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Archives for Politics (page 1 / 38)

Trump Has Driven Away New Hampshire Republicans

Trump Has Driven Away New Hampshire Republicans →

From Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, at the New York Times, on how Mr. Trump has affected the party.

Yet if the New Hampshire Republican Party now belongs to the president, it has also seen a significant decline in enrollment.

“New Hampshire is going to be a challenge for him to win in November,” said Jennifer Horn, the former New Hampshire Republican chairman and a staunch critic of Mr. Trump. “A week ago, we had more than 20,000 fewer registered Republicans than there were Election Day in 2016.”

Ms. Horn noted that Republican candidates lost large, consistently red areas in the 2018 midterm elections, and that the same thing could happen here to Mr. Trump. While other state Republicans played down concerns about the drop in party members on the voter rolls as the natural ebb and flow that happens in a state with same-day voter registration, Ms. Horn said 20,000 was “way outside the norm.”

And the state’s demographics reflect the type of place where Mr. Trump will face challenges: concentrations of working-class whites, but multitudes of college-educated voters, who polls show have been abandoning the Republican Party.

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results →

Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Charlie Smart, Ben Smithgall and Andrew Fischer analyzed the reliability of the caucus results, for the New York Times. My takeaway is that the caucuses are far too complex for providing an accurate distillation of voter preferences. They're fine for selecting county delegates, who then select state delegates, who then vote on who to support at the national convention. There's a certain elasticity to results when preferences are being filtered through that many levels of trust and reasoned judgment. That may have been the world we lived in 100 years ago, but it's not today's world, when voters expect their caucus alignment to directly support a given candidate.

You should read the entire article to see all of the different ways that the results got fouled up. Here's a sample.

The results released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday were riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws. According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.

In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.

“The caucus math work sheet is the official report on caucus night to the I.D.P., and the I.D.P. reports the results as delivered by the precinct chair,” [Mandy McClure, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party (I.D.P.)] said. “This form must be signed by the caucus chair, the caucus secretary and representatives from each campaign in the room who attest to its accuracy. Under the rules of the delegate selection process, delegates are awarded based off the record of results as provided by each precinct caucus chair.”

To emphasize: the Iowa Democratic Party collates the results and publishes them, but isn't actually responsible for validating the data coming from the precincts. If it's calculated wrong at the precinct level, it'll stay that way.

The errors are detectable because of changes to the way the Iowa Democratic Party reports its results, put in place after the Sanders campaign criticized the caucus results in 2016. This cycle, and for the first time, the party released three sets of results corresponding to different steps in the caucus process. The rules are complex and thorough, and they create conditions in which the results can be obviously inaccurate or inconsistent within a precinct.

That these errors are only detectible now, after the Sanders campaign insisted on collecting and reporting more data, makes me wonder how often the numbers have been wrong before.

The Iowa Democratic Party has corrected some errors, but the errors became far more frequent on Wednesday as the count dragged on.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Iowa Democratic Party released a wave of results showing Deval Patrick sweeping central Des Moines. That was incorrect. Mr. Sanders’s votes had been reported as being for Mr. Patrick, while Elizabeth Warren’s tallies went to Tom Steyer.

A plausible explanation is that an Iowa Democratic Party staff member accidentally copied the results of one column too far to the left in a spreadsheet for some precincts. Such errors inevitably occur in manual data entry, but the Iowa Democratic Party does not appear to have enough quality checks to assure that it reports accurate results.

​What's the point of having a state-level political party if it's not setup to do the work of actually collecting and disseminating reliable information about what its members want? It sounds like a debate club with delusions of grandeur.

This entry was tagged. President2020

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’ →

Jason Koebler, Joseph Cox, and Emanuel Maiberg, writing for Vice, provide a look at the app that was supposed to make it easy for volunteers to report the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Motherboard asked six cybersecurity and app development experts we trust to analyze the app. The app was built on top of React Native, an open-source app development package released by Facebook that can be used for both Android and iOS apps, according to Kasra Rahjerdi, who has been an Android developer since the original Android project was launched, and Robert Baptise, a white-hat hacker who has exposed security flaws in many popular apps and reviewed the code. Rahjerdi said that the app contains default React Native metadata and that it comes off as a "very very off the shelf skeleton project plus add your own code kind of thing."

