Search This Blog

Monday, June 18, 2018

Declaration of Conscience

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME), June 1, 1950:
As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of "confuse, divide, and conquer." As an American, I don’t want a Democratic Administration “whitewash” or "cover-up" any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican "Fascist" just as much I condemn a Democratic "Communist." I condemn a Democrat "Fascist" just as much as I condemn a Republican "Communist." They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts that I have drafted what I call a "Declaration of Conscience." I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye, and Senator Hendrickson have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.

The declaration reads as follows:

1. We are Republicans. But we are Americans first. It is as Americans that we express our concern with the growing confusion that threatens the security and stability of our country. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed to that confusion.

2. The Democratic administration has initially created the confusion by its lack of effective leadership, by its contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances, by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home, by its oversensitiveness to rightful criticism, by its petty bitterness against its critics.

3. Certain elements of the Republican Party have materially added to this confusion in the hopes of riding the Republican party to victory through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. There are enough mistakes of the Democrats for Republicans to criticize constructively without resorting to political smears.

4. To this extent, Democrats and Republicans alike have unwittingly, but undeniably, played directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.”

5. It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques -- techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Commander in Chief

In his concurrence in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952), Justice Robert Jackson wrote: "There are indications that the Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also Commander in Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants."

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Changing Face of Think Tanks

At American Affairs, Ignacio Delcavoli finds that think tanks are paying their executive much more than in the past.
There also appears to be no significant correlation between the change in an organization’s impact over time and growth in executive compensation, much less the dramatic increases in impact that would be required to justify the high compensation growth shown above. On the other hand, there does appear to be some evidence of a change in focus at most major think tanks. Almost across the board, h-index scores (a more academic measure) have noticeably declined, while op-eds (typically written to advance a more immediate political concern) have noticeably increased. Various explanations can be offered, but one interpretation is that think tanks, initially conceived of as “universities without students,” are now mostly functioning as advocacy organizations.
Think tanks are widely known to be breeding grounds for congressional staffers and presidential appointees (despite Trump’s relative unpopularity at think tanks, the current administration is no exception), and they have numerous points of contact with politicians. Thus a more significant measure of impact might be the number of think-tank fellows appointed to executive or legislative roles or the number of nonpublic meetings held with politicians and their staffs. In other words, think tanks today may mainly function as lobbying firms, and many donors may evaluate their impact primarily on that basis.
This was essentially the conclusion of a 2014 paper by Ken Silverstein entitled “Pay to Play Think Tanks: Institutional Corruption and the Industry of Ideas.”8 Silverstein details the many ways in which think-tank agendas (across the ideological spectrum) are increasingly driven by donors, including large corporations and foreign governments. In exchange for larger contributions, many think tanks allow donors to set or veto research topics, sponsor public events under the aegis of a nonprofit organization, enjoy private access to influential politicians or foreign leaders, and so on. Silverstein reports that scholars at the Center for American Progress were told to speak to the development office before publishing on topics that might adversely affect donor interests. Silverstein also describes situations in which think tanks worked to burnish the image of foreign governments and corporations after receiving large donations from them.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ever-Growing US House Districts

The U.S. House of Representatives has one voting member for every 747,000 or so Americans. That’s by far the highest population-to-representative ratio among a peer group of industrialized democracies, and the highest it’s been in U.S. history. And with the size of the House capped by law and the country’s population continually growing, the representation ratio likely will only get bigger.
In the century-plus since the number of House seats first reached its current total of 435 (excluding nonvoting delegates), the representation ratio has more than tripled – from one representative for every 209,447 people in 1910 to one for every 747,184 as of last year.
That ratio, mind you, is for the nation as a whole. The ratios for individual states vary considerably, mainly because of the House’s fixed size and the Constitution’s requirement that each state, no matter its population, have at least one representative. Currently, Montana’s 1,050,493 people have just one House member; Rhode Island has slightly more people (1,059,639), but that’s enough to give it two representatives – one for every 529,820 Rhode Islanders.
There have been occasional proposals to add more seats to the House to reflect population growth. One is the so-called “Wyoming Rule,” which would make the population of the smallest state (currently Wyoming) the basis for the representation ratio. Depending on which variant of that rule were adopted, the House would have had 545 to 547 members following the 2010 census.
However, a recent Pew Research Center survey found limited public support for adding new House seats. Only 28% of Americans said the House should be expanded, versus 51% who said it should remain at 435 members. When historical context was added to the question, support for expansion rose a bit, to 34%, with the additional support coming mainly from Democrats.
 The House’s hefty representation ratio makes the United States an outlier among its peers. Our research finds that the U.S. ratio is the highest among the 35 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, most of them highly developed, democratic states.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cabinet Communicators!

