Search Results


JOEL KOTKIN: How Race Politics Burns Out. “In doing research for my 1992 book Tribes, I found ethnic success was less about gaining unquestioning compliance on cultural and political matters from the majority than in encouraging behaviors, such as frugality, hard work and mutual support. This latter approach has propelled virtually every successful dispersed ethnic group, from the Jews and British to the Chinese, Indians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and West Indians.”

Sorry, that offers insufficient opportunities for graft, and grift. Capitalizing on white guilt is easier and more lucrative, until it stops working. And it hasn’t stopped working yet.


Just wait till teachers figure out a lot of their jobs will be gone.  All that NEA graft down the drain….



BUT THAT WOULD PROVIDE FEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR GRAFT: Cities Should Take a Hard Look at Police Department Budgets:

Take New York City. In 1990, at the peak of the decades-long crime wave, New York City had 212,458 violent crimes, 932,416 property crimes, and 2,605 murders. At the time, it had a police force consisting of 26,756 uniformed and 9,483 nonuniformed personnel.

In 2018, the last year for which I could find statistics, New York City had 68,495 violent crimes, 281,507 property crimes, and 562 murders. In other words, crime is down dramatically.

Nevertheless, the New York City police force has since grown dramatically, consisting of approximately 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian employees. Perhaps having more cops on the payroll has contributed to the lower crime rate, though crime rates have fallen nationwide. Even if so, the more than doubling of civilian employees is an especially stark statistic. With far fewer crimes to process, how could New York City possibly need twice as many civilian employees as in 1990?

UPDATE: Some or all of the increase may be the result of merging the transit and housing police into the NYPD. Either way, one bureaucrat for every two cops, with police coverage 24/7 and most of the bureaucracy working 9-5 is an astounding ratio.

ANDREW KLAVAN: Dean Baquet’s Invisible Corruption.

When you work in a corrupt system, your own corruption becomes invisible to you. You know yourself to be an essentially good person. Your friends like you. You’re nice to your wife. You have professional accomplishments. And if you take a bribe now and then or lie or otherwise abuse the public trust, well, you’re a cop in 1960s New York, you’re a Soviet bureaucrat, you’re a Chicago Democrat – everyone around you is doing the same thing, and the only people who complain about it are the others, the non-cops, the counter-revolutionaries, the Republicans, the bad guys. You don’t have to listen to them. They’re beyond the pale.

Occasionally, this leads to moments of mordant humor, when the corrupt person is brought outside of his system and the corruption he can’t see suddenly becomes starkly visible to everyone else. This happened when the dirty Tammany Hall political boss George Plunkitt tried to publicly explain the difference between honest graft and dishonest graft. What was the problem? “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em,” Plunkitt famously said.

It also happened this week when New York Times Editor Dean Baquet tried to publicly explain why Times coverage of sex charges against Joe Biden has been so different from their coverage of those against Brett Kavanaugh.


FAREWELL, MY LOVELY: A review of The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood.

There’s a moment midway through the film Chinatown (1974) in which the hero, Jake Gittes, hands us a clue—not a clue about the case he’s investigating, the one involving graft and murder in L.A.’s Department of Water and Power, but a more subtextual kind of clue, hinting at the meaning of the film’s enigmatic title. Jake (Jack Nicholson) and his client, Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), are standing in her back yard, and she’s prodding him about his life before he became a private eye, when he worked as a cop in Chinatown. What did he do there, she asks? “As little as possible,” Jake replies. This bit of dialogue may seem innocuous, but it was, in fact, the inspiration for the entire film, taken by screenwriter Robert Towne from an actual Chinatown cop, whom he met in the early 1970s. In Chinatown, the policeman explained, you have to do as little as possible, not because you’re lazy per se, but because you never know what’s going on, whether you’re preventing a crime or abetting one. Towne loved this idea, seeing it not only as a good line for a movie but a metaphor for life in Los Angeles, a place where you may think you know what’s going on, but you never really do. If he’d had his way, the film wouldn’t have had a single scene set in Chinatown. The title, he thought, spoke for itself.

Although he was already well known in Hollywood as a go-to script doctor—he had penned scenes for Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Godfather (1972)—Towne effectively made his name with Chinatown and has dined off its success ever since. In 1979, screenwriting guru Syd Field dubbed it the “best American screenplay written during the 1970s,” and in subsequent decades the script has made so many top-10 lists that singing its praises can now seem almost trite. Critics point out (quite rightly) that every revelation in the story is doled at precisely the right moment, pushing the plot along without ever spoiling the mystery, and that every event—indeed, every line of dialogue—serves a purpose, from Gittes’s crude jokes to his observation, in the first minutes of the film, that sometimes it’s best to “let sleeping dogs lie.” If only he’d heeded his own advice.

If you loved Chinatown (despite its being directed by a truly repugnant man), definitely read the whole thing.

WELL, THERE WAS MORE GRAFT AVAILABLE IN THE FORMER: Focused on climate change, Mayor Bill de Blasio failed to equip New York for the coronavirus crisis.

MICHAEL LIND: The Pandemic is an Alien Invasion.

As in a 1950s science fiction movie, the war against the alien invaders will be won by the combined forces of mobilized science and industry. The role of economic policy is secondary and has two purposes: providing wartime resources to science and industry and cushioning the collateral economic damage done by the government’s order that everyone hide from the aliens.

That’s not what we’re doing now. In battling the coronavirus, America’s political leadership is making two harmful mistakes. One mistake is focusing on the indirect economic consequences of the measures taken to slow the pandemic while neglecting the urgent need to contain and neutralize this lethal microbe. The other mistake is trying to deal with the crisis by means of ordinary legislation, rather than delegating authority temporarily to a bipartisan agency which can carry out fiscal policy quickly, backed up by the Fed with monetary policy.

Too few opportunities for corruption and graft.

POLITICIANS LIKE IT BECAUSE YOU CAN EXTRACT SO MUCH GRAFT OVER WHERE THE LINES GO AND WHERE THE STOPS ARE: Light Rail Is a Crime-Ridden Disaster. Then there are all the contracts you can let to cronies . . .

ANALYSIS: TRUE. Europeans Need To Grow Up.

One of the fun parts of the Trump administration is that it teased out already existing European – and especially German – antipathy towards the USA, especially in their political/media class, that we had not seen since Bush43 was in office. Yes, there are great friends of the USA in Germany … but as I learned living amongst them, just below the surface with a plurality of them – they have “issues.”

They hate us, but they are dependent on us. The two are in a way probably connected, but enough of that.


European NATO, starting with Germany, needs to invest its fair share.

Europeans need to focus on the legitimate concerns of their citizens, not what the strap-hangers in Davos and Brussels feel would make them feel better.

Europeans need to give their people security, not let their governing elites line their pockets with Russian and Chinese graft.

If Europe can stop from importing its own destruction, it will be fine. If its politicians will stop focusing on each other’s virtue signaling, and instead focus on the standard of living and quality of life of its working citizens, they will be even better.

That would be pretty good advice for the USA as well.


IT’S LIKE THE BURNT HAIRY HAND CASE ALL OVER AGAIN: A woman has pubic hair growing on her face from a crotch skin graft, and doctors are confused.

THE DESIRE NAMED STREETCAR: California’s Real “Train to Nowhere.”

Opened in 1987, San Jose’s Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) was an early leader of light rail’s expansion. But the VTA will become a leader of a different sort when it closes the Almaden branch of its system at the end of this year, due to poor ridership. Not counting some heritage trolly lines, the VTA’s Almaden branch is likely the first passenger rail line to close in almost half a century. Its 2.2 miles of single-track line and two stations—rail infrastructure worth tens of millions of dollars—will soon stand idle.

Why, in a growing and economically thriving city, would a commuter line shut down? The Bay Area is becoming famous for its housing and transportation issues, including choking traffic. San Jose is the self-proclaimed “capital of Silicon Valley,” and tech firms, along with the employees who commute to work for them, have been flooding the region for decades. Ridership on the Caltrain commuter rail system—which runs through VTA territory on the way to San Francisco—has almost tripled in 15 years, with per-mile ridership approaching New York’s Metro North. In this environment, it’s hard to understand why any part of a light rail system could close.

One reason: San Jose’s system is the epitome of style over substance. The city believed that it needed a light-rail system to modernize itself, so it built one without a master plan, and without paying attention to the nuts and bolts of what makes transit work. Most transit systems run lines along major corridors out of downtown—connecting jobs, shopping, and workers. VTA’s network wanders haphazardly, with few riders or destinations, along circuitous routes and aimless branches beside highway medians and old freight corridors.

Sadly, given the enormous potential for graft, union construction handouts, and featherbedding, most city planners view the prospect of huge capital outlays on a regular basis being spent on a rail transit system’s infrastructure and rolling stock as a hugely desirable feature, not a bug. (In the case of San Antonio, TX, even when voters disapprove of such projects.)  Which is the very same reason they prefer light rail over simply buying more busses as needed, despite the fact that the busses can run anywhere, and their routes can be easily changed as circumstances demand.

SYNAGOGUE STABBER IDENTIFIED AS GRAFTON THOMAS, 37. “Some media outlets reported the suspect’s name as Thomas Grafton or Thomas E. Grafton, but public records reveal it to be Grafton E. Thomas. He is scheduled to be arraigned on five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary at a Rockland County courthouse on Sunday. Grafton Thomas is 37 and lives in Greenwood Lake, New York, which is about 20 miles away from Monsey in Orange County, New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, ‘This is violence spurred by hate. It is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism. Let’s call it what it is.’ He said there have been at least 13 anti-Semitic attacks in New York state since December 8”


Thomas Grafton, 37, was arrested Sunday for an alleged antisemitic stabbing attack in Monsey, New York that left five people wounded, two critically.

CBS News reported that Grafton, of African American descent, was arrested while driving a gray Nissan Sentra at the intersection of West 144th Street and Adam Clayton Boulevard in Harlem. He was taken to the city’s 32nd precinct for questioning.

