%PM, %22 %014 %2019 %23:%May

Amash condoning FISA spying

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on May 18 called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump in a Twitter thread, accusing him of committing obstruction of justice and “conduct that violates the public trust,” citing the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as justification.

Nowhere in the Twitter thread did Amash make a specific allegation of which conduct by President Trump he was referring to that obstructed justice or violated the public trust — although he said there were “multiple examples”. In May 2017, Amash did indicate that President Trump firing former FBI Director James Comey could be a basis for impeachment, a topic the Mueller report does consider, so let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that in part that is what he’s talking about.

Critically, nowhere in the Twitter thread did Amash mention Russia or the fact that the Mueller report had found no coordination or conspiracy with Russia by President Trump, his campaign or any American for that matter to interfere in the 2016 elections.

Mueller stated in the report, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” It also stated, “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”

That is important because the only reason President Trump was under investigation in the first place were false allegations made by former British spy Christopher Steele, beginning in the summer of 2016, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, that Trump was a Russian agent and his campaign had coordinated the hack of the DNC and posting the emails on Wikileaks with Russia. Those allegations were given to the FBI and eventually formed the basis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application against the Trump campaign in Oct. 2016.

Amash has always been a hawk on reining in FISA abuse. In July 2013, Americans for Limited Government supported his efforts to rein in mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). In Jan. 2018, when the USA Rights Act came up as an amendment by Amash, Americans for Limited Government again supported it, specifically because we believed if it had been law, the FISA abuse that occurred in 2016 would not have been possible, and that it might be a means of preventing it.

When more information about the Steele dossier’s role in the FISA warrant began to be known in Feb. 2018 with the release of the House Select Committee on Intelligence memorandum, Amash responded on Twitter calling for Congress to enact the USA Rights Act if members of Congress were concerned about FISA abuse.

Of the memo, Amash said, “The central allegation is that a warrant was obtained fraudulently or without sufficient cause. If true, it shows the dangers of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, something @libertycaucus and @freedomcaucus members have been saying for a long time.”

Amash noted, “the section of FISA discussed in the memo requires probable cause and a warrant.” Here, Amash is referring to 50 U.S. Code Sec. 1805(a)(2), which would have required probable cause that Carter Page, then a Trump campaign official, was acting as a foreign agent for the warrant to be issued.

But there was no probable cause. Steele, we now know in the Oct. 2016 FISA warrant application obtained by Judicial Watch in July 2018 in a Freedom of Information Act request, used “sub-source(s),” and the court was fully aware that Steele was not an eye-witness to the allegations. It stated Steele “tasked his sub-source(s) to collect the requisite information.” And then, after Steele “received information from the sub-source(s),” it was passed along to the FBI. So, the court knew it was second-hand or third-hand information, or hearsay.

These were rumors that were given to the FISA Court. The information was unverified, something Steele would later admit in testimony, saying that the allegations needed to be “further corroborated and verified.” Steele said his sources were Kremlin officals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but so far no evidence has been presented publicly he actually spoke to those sources directly.

In fact, Steele never went to Russia. Instead, according to testimony by Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Nov. 2017, Steele hired “a network of sources who live in or came from the place that you’re interested in… who can travel and talk to people and find out what’s going on” to get the dirt. But we don’t know who, since, per Simpson, “I didn’t ask for the specific identities of specific people.”

On why didn’t Steele go to Russia himself, Simpson said “[H]e really would not be safe if he went to Russia. He’s been exposed as a former undercover British Intelligence officer who worked in Moscow. So it wouldn’t be wise for him to go to Russia.”

March 2017 Vanity Fair piece about Steele by Howard Blum similarly stated, “[Steele] could count on an army of sources whose loyalty and information he had bought and paid for over the years. There was no safe way he could return to Russia to do the actual digging; the vengeful F.S.B. would be watching him closely. But no doubt he had a working relationship with knowledgeable contacts in London and elsewhere in the West, from angry émigrés to wheeling-and-dealing oligarchs always eager to curry favor with a man with ties to the Secret Service, to political dissidents with well-honed axes to grind. And, perhaps most promising of all, he had access to the networks of well-placed Joes — to use the jargon of his former profession — he’d directed from his desk at London Station, assets who had their eyes and ears on the ground in Russia.”

McCain Institute Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedoms David Kramer, testified in federal court about when he met Steele to get the dossier after the 2016 election, with the purpose of giving it to the late Sen. John McCain. Kramer said Steele told him, in Kramer’s words, “what was produced … needed to be corroborated and verified, he himself did not feel that he was in a position to vouch for everything that was produced…”

In May 2017, former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”

By the time President Trump was being inaugurated in Jan. 2017, the dossier had been published by Buzzfeed. It was known as early as April 2017 that the dossier had been used in the FISA warrant application. That was a month before Comey was fired by President Donald Trump for lying to him about the extent of the investigation.

In his order firing Comey, Trump wrote, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Steele had alleged in July 2016 that not only had Russia hacked the Democrats and put the emails on Wikileaks, which was already public knowledge since June 2016, but that Trump and his campaign helped with “full knowledge and support” of the operation. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, as well as campaign advisor Carter Page when he traveled to Moscow in July 2016, were both named by Steele as the key intermediaries to the Kremlin. Steele said then-Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to meet with Russian agents to mop up the fallout of the supposed operation.

