials have made their position crystal clear, repeatedly warning Iran that an attack by one of its proxy forces would not go unpunished.

“If Iran organizes, trains, and equips and provides targeting assistance for an operation and does everything except pull the trigger, they are responsible for that operation,” Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters during a telephonic press briefing on June 24. 

“We do not make a distinction between Iran’s government and the proxies that it supports with lethal assistance and training and funding,” Hook said.

The post Iran Is Using Russian ‘Gray Zone’ Tactics, in Echoes of Ukraine War appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Cartoon: Democrats Driving Left

Fri, 2019-07-12 19:27
Categories: Public Policy

Why Federal Highway Policy Is a Speed Bump Slowing Down Better Roads

Fri, 2019-07-12 15:53

Taxpayers from all 50 states pay into the Highway Trust Fund when they fill their tanks with gas or diesel fuel.

That sends billions of dollars a year to Washington, which then cuts checks to state governments in the form of infrastructure grants overseen by federal bureaucrats.

It’s hard to tell just what shuffling so much money from one level of government to another is supposed to accomplish. In point of fact, the system creates many speed bumps that prevent our highway system from delivering the value it ought to.

A Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Wednesday provided few reasons to justify continuing down the current road.

The subject of the hearing was legislation to reauthorize the federal surface transportation system, which the committee chairman, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is hoping to unveil before Congress’ August recess.

Senators and the panelists acknowledged several problems with the Highway Trust Fund.

First, the fund is running an annual deficit and will be depleted in the next two years, which will require bringing taxes and spending into alignment. That would be an improvement from the 2015 highway bill, which added $70 billion to the national debt by transferring money from the general fund.

Second, the prospect of simply extending the current law for short periods would be counterproductive. As Barrasso noted, that would “undermine our states’ ability to plan” infrastructure projects.

While that statement is accurate, it also points to one of the problems with today’s bloated federal government; namely, that states have become dependent on Washington for the provision of many basic services.

Considering the regularity of gridlock in Congress, expanding the federal government’s role seems foolhardy. If we’re counting on the House and the Senate for road maintenance, that could lead to a bumpy ride for everyone.

Barrasso then extolled the virtues of formula funding, which distributes 90% of Highway Trust Fund dollars to the states. He mentioned that the formula method “gives each state the flexibility they need” and “expedites the delivery of highway infrastructure spending.”

That’s true when compared with the previous system, which concentrated spending decisions in the federal Department of Transportation. Yet it’s not remotely true when compared with a system where states kept more of their own money in the first place.

Federal involvement necessarily reduces flexibility and speed, when compared with full state-level control.

In a positive sign for the upcoming legislation, Barrasso said that the bill will “speed project delivery through streamlining” by cutting “red tape.” That would be a win for taxpayers, since misguided regulations cost the nation billions of dollars in highway value every year.

However, that also points to another reason for reducing the federal role. If money stays with the state to begin with, the federal government will never get a chance to cover those funds in red tape.

The hearing featured extensive discussion of how to pay for the nation’s highways. The most frequently cited position was that users should pay for the roads. Yet there is disagreement regarding what “user pays” should actually look like.

Transportation advocates commonly promote an increase in the federal gas tax. While the federal tax has not increased since 1993, that does not mean motorists are getting a discount.

First, state gas taxes have climbed steadily over the past few decades. Second, 28 percent of Highway Trust Fund spending is diverted away from roads and bridges, instead going toward mass transit, bike paths, and ferry terminals. Third, the increasing use of hybrid and electric vehicles makes reliance on the gas tax a worse proposition with each passing year.

The most straightforward way for users of the interstate system to pay for their activity would be through tolling. However, with the exception of grandfathered-in highways, states are unable to toll interstates.

That restriction takes freedom away from states and removes a promising option for local road funding.  Tolling would not only allow states to maintain and improve the nation’s most heavily used roads, but it would also provide an avenue for private-sector involvement.

The current system of using federal taxes to raise funds for grants to states primarily generates benefits for politicians, leaving taxpayers with the bill. State officials receive funds that are taxed at the federal level, and federal officials get to tout any benefits from the spending.

Elected officials should put the public good ahead of political concerns by reducing federal highway taxes and spending, and allowing state governments to take on a greater role. That would improve the value of highway spending by making projects faster, more efficient, and less dependent on Capitol Hill.

The post Why Federal Highway Policy Is a Speed Bump Slowing Down Better Roads appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Barr Is Right: The Trump-Russia Conspiracy Is ‘Bogus’

Fri, 2019-07-12 13:51

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Attorney General William Barr reiterated his intention to find out why the Obama administration launched an investigation into the Republican Party presidential candidate’s campaign during the 2016 campaign.

If the political parties in the sentence above were reversed, we would be in the midst of the biggest scandal in our lifetimes.

As things stand, however, we are once again reduced to arguing over semantics. And one Barr quote, in particular, has gotten Democrats and their media allies agitated.

“What we’re looking at is: What was the predicate for conducting a counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign?” Barr asked. “How did the bogus narrative begin that Trump was essentially in cahoots with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election?”

The usual suspects found it “dishonest” that the attorney general would refer to a narrative that has been debunked by an aggressive two-year independent counsel as “bogus.”

“Barr offers yet another slanted quote about the Russia investigation,” a Washington Post headline reads.

It bears repeating that the Mueller investigation couldn’t uncover a scintilla of evidence showing that the Trump 2016 campaign “colluded” with Russia to win the election.

There is not a single Mueller indictment linked to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Not for a lack of trying. The prevailing Russia narrative was, much like Birtherism, “bogus.”

“But he’s not talking about the broader political debate over it,” The Post’s Aaron Blake points out, “he’s talking about it in the context of law enforcement. He’s tacitly ascribing the ‘bogus narrative’ to the investigators.”

Barr is giving investigators the benefit of the doubt by claiming, and not very tacitly—since he explicitly states it in The New York Times piece—that he interested the “systematic,” not individual, failures that allowed the FBI to spy on an opposing political campaign.

In any event, Barr’s antagonists argue that we already know that the counterintelligence investigation was completely legit.

