HOT MIC: Supreme Court Rules on Trump Travel Ban, Religious Liberty

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Roger, when my son was a student at Hillsdale College, we attended a student art show during one parents weekend. It was unlike anything you'd find on the vast majority of college campuses these days in that all of the art displayed there was beautiful and pleasant to look at (the type of art non-pretentious people display in their homes because it makes them feel good). Unlike postmodern art that tends toward the angry, the seedy, and the profane, the Hillsdale students were taught to search for and create "the beautiful." The school's website includes a mission statement which I've included here to help you prepare for your Hillsdale cruise:

  • To instill in students an understanding and appreciation of the greatest traditions in the visual arts and how they contribute to a richer understanding of life
  • To promote a belief through art that the world makes sense and is beautiful—that artists have a vital role to play in making this truth known
  • To promote a belief that beauty is a relevant and vital term for the artist today—that the pursuit of it requires knowledge, skill and character and is therefore an elevating and enriching experience.

The arts, as you noted, have been in a "wretched state" for quite some time. Tiresome vanity projects and politically correct virtue signaling are de rigueur. Of course, most of the bad art —including bad theater — would simply vanish if these "artists" had to compete in the free market without the benefit of government largess. PJM's John Ellis, a former actor and theater lover, makes a good case for defunding the National Endowment for the Arts here.


Apropos Rick's post about the arts having gone gaga après Trump, it's worth noting that the arts in general have been in a pretty wretched state in this country for some time. I mean if you pick theatre, where so much noise was being made over the umpteenth modern dress version of Julius Caesar (I can remember seeing one in Nazi dress in the fifties - they've done just about everything), you realize the poverty of imagination of these people. Now it's mostly stunts.  I wanted to go into the arts when I was a kid -- and did.  Now I wouldn't consider it.  What a dismal occupation it's become.

All this connects up with the recent outburst of anti-Trump art and comments by so-called artists (like Johnny Depp.... okay Patty Lupone really is talented, but Depp is a total bore who makes movies for dumb nine-year olds).  They're calling attention to themselves out of desperation.  The arts are gone, basically, for now anyway.  Even painting.  What's really happened since Jackson Pollock -- not a whole helluva lot.  The iPhone is more art than the rest of this crap and even that's a bit over.  Are personal drones art?  I hear you can get one for five hundred dollars.

There's been a suggestive string of events:  Ossoff's loss, the Supreme Court decision not just on the church playground but the travel ban, ISIS' endgame in Mosul.

It's as if a hinge were turning. But what door will open?

Not necessarily into a broad beautiful upland. The door may open to someplace dismal. Yet clearly it will be somewhere different. Even the radical Islamists want a reboot because the old formula no longer works. The progressive project is a half step behind, doubling down. They don't realize the Future is over.

The future may look very different than that envisioned in the late 20th century. Perhaps one of the sleeper trends is the growth of peer-to-peer activity, such as people creating their individual electric grids and trading power -- in Brooklyn. It will be interesting to see whether the cooperative model of the future will be the dreaded Internet of Things or much more voluntary arrangements based on affinity groups.

Perhaps the real significance of the Supreme Court ruling that religious institutions should be eligible to receive public funds for purely secular purposes is that little tents can again dare compete with big tents.

American arts have gone gaga over their opposition to Donald Trump. How many negative references to Trump have you seen on TV? The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu is an ill-disguised portrayal of what liberals believe America could become under Trump.

Then there was the ghastly staging of Julius Caesar with the gory assassination scene killing off a Trump lookalike.

The next entry in the "This is happening in America now" artistic sweepstakes is a play based on Orwell's 1984.  The play is apparently a bloody, noisy, gory mess. But we are reminded at the end of this Washington Post story what the play is really about:

The play’s timing proved impeccable, opening to the world just months after Orwell’s politically charged novel became the best-selling book on in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president. Many pointed to parallels between the novel’s plot and the current political climate.

The play was first staged in internationally in 2013, but until the election, talk of it reaching Broadway was just that: talk.

“I think the feeling was, we have to do it now,” Macmillan told the New York Times. “If we don’t, we’ll miss our chance.”

“1984” isn’t the first play to recently become part of the national conversation thanks to its shocking content.

Earlier this month, a New York production of “Julius Caesar,” starring Trump look-alike Gregg Henry in the titular role, sparked national debate. In the play, Caesar is assassinated by his fellow statesmen. Given this Caesar’s likeness to the president of the United States, many found the production in poor taste.

What "parallels" are there between what's happening in the novel 1984 and the "current political climate"? That kind of crap just rolls off the tongues of liberals as if it represents reality.

In fact, everyone knows the "political climate" that closely matches 1984 would have occurred if Hillary Clinton -- a lifelong advocate of gargantuan government -- had been elected president and not Donald Trump.

We ought to have a category called "Least Surprising News of the Day." Or, perhaps "Episode LXCII: Slapping Liberals in the Face with Reality."

When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city's minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they'd hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect.

The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They've cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found.

The costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one, according to the study, conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city. The study, published as a working paper Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, has not yet been peer reviewed.

I hate to say "We told ya so", that's not right. I love saying "We told ya so."

On the whole, the study estimates, the average low-wage worker in the city lost $125 a month because of the hike in the minimum.

The paper's conclusions contradict years of research on the minimum wage. Many past studies, by contrast, have found that the benefits of increases for low-wage workers exceed the costs in terms of reduced employment -- often by a factor of four or five to one.

