I noted yesterday that President Trump keeps doing the same things because his approach is working for him. Today Dov Fischer sarcastically writes that everyone is smart except Trump.

It really is quite simple. Everyone is smart except Donald J. Trump. That's why they all are billionaires and all got elected President. Only Trump does not know what he is doing. Only Trump does not know how to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. Anderson Cooper knows how to stand up to Putin. The whole crowd at MSNBC does. All the journalists do.

They could not stand up to Matt Lauer at NBC. They could not stand up to Charlie Rose at CBS. They could not stand up to Mark Halperin at NBC. Nor up to Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic, nor Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone, nor Michael Oreskes at NPR, at the New York Times, or at the Associated Press. But -- oh, wow! -- can they ever stand up to Putin! Only Trump is incapable of negotiating with the Russian tyrant.


Byron York has a good analysis of why President Trump seems so resistant to acknowledging Russian meddling with our political system. He could have simply agreed with the widespread consensus that Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election, but instead he refused to give a straightforward answer.

The president clearly believes if he gives an inch on the what-Russia-did part -- if he concedes that Russia made an effort to disrupt the election -- his adversaries, who want to discredit his election, undermine him, and force him from office, will take a mile on the get-Trump part. That's consistent with how Trump approaches other problems; he doesn't admit anything, because he knows his adversaries will never be satisfied and just demand more.

But Trump's approach doesn't work for the Trump-Russia probe. There's no reason he could not accept the verdicts of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Intelligence Community, and, yes, Mueller, that Russia tried to interfere in the election. There would be no political loss, and, in fact, great political gain, for Trump to endorse that finding.

At the same time, there is nothing wrong with Trump fighting back hard against the get-Trump part of the investigation. Voters know that Democrats, Resistance, and NeverTrump activists have accused Trump of collusion for two years and never proven their case. Mueller has charged lots of people with crimes, but none has involved collusion. That could still change -- no one should claim to know what is coming next from Mueller -- but Trump, as a matter of his own defense, is justified in repeating the "no collusion" and "witch hunt" mantras.

York wrote, "Trump's approach doesn't work for the Trump-Russia probe", but for several years now we've been hearing about how "Trump's approach doesn't work" for hundreds of challenges -- and yet it seems to be working better and more consistently than previous, more conventional approaches. Trump's approach doesn't work every time, but neither does conventional thinking. Trump has had incredible success with his approach so far, so one can understand why he sticks with it.


I'll resist the urge to make a Strzok/"struck" pun, but here are three takes on the man's Congressional testimony.

First, Andrew C. McCarthy says that his testimony illustrates that the Congressional investigations are a farce.

The principal question before the joint investigation of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees is whether the Democratic administration's law-enforcement and intelligence arms strained to manufacture an espionage case against the Republican candidate, having buried an eminently prosecutable criminal case against the Democratic presidential nominee.

It should be straightforward to answer this question, provided that the investigative process has the one attribute central to any credible probe: the capacity to compel the production of evidence and testimony, with the corollary power to hold witnesses in contempt for defiance.

The House investigation has devolved into farce because it lacks this feature.

Second, Mark Penn highlights the flat-out lies by "deep state" actors.

I've seen President Clinton deny he had a relationship with "that woman, Miss Lewinsky." I've seen President Obama assure people they will get to keep their doctor under ObamaCare. And I've seen former press secretary Sean Spicer declare that President Trump's inaugural crowd was larger than Obama's.

But these falsehoods pale in comparison to the performances of a series of "deep state" witnesses who have combined chutzpah with balderdash, culminating so far in the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Let's review just some of the highlights.

Third, Michael Goodwin says that while the whole FBI isn't rotten, the head sure was.

Then there is Comey's successor, Wray. He looks as if he wandered into the wrong movie theater and can't find the exit.

He defined himself as unwilling to tackle the mess he inherited by downplaying the devastating inspector general report on the handling of the Clinton investigation. While conceding the findings made it "clear we've got some work to do," he minimized them by saying, "It's focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events. Nothing in the report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution."

