Rep. Justin Amash Says Trump ‘Has Engaged in Impeachable Conduct’

In a series of tweets this afternoon, Justin Amash accused President Donald Trump of having “engaged in impeachable conduct.” The libertarian-leaning Michigan congressman blamed his fellow Republican legislators for choosing to defend the president rather than the Constitution in the wake of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report.

“Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” Amash tweeted. “In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”

Since the release of the Mueller report, most Republicans have circled the wagons around Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) has declared “case closed” on the Mueller investigation. Top-notch Trump sycophants like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) have gone further, claiming that “the president never did anything to stop Mueller from doing his job,” despite ample evidence to the contrary.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) initially ruled out impeaching Trump, but she said last week that “every day gives grounds for impeachment.” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.) extended an invitation via Twitter for Amash to co-sponsor her resolution calling for a House investigation into impeachment.

Amash added that few members of Congress, on either side of the aisle, even bothered to read the Mueller report before coming to their conclusions about it.

Amash also took aim at Attorney General William Barr. Amash said Barr had “deliberately misrepresented” Mueller’s findings—presumably referring either to Barr’s letter to Congress in the days prior to the report’s release or to his subsequent testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 29. (Barr refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, as scheduled, the following day.)

Amash, who has frequently and publicly disagreed with members of his own party since Trump took office, is the first Republican since Mueller’s report came out to make such an open, public statement about being open to impeachment.

The report stops short of saying the president had obstructed justice, but it also does not exonerate Trump. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report reads.

Indeed, the entire second volume of the 400-plus page report is dedicated to documenting incident after incident where the president attempted to interrupt, stop, or inhibit Mueller’s investigation into the ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Those attempts to “influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” the report states, but only because “the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

As I wrote at the time, Mueller was clearly—and correctly—kicking the question of obstruction (and the associated question of impeachment) to Congress. As I also wrote at the time, “intense partisanship will save the president from the political reckoning he probably deserves,” though choosing not to impeach Trump could set a dangerous precedent of its own.

Amash struck the same note on Sunday.

“While impeachment should be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances, the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct,” he wrote. “When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles.”



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Trump Doubles Down on Ineffective Tariffs, Further Harming U.S. Farmers and Consumers

Last week, President Donald Trump announced he would impose new tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods produced in China. Many of those tariffed goods—just like the U.S. goods China has imposed retaliatory tariffs on—are farm products. Consequently, this latest round of tariffs is expected to add to the already higher prices Americans are paying for a variety of foods.

U.S. agricultural exports to China totaled $20 billion in 2017. Those exports come in about as broad a range as you could imagine. China’s retaliatory tariffs have hit U.S. farmers hard.

Soybean farmers, pork producers and a growing number of other agricultural interests across a range of states—including cherry producers, corn growers, and lobstermen—have complained that they are collateral damage caught in the middle of the escalating trade battle,” the Washington Post reported this week.

The CEO of Del Monte, makers of popular canned produce, said this week that the company was forced to raise prices on U.S. consumers by 10 percent due to Trump’s tariffs.

“Since China imposed tariffs last fall, [Indiana soybean and corn farmer Brent] Bible has nowhere to sell his soybean and corn crops,” NPR reported this week. “And that situation just got worse, because the futures trading market started planning for higher tariffs earlier this week.” Bible told NPR the tariffs had cost him $50,000 over just the past three days.

Earlier this week, Reason‘s Eric Boehm suggested that the most likely winner of the ongoing trade skirmishes between Trump and China would probably be bacteria, roaches, and rats, the appetites of which will be tested by all the food grown by American farmers that tariffs would cause to rot in warehouses rather than be sold.

Trump, who gave billions to subsidize U.S. farmers (and, um, Brazilian criminals) who were impacted by his earlier tariffs, has already proposed billions of new bailout dollars to help them deal with the inevitable fallout from his latest tariffs.

Does that make any sense?

It does to Trump, who loves tariffs. Last year he famously dubbed himself Tariff Man. In his 2011 New York Times bestseller, Time to Get Tough: Make America Great Again!, Trump writes that “a true commander in chief would sit down with the Chinese and demand a real deal, a far better deal. Either China plays by the rules or we slap tariffs on Chinese goods. End of story.”

But it’s not the end of the story.

Back in March, Trump hailed the “substantial progress” he says he’d made on trade with China. Those days are over.

[A]fter weeks of optimistic statements by Trump and members of his administration about how trade talks were progressing, Trump abruptly escalated tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods last week and opened the door to even more,” CNN reported this week. The network also noted that U.S. farmers are pissed over the move. That includes farmers such as this guy, who says he voted for Trump.

Trump’s attempts to calm farmers came in the form of a typical Word Salad that was anything but soothing.

Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now,” Trump tweeted earlier this week. He also let those “great Patriot Farmers” know that his administration “will be making up the difference”—the income shortfall Trump’s tariffs have wrought on those same great Patriot Farmers—out of “the massive Tariffs being paid to the United States for allowing China, and others, to do business with us.

