Filled with dread. Fires. Healthcare. Extremists. Corruption.

Umair Irfan : California’s wildfires aren’t “natural” — “humans made them worse at every step. We fuel them, we build houses by them, we ignite them.” And, of course, there’s the obligatory ‘weather is human created global climate change’ blame complete with fuzzy (non-existant) evidence but, otherwise, a good rundown on just how normal the tragedy really is.

The California fires stretch the definition of “natural disaster” since human activities have exacerbated their likelihood, their extent, and their damage. Deliberate decisions and unintended consequences of urban development over decades have turned many parts of the state into a tinderbox.

This year’s blazes particularly stand out because of how close they are to suburbs and major cities.
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Much of California is naturally hot, dry, and prone to fires for parts of the year. But the state’s population is growing, leading to a significant overlap between the areas of high fire risk and areas with a growing population density, as you can see in these maps from a 2014 study of population trends in in California out to 2050.
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This pattern of building in or near fire-prone regions has also led to land management practices to prevent fire that paradoxically increase fire risk. For instance, policies for preventing wildfires have in some areas led to an accumulation of the dry vegetation that would ordinarily burn away in smaller natural blazes.

John Hinderaker: On Health Care, Trump Takes an Important First Step – “practical solutions that don’t sound glamorous but will help millions of Americans.”

In the wake of the Republican Congress’s historic failure to carry out its pledge to repeal Obamacare, President Trump today signed an executive order intended to promote choice and competition in health care markets. The order is a practical and positive step forward that will benefit millions of Americans.

Why am I so sure of that? Because the order is based mostly, if not entirely, on work done by Peter Nelson, my colleague at Center of the American Experiment, one of the country’s top health care experts. Peter has consulted extensively with the Trump administration’s health care team, and some of the ideas incorporated into today’s executive order have been advocated exclusively by him.

Stephen Dinan: Trump declares Obamacare payments illegal; deals second blow to health law – “Without payments, insurers say they would jack up premiums, upending the underpinning of the ACA.”

The Trump administration announced late Thursday that it has concluded it can no longer legally make critical Obamacare “cost-sharing” payments and will cut them off, dealing another blow to the struggling 2010 health law.

The payments had specifically been denied by Congress but President Obama had made them anyway, drawing a rebuke from a court who said he was overstepping his powers.
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The move comes just hours after Mr. Trump signed an executive order pushing his administration to allow association health plans, which would allow individuals and small businesses to join up and purchase insurance on the group market across state lines.
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Mr. Trump’s decision Thursday means he’s accepting the original judge’s legal finding. It’s similar to the move he made last month on DACA, the Obama-era deportation amnesty, where the administration concluded it would likely be unable to defend the program in court, so it instead announced a phaseout.

“This administration is committed to the rule of law, and a fundamental premise is that Congress holds the power of the purse. We will not usurp its authority,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

Follow the law? That gets the Democrats in a moral outrage! For example, Cheryl K. Chumley: Chuck Schumer, always ready with the cheap shots – “Count on death and taxes — and the ability of Sen. Chuck Schumer to take cheap partisan potshots at the president, wherever and whenever possible.” Or Stephen Dinan: San Juan mayor accuses Trump of ‘genocide’ after hurricane – “Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, accused Mr. Trump of “genocide” for what she said was an antipathy toward her island territory.” This was prompted by the President noting the incompetence of the mayor earlier and making it clear that emergency aid to Puerto Rico was not permanent and, hence, not a fix for the territory’s financial problems that stem from corruption and incompetence.

The Puerto Rico aid situation also came up with the news reporting problem. Jennifer Harper: Even after 266 days in office, the news media mistreats Trump — and voters know it – “The nonstop coverage instead is filled with fake news, tweaked polls, false narratives, weaponized talking points, personal insults and incendiary language.”

IBD: It’s Official: Democrats Are The Extremists Today – “Data from the highly respected Pew Research Center provides a definitive answer. It’s because Democrats have moved sharply to the extreme left.”

Everyone knows that the country is more politically polarized than ever, but most don’t know why.

Given the way politics gets reported these days, it’s easy to conclude that the widening gap is the result of Republicans become more extreme in their views. That is, after all, a mantra among Democrats and the press. The GOP is the party of racist, sexist, xenophobic, right-wing extremists, we hear over and over again, while Democrats are but humble centrists.

The Pew data, however, make it clear that the shift toward the extreme has happened among Democrats, not Republicans.
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Democrats and their water carriers in the press are like people on a boat that is drifting off to sea, but are convinced that it’s the land that’s moving, not them.

It gets interesting to hear the rhetoric about Trump with the Weinberg (and Cosby) scandals that bring up Clinton and Kennedy. David French: Trump’s Tweets Are Damaging the Republican Character – “No short-term political victory is worth the long-term cultural degradation the president is guaranteeing the GOP.”

