Listen To My Interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show re Tom Steyer

Last night on the Hugh Hewitt show, Hugh and I talked about Tom Steyer, the Democrats’ top money man, and my post The Epic Hypocrisy of Tom Steyer. Someone put the audio of the interview up on YouTube, along with some apt graphics. So here it is; the interview runs a little over eight minutes:

Hugh is hitting the Steyer story hard, on his radio show, his web site and on Twitter. It will be interesting to see whether some Democratic Party news outlets (Washington Post, New York Times, CBS, CNN, and so on) are embarrassed enough to cover the story.

GOP Senators Blast Obama on Immigration

Everyone knows that Barack Obama has been a scofflaw with respect to Obamacare. But even more damaging has been his (and his attorney general’s) wanton refusal to enforce the immigration laws. Today, Republican senators Grassley, McConnell, Sessions, Shelby, Lee, Isakson, Johanns, Inhofe, Boozman, Vitter, Risch, Crapo, Roberts, Blunt, Cochran, Chambliss, Scott, Coburn, Fischer, Cruz, Hoeven and Hatch sent this blistering letter to Obama, asking that he fulfill both his constitutional duty and his oath of office with regard to immigration laws. The letter decries Obama’s policy of releasing many thousands of criminal illegals into the streets to prey on American citizens and legal residents, and builds to a powerful conclusion:

April 24, 2014

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our grave concerns over the immigration “enforcement review” that you ordered after meeting with advocacy groups on March 13, 2014, and that is now being carried out by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to reports, the changes under consideration would represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement and discard the rule of law and the notion that the United States has enforceable borders.

Clearly, the urgent task facing your administration is to improve immigration enforcement, not to look for new ways to weaken it. Since 2009, your administration has issued policy directives and memoranda incrementally nullifying immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States – to the point that unless individuals in the country illegally are apprehended, tried, and convicted for a felony or other serious offense, they are free to live and work in the country.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own figures, in 2013, nearly all individuals removed from the United States were convicted criminals and recent border crossers.[1] As the LA Times reported, since 2009, there has been a 40% decline in removals of individuals living and working in the interior of the country.[2] And, recently revealed documents from ICE show that in 2013, the agency released 68,000 potentially deportable aliens deemed by ICE to pose a criminal threat.

As a result of your policies, individuals here illegally who do not meet administration “priorities” are not only largely exempt from the law, but are released even if they come into contact with federal law enforcement authorities. Because these priorities require at least one, and frequently multiple, criminal convictions, countless dangerous offenders are released back onto the streets on a continual basis. Since ICE frequently takes no action until after the most serious crimes have occurred and the offenders have been tried and imprisoned, the administration is allowing preventable crimes harming innocent people to take place every day.

Chris Crane, President of the National ICE Council, testified before Congress about the inability of ICE agents to do their jobs, saying: “I think most Americans assume that ICE agents and officers are empowered by the Government to enforce the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. With 11 million people in the country illegally, ICE agents are now prohibited from arresting individuals solely on charges of illegal entry or visa overstay—the two most frequently violated sections of U.S. immigration law.” He also described how your administration is punishing ICE agents who want to uphold the oath they took to serve America. He stated: “As criminal aliens are released to the streets and ICE instead takes disciplinary actions against its own officers for making lawful arrests, it appears clear that Federal law enforcement officers are the enemy and not those that break our Nation’s laws.”[3]

These policies have operated as an effective repeal of duly enacted federal immigration law and exceed the bounds of the Executive Branch’s prosecutorial discretion. It is not the province of the Executive to nullify the laws that the people of the United States, through their elected representatives, have chosen to enact. To the contrary, it is the duty of the Executive to take care that these laws are faithfully executed. Congress has not passed laws permitting people to illegally enter the country or to ignore their visa expiration dates, so long as they do not have a felony conviction or other severe offense on their record. Your actions demonstrate an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the rights of American citizens and legal residents.

Our entire constitutional system is threatened when the Executive Branch suspends the law at its whim and our nation’s sovereignty is imperiled when the commander-in-chief refuses to defend the integrity of its borders.

You swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We therefore ask you to uphold that oath and to carry out the duties required by the Constitution and entrusted to you by the American people.

Sincerely,

Emphasis added. Will Obama respond to the charge that he has abdicated his constitutional responsibilities? Probably not. More likely he will throw the senators’ letter in the wastebasket and jet off to another fundraiser. At the White House, it is all politics, all the time. The rule of law is an old-fashioned concept that apparently has no place in the Age of Obama.