The Mueller report debunked those claims, stating, “In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.”

Manafort was brought up on unrelated tax and bank fraud charges. Papadopoulos pled guilty of lying to investigators about his start date with the Trump campaign. Page was not charged with anything. As for Cohen, per the Mueller report, “Cohen had never traveled to Prague…” And so, he very well could not have been there meeting with Russian intelligence officials.

Trump knew all along and was well aware there was no basis for the investigation. For example, it was known as early as Jan. 2017 that Cohen had never traveled to Prague. Trump himself was also in a position to know that Steele’s allegations that he was Russian agent were false. So, when it became public that the FBI relied on false allegations to get electronic surveillance on the Trump campaign, and that the investigation into Trump had been carried over into his administration, which Comey lied about to Trump, the President had more than ample basis for firing Comey.

The only reason Mueller was appointed was because Trump fired Comey, who was leading the investigation — which turned out to be into a crime that was not committed by Trump or his team. At the time, Amash was already on the record in May 2017 saying that the firing could be the basis for impeaching Trump.

But Comey should have been fired. The FISA warrant, which Comey signed, and the ensuing investigation that carried over into the Trump administration in 2017 was all based on false information.

The FBI had reason to doubt Steele and his sources, and yet kept going back to renew the FISA warrant. A New York Times report Scott Shane, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg on April 20 that in Jan. 2017 reported the FBI interviewed one of the main sources for the dossier and came away with “misgivings about its reliability [that] arose not long after the document became public” in Jan. 2017.

Per the Times report: “By January 2017, F.B.I. agents had tracked down and interviewed one of Mr. Steele’s main sources, a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West, according to a Justice Department document and three people familiar with the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After questioning him about where he’d gotten his information, they suspected he might have added his own interpretations to reports passed on by his sources, one of the people said. For the F.B.I., that made it harder to decide what to trust.”

What is disappointing about Amash is he has previously championed FISA reform in 2013 after the NSA mass surveillance program was exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. What does Amash imagine should happen to government officials who abuse the federal government’s spying powers? Should they get promotions or something?

By defending Comey’s actions, which permitted the FISA court to be defrauded by Steele, the DNC and the Clinton campaign even after the FBI knew it was a fiction, and condemning Trump’s actions to fire Comey, Amash is condoning the use of FISA to spy on a presidential campaign, the opposition party, in an election year, for crimes, conspiracy with Russia to interfere with the election, that were not committed by Trump, his campaign or any American.

In short, Amash is buying the Justice Department’s official rationale for the Russian collusion investigation that there was “probable cause” that Trump was a Russian agent when we know for a fact that was a lie today. The court was given false information. The call for impeachment comes despite the fact that in Feb. 2018, Amash said that “a warrant… obtained fraudulently or without sufficient cause… shows the dangers of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

I suppose now Amash no longer believes that fraudulent FISA warrants are dangerous if they’re taken out against his political opponents, like President Trump.

Ironically, Amash now warns that “America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome.” He added, “When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law — the foundation of liberty — crumbles.”

I agree, and in this case, Amash might want to take his own advice. In July 2013, when the House debated his amendment barring suspicionless surveillance, Amash asked, “When you had the chance to stand up for Americans’ privacy, did you?” Today, Amash is failing his own test. So blinded by his apparent political hatred of President Trump is he, Amash is ignoring the flagrant abuse of spying authorities that occurred in 2016 against a political campaign that most certainly endangers the liberty of all Americans. For shame.

 

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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government. He is also a guest contributor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe here at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Politics

If you ever want to see what a bunch of worthless pukes who inhabit the lamestream media produce, put the “news” app on your iPad and read it every morning.

 

It is SUPPOSED to be a compendium of reporting.

 

It IS a compendium of anti-Trump horse crap.

 

Fox News and the Wall Street Journal are the token sort-of-conservative news providers.  The rest are mostly designed to bring to mind the words “enemies of the people.”

 

The reason I read this crap is that one should always read what the other side is saying.  Even if it makes your head want to explode.

 

Washington is full of people—many in the media—who no matter where they come from lose their affinity with the average American—you and me—as soon as they arrive.

 

Back in the days we owned KTRT in Tulsa, we had a regular caller named Jack Jackson.  He used to tell our on-air hosts that once someone got elected to the School Board, the County Commission or the City Council, they arrived at the Courthouse, City Hall or the School headquarters, saw the receptionist with the 10 button phone, took a breath of that pink gas and they were never the same.

 

He was right.

 

And it applies even more to wannabes like “journalists” and staffers.  Those folks are even more dangerous because we can get rid of bad elected public officials at an election.  People who spread fake news and the faceless staffers who work in government seem to have lifetime appointments.

 

The cure for this is not more government regulation.

 

I’m a big believer in the First Amendment.

 

The cure for this is eternal vigilance.  We need to vote with our channel changer and our subscription dollars.  We need to question everything.

 

As an example, the other day Fox News Channel did a poll that they said showed that Joe Biden had widened his “lead” over the Democrat 2020 field. And that he would beat the President in a general election.

