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I Like Rand But . . .



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I wrote a pretty tough column the other day  on Rand Paul’s foreign policy (although not nearly as tough as some others). I want to emphasize that the nice things I said about Paul in it weren’t just boilerplate. He’s an engaging guy and someone you can have an actual conversation with, whereas some politicians at his level can’t help repeating rote talking points at you. His political judgment can be quite sensible; although he went through the motions, he never really bought into the fanciful idea that forcing a confrontation over a government shutdown would lead to the defunding of Obamacare. On issues like drug and criminal-justice policy, I think he’s a fresh and important voice.  

But the foreign policy is a problem, and he’s going to be pulled two ways on a numbers of these issues, between pure Paulism and the Republican mainstream. On Ukraine, for instance, his initial reaction suggested he didn’t think we should be bothering the Russians too much for their assertion in a traditional sphere of influence. Then, he changed his tune and wrote this essay for Time that is indistinguishable from what most Republicans are saying (except Paul opposes the Ukraine aid bill, which is a big caveat). I think he’s going to have any number of these re-calibrations and semi-walk-backs during his inevitable presidential run.

Poll: Vets Overwhelmingly Disapprove of Obamacare



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Sixty-six percent of veterans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of his job, according to a new poll conducted for Concerned Veterans for America, a veterans’ advocacy organization. The survey finds a sour mood among vets over the direction of the country generally — 68 percent think it is on the wrong track — and Obamacare specifically. More than 60 percent disapprove of the health-care law, and almost half believe it will be worse than VA health care. Seventy-three percent consider the national debt the greatest threat to the country’s national security.

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‘The Case Against Michael Mann’



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Our new cover.

Web Briefing: Easter Sunday 2014

No, The U.S. Doesn’t Have to Subsidize Its Exports Because Other Countries Subsidize Theirs



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Today, the editors have a great piece about the most unnecessary “bank” in the United States: the Export-Import Bank. I have echoed many of the concerns that the editors raise about the bank in previous writings, but today I’d like to focus on one argument in particular made by Ex-Im boosters: that its subsidies are needed to counter the subsidized competition that U.S. firms sometimes face abroad.

Obviously, U.S. exporters prefer that their companies only had to compete on price and quality against unsubsidized foreign companies. Bad economic policy is hardly limited to the U.S., and many countries have indeed established their own export-financing agencies just like the Export-Import Bank. This does not justify the bank’s existence, however.

For one thing, while the bank is less than transparent about publishing data about the share of its activities that counters other countries’ export subsidies, we can expect that it is a small share of its overall activities. Sallie James of the Cato Institute writes:

​​The extent to which the Ex-Im Bank actually counters foreign export credits is unclear. While the bank previously was forthcoming about the share of its activities devoted to countering subsidized foreign competition, recent reports contain little information about this activity. Given the fall in export credit subsidies in the OECD, the need for countervailing activities likely has not increased since the late 1990s, when less than 20 percent of Ex-Im guarantees and insurance were for the purpose of countering officially supported foreign competition. – See more at: 

In addition, the amount of U.S. exports backed by the Ex-Im Bank is so small (roughly 2 percent of all exports) that it’s hard to argue that U.S. exports would be unable to compete without such support. If export subsidies were so important to compete abroad, how have the other 98 percent of U.S. exports succeeded? It’s also hard to prove that export subsidies are actually very effective at boosting exports in the first place.

But the biggest problem with this argument is simple economics. Subsidies are a bad idea for everyone – even the beneficiaries of subsidies. The academic literature is brimming with papers that meticulously lay out why — economists can find many sources of disagreement on policy issues, but when it comes to subsidies, most economists think we should just say no.

Keep reading this post . . .

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Obama: Democrats Should ‘Forcefully Defend’ Obamacare



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President Obama thinks Democrats should not shy away from defending Obamacare. 

“Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people . . . we’re helping, because of something we did,” he said. The president held a press conference on Thursday to announce that 8 million people have enrolled in Obamacare.

He also said that Republicans are going through “stages of grief” over Obamacare. “Anger, denial, and all that stuff — we’re not at acceptance yet,” Obama said.

The Stupid Hounding of Condi Rice



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Here is my Politico column today:

If Condoleezza Rice were as self-pitying and politically crass as Attorney General Eric Holder, she would be wondering aloud what it is about her race and gender that accounts for the hostility of her enemies.

Rice’s recent speaking gigs on college campuses and her ascension to the board of the file-sharing company Dropbox have sparked protests calling for her to be disinvited, cashiered and generally isolated and shamed.