Baloney. While it's true only a fraction of the total employees were singled out, they were the director of the FBI, his top deputy, the deputy's top lawyer and Strzok, the head of counterintelligence.

Others were also faulted, but not named, including an agent who tried to get his son a job on Clinton's campaign while sending campaign boss John Podesta "heads up" emails.


I've been advocating the repeal of the 17th Amendment for a long time -- the direct election of Senators has weakened States and Congress, and strengthened the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Glenn Reynold's tongue-in-cheek (?) proposal to expand SCOTUS to 59 justices sounds like a promising way to re-empower the States and (continue to) bypass the dysfunctional Congress.

OK, 1,001 justices might be too many, but perhaps we should substantially expand the Supreme Court. After all, if the country can be thrown into a swivet by the retirement of a single 81-year-old man, it suggests that the Supreme Court has become too important, and too sensitive to small changes, to play its role constructively as it's currently made up.

Increasing the number of justices would reduce the importance of any single retirement or appointment. And it would also reduce the mystique of the court, which I see as a feature, not a bug. Nine justices could seem like a special priesthood; two or three times that number looks more like a legislature, and those get less respect. Which would be fair. ...

So forget 15 justices. Let's keep the nine we have who are appointed by the president, and add one from each state, to be appointed by governors, and then confirmed by the Senate. Fifty-nine justices is enough to ensure (I hope) that they aren't all from Harvard and Yale as is the case now, and enough to limit the mystique of any particular justice. If the Supreme Court is going to function, as it does, like a super-legislature, it might as well be legislature-sized.

I love this idea, and it doesn't require a Constitutional amendment.


And now they're reaping the whirlwind. Remember this from 2013?

reid filibuster 2.jpg

Weakening the filibuster weakened the institution of the Senate and strengthened the Presidency, regardless of which party holds the majority in the chamber. It was a short-sighted decision by Harry Reid and the Democrats, taken for partisan advantage, and the Republicans doubled-down in 2017. De-escalation would would require the parties to trust each other, but that's impossible in the present political climate.

I personally think America would be better off with a stronger, more active, less risk-adverse Congress. The omnibus spending bills, partisan oversight committees, and delegation of lawmaking powers to the executive bureaucracy are all dangerous, and can generally traced back to the 17th Amendment which established the popular election of Senators. There's no panacea, but repealing the 17th Amendment would be a good start at fixing the current mess in the Senate.


As much as leftists decry originalism, they should be careful what they wish for: they'd really hate a right-wing "living Constitutionalist".

But Barnett made another point that's worth thinking about here: What if right-leaning jurists listened to their critics on the left, and adopted a "living Constitution" approach instead of relying on what the Framers understood the text to mean? As Barnett asks: "Why would you possibly want a nonoriginalist 'living constitutionalist' conservative judge or justice who can bend the meaning of the text to make it evolve to conform to conservative political principles and ends? However much you disagree with it, wouldn't you rather a conservative justice consider himself constrained by the text of the Constitution like, say, the Emoluments Clause?"

Reynolds speculates about new individual rights and government limitations a right-wing "living Constitutionalist" might find/create, and it's a pretty persuasive argument for originalism.


This table from Open Secrets showing union contributions pretty much explains why liberals and Democrats are mad about Janus v. AFSCME.

public sector union contributions.jpg

As President F.D.R. warned us, public sector unions are "unthinkable and intolerable".


In another 5-4 decision, SCOTUS ruled this morning that members of public employee unions can't be forced to pay for political speech. These kinds of decisions are exactly why many people voted for Trump instead of Hillary.

In 1977, when public sector unions were getting established, the high court said teachers and other public employees may not be forced to pay full union dues if some of the money went for political contributions. But the justices upheld the lesser fair share fees on the theory that all of the employees benefited from a union contract and its grievance procedures.

But today's more conservative court disagreed and said employees have a right not to give any support to a union. These payments were described as a form of "compelled speech" which violates the 1st Amendment.

The anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, which funded the challenge, predicted the ruling would free more than 5 million public employees from supporting their unions.

For the unions, which traditionally support Democrats, the ruling will mean an immediate loss of some funding and a gradual erosion in their membership. Union officials fear that an unknown number of employees will quit paying dues if doing so is entirely optional.

An organization that takes your money by force as a condition of employment is inherently unjust. Voluntary associations of all kinds -- unions, governments, churches, corporations, clubs -- should be protected, but no one should be forced to join or fund something against their will. This is liberty 101.


How stupid do they think we are? Just like Jim Comey's "exoneration" of Hillary Clinton, the FBI Inspector General's report overflows with findings of criminality and then proclaims that there's nothing to see here. What's the deal? Why bother documenting over 500 pages of damning evidence just to withhold judgement?

"[W]e did not have confidence that Strzok's decision was free from bias." Delicately put. After reading some of the violently anti-Trump effusions the two exchanged, you might find your confidence that their behavior was "free from bias" shaken as well. Try this:
Page: "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"

Strzok: "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."

This shocking exchange has rightly been front and center in the cataract of commentary that has been disgorged about the IG report over the last few days. It is just one of the scores of examples of what Andrew McCarthy crisply described as the "ceaseless stream of anti-Trump bile" adduced in the report--adduced, and then half swept under the rug in a forest of anodyne verbiage.

"We'll stop it."

Who is "we"? Not Peter Strzok and Lisa Page as individuals. It's the collective or institutional "we": "We, that is the FBI, will stop Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States."

Even more egregious, that damning exchange was redacted from earlier transcripts provided to Congress. Why? Because revealing it endangers national security? Um, no. It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots here.

Listen up government employees: the American people respect your service to our country, but you're not our masters. You work for us. You're free to vote for anyone you want, but you must not use your public offices to undermine democracy.


I'd love for Bill Clinton to elaborate on what you used to be able to "do to somebody against their will"!

Former President Bill Clinton suggested the "norms have changed" in society for what "you can do to somebody against their will" in response to a question about former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's resignation from Congress following sexual harassment allegations.

"I think the norms have really changed in terms of, what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work," Clinton told PBS Newshour in an interview that aired Thursday.

I especially love Clinton's use of the non-gendered "their".


Sharyl Attkisson has a brilliant recasting of the "Russia investigation" as if it were an attempted bank robbery and the government decided to investigate the bank instead of the robbers, and then didn't even bother to prevent the robbery.

Once upon a time, the FBI said some thugs planned to rob a bank in town. Thugs are always looking to rob banks. They try all the time. But at this particular time, the FBI was hyper-focused on potential bank robberies in this particular town.

The best way to prevent the robbery -- which is the goal, after all -- would be for the FBI to alert all the banks in town. "Be on high alert for suspicious activity," the FBI could tell the banks. "Report anything suspicious to us. We don't want you to get robbed."

Instead, in this fractured fairytale, the FBI followed an oddly less effective, more time-consuming, costlier approach. It focused on just one bank. And, strangely, it picked the bank that was least likely to be robbed because nobody thought it would ever get elected president -- excuse me, I mean, because it had almost no cash on hand. (Why would robbers want to rob the bank with no cash?)

Just go read the whole thing.


Why does our political class have such an obsession with style? "Never Trump" Republicans loathe the president primarily because he offends their aesthetic sensibilities, and now Justice Neil Gorsuch's critics are condemning him for his style as well.

Gorsuch quickly antagonized his colleagues on the bench, reportedly skipping a justices-only meeting Chief Justice John Roberts had asked him to attend and then dominating oral arguments in the first case he heard, about a workplace-discrimination claim. He later dissented in the case, lecturing the majority for overstepping its bounds. "If a statute needs repair, there is a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It's called legislation," he wrote. "Congress already wrote a perfectly good law. I would follow it." In cases since, he has come across as "awkward," "condescending," and "tone-deaf," in the words of NPR's Nina Totenberg, and has prompted Court watchers to comb his opinions for egregiously gassy prose -- then launch them into Twitter orbit with the hashtag #GorsuchStyle.

