Do You Know The Difference Between "Settlers" And "Immigrants"?

In our very inter-connected world, in any given year many people move from one political jurisdiction to another.  Such a move may be motivated by a large number of reasons -- economic (seeking a more prosperous or less expensive life), physical security (seeking to avoid strife and conflict), religious (seeking to be nearer to religious sites or co-religionists), weather, health, etc.  Most people who move to another country go by the name of "immigrants" in their new homes, but some go by the name of "settlers."   Do you know how to tell the difference?

I know that you probably think this is a silly question.  After all, everybody knows that "immigrants" are good, whereas "settlers" are bad.  Back in the 1980s, "settlers" was the term applied to whites who lived in apartheid-era South Africa, inspiring the slogan "one settler, one bullet" from their adversaries.  Today, the word "settler" is the term used to describe those, mostly Jews, who have moved into the territories (mainly known as East Jerusalem and the West Bank) taken by Israel in the 6 day war of 1967.  

On the subject of "immigrants," the United States has approximately 33 million or so of the legal variety, and another estimated 11 million of the "undocumented" (illegal) variety.  The combined total of about 44 million is more than 13% of current U.S. population.  In the United States, immigrants of the legal variety are entitled to essentially all of the rights and privileges of the native-born (exception: an immigrant cannot vote until becoming a citizen).  For purposes of buying or renting property in the United States, even legal residency is not a requirement.  Literally anybody can do it.  From

Unlike many countries that only allow land sales to those with citizenship in the country, the United States treats sales of real estate to foreigners almost the same as sales to citizens. The only limitations are usually imposed by homeowners associations, condominium associations, cooperatives, or other forms of community associations.     

And for renters?  In my home town of New York, we have a Human Rights Law that protects aspiring tenants from "discrimination" based on "immigration status" -- definitely including the "status" of "illegal."  According to DNAInfo here on Thursday, the City is even now investigating a landlord in the Corona neighborhood of Queens who allegedly "illegally harass[ed prospective] tenants" by "post[ing] a sign in his apartment building saying he wouldn't re-sign leases unless tenants showed their immigration papers."  Obviously, we mustn't have that.  After all, these people are immigrants.  We need to treat them as equals in every respect, even the ones in the country illegally. 

On the other hand, if we were talking about "settlers" the situation would be very different.  Currently I am spending the week in the country of Israel.  As we all know, the international community has with near-unanimity condemned the Israeli "settlers."  Most famously, back in December the UN Security Council passed a resolution declaring that the Israeli settlements were "a flagrant violation under international law."  That resolution became unanimous when the U.S., in the waning days of Obama and Kerry, failed to veto it, as the U.S. had vetoed comparable resolutions in the past.  

In preparation for our trip to Israel, our friends suggested that we see a new documentary movie "The Settlers," then recently released and playing in a theater in Greenwich Village.  The film was, to say the least, not favorable to the position of the Israeli settlers in the occupied territories.  Many unhappy Palestinians appeared in the film, saying things like (paraphrase) "these have been our lands for many generations."  

But, I kept asking, can't anyone now just buy or rent some land or a house or an apartment and move in?  That's the way it works where I come from, and nobody really says a word about it (beyond the general issue for some that the overall level of immigration is too high).  In the Borough of Queens, where one of my daughters lives, they say that some 800 languages are spoken -- and everybody seems to be getting along just fine.  (Check out this map of Queens showing languages by neighborhood.)   

But the film studiously avoided addressing the question of why people can't just buy or rent property and move in as legitimate immigrants.  While here in Israel I have tried to investigate the answer to that question.  The Israeli view appears to be that almost all of the settlements are on land that either (1) was legitimately purchased from a prior Palestinian owner, or (2) was unoccupied land that had no prior registered owner, and therefore was owned by the state and is OK for anyone to occupy and then seek legitimate status.  There have been a few notable cases where land was acquired illegally (generally from someone who fraudulently claimed to be the owner, but did not have proper title), and in those cases the settlements have been forcibly removed.

So the question is, should the Israeli government forcibly prevent anyone who is not a Palestinian Arab from moving into the disputed territories (East Jerusalem and the West Bank)?  The argument most commonly advanced for the pro side of that question is that doing so would assist the "peace process," by leaving clean boundaries to enable negotiators to divide up territories for a prospective "two state solution."  Maybe.  But to favor that, you would have to believe that the "two state solution" is actually going to happen imminently, and also that, once implemented, a two state situation with clean ethnic and religious separation between the states would be stable and successful.  I don't believe either of those things.    

