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From the archives: Gun control and the meaning of the Second Amendment - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 18:13

This week, in response to the killings of 17 people in Parkland, Florida and earlier mass shootings, AEI visiting fellow Ramesh Ponnuru wrote an insightful piece on the gun control debate. In it, he argues for modest approaches to curb gun violence that can secure bipartisan support. While some people are calling for a complete repeal of the Second Amendment, Ponnuru cautions that this approach would likely fail, exacerbating national divisions.

Read Ponnuru's latest:

Whether you favor repeal or think it is a fantasy, as Ponnuru suggests, a deeper understanding of what the Second Amendment is prompts this From the Archives column. An essay by the late AEI scholar Robert Goldwin who edited and contributed to a magnificent series of AEI volumes on the Constitution does just that. In May 1998, Goldwin penned an essay titled, “What Does the Second Amendment Mean?” wherein he attempted to dispel public misconceptions about this controversial amendment. Goldwin wrote: “[W]hat is predictable in the political arena, whenever the subject of guns comes up, is the rhetoric invoking the Second Amendment, and the seeming certainty about the meaning of the Second Amendment.” He went on to note that while little doubt is expressed about its meaning in the political terms, the judicial arena is “an entirely different situation . . .  There simply is no modern jurisprudence that explains to judges the meaning of ‘the right to keep and bear arms’ and the scope of their authority to decide that a given piece of legislation constitutes an infringement on that right.” From that statement, Goldwin proceeds to a close analysis of the wording of the successive 1789 versions and the historical context in which the Second Amendment came to be.

Read the full text of Goldwin's Second Amendment analysis:

A recent reference to Goldwin in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday in a review of two new books on political polarization attests to the long-term significance of his work.

Looking for more From the Archives stories? Check out our latest work on such topics as bitcoin, agriculture policy, Washington’s history of political scandals, Nobel laureates, the North Korea threat, and much more.

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What’s really driving the opioid crisis? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 17:00

As AEI Resident Scholar Sally Satel, a practicing psychiatrist who treats drug addiction, explains in her latest op-ed: The opioid epidemic continues to ravage the nation, and to make matters worse, a false narrative has taken hold of the public, the media, and policy makers. The epidemic is not being driven by patients becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids or painkillers like hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and oxycodone (e.g., Percocet). Instead, the engine of the opioid epidemic is the most lethal “street opioids” such as fentanyl and heroin – not prescription drugs. 

Dr. Satel explains that:

[R]eining in excessive opioid prescriptions should help . . . in theory, suppress abuse and addiction among those who consume the . . . supply, [but] it will not be enough to reduce opioid deaths today. In the first decade of the 2000s . . . painkillers were seen as the “gateway” to cheap, abundant heroin . . . If physicians were more restrained in their prescribing, the logic went, fewer of their patients would become addicted, and the pipeline to painkiller addiction and ultimately to heroin would run dry.

It’s not turning out that way. While the volume of prescriptions has trended down since 2011, total opioid-related deaths have risen. The drivers for the past few years are heroin and, mostly, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times as potent as heroin. Fentanyl has legitimate medical use, but there is also illicit fentanyl, trafficked mostly from China, often via the Dark Web. Fentanyl and heroin (which itself is usually tainted to some extent with the fentanyl) together were present in more than two-thirds of all opioid-related deaths in 2016, according to CDC data. Painkillers were present in a little more than one-third of opioid-related deaths, but a third of those painkiller deaths also included heroin or fentanyl. While deaths from prescription opioids have basically leveled off, when you look at deaths in which prescription opioids plus heroin and fentanyl were present, then the recorded deaths attributed to prescription opioids continue to climb, too.

[M]ore current heroin users these days seem to be initiating their opioid trajectory with heroin itself—an estimated 33 percent as of 2015—rather than with opioid painkillers. In the first decade of the 2000s, about 75 to 80 percent of heroin users started using opioids with pills (though not necessarily pain medication prescribed by a doctor for that particular person). It seems that, far more than prescribed opioids, the unpredictability of heroin and the turbocharged lethality of fentanyl have been a prescription for an overdose disaster.

[W]e need to make good use of what we know about the role that prescription opioids plays in the larger crisis: that the dominant narrative about pain treatment being a major pathway to addiction is wrong, and that an agenda heavily weighted toward pill control is not enough.

To read the full piece, click here.

To arrange an interview with Sally Satel, please contact AEI Media Services at mediaservices@aei.org or 202.862.5829.

Measles has returned with a vengeance to Europe. Is the US next? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:42

The World Health Organization is concerned about rising rates of measles across Europe. Romania is the worst affected with over 5,000 cases last year. But many EU nations have an increasing problem. Vaccination rates have dropped largely due to bogus concerns over vaccine safety.

Maintaining herd immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella requires vaccination rates of about 95% — but many US states are well below that figure. Via Twenty20

Vaccination rates for the measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine of about 95% are required to maintain herd immunity, yet many US states are well below that figure. As of a couple of years ago, eight had fewer than 90% vaccination rates, and rates are falling.

Lowest MMR vaccination rates by state:

  • Maine: 89.9%
  • Washington: 89.7%
  • District of Columbia: 89%
  • Idaho: 88.2%
  • Kansas: 86.9%
  • Arkansas: 86.5%
  • Pennsylvania: 85.3%
  • Colorado: 81.7%

Measles is a disfiguring and sometimes lethal disease. It’s important to combat anti-vaccine arguments — or lethal diseases will return to the US.

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Banter #304: Richard Reeves on “Dream Hoarders” and mobility in America - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:00

On this week’s episode of Banter, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Richard Reeves discusses his book “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.” The book argues that the top 20 percent of income earners in America are increasingly passing their status to their children, reducing overall social mobility for the bottom 80 percent. “Dream Hoarders” received considerable attention upon its release in 2017. Check out the links below for more information including a review of the book by AEI Director of Economic Policy Studies Michael Strain.