But...but...but...the "past studies" (no mention of who conducted the research, no links, no evidence) couldn't be wrong, could they? Who funded the research? Were they peer reviewed?

"This strikes me as a study that is likely to influence people," said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research. He called the work "very credible" and "sufficiently compelling in its design and statistical power that it can change minds."

Another example where wishful thinking overcame rational thought and directly affected the lives of ordinary people in a very negative way.


Trump administration sources are beginning to unload on the Obama holdovers and former administration officials who have been damaging national security operations by leaking like sieves to friendly media outlets. Featured prominently in this, naturally, is Obama's former national security adviser and failed novelist Ben Rhodes.

Via The Washington Free Beacon:

The leaks have been traced to a number of former Obama administration officials, including Ben Rhodes—the former National Security Council official responsible for creating an in-house ‘echo chamber' meant to mislead reporters and the public about the landmark nuclear deal with Iran—and Colin Kahl, former Vice President Joe Biden's national security adviser.

Another source, this one a senior administration official who is also intimately familiar with the situation, confirmed the assessment to the Washington Free Beacon.

"Those responsible for the disastrous foreign national security policy of the Obama administration for the last years—Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl—they provide the marching orders to a broader group of people that are associated with the broader [Democratic Party] Podesta-Clinton network, and now they're trying to rewrite history at the cost of American national security," the official said.

"For the last eight years, the priority was always the narrative … It was never the American interests, it was the interests of the Democratic Party and the Obama-Podesta-Clinton conglomerate," explained the source.

The leak to the Washington Post that revealed details about a secret Israeli cyber operation was particularly damaging.

The recent disclosure in the press of Israeli operations targeting ISIS terrorists prompted a wave of anger from top Israeli officials blaming the leakers for creating an intelligence catastrophe for the Jewish state.

"Think about how this is playing in Israel," explained one veteran Middle East analyst who has discussed the Israeli concerns with senior White House officials. "For eight years Obama officials tried to undermine US-Israel ties, and the Israelis kept sharing sensitive intelligence with them anyway."

"Now these same Obama officials are trying to prevent Trump from rebuilding the relationship, and they're doing it by leaking the sensitive intelligence the Israelis shared—and devastating Israeli security in the process," the source said.

Obvious question:  Why haven't the Obama holdovers responsible for some of these leaks been fired yet?

After the fiasco of Obamacare, does anyone actually believe the CBO score of any given bill? Besides the Democrats, whenever it goes their way, I mean:

A Senate bill drafted by Republicans to replace Obamacare would leave 22 million people without insurance by 2026 compared to current law, a study by a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says. The plan would also reduce the U.S. budget deficit by $321 billion over the next 10 years. Senate Republicans are several votes short to pass their bill. A similar proposal by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would result in 23 million fewer Americans having health insurance 10 years from now compared to Obamacare. The House bill would lower the deficit by $119 billion, the CBO had estimated.

So how'd they do back when Obamacare was passed (with zero GOP votes)?

We now know that many of CBO’s projections of important aspects of the ACA have significantly differed from actual outcomes. In this piece, I highlight CBO’s key past errors in projecting effects of the ACA. They can largely be grouped into two categories. First, CBO projected that the exchanges would be stable by now with more than twice as many enrollees as they currently have, rather than suffering from severe adverse selection in most states as they now are. Second, CBO projected that the ACA Medicaid expansion would be much smaller and less expensive than it has turned out to be.

These errors were caused by two primary mistakes in CBO’s model and assumptions. First, CBO significantly overestimated the degree to which the individual mandate would induce relatively healthy people with middle class income to buy coverage in the exchanges. Second, CBO failed to anticipate that states would respond to the federal government’s elevated reimbursement rate for the Medicaid expansion by maximizing enrollment and paying insurance companies extremely high payment rates for this population. CBO has not yet explained if or how it has corrected its models for these past mistakes, but it should do so if it wants to improve confidence in its estimates of repeal and replace legislation.

Whatever happens -- and I hope the bill loses, for what it's worth -- I can say with a degree of high confidence that these numbers are nonsense. As Yogi Berra, or somebody, once said: predictions are tough, especially about the future.


Religious liberty or LGBT civil rights?

The Supreme Court will consider Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the fall. In the case, Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to bake a cake to celebrate a homosexual wedding in 2012.

On one hand, conservatives would argue that Phillips had a triple First Amendment right to do so. He had the right to free speech, to avoid an artistic action which could be seen as an endorsement of something he doesn't believe in. He had the right to free association, to avoid associating with the LGBT movement in this way. He had the right of free exercise of religion, to live and do business by the dictates of his own conscience.

On the other hand, liberals (and the ACLU) would argue that Phillips was engaging in unlawful discrimination against the gay couple on the basis of their sexual orientation. The problem is, Phillips wasn't refusing to serve them as people, rather it was the specific event with which he disagreed.

Expect a lively Court session in the fall.

Is Christianity dying?

Mainline Protestants down, "nones" up.

The answer is no: while the mainline Protestant denominations may be struggling, evangelical Christianity is holding steady. These trends arguably suggest that nominal Christians are identifying with what they actually believe in (nothing, or more accurately, taking membership in no specific church).


David Hollier, that college prof who beclowned himself this morning on Twitter?

Yeah, he deleted his account.

Best thing for him, really.