A low-level functionary said something about Hillary Clinton and Russia. Donald Trump made a dumb joke about Clinton’s emails and hired campaign advisers like Michael Flynn, “who attended a dinner with Vladimir Putin,” and Carter Page, who had “with Russia ties,” and Paul Manafort, “who worked for a Russia-allied president of Ukraine.”

The question is what kind of precedent does this standard set?

It might come as a surprise to some, but being friendly with Russians—even autocratic ones—isn’t a criminal act. Trump openly advocated better relations with Putin. A presidential campaign has the right to hire people who will pursue its foreign policy goals. Whether it’s good policy is up to voters, not intelligence agencies.

Using the Democrats’ precedent, in fact, the Trump administration would be free to launch investigations into any campaign that hired, say, Iran sycophants like John Kerry, Ben Rhodes, or Samantha Power.

Democrats have both openly dined and secretly met with Iranian officials. The Iranians, who use a designated terrorist group to fulfill political objectives, are also trying to undermine our democracy, hacking highly classified intelligence.

All Trump needs is to fund a firm to write up some fabulist dossier.

And those who claim that it’s “uncharitable,” as Blake does, or irresponsible or unpatriotic to suggest that anyone within the intelligence community might have engaged in corrupt or politically motivated behavior, probably haven’t been paying attention.

Former CIA Director John Brennan spied on the legislative branch and lied about it to the American people. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spied on the American people through a domestic surveillance program and then lied about it to Congress. The Obama administration spied on journalists and then prosecuted them. It’s completely plausible that shortcuts were taken for political reasons.

It is telling that those dismayed by Barr’s allegedly tacit accusation against Obama’s Justice Department have no problem accusing Barr of running an improper investigation. Or that most of the same people who entertained every absurd theory about Russia interference are now offended that Barr uses the word “spying” to describe the action of spying and “bogus” to describe a spurious conspiracy.

Whatever the case, explicit or tacit, none of this means investigators are guilty of wrongdoing.

Aren’t all the same arguments we’ve been hearing about law and order still in play? For more than two years, didactic Democrats lectured about how transparency was a reflection of a healthy democracy.

An investigation into the investigation is the only way the American people could have a full accounting of what happened.

The bogus Russia narrative, after all, caused tremendous damage. It consumed political media coverage for two years, leading to wild speculation and a string of outright false stories designed to undermined trust in the legitimacy of the electoral system for partisan reasons.

Because ultimately, the bogus narrative was far more effective in interfering in American politics than anything a Russian Twitter army or hackers could ever accomplish.

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The post Barr Is Right: The Trump-Russia Conspiracy Is ‘Bogus’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

This Conservative Group Fought IRS for Years. Now a Court’s Given It a Victory.

Fri, 2019-07-12 13:46

Last month, Judge Reggie Walton ruled in favor of True the Vote, a conservative voting rights group that first sued the IRS in 2013. We spoke to Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s founder, for our June 24 Daily Signal podcast. Below is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation.

Virginia Allen: Catherine, you founded True the Vote in 2009 in an effort to curb the rising tide of voter fraud. Can you tell me a bit more about what led you to found the organization?

Catherine Engelbrecht: Sure. We started quite by accident. A small group of folks, myself being one, went to volunteer and work in the polls. And although most of us had fantastic experiences, there were a handful that came back and said, “You’re not going to believe what we saw.”

This was in Texas. The things that we were seeing at the time, before voter ID, were things like people coming in with multiple voter registration cards and they presented one, and they were told, “Oh, you’ve already voted,” and then they’d pull another one.

Or people, this is sort of the most common, then as is now, people would come in and say, “I don’t remember who I’m supposed to vote for.” And the judge would take them to the booth and would instruct them in who to vote for. And that’s very different than assistance.

We didn’t know any of that at this point back in the day. … You’re just kind of slack-jawed in the moment. Like, “I don’t think you’re supposed to tell people.” But what do you do, right? I mean, it happens, it’s over.

So when we all came back together, we compared notes and thought, “You know, if this is what happens when people are observing, what happens when nobody’s there?”

And the reason that we were there to begin with was because otherwise no one would have been there.

That led to a much broader recognition of the need for volunteers questioning the accuracy of our voter registration process and our registries as they’re held at the county and state level.

That’s really where True the Vote started. It was never about sort of the political firestorm that it became.

It was really then, as is now, about the power of citizen engagement and encouraging citizens to take back the process of our elections, which is, we are the rightful owners of the process. We just have to get back on the field.

Allen: True the Vote gained national attention almost a decade ago when you decided to sue the IRS. Could you give a brief summary of why you all decided to take this action?

Engelbrecht: To set the record straight, we actually didn’t sue until 2013, but you are exactly right. We have been fighting this for a decade, without question. So, almost from the moment we filed our nonprofit status paperwork with the IRS, just basically requesting that they acknowledge a nonprofit.

Usually that process, you file some paperwork, they may come back with some questions, you answer the questions, you send it back, and then they say thumbs up, thumbs down. Yes, you are a charity; no, you’re not.

Usually that whole thing end-to-end is four or five months. At least that’s what we’d been told. And I’d never had any experience. I went into this just as wide-eyed as anybody possibly could. I never expected that I would reap the whirlwind.

So, [I] filed the paperwork, and within just a couple of months, actually, the adventure started. In just a couple of months I had been sued twice, once by the Texas Democrat Party, the other by a group called the Texans Together Education Fund, which back in the day was an ACORN front group.

They sued for some of the research work that we had done, which outed some of their tactics and they didn’t like it. Sued me for, among other things, psychological damages. So go figure.

But … that was sort of the first dip into the political swimming pool that I would find myself in for the next several years.

The IRS piece, though, began to catch traction almost immediately upon those lawsuits being served. Which again, at that point it was like, “God, just got sued twice and now the IRS is coming back with these weird questions.”

But at the time, this is still 2009, it just was all very new, and I didn’t have any political background, and I knew that the true intent of True the Vote was not partisan. It wasn’t anything other than just get people involved in the process.

So I thought, “OK, this is just weird, and I’ll answer the questions and move on.” Well, the questions continued.

We didn’t get our nonprofit status in the four to five months that is typical. It took us over three years, and, ultimately, only when we sued, and that was the cause of the lawsuit.