Learn More:

Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It | Richard Reeves | Brookings Institution | June 13, 2017

Must-Reads for 2017: Rethinking the American Dream | Michael Strain | Bloomberg View | December 8, 2017

Is the American dream being hoarded? A short-read Q&A with Richard Reeves | Jim Pethokoukis and Richard Reeves | AEIdeas | July 7, 2017 

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Democrats are crippling America’s response to Russian interference - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 13:00

The indictment issued on Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III shows a conspiracy of stunning sophistication by Kremlin-connected Russians, posing as American citizens or using stolen U.S. identities, to influence the 2016 presidential election.

What it does not show is any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Quite the opposite, the indictment shows evidence of a lack of collusion. “Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign . . . to coordinate political activities,” the indictment reads. If these Russians were colluding with the Trump campaign, there would be no reason to hide their true identities from multiple campaign officials.

Moreover, the indictment states that the Russian effort began in 2014, a year before Donald Trump declared his intention to run for president. No one, left or right or center, took Trump seriously as a candidate when he declared in 2015. The idea that the Russians saw what all of us didn’t — that Trump had a serious shot at winning the White House — and figured this out way back in 2014, before Trump even declared his candidacy, is absurd.

The Russians did develop a preference for Trump, but their effort was much bigger than Trump, according to the indictment. The Russian influence campaign was part of something called “Project Lakhta,” which “had multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States.” The Russians’ stated goal was to “spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.” In other words, Russia was engaged in complex, well-funded, multinational effort to undermine trust in the democratic process in the United States and other countries.

This is a grave threat. Republicans and Democrats should be working together in bipartisan way to confront it. So why is this not happening? Because Democrats have politicized the issue, weaponizing the Russia inquiry in an effort to delegitimize Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton with these unfounded collusion charges. They have put their partisan goal of bringing down President Trump ahead of what should be a national goal that unites both parties — uncovering and stopping Russia’s attack on our democracy.

The president’s critics complain that his response to the Mueller indictment is defensive. America is under attack, they say, and all he can talk about is himself. Well, whose fault is that? For more than a year, Democrats have repeatedly accused Trump of colluding with Moscow. Now the special counsel has issued an indictment that shows — at least with regard to this element of the Russian effort — that no collusion took place. Of course Trump is going to claim vindication! Perhaps evidence of collusion between Trump officials and Russia will still emerge. If it does, those officials should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But Trump’s response is not the behavior of someone who is worried that Mueller will find evidence he knowingly engaged in collusion.

In fact, the only evidence so far of any cooperation between a hired operative of a 2016 campaign and Russian officials is when the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid Christopher Steele to collect dirt on Trump from Russian officials. If Trump had paid a former spy to collect dirt on Clinton from Russian officials, Democrats would be shouting that they had the “smoking gun.”

It is true that Russia wanted Trump to win. But the intelligence community report on Russia’s interference also stated the Russians had concluded “that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election” (emphasis added). Once they concluded Clinton would be elected, the Russian influence effort “focused on undermining her expected presidency.” One way to do that would be for Russian officials to provide her campaign with unverified dirt on Trump — fodder for Trump to claim that Democrats colluded with Moscow.

Russia’s effort was sophisticated and complex, and presents an ongoing threat not just to America but to our allies as well. Trump was not in office when the Russian effort began in 2014 . . . or in 2015 . . . or in 2016. For three years, President Barack Obama did virtually nothing in response to this attack on America. It’s way past time to address this threat, and we need to do it in a bipartisan manner. But for that to happen, Democrats need to stop politicizing the Russia investigation.

The problem of dwindling urban Catholic schools - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:00

LAST MONTH, THE DIOCESE of Memphis announced it would cease operations of Jubilee Catholic Schools, a network serving more than 1,400 of the city’s disadvantaged students. Jubilee had become financially unsustainable. The diocese didn’t have the money to keep the schools afloat, and the low-income families they served couldn’t pay the tuition necessary to cover the gap.

Although many grieved the loss, those who follow urban Catholic schooling have become mostly inured to such stories. Inner-city Catholic schools have been closing for decades, a consequence of a combination of challenges including changing urban demographics; fewer priests, brothers and nuns; the competition from charter schools; and more.

But the news of Jubilee’s demise was especially poignant. This was not supposed to happen.

The full version of this article will be available on AEI on March 1st. Until then, you can continue reading here.

Cash, credit, or bitcoin: Do cryptocurrencies make good ‘spending money’? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:00

Do people use cryptocurrency to pay for small daily purchases, such as a burger and fries, or a subway fare? The preferred means of payment likely hinges on cost and convenience. For small everyday local purchases, cash, cards, and smartphone payment apps are likely to be cheapest and easiest to use. Cryptocurrencies are only competitive when transactions are large and span national borders. For such transactions, cryptocurrencies compete directly with banks and non-bank financial institutions such as PayPal and informal remittance mechanisms such as hawala.

Consider, for example, the fees needed to get the blockchain to process a single bitcoin transaction. The time needed to process a transaction is inversely related to the transaction fee offered to miners. On average, a new block is processed every 15 minutes. The graph below shows that the cost of including a transaction in the next one, three, or six blocks on the blockchain has varied widely over time from a low of a few cents to as much as $37. The potential high transaction cost and variability make bitcoin an unappealing way to pay for a burger and fries.

Source: https://bitcoinfees.info

Cryptocurrency becomes a competitive payment mechanism when transaction sizes are large and transactions span national borders. In this market, cryptocurrencies not only compete with banks but also with money transfer and remittance agents.

PayPal is a regulated electronic funds transfer agent. For a small commission, PayPal will transfer national currencies between any two parties, provided the parties have access to email and a PayPal account. PayPal transactions do not require a bank account. However, PayPal transactions are not anonymous, and single transactions must be less than $10,000.

Learn more:

Hawala is an inexpensive way to make small payments to remote locations without using the banking system. Hawaladars are merchants, not regulated financial institutions. Hawaladars are widely distributed across the globe and are typically interlinked by some type of trade arrangement that complements their hawala remittance business (e.g., handmade carpets, electronics, used cars, jewelry trading, etc.).

To make a payment using hawala, the party sending payment agrees on transaction terms, including the location, currency, and size of the payment. Counterparty names are not needed or recorded. The initiator pays his or her local hawaladar in local currency. In return, the hawaladar gives the payer a password and provides the password to a hawaladar in the payee’s location. The payer provides the password to the payee who uses it to receive payment from the local hawaladar. There is no written record of the transaction.

