Reading news about Zika victims is completely heartbreaking. Say a prayer for the children and families affected. Protecting public health should be a top priority for any government, and I urge American officials to take whatever actions are necessary to combat this disease.
Republican former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for "structuring" bank withdrawals to avoid notice by authorities.
Prosecutors say he so badly wanted to hide his past sexual misconduct, he agreed to pay a former student $3.5 million in hush money. Hastert pleaded guilty last fall to withdrawing $952,000 from the bank in increments crafted to avoid notice, in violation of banking laws. Prosecutors say when FBI investigators approached Hastert, he said he was being falsely extorted and even agreed to record a phone conversation with the individual.
"Structuring" shouldn't be a crime at all -- it's illegal to move money around for illegal purposes, and "structuring" makes it illegal to shape your transactions to avoid scrutiny. That's absurd. It's like a law against adhering to speed limit signs because that makes it harder for the police to give you a ticket for speeding.
Anyway, Hastert was guilty of some pretty reprehensible behavior. Not only did he molest a bunch of students when he worked as a wrestling coach, but he falsely told the FBI that one of his victims was extorting him.
[Judge] Durkin called it "deplorable" that Hastert lied to the FBI during an initial investigation. He also said it was "unconscionable" that Hastert initially accused Individual A of extortion, leading the FBI to begin investigating the victim.
"You set him up," Durkin told Hastert.
Hastert was one of the most politically connected people in the country, and he intentionally aimed the FBI at his abuse victim. Awful.
Still to be explained: how did Hastert get millions of dollars?
To many people it seems far-fetched that the right to bear arms that is enshrined in the Second Amendment is intended to empower citizens to protect themselves from tyranny -- but it is. And America has a sad history with tyranny. We're not immune, and we citizens need guns to protect our liberties.
"Do you really think that it could happen here?" remains a favorite refrain of the modern gun-control movement. Alas, the answer should be a resounding "Yes." For most of America's story, an entire class of people was, as a matter of course, enslaved, beaten, lynched, subjected to the most egregious miscarriages of justice, and excluded either explicitly or practically from the body politic. We prefer today to reserve the word "tyranny" for its original target, King George III, or to apply it to foreign despots. But what other characterization can be reasonably applied to the governments that, ignoring the words of the Declaration of Independence, enacted and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act? How else can we see the men who crushed Reconstruction? How might we view the recalcitrant American South in the early 20th century? "It" did "happen here." And "it" was achieved -- in part, at least -- because its victims were denied the very right to self-protection that during the Revolution had been recognized as the unalienable prerogative of "all men."
When, in 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney buttoned his Dred Scott v. Sandford opinion with the panicked warning that if free blacks were permitted to become American citizens they might begin "to keep and carry arms wherever they went," he was signaling his support for a disgraceful status quo within which suppression of the right to bear arms was depressingly quotidian. Indeed, until the late 1970s, the history of American gun control was largely inextricable from the history of American racism. Long before Louisiana was a glint in Thomas Jefferson's eye, the French "Black Codes" mandated that any black person found with a "potential weapon" be not only deprived of that weapon but also beaten for his audacity. British colonies, both slaveholding and free, tended to restrict gun ownership to whites, with even the settlements at Massachusetts and Plymouth prohibiting Indians from purchasing or owning firearms. Throughout the South, blacks were denied weapons. The intention of these rules was clear: to remove the means by which undesirables might rebel or resist, and to ensure that the majority maintained its prerogatives. In 1834, alarmed by Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia, Tennessee amended its state constitution to make this purpose unambiguous, clarifying that the "right to keep and to bear arms" applied not to "the freemen of this State" -- as the 1794 version of the document had allowed -- but to "the free white men of this State."
Paracelsus said "the dose makes the poison", and it appears that low doses of radiation may actually be beneficial, similar to the way other moderate stresses can strengthen your body.
This molecular skirmish appears to invigorate the organism. Various findings point towards the conclusion that moderate stress of any kind is advantageous. Roundworms fed small amount of arsenic live longer. People who indulge in moderate levels of alcohol have reduced risks of heart attacks, diabetes and Alzheimer's according to epidemiological studies.
