by Bradley A. Smith • National Review
Donald Trump’s wayward counsel, Michael Cohen, was sentenced today as part of a plea bargain with the government. As part of that settlement, Cohen has admitted to criminal violations of federal campaign-finance law and has implicated President Trump in those violations. The press is ablaze with headlines trumpeting the president’s possible involvement in two felony campaign-finance violations. The source of these violations are Mr. Cohen’s arranging — allegedly at Trump’s direction — hush-money payments to women alleging long-ago affairs with the 2016 presidential candidate.
The Federal Election Campaign Act holds that an “expenditure” is any “purchase, payment, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money, or anything of value, for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” According to Cohen and the U.S. Attorney, the hush-money payments were, it appears, made in the hopes of preventing information from becoming public before the election, and hence were “for the purpose of influencing” the election. This means that, at a minimum, they had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission; further, if they were authorized by Mr. Trump, they would become, in the law’s parlance, “coordinated expenditures,” subject to limits on the amounts that could be spent. Since the lawful contribution limit is much lower than the payments made, and the payments were not reported, this looks like an open and shut case, right? Continue reading
By James Altschul • The Federalist
After two days of public outcry, Twitter has reinstated the account of conservative commentator Jesse Kelly. Contradicting their initial message to Kelly, which notified him that his account had been “permanently suspended” and “[would] not be restored,” a Twitter spokesperson stated on Tuesday that Kelly’s account had instead been “temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter rules.” Precisely which rules Kelly violated were not specified.
Given the opacity of the process, we can only speculate on what caused Twitter to reverse course, but a good bet would be the threat of governmental reprisal hinted at by tweets from Sen. Ben Sasse and Senator-elect Josh Hawley.
While Sasse merely commented that “The trend of de-platforming and shutting down speech is a bad precedent for our free speech society,” Hawley was more explicit, writing, “The new Congress needs to investigate…Twitter is exempt from liability as a ‘publisher’ because it is allegedly ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’ That does not appear to be accurate.” Continue reading
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
The other day Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in Israel to receive an award for her commitment to tikkun olam (“to heal the world” in Hebrew,) a spiritual concept that progressive Jews have long distorted so that their malleable religious views could better align with leftist orthodoxy. It’s the sort of convenient philosophy that allows traditions to be subsumed by the vagaries of contemporary politics.
So it is with an increasing number of Democrats and the Constitution: a document they seem believe must bend to the will of their policy preferences rather than preserve legal continuity, limited government, individual liberty, or enlightenment ideals.
Sure, some of the anger aimed Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is partisan bluster meant to placate the activist base. Still, most Democrats were going to get hysterical about any pick, because any conservative pick was going to take the Constitution far too literally for their liking. For those who rely on the administrative state and coercion as a policy tool — forcing Continue reading
By Brian Riedl • Investor’s Business Daily
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) remains controversial, with public opinion evenly split and many Democrats campaigning on repeal. However, the Democratic critique of the tax cuts has grown increasingly incoherent.
The party excoriates the “tax cuts for the rich” while trying to tilt them even further to the wealthy. Democrats slam the deficit effect of the tax cuts while working to worsen budget deficits.
In addition, they erroneously describe the law as a “middle-class tax hike” while proposing policies that would truly raise middle-class taxes. Continue reading
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
If you’re under the impression that the system exists merely to facilitate your partisan agenda, it’s not surprising that you also believe it’s “broken” every time things don’t go your way. This is why so many Democrats argue that we should “fix” the Electoral College when they lose a presidential election and “fix” the filibuster when they run the Senate and now “fix” the Supreme Court when they don’t run the Senate.
During the Obama presidency, liberal pundits groused about the supposed crisis posed by a “dysfunctional” Congress. In political media parlance, “dysfunction” can be roughly translated into “Democrats aren’t able to do as they like.” Congress, as you know, was only “broken” when President Obama wasn’t getting his agenda passed, not when his party was imposing a wholly partisan, unprecedented health-care regime on all Americans.
In any event, the political establishment spent six years wringing its hands about subsequent GOP electoral success, which was an organic political reaction that strengthened separation of powers and reflected the nation’s ideological divisions. Although you’d never know it listening to political coverage, it meant the system was working just fine.
