CRISPR/CAS9 and The Future of Medicine

As I began writing a piece on Donald Trump and early this evening, I thought to myself “what’s the point?” What good will come from yet another piece bemoaning the rise of the now-Republican front runner? So I decided to actually report some good news. That good news is a revolutionary news CRISPR/CAS9.

What is CRISPR/CAS9? It’s a radical new “gene-editing” technology that has the power to transform medicine and biology as we know it (click here for a full primer). Through this radical paradigm-breaking technology, humanity has the ability to completely wipeout ancient scourges like Malaria.

Scientists can now hone in on a specific gene and cut through it like scissors and re-paste it like glue. (I’m being overly simplistic here for lack of expertise).   

And while this technology has been around and creating buzz for a few years now, a recent breakthrough just occurred. Scientists have discovered a way to not only cut out the HIV virus from human cells, but they’re also able to prevent the virus from spreading. Such technology also has the potential to destroy other genetic diseases like Autism.

Now, doesn’t that make for a better story than Donald Trump?

The Libertarian Moment, Approach the Bench?

One of the big debates swirling around the freedom movement these days is whether or not America is currently going through “a libertarian moment.” The libertarian moment, as defined by Reason magazine editors Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, is “a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over virtually every aspect of our lives.”

By this, the pair are largely talking about the crumbling of institutional power centers giving way to an empowered mass of individuals, each being able to customize her own life and choices.

In the realm of consumer choices, this is undisputed. What is less well known, however, is the effect this trend is having in politics—more to the point, politics. More to the point still, local politics.

While Donald’s Trump flirtation with fascism and Hillary Clinton’s flirtation with everything just short of fascism have libertarians grabbing the nearest fifth of Jack Daniels on Tuesday night, something very different is happened at the local level.

Two controversial prosecutors with a record of being soft on criminal cops were thrown out.

In Chicago, voters kicked out the Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who was extremely slow to indict the police officer who shot black teenager Laquan McDonald in the back 16 times. Alvarez also has a history of using kid gloves to deal with the Chicago Police Department.

Her opponent and election victor, Kim Foxx, made the McDonald shooting a centerpiece of her campaign against Alvarez.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, voters also threw out incumbent prosecutor Timothy McGinty. McGinty’s office refused to press charges against two Cleveland officers for shooting Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland resident, in 2014.

So in at least a few jurisdictions, voters have clearly had enough of “soft-on-crime” prosecutors who are literally letting law enforcement getting away with murder.

Libertarians have railed against abusive police practices and their threat to individual liberty and justice for decades.

It looks like voters are starting to agree.

And in light of these victories, pro-liberty advocates should be setting up grassroots organizations that focus specifically on judicial, prosecutorial, and county sheriff races.

These advocates, if victorious, could fundamentally transform the criminal justice issue in favor of liberty without having to change one single law.

And with a new law enforcement community more in favor of reform in hand, the momentum to actually change laws for better would be unstoppable.

Call it a libertarian moment for the bench.

Are Newspaper Endorsements Worth More Than the Paper They’re Printed On?

Yesterday, The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, endorsed Senator Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Newspaper endorsements used to play big in primary elections. But they don’t seem count for very much anymore. Indeed, in reporting the Register’s endorsement of Rubio, The New York Times opined that “the paper’s once highly anticipated backing might be less meaningful than it once was, in an age of reduced print circulation.”

However, a recent history of Des Moines Register endorsements going back to 1988 found that on the Republican side, the paper’s Republican endorsements went on to win eventual GOP nomination every time.

On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders can take comfort in the fact that the results have been just the opposite: The Iowa paper’s selection has never correlated with the party’s eventual nominee since 1988.

Okay, so the results are fairly lopsided in Iowa. But what about New Hampshire?

In the Granite State, the main print media mainstay is the very conservative Manchester Union-Leader—so Democrats need not apply for endorsements.

This year, the Union-Leader has endorsed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who currently sits at around 7 percent in state polls, compared to Donald Trump, who dominates there at over 32 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Past primary endorsements have been more mixed. Election analyst Nate Silver, writing for the New York Times in 2011, analyzed previous endorsements and how well they correlated with the eventual New Hampshire primary winner and GOP nominee going back to the 1980 election (See graph below).

fivethirtyeight-1127-manchesterunion1-blog480.png

(Nate Silver/The New York Times)

In 1979, the Union-Leader endorsed Ronald Reagan, who went on to win the primary by a whopping 50 percent, and eventually went on to win the Republican nomination and defeat President Carter in a 45 state landslide.