"Honestly, the biggest thing is—I don’t want to throw it under the bus—but the app was clearly done by someone following a tutorial. It’s similar to projects I do with my mentees who are learning how to code," Rahjerdi said. "They started with a starter package and they just added things on top of it. I get deja vu from my classes because the code looks like someone Googled things like 'how to add authentication to React Native App' and followed the instructions," Rahjerdi said.

"The mobile app looks hastily thrown together," Dan Guido, CEO of cybersecurity consulting firm Trail of Bits, told Motherboard.

So the app has the look of something that was written by someone who's a newcomer to programming, rather than someone experienced.​

To properly login and submit results, caucus chairs had to enter a precinct ID number, a PIN code, and a two-factor identification code, each of which were six-digits long. "We saw a lot of people entering their precinct ID instead of their PIN in the PIN spot. There were some issues with not knowing where to put what credential, which is a difficult thing to design around,” Niemira said. “Having to sign in with three different six-digit numbers is confusing on the best day, but it was a call that was made in order to help keep this process as secure as possible.”

The app required users to keep track of 3 different 6-digit codes and enter them in the correct fields, during a confusing, high-pressure event. And those users are all volunteers, from a demographic that's not known for its fluency with technology. That's a complete failure of user-experience design.

According to state records, the app was built in several months at a cost of $63,182.

"We started our engagement with the IDP in August and began requirement gatherings and beginning to develop the app at that point, so we basically had the month of August, September, October, November, and December to do it, though requirements gathering takes a long time, so we didn’t have a final production version of this until pretty close to caucus time," Niemira said.

​The app was done in a rush, with no time to think through the requirements and create a design that would be usable, secure, and fault tolerant. Let alone to create code that was well-tested and robust. Or time to adequately train users and ensure that they had the app installed and working several weeks before the caucuses.

Election security experts have been saying for years that we should not put election systems online, and that we shouldn't be using apps to transmit results. And, if U.S. election officials are going to use apps like this, that they should be open to scrutiny and independent security audits.

“We were really concerned about the fact there was so much opacity. I said over and over again trust is the product of transparency times communication. The DNC steadfastly refused to offer any transparency. It was hard to know what to expect except the worst,” Greg Miller, cofounder of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, which publicly warned the IDP against using the app weeks ago, told Motherboard.

Stamos echoed that sentiment. "Our message is that apps like this should be developed in the sunlight,” he said, “and part of an open bug bounty."

Politicians seems to be allergic to doing things out in the open, with the full scrutiny and criticism that comes with transparency. This debacle is the inevitable result of secrecy, penny-pinching, tight timelines, and hubris.

Bernie Sanders Raised More in January Than Any Rival in Any Quarter

Bernie Sanders Raised More in January Than Any Rival in Any Quarter →

Some good news for fans of Senator Sanders, from Shane Goldmacher. If I'm going to point out why I think Sanders is a risky candidate (and I am), then it's only fair to point out one of the reasons why he's a strong candidate.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised $25 million in January, his campaign said on Thursday, a staggering sum that gives him an enviable financial advantage at an crucial moment in the Democratic primary race.

The $25 million haul is more money than any other candidate raised in any full quarter during 2019, including several presidential hopefuls who hold the big-dollar fund-raisers that Mr. Sanders forgoes. The announcement is the latest sign of an epochal change in money in politics, with candidates now able to finance a top-tier national campaign fueled by masses of donors giving a steady stream of small amounts.

The Sanders campaign also announced that it had received 1.3 million donations in January, and that more than 1.5 million different individuals had donated over the course of the campaign.

“Working-class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map,” said Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, in a statement.

Snail Mail and Nuisance Calls: New Details on the Iowa Caucus Problems

Snail Mail and Nuisance Calls: New Details on the Iowa Caucus Problems →

I've seen the Berners claiming that the chaos coming out of Iowa is an attempt to stop Bernie Sanders by denying him a clear cut win. I like to go with Hanlon's Razor instead: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity". I don't think the people that go into politics and become leaders of state or national parties are actually smart enough to be running complex one-day-only events like primaries and caucuses. Nothing I've heard out of Iowa has changed my mind.