Why does the same principle that applies to the United States and Europe, and calls for us to accept large numbers of immigrants of all cultures and religions on an ongoing basis, and allow them to live among us wherever they choose, not also apply to the Palestinians and, for that matter, to everyone else?  No reason that I can see.

Meanwhile, the prosperity in modern-day Israel is quite remarkable.  In almost every respect -- appearance, architecture, prosperity, climate -- the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa are remarkably comparable to the big coastal cities of California like Los Angeles and San Diego.  Here is a picture of Tel Aviv from a raised spot along the Mediterranean coast:

Yes, that first (domed) building in the foreground is a mosque.  And here is a picture of Haifa from a high spot (the Bahai garden on Mount Carmel) overlooking the town:

In my naivety I would think that the Palestinians would want to get with the program that seems to be working so well, but that is not their current agenda.


People Are Starting To Catch On To The "100% Renewable Energy" Scam

Have you heard of a guy named Mark Jacobson?  He's the trendy Stanford professor who has written a couple of big pieces claiming that having the United States get 100% of its energy from nothing but wind, water and solar power by 2050 is no problem at all.  In fact (according to Jacobson) it's "low cost."  For example, here's a link to one of his big pieces, a 2015 opus titled "Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes."   This was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Hey, there's some serious "peer review" going on there!  

Jacobson is also the "brains" behind an enviro organization pushing 100% renewable energy called the "Solutions Project."  (Slogan: "Together, we can make renewable energy a reality for everyone – 100% for 100%.")  Celebrities with their names and pictures on the organization's website include Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo.  California Governor Jerry Brown is full in for Jacobson's program.  This is big time stuff.

Actually, you need to have only the tiniest hint of bullshit radar to know that this guy is full of it.  It takes about ten minutes with one of Jacobson's papers to realize that his pronouncements are pure fantasy, made without any serious consideration of the engineering problems of making electricity work 24/7/365 with almost entirely intermittent sources, let alone any serious consideration of the cost of what he is proposing.

Yet for the first several years after Jacobson started publishing his nonsense, it seemed like the whole world was giving him a pass.  I guess that so many people just want to believe so badly that all critical thinking gets suspended.  The first hint I saw of a crack in the dam came back in March, when a publication called Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews published a piece by B.P. Heard, et al., called "Burden of Proof:  A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems."  I covered that piece in a post in April titled "Finally, Some Critical Thinking On The Subject Of The Feasibility Of Renewables."   The underlying article was not focused solely on Jacobson, but reviewed some 24 studies that had claimed, to one degree or another, to demonstrate the feasibility of 100% renewable electricity systems.  But the review was particularly critical of Jacobson, finding that his pieces "did not apply simulation processes to their own, different proposed systems, nor did they address the uncertainties, challenges and limitations articulated in their supporting references or related critiques. . . ."   

Well, now it seems like this particular dam may have just burst.  Steven Hayward at Powerline reports on a new article out in none other than PNAS specifically focusing on Jacobson's work and finding it, let us say, deficient.  (Or, to quote Hayward's pithy summary of the new piece, "Jacobson is full of crap.")  The title of the new PNAS piece is "Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar," and the authors are Christopher T.M. Clack with a long list of co-authors.

You can get a clue as to where Clack, et al., are going by reading their abstract.  Excerpt:

[W]e point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. 

Ouch!  But actually, those are the polite words in the piece.  For example, what are some of those "inadequately supported assumptions" to be found in Jacobson?  Here's one that I particularly enjoy:

The system in [Jacobson's piece linked above] assumes the availability of multiweek energy storage systems that are not yet proven at scale and deploys them at a capacity twice that of the entire United States’ generating and storage capacity today.

Multi week energy storage for the entire United States?  How much would that cost, pray tell?  Needless to say, Jacobson does not attempt such a calculation, nor does the Clack, et al., critique.  But the intrepid Manhattan Contrarian did take a look in this October 2016 post at an energy storage system for New York City that our genius Mayor Bill de Blasio is buying to provide a big 30 seconds of backup power for the City.  The cost is $14.4 million.  Multiplying by 120 (to get an hour) and then by 24 (to get a day), I calculated the cost of energy storage for one day's electricity for New York City to be around $41.5 billion.  So how about multi week?  Two weeks' worth would be 14 times the $41.5 billion, or $581 billion.  Since New York City is around 2.5% of the population of the U.S., you can multiply by around 40 to get the full cost for multi week storage for the country.  That would be around $23 trillion -- far more than a full year's GDP for the whole country.  But don't worry -- Jacobson has a new system ("underground thermal energy storage") that hasn't been invented yet, let alone tried at scale, that he thinks can do the job for less.  No problem!