The newspaper’s record for successfully picking the primary winner since then has been less than stellar. The next time it’s preference matched up with those of New Hampshire GOP primary voters was 1996, when firebrand outsider Pat Buchanan defeated Bob Dole. The next successful endorsement came 12 years later when the Union-Leader endorsed Senator John McCain.

So, the big question is what impact will this round of editorial presidential nods have on this election. If someone had an answer to that question, she would be very, very rich indeed.

But if past is prologue Marco Rubio has much more of reason to smile than does Hillary Clinton.

 

Jim Webb, Last Of The Old Jeffersonian Democrats

(Photocredit: Wikipedia)

(Photocredit: Wikipedia)

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb has announced that he is running for president–by a simple Facebook post. The announcement marks a very different tact taken by most candidates, who, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz or Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have opted for big announcement speeches in from of adoring crowds, or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who chose to announce via a several-minute long video that was more reminiscent of a life insurance commercial than a presidential campaign.

Webb himself seems like a man who is very much out of step with today’s Democratic party on economic issues. He talks more about growing the economy and expanding opportunity, rather than sticking to the cheap demagoguery of Bernie Sanders, who claim that if only Washington had more power and money everyone would live like kings.

The Virginia Democrat speaks more like a libertarian-leaning populist, who is mad as hell about the wars and America’s braggadocio foreign policy.

But while this is a rare trait in today’s “progressive” Democrats, hellbent on using government to “save” America and the world, the old-fashioned Jefferson-Jackson-Cleveland brand of the party, with it’s emphasis on personal freedom, limited government, and peace toward all nations, have a long and (mostly) proud history, although clearly on the issue of race there is much to be desired.

Unfortunately, that legacy appears to be dead and no serious commentator gives Webb any chance against the hyper-corporatist centralizer, Hillary Clinton.

The Predicted Kansas Economic Collapse That Wasn’t

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the state of Kansas’s economy post-Governor Brownback’s controversial 2012 tax cuts. If you remember the coverage then, the left went absolutely crazy that the gradual phasing out of state income tax, as well as complete abolition of corporate income taxes on small businesses, would drive Kansas’s economy into a Mad Max-style hellscape.

Not so. According to Andrew Wilson of the Show Me Institute, a Missouri-based free market think tank, writing in WSJ, the state of the state in Kansas is strong. Discussing what many liberal-leaning scare headlines missed about Brownback’s reforms, Wilson writes:

What the news coverage missed was that if Kansas hasn’t exactly catapulted into the front ranks in economic growth and employment, then it has at least moved a long way from the stagnation of recent decades. Consider:

• In March 2013, unemployment in Kansas stood at 5.5%. It has since dropped to 4.2%, tied for 14th lowest in the country.

• From 1998-2012, Kansas ranked 38th in private-sector job growth, according Bureau of Labor Statistics data crunched by the Kansas Policy Institute. In 2013—the first year after the tax reform—the state climbed to 27th place, and in 2014 it moved to 21st, placing it in the top half of states.

• In the second half of 2014, hourly wages in Kansas grew 3.5%, according to BLS data, far faster than the national average of 1.9%.

Then there is the Kansas City metropolitan area, a living laboratory that straddles the border with Missouri. On Mr. Brownback’s side of the divide, the top personal income-tax rate is now 4.9%, beginning at $15,000 for single filers; in Missouri the top 6% rate starts at $9,000.

Brownback has conceded in the piece, as he has elsewhere, that he may have over-promised the short-term benefits of tax reduction (infamously saying that the new rates would be a “shot of adrenaline to the arm” of the state economy), but after three years ordinary Kansans are starting to see the benefits of keeping more of their hard-earned money and smaller, more effective, more efficient government.

More on the success of Kansas tax cuts, and the over-hyping of the state’s miniscule deficit, here, here, here, and here.

Jeb Bush Is Unelectable

(Photocredit: Huffington Post)

Whenever the pundit class and party elites discuss the issue of “electability” in presidential elections, they are usually talking about fringe candidates with small bases of support that more often than not are running only to get a book deal or talk show.