"That style stuff is what has infuriated people on the left more so than anything else," says Ian Samuel, who teaches at Harvard Law School and co-hosts the influential Supreme Court podcast First Mondays. "He's not any more conservative than Justice Alito, for example, but attracts a disproportionate amount of hate.

Is this appeal to stylistic sensibilities growing more common because it garners more agreement from the target audience? Perhaps more people dislike Trump's style than dislike his policies, and more people dislike Gorsuch's style than dislike his rulings?

I don't think the fixation on style over substance does America any good.


I saw "Solo" yesterday with my family, and it was good. Apparently it isn't making as much money as expected, and many people are luke-warm towards it. However, it was light-years better than "The Last Jedi", and pretty much delivered exactly what I expected. The plot wasn't brilliant, but that has never been the point of Star Wars.

I grew up on Star Wars and love Star Wars, but let's be honest: the magic of those movies is inextricably dependent on the magic of our own youth. Nothing we see now as adults will elicit the same response.


Great job America! It's quite an accomplishment to be both the largest and most competitive economy in the world. Of course competitiveness leads to growth, but growth also leads to size which in many realms leads to stagnation.

The U.S. dethroned Hong Kong to retake first place among the world's most competitive economies, thanks to faster economic growth and a supportive atmosphere for scientific and technological innovation, according to annual rankings by the Switzerland-based IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Hong Kong, scoring first in categories for government and business efficiency, held an edge over regional rival Singapore, which kept its No. 3 spot from 2017. Rounding out the top five were the Netherlands, which jumped one spot, and Switzerland, which tumbled three slots as it endures a slowdown in exports and concerns about its potential relocation of research and development facilities.

The U.S., which reclaimed the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2015, scored especially well in international investment, domestic economy and scientific infrastructure sub-categories while earning below-average marks in public finance and prices.


The government doesn't get to redact stuff just because it's embarrassing. These kinds of shenanigans undermine trust in our public servants.

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was fired for lying under oath, spent $70,000 in taxpayer dollars on a conference table. The FBI also redacted the conference table's steep price tag from documents that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee requested, in an apparent attempt to hide it from Congress. ...

"Congress, and the public, have a right to know how the Department spends taxpayer money," Grassley wrote. "I am unaware of any legitimate basis on which the cost of a conference table should be redacted. Embarrassment is not a good enough reason. The manner in which some redactions have been used casts doubt on whether the remaining redactions are necessary and defensible."


FBI leakers admit to spying on Trump campaign 100 days before the election. The purpose of the leaks to to cover-their-butts in advance of the Inspector General report.

It's been nearly 24 hours since it has been revealed to the world that President Barack Obama's Justice Department conducted a counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign. The investigation began 100 days before the presidential election and was executed with all the traditional tools of spy trade-craft including informants (spies) and electronic surveillance (wire tapping.)

These stunning revelations were memorialized in the bible of the Mainstream Media: It was written in the Gospel According to the New York Times.

Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says it's "a good thing" that Obama was spying on his political opponent.

Clapper admitted the FBI "may have had someone who was talking to them in the campaign," referring to President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He explained away the possibility of an FBI informant spying on the campaign as the bureau was trying to find out "what the Russians were doing to try to substantiate themselves in the campaign or influence or leverage it."

Obama's Director of National Intelligence then went on to say, "So, if there was someone that was observing that sort of thing, that's a good thing."

Mollie Hemingway dissects the NYT article based on the leaks.

This is a stunning admission for those Americans worried that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies might use their powers to surveil, leak against, and target Americans simply for their political views or affiliations. As Sean Davis wrote, "The most amazing aspect about this article is how blasé it is about the fact that the Obama admin was actively spying on four affiliates of a rival political campaign weeks before an election."