 

Here is what they didn’t tell you on TV.  In fact, you have to do a pretty thorough web search of their site to get:

 

“Interviews were conducted May 11-14, 2019 among a random national sample of 1,008 registered voters (RV). Landline (231) and cellphone (777) telephone numbers were randomly selected for inclusion in the survey using a probability proportionate to size method, which means phone numbers for each state are proportional to the number of voters in each state.”

 

In other words, this is the same crap that said Hillary was going to win by seven points the day of the 2016 election.  And, worse, it’s from FOX!

 

Did they exit poll 10,000 people leaving a big event?  No.  They look you in the eye and talk about this stuff like it is true.  They don’t even tell you the methodology on screen—just what they think is the “margin of error”.

 

Now one thing you need to know.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.  Occasionally, these guys get lucky.  But the science behind what they do has been rendered useless by the new digital landscape which makes it very difficult to find a real sample.

 

So thinking Americans—you and I—do our research at coffee shops, neighborhood gatherings, on Southwest Airlines and places where real people gather.

 

My best guess, from those sources, is that we are pretty happy with the President.  He should win handily in 2020.

 

That’s NOT an excuse for complacency.

 

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Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Opinion
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Don't blame student debt on capitalism

American college graduates are suffering financially under the weight of $1.5 trillion of student loan debt. The bulk of that debt stems from worrisome federal student loan practices and ballooning state tuition costs. Approximately 75 percent of college students attend a state university or college with tuition rates set by legislatures or state institutions. Over 85 percent of student loans are generated under the federal student loan program. In the past three decades, tuition at state colleges has increased by 313 percent.

Oddly, some seem to blame “capitalism” for the student loan predicament. Ray Dalio, billionaire investor, cited massive student debt loads in a recent article that made the case for reforming capitalism. Presidential Candidate John Hickenlooper penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal boldly proclaiming he is running for president to save capitalism. The very first point in his argument is that (public) high school education doesn’t provide adequate training for the modern economy. Anecdotally, we have heard the federal student loan predicament conflated with capitalism.

The Hardship Is Real

The pain of student debt is real. Sadly, there are many adults burdened by thousands of dollars in loan debt. Khalilah Beecham-Watkins, a first-generation college student and young mom, is one of many who feels as if they’re a prisoner to student loan debt. Khalilah has been working to pay down her $80,000 debt while helping her husband tackle his own loan obligations. In an interview last year, she said, “I feel like I’m drowning.”

As is well-reported, many young adults feel like Khalilah. In the United States, the average student loan debt is more than $37,000. As unsettling as that figure is, some graduates face even higher debt loads. About five percent of degree earners have student loan debt totaling $100,000 or more. Stories like Khalilah’s need to be told so that students don’t flippantly take on crushing debt without recognizing the gravity of such a decision.

This significant debt load is exacerbated by the fact that many graduates are finding it difficult to find well-paying jobs, which has spiraled into incredibly high rates of loan delinquency: More than one out of every 10 loan recipients is unable to keep up with payments. The Brookings Institute estimates that nearly 40 percent of borrowers will default by 2023. These are sobering statistics, and it’s important that borrowers be fully aware of the risks and benefits associated with debt of all kinds, including student loans.

The Benefits of Investing in a College Degree

Despite the burden that comes with debt, there are undeniable long-term benefits to earning a degree. In our skills-based economy, it is no surprise that a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn significantly more than a person with only a high school diploma. It has been estimated that a bachelor’s degree increases a person’s average lifetime earnings by $2.8 million.

And the more degrees someone holds, the more their earning potential increases. Studies indicate that earning a graduate degree could triple a person’s expected income. But in the near-term, the financial stress of loan delinquency, deferred consumption, and lower net worth is real.

While the buck ultimately stops with each of us when it comes to our own financial decisions, the student loan quagmire is chiefly the product of federal policy. Federal laws prohibiting sound commercial lending practices and states setting tuition rates high enough to guarantee they’re able to absorb all the federal money they can are complicit in this widespread problem.

Bad Diagnoses Lead to Bad Prescriptions

Rather than addressing the underlying problems of federal financial aid and rising public college tuition, politicians like Senators Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders are offering politically expedient ideas. Sen. Warren proposes debt cancellation of up to $50,000 to more than 42 million people.

Sen. Warren’s plan would eliminate debt for 75% of borrowers with student loans, and federal funding to ensure students attend state college for free. But nothing in life is free. Warren’s sleight-of-hand doesn’t make existing debt or future tuition magically disappear. Rather those costs are passed on to taxpayers. And since college graduates earn roughly twice as much as high school graduates and can expect to be in higher tax brackets, guess who would be paying the taxes for Sen. Warren’s plan.

Why Federal Loans Are Not Like Commercial Loans

To understand the federal student loan mess, it is necessary to understand some details about the loans that are at the center of the issue. The federal government provides a few types of loans, but the largest share of student debt comes from subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans.

In the case of a subsidized loan, the Department of Education pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school and for six months thereafter. A student can qualify for this type of loan whether or not they are creditworthy or have the ability to repay the loan.

