A Supreme Court Nominee Who Understands the Danger of Power

Amid the spectacle of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, there emerged that rare visitor to the U.S. Capitol: some nuggets of common sense. These nuggets came from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and from the Supreme Court nominee himself. They addressed that feature of our constitutional design that most powerfully preserves and protects liberty.

That feature, which limits what the government may do, is it the Bill of Rights? The late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat on the Court Judge Gorsuch would fill, liked to point out, “Every tin-horn dictator in the world today, every president for life, has a Bill of Rights.”

The very word “constitution” suggests not words but structure.

Designed to Separate and Check Power

As Senator Grassley observed:
The most important feature of our Constitution is the design of the document itself. It divides the limited power of government vertically, between the states and federal government. And it distributes power horizontally, between the co-equal branches.”
Our constitutional bedrock is, in three words, separation of powers.

It was the French political philosopher Montesquieu, writing in the Age of Enlightenment, who was the chief proponent of the separation of powers. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, published in 1748, “was hailed as the first systematic treatise on politics since Aristotle” and was a major influence on our system of government.

Montesquieu identified three different powers or functions of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Significantly, he treated the judicial power “as on a par, analytically, with the other two functions of government,” detached from the upper or aristocratic chamber of the legislature, and vested largely in the ordinary courts of the land. According to Montesquieu, each of these three functions should be exercised by a separate branch or body of the government, with its own distinct personnel.

Montesquieu further maintained that there should be checks and balances through, for example, the executive’s power to veto laws and the legislature’s power to impeach executive officers. Then each of the powers in a “moderate government” could better “counterpoise the other.”

In a system with checks and balances, where governmental powers are separated on a functional basis, individual liberty might best be protected. As Senator Grassley put it, “It’s this delicate balance of power, entrusted to competing factions, that ensures the liberty of the People will endure.”

Abuse of Power

For both Montesquieu and our Founders, the danger to be protected against was the abuse that the concentration of power invites.

Montesquieu warned:
[C]onstant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go. To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power.”
Judge Gorsuch emphasized this point in weighing the legacy of, and quoting, Justice Scalia:
The genius of the American constitutional system is the dispersal of power. Once power is centralized in one person, or one part [of government], a Bill of Rights is just words on paper.”
Judge Gorsuch on Our Constitutional Design

What does Judge Gorsuch himself have to say on these matters?

Here’s what he told the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21:
On the separation of powers, it is ...the genius of the Constitution. Madison thought that the separation of powers was perhaps the most important liberty-guaranteeing device in the whole Constitution and this is a point of civics that I do think maybe is lost today: how valuable the separation of powers is. That you have an Article I: The people’s representatives make the law. . . . Article II, the President’s job, is to faithfully execute your laws. And our job, Article III, down at the bottom, is to make sure that the cases and controversies of the people are fairly decided. And if those roles were confused, and power amalgamated, the Founders worried that that would be the very definition of tyranny.

And you can see why. Judges would make pretty rotten legislators. We’re life-tenured, right? You can’t get rid of us. It only takes a couple of us to make a decision, or nine, or twelve, depending on the court. It would be a pretty poor way to run a democracy. And at the same time, with respect, legislators might not make great judges, because they’re answerable to the people. And when you come to court with a case or a controversy about past facts, you want a neutral, rigidly neutral, fair, scrupulously fair decision-maker. You want somebody who’s going to put politics aside.

So the separation of powers I don’t think has lost any of its genius over 200 years. In fact, it’s proven it.
Let’s welcome, then, the Honorable Neil M. Gorsuch, the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Laura Bennett Peterson
Laura Bennett Peterson is an attorney and economist in Washington, D.C.  She has worked as an associate professor of law and litigator, a White House and Treasury Department economist, and a Hoover Institution public affairs fellow and visiting scholar.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The 4 biggest lies about Neil Gorsuch, debunked

Statement of Committee for Justice President Curt Levey:

While President Trump was admonishing the press about its fake news yesterday, the left-leaning Alliance for Justice published some fake news of its own, titled “The Gorsuch Record.” The Gorsuch opinions and other materials cited by the AFJ report are real, but the conclusions it draws are fake — very fake.

The report concludes that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch “has, throughout his life, been driven by an ultraconservative ideology … marked by four themes,” including hostility toward progress, indifference to Americans’ health and safety, bias in favor of corporations, and overlooking abuses of constitutional rights (see page one of the report). These four alleged themes are disturbing ones — until you take a closer look.

A close review of the report’s bases for its conclusions reveals that those conclusions are heavily clothed in progressive spin. To give you a more accurate picture of Judge Gorsuch’s record, we have translated AFJ’s four themes by removing the spin. Viewed in that new light (see below), the four themes turn out to be an excellent summary of why mainstream Americans should support Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Theme #1: Judge Gorsuch is “hostil[e] toward social and legal progress over the last century,” threatening to “take the country backwards” through his belief “that judges should ‘strive . . . to apply the law as it is.’”

Translation: Gorsuch believes social and legal progress should be accomplished democratically, rather than through unelected judges creating new rights. Accordingly, judges should focus on constitutional and statutory text rather than their personal vision of how the law should evolve.