BgNUHFICYAIydZW

Reviving the Misery Index

Graybeards will remember Jimmy Carter’s embrace of the “Misery Index”—the combination of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate—that Peanut Brain used against Gerald Ford in 1976, but which he then doubled during his forlorn presidency as Ronald Reagan skillfully reminded everyone in 1980.  Well, it’s baaaack.

Only this time in a much more refined and useable way, as economist Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University explains in a terrific column in the Indonesia-based Globe Asia magazine.  (The Cato Institute, where Hanke is a fellow, has cross-posted a full version of the article.)  Here’s a few excerpts, though the real action can be seen in some of the charts and tables Hanke and Globe Asia have put together:

The late Arthur Okun, a distinguished economist who served as chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during President Johnson’s administration, developed the original misery index for the United States. Okun’s index is equal to the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates.

Harvard Professor Robert Barro amended the misery index by also including the 30-year government bond yield and the output gap for
real GDP. Barro used his index to measure the change in misery during a president’s term. . .

The data in the misery index chart speak loudly. Contrary to left-wing dogma, the Reagan “free-market years” were very good ones. And the Clinton years of Victorian fiscal virtues – when President Clinton proclaimed in his January 1996 State of the Union address: “the era of big government is over” – were also very good ones.

The misery index pours cold water on the current critique of free markets and fiscal austerity – a critique that has taken on the characteristics
of a religion embraced without investigation. Indeed, it makes one wonder whether the critics ever bothered to subject their ideas to a reality check.

You can see the results for each presidential term for the last 60 years:

Misery 1 copy

Hanke then turns his attention internationally, which special (and much deserved) malice for Venezuela.

When measured by the 
misery index, Venezuela holds the ignominious top spot, with an index value of 79.4. But, that index value,
 as of 31 December 2013, understates the level of misery because it uses the official annual inflation rate of 56.2%. In fact, I estimate that Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate at the end of last year was 278%. That rate is almost five times higher than the official inflation rate. If the annual implied inflation rate of 278% is used to calculate Venezuela’s misery index, the index jumps from 79.4 to 301, indicating that Venezuela is in much worse shape than suggested by the official data.

Here’s the data in table and graph form:

(Click to embiggen)

Misery 3 copy

Misery 4 copy

Kagame does Brandeis

When Brandeis University withdrew its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to appear at commencement for an honorary degree, I spoke with a knowledgeable source on campus who told me that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was scheduled to visit campus on April 23. I reported on the information provided by my source in “Brandeis breakdown.”

Many people believe that Kagame has a lot of blood on his hands and he certainly talks like a throat slasher. Earlier this year, Kagame was widely quoted expressing regret that he had not ordered the assassination of Patrick Karegeya, the country’s former spy chief who had been found dead in Johannesburg the previous month.

“Rwanda did not kill this person – and it’s a big no,” Kagame said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “But I add that, I actually wish Rwanda did it. I really wish it.” Kagame refused to rule out that he would in principle order an assassination: “Well, that’s a different issue…I have said what I said.”

Kagame’s comments were reported in newspapers around the world; the Telegraph picked them up here.

With the controversy at Brandeis over Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the scheduled appearance of Kagame on campus became a sensitive matter. Could Brandeis really honor Kagame while dissing an incredibly brave advocate of women’s rights from Africa?

I couldn’t get a straight answer from the school. Looking around online, I found that silence was golden. Not a word was to be heard. If Kagame was coming, it was a secret.

The day after, the silence prevails, with one exception. Kagame has posted numerous photos featuring his big day at Brandeis on Flickr. We can’t be sure of Brandeis’s attitude, but Kagame is proud of what the school has done for him. In the photo below, Kagame yuks it up with Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence (at his left). A good time was apparently had by all.

KagameBrandeis

UPDATE: Jeryl Bier writes to point out that Brandeis has emitted a (hilariously mealymouthed) comment on Kagame’s visit. In the spirit of the affair, it has a double secret quality to it. For the record, here it is:

Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit to Brandeis University this week is part of appearances he is making at several Boston-area universities, including Harvard and Tufts. President Kagame engaged in a round-table discussion with invited guests and faculty and students affiliated with the Sustainable International Development program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the Brandeis University program in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence as well as with Brandeis students originally from Rwanda.

To clarify, this event was not a public speaking engagement and was an invitation-only, academic event.

President Kagame’s visit is consistent with the principles of academic freedom and a longstanding Brandeis tradition of hosting international dignitaries, some controversial, in the interest of scholarly understanding and academic dialogue.

Thank you for your inquiry.

