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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lobbyists at the Democratic Convention

A previous post noted that business lobbyists swarmed the GOP convention despite Trump's purported outsiderism. Other party, same thing. Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick report at The New York Times:
On Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee of a major party, a handful of drug companies and health insurers made sure to echo the theme, paying to sponsor an “Inspiring Women” panel featuring Democratic congresswomen.

And in the vaulted marble bar of the Ritz-Carlton downtown, wealthy givers congregated in force for cocktails and glad-handing, as protesters thronged just outside to voice their unhappiness with Wall Street, big money in politics and Mrs. Clinton herself.

“This is a good place to be — for a lot of reasons,” said former Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a Democrat now running for Congress, as he glided through the room on Tuesday. “We must have set up five fund-raisers today. This is the bank.”
 “I think we’re past that,” said Alan Patricof, a longtime donor to Mrs. Clinton, when asked about the need to lie low during the primaries.
The Philadelphia convention offered other symbolic contrasts to the party’s last two gatherings, when President Obama sought, with mixed success, to restrict his party from raising money to pay for the conventions from lobbyists or political action funds. Those shackles were thrown off this year, waving a green flag to Washington’s influence industry. Lobbyists and corporate representatives flooded the city, where much of the Democratic Party’s elite — and potential senior members of a future presidential administration — had gathered.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


CNN reports:
Donald Trump appeared to call on Russian intelligence agencies Wednesday to find 30,000 of Hillary Clinton's deleted emails, adding a stunning twist to the uproar over Moscow's alleged intervention in the presidential election.

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," Trump said during a news conference in Florida.
Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta suggested the remarks raised questions about Trump's loyalty to the United States.
"No presidential candidate who's running to be president of the United States ought to be asking a foreign country, particularly Russia, to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts to try to determine what the Democratic candidate may or may not be doing," Panetta, a Clinton ally, said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
"This just is beyond my own understanding of the responsibilities that candidates have to be loyal to their country and to their country alone, not to reach out to somebody like Putin and Russia, and try to engage them in an effort to try to, in effect, conduct a conspiracy against another party," he said.
Politico adds:
And William Inboden, who served on the NSC during the George W. Bush administration, said Trump's comments were "tantamount to treason."
"Trump's appeal for a foreign government hostile to the United States to manipulate our electoral process is not an assault on Hillary Clinton, it is an assault on the Constitution," said Inboden, who now teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.
Whether Trump's comments actually would meet the high legal bar that defines a case of treason is a question unlikely to be explored by any federal agency anytime soon. But just the fact that people were using the word was an indication of how worried the national security establishment, including on the Republican side, is about a potential Trump presidency. (According to the gurus at Merriam-Webster, online look ups for the definition of the word "treason" spiked by 76 percent after Trump's comments.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Pew reports:
Cutting-edge biomedical technologies that could push the boundaries of human abilities may soon be available, making people’s minds sharper and their bodies stronger and healthier than ever before. But a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults shows that majorities greet the possibility of these breakthroughs with more wariness and worry than enthusiasm and hope.

When Americans are questioned about the prospect of these specific kinds of enhancements for healthy people, their views are cautious and often resistant:
  • Majorities of U.S. adults say they would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing (68%), brain chips (69%) and synthetic blood (63%), while no more than half say they would be enthusiastic about each of these developments. Some people say they would be both enthusiastic and worried, but, overall, concern outpaces excitement.
  • More say they would not want enhancements of their brains and their blood (66% and 63%, respectively) than say they would want them (32% and 35%). U.S. adults are closely split on the question of whether they would want gene editing to help prevent diseases for their babies (48% would, 50% would not).
  • At least seven-in-ten adults predict each of these new technologies will become available before they have been fully tested or understood. Some 73% say this about gene editing, while an identical share says the same about synthetic blood; 74% says this about brain chip implants.
  • Majorities say these enhancements could exacerbate the divide between haves and have-nots. For instance, 73% believe inequality will increase if brain chips become available because initially they will be obtainable only by the wealthy.
  • In addition, many Americans think recipients of enhancements will feel superior to those who have not received them; 63% say this about synthetic blood transfusions in particular. By the same token, but more optimistically, half of Americans or more think recipients of enhancements will feel more confident about themselves.
  • Substantial shares say they are not sure whether these interventions are morally acceptable. But among those who express an opinion, more people say brain and blood enhancements would be morally unacceptable than say they are acceptable.
  • More adults say the downsides of brain and blood enhancements would outweigh the benefits for society than vice versa. Americans are a bit more positive about the possibility of gene editing to reduce disease; 36% think it will have more benefits than downsides, while 28% think it will have more downsides than benefits.
  • Opinion is closely divided when it comes to the fundamental question of whether these potential developments are “meddling with nature” and cross a line that should not be crossed, or whether they are “no different” from other ways that humans have tried to better themselves over time.