In that time, we answered probably 300 additional questions from the IRS, not just questions that had anything to do with how we intended to conduct ourselves as a nonprofit, but rather they wanted to see every Facebook posting I’d ever posted and every Tweet I’d ever tweeted.

They wanted to know everywhere I’d ever spoken and to whom and what was said, and everywhere I intended to speak in the coming year, questions that were far more aligned with opposition research, frankly, than they were with fiduciary responsibility.

So that was spinning in its own orbit. At the same time, we were beginning to have in our … We used to have an office, and at the office where we would have meetings, suddenly the FBI started showing up. …

Professionally in my vocation at the time, which was a manufacturing company, we had [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] show up, [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] show up. We were sued professionally and personally twice in two consecutive years.

All of this happened in a period of about 24 months. I was either audited or had inquiries or investigations started against me over 23 times.

So 23 audits, investigations, inquiries in 24 months, and still no 501(c)(3), which, after years, your donor base begins saying, “What’s wrong with you guys? Why can’t you get your 501(c)(3)?”

With all that in mind, and after Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms showed up at my place of business for the second time in 13 months, I said, “That’s it. Who can we sue, and how fast can we sue them?”

I really didn’t know where to start. I knew my civil liberties had been violated. I knew that what was happening with the IRS was unconstitutional, but I hadn’t told a soul about all that was happening for over two years because there was such a stigma.

It’s like, “God, the government’s everywhere.” And … you think about somebody that’s under the microscope, and they must be doing something wrong. And I’m trying to figure out what that something is while it’s all happening.

Then, Virginia, what I realized, and this probably is the most important lesson of all of my entire experience, is there is power in speaking out.

There’s power in telling the truth boldly and just letting the chips fall where they may, even if it means that you have to say some uncomfortable things to agencies, institutes, or individuals that wield extreme power.

That was the case with the IRS. They were winning. They were strangling True the Vote because I was being silent. And two years in I said, “Enough is enough. Let’s take it to them.” And that’s when we turned the tables.

Allen: I want to ask you just a little bit more about that because you do speak with such resolve about how you were so open to take this battle on headfirst.

Why did you see this as such an important battle to fight, not just for True the Vote but for liberty as a whole?

Engelbrecht: It’s a great question. … It really wasn’t, again, then nor now, about “voter fraud.” Does that exist? Absolutely. Does election fraud exist? Absolutely. But you have to look at it, sort of take a step back and look at the 30,000-foot view of it.

Although we see headlines being made by the surface level of fraud, what’s really going on that is more troubling is the systemic fraud, the systemic subversion that is layers deep and that is, in fact, baked legally into our process right now.

There are so many loopholes and rabbit holes, and that’s what we first responded to back back in 2009, was process failure.

Further, the recognition that everything we talk about, everything that is under the government aegis assumes that we’ve had a free and fair election to get to the point of whatever that discussion may be, from who we elect to policy positions, it all presumes that that reflects the voice of the American people.

When that no longer is true, then what are we? And from that very first outing of our group, as I mentioned, 80% of us came back and said, “Oh, my gosh, I felt so good. I felt like I was doing my civic duty. It was wonderful.”

But 20% came back and said, “Oh my word.” And then you have to ask yourself, “Oh, yeah, that was just a small sampling, right?” But that’s when we were watching.

If 20% of our polls aren’t being run according to the book, then you don’t need a whole lot of fraud to swing an election. You just need a little fraud in the right places.

Then at what point do we say this is a priority? This isn’t just the fodder for catty tabloid news stories … This is a problem that we as a nation need to address and take seriously because once our election process is compromised, all the underpinning that comes with that will cause a deep fracturing on a scale that we can’t …

We got close in Bush’s election, right? When the nation was on edge. But think about how isolated that incident in its way really was.

And then imagine that across the country we used to have election equipment that caused that problem in Florida, we still have election equipment that old or older in pockets across the country.

There’s just things that you have to think to yourself, “The only reason they’re this bad is because someone wants them this bad.”

The only reason we’re not asking these tough questions is because you don’t want to know the answers. Because this can all be fixed.

So again, you say I speak about it with passion. I do, because I think about what my children have in store and I want them to have the opportunity to have a voice in all of this. And I know from what I’ve experienced, from what I’ve seen, we as a citizen community have to engage or we will lose the process.

Allen: Yeah. Well, congratulations to you and to True the Vote for your victory earlier this month.

Engelbrecht: Thank you.

Allen: U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton not only ruled in your favor, but his decision also declared that the actions of the IRS were in “bad faith.” Can you explain a little bit about what this ruling means for your organization, and also for the IRS?

Engelbrecht: Absolutely. For our organization it just means a huge, huge sigh of relief and closure of a battle that has gone on and on and on.

And that’s really what I believe led the judge to the bad faith enhancement decision, because there was no reason for the IRS to have caused the kind of delay and just protracted process …

It was almost comical. Every deadline was pushed to the last possible moment. Every possible condition for requesting more time to respond was requested.

Every time I walked into the courtroom it was myself and my attorney and 23 of theirs on the other side. The way in which they responded to our inquiries was just, in my opinion, less than professional all the way through, all the way through.

So I think what Judge Walton saw was, we were assuming just to get back attorney’s fees. I mean, this has cost our organization mightily over the years. And so just suing back for attorney’s fees.

I don’t profess to understand that much about how all the calculations work, but I know that there’s a cap, for which it’s typical, and then for reimbursement, and then if the court feels that there has been miscarriage of face, let’s say, on behalf of the party, the losing party, then the court reserves the right to say, “You know what, we’re going to boost this up to market rate.” And that’s what we’re seeing here.

What’s particularly wonderful about this, upon further research, our team has recognized now that we’re the only case, at least in the last 10 years, that has successfully pled this argument.

We did not settle, as other cases with similar issues at stake, when the IRS targeted and singled out other pro-liberty groups. We didn’t settle as those cases were resolved. We fought this to the end.

And to have the court come out now and say, not only did True the Vote win, but the IRS has to pay a premium because of the way that they handled this whole process, is just incredibly vindicating and definitely plants a flag in case law for any other organization or person who may have the great misfortune to find themselves in a similar situation.

