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Saturday, November 16, 2019


Casey Burgat at R Street:
The legislative branch simply does not have the levels of staff resources, funding or expertise to conduct effective oversight of the executive branch, including—and perhaps even especially—on matters of foreign affairs, intelligence and national security. Congressional committees are supremely overmatched by the resources of the executive agencies they are tasked with overseeing, and as a result, they cannot reasonably keep up with the decisions, plans and results produced by the sprawling military bureaucracy. This dynamic is compounded by the reality that the president enjoys near unilateral authority over military and intelligence operations, ultimately leaving Congress with little insight into the day-to-day operations of the people, programs and agencies they are expected to oversee and fund. Instead of providing an independent check on the president’s military authorities through oversight, such a lack of capacity has rendered Congress dependent upon the information provided by the very agencies they monitor.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Who Is Hispanic?

Mark Hugo Lopez, Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel at Pew:
So, who is considered Hispanic in the United States? And how are they counted in public opinion surveys, voter exit polls and government surveys like the upcoming 2020 census?
The most common approach to answering these questions is straightforward: Who is Hispanic? Anyone who says they are. And nobody who says they aren’t.
The U.S. Census Bureau uses this approach, as does Pew Research Center and most other research organizations that conduct public opinion surveys. By this way of counting, the Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 59.9 million Hispanics in the United States as of July 1, 2018, making up 18% of the total national population.
A 2015 survey found that 50% of Hispanics most often describe themselves by their family’s country of origin, 23% use the terms Latino or Hispanic, and 23% most often describe themselves as American. As for a preference between the terms Hispanic or Latino, the survey found that 32% of Hispanics prefer “Hispanic,” 15% prefer the term “Latino” and the rest (51%) have no preference.
Another common identity label is “Latinx,” an emerging panethnic, gender-neutral term that is used in place of “Hispanic” or “Latino.” While the Census Bureau has not recognized the term, U.S. public interest in “Latinx” has grown since 2018, according to an analysis of Google search data. However, some have not embraced the term.
The first major attempt to estimate the size of the nation’s Hispanic population came in 1970 and produced widespread concerns among Hispanic organizations about an undercount. A portion of the U.S. population (5%) was asked if their origin or descent was from the following categories: “Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, Other Spanish,” and “No, none of these.” This approach had problems, among them an undercount of about 1 million Hispanics. One reason for this is that many second-generation Hispanics did not select one of the Hispanic groups because the question did not include terms like “Mexican American.” The question wording also resulted in hundreds of thousands of people living in the south or central regions of the U.S. to be mistakenly included in the “Central or South American” category.
By 1980, the current approach – in which someone is asked if they are Hispanic – had taken hold, with some tweaks made to the question and response categories since then. In 2000, for example, the term “Latino” was added to make the question read, “Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?” In recent years, the Census Bureau has studied an alternative approach to counting Hispanics that combines the questions that ask about Hispanic origin and race. However, this change will not appear in the 2020 census.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Perceptions of Crime

Justin McCarthy at Gallup:
Nearly two in three Americans say there is "more" crime in the U.S. compared with one year ago, while 24% say there is "less" crime and 9% say the level of crime has remained the same.
The percentage saying there is more crime is consistent with the historical average of 67% since 1989. In all but two polls over the past three decades, majorities of Americans have said there was more crime compared with the prior year.
Figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics have shown a general decline in U.S. violent crime since the early 1990s. But aside from a decline in the percentage perceiving more U.S. crime from the early 1990s to the early 2000s, Americans' perceptions of crime across the country have usually differed from what the bureau has reported.
 Gallup has consistently found that Americans are more likely to say overall crime in the U.S. has grown than they are to say the same about crime in the area where they live. In all polls since 1989, the percentage of Americans perceiving greater crime in the U.S. has exceeded the percentage perceiving greater local crime by double digits.
Currently, 43% of Americans say there is more crime in their area than there was a year ago, while 40% say there is less crime.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Immigration and Social Mobility

At the National Bureau of Economic Research, Ran Abramitzky and colleagues have a paper titled "Intergenerational Mobility of Immigrants in the US over Two Centuries." The abstract:
Using millions of father-son pairs spanning more than 100 years of US history, we find that children of immigrants from nearly every sending country have higher rates of  upward mobility than children of the US-born. Immigrants’ advantage is similar historically and today despite dramatic shifts in sending countries and US immigration policy. In the past, this advantage can be explained by immigrants moving to areas with better prospects for their children and by “underplacement” of the first generation in the income distribution. These findings are consistent with the “American Dream” view that even poorer immigrants can improve their children’s prospects.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Internet Freedom

Adrian Shabaz and Allie Funk at Freedom House:
Freedom on the Net is a comprehensive study of internet freedom in 65 countries around the globe, covering 87 percent of the world’s internet users. It tracks improvements and declines in internet freedom conditions each year. The countries included in the study have been selected to represent diverse geographical regions and regime types. In-depth reports on each country can be found at
Of the 65 countries assessed, 33 have been on an overall decline since June 2018, compared with 16 that registered net improvements. The biggest score declines took place in Sudan and Kazakhstan followed by Brazil, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe.