Theme #2: Gorsuch is “willing[] to downplay abuses of constitutional rights by government actors.”

Translation: Gorsuch believes that judges should follow the law where it leads, regardless of whether the result is a ruling for the government or the individual. He also believes that judges should defer to the policy decisions of our elected representatives unless there is a clear constitutional violation. Finally, he believes law enforcement agents should be given the benefit of the doubt when performing their jobs in good faith.

Theme #3: Gorsuch “aggrandize[s] corporations over individuals.”
Translation: Gorsuch believes that both arbitration agreements and the legal requirements for class action lawsuits should be enforced, and that statutory text should be adhered to, regardless of whether a plaintiff’s claims have emotional appeal. He is skeptical of plaintiffs’ lawyers who use frivolous claims to get rich. And he does not believe that people forfeit their First Amendment rights to religious liberty and free speech when they go into business.

Theme #4: Gorsuch expresses “skepticism of the federal government’s role in protecting the health and safety of the American people and a desire to weaken important legal protections.”

Translation: Gorsuch believes that the regulations issued by federal bureaucrats are legitimate only insofar as they faithfully implement the democratically-enacted statutes that authorize the rules in question. He is concerned that ever-expanding, unaccountable federal bureaucracies can undermine democracy and believes that when Congress delegates virtually unlimited discretion to such bureaucracies, it runs afoul of the Constitution.

A Bitcoin Miner's Case for a Variable Blocksize

As I read the bitcoin news each day and see the price of bitcoin cycling up and down, I’ve been thinking about the different sides of the blockchain scaling debate, and wondering what the best solution is for miners. While I realize that many of us signal (via our pool) our support of one proposal or another, a stable consensus seems elusive. As support for one proposal shifts to another, the forces that represent one idea or another shift to a different adoption method, and that can be frustrating for those of us who have had to change pools and reconfigure, in some cases, many miners.

I consider myself a hobbyist. I have 20 or so miners, most of which only support SHA256, in a colo. But when I add things up, I easily have more than $30k invested in my mining hardware. If you say it out loud, it feels like a huge investment, and if bitcoin were to suddenly go insolvent due to a hard fork, or fundamentally, bickering, it would indeed be a huge loss to me and my family. This is why I think it so important for all of us to think very seriously about the future of bitcoin. People talk about all sorts of things—payment systems, etc.—but the thing that really matters, from my point of view, is the public ledger.

In my day job, I am in charge of enterprise architecture for a major corporation. This corporation, like so many others, invests capital in innovation and research, and blockchain technology is a focus of some of these investments. But no matter what types of blockchain tech you’re looking at, the “big” blockchain is bitcoin. For now. In order for bitcoin to maintain its dominance, it needs to scale to multiple applications—not just rest on its first “killer app,” which is the coin itself. When we look at off-chain scaling solutions, the big concern I have is how many alternative chains will exist. When those chains begin to pick up on the opportunity inherent in non-coin transactions, we, as miners, have lost the battle. The major source of fees in the long term will evaporate into the pockets of the people who run those alternate chains.

Last week, we all had the opportunity to hear what exchanges were going to do if there was a fork.  Then Exchanges said that the document they had signed maybe didn’t look the same as it did when it was signed. Why was the document’s hash not published to the blockchain? Why weren’t the signatures cryptographic? Why can’t we have an irrefutable record of who signed exactly what? We can’t because there is no room. That document’s hash would have cost an unrealistic amount of money to embed due to current size restrictions and the ridiculous backlog of data waiting for a block.

Perhaps the exchanges could have used an alternate blockchain. I am sure Etherium would love to have that business. The truth though, is that business should be ours. With a variable block size, companies and individuals would have the ability to embed transactions of all types into the blockchain. Such transactions will just become more pervasive over time and along with the coin economy would drive huge fees due to volume, not scarcity, to our mining community. Anyone who has attached themselves to the scarcity wagon is in for a rude surprise. Someone is always willing to do something cheaper. Sometimes they can even do it cheaper and better. Let’s not give up our dominant position as the main blockchain that everyone wants their transactions written to.  Take time, and make a choice—a choice that will promote our long-term position as the coin, and the blockchain for the future.  If, as miners, we don’t act now, I assure you, someone will make a choice for us, and it won’t be the best long-term choice for our wallets.
The opinions expressed in this article are my own views and not those of my employer, Cisco.
Michael Myers

Michael Myers
Michael Myers is the Senior IT Director in Cisco’s Global Architecture and Technology Services organization, responsible for Enterprise Architecture.  Mike has pioneered the use of Openstack in Cisco’s enterprise and managed Cisco’s private cloud stack. He partners closely with the Cisco Business team to integrate features into products and helps develop Cisco’s cloud strategy.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Leading Conservative Groups Stand With Freedom Caucus After Trump Attacks

A group of conservative leaders defended the House Freedom Caucus for sticking to its principles in the debate over the House health care bill on Friday.

“I urge the president to rethink these attacks on the Freedom Caucus,” said L. Brent Bozell III, a Republican advocacy leader, during a conference call filled with top conservatives defending the Freedom Caucus against President Donald Trump’s recent attacks directed toward the group.