Now the truth of that case will stand, where the judge clearly says what they did was unconstitutional. What they did was an abridgment of First Amendment rights. And the result of that was that the party at fault had to pay.

Hopefully, that will be a deterrent in the days ahead because that was always our goal. It really was never about the money as much as it was just trying to ensure it would never happen again.

So we’re thrilled that we can have the attorneys’ fees off our backs. But more than that, we’re happy that we have taken up a little bit of a chapter in a history book that hopefully will go on to mean that others won’t have to endure what we did.

Allen: Now that this lawsuit is behind you, what is your vision for True the Vote moving forward?

Engelbrecht: Wow. I have to be honest, for the last few years the vision … The vision has always been great, but it’s been diminished by the amount of oxygen that we could get as an organization, as a consequence of this just lawsuit that was an anchor.

Now that that’s done and now that we’re a little older and a little wiser, we recognize, unlike 2009, the hyper-political nature of what we do, even though it’s not our desire. We recognize that and clearly recognize what’s at stake in 2020.

With that in mind, 2020, we believe, is going to be an enormous year for True the Vote. And the first thing that we’re going to do, and have done, is we’ve partnered with a group called Our Values, which is a veterans group founded by Mark Geist, who is a friend.

Many of your readers may know the name, he’s one of the Benghazi warriors and one of our country’s greatest heroes. If you’ve seen the movie “13 Hours,” he’s Oz in that movie, that’s who Mark Geist is.

Mark and I have come together to say, “You know what, not only do veterans need to be registered to vote”—which is a whole topic for a different podcast, because of what’s really going on in the military with respect to voting—but not only do they need a vehicle that’s on their side for voter registration, but with the shortage of volunteers across the country working inside of elections, how great would it be if we targeted a message to veterans and said, “Please, you had hearts of service for the country when you served in the military, let’s get you inside the polls where you understand the value of chain of command and the rule of law and fairness”?

So let’s plug some of those vacant holes across the country with well-trained men and women who can serve in a volunteer capacity from the veteran community.

And all in all, the big takeaway for us, of course, is election integrity. And for Mark’s group, Our Values, the takeaway is that veterans will be able to assert their own voice in government. Which when you look at, again, different topic for a different podcast, but when you look at what’s happening with the VA, their voice is needed because their needs are not being well served.

So that’s the first thing we’re going to do, a collaborative effort.

Beyond that, we anticipate expanding our training efforts and expanding just the tip-of-the-spear kind of research that we were doing back in the day, and just gearing back up to do the kind of work that True the Vote was known for and is still very desperately needed as True the Vote, then as now, is still the only national pro-liberty voters rights organization in the country.

For a long time it looked like that voice was going to be shut out. And we’re back.

Allen: Yeah, and we’re glad you’re back. For any of our readers who would like to get involved, whether a veteran or not, how can they do that?

Engelbrecht: You can check out TruetheVote.org, and from that site you’ll see the latest news, you’ll read more about the current decision in the court.

You can sign up for training, that is online training for everything from an introduction to how to be an election worker, to how to volunteer to work on absentee ballots and mailing ballots, to election integrity broadly.

There’s all kinds of training that’s available, that’s all free and online. And just stay tuned, but check out that. For today, check out the website, sign up, join the movement, and help us being shoulder to shoulder for 2020.

Allen: Catherine, thank you so much for talking with The Daily Signal, and thank you for all that you’re doing to fight against voter fraud.

Engelbrecht: Thank you so much for having this outlet for truth-tellers. [I] appreciate it more than you can know.

Allen: Oh, it’s our pleasure. Thank you.

The post This Conservative Group Fought IRS for Years. Now a Court’s Given It a Victory. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

This Man Is Facing Foreclosure, $30K Fine Because He Didn’t Mow His Lawn

Fri, 2019-07-12 13:21

The city of Dunedin, Florida, wants Jim Ficken’s home.

Ficken’s mom died, so he went to South Carolina to take care of her estate. He asked a friend to look after his house.

But then the friend died, and no one cut Ficken’s grass. When it grew to 10 inches, Dunedin officials started fining him $500 a day.

The fine is now about $30,000.

“I was shocked,” Ficken says in my latest video. City officials say they will foreclose on his home if he doesn’t pay the fine, and Ficken doesn’t have that much money.

“Do you have $30,000 lying around?!” he asked me.

“The city has gone nuclear!” complains his lawyer, Ari Bargil. “Five hundred dollars per day for the violation of having tall grass. … They could have done what their own ordinances permit them to do: hire a lawn service to come out and mow the grass. Then send Jim a bill for 150 bucks. But they didn’t do that.”

Why not? Bargil and Ficken say it’s because Dunedin’s officials just want money.

Dunedin’s politicians wouldn’t talk to us. Instead, they spent $25,000 on a public relations firm that told reporters, “Dunedin has no desire to impose large fines … [only to] ensure that Dunedin is a high-quality community.”

The cost of “high quality” keeps going up.

Eleven years ago, Dunedin fined people $34,000. Today, it wants about that much from Ficken alone. Last year, Dunedin collected $1.3 million in fines from residents.

“It’s pretty apparent that code enforcement is a major cash cow for the city,” says Bargil.

“I got violated for a lawn mower in my yard,” says one resident who has been fined $32,000. “They violated me for a hole the size of a quarter in my stucco … They find people they can pick on … and they keep picking on them.”

She started crying as she recounted: “I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had because of the city of Dunedin. Just try to think of what to say to them, just to have them leave me alone.”

“The city is just a bunch of bullies, and they expect people not to stand up to ’em because to stand up to ’em requires expensive legal help,” says Ficken.

Ficken managed to get expensive legal help for free from the Institute for Justice, a law firm that defends individuals abused by governments.

All across the country, “private citizens are being essentially extorted by their governments and fined incredible amounts of money for really, really small violations,” says Bargil.

You can be fined for not trimming plants, the way Ficken was, but you can also be fined for trimming too much. A city in North Carolina fined a local church $100 per branch ($4,000) for excessive tree-pruning.

And in places such as Dunedin, if you can’t pay a fine, they’ll take your home.