He is being charged with five counts of attempted murder for entering a synagogue known as Rabbi Rottenburg’s Shul, located in the Forshay neighborhood in Monsey, on Saturday at around 10:30 p.m. and pulling out a machete, which he used to stab people.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the event “an act of domestic terrorism” on Sunday morning.

Note that some Websites, such as this “5 Fast Facts” page are reporting that the suspect’s name is Grafton Thomas. “Some media outlets reported the suspect’s name as Thomas Grafton or Thomas E. Grafton, but public records reveal it to be Grafton E. Thomas.”

Related: Karol Markowicz on “How liberals are allowing anti-Semitism to flourish.”

INTERFERES WITH GRAFT: The Air Force Tried to Operate Efficiently — But Apparently That’s Not Allowed.

WINNING: China Is Out of Economic Ammo Against the U.S. “It has maxed out tariffs and other trade barriers, and selling Treasuries is ineffective.”

It isn’t all fun and games:

The agricultural industry has been hit especially hard. Farm bankruptcies are up 24% this year, and a report by the American Farm Bureau Federation finds that almost 40% of farmers’ income this year will come either from insurance payouts or government bailouts.

Nobody ever said trade wars are fun and easy — er, Trump did, which wasn’t his smartest statement ever — but the short-term pain for farmers ought to yield longterm benefits to our economy generally. And also improve our global position relative to China’s.


The other big weapon in the Chinese arsenal is investment. The Chinese government is traditionally a major buyer of U.S. government debt, and it holds the second-biggest stash of Treasuries (after Japan). Over the years, many have fretted that a spat between the U.S. and China would lead the latter to sell off that mountain of debt, creating a world of hurt for the U.S. financial system and economy.

But this danger is vastly exaggerated for two reasons. First, as recent experience demonstrates, the U.S. simply doesn’t need Chinese government cash. In 2015 and 2016 China experienced one of the biggest capital flights in history, with about $1 trillion pouring out of the country. This resulted in a huge drawdown of China’s foreign-exchange reserves, most of which are U.S. bonds.

If the U.S. were heavily dependent on Chinese government financing, interest rates on U.S. debt — and by extension, throughout the U.S. economy — should have risen. Instead, they fell.

Washington’s addiction to debt is a problem, but for now anyway, there are plenty of lenders outside of Beijing. And economically decoupling from China should be — and seems to be — reassuring investors and lenders that Washington is getting at least one thing right.

On reflection, Washington hates this decoupling, as it reduces opportunities for corruption and graft. This is all Trump’s work, and so far it’s working pretty well.

CHARLIE MARTIN: The Game’s Afoot in Ukraine: Burisma Reportedly Indicted for Money Laundering.

Now things start to stack up. We’ve seen that Vindman has close ties to the previous Ukrainian government, dating back to Yanukovych and his successor Petro Poroshenko, while this alleged money-laundering scheme was taking place. The connection to the Franklin Templeton Fund is interesting because John Templeton, Jr. was a major Obama campaign donor, and Thomas Donilon, who was Obama’s National Security Advisor before Susan Rice and is now the chairman of BlackRock Investment Institute, a major owner of Franklin Templeton stock.

As an aside, remember how it was just shocking and unprecedented for Trump to use a personal representative? Here’s a quote from Donilon’s official bio:

Mr. Donilon served as the President’s [Obama’s] personal emissary to a number of world leaders, including President Hu Jintao and President Xi Jinping, President Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Now, a little graft in the amount of a few million dollars is one thing, but $7.5 billion is real money, and a friend in the NSC could be really helpful. Especially with a couple friends in CIA and another one in an executive office in the West Wing.

Well, stay tuned and let’s see what develops. But yeah, it could explain why Vindman was scared and “literally shaken” by Trump’s phone call asking for an investigation into corruption.

FASTER, PLEASE: Scientists 3-D Print Skin That Develops Working Blood Vessels. “A promising new technique could lead to lasting skin grafts after burns or other injuries.”

TOO FEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR CORRUPTION AND GRAFT: Will Health-Care Federalism Ever Have a Chance?

THE 21st CENTURY IS NOT TURNING OUT AS I HOPED: Massachusetts General Hospital doctors perform first-ever live-cell pig skin graft to burn patient — But PETA objects to breakthrough therapy.

21ST CENTURY HEADLINES: MGH doctors perform first-ever live-cell pig skin graft to burn patient: But PETA objects to breakthrough therapy.

WE’LL RUN OUT OF EVERYTHING BUT “UNEXPECTEDLYS”: Elizabeth Warren Vows to Remake Capitalism. Businesses Are Bracing. “The Democratic Party’s favored presidential candidate has proposed sweeping changes to how business operates; many executives expect she would tack center.”

No front-runner has proposed such sweeping changes to how businesses operate. A President Warren would seek to regulate big tech companies as utilities, break up big banks and split them from securities dealers, ban fracking of oil and gas, phase out carbon emission from buildings, cars and power plants in eight to 15 years, require big companies to appoint worker representatives to at least 40% of board seats, ban private health insurance and, effectively, for-profit college, and negotiate down drug prices.

Her policies would directly affect companies with sales of nearly $5 trillion and stock-market value of more than $8 trillion, a third of the S&P 500 stock index. Taxes on the wealthy and corporations would rise sharply.

That, in turn, has led to nervousness among some executives. “She could create an environment where it is next to impossible to function” for health insurers, said Vicky Gregg, a former chief executive of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and now partner in a private-equity firm. “There’s no question that keeps you up at night if you’re a health-plan executive.”

Fear will keep the local executives in line, to borrow a phrase.

The real goal of course isn’t to “remake” capitalism. Rather, it’s to create opportunities for corruption and graft.

GRAFT IS EXPENSIVE: Audit Finds Cost of Building Supportive Housing in L.A. Exceeds Median Price of a Market-Rate Condo.


JON CALDERA: Colorado cities like Longmont and Boulder are venturing into ill-advised monopolistic ventures.

As technology and competition are turning once invincible natural monopolies into dinosaurs, we’re watching local governments create monopolies that almost certainly will be disrupted by technology.

So, of course, Boulder is trying to build its own electric power empire because they can do it better than Xcel, don’t ya know, they’re Boulder. But if technology will disrupt Xcel in the future, it will certainly disrupt Boulder’s government-owned monopoly too.

But here’s the big difference — like AT&T, when Xcel takes a hit, their stockholders lose. When a government-owned monopoly takes a hit, taxpayers lose. (Um, social justice warriors, where are you on this injustice?)

The new craze of city-owned broadband service is nothing more than switching financial risk from private stockholders, who willingly take the risk, to taxpayers.

But just think of the increased opportunities for graft and corruption.


It makes one wonder if AOC understands that campaign money and her salary are two different things.

In any case, it’s all a sign that, just months after arriving at the swamp, Ocasio-Cortez has already forgotten her roots. Even without a raise, she’s pulling down three times what the median household makes in her district.

So here’s a modest proposal. Tie AOC’s salary, and everyone else’s in Congress, directly to the incomes of the people they represent.

That would mean, rather than give AOC a raise, she would make just $58,331. That’s the median household income in her district, according to a cool Census tool called My Congressional District.

At that pay, AOC would truly represent New York’s 14th Congressional District. Exactly half the households would make more than her, and exactly half would make less.

Better still, if she wanted a raise, she’d have to see to it that her local economy is thriving and people in her district are gainfully employed, thereby pushing up the median income.

Since the chief reason most people go into politics is graft, there’s a reason why the Issues & Insights editorial board used the phrase “a modest proposal.”

DISGRACEFUL: Choking charities: the latest ‘woke’ assault.

Actually, I think the entire nonprofit sector needs a closer look. There’s a lot of graft, waste, etc. out there, as has been documented for years. Much more here and here and here.

NETS A LOT OF GRAFT:  The ‘affordable housing’ con game.

THE ANSWER, AS ALWAYS, IS GRAFT: Why Should Anyone Need a License for Anything?

Imagine a US state where locksmiths, pastoral counselors, home security companies, and acupuncturists do not have to be licensed by the government to do business. They could pursue certification with a private organization if they wanted to, but they could decide not to as well. Would chaos ensue?

Recently, the state legislature in my home state of North Carolina approved draft legislation that would undo licensing requirements for 15 professions, including locksmithing, pastoral counseling, and acupuncture. At present, practicing in these professions requires licensure by the state, but this bill would dissolve that requirement for these professions. . . .

And what if the state decides not to serve as licenser? Will private organizations step in? The answer is an almost certain yes. Take athletic trainers, one of the professions the North Carolina bill would remove licensure requirements for. Becoming an “athletic trainer” in North Carolina requires a state license, but becoming a “personal trainer” does not. It turns out, however, that most employers seem to want only certified personal trainers. So where do personal trainers get certified? Often, employers will only hire trainers with college degrees in a field like exercise science. But there are also — you guessed it — private certifying bodies for personal trainers, such as the National Personal Training Institute and the International Fitness Association. Why do employers tend to hire trainers who are certified? Presumably, it’s not because of any government demands, but because they find those trainers to be better for business.

Locksmithing is another profession for which the North Carolina bill would dissolve licensure requirements. To help us predict the outcome for the state’s consumers, we can look to Great Britain, where the government imposes no licensing requirement on locksmiths. British locksmiths can, however, pursue certification with the nonprofit Master Locksmith Association and other similar organizations, which allow locksmiths to advertise as certified. And, true to form, a good many locksmiths voluntarily acquire this certification.

Occupational licensing holds people back, and limits competition.

JOSH KRAUSHAAR: Kamala Harris Is Undermining Her Campaign.

If there was a primary for the most self-destructive presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California would be the front-runner of the 2020 field. Instead of leveraging her profile as a pragmatic prosecutor who has distinguished herself in the Senate as a tough litigator of top Trump officials, she’s run a campaign that has embraced seemingly every half-baked idea from the party’s left wing.

Supporting Medicare-for-all legislation that would all but eliminate private health insurance? Check. Decriminalize sex work? On it. Reparations for the descendants of slaves? Let’s study it. Criticize Rep. Ilhan Omar for invoking anti-Semitic tropes that even the Democratic party leadership condemned? Hard pass. Voting rights for the Boston bomber? Let’s talk about it, at least before backtracking the next day.