Trip Gabriel and Reid J. Epstein, for the New York Times.

Iowa Democratic officials said on a private conference call on Wednesday night that nearly all the much-delayed results of Monday’s caucuses would be released by Thursday, although a few precincts might remain outstanding.

The reason? Tally sheets had been dropped into snail mail.

Besides an untested, buggy smartphone app that was used for the first time, a backup hotline number for caucus organizers to call in results was flooded with nuisance calls after the number was disseminated on social media, party leaders said.

“All the Trump people from around the country started calling and tearing everybody a new one,” Ken Sager, the Iowa Democratic Party treasurer, told members of the party’s central committee on the 1 hour 20 minute call.

There were 85 phone lines to take calls at the party headquarters in Des Moines, said Kevin Geiken, the party’s executive director. But caucus chairs faced long wait times “because of the excessive calls we were getting” and because the legitimate calls to report results each took about five minutes, twice as long as in a dry run.

As he has said publicly, Mr. Price repeated that Monday night’s problems began when a coding error was discovered in a back-end computer that received the results sent in by volunteer leaders of each caucus via the app.

“We moved to Plan B, which was to ask precinct captains to call us with their results,” he said.

After the phone lines became swamped, with some precinct leaders giving up and going to bed without reporting results, the party moved essentially to Plan C, a manual examination of the worksheets from each caucus.

“We’re using the caucus math worksheets to report the results, and that takes time," Mr. Price said.

Because a few precinct chairs dropped their worksheets into traditional mailboxes, they would not be counted until they were delivered. “We are in the process of waiting for the mail to arrive,” Mr. Price said. “Those final precincts may take a little bit for us to get those sheets.”

One caucus chairman not on the call, Tom Courtney, said on Wednesday that he had been taken aback by what happened. After hours of being unable to get through to party headquarters on Monday night, Mr. Courtney gave up and went to bed. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “At 3 in the morning, I emailed everything to the guy I was trying to call, then I texted it.”

The next day, he said, he received a call from state headquarters that it hadn’t seen his results. “I gave them to him over the phone, again,” Mr. Courtney said.

Then someone from the state party drove the 2 hours 40 minutes from Des Moines to Burlington, where Mr. Courtney lives, to pick up the paper worksheets from his county.

Trump Greets National Prayer Breakfast With Impeachment Rage

Trump Greets National Prayer Breakfast With Impeachment Rage →

Thanks Charles P. Pierce. This is great and gets right at the narcissism that bugged me when I heard that Mr. Trump had turned an event about prayer into an event about himself.

He arrived at the event waving a newspaper with the banner headline “ACQUITTED” over his head and, when Dr. Arthur Brooks, the conservative religious leader in charge, made the mistake of referring to the obscure Christian concept of loving your enemies, the president* had a ready response to that heretical notion.

Arthur, I don't know if I agree with you.

At which point, the president* brought out the hammer and drove the nails into his own palms with his usual alacrity.

As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.Weeks ago and again yesterday, courageous Republican politicians and leaders had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right.

As dozens of attendees stared into their fruit cups and longed for the sweet release of the Rapture, the president* continued to read from Paul’s Second Epistle to the Hannitites.

I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that's not so. So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on. We have allies, we have enemies, sometimes the allies are enemies but we just don't know it. But we're changing all that.

State Demographics Matter

State Demographics Matter →

Mara Liasson, writing for NPR on what matters in the election.

Also, while the electorate continues to get younger, browner and more female, a lot of those voters live in the wrong states as far as Democratic hopes at winning go. In other words, it doesn't matter as much if there's a huge surge in turnout in California and New York (two states where Hillary Clinton got one-fifth of all her votes from); it matters who shows up in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, white, working-class voters make up 56% of eligible voters; in Wisconsin, it's 61%.

I'm less interested in a candidate's national numbers than I am in their state-by-state numbers and how their positions poll in each battleground state. You can run up the score quite a bit in California and New York and still lose because voters in Pennsylvania don't like your plan to ban fracking and because white moderates in Wisconsin think your policies too radical.