“Not only is [Trump] going to need the Freedom Caucus in virtually every single fight to come, but, the irony is, the Freedom Caucus is going to be his strongest supporters in the battle ahead, so [Trump’s attacks need] to be reconsidered,” Bozell added.

The groups in the Friday conference call included Bozell’s ForAmerica, Tea Party Patriots, Heritage Action for America, FreedomWorks, Senate Conservatives Fund, Family Research Council, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.Bozell’s comments supporting the group came one day after Trump warned the Freedom Caucus members to get on board with his agenda, or else face possible consequences in 2018.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” Trump tweeted.
Additionally, Trump has already fired shots at two of the groups on the call for their involvement in the GOP health care debacle: Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation, and Club For Growth—both groups voiced strong disapproval of the House health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act.

“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!” Trump tweeted after the House leadership pulled its health care legislation last Friday due to lack of support.
Aside from defending House conservatives, the conservative speakers mentioned their disdain for the failure of Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and criticized GOP centrists who pushed what one speaker referred to as “Obamacare 2.0.”

These attacks from Trump against the leading conservative organizations and lawmakers are a mistake, claimed Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks.

“The House Freedom Caucus is Donald Trump’s No. 1 ally in draining the swamp. All we’re looking for is the GOP to keep their promise in repealing Obamacare, and then we can keep the agenda moving forward,” Brandon said.

Support for the Freedom Caucus’ resistance to the GOP health care bill was echoed throughout the call, as Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, described the conservative congressmen as the only “grown-ups in the room,” compared to Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and other Republicans who promoted the American Health Care Act.

“I don’t think anybody could honestly call this bill good. The Republican Party has campaigned on bringing down premiums for seven years, yet this bill would keep them going up,” Needham said.

Andy Ross, vice president of the Club for Growth, harped on the point of campaign promises, saying, “The question isn’t why the Freedom Caucus is being so hard-nosed, they are the ones actually keeping their promise … the people breaking their campaign pledges to the American people are the moderates who are holding [Obamacare repeal] up.”

Ross also said that, after promising a full repeal of Obamacare, centrist Republicans in the House flip-flopped and now “actually support a lot of things that are in Obamacare.”

Centrist House Republicans in the Tuesday Group were slated to meet with the Freedom Caucus this week to discuss possible compromises on health care, but the meeting fell through after Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., signaled to the centrist caucus that it should avoid talking to conservative colleagues.

In response to Trump saying that Republicans should wait for Obamacare to “explode” and then act to replace it, Bozell warned that “the Republican Party will own health care” if that happens.

Local smoking bans based on junk science

Anti-smoking nannies have pushed their crusade further and further, and in California, they’re increasingly reaching into peoples’ lives. Next up? They’re trying to prohibit smoking inside your own home.

The city of Novato has passed one of the most sweeping anti-smoking ordinances in the country. It prohibits smoking in all restaurants, service areas, public parks, apartment buildings, condo units and more.

In fact, the ordinance is so sweeping that it specifies the two places where smoking is not banned: inside of private cars and in single-family detached homes. Live in an apartment building? You’re out of luck. Own your own condo inside of a complex? Also out of luck. Smoking is prohibited almost everywhere else.

The ban is a natural extension of the extremist logic that has driven other smoking bans in California.

California was the first state to prohibit smoking inside of restaurants and bars, and the city of San Rafael was first to ban smoking inside of commonly-shared homes. This is an increasingly popular kind of regulation, but it’s based on junk science — studies have shown little relationship between second-hand smoke and cancer.

What’s worse, the Novato regulation prohibits e-cigarettes and vaping products in the same way. E-cigarettes and vaping products are frequently used by smokers to stop smoking, and have been shown to be safer than traditional tobacco products.

This isn’t strictly Novato’s fault: They’re following the misguided suggestions of California’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, which advises that e-cigarette products should be prohibited everywhere traditional tobacco products are.

The regulations effectively outlaw smoking for people who aren’t extremely wealthy. As Steven Greenhut at The American Spectator reported:
The law targets lower-income people given that single-family homes are exempt in a city where the median single-home value is around $745,000. It acknowledges no difference between cigarette smoking, which is unquestionably dangerous, and the use of vaping products and other nicotine products that are far less dangerous to users — and have few discernible “externalities” that could inflict harm on others. It’s an affront to property rights since the law dictates the terms of leases and makes no distinction between private and public property.

If you don’t own a single-family home or car and your landlord doesn’t choose to provide a carefully designated smoking area that meets the city’s detailed rules, there is no legal place to use tobacco products in the entire city given that it’s banned virtually everywhere else.
As an additional justification, Novato’s ordinance cites “the failure of tobacco retailers to comply with all tobacco control laws, particularly laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors,” even though Novato is a remarkably compliant jurisdiction. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s random compliance checks, Novato has had only one violation in the last five years — a 98.2 percent compliance rate, according to the FDA’s database.

Novato’s incredibly stringent regulations are based on bad science and bad statistics. If policymakers want to implement evidence-based policymaking, they would do well not to follow the lead of nannies obsessed with controlling behavior.

From Watchdog.org.  By Kevin Glass. Kevin Glass is Director of Policy and Outreach at the Franklin Center.

What This Centrist GOP Lawmaker Gets Wrong About the Freedom Caucus

After a week of fallout from the failure to pass the GOP health care bill, disgruntled Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois took to the pages of the New York Times Friday to vent his frustrations.