“The city attorney of Dunedin last year sought permission to foreclose on 18 properties,” says Bargil.

That violates the Eighth Amendment, says the Institute for Justice. The amendment not only protects us from “cruel and unusual punishment” but also from “excessive fines.”

The Founding Fathers, says Bargil, “recognized that the ability to fine is the ability to cripple. It’s one of the ways, other than incarceration, that government can really oppress.”

If governments can oppress, they usually will.

We should be grateful for the Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive fines.

And what’s more excessive than politicians taking your home because you didn’t cut your grass?

Content distributed by Creators.com.

The post This Man Is Facing Foreclosure, $30K Fine Because He Didn’t Mow His Lawn appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

‘Helping People Avoid Justice’: Border Patrol Union President Reacts to Clinton’s Advice to Illegal Aliens

Fri, 2019-07-12 12:36

National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd blasted Hillary Clinton for publicly coaching illegal immigrants on how to avoid apprehension from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

“I’m amazed that somebody … that ran for president of the United States—that was willing to promise to uphold the laws of the United States, the Constitution of the United States—is now actively helping people avoid justice,” Judd, who leads the Border Patrol’s union of nearly 20,000 members, said Friday on Fox News.

Judd’s comments follow a tweet Clinton sent Thursday. The former first lady and Democratic presidential candidate published an image that contained a list, written in Spanish, of recommendations for illegal aliens to follow in order to avoid apprehension and deportation from ICE agents.

The instructions advised illegal aliens “not to open the door” for agents and to report their badge number, type of vehicle they are driving, and where they were seen.

Clinton’s tweet was in response to President Donald Trump’s planned immigration raids.

ICE agents are expected to target roughly 2,000 illegal immigrants across 10 U.S. states Sunday, the first day of an ongoing operation by the agency to apprehend and deport illegal immigrants. The deportations target aliens who have ignored court orders to leave the country.

“These people have already been ordered deported. They’ve already exhausted all their appeals processes through the court system. They’re not supposed to be here. They’re illegally here, and she’s helping them to continue to break the law,” Judd said Friday. “I don’t understand how the left continues to move further and further left to what the American public wants.”

The union leader explained the only people being targeted are those who entered the country illegally, exhausted their due process after being found ineligible to claim asylum or amnesty, and continue to live in the U.S. despite an immigration judge ordering them to leave.

“This is not a raid where we’re going out into the streets and grabbing anybody that we can. We’re specifically targeting those individuals that have defied an order of deportation by a judge here in the United States,” Judd said, adding that not going after those who defy court orders sends a message to foreign nationals that it’s OK to disobey the country’s immigration laws.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post ‘Helping People Avoid Justice’: Border Patrol Union President Reacts to Clinton’s Advice to Illegal Aliens appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Labor Secretary Acosta Resigns Amid Epstein Controversy

Fri, 2019-07-12 11:54

Unable to put to rest questions of his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned Friday after serving more than two years in the position. 

“A Cabinet position is a temporary trust. I must set aside a part of me that wants to continue my service with thousands of talented professionals at the Department of Labor,” Acosta says in the letter to President Donald Trump. “Therefore, I am offering, and wish for you to accept, my resignation as the United States Secretary of Labor effective one week from today.”  

Deputy secretary Patrick Pizzella will serve as the acting secretary of labor after Acosta exits next week, Trump said. 

On Monday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Epstein, a 66-year-old billionaire financier, with the sex trafficking of dozens of young girls, some as young as 14.          

In 2008, Epstein reached a deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida, run by then U.S. Attorney Acosta at the time, that allowed Epstein to avoid federal prosecution in a case involving multiple charges of sexual abuse, in exchange for pleading guilty in a Florida state court to charges of procuring a minor for prostitution and felony solicitation.                     

Epstein was placed on the sex offender registry and served just 13 months in county jail, despite an agreement on an 18-month sentence. Epstein was allowed to leave the lockup daily for work release.   

In a press conference Wednesday, Acosta answered questions for almost an hour about the case. He explained that his team of federal prosecutors intervened in the case because Florida state prosecutors were about to give Epstein a plea deal to allow the billionaire to elude jail and the sex offender registry. Acosta stressed that the U.S. attorney’s office single goal was to ensure Epstein got jail time and would be on the sex offender registry so others would be aware of his crimes. 

Epstein was known for being politically well connected as a major Democratic donor, and associate of former President Bill Clinton

When departing from the White House Friday, Trump told reporters, “I want to thank Alex Acosta. He was a great great secretary.” 

Trump added that Acosta has been a “great labor secretary not a good one.” 

Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, demanded Acosta’s resignation or firing. 

In his letter to Trump, Acosta cited the strong economy and good conditions for workers in the United States. 

“We have millions of new jobs, fewer injuries and fatalities on the job, record low unemployment, less regulation and a new-family sustaining career opportunity for the future,” Acosta wrote. 

The post Labor Secretary Acosta Resigns Amid Epstein Controversy appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

AG Barr Explains Why Trump Had to Back Down on the Census Citizenship Question

Fri, 2019-07-12 11:51

The government cannot continue its legal fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form because of time constraints, Attorney General William Barr argued Thursday.

While insisting that the government’s legal position is correct on the merits, Barr said continued litigation would seriously disrupt the census itself.

“The problem is that any new decision would be subject to immediate challenge as a new claim in the three ongoing district court cases,” Barr said. “In addition, there are injunctions currently in place that forbid adding the question. There is simply no way to litigate these issues and obtain relief from the current injunctions in time to implement any new decision without jeopardizing our ability to carry out the census itself, which we are not going to do.”

“As a practical matter, the Supreme Court’s decision closed all paths to adding the question to the 2020 decennial census,” he added. “Put simply, the impediment was logistical, not legal. We simply cannot complete the litigation in time to carry out the census.”

Barr emphasized that the high court decided it is lawful to include a citizenship question on the census form as a general matter. The justices ruled against the administration on narrow grounds, finding the government’s official explanation for its action was “contrived.”

The attorney general said that problem is “curable,” and expressed confidence that the administration could have prevailed if not for the press of time.