But sometimes the candidate that is deemed unelectable is not only in the top-tier of the race but is perceived front runner. We saw this in the 2008 Republican primary where in the months leading up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was considered by all in Washington as the man to beat.

He had locked down a lot of the early money and party support, with the famously pro-choice mayor gaining the endorsement of famous evangelical leader Pat Robertson. However, Giuliani decided to skip the first four caucuses and primaries and instead wait until the Florida Primary. This strategy failed miserably. Giuliani ended up placing a distant third behind Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and winning only one delegate during his whole campaign.

Fast forward to 2015 and Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor is being touted as the “establishment choice” among a field of ambitious and talent rivals that include Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the last of which being a particular threat due to his popularity among the GOP donor class like billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adleson.

And while it is clear that each one of those Republican challengers have their strong backers in the party, it’s not clear what if any support there is for Bush among the grassroots. Whats more, he seems more than willing to openly antagonize them with his support for national education curriculum a-la Common Core and advocacy for liberal immigration policies (I’m in total agreement with the governor on the second policy, by the way, which is much more in line with the pre-Tea Party GOP).

And lately news hasn’t been getting any better for the brother of the last Republican president. After being asked Monday by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly if he would, knowing what he knows now, still decide to invade in Iraq, Bush answered that he would, and adding that so would Hillary Clinton, implying that the governor didn’t understand the question.

And just today at at a town hall-style meeting in Reno, Nevada a college student accused that the former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was chiefly responsible for starting ISIS. Here’s a snippet of that exchange.

“It was when 30,000 individuals who were part of the Iraqi military were forced out — they had no employment, they had no income, and they were left with access to all of the same arms and weapons,” Ms. Ziedrich said.

She added: “Your brother created ISIS.”

Mr. Bush interjected. “All right. Is that a question?”

Ms. Ziedrich was not finished. “You don’t need to be pedantic to me, sir.”

“Pedantic? Wow,” Mr. Bush replied.

Then Ms. Ziedrich asked: “Why are you saying that ISIS was created by us not having a presence in the Middle East when it’s pointless wars where we send young American men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism? Why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to get us involved in more wars?”

Read the whole thing here 

As of now, while the Bush campaign-to-be isn’t quite in full damage control, they certainly can’t be happy about the bad press they’re getting. And while it is still very early in the race (Bush hasn’t even declared for president yet for God’s sake) it is hard to see just what Bush’s path to the nomination is.

Yes, he’s the main establishment candidate. But both Marco Rubio and Scott Walker could easily fill those roads and garner plenty of grassroots to boot. He is skipping the early primaries and ranks very low in most polls, coming in behind Donald “The Donald” Trump in many cases.

And even if he did win the nomination it is likely to be due to massive and unlikely flameout of his other GOP rivals. The general election would not be much easier. It’s tough to see where Bush expands the electoral map beyond the Romney states, which is a proven losing strategy.

And worst of all, a Jeb Bush nomination would kneecap the main argument Republicans have against Hillary Clinton: That she is the past from a politically-dynastic family. And if Americans are forced to choose, they’ll likely go with the dynasty they have fonder memories of, as well as the first woman president, which is Hillary Clinton.

So to put it plainly: Jeb Bush is unelectable.

Senate Democrats abandon Obama on Fast-Track Authority

In a stunning defeat for President Obama, the Senate Tuesday voted down giving the president Trade Promotion Authority (so-called “fast track”) to make it easier to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 11-nation trade deal, without amendments.

By failing to reach the 60-vote threshold to reach cloture and cutoff debate, the bill remains very much in doubt. The upper chamber voted 52-45, with every Democrat voting “no” except for Delaware’s Tom Carper.

The defeat is a big win for the forces of anti-free trade within the Democratic Party, especially Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren has publicly classed the Mr. Obama in the past few days leading up to vote.

It is also a sign that Democrats are struggling to define what they’re party will stand for after the president leaves office in 2017.

Likely 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has largely stayed silent on the TTP and fast-track authority since announcing for president about a month ago. Although, while a member of the Obama cabinet, Secretary of State Clinton strongly backed the free trade deal, indicating she has seen the shifting political winds in her party has changed course.

While the bill is likely to come back up for a vote in the next two weeks before Congress goes on recess, the fate of TPP and the consensus on free trade with in the Democratic Party since the days of Bill Clinton and the largely successful Nafta agreement remains very much in doubht.