May 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 PM


Don McGahn Rebuffed White House Request to Say Trump Didn't Obstruct Justice (Rebecca Ballhaus, May 10, 2019 , WSJ)

Within a day of the release of the Mueller report last month, President Trump sought to have former White House counsel Don McGahn declare he didn't consider the president's 2017 directive that he seek Robert Mueller's dismissal to be obstruction of justice, but Mr. McGahn rebuffed the request, according to people familiar with the matter.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 PM


Brazil Pivots Toward Economic Freedom (Rafael Ribeiro  , 5/10/19, FEE)

It looks like we are on our way toward replicating the Chilean miracle. 

Yet, if I were to pick up only one action taken by his economic team to best demonstrate to my foreign friends the pro-liberty momentum Brazil is experiencing right now, it would be the so-called declaration of economic freedom that was just signed. Conceived by the founder of Instituto Mises Brasil, Hélio Beltrão, in collaboration with members of the Ministry of Economy, the Executive Provisional Act is a set of rules designed to boost free enterprise and impose limits to government intervention over small businesses. It has a 120-day validation period before Congress votes on its permanent implementation.

17 Freedom Principles
Here are the 17 freedom principles that drive the document:

Freedom against bureaucracy--to eliminate unnecessary certifications required by state agents;
Freedom to work and produce--to prevent actions from unions or agencies that restrict the operation of small businesses or intervene in their policies;
Freedom to set prices--to prevent bills from being manipulated so that monopolies are not created;
Freedom against arbitrariness--to avoid state agents benefiting one entrepreneur at the expense of others;
Freedom to be presumed in good faith--to guarantee that contracts and private agreements are respected when the interpretation of a law or right is not clear;
Freedom to modernize--outdated regulations cannot rule modern businesses;
Freedom to innovate--no license may be required while the company is still testing, developing, or implementing a product or service that is not of high risk;
Freedom to agree--if two parties agree in contract, no judiciary action can be taken to alter it;
Freedom not to go unanswered--every license or application will have to have a maximum time, which, when passed, will mean approval in silence;
Freedom to go digital--all papers will be digitalized so companies will not have costs in stocking documents;
Freedom to grow--to guarantee small companies access to the capital market;
Freedom to endeavor--to protect business owners and entrepreneurs from being pre-judged as villains before a clear demonstration of their guilt;
Freedom to write contracts with international standards--to limit the cases in which judiciary decisions can alter contracts;
Freedom against abuse--to prevent state agents from issuing abusive remarks and regulations;
Freedom against economic regulation--no economic regulation may be issued without a consistent analysis of its impact;
Freedom of corporate regulation--commercial associations will be legalized;
Freedom of contractual risks--the right of two parts to agree to the allocation of risks in contracts will be licit and respected.

Besides the economic outcomes expected from the implementation of the decree, it will also have a positive impact on our mindset. For many decades, Brazilians have systematically been taught countless economic fallacies which say capitalism generates poverty and that the state is the only entity able to stimulate the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 PM


Saving the Nordics from the Mongrels: Review of 'The Guarded Gate' By Daniel Okrent (RICHARD STARR, April 2019, Commentary)

The men whose vision was embodied in the 1924 Act did not by and large believe that the immigrant masses could or even should be assimilated and Americanized. Okrent gives us the view of Kenneth Roberts, who for years had been banging the drum for restriction in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post, the largest and most influential of American magazines in those pre-radio, pre-TV days: "If America doesn't keep out the queer, alien, mongrelized people of Southeastern Europe, her crop of citizens will eventually be dwarfed and mongrelized in return." This was not the extreme view of an outlying crank; the Saturday Evening Post was the beating heart of the mainstream media. 

For the highbrow version, Okrent gives us Fairfield Osborn (Princeton, 1877), Columbia University professor of zoology and president of the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Zoological Society. In 1925, Osborn gave thanks to the philanthropist Mary Harriman (mother of Averell), winner of the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Social Sciences, whose munificence had helped make possible the great legislative triumph of the year before--the "wise, deliberate... exclusion of citizens we cannot welcome to our country." Osborn's concern, to be clear, was not the assimilation of the lower orders but the protection and perfection of those at the top. At last, he said, "we are tending toward the selection of the best, the exclusion of the worst."