In typical commercial lending, a bank would not offer a loan to an individual who didn’t hold a reasonable promise of being able and willing to repay it. This harkens back to 2008 when the US housing market collapsed because of irresponsible lending practices and the belief that everyone—no matter their financial situation—should own a home. It should be no surprise, then, that some economists predict a similar implosion of the student loan market. In other contexts, this would be called predatory lending.

The State’s Role in Tuition Inflation

The second contributor to these financial aid troubles is ballooning state college tuition rates. State legislatures and state institutions set public college rates, so these state officials should be held accountable to provide lower-cost alternatives. One lower-cost alternative to traditional on-campus programs would be to offer a basic skills-based college curriculum online at-cost, i.e., based on the marginal cost of providing downloadable lecture videos and similar programming.

While the total cost to a student of an online degree currently tends to be less than a traditional degree, the tuition is often the same. By offering video of select classes, schools could unlock the value of their existing educational resources and expand access to more students. However, state schools are largely immune from market discipline, which encourages cost-cutting and leveraging economies of scale. Instead of reducing operating costs and tuition prices, state schools soak up the flow of federal loan dollars.

On the finance side, state universities could offer their own alternative to federal student loans. Take, for instance, the market-oriented model of Purdue University and offer income sharing agreements (ISAs). Income sharing agreements allow consumers to pay off a debt by sharing a portion of the student’s income with the lender for a set number of years. Instead of a loan, ISAs allow investors to take “equity” in a student’s future earnings for a period of time.

The problem with the financial aid predicament is that market discipline has been eliminated from state college education and federal financial aid. Public colleges aren’t going to be privatized and run like for-profit businesses any time soon. However, by applying market-based innovations and lessons from the private sector to state colleges, it may be possible to expand access to state college, offer alternative financing arrangements (like income sharing agreements), and reduce the cost of college through technology and economies of scale.

 

Doug McCullough is Director of Lone Star Policy Institute. Brooke Medina is communications director at Civitas Institute in NC. Their opinions are their own. This article originally appeared on fee.org. Reptrinted in full, with permission. 

 

 

 

 

Published in Opinion

I have a question for those screamers who claim to be students of the Chicago School of Economics. Or have a gig at one of the business television networks.

 

What part of the Bill of Rights says “Congress shall make no law or allow no tariff abridging the right of citizens to gather at Walmart and buy cheap Chinese crap”?

 

To listen to most of the folks on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg, you’d think they replaced the Second Amendment with that.

 

I’ve been in business, negotiating deals, for most of my adult life.  A bad deal is when you memorialize being taken advantage of.  A good deal is when all parties to the deal get something they want.

 

Our trade deal— from the beginning of modern time to date—with China can generously be called a bad deal.

 

Apparently we want the cheapest flat screen television sets so badly we’re willing to give up our rights to sell stuff in China to get them.  And if President Trump thinks that’s a bad deal and wants to impose tariffs to correct it, the companies importing and selling those sets scream that the American consumer is going to take a beating.  As opposed to the American worker, who of course, are one and the same.

 

Then, when it all is sorted out by the Wall Street Journal, that beating appears to be about $800 a year per family.  And, keep in mind that the Journal is also populated by many of the same screamers on TV.

 

The big weekend story was that Apple could be hurt because most of its products are assembled in China.

 

As an iPhone user (in fact, I use just about every Apple product except the Mac) my humble suggestion to Apple CEO Tim Cook would be build your products in, say, Viet Nam or, here’s a real idea: how about Minnesota, down the street from where Mike Lindell makes My Pillows?  No matter how much you say the words multi-national, living in Cupertino has to be nicer and more efficient than Beijing.

 

At some point you have to realize that the word “nationalism” is not a four letter word.

 

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started their companies because you can do that in the United States.  They expanded to markets like China in a search for new markets.

 

And, let me tell you a little about our “friends” in China.  They owe me and millions of other Americans millions of dollars in defaulted bonds which their government doesn’t want to pay.  Those bonds were issued before China became Red China and many of us either bought them or inherited them.  (You can read about that at the American Bondholders Foundationhttp://www.americanbondholdersfoundation.com)  They were sold by Wall Street firms who today are still selling Chinese debt.

 

So, I’m not very sympathetic to the words “trade war” because I doubt that the Chinese have the economic muscle to cause us much pain—not nearly as much as the folks on business TV would like us to believe.

 

Simply put, President Trump is right and these guys are wrong.  After all, God, it is said, invented Economists to make Astrologers look good.

 

And if it costs us $800 a year per family—or even significantly more—to make that point to the leaders of Red China, buy less cheap Chinese crap and more stuff made in America.  It will strengthen our hand and, in the long term, make our lives better.

 

Trump advisor Larry Kudlow explained the issues very succinctly to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.  “Intellectual property theft has to be fixed. Forced technology transfer and ownership of American companies has to be fixed. Cyber interventions have to be fixed. Tariff and nontariff barriers have to be fixed. And there have to be very, very strong enforcement provisions.”

 

To say that none of this is worth taking strong steps like tariffs is exactly like the Democrat House saying that there’s no crisis on the border.

 

This President fixes things.  The Chinese aren’t used to dealing with a President who fixes things.