His target? The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members that has borne the brunt of media shaming and ire from its colleagues for its opposition to the American Health Care Act. (It should be noted that Kinzinger is a member of the Tuesday Group, a collection of moderate Republicans, many of whom also failed to support the AHCA—a point neither Kinzinger or the New York Times seem keen on remembering.)

What, you may wonder, was the basis for the objections of the Freedom Caucus to the AHCA? What kind of impossible demands was it making on the rest of the GOP?

If you ask the members of the Freedom Caucus, they’ll tell you. They were simply trying to keep their promise to voters to repeal Obamcare. And the AHCA, contrary to Kinzinger’s claims, did not repeal Obamacare.

It’s a sad day when trying to keep a promise to the people who elected you has become the most vilified act in Washington.

Aside from improperly characterizing the AHCA as repeal, the rest of Kinzinger’s claims are simply baseless and petty—not to mention thoroughly unhelpful to a party that must work together to repeal Obamacare, or otherwise risk its hard-won majority.

Specifically, Kinzinger takes issue with the negotiating tactics of the Freedom Caucus, comparing it to Lucy in the cartoon “Peanuts”—always holding the football out to be kicked, and at the last minute, yanking it back.

Unfortunately, the facts don’t bear that out.

The Freedom Caucus was clear from the beginning—it would only support a bill that fully repealed Obamacare. The AHCA never did that, and despite the changes made by leadership (which were done only after the urging of President Donald Trump), it still did not accomplish full repeal.

Without repeal of Obamacare’s crushing regulations, the fundamental architecture of the law remained in place. Consider that these regulations are responsible for 68 percent of the average cost increases of health insurance across the nation—and up to 92 percent in cost increases for younger Americans.

You cannot call a bill “full repeal” if it doesn’t address these mammoth cost drivers. And, like it or not, full repeal is what Republicans promised their voters. (While Kinzinger and others may say that the regulations “couldn’t be repealed” using the reconciliation process, that, too, is simply untrue. James Wallner of The Heritage Foundation has an entire paper explaining why.)

These problems were obvious to more than just the Freedom Caucus. Conservatives across the spectrum widely panned the bill, and credited the Freedom Caucus for trying to get more. Avik Roy, a commentator at Forbes, even called the group’s requests “surprisingly pragmatic.

It seems the wider audience understood what Kinzinger does not—Obamacare is a policy failure. The House Republicans’ approach of repairing and replacing it didn’t do nearly enough. The law has to go. Only then can true reform of the health care marketplace take shape.

The tackiest element of Kinzinger’s argument, however, is simply its breathtaking lack of self-awareness. Kinzinger and his Tuesday Group members voted more than 50 times to fully repeal Obamacare—when they knew it wouldn’t pass.

But when the Freedom Caucus pushed for the opportunity for repeal to become real—when push came to the literal shove—these guys willingly just went limp and fell off the cliff.

That’s not something Kinzinger should be proud of, because it’s not something his voters elected him to do.

Fortunately, there are members in the House that do understand this. Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and the members of the Freedom Caucus should be applauded for their willingness to go to the mat to defend the promises they made. If he stops naming and shaming long enough, maybe Kinzinger could learn a thing or two.

Charges Against Pro-Life Investigators Show Government’s Double Standard on Investigative Journalists

The undercover Planned Parenthood videos published in 2015 made one thing abundantly clear: Big Abortion skirts the law for its own gain, going to great lengths to hide its illicit activities not only from the public, but even from its own employees.

After such revelations, it seems like common sense that the government would defund Planned Parenthood. After all, taxpayer money should not go to fund abortions or the illegal practices going on behind the organization’s closed doors.

But abortion cronies seem to be on a different page entirely: Punish the journalists and protect the abortion giant that is lining their pockets.

First, they tried—and failed—to convict Center for Medical Progress investigators David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt in Texas. But now, California wants a shot at it. This week, the state attorney general charged Daleiden and Merritt with 15 felonies.

Now Planned Parenthood said in a statement on the charges, “Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong.” But if that’s true, the organization has nothing to fear from the Center for Medical Progress’ work.

In response to the charges, the Center for Medical Progress released a new undercover video featuring the former medical director of Planned Parenthood Arizona, DeShawn Taylor.

Taylor is shown on camera discussing what appears to be an illegal partial-birth abortion procedure and the illegal sale of baby body parts.

She also talks about intentionally avoiding an Arizona state law that requires abortionists to transport babies who show signs of life after an abortion to a hospital.

Then, she laughs.

“Well, the thing is, I mean the key is, you need to pay attention to who’s in the room,” she says.

Who is in the room also determines whether or not she can pull out intact “specimens” to sell to fetal tissue procurement agencies. She says she must be sensitive to her staff who might be uncomfortable if the aborted child comes out looking too much like a baby.

And by the way, don’t call it a “baby,” she says. “It’s creepy.”

It’s obvious that Planned Parenthood will stop at nothing to protect its abortion gold mine, even keeping secrets from their own employees. They wouldn’t want to make anyone in the room feel uncomfortable.

But what about the baby in the room?