Ellen de Graffenreid, MA, MBA
Senior Vice President for Communications
Brandeis University

Pass it on!

Hillary’s greatest hits

President Eisenhower was a master of calculated obfuscation. When it came to Nixon, however, Eisenhower’s views could be discerned with some clarity. He didn’t think much of him. In Nixon Agonistes, Garry Wills explains: “Eisenower’s periodic deflations of Nixon did not arise from mere vindictiveness. It seems clear from his actions, and from things he told many intimates, that he did not consider Nixon a statesman.”

Eisenhower’s most famous “deflation” of Nixon came in 1960, with Nixon serving as Ike’s vice president and seeking the presidency against JFK. Asked by a reporter to name “a major idea” of Nixon’s that Ike had adopted as president, Eisenhower famously responded: “If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don’t remember.” The Democrats incorporated Eisenhower’s response into a television ad touting JFK (it’s accessible here on YouTube).

When it comes to identifying Hillary Clinton’s major accomplishments as Secretary of State, one thinks of Eisenhower on Nixon. The problem, however, is not some underlying antagonism between Clinton and administration spokesmen. Rather, it’s lack of material to work with. As when Tom Friedman posed the question, one can see the difficulty it presents even for Hillary herself.

This week we have the case of Clinton’s 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Pressed by AP reporter Matt Lee at a Tuesday press conference, State Department flack Jen Psaki flailed away while failing to come up with a single “tangible achievement” from Clinton’s QDDR (video below).

There is no ill will between Psaki and Clinton. She wanted to do better. Indeed, having slept on it and done her homework, Psaki returned yesterday with a do-over. This was her new answer:

After the 2010 QDDR economic statecraft, which as you know is a big part of what Secretary Clinton did when she was traveling overseas, became a — a stronger emphasis was placed on trade promotion, investment, and leveling the economic playing field. That’s something the Secretary has continued to support. As he often says, economic policy is foreign policy, and that’s one of the roles that we can play here at the State Department and our diplomats play around the world.

We also – as a result of the 2010 QDDR, we also now have a fuller integration of women and girls into our policy framework – planning and budgeting, program monitoring and evaluation, and management and training. That continues to be a big priority for the State Department, promoting women and girls around the world.

The QDDR also – the 2010 QDDR also reorganized and created bureaus to address the needs of the 21st century – of 21st century diplomacy that we’re seeing in effect today. So that includes a reorganization of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. As you all know, and we talk about frequently in here, the ENR Bureau and the work they’re doing on energy issues, which is newer to the State Department – relatively so – is vital in places like Ukraine. We’re seeing that today.

It also established the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and established, as I already touched on, three new bureaus, including the Bureau for Counterterrorism, which of course, is one that we work quite a bit with.

So I just wanted to highlight that as a follow-up.

Byron York reports on the exchange that followed:

Lee was not impressed. “Were there any of these that didn’t simply involve rearranging of the bureaucratic deck chairs or shuffling responsibilities between one bureau to another or creating a new level of bureaucracy?” he asked. “Were any of the accomplishments in – outside of that, those areas?”

“Absolutely, Matt,” answered Psaki. “I would say the whole process, if it works well, as it did in 2010, or leading up to 2010, is to better determine priorities and how to make things work better in a large functioning bureaucracy.”

After a bit of back-and-forth, Lee tried again: “I’m asking for actual demonstrable outcomes, not the creation of a new position or a new job.” Lee wondered whether beyond turning this office into that bureau, or signaling that this or that issue would now be a priority for the Secretary of State — whether beyond that sort of organizational business the QDDR had actually done things. After an exchange about the accomplishments, or lack of accomplishments, of a Clinton-created entity known as the Energy and Resources Bureau, Lee and Psaki appeared to call it a draw, and the briefing ended.

When the question is raised during Hillary’s candidacy, it will doubtless be deemed another front in the war on women and an offense against majesty. Until that time we should probably enjoy the spectacle.

Video and other good stuff via Washington Free Beacon.

The Constitution Is Still Constitutional, For Now

I think Scott was the first person I heard say that one day, the Supreme Court may rule the Constitution unconstitutional. That didn’t happen yesterday, when the court decided the Schuette case on a 6-2 vote, but it could have. The issue in Schuette was whether it is permissible for a state to prohibit race discrimination by public institutions. The majority held that a state can indeed ban discrimination on the basis of race. Whew! Some of us thought that issue was settled by the 14th Amendment. But two justices, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, dissented: they would have held that states are required to engage in race discrimination, no matter how much a state’s citizens may protest in favor of equal treatment.