The Immigration Act of 1924 was hugely popular. The vote in the House was 308-62; in the Senate, 69-9. Good old-fashioned prejudice and xenophobia no doubt played a part, along with fears of Bolshevists and anarchist bombers. What really ran up the score, however, was the prestige and authority of pseudoscience.

A few Boston Brahmins had, since the 1890s, been pushing for literacy tests and other stratagems to slow the rate of immigration, but success kept eluding them. Then, starting in the years before World War I, America went crazy for the new branch of applied biology known as eugenics. 

In a nutshell, the eugenicists were hereditarian extremists. Extrapolating from Darwin's theory of evolution via natural selection and the more recent laws of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel in his experiments on pea plants, they thought they could enhance the human race. Humanity, they believed, was built on a hierarchy of races, genetically determined. Those at the top of the pyramid (Nordics), if only they could be exhorted or induced to mate with one another, would pass their moral, physical, intellectual, and spiritual gifts to their offspring (along with blue eyes and blond hair). The lesser breeds, morally, physically, and intellectually inferior by various degrees, were unfortunately surpassing their betters in one key skill: reproduction. Even worse, they were intermarrying with their betters to produce mongrel offspring. Best that they be kept at a distance, or even sterilized. (Dozens of states passed compulsory sterilization laws for the mentally defective and were blessed with the approval of the Supreme Court, 8-1 in the notorious 1927 Buck v. Bell case.)

As Okrent notes, "this ferment of racial analysis was a direct, if almost certainly unintended, product of the Darwinian revolution: once you establish that not everyone is descended from Adam and Eve--and thus not genetically related to one another--anything goes: racial differences, racial hierarchies, racial hatred." And though eugenics may sound to modern ears like Darwin for Dummies, it wasn't the dummies who led the parade. It was the best and brightest, good progressives, pioneering conservationists, highly credentialed scientists and intellectuals.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 PM


Don Jr. Has Some Explaining to Do: Triumph of the rule of law. (NOAH ROTHMAN, 5/09/19, Commentary)

The president's son testified before congressional investigators in September 2017 behind closed doors. But, according to the opening statement he released to the public, he characterized the Trump Tower meeting as "primarily focused on Russian adoptions." He also claimed that he had always maintained that this was the case, but that was not true. The president personally dictated a statement on his son's behalf claiming that the meeting was unrelated to the campaign. White House emails subsequently revealed that the agenda was going to include substantive support for the president's reelection efforts as part of "Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." The question the Mueller probe declined to resolve was whether Donald Trump Jr. was aware of the campaign-finance laws he was violating at the time of the meeting. That's a question that can only be satisfactorily resolved by the president's son under oath.

This wasn't the only occasion in which Don Jr. appears to have been manipulated by Russian assets with a few degrees of separation from Moscow. In November 2017, media reports revealed that the president's son had exchanged direct messages with Wikileaks's Twitter account in 2016, which was often utilized by Julian Assange himself. By that point, it was already public knowledge that the entity known as Guccifer 2.0, which was understood to be a front for Russian military intelligence, was responsible for the hack of Democratic National Committee servers and had funneled the documents it stole through Wikileaks. According to Mueller's report, Wikileaks gave the password to an anti-Trump website to Don Jr., who proceeded to inform campaign officials of the find without disclosing its provenance. "I tried the password and it works," the younger Trump revealed. This could constitute illegal hacking.

But the Senate Intelligence Committee is reportedly most curious about the extent to which Don Trump Jr. was aware of his father's efforts to secure the rights to construct a skyscraper in Moscow--efforts that reportedly continued well into 2016, even after Trump had secured the Republican nomination for president. The president's son told Senate investigators that he "wasn't involved" in those negotiations and was only "peripherally aware of it." But Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified in his plea agreement with prosecutors that he repeatedly briefed both Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump about the status of negotiations regarding the Moscow tower project. Someone has not been entirely truthful.

