Did Democrats waste time fighting Betsy DeVos?

I think so.  Surely other nominees, such as Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, were a much bigger threat to the progressive agenda than DeVos.

At Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog, Andrew Ujifusa asks whether Democrats wasted too much time, money, and political capital on the effort to defeat DeVos when other nominations appeared to pose a larger threat.

While some liberals regretted not attacking other nominees with equal force, they still insist that DeVos was super awful enough to warrant a hearty smear campaign.

Gov.-Atty General conflicts of interest in voter ID SCOTUS review

Whoever said that news moves at the speed of light in the Trump era sure nailed. This morning everyone’s trying to process the president rescinding rules protecting transgender students and how it could radically effect the ongoing HB2 battle.

In turn that left us barely any time to process the confusion over the North Carolina’s other ongoing legal battle— the voter ID law. News broke on Tuesday that Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein had sent a letter dismissing private attorneys who were representing the state in the appeal of a ruling last year by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found provisions of the voter ID law unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit Court’s ruling set the stage for the request of a review by the Supreme Court filed by the McCrory administration.

But the dismissed attorneys fired back, claiming “neither the governor nor the attorney general has the authority to move to dismiss the (Supreme Court appeal) without the consent of the General Assembly or its counsel.”

Read the full letter here. It’s a lot to take in, but here’s what jumped out at me–the claim that Cooper and Stein have serious conflicts of interest in this case:

As a candidate, Governor Cooper, despite his position as Attorney General in this litigation, made many public statements indicating that the election reform law at issue was unconstitutional. During the trial, Attorney General Stein, then a member of the State Senate, testified on behalf of the plaintiffs and, as a member of the State Senate, voted against the challenged statute and publicly spoke out against it.

So where have we heard this legal argument before? You guessed it—Trump’s statements about a “Muslim ban” on the campaign trial were alluded to during the legal fight over the president’s travel ban, which specifically does not bar Muslims.

Stay tuned.

NCAE one of the NEA’s “5 financially shakiest states”

Mike Antonucci analyzed the 2015 tax filings and internal membership numbers for all state National Education Association (NEA) affiliates.  He found that union affiliates in Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin were on the shakiest ground.  He writes,

The North Carolina Association of Educators lost 9.6 percent of its active members in 2015 and is only about half the size it was in 2010. It is now below the threshold for payroll deduction of dues set by state law, although enforcement of that provision seems to be a problem for the state.

NCAE ran a $690,000 deficit in 2015, and its employees claim they have not received a raise in eight years.

According to Antonucci, affiliates in Georgia, Iowa, and South Carolina are also in financial trouble.

A plea for Burkean solutions

Gracy Olmstead explains in a Federalist column why she believes American conservatives could use a good dose of Edmund Burke.

Burke advocates for a sort of political version of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” or DIY’s “Rehab Addict.” Take the old, and revive it. Fix what’s broken down—don’t just raze the building and start over.

Conservatives believe in building on old foundations, and carrying forward ancient legacies. We don’t level old buildings just because they’re old. Where there are good bones, we build on them. To take the term at its most literal, being a conservative means we should “conserve.” …

… We have an all-too-powerful president, warring and dysfunctional Congress, and disintegrating local government. It’s a woeful picture, especially set against the backdrop of opioid addiction, familial breakdown, and declining religious and civic participation. Things are broken, it’s true. But how do we respond to the brokenness? We’re at a moment in which, like the French, we’re tempted to disband and destroy—to “despise everything that belongs to us.”

For some progressives, this translates into a deep contempt for the constitutional principles we’ve inherited. Bernie Sanders progressives advocate for a system of government that is deeply antithetical to America’s tradition of limited government and subsidiarity. It’s analogous to installing an IKEA kitchen in an eighteenth-century manor house.

But many so-called “conservatives” are also eschewing Burke’s vision of conservatism. In their zeal to destroy political correctness and progressivism, they’ve embraced executive power, seeking a charismatic leader who might destroy all their cultural and governmental pet peeves in one fell swoop. No matter if that requires executive orders or messianic assurances of political salvation.

Additionally, a lot of right-leaning folks have embraced the tropes of populism, regardless of whether the popular will bends toward conservative values. The celebrities of today’s populist movement have little to do with the conservatism of America’s past. Instead, as Matt Lewis put it for The Daily Beast, “Once arguably too wonky and prudish, today’s conservatism, judging by CPAC’s invited speakers, is increasingly crude, vulgar, and lowbrow.” Today’s Right is drawn to dynamism, charisma, and bombast—to breaking and destroying things, especially if those “things” are political correctness and the status quo.

The problem is that we don’t want a Robespierre or Napoleon to rise to power in America, as they did in the wake of France’s Revolution. We may need to see some reformation and repair, but we don’t want to destroy everything in the name of revolution. That’s what Edmund Burke was saying in the 1780s. It’s just as true in 2017.