Her latest policy proposal would penalize businesses that fail to demonstrate gender pay equity, but without contextualizing salary data for merit and experience. “Companies would also be required to report the share of women who are among the company’s top earners, the total pay and total compensation gap that exists between men and women, regardless of job titles, experience and performance,” according to the Associated Press.

The plan combines the heavy hand of government with a mission that’s near-impossible to implement effectively.

The point isn’t to fix a problem, the point is to create more opportunities for corruption and graft. At that, Harris’s idea would prove a huge success I’m sure.

Getting elected though, as Will Collier noted, is “Harris’s Achilles Heel: she’s spent her political life in the Bay Area, where there’s no penalty for going another step further to the Left of your opponents. It’s her go-to tactic, and she has no idea how to modulate it, or what to do outside that bubble.”

WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN THIS? How California’s troubled high-speed rail project was ‘captured’ by costly consultants.

But significant portions of this work have been flawed or mismanaged, according to records reviewed by The Times and interviews with dozens of people involved in the project. Despite repeated warnings since 2010 about weaknesses in its staffing, the rail authority believed it could reduce overall costs by relying on consultants and avoiding a large permanent workforce. But that strategy has failed to keep project costs from soaring. Ten years after voters approved it, the project is $44 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule.

A reckoning may be coming very soon, however.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently told The Times that he would be taking aim at the consultants when the rail authority sends a major project update to the Legislature on May 1, including a detailed plan on building a partial operating system from Bakersfield to Merced for $16 billion to $18 billion.

“I’m getting rid of a lot of consultants,” Newsom said. “How did we get away with this?”

But actually reducing the role of consultants will be problematic because they have become cemented into place.

When state rail authority employees go to their Sacramento headquarters, they work in offices rented by a consultant. When they turn on their computers, much of their data is stored on servers owned by consultants. The software they use to help manage the project is the property of a consultant.

It’s inherent graft built into every left-controlled city’s “desire named streetcar” on a massive, statewide scale.

AN IDEA SO GOOD IT HAS TO BE MANDATED: National Trend to Mandate Renewable Energy as Major Power Source is Ill-Conceived and Foolish.

“Ever since Al Gore and his gang of climate scammers came on the scene in the 1990s, we have been fed a steady diet of lies and false predictions. We were told that the oceans would rise as the polar caps melted and that cities and states bordering the Pacific and Atlantic would be underwater. We were told that the corpses of polar bears who had drowned would be washing up by the thousands on the coast of Alaska. We were told that the human race was doomed by rising temperatures.

What’s most remarkable about the hoax is that there was a deadline announced. The apocalypse was to take place within a decade. Now, two decades later, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is giving us until 2030 to shape up or we’re all goners.

Even someone as cynical as I am would never have imagined that the con men and women would still be able to pass off this nonsense as gospel after all this time. The old line about whether you’re going to believe me or your lying eyes seems to sum up the situation pretty well.

People want to believe it, because “saving the world” can make anyone feel important. And politicians love it because of ample opportunities for graft, corruption, cronyism, and vote-buying.

JAMES P. PINKERTON: Democrats Set the Wayback Machine to the 1930s. “From court-packing to Weimar Monetary Theory, their new ideas feel distinctly retro.”

We can observe that for most of the 20th century, the specters of war, fascism, and communism had the effect of trapping American capital in the U.S.; that is, money just wasn’t safe in most places. And yet today, thanks, ironically enough, to U.S. victories in various hot and cold wars, easily 20 countries and jurisdictions around the world qualify as not just tax havens, but plausible places to hold citizenship, and perhaps even to inhabit.

So while one can lament the ingratitude of tax exiles, what one can’t do—at least not without an extraordinary amount of effort—is collect money from them. To be sure, it’s possible to imagine an international regime in which enforcement and harmonization make tax exiling and other kinds of tax avoidance more difficult, even dangerous. But as we have learned, it’s hard to get the world to agree on much of anything. Moreover, there’s always the concern about killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

So perhaps the better answer is to set reasonable rates and then seek to truly collect revenues from rich individuals and profitable companies that never seem to pay anything.

Much more at the link. I’d just add that the current push for ultra-high income taxes isn’t about collecting revenue, but about increasing control and creating new opportunities for graft.

GET WOKE, GO BROKE: KOMO News’ special: Seattle is Dying.

“People didn’t use to use the word embarrassing about Seattle, but they use it a lot now,” the narrator to a new KOMO News special titled “Seattle is Dying” says. The focus of the special is homelessness and the ways in which it has changed the city.

There’s a section featuring angry residents of one area of the city who are screaming at their representatives for action. They want the tent cities managed and they’re tired of calling the police only to find out the police can arrest people but those same people will be back on the street, sometimes within hours.

As I noted last month, just 100 homeless people in Seattle were responsible for 3,500 criminal cases. This special references that story. It also asked Seattle police officers to comment anonymously on what was happening and those responses are enlightening. One officer told KOMO, “People come here because it’s called Free-attle and they believe if they come here they will get free food, free medical treatment, free mental health treatment, a free tent, free clothes and will be free of prosecution for just about everything; and they’re right.”

But it’s provided plenty of opportunities for graft and virtue-signalling, which is what our political class runs on.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF: The evil that men do.

Terrible news from Christchurch in New Zealand, with (at this moment) 49 Muslim worshipers at Friday prayers in two mosques gunned down in a well organised terrorist attack that was streamed live on social media. The shooter is a 28-year old fitness trainer from Grafton in Australia, a seemingly ordinary young man from small-town regional Australia who have become radicalised in the course of a seven-year trip around the world after his father’s death in 2010.

What makes a man apparently plan in cold blood for two years mass murder of his fellow human beings – in this case based on their religion and their status as immigrants in a Western country?

Clearly you are not a normal, well-balanced human being – there are no indications so far the shooter is mentally ill in any way – but it’s for psychologists to debate what parts of your humanity must be sufficiently broken, and why, to enable you to commit an atrocity like this.

But the mass shooting is also a political act, though politics, even extreme politics, turns only a small minority into killers and terrorists.

What are the politics here?

Read the whole thing.

IT’S ALL THE RAGE THESE DAYS: It’s Not Just AOC Who’s Got Radical Ideas For Expanding Government.

Democratic party standard bearer are also proposing to grow government on a scale that would have been political nonstarters just a decade ago.

Americans should ask themselves: Is this really the direction we want our country to take?

Consider this: Representative John Larson (D-CT) has more than 200 Democratic cosponsors for his Social Security 2100 Act, which would be Social Security’s biggest expansion in decades. Not only would Rep. Larson impose an enormous tax increase on American workers to close the entirety of Social Security’s unfunded liability, he would take even more money from workers to increase benefits for retirees.

High earners would take the biggest tax hit: Currently payroll taxes are imposed on the first $132,000 of earnings. Larson would re-impose the payroll tax on earnings above $400,000, an enormous marginal tax rate increase for this group. Yet Rep. Larson would require all workers to pay more, with payroll tax rates climbing from 12.6 percent to 14.8 percent – a historical high.

Despite the “soak the rich” rhetoric, this proposal isn’t about helping low income seniors: benefits would become more generous for all seniors, including those who are rich themselves.

Who gets taxed and who receives benefits are secondary considerations, really. What’s really important is that the money and decisionmaking power travel through Washington in both directions, creating copious opportunities for graft.

PROTECTION RACKET: FCA Paid $77 Million in Civil Penalties to Sell Cars People Actually Want to Buy.

In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a report claiming the industry faced millions in fines from 2016 and that one manufacturer was expected to pay significant civil penalties.

You can probably guess which one. But FCA is by no means the only automaker affected by stringent fuel rulings.

The NHTSA said the number of automakers with emission credit shortfalls rose to 26 in 2016. For some perspective, 2011 was a terrible year for automakers, with 18 companies coming up short for a industry penalty of around $40 million. It’s clear the automotive sector is having real trouble meeting the rising emissions rules and less clear what should be done about it.

Despite initially agreeing to the aggressive, Obama-era fuel economy mandates, automakers were quick to meet with Donald Trump and ask that national efficiency rules be rolled back at the start of his term. While several companies eventually changed their position, there’s a growing assumption that the established targets will, for many, remain out of reach.

That’s because not enough motorists want to buy what Washington, in its infinite knowledge, insists they should buy. The resulting fines aren’t a problem to be solved, but rather an excellent opportunity for graft.

GUN CONTROL IS JUST ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR GRAFT: Brooklyn real estate agent allegedly brokered gun permits known as ‘a de Blasio special’ in corrupt NYPD License Division.

THE DESIRE NAMED STREETCAR: Rail Transit Is a Dead End, but Social Planners Keep Pushing for More.

Have you noticed how Californians move up and down the state?

They take Southwest Airlines, which offers low-cost, quick flights serving the major airports. Yet former Gov. Jerry Brown had focused his attention on building a $100-billion high-speed rail system that, if it ever is completed, will have ticket prices higher than airfares and will take nearly twice as long as flying to get from the Bay Area to Southern California. What is the point? The answer echoes my earlier point: Politicians and planners use public money to change how we live in pursuit of grandiose goals, such as slowing global warming. Easing cross-state travel is important, but if that were the primary goal, our leaders would consider a variety of practical—but boring—ideas, such as improving air service in hard-to-reach places such as Bakersfield, the Central Coast or Redding.

I think of my attempts to take transit to go from my exurb to downtown Sacramento. It would involve driving to a station 20 minutes away, paying for parking, buying a ticket and waiting for a train. It would take longer and cost almost as much as just driving downtown directly and parking. That train might make sense in the urban core, but not in the outlying areas, yet officials love to lecture us about our supposedly unsustainable reliance on driving.

Because passenger trains (whether light rail or for longer runs) offer them much more opportunity for graft.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Charles de Gaulle Saw Brexit Coming: He said U.K. membership would weaken the EU and divide Britain.