Monday, July 25, 2016

NYT Bias

At The New York Times, public editor Liz Spayd writes:
Why is it that conservatives, and even many moderates, see in The Times a blue-state worldview? Let’s set aside for now the core of their criticism — that the coverage is in fact biased. I’ll be turning to that as I settle into the job. My focus here is only on the perceptions. Because while one might debate the substance of the claims, the building blocks that created them are in plain sight.
The home page is a good place to start. Anchoring its top right corner is the Opinion section, which promotes the columns and editorials of its mostly liberal writers. “Readers know the difference between opinion and news,” you’ll often hear. I’m not so sure all do, especially when the website makes neighbors of the two and social platforms make them nearly impossible to tease apart.

Maybe we’re well past worrying about that. So turn to the drumbeat of Hillary Clinton campaign ads on the website. Even for me, who fully knows an ad from a news story, seeing Clinton’s smiling face when I’ve come to read the news can be rather jarring.

Readers often run across ads like these on The New York Times’s homepage.

How about all the reader comments attached to political articles? On most days, conservatives occupy just a few back-row seats in this giant liberal echo chamber, not because Republicans are screened out by editors but because they don’t show up in the first place. Bassey Etim, who oversees the comments forum, makes a point of salting conservative voices into the week’s list of top commenters. “It just makes the conversation more dynamic and interesting,” he says.

For some print readers, the placement of an editorial calling for gun control on the front page last December, which garnered a record number of comments, was shrill proof of the kind of Times bias they expect. There was a torrent of debate over the appropriateness of its placement.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Charles Murray, Coming Apart, and the 2016 Election

At AEI, James Pethokoukis interviews Charles Murray:
Now, I know that we have the cottages in Newport that were palaces back in the late 19th century and other great displays of wealth, but those were fairly isolated to a couple of places in the northeast United States. What we see now is large enclaves of really affluent people forming these large communities in which they live conspicuously different lifestyles than everybody else — that’s new in the United States. The extent to which the upper class rather openly disdains ordinary Americans, that’s also really, really new. A part of being an American 50 years ago that you celebrates your own middle-class or working-class roots and you took great pride in saying “Hey I’m just another guy like anybody else even though I have a net worth of $20 million.” No, this behavior by the upper class has stoked a lot of that.
I don’t think that it’s the difference of wealth per se; I think it’s the separation. If you go to towns where you have a guy who started a chain of transmission repair shops and has several million dollars and has built a really nice house but he also is obviously still one of the guys, he’s still in the community where he grew up and everybody knows him, and yeah he’s made a lot of money —I don’t think that that kind of wealth generates a lot of resentment. I think it’s these people living in New York, Washington, San Francisco, L.A. — these big glitzy centers — acting as if they can lord it over the rest of us, that generates a lot of this anger.
Another problem with the experts — and I think that this gets to a lot of the visceral anger that people have — is that the experts have been recommending policies for other people for which they do not have to bear the consequences. The case of immigration is a classic case where I can sit down with economists on both the left and the right, and we with great self-satisfaction talk about all of our wonderful analyses that show that this idea that immigrants are driving down wages of native-born Americans is way over-exaggerated; that immigration is essentially a net plus, so forth and so on…  Those analyses may be right, but that does not change the fact that we aren’t the people who are like the carpenter who used to make $16 an hour, and he is losing work because contractors are hiring immigrant carpenters for $12.
As far as the “Coming Apart” phenomenon is concerned, it is going absolutely nowhere, no matter what happens with the election results. I think that the truth that has been exposed over the last eight months is that the Republican Party has a lot fewer people who believe in traditional conservative principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility and so forth than we thought we did.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Business Dudes Abide