Investigative journalists like Daleiden have been instrumental in casting light on deceptive practices in big government, big business, and now, big abortion.

In the past, investigative journalists have been lauded for their work.

They were applauded when they uncovered the Watergate scandal. No one has batted an eye at the many undercover investigations run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In fact, animal rights organizations in California have uncovered animal abuse by becoming employed and secretly filming conditions at farms and slaughterhouses.

But the state hasn’t charged them with 15 felonies.

Daleiden and Merritt’s investigative work, just like these other examples, brought to light illegal practices and abuse of power that would have otherwise remained hidden from the public.

Isn’t that the purpose of journalism—to reveal the truth? It should concern all Americans that California’s attorney general is trying to strip journalists of the freedom to do their jobs and report the truth.

Big abortion has effectively used its network of abortion cronies to attempt to bring swift punishment against Daleiden, but the reaction to Planned Parenthood’s illegal practices has come much slower.

A handful of states have rightly defunded the abortion giant. And while the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released a report recommending that Planned Parenthood no longer receive federal funding and that those who have illegally profited off of the sale of baby body parts be prosecuted, little action has been taken thus far.

When our government acts more quickly to strip journalists of their freedoms than to act against an organization breaking state and federal law, then something is wrong. That is what’s truly “creepy.”You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Meals on Wheels Outrage Is Based on a Lie

It made for great copy – irresistibly clickable and compulsively shareable. “Trump’s Budget Would Kill a Program That Feeds 2.4 Million Senior Citizens,” blared Time Magazine's headline. “Trump Proposed Budget Eliminates Funds for Meals on Wheels,” claimed The Hill, in a piece that got 26,000 shares.

But it was false. And it wouldn’t have taken long for reporters to find and provide some needed context to the relationship between federal block grant programs, specifically Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the popular Meals on Wheels program.

Funding Has Not Been Cut

From Thursday’s conversation in the press, it was easy to assume that block grant programs – CDBG and similar block grants for community services and social services – are the main source of federal funding for Meals on Wheels. Not so.

Instead, as the national Meals on Wheels site explains, the major source of federal funding for the programs, accounting for 35 percent of overall local budgets, comes through the Sixties-era Older Americans Act. (Local programs also obtain support from state and county governments, private donors, and so on.)

According to the website, cuts have not been announced in Older Americans Act funding, although the group fears that they may lie ahead.

So where do the federal block grant programs come in? Well, they give states and localities a lot of discretion on where to allocate the money, one option is to add money to supplement Meals on Wheels funding. Some do use it for that purpose.

But as Scott Shackford makes clear in his new piece for Reason, that isn’t what CDBG is mostly about. CDBG funds regularly go into pork-barrel and business-subsidy schemes with a cronyish flavor. That’s why the program has been a prime target for budget-cutters for decades, in administration after administration.

It’s important to the CDBG program’s political durability that its grantees wind up sprinkling a bit of extra money on popular programs mostly funded by other means. That way, defenders can argue that the block grants “fund programs like Meals on Wheels.”
That’s what happened in the press this week.

Outrage Over Nothing

The New York Times got things rolling by reporting that the new budget proposes “the complete elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper then boiled it down to a tweet: “On chopping block: $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds programs like Meals on Wheels.”

Meals on Wheels’ own national website, meanwhile, quotes its CEO and president Ellie Hollander being appropriately cautious and conditional: “We don’t know the exact impact yet,” she said. Big cuts “would be a devastating blow.” According to the website, “details on our network’s primary source of funding, the Older Americans Act, which has supported senior nutrition programs for 45 years, have not yet been released.”

Most of the major press coverage Thursday had nothing at all to say about the OAA, which would only have complicated the shock headlines. And social media burned all day with indignant posts that seemed unaware that no cuts had been announced as of yet in the main program that funds Meals on Wheels.

One reason was the press conference at which budget director Mick Mulvaney faced a host of questions about the new budget release, with Peter Alexander of NBC News pressing him especially hard on the aren’t-you-trying-to-cut-things-like-Meals-on-Wheels angle.

Mulvaney repeatedly tried to switch the conversation over to the shortcomings of the wider CDBG program and did not bring up the point about OAA funding at all. Amid further awkward exchanges, Mulvaney spoke about how social programs had often not been shown to have benefits.

A charitable reading of his intended point was that activities funded by block grants in general often lack any proof of positive effect; a less charitable reading was that he was trying to single out Meals on Wheels in particular as an endeavor of no proven use to anyone. (A middle ground, I suppose, would have been to call his office for a clarification.) No prizes for guessing which direction the press, from MSNBC to New York Magazine, chose to take for its headlines.

Eroding Trustworthiness

For many editors, “administration wants to zero out Meals on Wheels” made good, emotionally satisfying copy – too good to check. But around the country, in coming days, thousands of persons touched by the program are likely to ask their visiting community member or supervisor whether it’s really true that they’re going to do away with the Meals on Wheels program, the way the man on TV or the lady on Facebook said. And after they hear a fuller explanation, they might decide that they trust news reports a little less.

Reprinted from the Cato Institute.

Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Is the ocean ‘land owned or controlled’ by feds? Antiquities Act lawsuit aims to find out

Despite a lifetime of fishing off the New England coast, Eric Reid was like a fish out of water when President Barack Obama grabbed a piece of his livelihood.