Britain’s problem with the EU goes back decades. From the 1957 Treaty of Rome to the present day, Europe has been both the opportunity Britain cannot embrace and the problem Britain cannot solve. In the 1950s, Britain stood aloof from the increasingly integrated Continent as it clung to the remnants of its empire. In the 1960s it applied, twice, to join; both times its application was scuttled, twice by the implacable, but arguably correct, French President Charles de Gaulle. In 1973 Britain finally succeeded in joining the club, but euroskepticism was already so strong in British politics that the country held a referendum on leaving in 1975. Remain won that round, but British ambivalence over Europe has never gone away.

De Gaulle—the leader of the Free French resistance in World War II who went on to found the Fifth Republic under which France still lives today—understood the problem best. He thought Britain would never truly be at home in a European union. “England in effect is insular, she is maritime,” he said in his remarks blocking Britain’s entry into what was then called the Common Market in 1963. “She has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions.” He added that “the nature, the structure, the very situation that are England’s differ profoundly from those of the continentals.”

Moreover, from de Gaulle’s point of view, admitting Britain into Europe was like letting a Trojan horse through the gates. He believed Europe faced a choice between pursuing its original goal of a deep integration of the original six members and opting for a larger, looser association that included Britain. A larger and looser Europe, he believed, would be a weaker Europe. It would be unable to develop into a true world power that could face Russia and the U.S. as an equal.

Today de Gaulle looks like a prophet. EU membership has left Britain miserable and divided. The rest of the 28-member EU is overextended, stressed and geopolitically weak.

Yep. Though honestly, going beyond the Common Market was always more for the benefit of the political class than the citizenry. The Common Market brought prosperity, but the EU offered more opportunities for graft. And for the self-importance that is as important to the political class as graft. Well, almost as important.

THE IDIOCY OF MODERN IDENTITARIANISM SUMMED UP IN ONE STORY: Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Finds Its Maria, Anita, Bernardo & Chino.

“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” said Spielberg. “I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.” ….

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” said [Rachel]  Zegler. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

Why do Puerto Rican characters in West Side Story need to be played by Latinos, but not Italian characters by people of Italian or (better yet, given the demographics of New York’s Italian community, specifically Sicilian) descent? Why is having a Colombian-American a politically-correct choice to play a Puerto Rican? What do Colombia and Puerto Rico have in common besides different dialects of the Spanish language? If you were trying to cast an Australian of 1960, would casting an English-speaking actor from the US, or India, be “authentic”? Isn’t kind of insulting to assume that all Spanish-speaking countries are interchangeable?

I’ve been working on a paper about legal definitions of race and ethnicity in the U.S., and the designation of “Hispanics” as non-white was not exactly historically inevitable. “Mexicans,” along with other Spanish-speaking peoples of the Americas, were usually considered to be legally white in the census and otherwise, though Mexicans were sometimes sent to segregated school thanks to local policy. When affirmative action programs started in the Sixties, “Chicano” (Mexican-American) groups lobbied for Mexican-Americans to be included as a “minority” group. Once Mexican-Americans were included, the category gradually expanded. First, it was anyone with a Spanish surname. But that proved overbroad, because many Italians have last names that sound Spanish, and many people of Hispanic descent do not. So eventually this morphed into “Latino” or Hispanic. But why, for example, an Argentine immigrant of Italian heritage is less “white” than a native-born American of Italian heritage is a mystery. Having lived in Peru, the irony of seeing like-skinned Latin Americans of mostly European origin who are generally contemptuous of darker-skinned Latin Americans suddenly becoming “people of color” eligible for minority preferences if they immigrate to the U.S. is something to behold.

But as Glenn might note, dividing people into artificial “races” creates extra opportunities for graft.

Oh, and while we’re at it, here is Zegler’s “racial” background:  “Her father is of Polish ancestry on his own father’s side, and of Irish, German, and Italian ancestry on his own mother’s. Rachel’s mother is of Colombian origin.” So do we give Spielberg only half-credit for finding an actor who at best is half-Hispanic? Why does anyone sane want to go down this rabbit-hole?

UPDATE: And speaking of double standards, friend read this and commented, “And why is it OK for almost none of the actors on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are Jewish in real life?”

ANNALS OF LEFTIST AUTOPHAGY. Widows: Urban Blight and Hopeless Chicago.

Fans of British writer-director Steve McQueen’s long overdue follow-up to 12 Years a Slave have had half a decade to muse over the now acclaimed director’s short career beginning with the brutal and unsettling Hunger, followed by his second team-up with actor Michael Fassbinder in Shame. Given the high regard his previous trilogy has garnered, Widows is a rather conventional career pivot.

* * * * * * * *

The film’s finale, without spoilers, seems to suggest that this sense of nihilism and hopelessness is cowardly and must be destroyed and yet the system isn’t confronted by the end of the film. The best that can be done in the end is to honor the dead and try to build some semblance of friendship and justice beyond the horrors. The real bad guys get away in the end. The only real justice comes when you survive and your enemies don’t.

Maybe that’s honest in the sense that Chicago is a place where corruption, graft, and backroom deals reign supreme, but if the only way out of the quagmire is violence and the vain hope of some future after the turmoil, it goes a long way to show why the progressivism is so willing to push violent solutions in the aftermath of their losses.

When Hillary Clinton goes on live TV and says that there can be no civility when the policies she advocates are being denied by the party in power and when black bloc groups like Antifa are given unlimited reign to assault conservatives, we see this same progressive nihilism at work.

Chicago’s last Republican mayor left office in 1931.

SPENGLER: Letter to Chinese friends: We really are different. “Americans never will reconcile themselves to China’s lack of concern for individual rights, for its cruelty to so many of its citizens, and for the absence of mercy in its public affairs.”


China is the world’s oldest living civilization and America is the youngest. How does a new civilization come to be in the first place? It must graft itself onto an older civilization. The American principle is that each individual is sacred, and therefore sovereign, with equal protection under the law and an equal say in governance. Ancient Israel is the wellspring of the American imagination, as I argued in a lecture to the Heritage Foundation in 2016. If China’s national epic is the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, America’s national epic is the King James Version of the Hebrew Bible. America was founded by dissenting Protestants for whom the history of Israel was a map to salvation. It was envisioned by English political theorists who projected a “Hebrew Republic” out of biblical as well as later rabbinic sources, at a time when the Jews had not yet returned to England after their 14th-century banishment, and the Jews were a tiny, scattered and apparently insignificant people.

Fascinating piece; well worth your time.

THIS IS FROM A FEW MONTHS AGO, BUT I HAD MISSED IT: The New York Subway System Is Beyond Repair.

The New York City subway is a miracle, especially at 3 a.m. on a Friday night. But the system is also falling apart, and it’s going to cost billions to keep the old trains running: $19 billion, at least according to one estimate from city planners. The time has come to give up on the 19th-century idea of public transportation, and leap for the autonomous future.

Right now, fully autonomous cars are rolling around Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay area, and parts of Michigan, shuttling people from here to there with minimal manual intervention. Instead of fixing the old trains, let’s rip out the tracks and fill the tunnels with fleets of autonomous vehicles running on pavement. The result would be radical improvements in throughput while saving money and increasing the ability of the system to survive a fire, flood, or terrorist attack.

These subterranean highways would be dramatically simpler than public roadways for an autonomous artificially intelligent system because the tunnels could be limited to authorized vehicles only. No jaywalkers on cellphones. No babies in runaway carriages. Just a collection of competing fleets, centrally orchestrated and offering different levels of service to different groups at different prices.

Yes, but would this offer sufficient opportunities for graft?

WINNING: Bigger job gains for disabled workers under Trump.

Disabled Americans are going back to work at a better pace than those with no disabilities, another sign that the Trump economy is opening up the job market.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report released Friday said that a higher ratio of those with disabilities gained jobs than those without them

“The employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 30.4 percent in September 2017 to 31.4 percent in September 2018 (up 3.3 percent or 1 percentage point). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 73.8 percent in September 2017 to 74.0 percent in September 2018 (up 0.3 percent or 0.2 percentage points),” said BLS.

The participation rate was good too, according to a report from the issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability.

A rising tide lifts all boats. But, you know, with insufficient opportunities for graft.


There’s a whole Solar System out there, with lots of iron and copper and other metals, plenty of ice to use for water, air and fuel — and staggering amounts of solar energy to power the process.

I know it has become fashionable these days to decry space as a place where the rich will flee to escape us clods — but in fact it is harsh and desolate, a set of environments where recycling isn’t just a nice idea but a near-necessity — and where conditions are such that you’re already set up to work with harsh and dangerous processes while being isolated from them. We can extract exotic metals and process radioactives on the Moon all we like and not endanger a single newt or squirrel — or person, if they do it right — and the aftermath won’t be a spreading contaminated lake in China or a massive disposal problem in the Pacific Northwest.

Or, I suppose, we can hunker down in shared, egalitarian* poverty and every year there will be less and less, until one day, it’ll all be gone.

I know which future I prefer.

Me too, but socialism offers more opportunities for graft and control.

DEVOLUTION: My family escaped socialism, now my fellow Democrats think we should move the party in its direction. Well, it’s destructive, brutal, and impoverishing. But the opportunities for graft and control are awesome.

ELITES HATE AUTOMOBILES BECAUSE AUTOMOBILES EMPOWER NON-ELITES. ALSO, RAIL LINES ARE BETTER FOR GRAFT. Stop Trying to Get Workers Out of Their Cars: “Smart growth” is dumb about commuting. “Simply put, cars work better for workers. A 2012 Brookings study analyzing data from 371 transit providers in America’s largest 100 metro areas found that over three-fourths of all jobs are in neighborhoods with transit service—but only about a quarter of those jobs can be reached by transit within 90 minutes. That’s more than three times the national average commute time. Another study, by Andrew Owen and David Levinson of the University of Minnesota, looked at job access via transit in 46 of the 50 largest metro areas. Their data combined actual in-vehicle time with estimated walking time at either end of the transit trip, to approximate total door-to-door travel time. Only five of the 46 metro areas have even a few percent of their jobs accessible by transit within half an hour. All the others have 1 percent or less. Within 60 minutes door-to-door, the best cities have 15–22 percent of jobs reachable by transit. Meanwhile, Owen and Levinson found that in 31 of the 51 largest metro areas in 2010, 100 percent of jobs could be reached by car in 30 minutes or less. Within 40 minutes, all the jobs could be reached by car in 39 of the cities. Within an hour, essentially every job in all 51 places could be reached by car.”

