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    Brett Kavanaugh’s years as a government lawyer

    21746224 at https://www.economist.com

    WHEN Donald Trump was considering his choice for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, Senator Mitch McConnell reportedly asked the president to steer clear of Brett Kavanaugh, the long-time circuit court judge Mr Trump tapped on July 9th. Mr McConnell is said to have told Mr Trump that someone with a paper trail as long as Mr Kavanaugh’s could hit more snags and give Democrats more to gripe about than one of the greener judges on the list. Mr McConnell’s hesitations seem to have since vanished. The 12-year veteran of the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit is a “superb” choice, he says. 

    But Mr Kavanaugh’s documentary history is indeed extensive. It includes not only 300-some opinions he wrote as an appellate judge but untold thousands of documents connected to his near-decade of service in the executive branch. Before donning his black robe, he spent four years in the 1990s as an assistant to Kenneth Starr (pictured above, centre) investigating Bill Clinton and five years in the George W. Bush...Continue reading

    Wed, 18 Jul 2018 18:11:35 +0000

    America’s cultural divide isn’t growing

    21745986 at https://www.economist.com

    THE idea of two Americas is a trope of political commentary: a population divided in mutual incomprehension by income, race, religion or region—flyover country versus coastal elite. The idea that cultural fissures are growing is used to explain increasing political rancour and the rise of Donald Trump. But those explanations may need tempering. Two papers on cultural distance, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in June, suggest the idea of cavernous and expanding cultural fissures is over-wrought.

    The papers both use data from the General Social Survey, a long-running poll of Americans’ attitudes towards issues including free speech, same-sex relations and crime. They examine how closely respondents’ characteristics including where they live, what they earn, their education level and religion, are associated to particular attitudes and suggest that, at the level of individual attitudes, the relationship is weak. Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica, the authors of “Coming Apart? Cultural Distances in the United States...Continue reading

    Tue, 17 Jul 2018 19:59:27 +0000

    The missing middle of the Trump-Putin meeting

    21745917 at https://www.economist.com

    THE story of the meeting between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has a beginning and an end, but no middle.

    It began with a statement from the American president. The lowly state of Russo-American relations, he tweeted, was not the fault of the Russian government for seizing Crimea, shooting down a passenger airliner, interfering in America’s presidential election or using a banned nerve agent to kill citizens of a close ally on its own soil. No, it was the fault “of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt”.

    It ended with a joint press conference that John McCain, a Republican senator, described as, “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

    In the middle was a void, in which the two presidents met with nobody else in the room but their interpreters. For those who watch Mr Trump daily and have observed his habit of being confrontational with other people when at a safe distance and then seeking to please them when face-to-face,...Continue reading

    Mon, 16 Jul 2018 22:35:54 +0000

    Robert Mueller indicts twelve Russians

    21745865 at https://www.economist.com

    IF ALL America can be said to have been under attack when hijackers turned four airliners on it in 2001, the assault Russian agents launched on American democracy in 2016 represented a full-blown war. The 12 fresh charges against Russian intelligence officers unveiled by the deputy attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein, on July 13th, offered a few important new details about that attack, confirmed many long-held fears, and suggested there may be much more of the scandal to unfold.

    A previous round of indictments against Russian hackers, which then as now sprang from the investigations of Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating the Russian attack, suggested it was audacious and flagrant but relatively limited. It focused on a godless Russian effort to flood social media with images of Jesus rooting for Donald Trump and Satan for Hillary Clinton. The latest indictment points to a much more complicated, multifarious effort to swing the election for Mr Trump.

    It included hacking the computer systems of Mrs Clinton’s...Continue reading

    Sat, 14 Jul 2018 01:29:54 +0000

    The case against impeachment

    21745764 at https://www.economist.com

    ALAN DERSHOWITZ has had a pair of alternative covers mocked up for his new book, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump”. On one, which the celebrity legal scholar means to brandish as proof that his pre-emptive defence of President Donald Trump is apolitical, the word “Trump” has been replaced with “Clinton”. A lifelong Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the 79-year-old Harvard man says he is “still devastated” that she lost the election and would be making the same constitutionally grounded argument on her behalf had she won. The other option is a humorous acknowledgment that not many in Mr Dershowitz’s thinning crowd of liberal friends and admirers are likely to be impressed by that. To encourage at least furtive reading of his book, the second mock-cover is a plain brown paper wrapper, “like they used to use to cover pornography”.

    No one need feel sorry for him. Mr Dershowitz, once a brilliant scholar and defender of celebrity clients, including Claus von...Continue reading

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:48:03 +0000

    Brett Kavanaugh could shape the law for the next 40 years

    21745785 at https://www.economist.com

    Have you heard the one about the emoluments clause?

    BRETT KAVANAUGH, President Donald Trump’s second nomination to the Supreme Court in as many years, enjoys coaching girls’ basketball and feeding the homeless. He has twin degrees from Yale. He clerked for three judges, including Anthony Kennedy, the man he will probably replace. Since 2006 he has been a judge on the second-most powerful tribunal in America, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mr Kavanaugh is highly qualified, an unremarkable choice for a Republican president. Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio might have picked him.