“I’m just a fish guy but I learned a lot about politics in a big hurry,” said Reid, general manager of Seafreeze Shoreside Inc., a seafood processing facility in Rhode Island.

He is referring to Obama’s September 2016 designation of nearly 5,000 square miles of ocean as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, using his unilateral authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

‘Losing opportunity’

The area 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod is the first national monument in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also rife with fish that have fed New Englanders — and the New England economy — for generations.

But the monument designation makes commercial fishing off limits.

“We’re losing opportunity as we speak,” Reid told Watchdog.org. “It could easily be millions of dollars just this winter.”

Reid is part of a coalition of New England fishing organizations suing the federal government over the designation. The Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the coalition in Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Ross. PLF attorney Jonathan Wood says the economic impact is magnified when considering the shoreside businesses that have grown up around the commercial fishing industry.

“It’s not just the fishermen. It’s all the bait dealers, the mechanics and the marinas and all the businesses that only exist because there’s a commercial fishing industry,” he told Watchdog.org.

The PLF complaint argues that the president was out of line because the ocean is beyond the reach of the Antiquities Act.

“The statute only authorizes monuments on ‘land owned or controlled by the federal government,’ said Wood. “And the ocean, particularly this far out, is not land and it’s not owned or controlled by the federal government.”

President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906 to protect antiquities and artifacts from looting and prevent the destruction of Native American sites in the Southwest. Devil’s Tower in Wyoming was the first national monument created under the law. Others include familiar sites such as Fort McHenry and the Statue of Liberty.

In recent decades, the law has been used mostly to bring land, rather than historic sites, under federal control.

In 2006, President George W. Bush created the 139,797 square miles Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean. According to the National Ocean Service, it was created “to protect an exceptional array of natural and cultural resources.”

Obama more than quadrupled the size of Papahānaumokuākea in August, to 582,578 square miles — twice the size of Texas — saying in his proclamation the protection provides opportunities “including understanding the impacts of climate change on these deep-sea communities.”

All told, Obama’s 34 new or expanded monument designations covered 533 million acres of federal land and water, the most of any president.

And as with the New England fishermen, monument status limits what state and local people can do on these public lands.

Not a coral in sight

Reid says the monument in the Atlantic Ocean was purportedly to protect coral, but in parts of the protected area, there’s not a coral in sight.

“Once the designation was given to us a few days before the actual written proclamation itself, it was pretty evident to us that there was quite a bit of political pressure put in by environmental organizations to get a pretty large area closed off that made no sense if in fact corals were the target,” he said.

Wood calls it an attempt by the president to try to establish his legacy with environmental groups who wanted to stake a claim in the Atlantic Ocean, especially because the federal Council on Environmental Quality ignored work already underway by the New England Fisheries Management Council to protect coral while continuing to allow commercial fishing.

The council is one of eight established in 1976 under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which governs marine fishery management in federal waters up to 200 nautical miles from shore. The councils are charged with fostering long-term biological and economic sustainability, and include  scientists, environmentalists, fishermen and government representatives.

Reid serves on the New England council. He says his group told the president’s Council on Environmental Quality they could do a better job than a marine monument could of managing the area.

“It would be done in a much more informed manner,” he said. “There’s a lot of analysis that has to be done, National Environmental Policy Act analysis and economic analysis on what would happen to impact the industry.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council was a driving force behind the monument, a National Geographic blogger wrote in September.

“The NRDC’s push for the monument began in 2001 and ran up until … the president announced the establishment of the protected area. … NRDC created online petitions, geospatial analyses, technical research, polling events, media outreach, meetings and a letter-writing campaign,” according to the post.

A June 30, 2016 letter, for example, addressed to Obama and copied to a number of lawmakers, urged the monument’s creation.

“While the area is largely untouched and wild today, it is highly vulnerable to disturbance and should be protected now from the push to fish, drill, and mine in ever deeper and more remote places. As climate change and ocean acidification continue to affect ocean life, it also becomes more and more urgent to establish blue parks in important and relatively pristine ocean habitats such as this one,” the NRDC wrote.

Neither the NRDC nor the Council on Environmental Quality responded to Watchdog.org requests for comment on the lawsuit.

In the meantime, Wood says while there’s essentially no limit to what the president might do under the  Antiquities Act, there is irony in what the statute cannot do, such as prevent navigation in the area or laying of cables and pipelines through it.

“So they are essentially forbidding fishing that has no impact on the coral while doing nothing to prevent oil tankers from going through the area or other nations from laying telecommunications cables that actually destroys the coral,” he said.

In addition to the lawsuit, some legislative relief may be on the way for the fishermen.

Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee vowed to repeal the Antiquities Act, following the late December creation of a 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in the southern part of his state.  That would end future unilateral monument  proclamations by presidents; but it would take additional congressional action to abolish existing designations.

Another Utah Republican, Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, took a fact-finding trip to the New England area where he spent some time with Reid.

“We spoke for a very nice, long time,” Reid said. “Rep. Bishop is extremely well-versed in the Antiquities Act.”