Socialism Is Underwater Among Independents

Socialism Is Underwater Among Independents →

Mark Murray, writing for NBC News:

Finally, the NBC/WSJ poll finds differing public attitudes about capitalism and socialism, especially with Sanders running for president in 2020 as a democratic socialist.

Fifty-two percent of all voters say they have a positive view of capitalism, versus 18 percent who have a negative opinion.

The numbers are reversed for socialism, with 53 percent having a negative view and 19 percent a positive one.

Yet there’s a striking difference by party and age.

Democratic primary voters have a net-positive impression of socialism (40 percent positive, 23 percent negative), and Dem voters ages 18-34 view it even more favorably (51 percent to 14 percent).

But key general-election groups like independents (-45 net rating), suburban voters and swing-state voters have a much more negative impression of socialism.

Again, I'm worried about overestimating how much attention voters are really paying to the Democrat primary and to Sanders' positions and his embrace of (Democratic) Socialism. Once we get to the summer and Trump starts hammering him over socialism, what's going to happen to his poll numbers?

Running Bernie Sanders Risks Losing Moderates

Running Bernie Sanders Risks Losing Moderates →

Jonathan Chait's piece has already gotten a lot of attention. But I'd like to draw my own attention to a few of the points that he made. (Full disclosure: If I could vote in Arizona's Democrat primary, I would vote for someone other than Bernie Sanders.)

Nobody “cared” how Michael Dukakis looked in a tank, and probably not many voters cared about Mitt Romney’s dismissive remarks about the 47 percent, but both reinforced larger attack narratives. Vintage video of Bernie palling around with Soviet communists will make for an almost insultingly easy way for Republicans to communicate the idea that his plans to expand government are radical.

Sanders has never faced an electorate where these vulnerabilities could be used against him. Nor, for that matter, has he had to defend some of his bizarre youthful musings (such as his theory that sexual repression causes breast cancer) or the suspicious finances surrounding his wife’s college. Democrats are rightfully concerned about attacks on Hunter Biden’s nepotistic role at Burisma, but Sanders is going to have to defend equally questionable deals, like the $500,000 his wife’s university paid for a woodworking program run by his stepdaughter.

Let's set aside Sanders' current proposals and the merits of them. His past is a rich treasure trove of attack ads waiting to happen. This election will be fought in the suburbs. And Trump's team doesn't need to convince suburban moderates to vote for him. He just needs to convince them that Bernie is just as bad and that they should stay home on Election Day. Ads depicting Sanders as a nepotistic communist will certainly do that. When it happens, Sanders will need a surge of new voters to power him to victory. And any campaign that starts out saying "we'll win because the non-voters will vote for us" is already losing.

For obvious reasons, the Democratic Party’s left wing has always resisted this conclusion (as has the Republican Party’s right wing.) But Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat created an opportunity for the party’s left to promote an alternative theory for how the party could and should compete. It deemed Donald Trump’s win a sign that capitalism had created such distress that voters were now rejecting conventional politicians altogether and open to radical alternatives who might promise to smash the failing system. Indeed, by this reasoning, Democrats would do better, not worse, by nominating more left-wing candidates, who could distance themselves more credibly from the discredited Establishment.

​This is not a bad assumption. If American Carnage taught me anything, it's that there are far more voters willing to burn down the system and elect the craziest person possible than I had ever believed. So Progressives ran a lot of Progressive candidates, while the party establishment ran a lot of moderate candidates. It was a good experiment to see who was right. And it turned out to be the party establishment.

As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. Tellingly, while progressives managed to nominate several candidates in red districts — Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Richard Ojeda in West Virginia, and many others — any one of whose victory they would have cited as proof that left-wing candidates can win Trump districts, not a single one of them prevailed in November. Our Revolution went 0–27, Justice Democrats went 0–18, and Brand New Congress went 0–6. The failed technocratic 26-year-old bourgeoise shills who were doing it wrong somehow accounted for 100 percent of the party’s House gains.

Progressives went a combined 0–51 in their house races.​

The leftists chose to focus on a handful of left-wing candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated center-left Democrats in deep-blue districts. The conservative media strategically elevated her in a bid to make AOC and her squad the party’s face. The mutual interest of the two sides made AOC the narrative center of the election. The fact that the party had just run a field experiment between two factions, and the moderate faction prevailed conclusively, was forgotten.