Well, um, er, not exactly.

“White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday acknowledged that the Chinese do not directly pay tariffs on goods coming into the U.S.,” CNBC reported this week, “contradicting President Donald Trump’s claims that China will pay for tariffs imposed by the U.S.”

Kudlow also admitted something Trump, to my knowledge, has not: the very real harm that American tariffs inflict on American consumers.

Walmart, the country’s largest grocer, says the latest round of tariffs will force the retailer to hike prices for consumers in the United States.

China is not paying the cost of tariffs,” Washington Post columnist Mark Thiessen, who supports the tariffs, wrote this week. “American businesses and consumers are paying.

“Trump is taxing consumers to bolster farmers, a core part of his political base,” wrote Washington Post columnist Philip Bump this week.

Those taxes add up. One recent scholarly assessment of the impact of Trump’s tariffs says they’ll add roughly $500 to $800 in new costs to every American household, and will cost the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars over the next year.

As messy as things are, they could get uglier still. An editor at a Chinese state-owned media company suggested “that China might cease purchases of U.S. agricultural products” altogether.

There are a lot of moving parts here—tariffs, bailouts, reprisals, tough messaging, pleas, calls for restraint, threats, and promises—seemingly with new ones added each day. I’m not an economist. Even if I were, though, I’d have a hard time comprehending what every move meant to the bottom line of U.S.-China trade.

Nevertheless, the whole is clear. Tariffs are bad for American and Chinese consumers, farmers, and food producers. In short, tariffs make things worse, not better. 

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The Heartbreaking, Lifesaving Practice of Welcoming ‘Unaccompanied’ Child Migrants

“Tell parents in Central America to stop sending their kids unaccompanied,” Rush Limbaugh thundered on his radio show. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham compared the children to “illegal” “invaders” and declared that “it’s not our responsibility” to “house and feed and clothe and give medical attention” to them.

In response to an uptick in Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan children showing up at the southern border, some in the U.S. have rushed to condemn parents for sending their kids, alone, on a dangerous journey. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen demanded sweeping authority to deport these unaccompanied minors.

Handing them asylum, critics claim, will only incentivize more risky behavior by irresponsible adults. Therefore, they say, it’s best to send these children back to their crime-ridden countries.

If such logic had taken hold in Europe after World War I, we may never have known the name of another famous child: Anne Frank. The woman who hid Frank’s Jewish family in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years—and retrieved Anne’s diary after the Nazis sent them all to concentration camps—was herself an unaccompanied minor who had fled to Holland. Her name was Miep Gies and she was Anne’s father’s devoted secretary.

Gies, whose original name was Hermine Santruschitz, was born in Vienna to Austrian parents in 1909, five years before the Great War began. The Allied food blockade in 1914–1919 of the countries comprising the Central Powers meant that Gies grew up on the brink of starvation, malnourished and stunted. In Anne Frank Remembered, she recalls that when she was little, her “legs were sticks dominated by bony kneecaps” and her teeth were soft.

Things only got worse when her parents had another daughter. With even less food to go around, Gies’ parents turned her over to a humanitarian agency that placed hungry kids with foster families abroad. One bitter winter morning in 1920, they bundled her in every piece of warm clothing she possessed and put her on a train filled with other “transports,” as the children were called. Signs bearing the names of their Dutch foster families, whom they’d never met, dangled from their necks.

Gies’ stay was meant to last only a few months, until she recovered her strength. Instead, her foster parents—despite being of modest means and having five kids of their own to raise—embraced her as if she were family.

With much pulling of strings, Gies obtained Dutch citizenship after the Nazis invaded during World War II and threatened to deport her to Austria. She dreaded that prospect for the same reason Central American teenagers living in America today do: She had built a life for herself in Holland and felt little connection to her native country.

What happened to Gies was a widespread phenomenon in the vanquished Central Powers. Overall figures are hard to come by, but it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of kids were “transported” from Hungary, Germany, and Austria to foster families in Holland, Switzerland, Britain, Sweden, and Belgium. Like Gies, 5–10 percent never returned.

Holland was neutral during World War I, but remarkably, Allied nations also admitted children from their former enemies. Belgium fostered around 22,000 kids from Hungary alone. Each month from 1924 to 1927, a train would arrive carrying 400–500 Hungarian children.

None of this would have happened without the efforts of individual philanthropists and humanitarian outfits that publicized the unspeakable suffering unleashed by the war. In a fascinating 2013 article from a French history journal, the University of Bristol’s Friederike Kind-Kovács notes that at first it seemed incomprehensible to both sides that kids could be entrusted to countries they’d just spent their blood and treasure fighting.

Herbert Hoover (prior to his presidency) and the British humanitarian Eglantyne Jebb (who founded the Save the Children Fund), along with organizations such as the Red Cross, launched a massive public awareness campaign emphasizing that kids were innocent victims and shouldn’t be judged by a crude “friend-enemy scheme.” They distributed leaflets with pictures of starving children and captions that read, “Our Blockade Has Caused This.”