The total volume of hawala transactions reportedly exceeds $400 billion annually. To avoid detection and prosecution for violations of money laundering, exchange controls, and operating an unlicensed money transfer business, hawaladars are unlikely to process exceptionally large individual transactions.

While hawala is a potential substitute for small transaction cryptocurrency demand, it may also be a source of cryptocurrency demand. Reports suggest that hawaladars are using bitcoin and other virtual currencies to facilitate hawala remittances.

Blockchain data show that an important share of cryptocurrency transactions involve very large values. For example, Bitcoin has a number of blockchain transactions that have exceeded the equivalent of $100 million, and transactions that are equivalent in value to many millions of US dollars occur regularly on the blockchain.

Because both hawala and cryptocurrency transactions are anonymous, they are attractive among those transacting in illegal goods and services, funding terrorism, or other illegal activities. A recent paper estimates that nearly 24 million bitcoin market participants and nearly half of all bitcoin transactions can be linked to illegal activities. While hawala itself is illegal in many countries, hawala transactions are numerous, and many are generated by legitimate business activities. It has proved difficult to estimate the magnitude of illegal transactions settled using hawala.

In assessing the future growth of cryptocurrencies, it would be a mistake to overestimate the importance of money demand generated by day-to-day transactions. As Jimmy Buffet reminds us, “You may get by looking good and being funny, but life’s more fun with a little spending money.” And unless transaction costs decline, that all-important spending money is unlikely to be cryptocurrency.

Learn more:

The case for small steps to solve a big gun problem - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 20:48

In the effort to reduce gun violence, or gun massacres, should we go big or go small? Should we concentrate on steps that have a consensus behind them, at the risk of not making much difference? Or should we seek to transform American law and culture, even if success looks pitifully unlikely?

The movement to regulate gun ownership has pursued both strategies at once, fighting for incremental progress toward the goal of much tighter restrictions. But the tensions between these strategies are inescapable.

The people who advocate a ban on handguns are a useful foil for the people who don’t want any restrictions at all. Yet centering the debate on small changes can demoralize advocates who want to end a bloody status quo.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has been arguing that we should be ambitious, and set our sights on the Second Amendment. Working within the constraints of the amendment leads to policies such as banning assault weapons and instituting background checks for private gun sales. These regulations will, he thinks, have “negligible” effects on homicide rates. He urges us to “do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts.”

Only after repealing the Second Amendment, Stephens says, will we be able to have rational gun laws. What those laws would be, he is consistently evasive in describing.

He acknowledges that a repeal campaign looks quixotic today, but cites the struggle for same-sex marriage as an example of an unlikely triumph. It is a terrible analogy, for two main reasons. First, same-sex marriage never went through a five-decade period of sharply declining popularity. A ban on the civilian ownership of handguns has.

Second, same-sex marriage was able to prevail even though a large minority of Americans opposed it. Even now about a third of the country opposes it. What Stephens is proposing is a constitutional amendment, and the normal amendment process requires the support of two-thirds of both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of the states.

The first step of the Stephens plan is, in other words, to get nearly everyone in the country to agree that the Constitution should not protect gun rights. He offers no explanation of how this would be accomplished. His columns amount to wishing away the disagreement he seeks to overcome. And he has the gall to say that conservatives who reject his idea are the ones who don’t “offer anything except false bromides and empty prayers.”

I’m tempted to respond that offering thoughtless clickbait is no great service. But the impulse to go big is understandable, especially when you consider the tinkering alternatives that are usually suggested. A ban on assault weapons looks like the worst of both worlds. It would be very hard to achieve — a Democratic Senate mustered only 40 votes for it after the Sandy Hook massacre — and have almost no effect even if it succeeded. Stephens is right about that.

That doesn’t mean we should just accept current levels of gun violence and mass murder. The fact that gun violence has been declining for decades should counsel against fatalism. John Cornyn of Texas, the number-two Republican in the Senate, and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, the chamber’s leading proponent of gun regulation, have a bill to address deficiencies in the background-check system.

Several states have considered gun violence restraining orders that would enable the disarming of people who give evidence of posing a danger to others. Governments could also create duties to report such dangers, and impose liability on people who give others they know pose a danger access to guns (or bombs).

These ideas are consistent with the Second Amendment. They can earn support from people who favor gun rights. And they might save some lives. None of them, it is true, would “solve” the problem of gun violence or eliminate the incidence of massacres.

They acknowledge the reality that our country has hundreds of millions of guns and deep divisions over them. They are small, practical steps, useless for providing inspiration or generating invective. But we should not miss the opportunity for modest improvements because we prefer the comforts of fantasy.

Discussing the antitrust case against Google: Pethokoukis on CNBC’s ‘Power Lunch’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 18:46
DeWitt Wallace Fellow James Pethokoukis discusses the implications of an antitrust lawsuit against Google.

What do would-be governors have to say about education? - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 16:57

As seen from Washington over the past few years, the education debate has been dominated by school choice, K–12 accountability, college costs, and free speech on campus. But the real action on education tends to be in the states — which are constitutionally responsible for providing education and where roughly one-third of each year’s budget is typically devoted to funding K–12 and colleges. As the 2018 elections loom, with 36 gubernatorial contests getting underway, it’s worth looking at what would-be governors are talking about and how that relates to the Washington conversation.

So, during the first half of February, we used the National Governors Association website and Ballotpedia to identify the 269 declared gubernatorial candidates and then visited the websites for each. There were 121 candidates who had no website (a tiny handful) or who offered no information regarding their education positions. For the 148 candidates who had something to say on education — including 63 Republicans and 85 Democrats — we examined their sites to see wha ttopics addressed and what they had to say. What did this exercise reveal?

First, there’s been a marked shift from many of the concerns that predominated 4 or 8 years ago. Candidates devoted little attention to topics like school accountability (mentioned by just nine candidates), teacher evaluation (mentioned by just five), or the Common Core (mentioned by 17). When testing and standards do arise, candidates don’t have many good things to say. For instance, the mentions of academic standards and the Common Core are overwhelmingly negative — with more than 80 percent denouncing them. Similarly, just one candidate makes a positive reference to testing; the other 19 candidates who mention the topic all promise to reduce the number of tests.