“In my view, the government has ample justification to inquire about citizenship status on the census and could plainly provide rationales for doing so that would satisfy the Supreme Court,” Barr said. “There is thus no question that a new decision to add the question would ultimately survive legal review.”

Scheduling constraints have complicated the census litigation from the start. Government lawyers said the census form needed to be finalized by July 1 to ensure orderly printing and distribution of questionnaires. The Supreme Court agreed to resolve the dispute on an expedited basis for that reason.

President Donald Trump directed the Department of Commerce to obtain citizenship information by other means in a Rose Garden press conference Thursday.

The president said he will issue an executive order requiring federal agencies to forward all citizenship data in their possession to the Commerce Department.

Administration officials hope that aggregated data will provide comprehensive information about the number of citizens in the U.S. However, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has previously said using that data would not provide the government with a complete picture.

In the 2010 census, roughly 90% of the population was matched to credible administrative records in the government’s possession.

“While impressive, this means that more than 10 percent of the American population—some 25 million voting age people—would need to have their citizenship imputed by the Census Bureau,” Ross wrote.

The Commerce Department supervises the Census Bureau.

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The post AG Barr Explains Why Trump Had to Back Down on the Census Citizenship Question appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

How Technicalities Ended the Census Case

Fri, 2019-07-12 11:49

Speaking from the Rose Garden on Thursday, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr accepted that they couldn’t put the citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Barr said that the administration would have won the lawsuits, but that “logistical impediments” made it impossible to win the cases in time for the census.

For two examples of these logistical impediments, have a look at these unusual orders by Judge Jesse Furman and Judge George Hazel, who are overseeing the census lawsuits. In their orders, they ruled that the Department of Justice can’t use the lawyers of its choosing unless they comply with legally dubious requirements.

Last month, the Supreme Court blocked, at least temporarily, the Commerce Department from adding the citizenship question to the census because it suspected Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ stated reasons for doing so had been “contrived.” It sent the case back to the lower courts to investigate that issue.

When the case got back to the lower courts, the Department of Justice attorneys representing the government defendants initially said they were giving up the fight and that the Commerce Department would begin printing the census forms without the citizenship question. But the president quickly reversed course and vowed to find a way to comply with the Supreme Court’s opinion.

Shortly after that, the defendants filed motions to substitute the lawyers in the case for other Department of Justice lawyers.

In two similar opinions that make little sense, Furman and Hazel, both Obama appointees, said no.

Both based their orders on local rules that require lawyers to obtain the court’s permission before they can withdraw from a case. The rule in Furman’s court requires the lawyer to provide “satisfactory reasons” for withdrawal. The rule in Hazel’s court doesn’t require anything at all beyond asking the court’s permission.

Furman ruled that the motion to substitute was “patently deficient” because the defendants provided no reasons for the substitution. Hazel called Furman’s order “well-reasoned” and said he was concerned that changing lawyers would “disrupt the orderly administration of justice.”

Neither decision makes sense.

For one thing, the local rules apply with greatest force only when a lawyer tries to abandon his client in the middle of a case.

To the extent they apply to a substitution, they are concerned only that the substitution will not delay the proceedings. That makes sense because the rule primarily exists to protect litigants from being left in the lurch by irresponsible lawyers. 

But the lawyers here weren’t trying to abandon the case and leave their client in the lurch. The government—the client—simply wanted to substitute one set of lawyers with a different set of lawyers.

In short, the judges have twisted a rule meant to protect litigants from bad lawyers into one that forces litigants to keep lawyers they don’t want.

What’s more, there’s no legitimate concern that switching one team of lawyers with another will delay the case.

This is the Department of Justice. It has a small army of lawyers devoted to this case, any of whom are ready to stand in at a moment’s notice, and all of whom are intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the case. 

But even if these local rules applied to a substitution, the only “satisfactory reason” the government (or any litigant for that matter) needs to swap lawyers is: “Because I want to.” Litigants have a right to the lawyers of their choice.

In that regard, Hazel’s order is on even shakier ground than Furman’s because the local rule he relies on doesn’t require any reason, much less a “satisfactory” one.

Besides being legally unsound, Furman’s order also risks violating the government’s attorney-client privilege.

The order seems to require the government to reveal the legal strategy behind its decision to substitute lawyers. But the attorney-client privilege protects legal strategy decisions like that. No litigant should be forced to reveal its legal strategy to its opponents. 

Despite the legal dubiousness of these orders, the government has been forced to give up the courthouse fight to add the citizenship question to the census.

Nevertheless, the president explained that many agencies track citizenship information to some extent, and announced an executive order requiring them to provide the Commerce Department with whatever citizenship information they have.

One way or another, the government will do what for most of the country’s history has been both routine and uncontroversial: counting the number of American citizens.

The post How Technicalities Ended the Census Case appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

A Conservative Vision for Health Care

Fri, 2019-07-12 03:01

Top Democrats have moved way beyond Obamacare and are now pushing Medicare for All—a single-payer, government-run program. Surveys show that Americans like the sound of Medicare for All until they learn what it would do. I recently spoke with Grace-Marie Turner, a leading health care expert from the Galen Institute. She unpacked what’s wrong with Medicare for All and shared a conservative alternative. Today, we play that interview. Plus: Did a top U.S. soccer player lose a World Cup spot because of her Christian beliefs? We discuss.

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We also cover these stories:

  • President Trump announces alternative plan to gather citizenship data
  • ICE prepares to launch raids on illegal immigrants with deportation orders
  • House panel issues 12 subpoenas to Trump aides and associates

The Daily Signal podcast is available on Ricochet, iTunesSoundCloudGoogle Play, or Stitcher. All of our podcasts can be found at DailySignal.com/podcasts. If you like what you hear, please leave a review. You can also leave us a message at 202-608-6205 or write us at letters@dailysignal.com. Enjoy the show!

The post A Conservative Vision for Health Care appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump to Lean on Social Media Giants to Curb Censorship

Thu, 2019-07-11 19:34

President Donald Trump, during a free wheeling speech Thursday, said he would be bringing top social media executives to the White House to push them to stop censoring conservatives and try to ensure free speech for everyone’s opinion. 

“On behalf of the nation it’s very important what you’re doing,” Trump said. 

He praised them for going around the media “gatekeepers” and “getting the honest word out.” 