Distance and expense meant that not many kids came to the United States. But Hoover’s American Relief Administration, which raised half of its funds from private sources, sent aid to agencies transporting children within Europe.

These organizations weren’t totally without ulterior motive. Most were religious in nature, and they tended to prioritize kids belonging to their denominations and to place them with families that shared their faith. The Catholic Church was particularly aggressive in moving children from Hungary, a Catholic nation, to Belgium’s northern Flemish region, which was experiencing a Catholic revival. Belgian researcher Vera Hajtó wrote in 2009’s The History of the Family that during Sunday Mass, Flemish priests would openly tell their congregations that if they didn’t step up and “do their religious duty” to take in a Hungarian child, the child “would fall into the hands of Jews and Protestants who will help him only on the condition that they can make a Jew or Protestant out of him.”

But the priests also emphasized the common bonds of humanity between all parents. “Fathers and mothers,” they beseeched, “think of your children and how much you are worried about them when they suffer, and don’t close your parental heart to the starving children of your brother.”

What they most definitely didn’t do—contra American immigration restrictionists—is demonize the migrant kids’ biological families as shiftless and uncaring. Rather, they highlighted the immense emotional sacrifice these parents were making for the sake of their children, using imagery and vocabulary designed to resonate. Kind-Kovács describes one image, from a booklet titled From the Horrors of War, where a kneeling, emaciated Hungarian mother, eyes closed and surrounded by a crown of thorns, holds her starving child in the air to give him away, while the child opens his arms as if imploring a foster family to receive him. So successful were these efforts in moving hearts and changing minds that many Belgians agreed to take in Hungarian kids (“Hongaartjes,” as they were called) despite widespread racism and an erroneous belief that the kids were black.

These efforts became the blueprint for rescue efforts in Europe during subsequent conflicts, especially World War II. Throughout the Nazi period, Jewish children were evacuated to Britain and other countries. The most famous of all these operations was the Kindertransporte launched by British, Jewish, and Quaker leaders after Kristallnacht in 1938. That’s the night when S.S. militia pillaged Jewish homes, stores, and synagogues, rounding up and killing hundreds of Jews. Kindertransporte organizers convinced the British government to admit 10,000 Jewish children, pointing out that when they polled German Jewish parents to ask them if they’d stay behind and send their kids alone, the parents nearly unanimously said “yes.”

That turned out to be good karma for Great Britain when World War II broke out. In Operation Pied Piper, the government in 1939 relocated some 3 million unaccompanied children from British cities facing bombardments to the countryside and to Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and even the United States.

Unlike Kindertransporte and Pied Piper, the purpose of the operation that saved Gies was to rescue children from life-threatening poverty, not imminent violence. Today, parents in El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala—the so-called Northern Triangle countries—are trying to extricate their kids from both. El Salvador is the murder capital of the world, with Honduras and Guatemala not far behind. And it isn’t mere random crime parents are worried about. Their kids are being targeted by gangs who stalk schools and homes searching for male recruits and girlfriends, beating and killing those who don’t join. Kidnappings to extort ransom are also rampant.

Half of children in Guatemala are malnourished, with 25 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. In El Salvador, more than a quarter of kids below the age of 5 live in extreme poverty. In Honduras, nearly 70 percent of people live below the poverty line and a third of infants are malnourished, according to the U.N.

What’s more, as Princeton University’s Douglas Massey has pointed out, the conditions in these countries are directly related to U.S. actions during the Cold War—such as funding paramilitary groups—aimed at stopping the spread of Soviet Communism. These efforts triggered internecine fighting and social breakdown.

President Donald Trump has scaled back even the meager programs that President Barack Obama put in place to help this population. He tightened the criteria for amnesty to specifically bar victims of gang violence from qualifying, and he scrapped the Central American Minors parole program, which gave a two-year renewable visa to a few thousand children who failed to win asylum but had one parent legally present in America.

It’s ironic and tragic that a shared experience of adversity opened the hearts of Europe to the children of their enemies, while we in America have closed our hearts to those whom we’ve harmed but who have done us no harm.

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Twitter Gives Conflicting Reasons for Suspending User After Sen. Bob Menendez Asked Them To

In March, Sen. Bob Menendez (R–N.J.) publicly called on Twitter to suspend the account of user @ivanthetroll12 because he sometimes used his tweets to link to software files that would help owners of certain devices to make weapons at home. Menendez’s home state of New Jersey has banned the distribution of such software, though the constitutionality of that ban is being fought out in court.

In April, that user’s account indeed was indeed suspended. At the time, both Twitter and the senator’s press office ignored requests from me for any comment or clarification on any communication between them regarding @ivanthetroll12’s suspension that might shed light on whether Twitter acted in response to, or in collusion with, the senator in shutting down a citizen’s access to its service.