UPDATE: Link was bad before. Fixed now.

CHANGE: A Movement Arises To Take Back Higher Education.

They started insisting on “trigger warnings” and demanding that controversial speakers be disinvited from campus. In fall 2015 a wave of highly publicized protests over racial issues hit Yale and the University of Missouri. In 2016 the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recorded 43 attempts to disinvite speakers from campus. Then in 2017, mobs at Berkeley and Middlebury rioted against provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and social scientist Charles Murray.

Data back up these anecdotes. A 2017 survey by FIRE and YouGov found that 58% of students said it was “important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas.” In a Brookings Institution survey from the same year, 1 in 5 students said using violence to stop a speaker was sometimes acceptable.

But we may be turning a corner. According to FIRE, disinvitation demands dropped to 36 in 2017, and only nine have been issued so far this year. At the same time, academics and administrators—some of whom spoke at the Heterodox Academy conference—have taken steps to increase viewpoint diversity on their campuses.

In 2015 the University of Chicago issued a statement validating the importance of free speech in education. To date 42 schools, from Columbia to the University of Minnesota, have adopted the Chicago principles or a statement like it. Last year Mr. George, the Princeton conservative, authored a statement with Cornel West, a Harvard leftist, asserting that “all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views.” It has thousands of signatories, inside and outside academia.

Michael Roth, the progressive president of Wesleyan University, last year announced an “affirmative action” program to bring conservative faculty and ideas to campus. Heterodox Academy has created an educational app called OpenMind to help students learn virtues like intellectual humility and empathy so that they can speak to one another across the divide. So far it has been used in over 100 classrooms.

As encouraging as these initiatives are, there’s a more fundamental shift that needs to take place—a rethinking of identity politics. Rather than promoting a “common-enemy identity politics” that admonishes white people and others with “privilege,” Mr. Haidt said Friday, professors and administrators should embrace a “common-humanity identity politics.” Isn’t that what liberal education is all about?

Yes, but it offers insufficient opportunities for graft and lefty politicking.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Philadelphia’s Affordable-Housing Plan: a Tax on New Buildings.

Philadelphia’s City Council is weighing a proposed 1% tax on construction to raise millions of dollars for affordable-housing programs, marking the latest push by a U.S. city to address rising residential costs.

The council could pass the new tax this week, setting up a possible showdown with Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney, whose administration warns the levy would hurt the city’s competitiveness as it vies to land Inc.’s second headquarters.

It would be much easier just to reduce regulatory and zoning burdens retarding affordable housing construction, but that would also reduce opportunities for corruption and graft.

YEAH, BUT THERE WAS PLENTY OF GRAFT AND IT WAS ONLY TAXPAYER MONEY THAT WAS WASTED. New York Spent $15 Million to Build a Film Hub. It Just Sold for $1.

The flop of the Central New York Film Hub, built by frequent and generous donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who are facing federal corruption charges, had been presaged almost since its announcement in 2014, when the governor wondered aloud the miracle of the concept.

“Who would have ever figured: Hollywood comes to Onondaga, right?” Mr. Cuomo said. “You would have never guessed. But it has.”

It actually never did.


“EXILED JURISTS” SAYS A LOT ABOUT A COUNTRY: Exiled jurists hear graft claims against Venezuela’s Maduro.

The jurists, known as the “Supreme Court in Exile,” held a public hearing in Colombia’s elegant congressional building to review accusations linking Maduro to the giant Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has acknowledged paying bribes in many Latin American countries.

The proceedings were notably one-sided: While an attorney was assigned for Maduro, his government considers the body illegitimate and both the judges and prosecutor have conflicts of interest, having fled into exile to avoid Maduro’s reach.

Ousted Venezuelan Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who long had access to the country’s investigative files, told the jurists that she has evidence that Maduro sought $50 million from Odebrecht to finance his 2013 presidential campaign. Ortega said that in exchange for Odebrecht’s help, Maduro promised the construction firm new public works contracts in Venezuela as well as help in facilitating tens of millions of dollars in overdue payments.

Why, it’s almost as though socialism is more about state-sanctioned graft and corruption than it is about helping “the people.”

Flashback: Iron-Fisted Socialism Benefited Hugo Chavez’s Daughter To The Tune Of BILLIONS, Reports Say.

UNEXPECTEDLY: The projected cost of California’s bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles has jumped to $77 billion and the opening date has been pushed back four years to 2033, according to a business plan released Friday.

Sportswriter Scott Criscione tweets, “According to math at that price it’ll be roughly 201-Million dollars per mile. Someone is pulling off the greatest heist of all time.”

It’s the graft inherent in “The Desire Named Streetcar”  taken to its most extreme.

2018 RADICAL MAN: Harvard’s New President Could Extend Diversity To Encompass Ideology.

From Ira Stoll’s open letter to new Harvard President Lawrence Bacow:

The boldest response might be actually to make some adjustments to the university. That doesn’t mean surrendering principles. But it could mean doing some things differently. As you told a University of California audience last year, “if you’re not managing change, you’re not leading, you’re presiding.”

What might that mean in Harvard’s case? It could mean redefining the emphasis on diversity beyond race and gender also to encompass ideology. It could mean reaching even more students via online courses and the extension school, so that the university shifts its measurement of success away from how many tens of thousands of applicants it rejects, and toward how many it educates.

It could mean expanding geographically beyond relatively prosperous, and politically liberal, Cambridge and Boston, toward more economically challenged and politically diverse parts of the state. Tufts has a veterinary school in Grafton, Mass. and its medical school founded a rural community health center in the Mississippi Delta. Harvard has a forest in Petersham.

With NYU operating in Abu Dhabi, Cornell in Qatar, and Yale collaborating on a college in Singapore, it’s harder to make the case that Petersham, in Central Mass., or even, say, Pittsfield, in Western Mass., are so remote from Cambridge that ramping up activity there would prevent effective control or definitely dilute the brand.

A similar case has been made for moving Federal agencies far beyond Washington.


BUT IT OFFERS EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR GRAFT: California high speed rail is doomed and ultimately will cost $19.5 billion to repay in bonds including interest.

BEN SHAPIRO: Stop feministsplaining sex to men.

Take, for example, “Grace,” an anonymous woman who went on a rotten date with comedian Aziz Ansari. According to Grace, Ansari treated her abominably: He took her to dinner, gave her white wine instead of red, pushed her to come to his apartment and then engaged in a vigorous round of sexual activities to which she apparently consented. She eventually said no — and when she did, he stopped. Later, she suggested that Ansari hadn’t obeyed her “non-verbal cues” — nonverbal cues that reportedly included undressing and then voluntarily servicing Ansari.

In the aftermath, Grace felt used. So she texted Ansari, explaining to him that she felt terrible about the date. “I want to make sure you’re aware so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home,” she said.

This is feministsplaining sex. Here’s the problem: The condescension isn’t earned. From Grace’s story, it seems she was less than clear in her nonverbal communications but she wanted Ansari to read her mind — and that when he didn’t, she therefore had leeway to lecture him about his sins and, more broadly, those of all men.

It’s not just Grace. Rachel Thompson of Mashable explained: “The responses to the woman’s story are peppered with the word ‘should.’ She should have said no … For many women, uttering an explicit ‘no’ is not as easy or straightforward as you might think.” Well, as it turns out, reading minds is not quite as easy or straightforward as feminists might think. It was feminists who boiled down sexual relations to the issue of consent. Traditionalists always argued that physical intimacy and emotional intimacy ought to be linked. But they were accused of removing female agency with such linkage and condemned for “mansplaining.”

How about this: no feministsplaining and no mansplaining when it comes to sex? How about we instead focus on communication between men and women?

Because that doesn’t present enough opportunities for emotional corruption and cultural graft.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Don’t refill the swamp by restoring earmarks, President Trump.

While President Trump wants to drain the swamp, his White House has been repeatedly checked by a gridlocked Congress. Now, Trump wants to grease the wheels a bit. He wants to bring back earmarks.

“I think we should look at a form of earmarks,” Trump told lawmakers gathered at the White House on Tuesday. “One thing it did is it brought everybody together.” The other thing it will do is permanently rebrand the party of fiscal responsibility into the party of graft, pork, and greed.

To be sure, earmarks make the legislative process a bit more efficient. And it’s understandable why a dealmaker like Trump would find them appealing as a negotiating aid. But they also lead to waste. Even the president admitted as much when he said that earmarks “got a little bit out of hand.”

When negotiations break down, obstructionists sell their votes for things like a $233-million bridge nobody needs, $3.4-million worth of tunnels for turtles, and $500,000 for a teapot museum. Old, greasy hands like former Rep. Charlie Rangel were even able to secure funding for personal monuments. That New York Democrat christened the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service with $1.9 million in taxpayer money.

Most lawmakers don’t remember, though. When some Republicans tried to bring earmarks back shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, warned that “63 percent of House Republicans have been elected since 2010” and as a result “have no personal knowledge or experience with earmarks.”

Those post-pork members didn’t witness the conservative crusade to end the practice. “If there’s a public vote [on earmarks],” former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., warned me last February, “Republicans are going to get killed by some of these grassroots organizations out there now.” In other words, they can’t comprehend the rake they would be stepping on if they do this before the midterm elections.

That’s absolutely right.


Workers in the East Side Access tunnel, which will connect Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan with the Long Island Rail Road. The project’s costs have ballooned to nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track.

An accountant discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the budget for new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

The budget showed that 900 workers were being paid to dig caverns for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting the historic station to the Long Island Rail Road. But the accountant could only identify about 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. Officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.

“Nobody knew what those people were doing, if they were doing anything,” said Michael Horodniceanu, who was then the head of construction at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs transit in New York. The workers were laid off, Mr. Horodniceanu said, but no one figured out how long they had been employed. “All we knew is they were each being paid about $1,000 every day.”

The discovery, which occurred in 2010 and was not disclosed to the public, illustrates one of the main issues that has helped lead to the increasing delays now tormenting millions of subway riders every day: The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing subway tunnels, tracks, trains and signals.