​And I think this is worth emphasizing too. Progressives won running Progressive candidates against moderate Democrats, in Democrat districts. They didn't win running Progressive candidates in moderate or Republican districts. And winning the Presidency will require them to win moderate and Republican districts.

Public satisfaction with the economy is now at its highest point since the peak of the dot-com boom two decades ago. Trump has serious weaknesses of issues like health care, corruption, taxes, and the environment, and a majority of the public disapproves of Trump’s performance, but he does enjoy broad approval of his economic management. Therefore, his reelection strategy revolves around painting his opponents as radical and dangerous. You may not like me, he will argue, but my opponents are going to turn over the apple cart. A Sanders campaign seems almost designed to play directly into Trump’s message.

Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed. But in the ideological hothouse of the Sanders world, no setbacks have been acknowledged, no rethinking has taken place, and the skeptics are dismissed as elitist neoliberal corporate shills, as ever. The project moves forward even as the key tests of its viability have all failed. Once enough energy has been invested in a cause, it has too much momentum to be abandoned. For the socialist left, which has no other standard-bearer to choose from, Bernie is too big to fail.

​I will vote for anyone against Trump—even Bernie Sanders. But I feel that I'm distinctly in the minority on that viewpoint. I think Sanders is going to be a hard sell for many Americans and that he's polling well right now because Republicans have not yet begun to run ads attacking him as a godless Commie.

Florida Prison Guard Allegedly Paralyzed an Inmate and Molested a Child

Florida Prison Guard Allegedly Paralyzed an Inmate and Molested a Child →

Records released last week in the lawsuit revealed that Turner had a decade-long history of inmate complaints against him alleging excessive force, sexual abuse and misconduct, racial slurs, and sadistic punishments that included leaving a handcuffed woman in 93-degree heat for 3 hours while calling her a "fat pig." Another inmate told sheriff's deputies that she witnessed Turner and another officer trading contraband cigarettes for oral sex.

None of that stopped Turner, who at some point was promoted to lieutenant, until this August.

Weimar's hospitalization sent shockwaves through the state, drew national media coverage, and put a gruesome spotlight on Florida's problem-ridden and wildly expensive prison system, especially Lowell, where inmates have long alleged sexual abuse and violence by guards.

Last August, the Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation into pervasive misconduct and sexual assaults by correctional staff at Lowell. A 2015 Miami Herald investigation found numerous accusations of assaults, retaliation, filthy conditions, inadequate healthcare, and suspicious deaths at the prison, as well as "an inadequate number of cameras," which allows guards to hide brutality.

Democratic Florida state Rep. Dianne Hart said in a statement today that she applauds the Marion County Sheriff's Office for making the arrest. "However, with over 130 pages of documented official FDOC incident reports detailing the horrors that Lt. Turner inflicted on the women of Lowell Correctional sitting on my desk and Cheryl Weimar with a broken neck," she continued, "I find it absolutely disgusting that Lt. Keith Turner still has a place at FDOC, and I pray that justice is served in all cases involving Lt. Turner."

After Weimar's hospitalization, the state launched several investigations into the incident, and Turner and the other guard were reassigned to jobs where they would not have contact with inmates.

Following his arrest, the FDOC says it is moving to fire Turner immediately.

"The Sheriff's findings in this case against Mr. Turner are abhorrent and in complete contrast to the values and integrity held by our staff," FDOC Secretary Mark Inch said in a press statement. "We are moving forward with his immediate dismissal."

Apparently not. It certainly looks as though FDOC Secretary Mark Inch didn't have any problem with Lt. Turner using excessive force, sexually abusing inmates, using racial slurs, and handing out sadistic punishments. For some reason, the Florida Department of Corrections chose not to act against this piece of trash until he'd crippled an inmate. From where I sit, Floridians need to clean house throughout the entirety of the Department of Corrections, starting with Secretary Inch and working their way down to Lt. Turner.

Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks

Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks →

Jordain Carney, writing for The Hill:

But Democrats are powerless to stop Trump’s nominees on their own after they went nuclear in 2013 and lowered the 60-vote filibuster for most nominations to a simple majority. Republicans followed suit in 2017 and nixed the 60-vote hurdle for Supreme Court picks.

​I said at the time that destroying the minority's political power of obstruction was a short-sighted move that would come back to haunt the Democrats. And I'll say right now that Republicans following suit over Supreme Court nominations was equally stupid. How many Progressives would like to have that power back, both right about now and over the last 2 years?

State Rep. Melissa Sargent will re-introduce bill to legalize marijuana

State Rep. Melissa Sargent will re-introduce bill to legalize marijuana →

Tess Klein reports for WTMJ:

State Representative Melissa Sargent is working to make marijuana legalization a reality in Wisconsin. She says she will re-introduce legislation to do so in the upcoming legislative session in January.

"It is in the best interest of our state to look toward the future and recognize the vast medicinal, economic, social justice opportunities marijuana legalization would bring to our state," Sargent said in a statement.

"Referenda around Wisconsin passed with overwhelming support proving that the people are ahead of the politicians on this topic, and agree that the most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is illegal."

​Good for her. I'll bet that the Wisconsin Assembly will just sit on the bill and ignore it in committee, but I still applaud Representative Sargent for introducing it. Residents of 16 counties and 2 cities voted "Yes" to advisory referenda about legalizing marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use. It'd be nice if the state Assembly could manage to get over their own prejudices and follow suit.

2018 Midterms — Understanding the Results

2018 Midterms — Understanding the Results →

Kevin D. Williamson has multiple points to make. This is the one that I particularly agree with.

Fourth, and related: The Democrats don’t seem to understand what it is they are really fighting, which, in no small part, is not the Republicans but the constitutional architecture of the United States. The United States is, as the name suggests, a union of states, which have interests, powers, and characters of their own. They are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government. All that talk about winning x percent of the “national House vote” or the “national Senate vote” — neither of which, you know, exists — is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not like how our governments are organized, and that they would prefer a more unitary national government under which the states are so subordinated as to be effectively inconsequential. They complain that, under President Trump, “the Constitution is hanging by a thread” — but they don’t really much care for the actual order established by that Constitution, and certainly not for the limitations it puts on government power through the Bill of Rights and other impediments to étatism.

I know people who will argue that the "national House vote" does indeed exist. And they probably are voting with national outcomes in mind. But all politics is local and voters can only vote for the candidates on their own ballot. And as much as people give Congress — as an overall body — abysmally low grades, they tend to give their own representatives a much higher grade.

That's why Congress has such a low rate of turnover: everyone hates everyone else's representatives, but loves their own. And that's why I don't think that a "national House vote" truly exists. I can imagine a world in which a national vote does exist, but it's a different world than this one, with a different electoral system.

Trump’s Next Tariff Blow Could Be 10 Times Worse for U.S. Shoppers

Trump’s Next Tariff Blow Could Be 10 Times Worse for U.S. Shoppers →

The next round in the U.S.-China trade war could be the costliest one yet for American consumers.

The U.S. is said to be preparing to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports by early December, and the impact at the checkout counter may be as much as 10 times higher than earlier rounds of levies, according to a report from Citigroup economists.

The new penalties, which could take effect in early February, would encompass Chinese-made consumer goods like Apple iPhones and Nike shoes that the Trump administration has so far left untouched. The impact of a 10 percent tariff on the $267 billion of imports could be 10 times larger than the first $50 billion round and double that of the $200 billion tariffs in the second round, the analysts wrote.

This Isn't the Most Important Election of Your Lifetime. Not Even Close

This Isn't the Most Important Election of Your Lifetime. Not Even Close →

David Harsanyi, writing at Reason:

If you believe that a midterm election in a time of relative peace and economic prosperity is the most important in history or even the most important in your fortunate lifetime, you either are oblivious to history or don't have a single nonpartisan synapse firing in your skull.

Yet it's now become standard for partisans to claim that every presidential election is the most important ever. Seeing as many people view the president as an emperor, perhaps they believe it. That's one thing. But now we have people foisting this insufferable cliche on us for House elections, which happen every two years in every single district.

I endorse this message.