The user behind that account has been using another account on Twitter since, @det_disp (Deterrence Dispensed). Today, Sean Campbell at The Trace reports that he obtained a copy of a communication from Twitter to Sen. Menendez in which the company claims that it has a longstanding policy of prohibiting “the promotion of weapons and weapons accessories globally,” but that the reason they suspended @ivanthetroll12 was because he “is in violation of our policy of evading an account suspension.”

While the man behind the account is admittedly doing that very thing now with his new account, he insists in an email today that the original account was the very first one he ever created, and Twitter indeed provides no proof that he violated any policy of evading an account suspension at the time they suspended @iventhetroll12.

Their statement to Sen. Menendez about their policy regarding “promotion of weapons” is, as The Trace points out, about a “policy [that] only applies to ‘Twitter’s paid advertising products,’ not general users.”

This led the man behind the accounts to tweet today that “in that [Trace] article, you’ll find that Twitter gave Menendez one reason (ban evasion) but gave Sean another (illegal content). Even Twitter can’t get their story straight. THEY ARE MAKING UP REASONS TO BAN PEOPLE AS THEY GO ALONG.”

The Trace’s Campbell reported that a Twitter spokesperson told him the account was suspended, not for the reason the company told Sen. Menendez, but because “Accounts sharing 3D-printed gun designs are in violation of the Twitter Rules’ unlawful use policy.” The company has the stated rule that “You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities.”

Whether the spreading of such files is, in fact, illegal anywhere but in New Jersey and California, which Campbell points out are the only states with laws prohibiting either the files specifically or the “distribution of guns and gun designs that lack serial numbers and are therefore untraceable by law enforcement,” and whether those laws will eventually pass constitutional muster, remains to be seen.

Twitter’s position in the cultural war over guns, though, seems clear enough. Despite this, The Trace did find that other accounts doing things similar to what @ivanthetroll12 did have at least so far avoided suspension.

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If You Think Capitalism Is Dying Because Two Companies ‘Control 90 Percent of the Beer Americans Drink,’ Go Home, You’re Drunk

You can’t swing a dead grumpy cat these days without hitting headlines declaring the imminent death of capitalism, the failure of capitalism, and the rebirth of socialism.

Number of people who are Poor, Vulnerable, Middle Class, and Rich Worldwide
Source: Brookings Institution, Projections by World Data Lab

But before we bury capitalism, it’s worth pointing out that rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated. For instance, it was only last fall that a “global tipping point” was reached, meaning that “half the world is now middle class or wealthier,” according to researchers at the Brookings Institution. How did that happen? By bringing increasing levels of market forces to bear around the planet, especially in the developing world. China is nobody’s idea of a pure capitalist economy but it has clearly moved in that general direction over the past several decades. As U2’s Bono, who has spent a great deal of time and energy trying to help the developing world, will tell you, “commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid—of course, we know that.” (To be sure, the legendary frontman is no anarcho-capitalist, telling a crowd at Davos this year that while “capitalism has taken more people out of poverty than any other ‘ism’… it is a wild beast that, if not tamed, can chew up a lot of people along the way.”)

In Europe and North America, concerns about the death of capitalism stem mostly Um. Isn't this good news?from flat or slow economic growth for basically all of the 21st century. That the rest of the world is catching up to us probably doesn’t make anyone feel better, either. But even in the United States, apparent reductions in the middle class are explained in part by households bumping up into higher income categories. And it turns out that when economists control for household size and use an accurate measure of inflation, “the story of stagnating wages was mostly wrong.” Indeed, as Michael R. Strain, writes, “median household income grew by 43% between 1990 and 2015 (the last year for which data is available). Households in the bottom 20% saw their incomes increase by 62%.” It’s also true that contrary to the conventional wisdom, “the rich” did not capture all the new wealth created over the past several decades. As Russ Roberts has shown, when you track actual individuals across time, “the richest people in 1980 actually ended up poorer, on average, in 2014. Like the top 20%, the top 1% in 1980 were also poorer on average 34 years later in 2014.”

So maybe capitalism is still delivering the goods by and large. And by goods, I mean general, broad-based increases in living standards (yes, even for Millennials and Gen Z).

Except for beer, right? Jonathan Tepper, author of The Myth of Capitalism, argues that the essence of capitalism is competition, which is flatter than Beto O’Rourke’s new haircut. Writing at Bloomberg, Tepper avers:

Competition is the essence of capitalism, yet it is dying.

Rising market power by dominant firms has created less competition, lower investment in the real economy, lower productivity, less economic dynamism with fewer startups, higher prices for dominant firms, lower wages and more wealth inequality….

In industry after industry, [Americans] can only purchase from local monopolies or oligopolies that can tacitly collude. The U.S. now has many industries with only three or four competitors controlling entire markets. Since the early 1980s, market concentration has increased severely.

Among the evidence he marshals is the fact that “two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink.” Tepper’s numbers seem a bit high. According to the latest edition of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade publication, Anheuser-Busch Inbev controls 41 percent of the market, MillerCoors owns another 24 percent, and “since 2017, more than 9 percent of the market volume has shifted from large brewers and importers to smaller brewers and importers.”