This subpoena suggests that the president's son declined to cooperate with Congress voluntarily. The New York Times revealed that, according to someone close to Don Jr., "he could invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in a written response." Congressional investigators are obliged to pursue these outstanding issues and reconcile Donald Trump Jr.'s 2017 testimony with what we know today.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


Viktor Orbán and the corruption of conservatism (Dalibor Rohac, 5/10/19, cAPx)

During the early 1960s, the conservative movement in the United States underwent a deep transformation, largely thanks to the leadership of William F. Buckley, Jr., the editor of National Review. Initially, the magazine was sceptical of federal efforts at desegregation, on the grounds of defending the rights of US states to govern themselves. For Buckley, that position became untenable in the light of the actual policies that Southern states were pursuing. "I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow," he said in a 2004 interview. "I was wrong. Federal intervention was necessary."

Buckley famously purged the magazine, and with it much of the conservative movement, of anti-Semites, racists, conspiracy theorists, and kooks - and enabled it to thrive as a healthy, intelligent stream of Western intellectual life for decades to come.

Today, the conservative movement is in dire need of a similar cleanse. The dividing line is no longer the issue of the rights of individual US states but includes more broadly the questions of globalism, global governance, and local control. Unlike the distinctly American controversy of the 1960s, it affects conservatively-minded individuals on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the underlying substantive issues are strikingly similar. At what point does the defence of the nation-state vis-à-vis expansive forms of international cooperation become an apology for racism, arbitrary state power, authoritarianism - or anti-Semitic tropes?

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Fifty-Fifty Follies (Lionel Shriver, May 2019, Harper's)

Last spring, the BBC officially took up a "50:50 challenge" to achieve an equal number of male and female experts on news and current-events shows within the following year. We're seeing an upsurge in the insistence that women must constitute half of everyone doing anything, since underrepresentation in any arena or sector is surely a sign of unconscious bias, misogyny, or institutionalized sexism begging for instantaneous redress. Over the past year, I myself have been approached more frequently to appear on BBC radio and television. Has the uptick in these invitations been occasioned by some great elevation of my public profile or some meteoric increase in my expertise? No. I have become a more valuable commodity for the Corporation because--­my first name notwithstanding--­I am female.

Hence the New York Times' official lament earlier this year, following a lengthy letter of complaint, that, alas, the paper's letters to the editor did indeed "skew heavily male." In their reply, "We Hear You," two editors explained that, while the Times tried to select letters for publication without regard to gender, only a quarter, at best a third, of submissions were from women, and this disparity translated to the page. The editors fervently solicited more letters from female readers, and asked for help understanding why we women are so shy with our opinions--­with an aim to reaching the "goal" of fifty-fifty representation in the letters section. Promising to report back by next February, the staffers were clearly hoping to achieve this parity, like the BBC, within a single year's time.

"Goals" and "challenges" are airy, aspirational synonyms for "quotas"--and maybe it's a small sign of progress that the quota has achieved a sufficiently negative connotation to require a euphemism. Moreover, the Times' "goal" is an unusually pure illustration of the contrast between equality of opportunity and equality of results. For there is certainly no barrier to an infinite number of women clicking the cobalt-blue on their screens, or to women availing themselves of the same postal address that so many more men have heretofore copied down.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Erdogan could lose more than Istanbul in high-stakes electoral gamble (Cengiz Candar, May 10, 2019, Al Monitor)

[I]f there is a man who can navigate these choppy waters, it is Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul's elected mayor who run on the ticket of an alliance led by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

The general sentiment among the opposition voters is that Imamoglu will win again by an even bigger margin, with voters outraged that the country's judiciary yielded to the increasingly autocratic president.

Although many opponents called for a boycott of the redo, the CHP ruled out the idea after a meeting convened immediately after the announcement of the electoral nullification. The main opposition party's decision is clear: There will be no boycott and it will participate in the rerun despite its anger at the YSK's decision. CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu asked for the resignation of the council members, describing the decision as "black stain" on the country's democratic history.

The YSK has inadvertently enhanced the standing of a political figure who can defeat and replace Erdogan. Imamoglu displayed a very calm, self-controlled and optimistic outlook in his address to the media immediately after the announcement. He is no more the mayor of Istanbul, but his charm offensive is exceeding the city's limits. He is most formidable candidate yet to take on Erdogan, who was once presumed invincible. Now that image has been shattered.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How football raised its game: Our national sport has been transformed by the free movement of labour and capital (Ian Birrell , r10 MAY 2019, UnHerd)

English football at both national and club level is in strong shape after an extraordinary season - one of the most thrilling that I can recall in half a century of following the sport.