No doubt, Sacramento is reading the above article as a how-to guide.

IT’S ABOUT GRAFT: America’s first bullet train is already a failure and it hasn’t even been built.

WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: Doctors replace boy’s skin using breakthrough gene therapy, stem cells. “The grafted skin attached to his body has continued to replace itself, even months later.”

TAKE A BITE OUT OF THIS: Apple’s secret tax bolthole revealed.

As others (and myself) have written many times before, corporations don’t pay taxes — they collect them. Any taxes are actually paid by customers (higher prices), employees (lower wages), shareholders (smaller returns), etc. The ideal corporate tax rate is therefore zero, but politically that would never fly. Instead we have a tangled mess of corporate tax law, which benefits large corporations with their armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Small corporations which can’t afford all that are put at a competitive disadvantage, not to mention sole proprietorships which pay through the nose on everything.

But since we can’t get an ideal corporate tax rate, a flat and transparent corporate tax would be the next best thing. Our current system is the worst of all possible worlds: It diverts resources and manpower away from investment and innovation, and stifles entrepreneurs to the benefit of established interests.

On the other hand, our system creates endless possibilities for corruption and graft. So it has that going for it. Which is nice for Washington.

GARY WOLFRAM: Private Health Care Would Be Less Expensive for All.

It is important to realize the current system is not particularly market-based. The Affordable Care Act imposes thousands of pages of regulation, and the federal government is the largest purchaser of health care. It spends over $1 trillion on Medicare and Medicaid alone. No wonder other countries have better health outcomes.

A quick look at how well veterans and Medicaid recipients fare under government health care might cause you to think twice about adopting Senator Sanders’s plan. Only about 70 percent of physicians will accept Medicaid patients.

What’s more, government insurance has led to inefficiencies in the use of resources in health care due to the incentives of the system. Since the patient will ask if Medicare or Medicaid pays for the service rather than how much the service costs, providers have a strong incentive to engage in activities that are very costly and only marginally advance patient health, but that will be paid for by the government.

A solution much more likely to aid the poor is for the government to move Medicaid and Medicare to a form of health savings account. It would provide complete coverage for catastrophic care, and fund an account for recipients that they could use on health care spending. This would cause people to ask “How much does that test cost here versus another clinic?” This in turn would incentivize places like Wal-Mart having to employ nurse practitioners at their pharmacy who can provide health care at reasonable prices. Additionally, it would also spur innovation in medical techniques and pharmaceuticals that make people healthier at lower costs.

Well, yes. But if Walmart gets people healthy, then how will politicians take the credit for spending even more of other people’s money on a pretense of solving a spending problem they created?

And don’t forget about the opportunities for graft, even if the DNC-Media Complex would rather you did.

THIS WILL END WELL: U.S. Needs to Join the Race for Multinationals’ Tax Revenue, Experts Say.

Or instead we could reduce and simplify our corporate taxes substantially, become an international tax haven, and reap the investment benefits.

But that would mean far fewer opportunities for graft, political manipulation, and plunder.

MARTIN RODIL: It’s Time to Cut Off Venezuela’s Black Gold. “Tough sanctions on Venezuela’s national oil company will hit the Maduro regime hard, and may save the Venezuelan people.”

State socialism has once again proven to be a colossal failure. Private businesses have been looted by the criminal Maduro regime. Once profitable businesses lie in ruins, as the ruling party’s cronies are given jobs in state-run enterprises. Mismanagement is therefore a core principal of this regime, trickling down throughout the heavily centralized crooked system. When graft is ubiquitous, the people suffer. And the Venezuelan people are suffering.

The medical system has now completely collapsed with every public hospital in the country suffering from woeful shortages of medicine, anesthetic, and any semblance of hygienic equipment. Women are forced to give birth in the streets or in stairwells of hospitals. HIV drugs are almost non-existent. Diarrhea has once again become a serious killer of children across Venezuela.

In the meantime, the economy has completely imploded. Inflation is out of control. There is no food on the shelves, and basics like toilet paper are almost non-existent.

But would an oil embargo give Maduro a plausible scapegoat?

“WITH HIGH-PROFILE ROLL-OUTS IN FRANCE AND JAPAN, BULLET TRAIN MANIA WAS UNDERWAY. AND THEN REALITY SET IN.” Reason TV: The Politician Behind California High Speed Rail Now Says It’s ‘Almost a Crime.’

So is the “road diet” that Jerry Brown set down to (further) punish California drivers, to help advance his pet project. But as the Cato Institute noted in a paper on light rail titled “The Desire Named Streetcar:”

A transit agency that expands its bus fleet gets the support of the transit operators union. But an agency that builds a rail line gets the support of construction companies, construction unions, banks and bond dealers, railcar manufacturers, electric power companies (if the railcars are electric powered), downtown property owners, and other real estate interests. Rail may be a negative-sum game for the region as a whole, but those concentrated interests stand to gain a lot at a relatively small expense to everyone else.

The California high speed rail project, is that graft on Barry Bonds-level steroids, and as Reason TV’s Justin Monticello says in the above video, it “will be both the slowest bullet train in the world—and the most expensive. The Rail Authority cut costs by using track mixed with conventional rail, which means the train won’t reach the speeds they promise. Coupled with a sinewy route that winds its way between endpoints, that means it will never go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the promised 2 hours and 40 minutes. The train, if it ever comes to pass, will also be competing with air travel at a time when a new generation of quiet supersonic planes is about to take flight.”

Haven’t we learned anything from the debacles of the 1970s?

DON’T LET THE LAW STAND IN THE WAY OF CAPITULATING TO MASS HYSTERIA: Dallas: City Bent Contract Rules to Remove Lee Statue From Park.

Just after the Dallas City Council voted Sept. 6 to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park, a crane and work crew appeared to take it down. Municipal government is not known for its speed, and it is constrained by rules to make spending slow and therefore more transparent.

So how did the city come to spend an estimated half-million so quickly? The City Council isn’t entirely sure, and those on the council offer differing views on how the contract, valued at around $450,000, was allowed to be signed without being put out for competitive bidding from contractors.

I’m sure there was no graft involved.

JOHN STOSSEL & MAXIM LOTT: $20,000,000,000,000 in Debt and Rising: Now that Trump’s made a deal with Democrats, our national debt is higher than ever.

I never expected Trump to be any good on the debt, and he hasn’t been. But neither has any other president, and one lesson of the Obama era is that apparently nobody cares about the debt except the Tea Party, which was neutralized because it was threatening bipartisan opportunities for graft.

SPIKED: We Need More Texas Attitude And Less PC:

The official response to Harvey appears to be very competent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was on the ground two days before Harvey reached land. Texas governor Greg Abbott deployed the entire Texas National Guard. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner quickly activated police and firefighters, and provided calm, clear instructions to residents. This was much better than the response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005 – indeed, it seemed to show that the authorities had learned the lessons of the botched response to Katrina. . . .

As capable as the local, state and federal disaster response has been, what has been even more impressive is the great effort made by thousands of ordinary people, volunteering to help their fellow citizens. Seeing massive flooding and destruction, many would think: ‘How do I get out of here?’ But in Houston we saw lines of cars towing boats, people driving into the worst of the flooding. Like the cavalry, on came the hundreds of the ‘Texas Navy’ (joined by the ‘Cajun Navy’ of Louisiana) in fishing boats, jet skis and kayaks.

They went about their business with modest determination. CNN found two men loading up their boat, heading into the storm. ‘What are you going to do?’, the CNN reporter asked. ‘Go try to save some lives’, one of the men said, in a matter-of-fact way. Those without a boat helped, too. Five volunteer rescuers from Lufkin, Texas stopped at a gas station, and a guy handed them three $100 bills, according to a New York Times report. ‘Texas people just stick together’, said one.

While Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in many, it also brought out the worst. Across social media, certain liberals were feeling less than sympathetic to Texans, seen as Trump voters and Republican Party backers. ‘I don’t believe in instant karma, but this feels like it for Texas’, tweeted a University of Tampa professor: ‘Hopefully this will help them realise the GOP doesn’t care about them.’ (This professor was later fired for this tweet, which he shouldn’t have been.)

The heroism shown by ordinary Texans has been a great antidote to the prejudices expressed by well-off liberals towards ‘deplorable’ Americans. The politically correct view is that white folks are irredeemably racist, and the country is inescapably divided by race, yet the images from Houston told a different story: a black deputy sheriff wading through floodwaters with a white child in each arm; a white SWAT officer carrying a Vietnamese-American woman and her baby through floodwaters; three Asian and Hispanic constables moving an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

As it happens, this was not exceptional: as anyone who has travelled through Texas and the South will know, social interactions between people of different backgrounds are casually pleasant. Unlike PC liberals, most people don’t see life through a prism of racial categories. In response to Harvey, we didn’t see the ‘diversity’ of essentially different people – we saw citizens helping citizens, Texans helping Texans.

Yes, but that offers insufficient opportunities for graft and political manipulation.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? America’s Cities Double Down on Trolley Follies.

When the St. Louis Loop Trolley was first proposed, the government estimated that the project would cost $43 million and be open for business by the end of 2016. Since then the project’s costs have ballooned to $51 million, with service tentatively scheduled to start at the end of this year. And the Loop Trolley’s chairman—businessman Joe Edwards—says the project will need another $500,000 from county taxpayers to stay viable.

“A year ago, I saw this as a boondoggle,” St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder told the St. Louis Dispatch. “Now it’s a boondoggle plus 500 grand.”

These cost overruns and delays are no doubt frustrating for St. Louis taxpayers. But they are hardly unique. A rash of recent streetcar developments have run into these troubles, thanks to faulty economic reasoning and an open faucet of federal dollars.

Wasteful and useless public projects like these almost never die because there are always sufficient opportunities for graft.

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: A succession of Republican failures on healthcare.

What happened early Friday morning, with the collapse of Republican efforts to pass Obamacare reform legislation in the Senate wasn’t mostly a story of Sen. John McCain, the maverick. Nor was it a failure of vote whipping or presidential rallying this summer. It was the climax of eight years of failed leadership by Republicans in Congress.