But let’s grant Tepper his large point: Two mega-players dominate the market for beer. How has that been working out for beer drinkers? Pretty damn well, actually. Go back to, say, 1990, when the microbrewery revolution was barely a thing and I started graduate school at SUNY-Buffalo. My friends and I would drive across the Peace Bridge to Canada specifically to drink Molson and Labatt’s because it was so much better than American beer. Such a thought is inconceivable now given the proliferation of choices available to today’s beer drinkers. Some of that choice comes from Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and other big brewers, and much of it comes from small, scrappy startups.

But the point is that the number of firms in an industry doesn’t dictate the amount of choice that consumers have. Check out the illustration to the side here from a tweet by The New York Times‘ David Leonhardt. It shows increased concentration in various sectors. But has there been a concomitant reduction in either consumer choice or quality of service? Think of mattresses, one of the products listed. Has it ever been easier or more cost-effective to shop for a mattress, including ones based on whole new technologies? Tepper opens his Bloomberg piece by recounting the 2017 beating that Dr. David Dao took on a United Airlines flight. He implies that airlines can treat their customers anyway they want because “the American skies have gone from an open market with many competing airlines to a cozy oligopoly with four major airlines.” Yet that incident was shocking precisely because it was so rare; drawing any implications from it is ridiculous. Over the past decade, the on-time performance of airlines has effectively stayed the same, which suggests that airlines are still competing for customers. So has the safety record for domestic carriers. Airlines have gotten better at maximizing the number of passengers per flight, which might make flying less comfortable, but they’ve also passed on savings to customers. “The average airfare has been lower because airlines have been putting their capacity to better use,” note researchers at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. Monopolists tend not to be so generous.

None of this is to say the status quo is perfect or that it shouldn’t be challenged. In many parts of the economy, corporations works in cahoots with the government to rig markets (lord knows this is happening big time in the tech and social media sectors as we speak). Donald Trump’s trade war with China points to more problems. We always need more creative destruction than we’re getting at any point in time. But to focus on the number of firms in a sector rather than what is being offered to consumers is to make a very basic analytical error and one that opens up space not for the best elements of laissez-faire but the worst forms of a strangulated future.

Enjoy a chill, classic Reason video from 2009. It’s called “Beer: An American Revolution—How Microbreweries Promote Choice.”

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U.S. Will Lift Steel, Aluminum Tariffs on Imports from Canada, Mexico

On the North American front, the trade war is over.

The Trump administration reached a deal today to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. In a joint statement, the U.S. and Canadian governments say those trade barriers would be removed within two days, as would the tariffs on American agricultural products that Canada imposed in retaliation.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense to continue to have steel and aluminum tariffs on products that move between our two countries,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters this afternoon.

Abandoning the tariffs on Canadian and Mexican metals should improve the prospects that Congress will pass one of President Donald Trump’s major trade priorities: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Republicans, in particular, had been hesitant to support this NAFTA rewrite unless the administration first lifted those barriers. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) put it bluntly in an op-ed that ran in The Wall Street Journal last month: “There is no appetite in Congress to debate USMCA with these tariffs in place.”

The deal struck today should bring some relief to the hundreds of American businesses harmed by the tariffs. Prices for steel and aluminum—even steel and aluminum produced in the United States—spiked after Trump’s tariffs went into effect, forcing downstream businesses and consumers to absorb those higher costs. From automakers (such as Ford) and manufacturers of heavy machinery (such as Caterpillar) to small companies that make beer kegs, nails, and industrial parts, the pain was widespread.

The deal was lauded on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border. Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement saying it “delivers a welcome burst of momentum for the USMCA in Congress.” Jean Simard, president and CEO of the Canadian Aluminum Association, says the deal will put “an end to the harmful uncertainty that is impeding the development of the Canadian and North American aluminum industry.” He specifically thanked Grassley for helping make the agreement happen.

Meanwhile, tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and other countries remain in place. The deal between the three North American countries contains a provision that will block Chinese metal from being shipping into the United States via Canada or Mexico. And the Trump administration recently escalated that part of the trade wars by increasing tariffs on about $200 billion of Chinese imports and threatening more tariffs in the coming weeks.

Today’s action, then, is probably best understood as sign that Trump’s trade wars are shifting rather than winding down. Faced with a greater degree of opposition over tariffs imposed on America’s two closest neighbors and key trading partners, the administration retreated. But with China, members of Congress have been more willing to give the administration a free hand, even when they have criticized specific tactics.

And so, nearly a year after it began amid threats of blowing up NAFTA, Trump has ended his trade war against America’s neighbors in order to improve the prospects of keeping their trade union intact. Whatever happens with China, repealing the tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum is a win both for free trade and for common sense.

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The Intercept—now running a close second to the FBI in sending leakers to jail!