Trump spoke in the East Room to digital media journalist, commentators, talk show hosts and activists.

In calling for the giant social media platforms to be more transparent, Trump talked about how his own tweets seem to have been diminished by Twitter.

“It goes up and then they take it down,” Trump said. 

“It was like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty,” he said. “Remember when I said someone was spying on me? I turned out to be right.” 

Among attendees were Daily Signal Executive Editor Robert Bluey and Maria Sousa, the digital director for The Heritage Foundation. 

Bluey, also the vice president of communications for The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement, “attendees at the summit have half a billion social media followers and are reaching people directly without a media filter,” and that is “why their concerns about the implications of bias and censorship are so important.”

“Heavy-handed government regulation is not the answer,” Bluey added. “Everyone who cares about free speech, regardless of their political beliefs, should want social media companies to be responsive to their users, not government. There’s evidence the market is working and social media companies are responding.”

Also in attendance were YouTube personalities Diamond and Silk, who the president invited to the stage to hug.

Lila Rose of the pro-life investigative group, Live Action, was also in attendance and talked about how some of her group’s videos were banned from social media sites.

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk and Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe were also present.

Former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka was also in the crowd and came to a later Rose Garden event with the group of conservative media. Gorka got into an exchange with one reporter in the Rose Garden after the event. 

Trump referred to “stone cold crazy MSNBC,” speaking of the liberal cable network that has numerous programs critical of him. He also made familiar references to the “fake news.”

“I don’t think the mainstream media is free speech either,” Trump said. “To me that’s dangerous speech.”

Trump talked about his July 4 speech under the rain and joked, “They learned it was my real hair.”

The post Trump to Lean on Social Media Giants to Curb Censorship appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

4 Reasons the Left Is So Invested in the Census Debate

Thu, 2019-07-11 19:22

President Donald Trump is signing an executive order directing every agency to assist in getting a reliable count of citizens and noncitizens in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, and others agencies that have population data will be required to share with the Commerce Department to get an accurate count—after a setback by the Supreme Court last month.

Liberal activist groups have been vigorously opposing the Trump administration’s push to ask a citizenship question on the census.

“It will not stop us from collecting the needed information and I think in greater detail and more accurately,” Trump said in the Rose Garden beneath cloudy skies, flanked by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr.

Today I will be issuing an executive order to put this very plan into effect immediately. I am hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and noncitizens in our country. We will use these vast government databases to gain a full, complete and accurate count of the noncitizen population.

Democrat-allied liberal groups accused Trump of promoting partisanship in the constitutionally mandated process for counting the American population. Other experts note there have apparently been ample politics to go around on the census.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling on June 27, handed Trump a temporary loss, as an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts scolded the administration for supposedly misleading the court about the political intent of including a citizenship question.

But Roberts seemed to leave open the possibility that the administration could return to the court with a different rationale.

A citizenship question was on the decennial census forms from 1820 to 1950. After that, it was only included on the long-form census form. In 2010, the question was removed entirely by the Obama administration.

The question remains on the American Community Survey, an annual population canvass that the Census Bureau conducts. 

After early reports that Trump might sign an executive order, later reports indicated Trump would direct the Commerce Department to collect the data through other means. 

Now with Trump’s announcement of the executive order, it appears there is no path forward for a citizenship question on the census.

That said, there are at least four reasons the left cares so much about the census.

1. Immigration Debate

The liberal Campaign Legal Center said in a post after the Supreme Court decision: “An addition of the Census question would have chilled minority participation in the 2020 Census and made it less accurate. 

“For now, the quality of the census is protected from the hasty addition of a politically-motivated question.” 

An amicus brief in the case, filed by a coalition of liberal groups—including People for the American Way, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund—sought to explain why the immigrant population broadly would be discouraged from filling out a census form.

However, the brief never made a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.

“Amici and our constituencies have spent decades in the field, working with communities to ensure full participation in the census,” the liberal coalition’s amicus brief said. “Our experience and the findings of social scientists and other census experts all confirm that including the citizenship question will lead to depressed participation, particularly among families that include immigrants, young children, and people of color.”

The organization also didn’t explain why a legal resident might be discouraged from filling out a census form because of a citizenship question. 

The immigration debate factors into the resistance to a citizenship question, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said.

“We are in this vigorous debate about immigration policy in this country. I think the official estimates in the number of aliens who are in the country illegally are way low,” von Spakovsky said. 

“I think the census numbers, if we could ask this question, which would give us an accurate read on exactly how many noncitizens there really are in the country. I think the number is going to be surprisingly larger than people think it is,” he said. “I don’t think the left wants people to know that.” 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, already knows how many noncitizens are in the country legally. 

“If they know there is a certain number of legal noncitizens in the country, and the census data comes back and says this is the number of noncitizens in the country, they can then figure out how many people are here illegally, because they know how many are here legally,” von Spakovsky explained. 

Unidos US, a Hispanic advocacy group formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, stressed the importance of the 2020 census, saying on its blog that many “Latinos currently live in hard-to-count Census tracts, and in 2010, the undercount for Latino children was twice that of White children—and this has led to reduced money and resources for our communities, schools, and neighborhoods.” 

2. ‘Trifecta’ Politics

That same Unidos US blog post noted that, among other things, census data are used to “[d]etermine the number of congressional seats each state gets, and district lines that define state legislatures, city councils, and school boards.”

The census is a major part of the left’s overlapping strategy, said Hayden Ludwig, an investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank that investigates nonprofits. 

“The census is one part of a trifecta to winning elections for Democrats,” Ludwig told The Daily Signal. “Voter turnout is another, but you have to know the right numbers to get them to turn out.”

The third component, he said, is redistricting. He pointed to Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder’s group, the National Democratic Redistricting Commission, that seeks to reverse the Republican advantage in drawing state legislative and congressional districts that resulted from the 2010 GOP victories in most state legislative chambers. 

“The most obvious first priority is to bump up the populations in blue states to get more Democratic districts and access more federal resources,” Ludwig said. 

Noncitizens, legal or not, do not have voting rights in federal elections, though some municipalities have extended voting rights for illegal immigrants in municipal elections. 

