Author: By Ilya Somin

The good, bad, and ugly of Trump’s new Cuba policy

The Cuban flag. Late last week, President Trump announced a change in US policy towards the communist dictatorship in Cuba. Although Trump claimed he was “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” his new approach actually leaves most of Obama’s policies in place. It does not end normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, nor would it bar most US trade and investment there. Trump’s new policy has some good elements, some bad ones, and one truly awful perpetuation of the worst of Obama’s policy. On the plus side, the new policy bars US trade and investment in...

Read More

Ninth Circuit upholds injunction against Trump’s revised travel ban – Washington Post

GOOGLE NEWS FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while attending a “celebration of military mothers” at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo Earlier today, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously upheld the main part of the trial court injunction against President Trump’s revised travel ban executive order, forbidding entry into the United States by nationals of six Muslim-majority nations for a period of 90 days. The text of the opinion is available here. Unlike the earlier Fourth Circuit and trial court rulings against the ban,...

Read More

Trump’s revised travel ban is still cruel and still unconstitutional – Washington Post

The Jbawis – a Syrian refugee family that arrived in the United States not long before Trump’s initial executive order banning the entry of Syrians. (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post). Today, Donald Trump issued a revised executive order barring entry into the US by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations. The new order replaces an old one that was repeatedly rejected by the courts. The new order is less bad than the old one in some crucial respects. But it is still indefensibly cruel, and still unconstitutional for many of the same reasons as the original. The new order does improve on the original in several significant ways. It exempts legal permanent residents and people who have previously been issued visas. The nation of Iraq is exempted from the order entirely, which now applies only to six nations instead of the original seven. Instead of being excluded indefinitely, as before, citizens of Syria are now banned only for 120 days, like those of the other five nations still covered. Despite those improvements, the order still inflicts cruel harm on refugees and others, while creating little if any security benefit. Most notably, the new order still cuts the total intake of refugees for fiscal year 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000. This part of the order is unlikely to be struck down by the courts. But it deserves emphasis nonetheless, because it consigns...

Read More

Congress should act to reclaim its war powers

  Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, a longtime critic of unilateral presidential warmaking. In a recent article in the National Interest, libertarian-leaning Republican Senator Rand Paul writes that Congress should reclaim its power to control the initiation of war: Restoring the constitutional mandate that war needs to be authorized by Congress would go a long way to ensuring that a full-throated debate occurs before troops are placed in harm’s way. The Trump administration can take the lead here, but nothing prevents Congress from engaging in what is maybe its most important constitutional role: war authorization. Congress should be resolute and either pass an appropriate authorization or disapproval for current U.S. interventions while simultaneously repealing the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force…. The implications of not adhering to constitutionally established roles have huge consequences for U.S. foreign policy. Strategic, operational and tactical considerations by a president and military leaders are of immense consequence. All of these powers are derived from the Constitution. If the Constitution isn’t adhered to as the Founding Fathers intended, the nation and American credibility abroad suffer. I don’t agree with everything that Paul says in his article. But he is absolutely right on this issue. Democratic Senator (and former vice-presidential nominee) Tim Kaine made a similar point in a recent speech: Since the war against ISIL began in August of 2014, more than 5,000...

Read More

How political ignorance bolsters racial, ethnic, and xenophobic prejudice

In a just-published History News Network article, I explain how political ignorance plays a major role in promoting racial and ethnic prejudice and xenophobia. The elementary school trope that prejudice is caused by ignorance is an oversimplification. But it has a lot more truth to it than you might think: Many of us were told in elementary school that prejudice is caused by ignorance. When they grow up, many people cast aside such elementary school homilies as naïve at best, and actively misleading at worst. But it turns out that your elementary school teachers were wiser than you might have thought. Much racial, ethnic, and xenophobic prejudice is indeed the result of ignorance. It is a particularly pernicious part of the broader phenomenon of widespread public ignorance about political issues…. For as long as we have had modern public opinion polling, people with lower levels of education and political knowledge have, on average, shown less tolerance for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, and have usually been more hostile to immigration and international trade. These relationships hold true even after controlling for other variables, such as income, gender, occupation, and race. The connection between ignorance and various forms of prejudice is more than just a correlation. Often it is causation, as well. Most people who hate a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group, do not merely despise it for no...

Read More

Brexit, “Regrexit,” and the impact of political ignorance

Since last week’s Brexit vote, new evidence has emerged suggesting that the result many have been influenced by widespread political ignorance. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, there was a massive spike in internet searches in Britain asking questions like “What is the EU?” and “What does it mean to leave the EU?” Obviously, reasonably well-informed voters should have known the answers to these questions before they went to the polls instead of after. The aftermath of Brexit has also spawned the so-called “Regrexit” phenomenon: Britons who voted for Brexit, but now regret doing so because they feel they were misinformed about the likely consequences, or did not consider them carefully enough. A petition on the British Parliament website calling for a revote has collected over 3.4 million signatures (Parliament is required to consider any petition that gets over 100,000 signatures, though it does not have to grant it). Both the internet searches and the Regrexit movement are indications of the impact of political ignorance on the vote. But we should not make too much of this kind of evidence. Regarding the searches, we do not have good data on how many people are doing the searches, or even whether they voted for “leave” or “remain.” We also don’t yet have systematic survey data on how many pro-Brexit voters are now in a Regrexit mood because they feel...

Read More

New study confirms that 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA

DNA. Last year, I wrote about an Oklahoma State University survey indicating that over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA”. A new study written by economists Brandon McFadden and Jayson Lusk (who also helped author the OSU survey) similarly finds that 80% of the public support labeling of foods containing DNA (though in this case the question does not indicate whether the labeling should be mandatory or not). Katherine Mangu-Ward has some additional discussion of the study here. Obviously, such DNA labels would be absurd. Nearly all food contains DNA, and there is no good reason to warn consumers about its presence. As McFadden and Lusk and explain, the survey answers on this subject are an indication of widespread scientific ignorance, proving that many of the respondents “have little knowledge of basic genetics.” Other data from the study also support this conclusion, including the fact that 33 percent of respondents believe that non-GMO tomatoes do not contain any genes, and 32 percent think that vegetables have no DNA. Our vegetables would be blissfully free of DNA if not for the nefarious corporations who maliciously insert it into the food supply! The authors note that the proportion of respondents who support labeling of foods containing DNA is very similar to the percentage who support mandatory labeling of GMO foods (84 percent). They suggest that some...

Read More

Some thoughts on the Brexit debate

Photo shows British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and then-London Mayor Boris Johnson (L) in 2012. The two Conservatives are now at odds over Brexit. AFP / WILL OLIVERWILL OLIVER/AFP/Getty Images While Americans are grappling with the rise of Donald Trump and what it means for the future of American politics, the British are set to vote on what may be an even more momentous issue: “Brexit” – whether Britain should stay in the European Union, or leave. There will be a national referendum on the subject on June 23. I. How the Brexit Debate Cuts Across Ideological Lines. An interesting aspect of the Brexit debate is the way it cuts across ideological lines. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron opposes Brexit. But many in his party – including former London Mayor Boris Johnson (whom many see as a possible successor to Cameron) are on the other side. On the left, the leadership of the Labor Party opposes Brexit. But there is still significant support for the “Leave” campaign on the left, particularly among far-left figures, such as George Galloway. Jeremy Corbyn, the very left-wing leader of the Labor Party, officially opposes Brexit. But his defense of the EU seems tepid to Europhiles in his own party, and some commentators think he may even be a closet supporter of Brexit. The debate over Brexit has also divided libertarians and other...

Read More

Right Now in Politics and Business