With apologies for the lateness of this post, Episode 263 of The Cyberlaw Podcast tells the sad tale of yet another US government leaker who unwisely trusted The Intercept not to compromise its source. As Nick Weaver points out, The Intercept also took forever to actually report on some of the material it received.

In other news, Brian Egan and Nate Jones agree that Israel broke no new ground in bombing the headquarters of Hamas’s rudimentary hacking operation during active hostilities.

Nick and I dig into the significance of China’s use of intrusion tools pioneered by NSA. We also question the New York Times‘s grasp of the issue.

The first overt cyberattack on the US electric grid was a bust, I note, but that’s not much comfort.

How many years of being told “I’m washing my hair that night” does it take before you realize you’re not getting anywhere? The FCC probably thought China Mobile should have gotten the hint after eight years of no action on the company’s application to provide US phone  service, but just in case the message didn’t get through, the Commission finally pulled the plug last week.

Delegating to Big Social the policing of terrorist content has a surprising downside, as Nate points out. Sometimes the government or civil society need that data to make a court case.

We touch briefly on Facebook’s FTC woes and whether Sen. Hawley (R-MO) should be using the privacy stick to beat a company he’s mad at for other reasons. I reprise my longstanding view that privacy law is almost entirely about beating companies that you’re mad at for other reasons.

Download the 263rd Episode (mp3).

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As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to Remember: If your suggested guest appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

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Today’s Anti-Immigration Script Was Written 100 Years Ago by America’s Elite

When Donald Trump claimed in 2015 that Mexican immigrants will ravage our women, destroy our neighborhoods, and taint our ethnic and cultural purity, he entered into a long-standing, well-cultivated American tradition of xenophobia and fear-mongering.  

In the late 19th century, poet Emma Lazarus celebrated the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and “the wretched refuse” who came to America for a better life. But Prescott F. Hall, the co-founder of the powerful Immigration Restriction League, offered a rebuttal verse:

Enough! Enough! We want no more

Of ye immigrant from a foreign shore

Already is our land o’er run

With toiler, beggar, thief and scum.

After over a century of mostly open borders, in which tens of millions of European immigrants became Americans, members of the WASP establishment decided in the 1920s that the United States could no longer accept what they denounced as “beaten men from beaten races.” In terms that will sound familiar today, they claimed Jews, Italians, and others were incapable of assimilating into a country based on private property, limited government, and hard work.

In 1924, the restrictionists won a massive and long-lasting legislative battle with passage of The Johnson-Reed Act, which completely prohibited immigration from Asia and sharply limited immigration from Europe based on the country of origin. Under the new law, for instance, just 4,000 Italians were allowed to enter the country each year, down from an average well over 200,000 in each year of the preceding decade. National origins would remain the basis of U.S. immigration law until 1965.

The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America, a new book by Daniel Okrent, looks at the ways in which xenophobia and pseudo-science combined to fundamentally alter immigration policy at the start of what became known as “the American Century.” Okrent was the first public editor of The New York Times and is the author of Last Call, a history of Prohibition. He sat down with Reason to talk about how old debates over immigration and America’s national character are newly relevant to contemporary politics.

Edited by Ian Keyser. Intro by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander.

‘Modum’ by Kai Engel is licensed under CC By 4.0

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Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.

Take now, pay later. Over at, IJ’s Andrew Wimer explains that courts all over the country are allowing pipeline companies to seize land without paying property owners—sometimes for years. Which violates federal law and the Constitution. Click here for our cert petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

