Links for 6-17-2018

  • Selena Zito taught 20 Harvard students what the rest of American looks like:

    On a blustery afternoon in April, I filed into a van along with 10 students from Harvard. We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass., where we had chatted with the police chief and his force, the mayor and his staff, small-business owners, waitresses and firemen about their struggles living in small-town America.

    The undergrads were buzzing with their impressions. Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.

    As they settled in, I looked at them.

    “So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”

    None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person who they’d voted for.

    So, I let a minute pass and told them.

    “Nearly every one of them voted for Trump.”

    My students looked stunned, at first. But then a recognition crossed their faces.

  • Kevin Williamson wrote an excellent article on asymmetrical capitalism, the perverse results that emerge when governments over-regulate industries like airlines, banks, credit card companies, and health insurers.

    This pokes people right in their sense of fairness. Fairness is an almost infinitely plastic standard in the wrong hands, but it is nonetheless a big part of the real world’s moral architecture. Progressives look at these situations and conclude that the answer is — more regulation. They believe that the way to achieve fairness is to simply mandate it. This represents some pretty primitive thinking, but primitive thinking dominates politics. Progressives are not alone in their frequent blindness to the ways in which regulation itself is a driving force behind these problems. (It is not the only force, to be sure.) A better answer is more-robust competition, but it is not always clear how to go about achieving that.

    These deficiencies represent what amounts to an enormous tax on Americans. Some of those are direct costs: We pay more for health insurance, mortgage insurance, and Internet services than we probably would in a stronger market. But many of those are invisible taxes, too: American businesses waste billions of dollars a year on unnecessary travel expenses because they cannot count on U.S. airlines to keep to anything like their published schedules, which means they end up having to tack hotel expenses and 48 hours of diminished productivity onto the bill for a two-hour meeting. Many of those costs end up getting passed along to consumers and providers of business services — and to employees, too, to the extent that attaching $200,000 a year in expenses to a $75,000-a-year employee may put downward pressure on wages.

  • Barack Obama’s presidential library is going to cost Illinois taxpayers at least $200 million.

  • The U.S. and South Korea will reportedly suspend “large scale” military drills, which aligns with Donald Trump’s discussions with Kim Jong Un.

  • A car bomb killed at least 26 people at a gathering of Afghan and Taliban troops in Afghanistan. ISIS claimed responsibility. Afghanistan’s President extended the country’s unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban by 10 days.

  • A shootout and a fire in Nicaragua killed eight people and broke the truce between the government and opposition groups. Talks between the two sides are continuing anyway.

  • Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh was injured and his wife was killed in a car crash.

Links for 6-15-2018

Links for 6-12-2018

Links for 6-4-2018

Links for 6-2-2018

  • Donald Trump’s lawyers sent Robert Mueller a 20 page letter arguing that Mueller can’t subpoena the president. Naturally the letter was leaked to The New York Times.

  • Andrew McCarthy thinks Congress should investigate the prosecution of George Papadopoulos:

    Instead, after the big 13-page wind-up, Papadopoulos ends up pleading guilty to a minor false-statements charge — one that is convoluted and, in the scheme of things, trivial. In essence, Papadopoulos is said to have lied about the timing and scope of his contact with the Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud. Mueller, Rhee & Co. allege that Papadopoulos falsely claimed that the contacts started before he joined the Trump campaign. It turns out that they started on March 14, 2016; this was some time after he “learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the campaign” (page 3, paragraph 4) but a week before the campaign’s March 21 announcement that he was a campaign “policy advisor” (page 4, paragraph 6).

    In concluding that this seems picayune, it is not my purpose to challenge the technical legal sufficiency of the charge. The requirement to prove a false statement was “material” (see Section 1001 of the federal penal code) is a very low hurdle. My point is — and has been — that, since allegations of “collusion” have roiled the nation and threatened a presidency for nearly two years, a ho-hum false-statements charge is a strange way to treat the one and only guy who, according to the special counsel, colluded up a storm.

    But this only scratches the surface of strangeness.

  • North Korea may have faked the demolition of its nuclear test site.

  • Alessandra Bocchi explains the weird composition of Italy’s latest government, the combination of the populist-left Five Star Movement and populist-right League:

    The new government’s eclectic program emphasizes environmentalism, claiming that “man and the environment are two sides of the same coin,” and calls for a reduction of carbon emissions and an end to fossil fuels. The mixed ideological character of the new coalition is illustrated by Alberto Bagnai, a left-wing euroskeptic economist who represents the League in the Italian Senate. His book, The Sunset of the Euro, decries the single currency as a means for Germany to exert its dominance in the Eurozone. Bagnai also strongly opposes mass immigration, calling it a tool to drive down wages and increase exploitation of workers: “It’s no surprise that ‘left-wing’ ‘intellectuals’ don’t care about immigrants’ impact on wages—it’s because they’re not low skilled workers.”

    Even more radically, the 31-year-old leader of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, has challenged the tyranny of economic metrics. In a speech prior to the election, he said: “The economic indicator for growth will no longer be GDP.” This represents a fundamental challenge to the free-trade post-war order, which has culminated in the rule of multi-national corporations over small businesses and enterprises.

    To address Italy’s public debt crisis, the program rejects austerity measures and seeks to revisit EU treaties that recommend them. In place of austerity, the coalition has proposed a minimum salary, a universal basic income, and a lowering of the pension age. What has raised some eyebrows is the League’s proposal for a more libertarian flax-tax system. How can the government increase spending while also decreasing its revenue? The coalition claims that the program will be paid for by eliminating bureaucratic inefficiencies and by subsidies from the EU. And Italy does indeed have a problem with corruption—Five Star built its popularity by campaigning against it.

Links for 5-29-2018

Links for 5-28-2018