Second, the only educational issue that registered support from a majority of candidates was career and technical education (CTE), which received enthusiastic bipartisan backing. More than 60 candidates — including 40 Democrats and 24 Republicans — endorsed expanding CTE.

Third, there is less attention — positive or negative — paid to charter schools, education savings accounts, and school voucher programs than one might anticipate, given the high-profile that school choice has enjoyed since President Trump’s election. Indeed, just 17 Democrats and 16 Republicans mention charter schooling at all. All of the Republicans are positive about charter schools, while two-thirds of the Democrats are negative, with several voicing concerns about for-profit charter schools or the undermining of district schools. Thirty-one Republicans mention school vouchers, and all except one are supportive; 14 Democrats mention vouchers, and all are negative.

Aside from school choice, there are a few other issues where a stark partisan divide is evident. Early childhood education is very popular with Democrats, 43 of whom mention it approvingly. But it is mentioned by just five Republicans. The same is true for school spending. Forty-four Democrats say that schools need more money; just 12 Republican candidates say something along those lines.

On higher education, candidates are silent about free speech on campus. For all the attention this issue has received nationally, especially on the Right, none of the declared Republican gubernatorial candidates mention it. A number of Democrats are focusing on “college affordability,” as are a handful of Republicans. All told, 26 Democrats mention proposals to freeze tuition, provide debt-free college, support dual enrollment, or something similar, as do six Republicans.

A couple of additional wrinkles bear watching.

The same general phrases can be used to mean very different things. For instance, when they refer to “early education,” some governors are talking about programs serving children 0 to 3, while others are talking about universal pre-kindergarten. By “career and technical education,” some mean vocational schools while others mean apprenticeships; some are championing more high school programs while others are thinking about community college systems.

Technology, including computer science, virtual schooling, and improving classroom technology, receives bipartisan but relatively shallow support. While all mentions are positive, just 16 candidates mentioned it — eight Democrats and eight Republicans.

Notably, no candidate made mention of social and emotional learning — a topic that has received substantial attention in educational and popular circles over the past few years.

There seem to be a few clear takeaways:

One, the accountability, standards, and teacher evaluation reforms at the heart of the Bush-Obama agenda have almost no outspoken champions among the nation’s would-be governors.

Two, although education policy has long been described as bipartisan, today the partisan divides appear fairly stark.

And, three, the only proposal that appears to enjoy broad, bipartisan support is career and technical education.

It looks like a new era of school reform may be emerging in the states, but, as yet, it’s far from clear what it will look like.

Seven years after the revolution, America is still wrong about Libya - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 16:51

Seven years after Libya’s revolution, the country is a failed state with a humanitarian crisis and a serious threat to US national security. America’s enemies and adversaries, including ISIS, Al Qaeda and Russia, are exploiting the collapse and establishing themselves in Libya at America’s expense, while the United States is not paying attention and not preparing for the gathering storm.

American inaction in Libya is not neutrality. It is failure. Reasons for this abound. The United States has outsourced the Libyan political crisis to a United Nations mission while pursuing a failed strategy to defeat ISIS with military action through airstrikes and support for local forces.

But military victory is impossible despite the temporary disruption of ISIS safe havens. Instability and absent governance allow ISIS and other Salafi jihadi groups, including Al Qaeda, to operate in Libya. A U.S. policy that is militarized and focused on ISIS also fails to address the strategic value of Libya, which is a battleground in a regional proxy war and a theater for Russia’s expansion into the Mediterranean.

ISIS is rising again in Libya. It is recovering from the loss of its urban stronghold in late 2016 and is now disrupting oil production and expanding its reach southward. ISIS is using Libya as its primary foothold in Africa to receive foreign fighters from Europe and its embattled Middle Eastern strongholds, to continue the unprecedented mobilization of sub-Saharan jihadists, and as a base from which to plan and coordinate attacks against the West.

As long as conditions of conflict, social grievance, and absent governance create fertile ground for them, ISIS, Al Qaeda and like-minded groups will return time and again. No military defeat the United States could inflict on them would be enough to prevent them from reemerging in this environment.

Libya is not just a counterterrorism problem, it is also a geopolitical one. Russia is taking advantage of the American retreat from Libya to expand its military and economic influence and undercut American interests in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Russia’s plan in Libya is similar to its policy in Syria, where it has supplanted U.S. influence and established military bases on the Mediterranean.

Moscow is building ties with power brokers across the Libyan political spectrum and amassing influence in the Libyan oil sector, as well as leveraging its engagement in Libya to foster military cooperation with Egypt. Russia will also use its power in Libya to pressure southern European states sensitive to the flow of energy and migrants from Libya. It will try to apply that pressure to weaken the Euro-American alliance and induce passivity in the face of Russian aggression against Eastern Europe.

The forecast for Libya in 2018 is gloomy. The presidential and parliamentary elections, tentatively planned for late 2018, are more likely to incite conflict than to unify Libya, especially in the absence of a constitution. Violence related to the election has already begun. No single faction is strong enough to stabilize the country.

Even would-be strongman Khalifa Haftar is weakening, dependent on uncontrollable militias and watching security crumble in the largest city under his control. Dangerous currents are rising in the vacuum. Anti-democratic Salafi militias are taking on the role of police. Sectarian and ethnic tensions are rising. Hopeful trends in Libya, like increasingly active municipal governance, will wither without support.

The worst-case scenario for Libya is more dangerous than American policymakers have been willing to contemplate. Current events are likely to cause conflict at the local level and could reignite a countrywide armed conflict. This would draw away security forces currently fighting ISIS, hastening its regrowth.

A return to war would also allow Al Qaeda-aligned groups to reenter the fray and recover from their 2016 and 2017 setbacks. Increased Salafi jihadi activity would provide justification for Russia to establish military bases in Libya, mirroring its Syria intervention on a smaller scale. Chaos in Libya would also worsen the humanitarian crisis by preserving a slavery economy, exacerbating migration to Europe, and destabilizing neighboring states that already face major domestic challenges.