 

They will learn soon enough.

 

In the meantime, while they are dancing, pay attention to Kudlow’s observation about that, “Some of the Chinese officials have said the agreement was too unbalanced.  No.  The relationship has been too unbalanced and because of these problems of unfair and sometimes unlawful trading practice, we have to have a very strong agreement to correct, to right, these wrongs before we would be satisfied.”

 

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Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Opinion

Watching President Trump host a national day of prayer at the White House—immediately after Nancy Pelosi spewed impeachment talk at her press conference—reminds me of a favorite story about my late friend, Oral Roberts.

 

President Roberts was, of course, the biggest fan of the Oral Roberts University basketball team, for which my then Tulsa radio station, KTRT, created a network to distribute the broadcasts which we originated.  But ORU was an independent at the time and had to hire referees from the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and other conferences.  Sometimes, they didn’t get the best refs.

 

One of the features at an ORU home game was an invocation, usually given by a student in the divinity school.  As students are wont to do, the invocations began getting longer and longer until they began to irritate President Roberts.  The kids were spending time blessing everything in the building…the hardwood, the rims, the band etc.

 

One night, prior to a fairly big game, President Roberts caught me in the hallway of the Mabee Center and asked if we cut away during the invocation and the National Anthem.  The answer was an emphatic no, we did not because I always found that carrying a message to God and to our nation is also good business and was unashamed then and now. (That is our policy even today.)

 

He smiled and said, “good, tonight will be interesting.”

 

At the appointed time, public address announcer Doc Blevins waited for the lights to go down and said something like, ladies and gentlemen, giving tonight’s invocation is the founder, President and Chancellor of Oral Roberts University…Oral Roberts!

 

The spotlight went on, President Roberts strode to the center of the court, put a microphone to his mouth and said, “Heavenly Father, please bless the referees’ eyesight. Amen” And walked off the court.

 

Then, he came over to our table, sat down next to me, smiled and asked, “How did I do?”

 

He later told me that he never prayed for a win.  That God doesn’t determine wins and losses.  He just gives you the talent to win.  Winning is up to you.

 

But things which stood in the way of winning—poor officiating, as an example—were fair game.

 

To a great extent, that’s where President Trump finds himself today.

 

He is a very talented individual who won the Presidency against all odds.  God gave him that talent. Think of the Democrat controlled House as a mediocre referee who has a decided vendetta against a very non-establishment, independent public official.

 

The House is trying to use every opportunity to make a call against the President.

 

As usual, when officiating gets in the way of the game, there are no immediate winners and almost everybody involved loses.

 

Frankly, the House Democrats are just like the refs who screwed the Vegas Golden Knights in the last game of round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  And the results are most likely the same in the long term because it is the fans (the voters in this analogy) that get to make the ultimate decision.  In sports, the decision shows up in attendance and TV ratings over the long term.  Think Colin Kaepernick and the NFL.

 

Do you really think that the Democrats, running on investigating the President, will be successful?

 

So far, they are not only out of control on investigations but on the positions being staked out by the 20-some candidates who think they have what it takes to become President.

 

You can’t beat a horse without an equally talented horse—unless some state employee gets involved (think last week’s Kentucky Derby) and we’ve already been through that in the past two years.

 

I guess it all gets down to Oral Roberts’ position that you never pray for a win.

 

That’s what the Democrats are doing because the only reason any of them can give to get elected is that they are not Donald Trump.  Americans are not that stupid.

 

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Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Opinion

American Progressives today like to talk about their Green New Deal, free higher education for all and slavery reparations.  But recently the eminent economist Dr. Thomas Cargill addressed Reno’s Hayek Group about Progressives’ original cause: eugenics.

Eugenics is a dark and troubling part of US history – one not accurately reflected in standard accounts and teaching today of that history.  The “scientific” racism of eugenics ideology flowered in the second half of the 19th Century through the 1930s.

It classified persons as “fit” or “unfit” based on traits assumed to be hereditary, including race and ethnicity, mental and physical characteristics, and country of origin.  Because “fitness” was assumed to be genetic, it was hereditary and thus immutable: not subject to alteration via environment, nurture or other conditioning methods.

Eugenics gained wide acceptance, even being reflected in decisions of the Supreme Court of The United States.  “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” said Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the case of Buck v. Bell, a 1927 decision upholding a Virginia law that authorized the state to surgically sterilize certain “mental defectives” without their consent.

Eugenics doctrine had a broad reach from justifying slavery to the alleged superiority of Nordic peoples (“Aryans”) to other races.  It was fostered in the US by the mushrooming of the administrative state during the progressive period, and it also provided some ostensible intellectual foundation for that mushrooming.

German Nazism also drew greatly on the developing American eugenics tradition.  As much as anything, the fall of the Third Reich undid eugenics.

After the Civil War, it was used first to justify low military compensation for blacks and then to support barriers to non-Nordic immigration.  Implementation of eugenics was helped by the rise of progressivism’s administrative and interventionist government over-riding the outcomes of free markets.  By 1905, 32 states had sterilization laws fostered by eugenics, and thousands of people were sterilized.