And how about one more random assumption from Jacobson:

The [Jacobson] study . . . also makes unsupported assumptions about widespread adoption of hydrogen as an energy carrier, including the conversion of the aviation and steel industries to hydrogen and the ability to store in hydrogen an amount of energy equivalent to more than 1 month of current US electricity consumption.       

All airplanes to run on hydrogen?  Millions of tons of enormously volatile and explosive hydrogen (i.e., the HIndenberg) stored all over the place?  No problem there either!

As Hayward notes in conclusion, "Jacobson is regarded as a joke by most of his Stanford colleagues."  Likely true.  It's about time a few of them spoke up.  But now, is there any hope of making any progress with California's politicians and celebrities?

The Important Work Of International Agencies: Keeping The Poor Poor

With so much craziness going on around Washington, the Manhattan Contrarian has had barely any time lately to keep up with the efforts of the international and UN bureaucracies in their never-ending fight to keep the poor poor.  In the case of the IMF, there hasn't been a good Manhattan Contrarian take-down since an April 2013 post titled "The Dopes At The IMF Continue Their Advocacy For Bigger Government."  

But Dan Mitchell at his International Liberty blog helpfully reminds in a post last week ("More Economic Malpractice From The IMF") that the incompetent bureaucrats at the IMF are very much still at it.  It seems that IMF head Christine Lagarde gave a big speech in Brussels about a week ago, misleadingly titled "Building a Virtuous Cycle."  The theme of the speech was that what the poor countries of the world need to do is increase tax rates and tax collections so as to bring more resources in their countries under the control of the government.  Why?  Because government will use the resources so much more effectively than the private sector ever could.  I'm not making this up.

Of course, when Lagarde said these things she spoke in IMF-bureaucrat-speak, a strange language bearing only passing resemblance to English, and actually much closer to the Newspeak of Orwell's 1984.  Excerpt:

[W]e are here to discuss an equally powerful tool for global growth — domestic resource mobilization. . . .  [T]axes, and the improvement of tax systems, can boost development in incredible ways. . . .  So today, allow me first to explain the IMF’s commitment to capacity development and second, to outline strategies governments can use to generate stable sources of revenue…the IMF has a third important developmentmission — capacity development. . . .  [T]he focus of our event today — enabling countries to raise public tax revenues efficiently.

Get into that new IMF vocabulary!  "Domestic resource mobilization"!  "Capacity development"!  "Strategies to generate stable sources of revenue"!  All of these, needless to say, are just alternative ways of stating the Holy Grail of the IMF, which is more taxes extracted from the citizenry and handed over to the bureaucrats.

And the proof that more taxes and bigger government will lead to better "resource mobilization" and improved economic performance?  Mitchell calls it the "triumph of anti-empiricism."  All actual evidence is to the contrary.  

However, don't forget that the famous economist Paul Samuelson, in a 1943 book chapter titled "Full Employment After the War," claimed to have discovered a mathematical proof of something called the "full employment multiplier," a system by which a government could expand its country's economy by increasing both taxes and spending in equal amounts.  Of course, that is the same book chapter in which Samuelson made the single most disastrously wrong economic prediction of all time, namely the prediction that, if the government cut spending commensurate with the huge military demobilization coming after World War II, "then there would be ushered in the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced."  As we all know, they did cut the spending, and what happened was the greatest economic boom in the history of the world.

Seventy-four years later, Lagarde continues to advocate for increased taxation and government spending as the route to economic salvation.  How is this even possible?

Can The President Be Criminally Prosecuted For Exercising His Constitutional Duties? Further Thoughts

The "attack leak of the day" is the lead story in today's Washington Post: "Special counsel starts investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say."    This time we have no fewer than five anonymous sources ("Five people . . . speaking on the condition of anonymity. . . .").  Really, is there any Democratic Party member or holdover employee in the government at this point who is not engaged in attack leaking against the President?  Of course, attack leaks are just as likely to be complete baloney as to have any truth in them -- as obvious examples, the dozens of attack leaks insinuating that the FBI and national security services were investigating "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia have all proven to be completely false, after dominating MSM front pages for months.   

So what is the possible "obstruction of justice" here?  That Trump asked Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn?  Let's take the worst possible case: suppose that Trump directly ordered Comey as follows:  "I order you to drop the investigation of Flynn right now and to transfer everyone working on it to other tasks."  Can that possibly be an obstruction of justice, given that the prosecutorial discretion function of the government belongs to the President?  