The Moral Case Against the Ex-Im Bank: Why Are We Encouraging Third World Governments to Buy Boeings?



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There are plenty of excellent reasons why we should shut down the Export-Import Bank: We don’t need it, there is no “market failure” to address, it is inefficient, and it distorts price signals. Even Barack Obama called the Ex-Im Bank “little more than a fund for corporate welfare” in 2008. (He quickly changed his tune after assuming power).

But there’s an equally important but less often discussed argument against the Ex-Im Bank: the moral case.  

A major function of the Ex-Im Bank, practically speaking, is to coax foreign companies to buy Boeing airplanes. It’s often overlooked that many of the companies buying these planes are government-owned airlines in poor (or even very poor) countries.

Take Ethiopian Airlines, for instance. The airline is owned by the government of Ethiopia, a country where 78 percent of the population lives on an income below $2 a day, the average life expectancy was 59 years in 2011, and state health expenditures amount to a paltry $3 per person. 

And how does Ex-Im encourage Ethiopia to spend its meager public funds? Perhaps on education improvements, health services, or critical infrastructure? Don’t be silly. They sell them Boeing planes, of course! Bad credit, no credit? No problem! The Ex-Im Bank’s creative financing options will allow any country to put shiny new Boeing planes in their national airports — no matter how dire their fiscal position.

Keep reading this post . . .

Obamacare is Working...



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. . . for the 8 million people who’ve enrolled and may or may not have paid their premiums and may or may not have been among the 6.2 million people who liked their health-care plans but lost them because they were substandard plans with low deductibles, more benefits, more doctors, larger networks, and affordable premiums but that didn’t provide contraceptives for 63 year-old women who can’t stay on their parents’ plans because of the Republican war on women like Lois Lerner and Kathleen Sebelius who turned Obamacare around so that now a mere 44 million people remain uninsured after spending only $1.7 trillion on a program that will save or create shovel-ready jobs for more than 15,000 more IRS agents to protect the country from  domestic terrorist organizations who oppose high unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, massive tax increases, restrictions on religious freedom, dangerous defense cuts, suffocating regulations, feckless foreign policy, wanton disregard for the rule of law, out-of-control spending, and failed economic policies mainly because they’re bitter, mouth-breathing, climate-change deniers and racists who want to force frightening black women like Condi Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak to sensitive white college professors and vulnerable  students who have enough problems dealing with skyrocketing tuition rates which they could easily handle if they could only find a 28 hour-a-week job and Republicans would just vote for a $10.10 an hour minimum wage, which is good bit less than an Obamacare navigator makes for directing illegal immigrants undocumented Americans to the local Health-care Exchange and Board of Elections which institution is working at least as well as the reset button we gave to Russia to show Vladimir we have enough flexibility to allow him to invade Ukraine or, preferably, the Bundy Ranch, provided no big  turtles get scared which is a red line that would prompt serious consequences such as the deployment of warm socks, MREs, or the Bureau of Land Management, all of which would be as terrible as Iran getting a nuclear weapon which would never happen because we asked them not to, or even as catastrophic as the rollout of the Obamacare website which everyone knows was George Bush’s fault.

Ark. Democratic Party Accused of Excluding Black Female Candidate



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An Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate has filed a complaint against the state’s party for shutting her out and dismissing her candidacy, while promoting other candidates, including her opponent. Dr. Lynette Bryant, who is running against presumptive favorite former Representative Mike Ross, said she has been denied opportunities to take part in party events.

“They’re using Democratic money to push other candidates at the same time and my competitor,” she told KARK-TV. “They’re sending out email blasts like, ‘We have great candidates,’ but they do not put my name on it.”

She has filed complaints with the NAACP and the Democratic National Committee for “unfair treatment” by the Democratic Party of Arkansas​ as well as the Saline County Democratic Party​.​

On two separate occasions, Bryant, who is currently a substitute teacher, claims that Saline County’s party chairman snubbed her — first, by introducing Ross as “the next governor of Arkansas” at an event she also attended; second, by saying she could not speak at the party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

The chairman reached out to KARK-TV, saying that Bryant is welcome to the dinner, but that she will not be given an opportunity to speak as the keynote speaker has already been selected.

Melchior From Ukraine: ‘Putin Will Go as Far as He’s Able to Go’



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Check out Jillian’s most recent stories from Kiev.

A Reading for Maundy Thursday



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John Fonte over at The American Spectator site has uncovered “The Parable of the Pharisee Conservative“:

I thank thee Lord that I am not like those other conservatives. 