One scholar recently noted, “Eugenics and progressivism were made for each other.”  The doctrine was an excuse for the exercise of extreme coercive collectivism, the fundamental means employed by progressivism.

Minimum wage legislation was also originally related to eugenics, as it proposed to let the market pay low or no wages to the unfit persons (mainly races) so they would over time die off.  Even the famous Yale economist Irving Fischer bought into such dogma.

Perhaps the most (in)famous proponent and activist in favor of eugenics and its abuses of human beings was Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who was an outright racist.  Her 1933 article in the journal Birth Control Review was also a strong argument against immigration to America.  And sterilization of the mentally ill was a popular birth control idea from the start.

The notable surprise beyond the flourishing of eugenics in America is that it has been almost completely omitted from modern history and government texts.  Since almost all high school students must take a US history course, this omission has given them a completely false account of very important US history, politics and government.  Eugenics and its disastrous history as a key part of progressivism are at best mentioned in passing, and mostly minimized and treated as not a significant part of our history.

Why?  The writers of the books don’t themselves seem to know much about this central subject.  Some authors are aware, but seem to consider it unimportant; eugenics is viewed by many progressives as the crazy uncle in the family.  Also, eugenics’ relationship to abortion makes it a taboo subject for many advocates of that practice.  And almost all these writers are progressives with a bias in support of the over-reaching administrative state, and discussing eugenics undermines that key advocacy.

What do students lose due to these biases and omissions?  First, balanced and reasonably complete perspective on US history, politics and government and the roles of various factions then and now. Second, a necessary skepticism of the ideology of catastrophe supported allegedly by science.  (See also climate change deniers.)  Third, the perils of small groups, especially of self-selected elitists, controlling social power; this often leads to bad decisions and social disasters.  (See also China’s one-child policy.)  Finally, a profound understanding of the power of even a bad idea.

 

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Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

 

 

 

 

Published in U.S.
%PM, %08 %944 %2019 %21:%May

Should we panic over Measels?

In general, it is not a good idea to panic about anything. The panic itself often causes more harm than the original threat.

Crisis situations, real or contrived, lead to new intrusive laws that the public would never accept otherwise. We supposedly cherish freedom, but if we believe that the world will end if we don’t act NOW, then we may clamor for the government to save us. Cynical politicians bent on increasing their power never let a crisis go to waste.

Something like the Green New Deal—the end of our comfortable, prosperous lifestyle—takes a truly apocalyptic threat. But to eliminate our freedom to decline a medical treatment, the threat that “millions will die” of measles is evidently enough. Or if not millions (most older people had measles and recovered fully), a few especially vulnerable children, who can’t be vaccinated themselves, might catch measles and die.

There are several hundred cases of measles nationwide, more than in 2014, and bills are being pushed through state legislatures to eliminate all but very narrow exemptions to the 60 shots now mandated for school attendance.

In New York City, people are receiving summonses based on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s emergency order. Everybody, adult or child, who lives in four ZIP code areas must get an MMR shot or prove immunity, or face the prospect of a $1,000 fine ($2,000 if you don’t appear as ordered). Your religious exemption is overridden. The threat of 6 months in prison and the prospect of forcible vaccination were removed before a hearing on a lawsuit brought by five mothers. The judge dismissed the case.

Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that the purpose of the fines is not to punish but to encourage more people to proclaim the message that vaccines are safe and effective. Get it? If you say something to avoid a fine, that makes it true.

It’s about the need for herd immunity, they say. We need a 95 percent vaccination rate for herd immunity to measles. With only 91 percent or so we are having outbreaks! If we could just vaccinate another 4 or 5 percent!

Mayor De Blasio has a point about vaccinating everyone. Adults are getting measles because their shots have worn off. It is likely that we have survived for decades with a large part of the adult population vaccinated—but not immune. So where do the mandates stop?

Outbreaks have occurred in populations with a near-100 percent vaccination rate. Was it vaccine failure? Or was the vaccine not refrigerated properly? Or was a claimed outbreak real? One in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was called off when a special test, a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed a vaccine-strain measles virus rather than a wild-strain measles virus. Some 5 percent of vaccinees may get an illness that looks like measles, but it is just a “vaccine reaction.” Can they shed live virus? Yes. Should you keep your immunocompromised child away from recently vaccinated people? Just asking.

Like all medical treatments, vaccines are neither 100 percent effective, nor 100 percent safe. Read the FDA-required, FDA-approved package inserts. Arizona defeated a law that would have required making these available to parents in obtaining informed consent. (You can get them on the internet.) Vaccine Court has paid out about $4 billion in damages—recently for two children with severe brain damage from encephalopathy (that’s brain inflammation) after a fight lasting about 15 years. Just incidentally, they had an autism diagnosis also. Parents bring their severely injured children to hearings. You won’t see these children on tv, only pictures of babies with measles. No “fear-mongering” allowed about “rare,” possibly coincidental problems from vaccines.

There are trade-offs with vaccines: risks and benefits. But in the panic about measles, the right to give or withhold informed consent—fundamental in medical ethics as well as U.S. and international law—is being sacrificed. And so is free speech. The AMA wants to censor “anti-vaccine” information on social media. I happened on a factual article by investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, but was not able to retweet it because it had been removed.