By Gary Abernathy • Washington Post
Since President Trump’s election, journalists, political scientists and others from across the United States and around the world have visited our little southern Ohio town, population 6,600, to study the natives. Naturally, patronizing local eateries at breakfast or lunchtime is usually part of their itinerary.
Some have told me later that, during their interviews, they went out of their way to identify themselves as liberals who have little use for our president. To their credit, they wanted to be honest about who they were and what they were doing. They were sometimes treated with a degree of skepticism, but without fail, they say that people were polite and willing to talk to them — not to mention serve them breakfast or lunch.
We contrast this, of course, with the recent episodes involving Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, both of whom were essentially evicted from restaurants — Continue reading
Health Reform: Since 2014, Democrats have greeted double-digit hikes in ObamaCare premiums with a yawn. Now it’s a crisis that must be fixed immediately. What’s changed?
Huge increases in ObamaCare premiums are the norm. In its first year, ObamaCare forced costs in the individual insurance market up by double digits. Subsequent eye-popping jumps followed. The average premium climbed about 7% in 2015, 11% in 2016, 22% in 2017, and by more than 30% in 2018.
The Health and Human Services Department calculated that, overall, premiums more than doubled between 2013 — the year before ObamaCare went into effect — and 2017. Continue reading
By Inez Feltscher Stepman • The Federalist
The latest in Facebook-policed “fake news” is a claim echoing through the conservative Twittersphere, including from my own account, that two bills outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown signed impose such draconian water use standards that fines could be imposed for taking a shower and running laundry on the same day. Snopes rated these assertions as “mostly false,” and Facebook flagged stories about them as fake news.
But Snopes, Facebook, and others purporting to “fact check” conservative frustrations with the law are the ones misleading about its effects. The way these allegedly neutral fact-checkers present repackaged liberal assumptions as hard fact is a great illustration of how the Left pulls off the kind of logical ju-jitsu that allows them to label conservative arguments as fake news in order to dismiss them.
In this particular case, none of these “debunking” articles actually dispute the three most crucial facts: there is a daily per-person 55-gallon limit ratcheting down to 50 gallons over the course of a decade, fines will be imposed upon violation, and, for at least some users, a reasonable-length shower and running the wash will put them over. In fact, most of the articles in question actually confirm these three vital points, usually squashed into a final paragraph that contradicts the headline. Nevertheless, they conclude that conservatives are spreading false information.
Fines On Providers Are Fines on Consumers
For starters, they point out that the $1,000 per day ($10,000 a day during drought) fines are levied on water providers, not directly on individuals. The first liberal assumption embedded in the narrative is that those fines will not be passed on to consumers.
If you think water companies will eat thousands of dollars of overuse fines without passing them on to consumers in the form of higher water costs, company fines for violators, or hard-usage cutoff caps, I have an infrastructure project to sell you in Brooklyn. But regardless of where you fall on economic theory questions, this is an arguable assumption, not an indisputable fact.
Secondly, the Snopes article assures California citizens that the 55-gallon standard is quite relaxed, and that most will easily be able to take a shower and do laundry while staying under the limit. The outlet buttresses its math by calculating that the average shower uses about 17 gallons of water, while high-efficiency washing machines use 15-30 gallons per load. Second liberal assumption: most people take extremely short showers and own super-efficient, expensive appliances.
The reality, of course, is that these numbers need a fact check. The U.S. Geological Survey—that well-known purveyor of right-wing fake news—says a ten-minute shower can run about 50 gallons of use without special water-saving showerheads, while washing machines vary from 25 to 40 gallons per cycle, depending on efficiency.
Again, the claim that a shower and laundry don’t run over the legally imposed limit is not based on hard facts ignored by ideological opponents, but on ideological (and fantastical) assumptions: that everyone has or wants a brand-new efficient washer and shower head, or that people take very brief showers to save water.
Terrible Management Caused California’s Water Woes
Fact-check wars aside, few conservatives would complain about strict water restrictions if California’s drought woes were truly unavoidable. But the state’s chronic water troubles are the result of decades of leftist mismanagement.