Political power has been a key motivator in seeking to prevent an accurate picture on the citizenship count. 

“Reapportionment is based on total population. For example, California has probably five or six congressional seats it would not have but for the illegal-alien population,” von Spakovsky said. 

3. Money, Money, Money

The amicus brief from the liberal groups also said:

The constitutionally mandated census is central not only to apportioning political power at every level of government, but also to shaping the annual allocation of more than $800 billion in federal funding, along with countless policy and investment decisions by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private enterprise. 

After the Supreme Court decision on the citizenship question, Sam Berger, the vice president for democracy and government with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said, “The citizenship question would discourage millions of people from participating in the census and [compromise] federal funding for critical programs across the country.”

The aforementioned Unidos US blog post shows a chart of the top census-guided programs. The first is Medicaid, which doles out $312 billion annually, followed by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which spends $69.5 billion a year; Medicare Part B, $64.2 billion; and highway planning and construction, $38.3 billion. Section 8 housing vouchers round out the top 5 at $19.1 billion.     

“I also think they don’t want that information available because of federal-funding programs that depend on how many citizens a state has, and they don’t want federal funding reduced if people know how many noncitizens there are in a particular state,” von Spakovsky explained. “The overarching theme is the left does not want accurate data about the number of noncitizens in the country.” 

4. Identity Politics

Identity politics have also been part of the mix, Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow for foreign policy at The Heritage Foundation, notes. 

The Obama administration sought to use the census to create a new ethnic group—MENA, for people of Middle Eastern and North African derivation. 

Gonzalez has written, “the government needs to get out of the unsavory business of conjuring up new pan-ethnic groups intended to divide us as a people and which have no basis in science, culture, ethnicity, or language.”

Ludwig, of the Capital Research Center, noted the irony in an aversion to asking someone whether he or she is a citizen, while at the same time asking someone about his or her race or ethnicity. For example, he said, Japanese and Filipinos are in the same census category, even though their education and income levels are often very different.

The post 4 Reasons the Left Is So Invested in the Census Debate appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Oil-Rich Countries Need to Diversify and Liberalize

Thu, 2019-07-11 15:48

Americans have been relieved by the drop in gas and oil prices in recent years, but other oil-producing countries aren’t so thrilled.

Last week, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to continue to pinch oil production as it desperately tries to prevent a further drop in oil prices. Strong U.S. production has caused a global oil glut in recent years, leading some to become increasingly uncertain about the future of OPEC.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries claims to “secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers” as well as “a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.”

In reality, all OPEC member countries monopolize oil resources through government-owned or state-controlled enterprises. Cronyism and corruption make the problem much worse. Politics tends to drive production decisions at least as much as economic considerations.

Today, the organization includes 14 countries—two from South America, six from the Middle East, and seven from Africa. They control more than 80% of the world’s crude oil reserves and large deposits of natural gas resources that make some of these countries, or at least their governing elites, exceedingly wealthy.

Yet, almost without exception (the United Arab Emirates and Qatar come to mind) they are plagued with poor property protections, consistent corruption, and a lack of economic liberty that suppress opportunities for innovation, diversification, and entrepreneurship. In fact, the group might well be called the Organization of Poor Economic Conditions.

According to The Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, only four of 15 OPEC countries rank among the top 100 economically free countries in the world. Nine were judged mostly unfree or repressed, and two were in such disarray that the index was unable to accurately rank them at all.

Even when evaluated among their regional peers, most of these countries lag badly.

Almost 60 years after its inception, OPEC is in many respects reaping what it sowed. The opaque cartel has struggled to keep up with the private-sector innovations that it unintentionally incentivized by keeping oil prices high, and it has failed even to provide a fair and stable petroleum market over much of its history.

If member countries want to stabilize their domestic economies and serve their people, they should adopt policies that diversify and liberate their economies. Oil-rich governments hurt themselves when they try to dominate economic activity in this way.

Oil revenue can provide the capital they so desperately need, but ownership structure and effective management of that capital requires private-sector participation. That’s not an easy process, but modern capital markets are certainly up to the task.

Command-and-control economies seldom enjoy long-term success. Economically free societies, on the other hand—where individuals and enterprises are empowered to decide for themselves the best ways to create wealth—have a far better record of lasting success.

For their own sakes, more than ever, these countries should follow the path to greater economic dynamism that they have for too long ignored.

The post Oil-Rich Countries Need to Diversify and Liberalize appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump Administration Preparing to Arrest Illegal Immigrants In Nationwide Raids

Thu, 2019-07-11 15:47

The White House is reportedly picking plans back up to apprehend and deport thousands of illegal immigrants who have ignored court orders to leave the country.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Sunday will launch raids across major U.S. cities, according to Homeland Security officials who spoke with The New York Times and NBC News. The Sunday raids will target roughly 2,000 illegal aliens who, despite court orders to leave, continue to remain in the U.S. Targeted cities include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and other areas.

President Donald Trump in June announced plans to deport “millions” of illegal immigrants, but he later postponed those plans, telling the public he wanted to allow time to negotiate with congressional Democrats on a solution to the immigration crisis. However, it is likely that the plans were also scrapped because key details were leaked to the media.

The president has since said his administration was ready to renew the operation.

“These are people where we have their papers, we’ve gone through the court system. [The deportations will] be starting fairly soon, but I don’t call them raids. We’re removing people that have come — all of these people over the years — that have come in illegally. We are removing them and bringing them back into their country,” Trump said on July 5.

Ken Cuccinelli, the newly-appointed acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, also said that ICE agents were ready to apprehend and deport aliens who are ignoring court orders.

“They’re ready to just perform their mission, which is to go and find and detain and then deport the approximately one million people who have final removal orders,” Cuccinelli said during a CBS interview Sunday.

The ICE raids are expected to last several days and also include “collateral” deportations — the apprehension of illegal immigrants who were not original ICE targets, but happened to be at the scene. If possible, family units who are arrested in unison will be taken to family detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas, but some may be placed in hotel rooms.

The goal, according to officials who spoke with The New York Times, is to deport families as soon as possible.

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The post Trump Administration Preparing to Arrest Illegal Immigrants In Nationwide Raids appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

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