Those xenophobes, nativists, obsessives about border security, drinkers of tea, and other bitter enders.

For I support comprehensive immigration reform.

I sup with the lords of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the chiefs of the AFL-CIO, and the titans of Silicon Valley.

I am welcomed at the editorial houses of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

I receiveith gold from George Soros, Bill Marriott and Mark Zuckerberg, and praise from the mainstream media, the Gang of Eight, and the princes of tourism.  

Although my labors would enrich the treasuries of Corporate Mammon at the expense of the “least among us” of my fellow Americans of all races and ethnicities by lowering their wages and increasing their unemployment—I trust in my own righteousness.

For I am the Pharisee conservative.

Here endeth the lesson.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen Podcast in the Midday Sun



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Some of you may be aware that Kevin Williamson and I do a daily podcast, Mad Dogs and Englishmen. It runs between 10 and 30 minutes each day (more usually 30), and we cover a wide range of topics, usually from a conservative/libertarian perspective. It’s proving quite popular, but I’m aware that I’ve never told the Corner that it existed. So here it is: It exists.

Today, we had a long argument about the merits of Cliven Bundy’s revolt, picking up themes that we’d expressed over on the homepage here (pro), here (pro), and here (anti). We also talked about my trip to the Smith and Wesson factory yesterday.

If you enjoy it, you can listen daily at NRO, or subscribe for automatic downloads through iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, the Windows Store, Blackberry Podcasts – or whatever you want using the RSS feed. There’s also a website.

Obama and Biden’s Awkward 2016 Conversation



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With Joe Biden standing right next to him, President Obama was awfully coy in discussing his thoughts on 2016. While he expected Biden to “go down as one of the finest vice presidents in history,” the president went out of his way to make sure to praise Hillary Clinton as well.

“I suspect there may be other potential candidates for 2016 who have been great friends and allies,” he told CBS’s Major Garrett. “I know we’ve got an extraordinary secretary of state who did great service for us.”

Ultimately, whoever the Democratic candidate is, President Obama said he is “very much interested in making sure some of the stuff we got started continues,” but expects some will take a different route on various issues.

“I’m sure that there are going to be some things that, whoever the next president is, want to continue,” he explained. “There are going to be some things that they’re going to want to do differently, but the trajectory is, hopefully, going to be one in which we’re broadening opportunity for every American.”

Meanwhile, Biden assured Garrett that his decision to run will not impact how closely he works with the president in the remaining two years.

“If I decide to run — believe me — this will be the first guy I talk to,” he said.

Tim Murphy’s Mental-Health Reform Bill Gets the Endorsement of the Washington Post



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Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who’s Congress’s only psychologist (they could really use more) has a bill that tackles a few of the many problems with the way that the federal government handles mental health and the mentally ill. It would refocus existing federal efforts on addressing serious mental illness rather than diagnosing huge portions of the population with mental-health disorders, and emphasize evidence-based treatment for those with such illnesses. It’s appalling how badly our government deals with mental illness, and Representative Murphy deserves a great deal of credit for trying to tackle policies that cause an incredible amount of needless suffering.

NR endorsed the bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, when it was introduced back in December, and now the Washington Post backs it, too:

The bill would reorganize the billions the federal government pours into mental health services, prioritizing initiatives backed by solid evidence and tracking their success . It would change the way Medicaid pays — or, in this case, underpays — for certain mental health treatments. It would fund mental health clinics that meet certain medical standards. And it would push states to adopt policies that allow judges to order some severely mentally ill people to undergo treatment.

Not everyone is satisfied. Some patients’ advocates have condemned Mr. Murphy’s approach as coercive and harmful to those who need help. The government should not be expanding the system’s capability to hospitalize or impose treatment on those going through severe episodes, they say. It should instead be investing in community care that heads off the need for more serious treatment.

We do not see those aims as mutually exclusive, and neither do the bill’s backers. It makes obvious sense for the government to back community-based clinics that promise to prevent individuals’ mental illnesses from spiraling out of control, when possible. But some people with very severe disorders do not know or do not admit that they are sick. For a small class who will not accept treatment between hospital visits or repeat arrests, states have good reason to require them to accept care, under judicial supervision.

For a more detailed explanation of what the bill would do, see D. J. Jaffe’s NRO piece on it.