Yet these blessings do seem to be coupled with notable damage to genomes. But this is as true of exercise as it is for other sources of stress. "Even when you jog," says Wetzker, "the genomes in your cells come under attack." In this instance, the impact leads to muscles being strengthened.
Wetzker hypothesizes that there is a universal principle when it comes to stress response, namely that the body can acclimatize to -- or even requires -- any kind of moderate challenge. "After a few weeks in a cast, your muscles are withered." The body needs to be regularly pushed, even with radioactivity.
Wetzker, of course, admits that caution is required when it comes to nuclear radiation. It is too difficult to calculate doses and effects. Experiments on people to gain better insights are out of the question. The researcher believes, however, that there are ill people who would be willing to accept a small amount of risk.
Much of what we "know" is wrong.
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be replacing President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Sounds good to me... I've got no particular attachment to Jackson -- he was a slaveholder, creator of the Trial of Tears, and the founder of the Democratic Party.
Surprisingly, none of the news articles about Tubman note her party affiliation or her choice of weapon.
Organic, locally-sourced food is a scam. I mean, obviously.
It's hard to be too angry at consumers. To be sure, they probably should have known that you couldn't really buy organic, locally sourced food year-round at just a smidge more than you'd pay for a regular meal. After all, the average American spent half their income on food in 1900, while the modern American now spends a paltry 12 percent, even including a lavish helping of restaurant meals. That should give us some sign that local, artisanal food is not going to be cheap. But most Americans are not economic historians.
But it's not even that easy to be mad at the restaurants. They're in a viciously competitive business where most places don't survive. In a competitive equilibrium where so many people want to be told they're eating farm-fresh food -- and so few people seem willing to pay for it -- many of them probably feel that their choice is "lie or die."
The Left is all about virtue signalling, not actual virtue.
So says Speaker Paul Ryan, explicitly ruling himself out as an option for the Republicans. However, don't miss the subtext: the Democrats are stuck with Hillary and Bernie.
"I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee -- to be the president -- you should actually run for it," said Mr. Ryan, who will be the convention chairman. "I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period. I just think it would be wrong to go any other way."
Ryan is proficient at political brinksmanship, and perhaps he has concluded that the country (and party) is most likely to prosper if both Republicans and Democrats are saddled with their current candidates. If he accepted the nomination -- or even flirted with it seriously -- he would open the door for Joe Biden or another Democrat to swoop in and save the Democrats from Hillary or Bernie.
UnitedHealth Group is pulling out of ObamaCare, but the law is "clearly" beneficial.
UnitedHealth's decision to pull back in Georgia and Arkansas beginning next year comes just days after a new Gallup survey documented a sharp decline in the rate of Americans who are still without coverage. Despite its rocky performance during its first two full years of operation - including higher than anticipated premiums and copayments and lower enrollments than projected - the ACA, along with expanded Medicare, clearly has been a boon for the nation's uninsured.
The problem with the "clearly" is twofold:
1. The assumption that a person covered by a plan with high premiums and co-payments is better off than a person without coverage. The costs may or may not outweigh the benefits, but the government has put its thumb on the scale by creating tax penalties for people who might otherwise benefit by foregoing coverage.
2. The mistaken conflations of insurance coverage with health care, and of health care with improved health. The possession of health insurance may or may not lead to better health care for an individual, and better health care may or may not lead to improved health. The goal is better health, but the only lever the government has is health insurance, which is doubly indirect.
So, the Gallup survey alone doesn't justify the use of "clearly". Let's wait to see some data showing actual improved health, not just more insurance coverage.
President Obama says that Hillary Clinton was careless with her top secret emails, and Hillary agrees.
Did Hillary jeopardize American security?
"Here's what I know," Obama told Wallace. "Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy."
"You were prepared to say she didn't jeopardize," Chris Wallace said.
"I continue to believe she has not jeopardized America's national security," Obama defended Clinton.