Yet, incredibly, across the country rank-and-file Republicans react to such messages not by rebuking Trump but by trying to find a way to rationalize or justify them. Many go even further, joining Trump in his attacks regardless of their merit. These folks are degrading their political character to defend Trump, and the damage they do to their own credibility and their party’s in the process will endure long after he has departed from the political scene.

Trump is stoking a particularly destructive form of rage — and his followers don’t just allow themselves to be stoked, they attack Trump’s targets with glee.
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And I have never in my adult life seen such anger.

This gets rather puzzling. Glee and anger seem at odds. Never seen such anger? Like what antifa is doing? Like the actual Fake News™? Like the assassination or impeachment ruminations? Or the expression of the heckler’s veto nearly any time a conservative shows up on campus? Or consider how French completely misses the point of the press responsibility for accuracy tweet. Or consider how he takes a single instance of locker room braggadocio and compares it to decades of sexual abuse by Weinstein. “On a vast scale, members of the Republican base are defending behavior from Trump that would shock and appall them if it came from a Democratic president.” You mean like Clinton with perjury, disbarment, and a semen stained dress? What French illustrates is just how hate can blind a person and distort his perceptions to the point of derangement. He needs to look in the mirror and do some heavy introspection to maybe find out his accusations and allegations might likely be a case of projection and not of reality.

Thomas Lifson: Tucker Carlson declares war on ‘corrupt’ NBC News – “these are far from ordinary times, and I am coming to appreciate that Tucker Carlson is far from an ordinary TV talking head.”

Meanwhile, things are a’poppin’ on the important issues. Lewis K. Uhler and Peter J. Ferrara: Congress Makes Big Progress On Pro-Growth Tax Reform – “The so-called “do nothing Congress” is making amazing progress toward major, pro-growth tax reform.”

The architects of “progressivism” (Schumer, Pelosi, Sanders) continue their chant that we are “toadies” of Wall Street and want to cut taxes for the rich. Their left wing “intellectual” apologists like the Tax Policy Center claim that our tax cut proposals will dramatically reduce federal tax revenues, increase our national deficits and debt, and bankrupt America. Yet, these are the very same people who applauded Obama’s anti-growth policies and trillions in additional debt.

These so-called “progressives” still haven’t gotten the message of the last election. Working people and their families want growth, not Third World-style stagnation.
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The fundamental economic truth is when the economy is rising, revenues will be rising, regardless of the rates. And when the economy is declining, revenue will be declining, regardless of the rates.

These are historical facts, not opinion. And those who do not understand them should not pretend to be practicing economics.

Only on the promise of tax reform plus a concerted attack on business regulation the U.S. economy is growing at a rate not seen in years and the stock markets are at record highs. Trump is doing his part. Will Congress, most pointedly the Senate, follow through?

Have you wondered about those naval ship collisions? Neo-neocon describes a case at Army: The West Point rot – “Many people (me included) wondered how it was that the openly-Communist Spenser Rapone was allowed to graduate from West Point.” If the Naval Academy is similarly effected, it may explain a few things.

Now the professor who had originally reported Rapone to West Point authorities (to no avail), retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Heffington, has issued an open letter to West Point graduates with a word—actually, many words—of explanation:

Here is the text of the letter. After you’ve read it, you will understand that Rapone didn’t fall through the cracks. There weren’t any cracks. If what Heffington says it’s the truth—and I’m definitely inclined to believe it—then West Point has apparently become a standardless, permissive, PC, open (and perhaps bottomless) pit.
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West Point has become the same as just about any other university, afraid of its students and subservient to the PC dictates.
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If all of this was an open secret, it’s shocking that there was a culture of silence around it till now. Reminds me a bit of Hollywood—or, if truth be told, most institutions. Maybe Spenser Rapone did us all a favor by being so flagrant that he drew greater public attention to the rot that’s been going on (not just in the military in general, which we already knew about, but at West Point itself) for a long time. The question is whether anything will be done about it.

William A. Jacobson: Legal Insurrection is 9 years old, and filled with dread – “Last year I noted that while it was a difficult year personally, I was optimistic. …The attempts to unwind the 2016 presidential election have changed everything.”

If the assault on the Electoral College was the game changer for me, a runner up was waking up to implications of the concentration of power in a small number of social media and internet companies who have been weaponized to shut down speech and expression.
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I don’t know if there are any uncorrupted institutions left that matter.
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There is a rising tide of absolutism in ideas and enforcement of ideological uniformity that is palpable.
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The press could stand as a bulwark against this slide, but it too is corrupted.

Filled with dread indeed. 

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