  • “It stands our criminal justice system on its head to hold that even a single extra day of imprisonment can be imposed for a crime that the jury says the defendant did not commit.” So says D.C. Circuit Judge Millett, objecting to the practice of increasing defendants’ criminal sentences on the basis of charges that a jury acquitted on.
  • South Carolina prisoner, handcuffed and surrounded by multiple guards, refuses to let them take his picture. After seven-ish minutes, one guard has had enough, and she tases the prisoner three times. (The guards get their picture.) Cruel and unusual punishment? Fourth Circuit: No if the guard was trying to secure compliance in good faith, but yes if she was acting maliciously. And this looks malicious enough to get past summary judgment.
  • Court emails notice of final judgment to attorney. But it goes to his spam folder, and he misses the deadline to appeal. Fifth Circuit, in two-page opinion: So no appealing.
  • Marquette, Mich. railway trackman sues his employer, alleging an on-the-job injury. Employer schedules an independent medical exam to assess his injuries. Trackman refuses to fill out medical questionnaire and refuses to answer examiner’s questions. Also, his lawyer tags along to the exam, which is . . . uncommon. And the lawyer secretly records the exam on his cell phone. District court: Given the “flagrant and repeated misconduct exhibited by Plaintiff and his attorney,” the entire case is dismissed. Sixth Circuit: Affirmed. Although we’re generally reluctant to dismiss a plaintiff’s suit merely to sanction the plaintiff’s lawyer, both the trackman and his lawyer behaved badly here. Judge Sutton, concurring: Also, we shouldn’t be at all reluctant to hold parties accountable for their lawyers’ misdeeds, even if the parties themselves are not at fault.
  • It takes an awful lot to vacate a conviction under the plain-error standard of review. So why did the Sixth Circuit give two admitted drug dealers a new trial? Let’s go to the transcript: “Defendant: I’m just a Catholic believer. Prosecutor: Catholic believer? Do you understand that there is a Commandment that says thou shall not have any god before me? Def: Yes, I understand. Pros: But yet you prayed to the idol for drug traffickers [Malverde] for protection?” Later, in closing: “Pros: I wonder how many prayers he has said to Malverde before he walked into the courtroom yesterday. I wonder if what’s going through his mind this morning was, I’m going to say another prayer for protection from the jurors of Central Kentucky.”
  • Robber flees a Fort Wayne, Ind. store. In the split second he opens the door, he’s shot by a policeman. The officer says he thought the robber was armed. The robber says he was trying to surrender (or at least needed a chance to). The officer: I should have won at summary judgment; don’t make me go to trial. Seventh Circuit: The district court said the facts are disputed, so we can’t hear your appeal yet.
  • Brace yourself for a habeas head-scratcher. In 2008, Kenosha County, Wisc. husband is convicted in state court of murdering his wife. But at trial, the court admitted a “voice from the grave” letter in which wife wrote that she feared her husband would kill her. Seventh Circuit (2015): Which was a very wrong application of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause. District court (2015): So within 90 days, the state must either “initiate[] proceedings to retry” the husband or set him free. State court: Proceedings initiated. But wait! Intervening Supreme Court decisions have clarified that wife’s letter is admissible after all. So since there’s no point in holding a new trial, conviction reinstated. Seventh Circuit (2019): Technically, the state “initiate[d] proceedings to retry” the husband, which is all the federal district court required of it. So as far as appeals go, it’s back to square one for the husband.
  • Milwaukee police patrolling high-crime neighborhood espy man with suspicious bulge in his pocket. He walks briskly away from them, appears to place an object between the screen door and front door of nearby home—his home. Officers follow him up onto the porch, check between the doors, find a gun. Suppress the evidence? No need, says two-thirds of a Seventh Circuit panel.
  • Mexican citizen (with U.S. citizen wife and kids) seeks to develop San Diego waterfront, contributes to local elected officials. Which is illegal. Does it violate foreign nationals’ First Amendment rights to bar them from contributing to political campaigns? Ninth Circuit: No. Nor does it violate the Second Amendment to bar them from possessing firearms. (More on that from Eugene Volokh.)
  • In 2010, Fremont, Calif. landlord conducts background check of potential tenant, which reveals several criminal charges (but only one conviction). The would-be tenant’s application is rejected. He sues the company that did the background check. Did the company violate federal and state law by including a 2000 charge (that was dismissed in 2004) in its report to the landlord? The suit should not have been dismissed, says a partially divided Ninth Circuit panel.
  • And in en banc news, the Sixth Circuit will not reconsider its decision permitting a substantive due process claim to proceed against officials responsible for the Flint, Mich. municipal water crisis. Judge Sutton, concurring in denial of rehearing en banc: If officials intentionally poisoned the water this case should proceed. But if officials were merely grossly negligent, the district court should put an end to this litigation. Judge Kethledge, dissenting: All decent people are sympathetic to plaintiffs, but the law is against them. Officials weren’t on notice that there is a right to bodily integrity that can be violated by supplying bad water.

This month, Florida legislators passed a criminal justice omnibus bill that will, among other things, remove unnecessary restrictions on people with criminal records getting occupational licenses. Hear, hear! “When you take away someone’s ability to earn a lawful living, the risk of recidivism increases. Clearing the way for people to earn an honest living is one of the best ways to prevent recently released individuals from re-offending,” says Justin Pearson, managing attorney of the IJ Florida Office, who testified during the committee process. “But strict occupational licensing requirements make it harder for ex-offenders to find work.” The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature. Click here for more.

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Hulu Doesn’t Grasp Catch-22’s Deep Anger

Catch-22. Available now on Hulu.

When Joseph Heller’s epically rebellious novel Catch-22 was published in 1961, the film rights sold almost immediately.  Yet it took nine years before it was turned into a movie. Part of the delay was no doubt due to the book’s themes. It was scathingly anti-war, anti-authority, anti-corporate, anti-bureaucracy, anti-practically every foundational belief of 1950s America.  And it shockingly vented its rage and contempt through the milieu of World War II, the unambiguously Good War against Hitler and Tojo, a war in which millions of American families had a blood stake.

But there was another problem with bringing Catch-22 to the screen: its circular and repetitive narrative, seemingly random and fraught with free association, but actually one of the most intricately constructed works in all of American fiction. Catch-22 is not a conventional novel and it doesn’t adapt well to conventional filmmaking.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch Hulu’s new six-hour miniseries version of Catch-22, a textbook exercise in straightforward television production, and then hunt around for the anarchically scripted 1970 Mike Nichols film.  The Nichols film still gleams with the diamond-hard fury of the book and echoes with its mad laughter. The tepid Hulu series has neither. Next to the movie, the Hulu series looks like a pallid corpse drained by a vampire.