The story says the FBI was worried that if it came out they were spying on Trump campaign it would "only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him." It is easy to understand how learning that the FBI was spying on one's presidential campaign might reinforce claims of election-rigging.


Muller's indictment of Russian conspirators appears to be backfiring.

Against all expectations, in April, lawyers for one of the Russian corporate defendants, Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, entered their appearances in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They followed up by serving extensive discovery requests on Team Mueller seeking full disclosure of the government's case and investigation including sensitive national security and intelligence information.

This type of discovery is called "graymail" (as distinguished from blackmail) in which the government is faced with having to disclose closely guarded state secrets in order to proceed with the prosecution. The alternative is to drop the charges.

Given that the maximum penalty against Concord is an uncollectable $500,000 fine or equally uncollectable compensation to anyone damaged by the alleged conspiracy, the choice is all the more bitter for Team Mueller. Should they litigate the discovery requests? If they lose and are faced with having to disclose sensitive intelligence information about the case and their investigation, should they withdraw the indictment against Concord? And, if they drop the charges, are they prepared for the resulting public mockery and howls of derision?

Andrew C. McCarthy has more on the topic of judicial hardship for Mueller. Seems like it's past time to wrap up this investigation.


I don't care what some scientists say, Pluto is a planet. No scientist has the right to tell us how to use words.

But the process for redefining planet was deeply flawed and widely criticized even by those who accepted the outcome. At the 2006 IAU conference, which was held in Prague, the few scientists remaining at the very end of the week-long meeting (less than 4 percent of the world's astronomers and even a smaller percentage of the world's planetary scientists) ratified a hastily drawn definition that contains obvious flaws. For one thing, it defines a planet as an object orbiting around our sun -- thereby disqualifying the planets around other stars, ignoring the exoplanet revolution, and decreeing that essentially all the planets in the universe are not, in fact, planets.

Even within our solar system, the IAU scientists defined "planet" in a strange way, declaring that if an orbiting world has "cleared its zone," or thrown its weight around enough to eject all other nearby objects, it is a planet. Otherwise it is not. This criterion is imprecise and leaves many borderline cases, but what's worse is that they chose a definition that discounts the actual physical properties of a potential planet, electing instead to define "planet" in terms of the other objects that are -- or are not -- orbiting nearby. This leads to many bizarre and absurd conclusions. For example, it would mean that Earth was not a planet for its first 500 million years of history, because it orbited among a swarm of debris until that time, and also that if you took Earth today and moved it somewhere else, say out to the asteroid belt, it would cease being a planet.

Language is descriptive, not prescriptive. Not to mention the absurdity of this particular decision.


Roger Simon says that modern journalists depend more on leaks than on investigative ability.

After all, this was the Golden Age of Journalism. That was what should have been emphasized. Look how Donald Trump was being so bravely exposed.

What a crock! It's the Golden Age of Leaking, not Journalism. The fantastic success of Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate has brought us to that. Blame "Deep Throat." A journalist is now someone who answers the phone from a leaker, takes down what he or she says, and spits out the innuendos and lies to win a Pulitzer. You don't have to be Hemingway to do that. You just have to have a decent digital rolodex and be a good kiss-ass.


The article doesn't explain why, but Finland has decided to continue but not expand its experiment with a Universal Basic Income (UBI). In an era of increasing automation and artificial intelligence, many futurists think that mass unemployability and some form of UBI are inevitable.

Currently 2,000 unemployed Finns are receiving a flat monthly payment of €560 (£490; $685) as basic income.

"The eagerness of the government is evaporating. They rejected extra funding [for it]," said Olli Kangas, one of the experiment's designers.

Some see basic income as a way to get unemployed people into temporary jobs.

The argument is that, if paid universally, basic income would provide a guaranteed safety net. That would help to address insecurities associated with the "gig" economy, where workers do not have staff contracts.

Supporters say basic income would boost mobility in the labour market as people would still have an income between jobs.

Find a job that is unlikely to be automated, and stay employed as long as you can. Invest in equity and own the robots.

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