Kevin Bogardus at E&E News:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last year praised President Trump's decision to pull the United States from the Paris climate accord.

Her staff later told her what she had said about it.

DeVos' chief of staff approved the secretary's two-sentence statement on Trump's exit from the climate change agreement, with her espousing the president's rollback of "overreaching regulatory actions" and keeping his promise "to put America and American workers first." Aides later worked to bring it to DeVos' attention, according to emails obtained by E&E News under the Freedom of Information Act.

The emails offer a behind-the-scenes look at how the White House ordered agency leaders to publicly praise Trump's announcement on Paris, which was a year ago today. Cabinet secretaries and their communications shops jumped into action, with messages ranging from DeVos' vague praise of putting "America first" to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decrying the "economic carnage" of the climate treaty.

DeVos was one of several Trump Cabinet officials to issue statements on the president's Paris decision. At least nine officials, including many not heavily involved in the move to withdraw from the agreement, released statements that day (Greenwire, June 2).

The public relations push came after a request from the White House, according to other records obtained by E&E News under FOIA.

"Cabinet Communicators!" Kaelan Dorr, then an aide in the White House press office, said in an email a little over two hours before Trump announced his decision.

"Please join our surrogate briefing call at the below number at 1:30pm. We need all Cabinet agencies to prep statements of support for the decision being announced at 3:00pm in the Rose Garden," he said, asking those statements be sent to him and other White House press aides for approval within 30 minutes of the call's conclusion.

"No exceptions," Dorr said, adding that talking points would also be distributed after the call.

Monday, June 11, 2018

In Defense of the Liberal Arts

Joint Statement on the Value of Liberal Education by AAC&U and AAUP
Thursday, May 31, 2018
In recent years, the disciplines of the liberal arts, once universally regarded as central to the intellectual life of the university, have been steadily moved to the periphery and increasingly threatened—by some administrators, elected officials, journalists, and parents of college-age children. The study of the history of human societies and forms of human expression is now too often construed as frivolous, and several colleges and universities have recently announced the wholesale elimination of liberal arts departments. Politicians have proposed linking tuition to the alleged market value of given majors. Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

The American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges and Universities are not disciplinary organizations, but we believe that institutions of higher education, if they are truly to serve as institutions of higher education, should provide more than narrow vocational training and should seek to enhance students’ capacities for lifelong learning. This is as true of open-access institutions as it is of highly selective elite colleges and universities. The disciplines of the liberal arts—and the overall benefit of a liberal education--are exemplary in this regard, for they foster intellectual curiosity about questions that will never be definitively settled—questions about justice, about community, about politics and culture, about difference in every sense of the word. All college students and not solely a privileged few should have opportunities to address such questions as a critical part of their educational experience. And the disciplines of the liberal arts are central to the ideal of academic freedom, as well, because the liberal arts, by their nature, require free rein to pursue truth wherever it may lead. As a result, they provide an intellectual bulwark for academic freedom.
Almost eighty years ago, in their joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the AAUP and AAC&U emphasized that “institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good” and that “the common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.” The free search for truth and its free exposition in the liberal arts are essential components of a functioning democracy. Higher education’s contributions to the common good and to the functioning of our democracy are severely compromised when universities eliminate and diminish the liberal arts.
For more on AAC&U’s definition of liberal education and the liberal arts, see

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Civility and SCOTUS

Anthony Marcum at The Hill:
So what’s the secret to the Supreme Court’s civility? The justices may tell you it’s simple: Spend more time with your colleagues. In interviews, the justices have spoken fondly about the court’s commitment to group lunches, birthday parties and “pre-State of the Union feasts.” And through these experiences, many of the justices have developed strong friendships. Perhaps the most interesting friendship to develop in recent years was between Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia. They served together on the court for over 20 years and, during that time, while Ginsberg and Scalia rarely agreed on hot-button issues, they were nonetheless known to vacation and attend the opera together.

Members of Congress should take note. This is not to say that members should start booking joint vacations to Bermuda or grabbing tickets to see La Traviata at the Kennedy Center, but congressional leaders should strive to promote greater collegiality among members. After all, collegiality was not always exclusive to the Supreme Court. Indeed, there are plenty of anecdotes of congressional members in past decades fighting on the floor and then retreating together to the many bars and restaurants that surround the Capitol.

This sort of collegiality shouldn’t only take place behind the scenes. The Supreme Court is a good example of this precept. On argument days, although the justices often interrupt the advocates before them, they usually refrain from interrupting each other. Furthermore, when advocates cleverly dodge a question presented by one justice, another justice will occasionally use their time to return to an issue previously raised by their colleague. And unlike members of Congress, justices do not sit according to ideology. Instead, justices sit according to seniority, which offers some interesting legal pairings: President Trump’s appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, for example, sits next to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first appointee.