The threat of infectious diseases is real and increasing. We need more robust public health measures, better vaccines, and improved public knowledge and awareness. Deploying vaccine police and shutting down debate will erode trust in health authorities and physicians, although more people may get their shots. But such heavy-handed measures will not defeat the enemy—measles and worse diseases.

Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. Her views and opinions, if expressed, are her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN.  Her column can often be found at www.pennypressnv.com. Her column has been reprinted in full, with permission.

Published in Health
%PM, %02 %034 %2019 %23:%May

Polls won't tell you who can beat Trump

Pollsters love to do general election matchup polls early in the process to figure out which candidates would fare the best against a sitting incumbent president like Donald Trump. The idea is to give primary voters of one party or another an idea of which candidate is the most “electable.”

For example, in April 2011, Democracy Corps published a poll that showed Mitt Romney could defeat then-President Barack Obama, 48 percent to 46 percent. In Oct. 2011, another CNN-Opinion Research poll showed Romney leading 50 percent to 45 percent.

But we all know how it turned out. Even after showdowns with House Republicans over the debt ceiling in 2011 — which resulted in budget sequestration that helped reduce the deficit — Obama went on to comfortably win re-election in 2012.

So, how much stock should we put in the Politico-Morning Consult poll that shows former Vice President Joe Biden at 42 percent versus President Donald Trump at 36 percent? Almost none.

The question, particularly for first term presidents, is whether voters think it is time for a change, or if they are willing to be patient while the incumbent party finishes what it started.

In modern history, since 1952, that has yielded a fairly high re-election rate for incumbent parties in their first terms. Dwight Eisenhower was re-elected in 1956, Lyndon Johnson won John Kennedy’s second term in 1964, Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972, Jimmy Carter was ousted in 1980, Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984, Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004 and Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012.

All told, in modern history, in 87.5 percent of the cases where the incumbent party had served one term it tended to be re-elected.

Readers will note that George H.W. Bush is not included in that listing. The reason for that is he won Reagan’s third term — that is, the third consecutive term that Republicans had held the White House. So, his being ousted in 1992 was less surprising because it came after 12 years of uninterrupted Republican rule in the White House. The same applies to Gerald Ford, who in 1976 was running for essentially Nixon’s third term, and Lyndon Johnson and then Hubert Humphrey in 1968 running for a third Democratic term.

But even if you include Bush and Ford in the mix as far as how sitting presidents have fared in a general election, in 70 percent of cases they have won since 1952. If you want to go back to World War II, Harry Truman won election in 1948 as a sitting president, and the number jumps up to about 73 percent.

If you look as far back as the beginning of the republic, sitting presidents who have stood for re-election in the general election have won about 70 percent of the time, although it is worth noting that until the 1800s, state legislatures generally chose electors.

So, there’s a distinct incumbency advantage, especially for first-term presidents that should give Trump an edge in 2020 no matter who the candidate is.

Particularly when it comes to presidents, in modern history, the American people, particularly independents, do not aspire to one-party rule. Swing voters tend to decide elections nowadays, and after just one term, they are still a lot more likely to give the incumbent the benefit of the doubt.

Where the rubber meets the road, and what separates one-term presidents from two-term presidents, will be the primaries. Biden or whoever is going to win the Democratic nomination must first compete and win the nomination, and do so in commanding fashion (rather than being bloodied along the way), to have a good chance to oust the incumbent.

Simultaneously, whoever the Democrat nominee is would need President Trump to have a bruising primary contest for the nomination to even out the odds. If Trump is vulnerable, it should be revealed in the primaries. But is William Weld really a credible threat to Trump? We’ll find out soon.

In modern history, unchallenged incumbents have tended to cruise to reelection. The likelihood of unseating an incumbent in the primary is close to zero, but real damage can be wrought to harm to his re-election chances. For more information, check out Stony Brook University Professor Helmut Norpoth’s primary model, which offers a guide to some of these trends. (Disclosure: I took his class!)

President Trump and Republicans have been in power for just two years and change. Is it already time for a change? History says the odds are - not yet.

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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government. He is also a guest contributor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe here at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Politics

Recently, the outstanding economist Richard Vedder penned a column in the Wall Street Journal on the problems of higher education in America.  He titled it: “College Wouldn’t Cost So Much If Students and Faculty Worked Harder.”

The piece was a preview of his book on the subject, Restoring the Promise: American Higher Education Today to be published May 1.  From his summary and from reading his previous writings on the subject, I’m certain the book will be outstanding

His analyses have coincided with my own as a Nevada legislator, higher education regent, college teacher and state controller, and he has brought good data to illustrate issues I have observed in those roles.  So, here, I’ll present a summary of his WSJ piece, and in future column I’ll detail from my experience and his book some major issues and solutions to the serious challenges U.S. higher education faces.

Vedder begins: “One reason college is so costly and so little real learning occurs is that college resources are vastly underused.  Students don’t study much, professors teach little, few people read most of the obscure papers the professors write, and even the buildings are empty most of the time.”

As a regent and part-time community college instructor for four years, I observed all these phenomena and more first hand.  They are some key reasons higher education costs have increased faster in real terms than the incomes of students and their families while those students are being ever more poorly prepared for life and the job market.  And taxpayers are shorted.