Bishop, along with Delegate Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa), sent a letter to President Donald Trump on March 7 urging him to remove all marine monument fishing prohibitions and allow fisheries to be managed through the existing regional fishery management councils.
“Using the Antiquities Act to close U.S. waters to domestic fisheries is a clear example of federal overreach and regulatory duplication and obstructs well managed, sustainable U.S. fishing industries in favor of their foreign counterparts. You alone can act quickly to reverse this travesty,” the letter read.

And on March 15, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to examine the creation and management of marine monuments.

The hearing included written testimony from Jon Mitchell, the Democratic mayor of New Bedford, Mass. Mitchell said the Port of New Bedford generates $9 billion in direct and indirect economic output each year, and encouraged Congress to return the New England Fisheries Council to its “rightful place as the critical arbiters of fisheries management matters.”

Unless the president or Congress acts, Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Ross will proceed.

“President Obama was the biggest abuser of the Antiquities Act in presidential history,” said Wood. “This marine monument is beyond the nation’s territory. The Antiquities Act simply doesn’t fit this far out.”

From Watchdog.org. Kathy Hoekstra is a national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact heratkhoekstra@watchdog.org and @khoekstra.

Emma Watson Knows Feminism Is about Choice

As part of the publicity for her role in the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson was photographed for Vanity Fair in a Burberry bolero that left her mostly topless.

Although the reaction most people had to the spread was probably not very dramatic (maybe you thought, like I did, “cute jacket”), there were more than a few responses on social media that criticized her choice as being at odds with her feminist ideals.

In her response to the incident, Watson offered up a simple truism about feminism that is more powerful than it might sound:
Feminism is about giving women choice.”
So, for Hermione’s sake, and in honor of women’s history month, I’d like to talk a little bit about the importance of choice to the expansions of women’s rights that have taken place over the past 200 years.

Legally Restricting Women’s Choices

Some of the oldest and most significant restrictions on women’s choice in American history are those that restricted married women’s ability to own property separately from their husbands. The legal tradition underlying these restrictions was coverture, which declared “the very being or legal existence of the woman [to be] suspended during the marriage.” A favorite quip of historians of the subject is that these laws created a situation in which husband and wife were one within marriage, and that one was the husband.

Although specifics varied by state, this usually meant that married women could not own land or homes in their own names, sign enforceable contracts, stand for themselves in court, or create wills.

Further, divorce was extremely limited, making it nearly impossible to dissolve a marriage once entered. Limitations on divorce always hit those in the least happy marriages the hardest. So while many couples doubtless enjoyed happy marriages, those who were in less fortunate circumstances were legally bound to remain trapped within them.

The upshot of all this is that 19th-century property law and legal practices made it difficult for married women to make some of the most basic decisions about how they wanted to lead their lives.

Fortunately for our mothers and grandmothers, married women became significantly more empowered with respect to these fundamental decisions over the course of the 19th century. Although old habits die hard, and therefore men’s discretionary decision-making power within marriage likely continued as a cultural norm among some communities, nearly all married women in the United States had the legal right to own separate property and keep earnings acquired during marriage by 1920.

What changed?

Cultivating equal rights on the factory floor

Prior to the birth of American industry, most women in the United States would have spent their lives performing some type of domestic labor in a rural farming community. Usually, the women worked on land owned by her husband, father, or other male relative, with any proceeds beyond what the family required for survival accruing to that owner. Textile mills, the first large-scale American factories, offered young women an alternative unlike any they’d seen before.
In the early textile mills, women were invited to apply the skills they had developed weaving cotton into cloth at home to the large-scale water or steam-powered industrial looms recently constructed in Waltham, Lowell, and other cities across the Northeastern U.S. In exchange, they worked for wages which they had control over spending. They had this control because this new type of work gave them a way to do something not very common at the time: move away from home without getting married.

The young women working in these mills attended lectures, wrote for publications edited by other “mill girls,” opened their own bank accounts, made large purchases like furniture and pianos, and lived in residences acquired in their own names. What freedom compared to life on the farm!

As the American economy continued to grow over the course of the 19th century, opportunities for women to work outside the home continued to expand. The expansion in the range of external options opened new frontiers to women across the country, both in terms of the practical decisions they were able to make and the ideas they were able to encounter. This expanding range of experience proved fertile ground for expansions in women’s rights that would continue to take place through the 20th century.

Susan B. Anthony's Legacy

Susan B. Anthony, a pioneering activist for many women’s rights causes, including separate property ownership, access to professional careers, equal pay for equal work, and women’s suffrage, grew up surrounded by the adventurous young women working in the early American mills.

Her father, Daniel Anthony, was the owner of a water-powered textile mill in Pennsylvania that regularly employed female workers, some of whom boarded directly with the Anthony family. Between these experiences and her father’s encouragement of her education, she grew up with a strong conviction in the capability of women that would drive her to work towards expanding the choices available to women in other domains.

So, if you believe–like Emma Watson and I–that choice is important, take a moment to join me in recognizing how important economic opportunity is for all people to be able to make the most important decisions we face as human beings: who we want to be, and how we want to spend our days.