Those arguing that direct exercise by the President of the executive's prosecutorial discretion function can theoretically constitute "obstruction of justice" uniformly cite supposed "rules" or "protocols" of the Justice Department that set up a kind of a wall to insulate the prosecutorial function from political influence.  There's certainly nothing in the Constitution about this, nor in the laws that I can find, nor even in regulations adopted via the Administrative Procedure Act.  Looking around to try to find the basis for this extra-constitutional principle, I find this February 17 article by Jane Chong at Lawfare.  Chong traces the current protocol for Justice Department independence from presidential interference to a 2009 memo written by then AG Eric Holder.  Hey, current AG Sessions hasn't officially revoked the memo yet!  And so now a memo of the prior AG is to be the basis for a criminal investigation of the President of the United States

So, if exercising the prosecutorial discretion function to fail to prosecute an obvious crime for blatantly political purposes can be "obstruction of justice," can there be any more clear-cut example of same than Eric Holder's dropping of the prosecution of New Black Panther Party members for their voter intimidation scheme in 2008 in Philadelphia?  From Fox News, June 30, 2010:

J. Christian Adams, now an attorney in Virginia and a conservative blogger for Pajamas Media, says he and the other Justice Department lawyers working on the case were ordered to dismiss it.  "I mean we were told, 'Drop the charges against the New Black Panther Party.'"

Did Holder take orders from President Obama in deciding to drop that prosecution?  The Justice Department stonewalled production of emails between Justice and "high-level Obama political appointees" in the White House.  So we will never know the answer to the question.  But in any event, the matter was treated as a political issue -- and appropriately so.  I never saw anyone suggest that Holder -- let alone Obama -- could be prosecuted for "obstruction of justice" for declining to charge, no matter how blatant the crime and no matter how political and self-serving and baseless the decision not to charge.

But I digress.  There actually are some good reasons to maintain a level of separation between the political forces of the White House and the prosecutorial functions of the Justice Department. Not the least of those reasons is to encourage a degree of confidence on the part of the public that the criminal processes are being used fairly and not for political vendettas.  Maintaining the separation is also thought to be generally good for a president politically, because the voters could hold the President accountable for misusing the prosecutorial function against political enemies.  But notice that those considerations apply minimally, if at all, to a decision not to prosecute somebody.  And in any event, it is purely the President's decision whether he wants to maintain the separation, or alternatively breach it and suffer the political consequences.

For those interested generally in the law of whether it can be a crime when a governmental executive exercises his constitutional powers in a way the other side doesn't like, there is a recent case where these issues were considered extensively.  The case arose in the state of Texas, and involved the prosecution of then-governor Rick Perry (now he is the Secretary of Energy) over alleged crimes that arose when Perry exercised his power under the Texas constitution to veto an appropriation of money by the legislature to the office of an official with whom he had clashed.  In 2014, the Travis County, Texas (that's the county where Austin is located) prosecutor charged Perry with the crime of "misuse of government funds" for committing this act.  I covered the subject in a post titled "The Perry Prosecution And Giving Prosecutors The Benefit Of The Doubt."   

In my post I called the Perry prosecution "blatantly outrageous overreaching."  But Perry continued under the cloud of the prosecution until his case reached the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2016.  (This is Texas's highest court for criminal matters.  In effect they have two Supreme Courts.)  That court threw out the prosecution.  Although I did not do a follow up post on the Perry case when it was thrown out, Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy did.  Eugene also submitted an amicus brief in the case in support of Perry -- a brief joined by a who's who of law professors.  You will not be surprised that Alan Dershowitz was one of them.  From Volokh's summary of the Texas court opinion (mostly a quote of the opinion itself):

“The [Texas] Constitution does not purport to impose any restriction on the [governor’s] veto power based on the reason for the veto, and it does not purport to allow any other substantive limitations to be placed on the use of a veto.” Therefore, “The Legislature cannot directly or indirectly limit the governor’s veto power. No law passed by the Legislature can constitutionally make the mere act of vetoing legislation a crime.” And other state courts were right to say that “courts may not examine the motives behind a veto or second-guess the validity of a veto.”  

Hard to see how that same logic does not apply to a prospective prosecution of Trump for exercising the prosecutorial discretion function to decline to prosecute, or the general executive function of firing people.

Meanwhile the madness continues.  Am I the only one in the country who thinks that the President is entitled to have a Justice Department and an FBI who work for him and are not engaged in a constant guerrilla war to undermine the duly elected executive and his administration?

The Deep Constitutional Thought Of Preet Bharara

Back in March, when President Trump finally fired Preet Bharara from the job of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, I took the occasion to write a post titled "Good Riddance To Preet Bharara."  The post outlined some of Bharara's worst abuses as U.S. Attorney -- from the non-insider insider trading jihad (ultimately ended when the Second Circuit ruled that much of the underlying conduct was not a crime), to the shakedown of J.P. Morgan for $2 billion for failing to uncover the fraud of Bernie Madoff, to the politicized prosecution of Dean Skelos, to the blatantly illegal gag order in the Reason Magazine subpoena.  