Yes, McCain was characteristically mercurial. Yes, President Trump was disengaged and did little to rev up public opinion. And yes, even the odd 2010 Alaska Senate election, won by Republican Lisa Murkowski, who voted against her party, was relevant. But blame for the Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace Obamacare lies mostly at the feet of House and Senate leaders.

The Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010. Republicans immediately promised to repeal it. But they didn’t act as though they meant it. The party’s leaders brought up many futile repeal bills, but they failed to lay the groundwork for repeal and replacement legislation that might actually pass once President Obama was out of the White House.

The basic task of writing a replacement plan and securing agreement on it was neglected. Many conservative and libertarian healthcare scholars drew up plans, with strengths and weaknesses. Leaders truly dedicated to getting rid of Obamacare would have adopted, debated, hammered out, or improved these plans, and adopted the passable resulting draft.

Well, yes. And hell, they could have just adopted Karl Denninger’s free-market healthcare plan. But that would have provided insufficient opportunities for graft.


Jerry Brown can label this extension as “courageous” as he wants, but it won’t change the fact that this is merely extending the life of a broken policy.

Let’s take a look at the current state of California’s carbon market. The system ostensibly works by auctioning off carbon credits to emitters, but these auctions have been resounding failures. Credits have been selling for the bare minimum price allowed by the scheme, and emitters are buying the bare minimum of credits required by the state. In other words, companies aren’t buying into the plan (literally), which doesn’t just reflect poorly on the outlook industry has on the state’s carbon market, it also dilutes the price of carbon to levels too low to actually incentivize heavy emitters to change behaviors.

Read the whole thing.

CAPITALISM, FOR THE WIN: Amazon Prime does more for northern food security than federal subsidies, say Iqaluit residents.

The consensus in Iqaluit seems to be that everyone with a credit card has an Amazon Prime membership. That’s because people can often find groceries cheaper online than in local stores, despite government food subsidy programs.

“Amazon Prime has done more toward elevating the standard of living of my family than any territorial or federal program. Full stop. Period,” a local principal, who declined to speak further, said on Facebook.

But the problem is, it offers insufficient opportunities for graft.

BUT BUT BUT LEFTIES ARE FOR THE PEOPLE: Former leftist president and left-wing icon, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has been convicted on corruption charges. The conviction was announced on Wednesday. A judge sentenced Lula to nine and a half years in prison. Lula will appeal the sentence. Brazil’s current president also faces corruption charges.


Removing the bane of most employees’ morning routine—a long slog from the suburbs to a workplace in the city center—turns out might also be the most potent way to reduce carbon emissions. You don’t need to be well-versed in the complexities of labor economics to grasp this simple concept: teleworking reduces infrastructure costs for municipalities and limits transportation expenses for workers, both in terms of time wasted and money spent riding trains, metros, and busses.

And as an article from City Journal notes, the number of teleworkers now almost rivals the number of strap-hangers across the country. . . .

The effects of these combined changes are only set to grow.

And yet urban planners persist in their folly of “investing” tens of billions of dollars on urban rail projects that, between the coming of autonomous vehicles and the growing role of telework, will almost certainly be underutilized. Those elephants you see before you, dear urbanists: they’re white, not green. An environmentally-conscious urbanism should be looking to create a favorable business climate for the tech-heavy and emissions-light businesses of the future.

Light rail offers enormous opportunities for graft. The other stuff not so much.

SURE, BUT REMOVING IT WOULD END OPPORTUNITIES FOR CORRUPTION AND GRAFT! Recent Obamacare Insurer Exits Lead to 2 More Counties With No Choices.

ROBERT POLLOCK: Let Consumers Repeal Obamacare.

What consumers need is the ability to shop for policies they can afford. Why not let young people, for example, buy inexpensive policies with high deductibles so that they are covered in case in case of accidents but pay out of pocket for routine care? And why should the 21st century health insurance system be broken up into 50 separate economies when efficiencies and convenience could be had by offering insurance options on a nationwide scale?

One easy way to make this happen is to create an Optional Federal Charter to regulate health insurance. Congress certainly has the power to do this under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. It could be placed under the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be tasked by Congress with writing simple rules that ensure the availability of low cost policies nationwide. There would be no coverage mandates and no rules governing the shape of policies such as limits on deductibles and co-pays. Insurers could still be required to cover those with pre-existing conditions and subsidies could still be offered to help those who need them.

The beauty of the Optional Federal Charter solution is that none of the existing rules governing state regulated insurance policies would have to change. Consumers would simply be offered a new choice: purchase a state regulated policy or a federally regulated policy.

States and insurance companies love having their little insurance fiefdoms, for the opportunities presented for corruption and graft.

TUNISIA’S WAR ON CORRUPTION: Endemic governmental corruption sparked Tunisia’s Arab Spring revolt. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed says he means to end it. He’s right when he says “…Even social protests are exploited by this system (of corruption), and terrorists also benefit from it.” Stay tuned.

RELATED: Algeria’s rigged election and mire of corruption. Read the May 4 update.


It happened to Jeff Sessions’s granddaughter at his confirmation hearing on January 10. When MTV News writer Ira Madison III saw an Asian-American girl, the child of John Walk and Ruth Sessions Walk, sitting in her grandfather’s lap, his first thought was to write, “Sessions, sir, kindly return this Asian baby to the Toys ‘R’ Us you stole her from.” This is 2017, and yet MTV News writers are dehumanizing Asian Americans and playing into common racist tropes. The same self-proclaimed liberals who tweet #BlackLivesMatter and #ChangeTheName, who work for a social-media network that fills its YouTube page with explainers telling you all you need to know about racism, have revealed a shocking blind spot when it comes to racism against Asian-Americans. Madison finally apologized (after digging himself an even deeper hole), but the failure of social-justice liberals to take seriously racism against people of all races is a much broader phenomenon. As the New York Times’ Luo told CNN about his Twitter campaign, “It’s resonating because Asian Americans have this feeling that racism against them is not taken as seriously as other groups.” The dominant narrative promoted by SJWs almost always divides everyone into two camps — black and white — and makes no allowance for individualism, to say nothing of ignoring the fastest growing race in the nation: Asians. In MTV News’ video, “5 Things You Should Know About Racism,” for example, there is no reference to any specific examples of racism against Asian Americans. In another MTV video, “If You Farted Every Time You Were Racist,” the Asian-American character is the subject of racism by a white character, but she was also shown dishing out racism to a black character. The black character, of course, wasn’t racist to any other character, because, according to MTV News, she can’t be.

This is how you got Trump.

Related: Asians Get The Ivy League’s Jewish Treatment.

SEEMS LIKE IT WOULD OFFER INSUFFICIENT OPPORTUNITY FOR GRAFT: Could the military buy its guns online in the future?

The Defense Department may start doing a whole lot more online shopping in 2018, if Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry has his way.

The Texas chairman of the Armed Services Committee unveiled new legislation Thursday that aims to cut costly bureaucratic red tape at the Pentagon by allowing the military to buy everything from pens to treadmills from business-to-business sites such as Staples and Amazon.

That would free the federal government’s biggest bureaucracy from using its current “expensive” and “onerous” contracting and scheduling process to buy its commercial goods, according to Thornberry.

But could it also work for firearms?

“I may get myself in trouble here,” said Thornberry, easing into the topic during a press conference Thursday.

Military handguns are a prime — and somewhat notorious — example of the delays and waste of acquisition that the Republican chairman has been working to root out for the past two years, according to a panel of experts who testified to Armed Services earlier this week.

Well, they should at least buy their ammo from my former students at

BRENDAN O’NEILL ON FACEBOOK: “That phrase, ‘The old have stolen our future,’ tells you everything you need to know about middle-class millennials’ sense of entitlement. They talk of ‘our future’ as if it’s an already existing thing, a gift they’re entitled to, a lovely, wonderful land they must be granted instant access to, when in fact your future is what you yourself make it, through your decisions, your choices, your work, your graft. Your future doesn’t exist yet, so it’s impossible for anyone to have “stolen it”. You have to make your future from scratch, just as those old people you’re slagging off had to, and usually from a far worse starting point than yours.”

SO WHY DIDN’T WE JUST PASS THIS? The Bill To Permanently Fix Health Care For All. I especially like this: “All customers must be billed for actual charges at the same price on a direct basis at the time the service or product is rendered to them.”

Related: The Healthcare Confusopoly.

Update (from Steve): Near as I can tell, this proposal offers almost zero opportunities for graft. So there’s your answer.

FROM THE CENTER FOR FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY: Economics 101: Small Government Is the Recipe for Creating Rich Nations. Yes, but it offers insufficient opportunities for graft.

Plus, some related thoughts from Daniel Mitchell.

ROGER KIMBALL: Is Mo Brooks Our Lord Brougham?

But I like Mo Brooks’s approach to the problem, which in some ways is similar to Lord Brougham’s approach to the evil of the income tax, in some ways akin to Alexander the Great’s solution to the problem of the Gordian Knot. On Friday, Brooks filed the “ObamaCare Repeal Act” in Congress. ObamaCare itself runs to thousands of pages. Brooks’s remediation runs one sentence:

“Effective as of Dec. 31, 2017, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.”

C’est tout. Finis. End of show.

Will it work? Ask yourself this: Do our duly elected representatives really want to repeal ObamaCare? After all, it encompasses some 20 percent of the U.S. economy. Think of the opportunities for graft, for deal-making, for influence-peddling! Think of the opportunities for extending the reach of the government into the lives of the citizens! Doctors, hospitals, other health-care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturers of medical equipment: all now transformed into wards of the state, i.e., subject to the whims and regulations of — yep, you guessed it — those very duly elected representatives: what an opportunity! Imagine if someone had told Lord Brougham that, one day in the future in a country pretending to be a democracy, the state required its subjects to buy health care insurance on pain of a special levy if they failed to do so!

Politicians may or may not wish to repeal ObamaCare; those that do also wish to replace it, i.e., promulgate some other “government program,” i.e., opportunity for graft, influence-peddling, regulatory imposition, etc. Mo Brooks, on the contrary, seems to entertain the deeply heterodox idea of simply getting rid of the Leviathan.