This isn’t a topic on the fore of most people’s minds — who’s ever even heard of SAMHSA, the federal mental-health bureaucracy Murphy wants to fix? — but it really deserves much more attention than it gets. It might seem like conservatives point to mental illness after mass shootings as a way to distract from misguided calls to restrict gun ownership, but the issue is deserving of attention on its own. The suffering our broken bureaucracy causes on a regular basis is just as serious as the individual horrific events that you see on CNN.

If you don’t believe it, consider that prisons, as a recent report from the Treatment Advocacy Center found, the number of Americans in mental hospitals has fallen from 558,000 in 1955 to 35,000 now. This isn’t only about deinstitutionalization — some outpatient treatment does work, and Representative Murphy’s bill promotes those methods. But the seriously mentally ill aren’t getting treatment outside of hospitals. They’re going to prison, where they’re not getting treatment at all. There are 350,000 people with serious mental illness in our prison system, TAC reports; as Vox’s Sarah Kliff points out, that’s ten times as the number of mental-illness patients in public hospitals.

This isn’t really a liberal versus conservative issue, and it’s not about shrinking or expanding government. The federal government and the states have taken responsibility for the mentally ill for about 150 years now, they’re just failing very badly at that responsibility today. Tim Murphy wants to fix that, and so should you.

Wondrous Strange



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The other day, I heard something amazing — discovered it right here on the Corner. First, a little background. Ever since Obamacare was Clintoncare, or Hillarycare — we spelled it with a capital C in the middle: “ClintonCare,” “HillaryCare” — conservatives have been talking about the folly of reordering one-sixth of the national economy. That was our mantra, back in ’93: “one-sixth.” (Sometimes people said “one-seventh.” I’m not sure how you measure.) Of course, we had occasion to revive our mantra after the advent of Obama. The incumbent president has been able to fulfill some of the Clintons’ dreams. The idea that the Clintons are more moderate than he is absurd.

Anyway, I had never heard anyone left of center — any non-conservative — say “one-sixth.” Not in this context. Ever. Until the aforementioned and wondrous other day: when Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said, “We were reordering one-sixth of the American economy — you don’t do that without some bumps along the road.”

First comes acknowledgement, then repentance?

P.S. Early this morning in Central Park, there was a young woman picking daffodils. Making a nice bouquet. I wanted to yell out, “Hey, those are taxpayer flowers!” Kind of ticked me off, actually. This may be an occasion for political-philosophical musings “in future,” as the British say.

Pope Francis Washes Feet of the Disabled



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Putin and Snowden Bromance, Live on Russian TV



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Vladimir Putin took call-in questions on Russian television Thursday morning, and he received a “surprise” celebrity call from Edward Snowden

Snowden asked: “Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” And he asked if increasing “the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations” is justification for placing societies under surveillance.

After noting their mutual background in intelligence services, Putin replied, “Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law.” He said Russian special forces can use special equipment to intercept phone calls or follow someone online, but that Russian law requires court permission to “stalk” a particular person. “We don’t have mass system of such interception. And according to our law it cannot exist,” said Putin.

Putin said his special services use “technical means” to track terrorists, but that Russia does “not have a mass scale uncontrollable effort like that.”

“Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by the society and the law, and are regulated by the law,” Putin said.

Reid Buckley, R.I.P.



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Reid told great stories, and relished the great stories of others. (The two talents are related — when we come across someone else’s good story, we make it ours by repeating it.) One of his very best concerned the time he took Norman Mailer to lunch with his mother and aunt. These two ladies, both born and raised in New Orleans, kept the novelists in their place with girlish/grande-dame chatter about the old days. Finally, one of them (the aunt?) goaded her sister to tell how waste was removed back in the day. A man with a cart came by to pick up each household’s leavings — I guess pre–World War I New Orleans did not have municipal plumbing. He was known as the presidente de la merde, and was so hailed by all the children of the neighborhood as he made his rounds: Voici le presidente de la merde!

Their old-lady naughtiness stopped Mailer, who wrote a lot about merde, in his tracks. “​Damn you, Buckley,”​ he said afterwards, “​you always have something up your sleeve.”​

A great story, with four performers — the ladies, Mailer, and Reid, the onlie begetter of it all. R.I.P.

USA Today: Ukrainian City ‘Registering’ Jews



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Per USA Today, Jews are being asked to register in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine:

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia.

Ah, the all-purpose terrorism-prevention excuse that History has taught us to know and love.

The details sound eerily familiar:

The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.

There’s no word yet on whether armbands will also be required.

Obamacare and the Fisc



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Charles Blahous makes the case “that the ACA is rapidly becoming a colossal fiscal disaster as enrollment proceeds heedless of the concurrent collapse of the law’s financing structure.”

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