But all is not lost. Libya’s population is small and remarkably resistant to the coercion and blandishments of Salafi jihadi groups. U.S. action in Libya would provide an opportunity to strike a blow against the global Salafi jihadi movement and take a stance against Russian expansion. An effective political and military intervention now would be more successful — and cheaper — than one later, after problems spin out of control.

The United States could start by empowering the State Department to facilitate a negotiated settlement between all of Libya’s key factions. It could also pressure regional allies to cease support for Libyan proxies, especially armed groups that have an interest in continuing the war. The United States must lead and cannot miss an opportunity to turn Libya from a failure into a success.

Emily Estelle is a senior analyst with the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of the report “A Strategy for Success in Libya.”

Agency fees explained | In 60 seconds - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:18

 

On February 26, 2018, the Supreme Court will hear Janus v. ASCFME. The result of the case will determine the fate of agency fees in America and will have a huge impact on the financial stability of unions, but, um… what are agency fees? AEI’s Nat Malkus explains.

How a think tank measures the impact of ideas - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:40

Almost 10 years ago, I left my faculty position at Syracuse University for a new role as AEI’s president. In truth, I couldn’t have known all that was to come. Working with my intellectual heroes was even better than I expected. Meanwhile, we’ve taken on new challenges; grown our impact in Washington, DC, and beyond; and reinvigorated our mission with explicit moral purpose.

In the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, I was able to share the story of how treating AEI like a start-up enterprise strengthened our efforts in the competition of ideas and helped push us to the vanguard in the fight for freedom, opportunity, and human dignity. If you’re curious about how my colleagues and I manage AEI, read the essay.

You can access the full piece here.

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Are Europe’s digital companies paying their fair share? - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:30

If one listens to the European Commission (EC) and governments of countries such as France and Spain, one may get the impression that a spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of tax avoidance. With economic activity and trading taking place online, relying on intangible, hard-to-value assets and data, the EU countries are facing growing difficulties in ensuring that digital businesses are paying their fair share into public budgets.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

According to EC,

in an increasingly globalized and digitally connected world . . . ever more activity is moving into the digital space. Failure to address these situations will lead to more opportunities for tax avoidance, less tax revenues for public budgets, impact on social fairness, including through erosion of the social budgets, and it will destabilize the level playing field for businesses.

In response, the Commission proposes three possible solutions: an additional “equalization” tax on turnover of digital companies, a withholding tax on transactions made online, and a levy on all transactions including those provided by companies from outside the EU.

Any of those three would amount to a non-trivial increase of the tax burden facing the most productive and innovative sector of the EU’s economy. To justify such a policy move, the Commission’s concerns about the shrinking taxable base should be grounded in unimpeachable research. Alas, that does not seem to be the case, according to a new paper by Matthias Bauer, an economist at the Brussels-based European Center for International Political Economy.

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For one, contrary to alarmist claims about tax base erosion, “the overall share of taxes from corporate profits relative to GDP remained constant over the past 20 years.” Furthermore, Bauer scrutinizes the EC’s claims (p.6) that digital businesses face a much lower effective tax rate (around 10%) than traditional business models (over 20%, depending on whether the company operates internationally).

It turns out the Commission’s calculations — which have already made headlines — are not based on real-world data but mere hypotheticals about the profitability of digital business projects. In contrast, industry data show no substantial discrepancy between tax burdens facing digital and non-digital businesses — if anything, the 5-year and 3-year average effective tax rates are slightly higher for digital businesses.

Of course, companies cannot be divided neatly between “digital” and “non-digital” ones. Essentially all firms rely, to an increasing extent, on digital tools of communication, automation, or data processing. But that is hardly a reason for the slowdown in the growth of corporate tax receipts observed across the EU over the past decade, which closely mirrors the decline in rates of economic growth. Instead of trying to squeeze more revenue from the same taxable base, Europe’s leaders should be thinking about how the EU’s growth can be accelerated.

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It’s time for the world’s democracies to stand up for what they believe in - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:02

Experts often refer to the erosion of democracy and democratic norms since 2005 as a “recession.” But, in fact, we are facing a global democratic depression that will ultimately disrupt international stability and security far more than did the 2008 financial crisis.

This is not hyperbole. Last fall, our organizations — the liberal Center for American Progress and the conservative American Enterprise Institute — joined forces to study what ails democratic nations and how democratic regression will affect transatlantic security. While we often disagree over important policies, we are more unified than ever in our fear of a coming wave of democratic collapse.

People worldwide still prefer democracy as system of government, but major indexes presently show that, in a range of countries, democracies are in crisis; the data also show more backsliding on measures of democracy than ever before. Well-established democratic nations are failing basic tests on fundamentals such as the integrity of elections, protection of minorities and media freedom. Once-strong democracies such as Turkey and Venezuela are now democracies in name only.

A central revelation from our project is that these unsettling global trends have more to do with the shortcomings of the establishment class than with the political appeal of extremism and intolerance. Democracy that fails to be for the people ends up corrupted by the people, as they embrace extreme partisanship and elect populist disrupters. Those leaders often have little use for democratic institutions.

Both in Europe and the United States, extremists from the right and the left are filling a void left by mainstream parties. Authoritarian powers such as Russia are exploiting that void to sow chaos and weaken western political and security structures like the European Union and NATO — by deploying divisive propaganda and hacking, and selectively attacking politicians and elections.

To fight the rising tide of authoritarianism, we believe established democratic nations need three things: a restoration of the privileges that come with embracing true democracy, imposing costs for democratic backsliding, and a reinvigorated sense of democratic pride.

Until the fall of communism, the benefits of trade and investment, cooperation on national security and technology, and the movement of people for work and education were largely privileges of free nations. In the early 1990s, a reformist China and the countries of the crumbling Warsaw Pact raced to join multinational structures such as the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization.

Established democracies believed these new entrants would reform. But key autocratic leaders flipped the script. Democracies grew accustomed to cheap labor and cash from Chinese investment and wealthy Russian oligarchs. Concerns about theft of intellectual property, or subsidies for state-owned enterprises, or human rights abuses were largely brushed aside.

Now the consequences are becoming clear, but the response of democracies remains muddy. Defensive measures such as bolstering allies against Russian aggression and reciprocity for trade violations are important but demonstrably insufficient.