Let’s toast to economic opportunity and free choice.
Reprinted from Learn Liberty.
Jayme Lemke

Jayme Lemke
Jayme Lemke (Ph.D., Economics, George Mason University) is a Senior Research Fellow and Associate Director of Graduate Student Programs at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her specialization is in public choice economics, constitutional political economy, and the political economy of women’s rights.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Conservatives Skeptical of White House’s Proposed Changes to Obamacare Replacement Bill

Less than two weeks since the collapse of Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, lawmakers and White House officials have revived talks aimed at crafting a health care bill that can make it through Congress.

But a new pitch from the White House designed to get conservative lawmakers on board, though in its early stages, already has left some conservatives skeptical.

“The goal for the Freedom Caucus has always been we want to see a reduction in [health insurance] prices. That’s still the bottom line,” Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., told The Daily Signal. “We’re open to any package of ideas that gets us to that goal of lower premiums.”

“We’re still not quite there yet,” he said. “It’s not a heavy lift, and we always say we’re for free markets. Well, now we have to walk the walk here and get some free markets and drive the price down for the kids.”
The potential deal, on which details are beginning to trickle out, attempts to address conservatives’ most significant concern—they won’t support a health care bill that doesn’t result in lower premiums.

Vice President Mike Pence, joined by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, outlined the plan to woo conservatives Monday night during a Freedom Caucus meeting.

The potential agreement would allow states to apply for a waiver from the federal government to exempt them from some of Obamacare’s regulations, including the community rating provision, which prohibits insurers from charging sicker customers more through higher premiums.

The Trump administration is also looking at allowing states to opt out of the “essential health benefits” requirements implemented by Obamacare, a list of 10 services that plans are required to cover, and narrowing use of a $115 billion “stability fund” to be spent on high-risk insurance pools.

The approach again could open Republican lawmakers to the charge that, despite their campaign pledges, this particular bill would not repeal Obamacare in full.

“What we all need to acknowledge is that you either are going to keep the framework of Obamacare in place or say we’re going to not have the framework of Obamacare in place,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told The Daily Signal.

“Right now, people are saying you Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare, and if you’re going to keep the framework in place so that states have to opt out, or if you have to rely on a bureaucrat,  [then] Price is our bureaucrat,” Biggs said, referring to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He added:
After this administration is over, we don’t know who the next bureaucrat will be. While Tom Price is going to go through and switch off all the light switches as he possibly can on the regulations, there’s no guarantee that the next person if they come from the other party won’t try to come in and put those switches back up. That’s really what people understand, and why I think they’re kind of skeptical about what the proposals are right now in Washington.
The initial pitch from the White House has piqued the interest of Biggs and other members of the Freedom Caucus, who have maintained that they’re open to negotiating. The group of conservative House members are set on unraveling Obamacare regulations that they say increased the price of premiums for Americans.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the group’s chairman, told reporters Monday that the White House presented a “solid idea.” However, he said, the Freedom Caucus wants to see legislative text, which was expected by late Tuesday.

Biggs said he so far is “agnostic” about the proposal, but found the White House’s attempts to target Obamacare’s regulations “a little bit alluring.”

“There’s some interesting aspects of what was presented, and I think for me, I want to see the language of the bill and analyze the language of the proposal that we have,” he said.

Still, conservative lawmakers are wary of continued control by the federal government over the insurance market, since state governments would need Washington’s approval to opt out of the regulations.

“In one instance, the one I favor, [it’s totally] within the control of the state government to decide what insurance policy provisions best meet the needs of its citizens,” Rep. Mo Brooks, a Freedom Caucus member from Alabama, told The Daily Signal. “In the other instance, the state has to go hat in hand on bended knee, begging the federal government to allow the state to have influence over the insurance policy provisions that are best for that state’s residents.”

Brooks said the agreement presented Monday night to Freedom Caucus members was not one he would support. He said he wants to see Trump and Republican leaders make “larger strides in the direction of what America needs.”

The House GOP leadership’s negotiations over the original bill they said would begin to repeal and replace Obamacare came to a grinding halt March 24 after House Speaker Paul Ryan attempted to bring the legislation, called the American Health Care Act, to a vote.

Ryan withdrew the bill after opposition from conservatives and centrists indicated the votes weren’t there for it to pass.

After some conciliatory statements from Trump, though, came a flurry of criticism from the president. Trump took to his Twitter account to chastise members of the Freedom Caucus, and vowed instead to work with Democrats to reform the health care system.

Republicans are preparing to head home to their districts for a two-week recess, where they’re sure to face questions from constituents on their failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

But it’s unlikely the Republican conference will be able to send a health care bill to Trump’s desk before the lawmakers leave for home.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Ryan told reporters that House Republicans were in the “conceptual stage.”

“It’s important that we don’t just win the votes of one caucus or one group, but that we get the votes and the consensus of 216 of our members,” Ryan, R-Wis., said.

Brat, too, dismissed the notion that the White House’s pitch was a “deal,” but instead said the proposal, alongside other provisions floated by Republican lawmakers, was a “good assembly of ideas.”

“We’re all just waiting to see a combination of policies that bring prices down,” Brat said. “We can all get to yes. We’re just all waiting for various policies and ways of putting it together. You’re managing one-fifth of the economy, so that’s not a small little bill.”

Report by The Daily Signal's Melissa Quinn.  Originally published at The Daily Signal. Make a gift to support The Daily Signal!