You would think this guy would just go away quietly.  But on Sunday he re-emerged on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous.  This time he was spouting his theories about how our federal government should work under the Constitution.  Here is the transcript.  There are also articles reporting on the event in the New York Times here, and the New York Post here.   

First, I'll give you the gist of Mr. Bharara's Deep Constitutional Thoughts:  The U.S. Attorneys and the FBI get to decide who is going to be prosecuted and for what, and the President damned well better not meddle in something that is none of his business.  And if the President does have the temerity to try to meddle, even a little, the U.S. Attorneys and FBI can and should turn on him and investigate him and prosecute him for obstruction of justice.

The New York Times puts it this way:  

Mr. Bharara said the contacts with Mr. Trump made him increasingly uncomfortable because they broke with longstanding Justice Department rules on communicating with the White House.

Got that?  The Justice Department and prosecutors, on their own authority and without the consent of the President, can make "rules" that say, in effect, we don't report to the President and we don't take orders from the President, and we'll prosecute whomever we damn well please, and we don't even have to talk to the President if we don't feel like it.  We, the hoity toity unelected bureaucrats, are entitled to tell the duly elected President -- holder of all of the executive power of the U.S. government under a crystal-clear provision of the Constitution -- to get lost.  Oh, and then to prosecute him for attempting to exercise his constitutional function.  Indeed, that's just how Mr. Bharara thought he was entitled to behave:

The final contact occurred March 9, a day before Mr. Bharara was among 46  asked to resign.  Mr. Trump was then president, so Mr. Bharara said he declined to return the call and reported it to the chief of staff of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Here is a somewhat longer quote of Mr. Bharara's own words:

[Y]ou have uncontroverted from someone who was under oath that on at least one occasion, the president of the United States cleared a room of his vice president and his attorney general, and told his director of the FBI that he should essentially drop a case against his former national security adviser.

And whether or not that is impeachable or that's indictable, that's a very serious thing. . . . And there's a lot to be frightened about and a lot to be outraged about if you have a president who, A, may have done it, although I know he denies it, but he hasn't done it under oath yet. And, B, he seems to suggest that even if he had done it or said words to that effect, there's nothing wrong with that. . . .  

That's an incredibly serious thing if people think that the president of the United States can tell heads of law enforcement agencies, based on his own whim or his own personal preferences or friendships, that they should or should not pursue particular criminal cases against individuals.

That's not how America works.

Actually, it is how America works.  Has this guy even heard of the Constitution?  Does he know that the President is the sole constitutional executive officer of the United States and that all of the subordinate executive branch personnel -- including the Attorney General, all the prosecutors, the FBI, and the whole rest of the Justice Department -- work for the President?  Bharara was the most powerful of all U.S. Attorneys in the country for some seven and a half years, and claimed the authority under the Constitution to put hundreds of people in jail, and yet he seems to have absolutely no idea that the prosecutorial discretion function of the government belongs to the President and not to the director of the FBI or anybody else.  The combination of ignorance and arrogance is breathtaking.

I particularly like that business where Bharara is outraged at the President thinking he can tell the prosecutors what cases to pursue "based on his own whim or his own personal preferences or friendships."  And how exactly do you think U.S. Attorneys exercise the prosecutorial discretion function?  How did Preet Bharara do it?  Is he telling us that his "whim" or "personal preferences" or "friendships" had nothing to do with it?  Balderdash!  And why exactly does he think that his own "personal preferences" take precedence over those of the guy who was elected to the office of President?  Rank idiocy.

Here is my proposal for President Trump:  See if Alan Dershowitz is available to give a one hour long mandatory lecture on basic constitutional law to all lawyers in the Justice Department.  If Dershowitz is not available, I am, and I'd be happy to do it.  At the end of the lecture, give a short quiz to the participants.  The quiz could include a few simple questions like these:

  • In which government official does the Constitution "vest" "the executive Power" of the United States?
  • Does the President of the United States have the authority under the Constitution to exercise the prosecutorial function of the executive branch of the government?
  • Do the Attorney General and the FBI Director work for the President?
  • Can the President fire the Attorney General or the FBI Director at any time for any or no reason?
  • Can the President, if he wants, personally exercise the prosecutorial discretion function of the U.S. government?

Anybody who gets any of these simple questions wrong promptly gets fired for cause due to basic incompetence.  That will be a good start on draining the swamp!