This entry was tagged. Elections

Conservatives Need to Put Aside Kneejerk Police Support

Conservatives Need to Put Aside Kneejerk Police Support →

Steven Greenhut, as seen on Reason.com. I endorse this view.

When it comes to problems in the public schools, my conservative friends are right on target with their critique. These schools often do a poor or mediocre job performing an important function. That's because they lack competition and are funded by political priorities rather than customers. Teachers' unions have undue sway over the entire process. They make it nearly impossible to fire even grossly incompetent teachers and that small percentage harms many students. Those same unions drive up unsustainable benefit costs.

Like everyone else, conservatives appreciate teachers—but they realize that the current taxpayer-funded system needs many reforms and more competition. There's nothing wrong with pointing this out, which is a reality in any government-funded, union-controlled monopoly anywhere in the world.

Yet when it comes to another type of taxpayer-funded, union-controlled monopoly, conservatives lose their sense of perspective. I'm referring, of course, to local and state police agencies. The same dynamic described above works there, too. Police agencies are bureaucratic. Unions protect the bad apples and make it nearly impossible to fire anyone—even officers caught on video misbehaving or being abusive to the public. The agencies hand out unsustainable benefits and have some bizarre spending priorities (tank-like vehicles, etc.). They are secretive and insular. They use asset forfeiture to grab the property of people never convicted or even accused of a crime.

Take Our Cheese, Please: American Cheese Makers Suffer Under New Tariffs

Take Our Cheese, Please: American Cheese Makers Suffer Under New Tariffs →

"Trade wars are good and easy to win."

BelGioioso Cheese Inc., a second-generation family company in Wisconsin, has seen sales to Mexico drop since officials there implemented tariffs of up to 15% in early June on most U.S. cheese. The levies were a response to tariffs the U.S. placed on Mexican steel and aluminum.

On Thursday, Mexico was slated to raise its levy on most U.S. cheese to as much as 25%, while China on Friday is implementing tariffs on $34 billion of U.S. goods, including cheese and whey, a dairy byproduct often fed to livestock.

"It’s a nightmare," said BelGioioso President Errico Auricchio.

The Mexican tariffs affect as much as $578 million in U.S. dairy goods, while China’s duties could hit $408 million of cheese, whey and other products, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce data.

July milk futures have dropped 12% since Mexico announced May 31 that it would strike back with tariffs. The price for a barrel, or 500 pounds, of white cheddar last week hit its lowest level since 2009. More cheese is in cold storage in the U.S. than any time since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping track in 1917.

U.S. dairy farmers have been caught up in a trade dispute with Mexico before. In 2009, Mexico imposed tariffs in response to a trucking disagreement that included levies as high as 25% on U.S. cheeses. U.S. shipments of cheese to Mexico fell by 26% during the 14-month dispute, according to the INTL FCStone Financial, a trading firm.

Since then, U.S. dairy exports have grown to account for about 12% of Mexican consumption last year, according to Rabobank.

More than 60 cheese and dairy producers wrote to the Trump administration last month, saying the trade war could cost them that foothold. "Our share of the Mexican market is in grave jeopardy," they wrote.

René Fonseca, general director of Mexico’s National Milk Industries’ Chamber, said Mexican processors are pushing U.S. producers to lower their prices to make up for the tariff.

Mexican dairies are also ramping up production and processors are looking for alternative suppliers for cheeses such as gouda in the European Union, Mr. Fonseca said. He said Mexican companies that find a new supplier likely won’t revert to their old U.S. trade partner if tariffs are removed.

Do Family Values Stop at the Rio Grande for Conservatives?

Do Family Values Stop at the Rio Grande for Conservatives? →

As we prepare to celebrate America's Independence Day, it's important to stop, reflect, and remember what it is that America stands for. Shikha Dalmia, writing for Reason.com, offers a hint.

For months now, the Trump administration has been literally kidnapping children from parents arriving at the border in search of asylum and sending them off to prison-like detention camps thousands of miles away. In one particularly egregious case, authorities seized the 7-year-old daughter of a mother fleeing violence in Congo. Without offering her any explanation, they dispatched her little girl to a Chicago camp while holding the mother in San Diego. The mom wasn't being punished because she was trying to sneak in illegally. She presented herself to immigration authorities exactly as she was supposed to and even passed an initial screening to determine if she had a "credible fear" of harm in her home country. It took the ACLU four months of dogged petitioning before the distraught mother and the traumatized daughter were finally reunited.