His first observation is that surveys show college students today spend about 27 hours a week in class and studying, while taking classes only about 32 weeks a year.  Or, fewer than 900 hours a year on academics – “less time than a typical eighth-grader and perhaps half the time their parent work to help finance college.”

He notes other researchers have found that in the middle of the 20th Century students spent 50 percent more time – around 40 hours weekly.  Grade inflation has vitiated their incentives to work hard because the average grade received has risen from B-/C+ in 1960 to B/B+ now.

Vedder notes that on some campuses students study much more.  And, “Engineering majors probably work much harder than communications or gender studies majors.”  Ditto, law and medical students.  As a sometimes engineering major at Illinois, recipient of a masters from Stanford in Engineering Economic Systems and later law student, I know all that’s not new.

But neither he nor I are suggesting that students responding to the changing incentives is the only problem.  Vedder confesses: “I’m part of the problem: I’ve been teaching for 55 years, and I assign far less reading, demand less writing, and give higher grades than I did two generations ago.”  Most other professors are less demanding and productive in teaching and useful research than he is, while mostly hard-sciences instructors put in similar teaching and productive research time.

When I taught 15 years ago, I told my community college students at the start of the semester I would teach them just as I would at any four-year college, including the same reading, writing, homework and testing.  However, I felt guilty because I succumbed to the grade inflation trend.  On the other hand, because a third of them needed remedial English, writing and math skills (having been shorted by their grade and high schools), I provided that service.

Another point he makes is that objective measures show the results of college education today are underwhelming.  Similarly, I noted in my controller’s annual reports that American K-12 students’ achievement scores in international tests are in the middle ranks of those for advanced countries, while our per-student spending is among the highest.

A major point I learned as a regent is that much of higher education’s problem is the proliferation of administrative and other non-teaching staff relative to all instructors.  Because colleges and universities work hard to cover up this phenomenon, I had trouble getting data on it, and I look forward to his book for more information here.

When we understand the full dimensions of the problem, we can begin crafting remedies.  Stay tuned.

 

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Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe here at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

 

Published in Opinion

So, Sunday morning, I opened the electronic version of the only local newspaper I subscribe to and trust, the Las Vegas Review Journal, and I see, buried on page A8, a story headlined “Poll shows Democrats more trusted with health care”

 

Which was true…sort of.  Because I’m pretty sure the story reported the numbers of the poll accurately.

 

The “poll” was an “Associated Press-NORC Center” poll which, you had to read seven paragraphs to the bottom of the story—by the Associated Press—to find out that “The poll of 1,108 adults was conducted April 11-14 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.” Let me be the first to ask the question:  If that factoid had been in the headline or in the first paragraph, would anyone take this seriously? What if the story read like this:

 

“A poll of 1,108 adults paid for by the company selling this story to news outlets says that Democrats are more trusted to handle healthcare in the United States.  The pollsters say that the 1108 adults can predict the sentiments of the 128,824,246 voters who cast a ballot in 2016 with a margin of error of 4.1 percent.”  

 

Would anybody actually believe—especially after the 2016 election—that a sample of .0000086 percent of the voting electorate has a margin of error of 4.5 percent? But, in my favorite local newspaper, it is presented as fact. If this kind of polling were accurate, why did virtually every pollster predict Hillary by 7 points on the day of the 2016 election.

 

Polling used to be easier because, for most purposes, you could at least get a sample which was demographically sound.  We could tell roughly where you lived by your telephone number and who you were. Today, with the advent of cell phones and cheap VOIP services, we cannot even tell with certainty what state you are in. Further, there is the built-in bias of many news organizations which sponsor such polls.  If you believe that the AP is some kind of neutral news behemoth, guess again.  Ditto for CBS, NBC, CNN, ABC and, yes, even Fox.  They all come at stories from a predominately liberal viewpoint (with the occasional exception of Fox) so why would you believe that their polling selections would be much different?

 

Then, there’s the “if you see it in the media it must be true” school of thought. It’s today’s version of Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ Big Lie theory which, simply stated, says if you tell a lie big enough, many people will have to believe it. Inevitably, these “polls” are presented by the same people who populate organizations like the White House Correspondents Association and are soooo offended by the term Fake News and the President’s assertion that those who willfully present Fake News are the enemies of the people.

 

But the truth is not only is President Trump correct, but the average voter knows bullcrap when he or she sees it.  Journalists have a tendency to see themselves as more knowledgeable and more important than average voting citizens.  Many times, in conversation, journalists use terms like “them” and “those people” to describe and differentiate average voters.  As if journalists, somehow, fall into a different category. Like Hillary and the word deplorable.

 

Want some proof? Watch those panels on FNC and CNN.  Watch the Sunday morning shows.

 

It’s that sort of hubris which allows them to write headlines and lead paragraphs like the one I referred to above—even in my favorite local newspaper. (And I’m not kidding about that.) I’ve been in this business since I was 12.  But I live about 2,600 miles from Washington and my neighbors remind me daily that I’m pretty average.  I would hate for it to be any other way.

 

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Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe here at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Opinion
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