China confirmed its status as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year. Censorship reached unprecedented extremes as the government enhanced its information controls in advance of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and in the face of widespread antigovernment protests in Hong Kong. In a relatively new tactic, administrators shuttered individual accounts on the hugely popular WeChat social media platform for any sort of “deviant” behavior, including minor infractions such as commenting on environmental disasters, which encouraged pervasive self-censorship. Officials have reported removing tens of thousands of accounts for allegedly “harmful” content on a quarterly basis. The campaign cut individuals off from a multifaceted tool that has become essential to everyday life in China, used for purposes ranging from transportation to banking. This blunt penalty has also narrowed avenues for digital mobilization and further silenced online activism.

Internet freedom declined in the United States. While the online environment remains vibrant, diverse, and free from state censorship, this report’s coverage period saw the third straight year of decline. Law enforcement and immigration agencies expanded their surveillance of the public, eschewing oversight, transparency, and accountability mechanisms that might restrain their actions. Officials increasingly monitored social media platforms and conducted warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices to glean information about constitutionally protected activities such as peaceful protests and critical reporting. Disinformation was again prevalent around major political events like the November 2018 midterm elections and congressional confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Both domestic and foreign actors manipulated content for political purposes, undermining the democratic process and stoking divisions in American society. In a positive development for privacy rights, the Supreme Court ruled that warrants are required for law enforcement agencies to access subscriber-location records from third parties.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019

From the Census:
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary marking the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day honors military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation and a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The ceremony honors and thanks all who served in the U.S. armed forces.
The following facts are made possible by the invaluable responses to the U.S. Census Bureau’s surveys. We appreciate the public’s cooperation in helping us measure America’s people, places and economy.

18.0 million The number of military veterans in the United States in 2018.
Source:  2018 American Community Survey

1.7 million The number of female veterans in the United States in 2018.
Source:  2018 American Community Survey

12.0% The percentage of veterans in 2018 who were black. Additionally, 76.7 percent were non-Hispanic white, 1.7 percent were Asian, 0.8 % were American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.2 % were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 1.4 % were some other race. (The numbers for blacks, non-Hispanic whites, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and some other race cover only those reporting a single race.)
Source: 2018 American Community Survey

7.2%The percentage of veterans in 2018 who were Hispanic.
Source: 2018 American Community Survey

50.1%The percentage of veterans age 65 and older in 2018. At the other end of the age spectrum, 9.1% were younger than age 35.Source: 2018 American Community Survey
Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova at The Migration Policy Institute:
Immigrants have long enlisted in all branches of the U.S. military, beginning with the Revolutionary War. The foreign born represented half of all military recruits by the 1840s and 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members in the Union Army during the Civil War. Today, the number of veterans who were born outside the United States stands at approximately 530,000, representing 3 percent of all 18.6 million veterans nationwide. Additionally, almost 1.9 million veterans are the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Together, the 2.4 million veterans of immigrant origin, either because they themselves are immigrants or are the children of immigrants, account for 13 percent of all veterans.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Bush 41 and the End of the Cold War

James A. Baker III at The Washington Post:
Thirty years ago, on Nov. 9, 1989, as crowds of East and West Germans were tearing down the wall that symbolized division and totalitarianism, I was fortunate to watch firsthand as President George H.W. Bush eschewed high rhetoric in favor of clear-eyed statecraft.
He had developed strong relations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand. Each of them trusted the president as a leader who kept his word. They also recognized that Bush would search for pragmatic solutions in an effort to ease their concerns rather than ignore them. As a result, less than a year after the wall fell — on Oct. 3, 1990 — Germany became a single nation again.
Bush’s nimble diplomacy was instrumental in concluding the Cold War with a whimper rather than the nuclear bang I had feared for most of my adult life. And it cleared the way for democracy and freedom to spread.

In the end, no one individual was responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Bush, in many ways, followed in the path of every American president since Truman in his commitment to a free and undivided Europe. The actions of Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl were historic. And, above all, the enduring spirit of the citizens of the captive states finally tipped the scales toward freedom.

But Bush’s role was indispensable. Because of his adroit foreign policy during that time of global transition, he is routinely remembered as one of our nation’s most effective leaders and the very best one-term president ever.

It is a model that all American presidents should follow.