    Yet Mr Kavanaugh is also a political animal. He worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel charged with investigating Bill Clinton’s liaison with Monica Lewinsky and the suicide of Vince Foster, a friend and colleague of the Clintons. Mr Starr’s report, partly written by Mr Kavanaugh, set out the case for impeachment. Mr Kavanaugh then worked in George W. Bush’s...Continue reading

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:48:03 +0000

    What Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin ought to talk about in Helsinki

    21745763 at https://www.economist.com

    Low-yield curve

    FECKLESS freeloaders they may be, but none of America’s NATO partners has displayed graphics of missiles raining down on Florida, or designed a torpedo which could cover the west coast in radioactive sludge, rendering it uninhabitable. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has done both. To judge by Russia’s rhetoric and declared intentions, and by the increasing role of nuclear weapons in both countries’ strategic calculations, the meeting between Mr Putin and President Donald Trump in Helsinki comes at a fateful time, though there is little evidence that such thoughts are uppermost in Mr Trump’s mind. He likes strongmen, thinks America and Russia should do business and does not care for Ukraine. He has already shaken hands with Kim Jong Un, so why not Mr Putin? However, there is a lot that America and Russia ought to be talking about.

    For people who still believe in negotiated disarmament, the summit is a last chance. Kingston Reif of the Arms Control...Continue reading

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:48:03 +0000

    Worker shortages could heal America’s economy

    21745762 at https://www.economist.com

    SINCE 2015 many hawks have continually suggested that the American economy is at or close to maximum sustainable employment. They have some explaining to do. Fully 5.8m more Americans are in work than in December of that year, when the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates. That is two-thirds as many as lost their jobs during the Great Recession. In May the unemployment rate fell to 3.8%, its lowest for 18 years (it has since risen back to 4%). Yet the economy has not yet overheated. Only recently has inflation hit or exceeded 2%, the Fed’s target, for three straight months—and that is partly because of a worldwide recovery in oil prices.

    Nevertheless, the hand-wringing has continued. The latest supposed problem is a labour shortage. For the first time since data began to be collected in 2000, there are more job openings than there are unemployed workers (see chart). Nearly 90% of small businesses who are hiring or trying to hire workers report that there are few or no qualified applicants,...Continue reading

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:48:03 +0000

    Courts slap down the Trump administration’s immigration policies

    21745744 at https://www.economist.com

    THE Trump administration’s position on immigration is simply summarised: it would like to have fewer immigrants, whether legal or illegal. But that aim, shared by both President Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general, has collided with pesky obstacles like laws, courts and public outrage. It has also provoked chaos on the southern border. A new “zero-tolerance” policy, announced in May, referred adults caught illegally crossing the border to criminal prosecution and required that accompanying children be separated and held in specialised facilities. That resulted in the spectacle of small, terrified children in cages, shocking the world. On June 20th the administration reversed its policy, instead opting to hold families together in detention. Now two legal losses for the administration make this compromise untenable. 

    The first, decided by a federal judge in San Diego on June 26th, criticised the administration’s “reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own...Continue reading

    Wed, 11 Jul 2018 20:00:42 +0000

    Brett Kavanaugh is Donald Trump’s new pick for the Supreme Court

    21745686 at https://www.economist.com

    ON JULY 9th, in a prime-time ceremony, President Donald Trump announced that he had chosen Brett Kavanaugh to be his new pick for the Supreme Court. As his nominee walked into the East Room of the White House flanked by his wife and two daughters, the president praised his “impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law”. Mr Kavanaugh, the president’s second nominee to the Supreme Court in as many years, has twin degrees from Yale. He clerked for three judges, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man he hopes to replace. He worked for Kenneth Starr in the investigation of Bill Clinton. He spent five years as a lawyer in George W. Bush’s administration. And since 2006, he has been a judge on the second-most powerful tribunal in America: the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

    Mr Trump settled on 53-year-old Mr Kavanaugh after a reality-show style build-up in which three less decorated contenders—including Thomas Hardiman, the runner-up when Mr Trump...Continue reading

    Tue, 10 Jul 2018 10:24:56 +0000

    A court with a solid conservative majority could reshape American life

    21745558 at https://www.economist.com

    WHEN Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court on June 27th, Democrats rushed to the barricades. “This is the fight of our lives,” announced Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Senator Kamala Harris proposed delaying confirmation hearings for Mr Kennedy’s successor until after the next election, which falls in November 2018, just as Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, did with Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016. In practice, Democrats cannot stop Mr Trump from placing his second justice on the country’s highest court. Mr McConnell is serenely untroubled by the precedent he set, and President Donald Trump plans to announce his nominee on July 9th. When the nominee is confirmed in the autumn, he or she should cement a reliable conservative majority that could, among other things, make abortion less accessible and federal agencies less powerful, though not quite in the way that many seem to expect.

    The next justice will almost certainly be young (Mr Trump...Continue reading

    Thu, 05 Jul 2018 14:57:24 +0000

    The wage gap between white and black men is growing wider

    21745555 at https://www.economist.com

    WRITING in 1978, William Julius Wilson, an influential sociologist, began a controversy in “The Declining Significance of Race.” Mr Wilson argued that the plight of poor black Americans was due more to labour-market forces than to contemporary racial discrimination. “I wanted to call attention to the worsening condition of the black underclass, in both absolute and relative terms, by relating it to the improving position of the black middle class,” he later wrote. Four decades later a bevy of economic studies provide some vindication for Mr Wilson. While highly educated African-Americans are now more successful than ever, the bottom appears to have fallen out for poor blacks. Although the earnings gap between the typical white and black man began narrowing from 1940, the trend stopped in the mid-1970s. Many assume that the earnings gap then stayed constant, but it has in fact widened. Today the difference is as large as it was in the 1950s.

    That is one result from a recent Continue reading

    Thu, 05 Jul 2018 14:57:24 +0000