Never intentionally. But damage caused by carelessness is never intentional, is it? The carelessness may be intentional.
It seems impossible to believe that putting top secret information on an insecure server didn't jeopardize national security, even if no actual damage was done. The use of an insecure server increased the potential for damage, which is what jeopardy means. The only way the potential for damage couldn't have been increased is if none of Hillary's information was valuable to our adversaries.
"What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are -- there's classified, and then there's classified," Obama told Fox News. "There's stuff that is really top-secret, top-secret, and there's stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source."
It was top-secret, but not top-secret top-secret.
So basically the best defense law professor Obama can come up with is that Hillary was careless, but she didn't know anything important anyway.
The recently leaked Panama Papers reflect pretty well on America and "global capitalism". It's the corrupt, kleptocratic countries that look bad, but that's nothing new.
Consider the big names that have shown up so far on the list. With the notable exception of Iceland, these are not countries I would describe as "capitalist": Russia, Pakistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Egypt. They're countries where kleptocratic government officials amass money not through commerce, but through quasi-legal extortion, or siphoning off the till. This is an activity that has gone on long before capitalism, and probably before there was money. Presenting this as an indictment of global capitalism is like presenting Romeo and Juliet as an after school special on the dangers of playing with knives.
Since there are so few Americans named in the leak, some people have wondered if the American government is behind it. Who knows?
Hillary has angered pro-abortion advocates by acknowledging the personhood of unborn children. Presumably she'll "correct" herself, which makes the evil of abortion even more apparent.
"The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights," Mrs. Clinton said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Now that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support."
As long as a mother wants her child to be healthy, "we" will give her and the child appropriate medical support. For a mother who wants an unhealthy child, "we" will help kill the baby and harvest his organs.
So writes David Lightman about the rubes in St. Louis.
Clinton was paid $675,000 for three Goldman Sachs speeches behind closed doors in the years after she left her job as secretary of state in 2013. She demanded transcripts be kept, and so far refuses to release them publicly.
Andrew Williams, Goldman Sachs spokesman, explained, "Clinton spoke at conferences that we hosted for clients. We host literally hundreds of conferences around the world and continually search for fascinating speakers." Such speeches are commonplace, he said, and singling out Clinton's talk is "misleading."
I think most people can "fathom" why the Clintons get paid more than the value of an average American house for a 30-minute speech: it's a bribe. It's buying the favor of some of the most powerful people in the world. That isn't hard to understand.
(HT: Ed Driscoll.)
It's hard to think of a stronger endorsement for Trump than the numerous Wall Streeters who don't like him.
"I can't find connective tissue between the financial sector and Trump," said one senior industry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being seen publicly questioning Trump. ...
"Wall Street works in close collaboration between policymakers and markets, and Trump is a disrupter," said Peter Kenny, a 20-year Wall Street veteran. "Just because he's a billionaire does not mean that he is part of the team."
What's more, the short snippet about Trump's relationship with Deutsche Bank strikes me as complimentary.
Trump had personally guaranteed $40 million of Deutsche's $640 million construction loan for the project. When a payment came due in November 2008, the billionaire asked for an extension. Deutsche refused, and Trump sued for $3 billion, condemning the bank's "predatory lending practices."
Deutsche countersued and did not hold back in asking that Trump's suit be thrown out. "Trump is no stranger to an overdue debt," the company said in one filing. "This suit is classic Trump."
Trump and Deutsche Bank, which declined to comment for this article, finally reached an agreement in August 2010 that extended the loan for five years. It has since been paid off.
Eventually both sides patched things up. Trump and his daughter Ivanka are building a $200 million luxury hotel at the Old Post Office Pavilion in the District. Trump has said he is investing $42 million of his own money into the project.
There is just one loan: $170 million from Deutsche Bank.
I wonder if Trump will be able to mend fences with the Republican elites and general voters who don't like him now?
I agree with law professor Glenn Reynolds: it's bad that American is entirely dominated by lawyers. Put some non-lawyers on the Supreme Court.