Imagine that — a law you could memorize over your first cup of coffee.

Meanwhile, read the whole thing.

GOVERNMENT IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR THE THINGS WE DO TOGETHER: Rogue East Cleveland Cops Framed Dozens of Drug Suspects. “The Cleveland-area victims are among thousands of people who have been exonerated in cases involving police graft over the last three decades country wide, from California to Texas, and from Jersey to Ohio. In Philadelphia, more than 800 people have had their convictions dismissed. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles in the late 1990s led to at least 150 or so tossed cases.”



A vast corruption scheme that started in Brazil but morphed into a giant international scandal is about to spread even further, a top prosecutor warned on Monday.

Brazil-based Odebrecht, one of the region’s biggest construction companies, was at the heart of a scheme to bribe Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras in exchange for inflated contracts.

Odebrecht also systematically bribed politicians, mostly in Brazil but also in other countries, even running a department to keep track of the bribery.

Odebrecht admitted to paying $788 million in bribes across 12 countries and agreed with the US Justice Department to pay a $3.5 billion fine, a world record in foreign corruption cases.

Some background from 2016.

THE WEEKEND HEADLINES OUT OF TURKEY SHOUTED: Turkey says over 800 detained in anti-ISIL operations.. But the real story is that “Turkey Plans Massive Transfer of Assets to State Wealth Fund.”


“The move is likely to increase political control over the companies,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president at Teneo Intelligence. “The government is currently struggling to finance a series of high-profile infrastructure projects; Erdogan hopes these will boost his domestic prestige and enable him to consolidate his grip on power through the introduction of an executive presidential system with almost no checks or balances.”

Appointments to the board include Yigit Bulut, a senior presidential adviser; Himmet Karadag, Borsa Istanbul Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; and Kerem Alkin and Oral Erdogan, who are both academics, according to the country’s trade registry.

“Turkey’s most valuable state assets are being given to a specially authorized and unsupervised company,” said Cetin Osman Budak, a lawmaker and deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party. “This is not a step for the benefit of the public.”

Erdogan is setting himself up as Turkey’s biggest (and final) arbiter of graft, which ought to keep in him power for a very long time.

NO, BUT HUGE EMPIRES OF GRAFT ARE BUILT ON PROMOTING SUCH CONFUSION: Rand Paul slams Bernie Sanders: Socialism not the same as compassion.


Unions and groups that benefit from the need to hire additional employees and lawyers to coordinate procurement contracts, change orders, and other issues don’t want a new system that saves money by cutting labor costs.

Labor is the biggest driver of infrastructure costs, and you can’t save much money without touching it. Over the past few decades, private firms across industries have become more efficient by replacing people with machines and by streamlining processes so they don’t have to hire as many workers and outside consultants. Because of pressure from special interests and organized labor, governments (blue and red) haven’t been able to realize these efficiencies. As the cost of hiring a single employee continues to skyrocket thanks to health care and pension expenses, the urgency of reducing labor needs grows.

Both New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and Cuomo have come around to supporting design-build, but special interests continue to stand in the way. How blue politicians manage this opposition will be a key determinant of the future of Democratic Party. The old system is unworkable, and states that rely on it are bordering on ungovernable in some ways—if the government can’t afford to maintain public roads, what is it good for? But the new system weakens core Democratic constituencies by reducing the government payroll.

In a contest between effective government and opportunities for graft, I know which side I’m betting on.

MEET THE NEW MAO, SAME AS THE OLD MAO: Xi’s Power Play Foreshadows Historic Transformation of How China Is Ruled.

China’s Communist Party elite was craving a firm hand on the tiller when it chose Xi Jinping for the nation’s top job in 2012. Over the previous decade, President Hu Jintao’s power-sharing approach had led to policy drift, factional strife and corruption.

The party’s power brokers got what they wanted—-and then some.

Four years on, Mr. Xi has taken personal charge of the economy, the armed forces and most other levers of power, overturning a collective-leadership system introduced to protect against one-man rule after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.

Shattering old taboos, Mr. Xi has targeted party elders and their kin in an antigraft crusade, demanded fealty from all 89 million party members, and honed a paternalistic public image as Xi Dada, or Big Papa Xi.

Now, as he nears the end of his first five-year term, many party insiders say Mr. Xi is trying to block promotion of a potential successor next year, suggesting he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022, when he would be 69 years old.

Mr. Xi, who is president, party chief and military commander, “wants to keep going” after 2022 and to explore a leadership structure “just like the Putin model,” says one party official who meets regularly with top leaders.

Read the whole thing.

I’VE ALREADY EXPRESSED MY DOUBTS ABOUT A BIG TRUMP INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN, but this, alas, seems right: “We’ve spent 35 years having the ‘big government versus small government’ fight. Big government won. You can be mad about it, you can disagree with it, but it is what it is.”

I’m not opposed to better roads and airports, but the truth is, there’s been a lot of money thrown at those projects, and most of it seems to get diverted into graft, consultants, and environmental impact statements. If you really want to see infrastructure boom, get rid of a lot of that federal regulation and the existing money will go far enough to get us more and better new infrastructure than even a huge slug of new cash will get us without such reform. But my approach offers fewer opportunities for graft.

ECONOMICS: Why Luxury TVs Are Affordable when Basic Health Care Is Not. “It’s not that complicated, folks. If you want good services, good products, innovative ideas, and low prices, you need competitive markets. The more you control, the higher the prices and the worse the results.”

Yes, but more control produces more opportunities for graft.


FLASHBACK: Peter Turchin: Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Society Frays. “Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in a wave of political instability, internal conflict and, sometimes, outright social collapse. . . . We now see the same forces in the contemporary U.S. Of about 30 detailed indicators I developed for tracing these historical cycles (reflecting popular well-being, inequality, social cooperation and its inverse, polarization and conflict), almost all have been moving in the wrong direction in the last three decades.”

That’s funny, I’m reading his War And Peace And War: The Rise And Fall Of Empires right now.

Related: How To Make The U.S. Collapse-Proof. Problem: Insufficient opportunities for graft.


Among the many complaints I have seen about this squalid presidential election—the most dismal choice of major party nominees since 1856—there’s one that I find missing: That it shows how our politics has become less republican.

That’s republican with a small r, in contrast to royalist. This is not an entirely new trend, but it is one that has reached a dismal culmination.

In his magisterial book “The Origins of Political Order,” Francis Fukuyama shows how the progress toward good government—”getting to Denmark” is his phrase—involves a change from the familial to the institutional. Progress comes when a nation has a competent state, the rule of law and public accountability.

The course of this election can be seen as more familial than institutional, with key roles played by the Clinton family, the Bush family and the Trump family.

Here’s the thing: Rule of law and public accountability stand in the way of graft.


Why did multimillionaire Hillary charge UCLA, in the era of thousands of indebted students, $300,000 (rather than, say, $149,999.99) for a brief, platitudinous speech? Why did multimillionaire Bill need more than $17 million for being honorary “chancellor” of the financially for-profit but tottering Laureate University (whose spin-off associate organization was a recipient of State Department largesse)? Did he think the extra millions were worth the embarrassment of being the highest-paid and least-busy college executive in U.S. history?

Apparently, the good life did not drive the Clintons so much as the quest for the supposed best life. Even though they had finally “made it” among the multimillionaire set, the Clintons always saw others (no doubt, deemed by them less deserving) with far, far more — whether Jeffery Epstein, with his ability to jet wherever and with whomever he pleased, or green half-a-billionaire Al Gore, who ran even more successful cons, such as rapidly selling a worthless cable TV station to beat impending capital-gains taxes, and selling it to none other than the anti-Semitic Al Jazeera, whose carbon-generated profits come from autocratic Qatar. (The media never audited Gore’s attempt to become a cable mogul, unlike their current concerns about a potential Trump media outlet).

The rich did not pressure the Clintons for paid favors as much as they sought out the Clintons as targets for graft. They certainly understand and smile at Hillary’s boilerplate promise of “making the rich pay their fair share” — the mantra of those who are worth over $100 million and immune from the impact of any tax hikes, or, for that matter, immune from any consequences whatsoever of their own ideology.

The Clintons suffer from greed, as defined by Aristotle: endless acquisition solely for the benefit of self. With their insatiable appetites, they resented the limits that multimillionaire status put on them, boundaries they could bypass only by accumulating ever greater riches. The billion-dollar foundation squared the circle of progressive politicians profiting from the public purse by offering a veneer of “doing good” while offering free luxury travel commensurate with the style of the global rich, by offering sinecures for their loyal but otherwise unemployable cronies, and by spinning off lobbying and speaking fees (the original font of their $100-million-plus personal fortune and the likely reason for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to put all her communications, mercantile included, on a private server safe from government scrutiny). Acquiring money to the extent that money would become superfluous was certainly a Clinton telos — and the subtext of the entire Podesta trove and the disclosures about the Clinton Foundation.

Power and pride were the other catalyst for Clinton criminality. I don’t think progressive politics mattered much to the Clintons, at least compared with what drives the more sincere Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Hillary, like Bill, has no real political beliefs — though she doesn’t hesitate to pursue a mostly opportunistic progressive political agenda. By temperament and background, the Clintons are leftists and will follow a leftist vision, sort of, but one predicated on doing so within the constraints of obtaining and keeping power.

Read the whole thing, and though I rarely argue with VDH, I’m not at all sure that “Hillary, like Bill, has no real political beliefs.” In 1992, Bill opportunistically campaigned to George H.W. Bush’s right, then initially governed to his left during his disastrous, Obama-esque first two years in office. But once the GOP retook both houses of Congress in 1994, Dick Morris correctly determined that triangulating off Republican policies was the key to reelection, thus bringing us the happy fun 1990s we all remember.

But like Al Gore, Hillary is much more of a determined leftist—and arguably even more so than Al, she’s certain she know what’s best for both you and your family. If elected, she’ll no doubt seek to implement much of her own vision of the anointed (to coin a phrase), no matter how much she’s personally loathed by both the far left and the right.

It’s for your own good and the common good of the village, after all.