Instead, a renewed premium to bind democratic nations should take precedence over punishment of non-democracies. For example, as they update trade agreements, democracies could commit to preferential terms that reward shared commitments to the rule of law and labor standards — and coordinate responses to autocratic partners when they cheat the system. Democracies should assist one another in guaranteeing elections free of outside interference. They can enhance security cooperation, share more technology, and grant easier access for citizens seeking business or educational opportunities.

Rational investment in mutual friends for mutual benefit could be built out of existing structures such as the Community of Democracies or the G-7 — or from an informal club of countries like those involved in the Open Government Partnership. With China actively building structures to serve its interests, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, willing democracies might even step up with a new multinational body of their own.

Along with a new premium, democracies that backslide must face consequences. Joining NATO or the EU is an arduous process. Because membership has great privileges, aspirant nations commit themselves to the principles of the relevant treaties and institute difficult reforms in dozens of areas from customs to labor standards to the rule of law.

With Britain’s exit from the European Union, many democratic leaders are understandably fearful of further unraveling and are nervous to impose penalties against countries like Poland, Hungary and Turkey that violate commitments they made as part of the EU or NATO. This is a mistake. Democratic accountability is vital, even if it may prompt a backlash or further defections.

Calibration is key. Countries can be asked to reopen negotiations just on the areas in which they are slipping, such as judicial independence or free media. They might be placed on a probationary status or even be returned to candidate status. Only President Vladimir Putin of Russia will benefit from the irrevocable decline that would follow if democracies gradually abandon their standards.

Finally, mainstream politicians need to recapture patriotism and a positive — even populist — nationalism that is rooted in core democratic values. They need to fight for equality before the law, free markets, freedom of speech and the press, and free and fair elections as nationalist priorities. Conservative and liberals will continue to disagree, as we do, on everything from tax cuts to the wisdom of the Iran nuclear deal. But they can unite against the perils of authoritarianism. Some politicians are finding this path in Europe and the United States, but the legacy political parties on the center-left and center-right have a long way to go.

The world’s democracies are paralyzed by inaction in the face of this global crisis. The time has come to mount a coordinated response that renews the democratic spirit and restores mutual benefit among democratic nations. Otherwise, a less prosperous and less secure world awaits.

Vikram J. Singh is senior advisor for national security, democracy and technology at the Center for American Progress. Danielle Pletka is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Promise and Potential of Circles of Support and Accountability: A Sex Offender Reentry Program - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:00

Key Points

  • Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA), whose goal is “no more victims,” provides sex offenders released from prison with pro-social support as they return to society and emphasizes accountability by insisting that offenders accept responsibility for their actions.
  • Findings from a CoSA program in Minnesota showed that the program significantly reduced sex offense recidivism, lowering the risk of rearrest for a new sex offense by 88 percent.
  • By helping sex offenders successfully transition from prison to the community, CoSA prevents individuals from being victims of crime, including sex offenses.

Read the full report. 

Read the brief. 



Executive Summary 

Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is a sex offender reentry intervention that originated in a small Mennonite community in Canada in the 1990s. Established in response to the Christian call to radical hospitality, CoSA is an intervention rooted in the restorative justice perspective, which views crime as a harm committed against both the victim and the community. Circles contain between four and six community volunteers, one of whom is a primary volunteer, who meet with the offender (i.e., the core member) on a regular basis.

The program attempts to help core members successfully reenter society by providing them with social support as they try to meet their employment, housing, treatment, and other social needs. Through the regular meetings that occur among circle members, CoSA is designed to help core members forge friendships with the volunteers in their circles. But given its goal of “no more victims,” CoSA also emphasizes accountability by insisting that offenders accept responsibility for their actions.

Outcome evaluations of CoSA programs in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States have shown the intervention is effective in reducing recidivism. A recent evaluation of a CoSA program in Minnesota (Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability, or MnCOSA), which was based on a randomized controlled trial, found that it significantly decreased sex offense recidivism, lowering the risk of rearrest by 88 percent. Results also showed MnCOSA significantly reduced recidivism for any type of offense by as much as 57 percent. Due to this large reduction in recidivism, findings from the cost-benefit analysis reveal that MnCOSA has generated an estimated $2 million in costs avoided to the state, resulting in a benefit of $40,923 per participant. For every dollar spent on MnCOSA, the program has yielded an estimated benefit of $3.73.

Despite its demonstrated effectiveness, CoSA is an intervention that has been difficult to implement in the United States. Developing a more effective startup strategy for CoSA programs is possible only when we achieve a better understanding as to why it has been challenging to successfully implement. To this end, federal funding should be allocated for the implementation and evaluation of CoSA pilot projects. In addition, given the challenges in recruiting community volunteers to work with convicted sex offenders, applying CoSA to other high-risk offender populations could be helpful in further expanding the use of this effective intervention.

Introduction

A relatively small proportion of the inmates in state and federal prison systems have a criminal conviction for a sex offense. Like other prisoners, the vast majority of sex offenders in prison will eventually be released. Following their release from prison, the rate at which sex offenders recidivate, or commit a new crime in the future, is lower compared to other released prisoners.1 But when we focus on reoffending for a specific type of crime—sex offenses—the evidence shows that sex offenders have a higher rate of sex offense recidivism than other released prisoners.2

Due to concerns over the rate at which sex offenders recidivate with a new sex offense, which is the second costliest crime to society behind only murder,3 many states in the US have attempted to reduce sex offense recidivism by implementing legislation that increases the risk and costs associated with committing a sex crime. Examples include longer sentences for sex crimes, involuntary civil commitment for dangerous and psychopathic sex offenders, residence restrictions, and sex offender registration and notification. While studies have shown some of these interventions can reduce sex offense recidivism,4 they may also yield a negligible return on investment (ROI) due to high operational costs.5

Unlike these punitive legislative strategies, sex offender treatment is a cost-effective therapeutic approach that reduces sexual reoffending. The most comprehensive meta-analysis found a 3.6 percentage point difference in sex offense recidivism rates between treated and untreated sex offenders, resulting in a 26 percent reduction in sexual reoffending.6 Moreover, cost-benefit analyses indicate the ROI for prison-based sex offender treatment ranges from $2.057 to $3.11.8

Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is an intervention that has been found to produce better outcomes than those observed for either sex offender treatment or any of the legislation enacted over the past few decades. Recent research has found that CoSA reduces sexual recidivism by 88 percent while generating a benefit of more than $40,000 per participant.9 Therefore, CoSA is not only one of the most promising interventions for sex offenders but also one of the most cost-effective programs for offenders in general. Nevertheless, CoSA has been seldom used in the US.