But one of my favourite moments was rather more mundane: when Neil Warnock, manager of struggling Cardiff City, delivered a rant against the Government's inept handling of Brexit. "I can't wait to get out of it," he said, referring to the European Union. "I think we'll be far better out of the bloody thing. In every aspect. Football-wise as well, absolutely. To hell with the rest of the world."

This was a surreal pleasure. A perfect metaphor. Here was this Yorkshireman of pensionable age, struggling with failure to compete, lashing out against globalisation - while standing in front of his club's 'Visit Malaysia' banner.

Vincent Tan, their wealthy foreign owner, even changed the colour of their shirts to attract more Asian fans. Their club chairman was born in Cyprus. The players come from Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and Spain in Europe, along with others from Africa, Asia and north America.

Even though relegated, this club shows how top-flight football has thrived as teams have evolved into international coalitions. The sport is now a commercial powerhouse with billions of worldwide fans. The Bluebirds may not be good enough for premiership survival. But their standard of play is far higher today than many more successful clubs in the recent past and their brand has global allure. This is how Cardiff City can pay players two million pounds a year to play in its fine ten-year-old stadium - and even hand fringe players a seven-figure annual wage.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


How Nancy Pelosi Can Expose Trump and Barr's Extraordinary Power Grab (HEIDI LI FELDMAN, MAY 09, 2019, Slate)

The practice of congressional investigation and exacting of witness testimony dates back to at least 1792. Congress' power to subpoena witnesses and documents has been fully articulated and entrenched in U.S. constitutional law since 1927, when the Supreme Court decided McGrain v. Daugherty, a case that itself pitted the U.S. attorney general against a Senate committee investigating him for misconduct. The decision in McGrain firmly established the principle that inherent in the Constitution's grant of legislative powers to Congress is the power to investigate and obtain information necessary to legislate, including by means of subpoena. Subsequent decisions strengthened and enhanced this proposition.

Existing Supreme Court precedent on executive privilege, meanwhile, is sparse and arises from factual and legal circumstances entirely different from those posed by a congressional inquiry into presidential misconduct. The main cases date from the Nixon era. In one, U.S. v. Nixon, the Supreme Court squarely acknowledged a presidential interest in confidentiality in communications between executive branch officials. But the court actually held that, in the circumstances, the president's interest in confidential communications with executive aides was outweighed by the needs of justice in criminal adjudication. Nixon had to hand over the tapes that eventually brought down his presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Younger Arabs embrace Palestinian identity, redefining Israeli citizenship (Reuters, May 09, 2019)

Loudspeakers blared nationalist Arabic music across hillsides in northern Israel on Thursday as children ran across a field waving Palestinian flags.

The scene was a rally for members of Israel's 21% Arab minority. The Israeli term for them is Israeli Arabs, but many now reject that label, identifying instead as "Palestinian with Israeli citizenship," or simply "Palestinian."

Each year they hold a gathering to mark the Nakba -- or "Catastrophe" -- when Palestinians lament the loss of their homeland in the 1948-49 war that surrounded the creation of the modern Jewish state.

Related: Two views of the Gaza protests, from each side of the border fence

The event is a celebration of Palestinian identity that, Arab politicians and academics say, reflects a change in thinking over the decades. [...]

Shouting over the music, Rula Nasr-Mazzawi, 42, a psychologist, said many of the first two generations of Arabs in post-1948 Israel were too scared to discuss matters of identity openly.

"But now we are seeing the younger generation, the third generation, more and more identifying very frankly and very loudly as Palestinians," she said.

"The term Israeli Arabs is mistaken, it's not accurate. We are Palestinians by nationality, and we are Israeli citizens."

In an interview earlier this year, Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of Israel's parliament with the Ta'al party said: "The term Israeli Arabs is mistaken, it's not accurate. We are Palestinians by nationality, and we are Israeli citizens."

He added: "They are saying Arab Israeli or Israeli Arabs in order to say that we are not Palestinians. We bypassed that. We are part of the Palestinian people, and we are struggling in order to be equal citizens."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump (Kenneth P. Vogel, May 9, 2019, NY Times)

"We're not meddling in an election, we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do," Mr. Giuliani said in an interview on Thursday when asked about the parallel to the special counsel's inquiry.