A few months ago, Rich Galen wrote:
No less than T.E. Lawrence, known to us as Lawrence of Arabia, learned a hard lesson after World War I. He thought he and his Arab allies had created a new order in the Middle East. But, he wrote in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
"When we achieved, and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace."
Nicholas Confessore reports at The New York Times:
Though Mr. Trump promises to topple Washington’s “rigged system,” the opening rounds of his party’s quadrennial meeting accentuated a more enduring maxim: Money always adapts to power.

At a downtown barbecue joint, lobbyists cheerfully passed out stickers reading “Make Lobbying Great Again” as they schmoozed on Monday with Republican ambassadors, lawmakers and executives. At a windowless bar tucked behind the Ritz-Carlton hotel, whose rooms were set aside for the party’s most generous benefactors, allies of Mr. Trump pitched a clutch of receptive party donors on contributing to a pro-Trump “super PAC.”

And on Tuesday night, as Republican delegates formally made Mr. Trump their presidential nominee, a few dozen lobbyists and their clients instead sipped gin and munched on Brie puffs in an oak-paneled room at the Union Club. They had come to witness a more urgent presentation: Newt Gingrich, a top Trump adviser and Beltway fixture, painting an upbeat picture of the deals they could help sculpt on infrastructure projects and military spending in the first hundred days of a Trump administration.

“It is the business of Washington,” said Michael J. Anderson, a Democratic lobbyist who represents American Indian tribes, after watching Mr. Gingrich speak. “Mr. Trump is talking about changing the paradigm. It’s not changing one bit. The political and influence class is going on as before.”
Joel Fox writes at Fox and Hounds:
From the business perspective is the top two primary working out as hoped? Looking at the lineup of 28 same party run-offs, mostly Democratic contests in this heavily Democratic state, business can advocate for and help fund the more business-friendly Democrat in each race.
Yet, in many cases the winning Democrat will stay true to the overall Democratic Party line. In most cases, but not all. A highlighted example, the debate recently over cutting gasoline consumption saw some Democrats ignore the pleas of their party’s governor and legislative leaders to the satisfaction of the oil industry and other businesses.
Business leaders appear resigned to looking for the “best” Democrat.
A well-known example played out when former Assembly Republican leader Kristin Olsen made it known she was interested in challenging Democratic incumbent Cathleen Galgiani for the 5th Senatorial District. Business interests felt Galgiani was a good enough vote in the senate. The business groups let the state Republican Party know it’s wishes and in turn the party refused to help Olson with financial support for her campaign. Resigned, Olsen chose to run for supervisor in Stanislaus County.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Catholics and Capital Punishment

At The Catholic World Report, Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette write:
Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the pope’s own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI -- stated unambiguously that:
[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment… he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities… to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible… to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about… applying the death penalty… (emphasis added)
How could it be “legitimate” for a Catholic to be “at odds with” the pope on such a matter? The answer is that the pope’s opposition to capital punishment was not a matter of binding doctrine, but merely an opinion which a Catholic must respectfully consider but not necessarily agree with. Cardinal Ratzinger could not possibly have said what he did otherwise. If it were mortally sinful for a Catholic to disagree with the pope about capital punishment, then he could not “present himself to receive Holy Communion.” If it were even venially sinful to disagree, then there could not be “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics.”
The fact is that it is the irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate, not merely to ensure the physical safety of others when an offender poses an immediate danger (a case where even John Paul II was willing to allow for the death penalty), but even for purposes such as securing retributive justice and deterring serious crime. What is open to debate is merely whether recourse to the death penalty is in practice the best option given particular historical and cultural circumstances. That is a “prudential” matter about which popes have no special expertise.
We defend these claims in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, forthcoming from Ignatius Press.