But law is supposed to govern everyone's actions, and everyone is supposed to understand it. ("Ignorance of the law," as we are often told, "is no excuse.") But when the Supreme Court is composed of narrowly specialized former judges from elite schools, the likelihood that the law will be comprehensible to ordinary people and non-lawyers seems pretty small. (In addition, a recent book by my University of Tennessee colleague Ben Barton makes a pretty strong case that lawyer-judges systematically favor the sort of legal complexity that, shockingly, makes lawyers rich. He, too, recommends non-lawyer judges, which, as he notes, are common in other nations and were common in colonial America.)
The Supreme Court is one-third of the federal government, and the other two branches, Congress and the presidency, are already dominated by lawyers. But there are hundreds of millions of Americans who aren't lawyers, and surely some of them are smart enough to decide important questions, given that the Constitution and laws are aimed at all of us. Shouldn't we open the court up to a little diversity?
Victor Davis Hanson suggests college exit exam similar to the SAT and ACT. Sounds like a good idea, as long as they aren't run by the government.
Lawyers with degrees can only practice after passing bar exams. Doctors cannot practice medicine upon the completion of M.D. degrees unless they are board certified. Why can't undergraduate degrees likewise be certified? One can certainly imagine the ensuing hysteria.
What would happen if some students from less prestigious state schools graduated from college with higher exit-test scores than the majority of Harvard and Yale graduates? What if students still did not test any higher in analytics and vocabulary after thousands of dollars and several years of lectures and classroom hours?
Would schools then cut back on "studies" courses, the number of administrators, or lavish recreational facilities to help ensure that students first and foremost mastered a classical body of common knowledge? Would administrators be forced to acknowledge that their campuses had price-gouged students but imparted to them little in return?
And why not extend truth-in-lending disclosures to education loans?
The average pay associated with a particular major should be posted. Surely an 18-year-old student should have as much information about borrowing for an education as she does about going into far less debt for a car loan.
Said 18-time world Go champion Lee Sedol after his second loss to Google's AlphaGo software.
At first, Fan Hui thought the move was rather odd. But then he saw its beauty.
"It's not a human move. I've never seen a human play this move," he says. "So beautiful." It's a word he keeps repeating. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
The average human will never understand this move. But Fan Hui has the benefit of watching AlphaGo up close for the past several months--playing the machine time and again. And the proof of the move's value lies in the eventual win for AlphaGo. Over two games, it has beaten the very best by playing in ways that no human would.
Get ready for artificial intelligences that make beautiful "moves" in every area of life that are incomprehensible to humans, and yet better than anything we can do.
Michael Barone continues, "I suspected that Southern blacks tend to be more socially connected, especially through churches, than Northern blacks."
I thought of all these things, too! And so many more things. Smart things. So many smart things that I don't have time to write them all down! But when I see someone else come along behind me and write down something that I've already thought of, it prompts me to point out to everyone that I had that thought first. Just for the sake of historical accuracy.
Or maybe, "as unicornal as a chimera"?
"Chimerical" usually hits me as "an organism containing a mixture of genetically different tissues, formed by processes such as fusion of early embryos, grafting, or mutation", because that's the essential property of a mythical chimera: "a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail".
But, of course, mythicalness is also an essential property of the chimera, but it's a property that isn't specific to the chimera.
(Yes, I am channeling Althouse this morning.)
The Republican elites are making plans to prevent the nomination of Donald Trump. Unfortunately, they completely misdiagnose the illness in the party.
Other governors voiced exasperation not only at the prospect of a Trump nomination but also at the political culture that gave rise to his candidacy.
"We've got this Enquirer magazine mentality," Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah said in an interview. "We are subject to this reality-TV voyeurism that is taking place. Fast-food headlines, no substance, all flash. The Twitter atmosphere out there, snarky comments on email, Snapchat. Everything is superficial. . . . We've got to wake up, America."
To these governors, the problem is the voters, the media, the culture... never themselves. It's impossible for them to recognize that Trump's rise was fueled by the persistent refusal of the Republican elite to listen to the will of the members of their party. This willful blindness is why Trump is running so strong.