Like Heller’s novel, the series is centered around Yossarian (Christopher Abbott, notable for being hounded off the set of HBO’s Girls after a run-in with its loon producer Lena Dunham), a young American crewman in a B-25 bomber flying missions off the Italian island of Pianosa late in World War II.

Yossarian hates the totalitarianism of military life, but he loathes the fact it’s trying to kill him, sending him out every day on another aerial mission against mortality. Arguments about Hitler do not impress him. “The enemy,” he tells one of his flyboy friends, “is anybody who’s gonna get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.”

Yossarian tries nearly every dirty trick in the book—from faking illness to sabotaging his own plane to falsifying intelligence maps to get particularly deadly missions canceled—to get out of flying, always unsuccessfully.  Against his better judgment, he even tries a clean one: Completing the number of bombing runs necessary to get rotated out of combat.

But his commander, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights) blocks Yossarian by continually raising the number, from 25 to 30 and eventually all the way to 60, in an attempt to get himself promoted to general at the expense of his own men’s lives.

That drives Yossarian crazy, which seems to open another escape route: Surely crazy men can’t be sent into combat. No, agrees Doc Daneeka (Grant Heslov, a character actor who’s also one of the show’s executive producers). But there’s a catch: the infamous Catch-22 of the title.

“Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy,” Daneeka explains. “A concern for one’s own safety, in the face of danger real and immediate, is the process of a rational mind.”So Yossarian is crazy and can’t fly combat missions until he asks to be grounded, at which time he becomes sane and has to.

That reasoning itself is circular and crazy, which makes it the very essence of Catch-22 : The gap between madness and sanity, the lunacy of others thinking they are entitled to run your life and the lunacy of letting them do so, the craziness of men killing one another over lines on a map.

And this is an essence that the producers and directors of Hulu’s production (including George Clooney, who also has an acting role) repeatedly fail to grasp, most fundamentally in their belief that Catch-22 can be told chronologically rather than in the scattershot way Yossarian sees it.

But their incomprehension of the book’s cracked, absurdist core is a recurring problem that ultimately undoes the production altogether. Over and over, they leave out characters and scenes from the book that are indispensable to Catch-22‘s message, that the authorities governing life are cruel and irrational.

Or worse yet, the elements are present but warped completely out of significance:

  • Clooney’s character Lt. Scheisskopf is turned from a martinet maniacally obsessed with making his air crews march to a vengeful cuckold who’s punishing Yossarian for banging his wife.
  • The soldier in white, a gravely wounded flyer lying silently in the base hospital, encased head to toe in a plaster cast, makes an appearance. What is missing is the masterfully metaphoric scene in which the two bottles hooked to his body—one dripping fluid into a vein in his arm, one draining urine from his groin—are simply switched by the nurses.
  • The bitter bedroom quarrel between the atheists Yossarian and Lt. Scheisskopf’s wife in which they berate one another over the nature of the God they mutually disbelieve (“The God I don’t believe in is a good God, not the mean and stupid yokel you make him out to be,” insists Mrs. Scheisskopf) is played as if they’re joking, not arguing furiously in a way that underlines the contagious irrationality of religion.

So much is missing or misconstrued in Hulu’s Catch-22 that it’s tempting to evaluate the show in terms of what it lacks rather than what it includes.

The latter includes most of Yossarian’s screwball buddies, including the idealist Clevinger (as Heller wrote of him, “The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with.”); the naïve but earnest rich kid Nately (who imagines he can marry a Roman whore and take her home to the family mansion in Connecticut), and the hotshot pilot McWatt, who tries to explain to Yossarian that fretting about death is useless because “it’s all a numbers game. When your number’s up, your number’s up.”

Some of the supporting performances are very good even when poorly written, particularly Eldridge Mackelroy (Two and a Half Men) as Orr, the pilot whose luck is so bad that it’s almost as if he’s practicing being shot down, and stage actor Daniel David Stewart as Milo, the oily, avaricious mess officer who personifies state capitalism.

But Abbott’s Yossarian is much less successful, too calculating and without the fractured streak that made Heller’s character so indelible. And Abbott becomes even less convincing after the first couple of episodes, which employ great chunks of Heller’s dialogue. As Heller’s prose fades away, so does Yossarian and, for that matter, the rest of the show, which doesn’t really end so much as fizzle away to uncertainty and inconclusion.

My suggestion is that if you’re interested in watching a screen version of Catch-22, hunt around for a streaming version of the Nichols film, which stands up surprisingly well nearly 50 years later. Or take the opposite route and watch the 1973 pilot for a CBS comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss as Yossarian, an attempt to rip off M*A*S*H that mercifully died a quick death. It’s a reminder that war may be hell, but 1970s sitcoms are even worse.

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