The infrequent application of CoSA has been due, at least in part, to implementation challenges. As I discuss later in this report, some of these challenges can be overcome. But before doing so, I describe the origins and operation of the CoSA model. In addition to reviewing what existing research has found, I explain why it works in reducing recidivism. I conclude by exploring ways in which to expand the use of CoSA in the United States.

Read the full report. 

Read the brief. 

Notes

  1. Matthew R. Durose, Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, April 2014.
  2. Patrick A. Langan, Erica L. Schmitt, and Matthew R. Durose, “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994,” US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003.
  3. Mark A. Cohen and Alex R. Piquero, “New Evidence on the Monetary Value of Saving a High Risk Youth,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 25, no. 1 (2009): 25–49; and Kathryn E. McCollister, Michael T. French, and Hai Fang, “The Cost of Crime to Society: New Crime-Specific Estimates for Policy and Program Evaluation,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 108, no. 1 (2010): 98–109.
  4. William D. Bales and Daniel P. Mears, “Inmate Social Ties and the Transition to Society: Does Visitation Reduce Recidivism?,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 45, no. 3 (2008): 287–321; and Grant Duwe, “The Development, Validity, and Reliability of the Minnesota Screening Tool Assessing Recidivism Risk (MnSTARR),” Criminal Justice Policy Review 25, no. 5 (2014): 579–613.
  5. Grant Duwe, “What Has Worked and What Has Not with Minnesota Sex Offenders: A Review of the Evidence,” Journal of Sexual Aggression 21, no. 1 (2015): 71–85.
  6. Martin Schmucker and Friedrich Lösel, “The Effects of Sexual Offender Treatment on Recidivism: An International Meta- Analysis of Sound Quality Evaluations,” Journal of Experimental Criminology 11, no. 4 (2015): 597–630.
  7. Steven Aos and Elizabeth Drake, “Prison, Police and Programs: Evidence-Based Options That Reduce Crime and Save Money,” Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2013, http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1396/Wsipp_Prison-Police-and-Programs- Evidence-Based-Options-that-Reduce-Crime-and-Save-Money_Full-Report.pdf.
  8. Grant Duwe, “Can Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) Work in the United States? Preliminary Results from a Randomized Experiment in Minnesota,” Sexual Abuse 25, no. 2 (2013): 143–65.
  9. Grant Duwe, “Can Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) Significantly Reduce Sexual Recidivism? Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Minnesota,” Journal of Experimental Criminology (2018).

The role of ‘negative trade secrets’ in the Uber-Waymo settlement - What do would-be governors have to say about education?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:00

The settlement earlier this month of a high-profile trade secret lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle arm, cast light on a little-known corner of intellectual property law: the negative trade secret, or knowledge of what technical approaches do not work well.

Via REUTERS

Trade secrets are defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as “any confidential business information which provides an enterprise a competitive edge.” This concise definition involves: (1) information owned by a company which is (2) relevant to the company’s particular industry, which (3) confers a competitive advantage to the company owning the information, and which (4) the company takes reasonable precaution to keep secret.

Such information, per WIPO, can include “sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes.”

Using such information without authorization can result in substantial damages.

The case of Uber and Waymo, which the parties reportedly settled for equity valued at $245 billion after Waymo had sought nearly $3 billion in damages, involved the alleged misappropriation of Waymo’s trade secrets by Anthony Levandowski, a former engineer who departed Waymo to found his own company that was acquired by Uber soon after.

The technology at issue was light detection and ranging (LiDAR) — those spinning, police-siren-shaped cones resting atop your friendly local self-driving car prowling the streets of cities like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Tucson. Crucial to autonomous driving, LiDAR uses pulsed laser beams to map and measure the distance between road objects such as other cars, pedestrians, and trees.

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The highly anticipated trial in federal court in San Francisco before Judge William Alsop settled after just four days of proceedings but featured lurid allegations, such as Waymo’s claim that Levandowski downloaded some 14,000 files shortly before departing, and curious wrinkles, including the criminal referral of the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the expectation that Levandowski would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

But one of the more interesting, if overlooked, aspects of the case pertained to negative trade secrets: the discovery through (often costly) trial and error of what does not work.

According to Waymo, Levandowski’s disclosure to Uber of the self-driving approaches that proved unsuccessful was every bit as damaging to Waymo as his alleged revelation of helpful tips. Technology companies typically invest significant resources in trying, re-trying, and re-re-trying numerous routes to a breakthrough. Short-circuiting that process by skipping the methods that failed would save tremendous time and money and provide a jump-start to a fledgling company.

On the other hand, what exactly should we demand from an honest engineer who leaves one company for a rival when it comes to unsuccessful approaches? As my friend and former colleague Orly Lobel of the University of San Diego School of Law put it in her 2013 opus Talent Wants to be Free, “when courts protect negative know-how as the property of an ex-employer, the consequence for inventors who move to a new firm can be liability for not repeating past mistakes and failures.” It would be unrealistic to expect such an employee to sit idly by as her new employer embarked on exactly the same path that had failed at her previous company. As Judge Alsop memorably quipped at a November hearing “Is an engineer supposed to get a frontal lobotomy before they go on to the next job?”

Some scholars agree. Amir Khoury, a law professor at Tel Aviv University, has argued for the abolition of negative trade secrets, which he considers a public good. Placing them “in the public domain,” Khoury contends in a 2014 paper, “would revitalize and invigorate entrepreneurship, research, and development” by enabling companies to “evade recurring mistakes and replicating dead-ends.” In this sense, while protecting negative trade secrets may benefit a specific company, it can harm the industry as a whole.