In another case, an 18-month-old boy was taken away from his Honduran mother, who arrived at the Texas border. She showed the authorities copious records to prove that she was in fact the infant's mom, but they didn't care. They ordered her to place her baby in a government vehicle and drove him away to a San Antonio facility while she wept helplessly and her terrified son screamed inconsolably. She herself was detained in a facility in Taylor, Texas.

The administration pretends that these are isolated incidents but, in fact, a _New York Times_ investigation a few weeks ago found more than 700 cases of parents and children separated just since October, including 100 under the age of 4. The ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the parents.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

(Addendum: Yes, I'm aware that this article is 2 months old. It's still a good introduction to this particular horrible policy, for anyone who's been living under a rock. And I like the way Shikha Dalmia framed the issue.)

The Bible on Immigrants

Evangelical Christians are forming the backbone of President Trump's support — and driving the Republican Party's anti-immigrant agenda. I thought I'd review my Bible to see what God had to say about how his people should treat immigrants, the strangers and the sojourners.

You Were Immigrants

God reminds his people that they were the immigrants in Egypt. (Fleeing, let us remember, economic collapse in their own land.)

Exodus 22:21:

"You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9:

"You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:17–19:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. —

Treat Immigrants Well

God wants his people to treat immigrants well, to leave work for them to do, giving them a way to support themselves.

Leviticus 19:10, 33–34:

And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. … "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:22:

"And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God."

Leviticus 25:35:

"If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.

Deuteronomy 14:28–29:

"At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Deuteronomy 24:14–22:

"You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.

"Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.

"You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

"When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.

You Are Immigrants in God's Land

In fact, the Israelites are now living in land that God gave them, making them immigrants into God's land.

Leviticus 25:23:

"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.

1 Chronicles 29:15:

For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.

God Condemns His People For Mistreating Immigrants

And God uses his prophets to tell people that He's not happy about the way that they've been treating immigrants.

Ezekiel 22:7,29:

Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. … The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.

Zechariah 7:8–12:

And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart."

But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:5:

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

How You Treat Immigrants Is How You Treat Jesus

Finally, Jesus sees how we treat others as a direct reflection of whether or not we love Him.

Matthew 25:35–46:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?'

Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Wisconsin Beekeepers, Maple Syrup Producers Aren't Too Sweet On Proposed FDA Nutrition Labels

Wisconsin Beekeepers, Maple Syrup Producers Aren't Too Sweet On Proposed FDA Nutrition Labels →

Shamane Mills, writing for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The federal government is trying to get people to eat better with updated Nutrition Fact labels on packaged foods, and one change to the label would specify added sugars.

But those who keep bees and tap trees are fighting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal, and the federal agency may go back to the drawing board.

The FDA proposal is designed to educate consumers about how much sugar they eat. But producers of honey and maple syrup say a label with the words "added sugars" is confusing — and misleading — because they aren’t adding anything.

One such producer is Kent Pegorsch, president of the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association and a commercial beekeeper in Waupaca.

"We objected to the wording which was misleading consumers to believe that we were adding corn syrup or other sugars to our product when in fact we weren’t, it was just naturally occurring sugars that were already in the product," Pegorsch said.

Wisconsin ranks fourth in maple syrup production and 12th in honey production.

The FDA received more than 3,000 comments on its labeling proposal, most from honey and maple syrup producers. The proposed label changes were debuted in May 2016 by former First Lady Michelle Obama and the comment period closed June 15.

"This is (the) second comment period based on feedback they received during first comment period. I unfortunately have a feeling the FDA is close to putting this into the regulations, and they’re really not going to clarify this any further than possibly allowing us to add a footnote on the label explaining what added sugars actually means. I don’t foresee a big change coming," said Pegorsch.

The FDA said in a constituent update that it "looks forward to working with stakeholders to devise a sensible solution."

This is the sort of thing that gives government regulation a bad name.