The 14th Amendment guarantees all Americans the equal protection of the laws. For a public entity like a university to discriminate against an applicant because of his or her race is an obvious violation of the 14th Amendment. Indeed, the amendment was adopted precisely in order to ban race discrimination by public authorities. Yet Ginsburg and Sotomayor were prepared to hold the 14th Amendment “unconstitutional”–i.e., disapproved by the official Left–and require that all states discriminate on the basis of race (or at least preserve the option to do so) whether they like it or not. Their position was pretty much unanimously applauded in the liberal media.

America’s liberals hold, with only a few exceptions, that the Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, is “unconstitutional,” and that paying no attention to race is “racist.” How liberalism came to this point is a long and torturous story, but if human history has ever seen a self-refuting philosophy, this is it.

Note that Schuette does not hold–contrary to the characterizations of some commentators–that race discrimination is illegal. Rather, it holds, much more narrowly, that it is permissible, at least under some circumstances, not to engage in race discrimination. Affirmative action (i.e., systemic racism) lives to fight again another day.

Michael Ramirez sums up this sad state of affairs graphically. Click to enlarge:

ramirez-042414-racist.gif.cms

South Carolina moves to rein in its universities

You might think that the takeover by the radical left of liberal arts instruction at American colleges and universities would be more difficult to accomplish at state institutions than at private ones. After all, state colleges depend on politicians for funding. And conservative to moderate politicians are in ascendency in many, if not most, states.

In fact, though, the rot appears to have spread largely unimpeded at state colleges. This is clear, for example, from David Horowitz’s work, including One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. Many of the outrages Horowitz cites occur at public universities (Penn State seemed like a particularly chronic offender, if I recall correctly).

The fact is that politicians don’t seem interested in what occurs in the classrooms of state supported schools. Only in extreme cases that carry the possibility of significant embarrassment — such as Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado — do conservative legislators become involved. And once the storm blows over, their focus returns to the traditional political issues that they feel more comfortable with and that promise a higher rate of political return.

In South Carolina, though, the legislature may be serious about curbing the leftward drift of the state’s colleges. According to the Washington Post, the seriousness manifests itself in two ways. First, the legislature has paved the way for the appointment of Lt. Governor Glenn McDonald as the next president of the College of Charleston.

Second, the legislature has cut the budget of both the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for assigning students to read books with gay themes. In the case of the College Charleston the book was a graphic novel about a lesbian, which the college supplied to all incoming freshmen. The legislature is contemplating further cuts for the staging of a play, off-campus but hosted by the college, based on that novel.

The first move, appointing a political conservative, as president of a state university is, in theory, welcome. It probably represents the best way of ensuring that attention will be paid after the hoopla over gay novels and plays dies down.

As State Sen. Lee Bright, who happens to be opposing Lindsey Graham in the Republican Senate primary says:

We’ve got to start moving the debate. For too long, conservatives have just said “okay, these institutions are liberal.” Why would you cede that?

Exactly.

If the new president is intelligent, he will quickly see how far the left-wing rot has spread. Backed by the power of the state’s purse, he can then take measures to restore some semblance of balance to the school’s intellectual life.

Questions have been raised about the particular politician in question, Glenn McConnell. Critics point out that he is a Civil War reenactor who once owned a store that sold Confederate memorabilia. However, he also helped broker a deal that removed the Confederate flag from the top of South Carolina’s State House, and he helped erect an African-American monument near the capitol grounds.

From this, it sounds like he has at least some skills of a good college administrator.

As for the withholding of money, I have mixed feelings. In theory, it’s an appropriate, attention-getting method of reining in rampant leftism at state colleges. And I don’t believe that colleges should require students to read books of any political persuasion (other than our nation’s Founding Documents), which of course includes books promoting gay rights or gay lifestyles.

I’m not sure, however, that in this case the punishment fits the “crime.” And I’m very uncomfortable with withholding funds for the staging off-campus of a play that, presumably, no one was required to attend.

Politicians should oversee state colleges to make sure they don’t become centers of political indoctrination. But they shouldn’t ban expression they don’t like. Students should have the opportunity, if they wish, to be exposed to nearly the full spectrum of art, literature, and dogma. This easily includes gay-themed books and plays.

If South Carolina is too heavy-handed, it will become the object of deserved ridicule which, in turn, will discredit attempts by politicians to oversee higher education. But if South Carolina promotes true academic freedom, an endangered phenomenon on campus these days, it could start a trend.

And, by filling a huge void in higher education, South Carolina will gain for its colleges a potential competitive advantage over other state schools. Call it the “fair and balanced” niche.