California is among the highest-tax states in the nation and boasts a booming tax base of large industries, from the Silicon Valley technology hub and Hollywood to enormous agriculture and viticulture sectors. Yet the state, the arid southern half of which is naturally short on water, has not authorized new reservoir construction for 20 years.
Brown’s administration not only failed to build a single reservoir for the droughts that are sure to plague the state’s future, it is actively fighting a federal project to enlarge the capacity of the Shasta reservoir by adding to its dam, citing environmental protection. In the midst of record droughts several years ago, the state actually flushed millions of acre-feet of lifesaving reservoir water to help boost the population of a three-inch bait fish living in the Sacramento River Delta.
If the most basic duty of a state government is to keep its citizens safe, close behind is the fundamental obligation to build and maintain basic infrastructure such as roads, schools, and, in the case of a desert state, ensuring that enough water remains in reserves to operate through a drought. It’s hard to argue that California’s natural water problems outstrip those of a true desert state like Arizona, yet Arizona has a reservoir system that can keep the state operating through even intense and prolonged drought.
Instead, the California legislature spends billions on social leveling schemes that have, if not produced, than at least failed to alleviate the growing gap between rich and poor and skyrocketing homeless rates in the state. Then when the 2015 droughts finally forced the legislature to confront the issue, its solution has been to impose draconian water use restrictions on individual use, even though that makes up just 10 percent of the state’s overall water use (50 percent is environmental, 40 percent agricultural).
Because the Left has stranglehold over the mainstream media narrative, and now over many of the social media platforms we use to communicate, the unspoken premises that underlie their “fact checking” rarely get brought to light. In the case of the California water wars, Brown and the Left are hoping citizens will focus on ideologically contingent claims of fake news and miss their decades of irresponsible mismanagement in the Golden State.
Hypocrisy Watch: Democrats hope they’ve found an issue that will re-energize the fading “Blue Wave” with the recent spike in gas prices. Never mind that the increase is temporary. Or that Democrats have for years tried to force gas prices up — permanently — through various tax hikes.
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, average pump prices for regular gasoline hit $2.923 a gallon this week. That’s up 55 cents compared with the same week last year, and the highest prices have been since November 2014.
Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other Democrats plan to use this price spike to Continue reading
By Dennis Prager • Investor’s Business Daily
If you want to understand the moral sickness at the heart of leftism, read the first paragraph of the most recent column by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne:
“It’s never right to call other human beings ‘animals.’ It’s not something we should even have to debate. No matter how debased the behavior of a given individual or group, no matter how much legitimate anger that genuinely evil actions might inspire, dehumanizing others always leads us down a dangerous path.”
Let’s begin with the first sentence: “It’s never right to call other human beings ‘animals.'”
This is so self-evident to Dionne that he adds, “It’s not something we should even have to debate.”
Only someone who has never debated the issue could make such a claim.
So allow me to debate the assertion.
My view is the antithesis of Dionne’s. As I see it, it is not right to never call another human being an “animal.”
Calling the cruelest among us names such as “animal” or any other “dehumanizing” epithet actually protects humans. The word “beastly” exists for a reason and is frequently applied to human beings. By rhetorically reading certain despicable people out of the human race, we elevate the human race. We have declared certain behaviors out of line with being human.
Biologically, of course, we are all human. But if “human” is to mean anything moral — anything beyond the purely biological — then some people who have committed particularly heinous acts of evil against other human beings are not to be considered human. Otherwise “human” has no moral being. We should then not retain the word “inhumane.” What is the difference between “he is inhumane” and “he is an animal”? Both imply actions that render the person no longer human.
Dionne provides his answer at the end of the paragraph: “dehumanizing others always leads us down a dangerous path.”
He provides not a single argument or illustration for this truly absurd comment.
Anyone who refuses to “dehumanize” the Nazi physicians — who, with no anesthesia, froze naked people for hours and then dropped them in boiling water to rewarm them; put people in depressurized rooms where their eardrums burst, driving them out of their minds from pain; rubbed wood shavings and ground glass into infected wounds, etc. — is, to put it very gently, profoundly morally confused.