Perhaps a compromise approach for our honest engineer, then, would be to avoid both reacting silently or winking in the face of a suggested, failed method and instead to proactively suggest what she believes would be effective ways of carrying out a product’s development. Focusing on the positive avoids dealing with the negative altogether. Perhaps that’s the takeaway from the bitter Uber-Waymo fight, which ended in what the companies at least portrayed as a win-win.

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Let workers decide who counts as ‘family’ for paid sick and family leave - Discussing the importance of early childhood education in human development: Stevens on Rio Grande Foundation "Tipping Point" - AEI

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 19:42

Beginning on October 1st, 2018, workers in Austin, Texas will have a new right: to paid leave for sick days, either for themselves or a close family member. Austin is the 31st city to adopt a paid sick leave policy — but the first in the South. (Nine states and two counties have also passed paid sick leave laws.) The new provision, City Code Chapter 4-19, will allow workers to claim one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to an annual cap of 64 hours for companies with more than 15 employees, and 48 hours for those with 15 or less.

There is a strong case, as made by my colleagues Eleanor Krause and Isabel Sawhill, for a federal sick leave policy. But in the current political climate, federal action seems unlikely, and in the meantime, a patchwork of different laws is growing up across the country.

Via Twenty20

Sick leave and family leave laws vary between different jurisdictions in a number of different ways — including in the way that they define “family.” Grandparents qualify for paid family leave in the State of New York; but not across the river in New Jersey. In Washington State, you can take time off to care for a sick sibling; but not in California. (See this very useful guide to some of the state paid family leave laws, from the National Partnership for Women and Families.)

The definition used in the new Austin provision for sick leave is very broad. Section 4-19-1(e) reads: “FAMILY MEMBER means an employee’s spouse, child, parent, or any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

The “any other individual related by blood” category is potentially very large, depending on how narrowly the term “related” is to be used. Including those “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship” widens the pool even further. At this point, the definition has also become circular, with a “family member” defined as a person with whom the employee’s relationship is “the equivalent of a family relationship.”

At the federal level, in the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1516) sponsored by Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) would provide a right to paid sick leave, including to care for a sick “domestic partner.” But what does term “domestic partner” mean? According to H.R. 1516, it means “another individual with whom the individual is in a committed relationship.”

So: what counts as a “committed relationship”? H.R. 1516 provides an answer:

A relationship between two individuals, each at least 18 years of age, in which each individual is the other individual’s sole domestic partner and both individuals share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare. The term includes any such relationship between two individuals, including individuals of the same sex, that is granted legal recognition by a State or political subdivision of a State as a marriage or analogous relationship, including a civil union or domestic partnership.

In a later section of the Bill (Section 5 b 3), acceptable use of the paid sick leave includes “an absence for the purpose of caring for a child, a parent, a spouse, a domestic partner, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” (Those are my italics.) As in the Austin law, the definition has circled back on itself.

The tortuous language makes many of these laws virtually impossible to enforce in terms of definitions. Should an employer wish to, they can check if somebody is married or has a child. The difference between a domestic partner, boyfriend, or roommate will be difficult to prove.

The attempts in H.R. 1516 and the new Austin law to pin down an acceptable definition are exercises in futility. What if two people “share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare” but prefer to live apart? What if two people end up living together out of economic necessity, even though their relationship is over? Who says only a “sole” person is allowed to play this role in my life?

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The instinct behind many of these provisions is an inclusive one, especially with regard to same-sex couples. Some of the state plans pre-date the 2015 decision by the Supreme Court obliging all states to recognize same-sex marriage. But now that same-sex marriage is legal, these expansive definitions are arguably less necessary. That was, after all, part of the point of the campaign — to help secure the same legal rights for same-sex couples.

Right now, the attempts to define a family member in paid sick and paid family leave laws fall between two stools. They are too broad to be sensibly enforced, but still prescriptive enough to exclude some worthy cases. Why should I not be able to use some of my sick leave to care for my oldest, dearest friend from my church?

Lawmakers should either narrow their definition of family member so that it would have some chance of being enforceable in a court; or leave it to individuals to decide.

The narrowing option would mean restricting eligibility, for example, to spouses, rather than domestic partners or close associations or civil unions, given that lesbians and gay men can now choose to marry.

Better still, lawmakers should just get out of the business of attempting to delineate acceptable family relationships, and leave it the individual employee. Then any law could simply state that the sick leave could be taken by the worker for either their own sickness or “to care for another.”

If the government is to grant workers a right to time off to care for someone who is sick, perhaps it should also grant them the right to choose who most needs that care.

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Pushback: Countering Iran in an evolving Middle East - Discussing the importance of early childhood education in human development: Stevens on Rio Grande Foundation "Tipping Point" - AEI

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 19:07

AEI Resident Scholar Kenneth Pollack, who works on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, has just released the final essay of ” Pushback: Countering Iran in an evolving Middle East.” In the series, Pollack explains why the US needs a comprehensive strategy to stand up to Iran, and proposes specific policy prescriptions to limit Iran’s influence in the region. Among his key points:

1) The US must adopt a more confrontational pushback strategy against Iran. Iran’s leadership continues to treat the US as its enemy and is actively trying to reshape the Middle East in ways that threaten US interests in the region.

2) In Syria, the US should adopt a ‘Mujahideen strategy’ by resuming support to opposition groups. This will drain Iran’s resources, strain their economy and weaken the regime’s grip on power. It might force Iran to compromise in other conflict theatres like Iraq and Yemen.

3) The US cannot abandon Iraq. President Obama’s decision to pull out of Iraq only forced the US to intervene again, but at a much larger cost. The US should aim to build a strong, cohesive country that is able to stand up to Iranian pressure.

4) The US must remain committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran deal), for now. Although the Iran deal has significant shortcomings, there isn’t a better agreement yet. A US pushback strategy must not be overly-focused on the deal; reducing Iranian influence in the Middle East first can help create leverage for a follow-on agreement to the Iran deal later.

5) Regime change in Tehran is desirable, but is not the primary goal of this strategy. The costs of a strategy focused overtly on regime change are too high. If Iranian regime officials believe that the US would like to overthrow them, they will fight harder and are likely to inflict harm on the US. The US should reserve this option as a deterrent.

To arrange an interview with Kenneth Pollack, please contact AEI Media Services at mediaservices@aei.org or 202.862.5829.

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