Covering up by harming veterans

Pete Kasperowicz of the Washington Examiner highlights the work of a Veterans Affairs whistleblower.

A whistleblower in the Atlanta office of the Department of Veterans Affairs warned President Trump on Tuesday that the VA is preparing to throw out hundreds of thousands of benefit applications due to an error the VA itself made during the Obama administration.

Scott Davis, a well-known whistleblower who has testified before Congress, wrote an open letter to Trump saying that more than 500,000 of these applications might be scuttled in March unless he intervenes.

“I am sending this whistleblower disclosure to your office due to the urgent need for executive intervention,” he wrote. “VA is planning on declaring over 500,000 Veteran applications for VA health care as incomplete and abandoned at the end of March 2017.”

Davis said those veterans’ applications had errors that prevented them from being processed over the last year. The VA categorized them as applications that are about to be tossed out because of errors made by the applicant.

But Davis said he has evidence that the errors were instead made by the VA.

Who says you need a Social Security Number to collect benefits?

Elizabeth Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon documents another piece of disturbing news linked to federal government spending.

The Social Security Administration paid $1 billion in benefits to individuals who did not have a Social Security Number (SSN), according to a new audit.

The agency’s inspector general found errors in the government’s documentation for representative payees, otherwise known as individuals who receive retirement or disability payments on behalf of another person who is incapable of managing the benefits themselves.

The audit released Friday found thousands of cases where there was no SSN on file.

Over the last decade, the agency paid $1 billion to 22,426 representative payees who “did not have an SSN, and SSA had not followed its policy to retain the paper application.”

“Furthermore, unless it takes corrective action, we estimate SSA will pay about $182.5 million in benefits, annually, to representative payees who do not have an SSN or paper application supporting their selection,” the inspector general said.

The inspector general also found the agency paid $853.1 million in benefits since 2004 to individuals who had been terminated as representative payees by the agency.

The inspector general said the errors occurred because the agency did not keep paper applications supporting an individual’s case to receive benefits on behalf of another and did not update its system if their status was terminated.

Only six percent of representative payees had SSNs that were properly recorded, based on the audit’s sample of 100 beneficiaries.

A media renaissance implies a return from the Dark Ages

Varad Mehta explains at National Review Online that the much-touted “renaissance” of American news media implies that media outlets have been less than stellar in recent years.

Judging by journalists’ words and deeds since Donald Trump was elected, their field stands on the precipice of a renaissance. To be reborn, however, something must first have become moribund. Which raises the question: If American journalism is on the eve of a renaissance, why was it experiencing a dark age in the first place? …

… For something to be revitalized, it must first have become defunct, gone extinct. The idea of renaissance implies the idea of a dark age out of which it emerges. Journalists sound very much as though a dark age has ended and that they have entered a renaissance. Perhaps they have. But if so, why were they in a dark age to begin with? Or to put it another way, if journalism’s back, where was it hiding for the last eight years?

There is no answer to this question that casts the media in a flattering light. At best, they were merely derelict; at worst, they refused to do their job for reasons of politics and partisanship. It’s unlikely that in their hosannas to themselves, reporters meant to convey the impression that hitherto they had been asleep at the switch. Yet by so loudly advertising the alacrity with which they were now executing their solemn duties, they inadvertently exposed their quiescence under President Obama.

Why did journalism have to reassert itself? Had it been tamed or rendered timid? Each time someone proclaims that the media are back, he implies that they had gone away. You can’t return unless you’d left. So where did the media go? Were they on sabbatical or something? When reporters swear, “We’re doing our jobs again,” they are confessing, “We weren’t before.” Which leads one to ask, Why not?

The truth about Sweden

Rich Lowry of National Review Online looks for the truth behind President Trump’s latest quip about problems in Sweden.

At a campaign rally over the weekend, Trump issued forth with a mystifyingly ominous statement. “You look,” he declared, “at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” What? Had the president invented a nonexistent terror attack? As it turned out, the reference was to a segment on Sweden he had watched on the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight the previous night rather than to any specific event in the Nordic country.

The ensuing discussion quickly took on the character of much of the debate in the early Trump years — a blunderbuss president matched against a snotty and hyperventilating press, with a legitimate issue lurking underneath.

By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge.

Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. Nothing if not an earnest and well-meaning society, Sweden has always accepted more than its share of refugees. Immigration was already at elevated levels before the latest influx into Europe from the Middle East, which prompted Sweden to try to see and raise the reckless open-borders policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sweden welcomed more than 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, and nearly 40,000 in October of that year alone. For a country of fewer than ten million, this was almost equal to two percent of the population — in one year. The flow doubled the number of asylum-seekers at the height of the Balkans crisis in 1992.