What would Dionne have us call those Nazi physicians — “not nice,” “badly flawed,” “evil”? Why is rhetorically ostracizing them from the human race “a dangerous path”? He doesn’t have an answer because he lives in the left’s world of moral-sounding platitudes. Leftism consists almost entirely of moral-sounding platitudes — statements meant to make the person making them feel morally sophisticated. But based on their relative reactions to the sadists of the MS-13 gangs, I trust Donald Trump’s moral compass more than E. J. Dionne’s.
It is ever dangerous to use dehumanizing rhetoric on people? Of course — when it is directed at people based on their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality or any other immutable physical characteristic. The Nazis did what they did to Jews and others because they dehumanized them based on their religious/ethnic/racial identity. That’s why racism is evil. But why is it dangerous to use such rhetoric on people based on their behavior? By equating labeling the cruelest among us “animals” with labeling Jews “animals,” Dionne cheapens the fight against real evil.
I once asked Rabbi Leon Radzik, a Holocaust survivor who had been in Auschwitz, what word he would use to characterize the sadistic guards in the camp. I will never forget his response: “They were monsters with a human face.”
Incredibly, Dionne would not agree with him.
By Valerie Richardson • The Washington Times
Al Gore has been accused of hypocrisy for talking the talk on climate change despite burning through fossil fuels at a rapid clip, but it turns out he’s not alone.
A study by Cornell and the University of Michigan researchers found that those “highly concerned” about climate change were less likely to engage in recycling and other eco-friendly behaviors than global-warming skeptics.
Published in the April edition of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the one-year study broke 600 participants into three groups based on their level of concern about climate change: “highly concerned,” “cautiously worried,” and “skeptical.”
The “highly concerned” cluster was “most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions, whereas the ‘Skeptical’ opposed policy solutions but were Continue reading
Welfare: The latest “big idea” in the U.S. is the Universal Basic Income — a guaranteed income for all. Progressives of course like the idea, but even some conservatives and libertarians do, too. Only one problem: It doesn’t work.
Ask Finland, a highly progressive Scandinavian country that has an ongoing guaranteed income experiment, but is abandoning it.
Starting in 2017, the two-year Finnish program selected a random group of 2,000 unemployed people and gave them a monthly income roughly equal to about $678 for doing … nothing. The government hoped that many participants would flood back into the labor market.
But Finland is already backing off. As the New York Times put it Continue reading
By Tom Perez • Boston Herald
Who said the Democratic Party is out of ideas? After failing to raise any significant money with the wall-to-wall hysterical coverage networks like CNN have afforded Dems, they are moving their efforts over to Court TV.
And so the Democratic National Committee on Friday sued President Trump’s campaign, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the Russian Federation, Wikileaks and others. The gist of the action is that Team Trump had worked with dark cronies like Russian oligarchs, WikiLeaks, Cambridge Analytica, et al. to steal the election.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez called it an “act of unprecedented treachery.”
That this move by Perez and the DNC is an act of unprecedented poor sportsmanship is unquestionable. It’s no different than Continue reading
By Wayne Winegarden • Investor’s Business Daily
Gov. Jerry Brown and some California lawmakers are pushing Golden State drivers to the fast lane of an all-electric car future.
For example, San Francisco Democrat Phil Ting has introduced legislation to outlaw the sale of traditional gas-powered cars by the year 2040. My colleague Kerry Jackson has called this idea “a farce worthy of The Onion.”
But is there really a sufficient demand and marketplace to make an all-electric car future on the horizon a realistic possibility? Not if you look at sales trends. According to the most recent figures, non-hybrid electric cars are just 0.5% of the car market.
To artificially stimulate demand, lawmakers in Washington D.C., California, and many states are trying to play car salesman. They have offered lavish subsidies — paid for by Continue reading
We can remember when the left used to accuse conservatives of being prudish censors. Now it’s the left that appears determined to censor speech it doesn’t like. And they appear to have three incredibly powerful allies in their quest: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The CEO’s of those tech giants — Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki — routinely describe their services as neutral platforms, fiercely committed to openness and free expression.
“Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Dorsey once declared. Twitter’s general manager in the U.K. once called it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”
YouTube parent Google claims that “the flow of ideas and open access to information on the web helps communities grow and nations prosper.”
Zuckerberg told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Facebook is “a platform for all ideas.” Continue reading