Rolling Your Own (and an Evening Chez Buckley)

by Jay Nordlinger

I’ve done a new Jaywalking podcast, which gives you a little music, a little politics, and a little more. I say that I like a performer who “rolls his own” — that is, who writes his own music, in addition to performing it. Daniil Trifonov does this. (I lead the podcast with his piano concerto.) So do a handful of others, most of them pianists.

In the past, there was no great division between composers and performers. Think of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Think of Chopin, Paganini, and Rachmaninoff. But then, in the first part of the 20th century, there came this split.

You know who was a helluva pianist, a big virtuoso (apart from the fact that he was a sublime musician, and a genius)? Bartók. That is how he made his living for a long time. The piano music he wrote, he wrote for himself to concertize with — including his Concerto No. 2, one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire. (This comes up in my new Jaywalking.)

On the subject of Hungarian pianists: WFB once invited to dinner a remarkable man, Balint Vázsonyi. He studied at the Liszt Academy and escaped Hungary in ’56, when he was 20. In America, he got involved in politics. Indeed, he ran for mayor of Bloomington, Ind. He also spent some time in my hometown, Ann Arbor, Mich.

So did György Sándor, another Hungarian pianist, who comes up in this new Jaywalking. (I both talk about him and play a brief recording of his.) Sándor was a protégé of Bartók, and it was he, actually, not the composer, who gave the premiere of Bartók’s Concerto No. 3.

I don’t know about Sándor’s politics. I can guess. Most of those guys were deeply freedom-loving. Balint Vázsonyi was a conservative of the Reagan stripe. He prized the liberalism — the classical liberalism — that allows high culture and other good things to flourish.

After dinner, WFB asked Vázsonyi to play something. Vázsonyi demurred a bit, pointing out that he had drunk wine, but he went to the piano and played some Schumann — the Arabeske in C. WFB loved it, as he did civilization at large.

I end the new Jaywalking with the playing of Myra Hess — Dame Myra Hess, the British pianist — who was one of Vázsonyi’s teachers, along with other greats (e.g., Dohnányi).

I’m sorry that Vázsonyi and all the others were run out of their native lands, needless to say. And, of course, many did not reach exile: They were imprisoned or murdered where they were. But I was awfully glad to meet these refugees and exiles, and they enriched the lands to which they went, chiefly ours. I kid about Ann Arbor as a left-wing citadel. But it was also stocked with people who had fled tyranny, and knew the value of liberal democracy, and I profited from them immensely.

National Review Summer Internship

by NR Staff

National Review is accepting applications for its summer internship. The intern will work in our New York office, receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have some opportunities to write. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter, your résumé, and two of your best writing samples (no more, please) to editorial.applications (at)

In Infamous Meeting, Trump Spoke of Attracting Asian Immigrants

by Rich Lowry

Everyone is putting such weight on last Thursday’s White House meeting, it’d be nice to have a transcript to know exactly what was said. As it is, we are working off differing, fuzzy accounts that, while broadly consistent, are inevitably influenced by the viewpoints of the various participants (my favorite Russian adage: No one lies like an eyewitness). Plus, the meeting, as the Washington Post describes it this morning, “was short, tense and often dominated by loud cross-talk and swearing.”

I thought this passage in the Post account was notable: “[Trump] also objected that Democratic proposals to adjust the visa lottery and federal policy for immigrants with temporary protected status were going to drive more people from countries he deemed undesirable into the United States instead of attracting immigrants from places like Norway and Asia, people familiar with the meeting said.”

Now, I don’t think a president should talk the way Trump does, and if he thinks it’s impossible to get good immigrants from ramshackle, dysfunctional countries, he’s obviously wrong. But much of the argument that his comments exposed a hideous racism is that, while dumping on “sh**house” countries, he said he wanted immigrants from Norway, an overwhelmingly white country.

I believe he said this for two reasons: 1) He’d just met with the prime minster of Norway, who had spun him up about all the wonders of Norway; 2) Norway was a way to contrast immigrants with education and skills to those without.

This interpretation is buttressed by the Post’s sentence. What do immigrants from Norway and Asia have in common? It’s not that they are white. It’s that they are skilled, or at least associated with skills.

Of course, the picture for Asian immigration differs from country to country, per the Migration Policy Insitute: “The majority of immigrants from India (76 percent), Taiwan (70 percent), and Saudi Arabia and Singapore (68 percent each) were college graduates, compared to less than one-quarter of those from Vietnam (25 percent), and Cambodia and Laos (15 percent each).”

The economic success of the better-educated Asian immigrants is astounding:

In 2014, the median income of households headed by an Asian immigrant was $70,000, compared to $49,000 and $55,000 for overall immigrant and native-born households, respectively. Households headed by Indian ($105,000), Taiwanese ($91,000), Filipino ($82,000), and Malaysian ($80,000) immigrants had the highest median income among all Asian immigrant groups.

Anyway, I believe the simplest explanation for most Trump controversies is that he’s being crude and thoughtless, and that applies here. The sh**house controversy has been longer-lasting than most, now on its fifth day, but by the end of week, we’ll be on to something else.

Women Writers Start Worrying About What, Exactly, Constitutes #MeToo

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Women Writers Start Worrying About What, Exactly, Constitutes #MeToo

Perhaps it was inevitable that someone would claim the mantle of #MeToo in circumstances that were far murkier than the early scandals.

A photographer using the pseudonym “Grace” gives a lengthy, explicit description of a date with comedian Aziz Ansari that offers an unflattering portrait of him being clumsy and insistent to have sex, but never quite doing anything that most would characterize as sexual assault or harassment. As Andrea Peyser puts it, “Grace apparently believes that Ansari should have been able to read her mind, when a simple ‘Stop!’ would have promptly ended the activities.”

Quite a few women are deeply irked that this description of a bad date is getting lumped in with the #MeToo movement.

HLN host Ashley Banfield:

Banfield continued to criticize Grace’s claims, saying that “by your own clear description, this wasn’t a rape, nor was it a sexual assault. By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant.” The host then claimed that Grace had “chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades. A movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I, too, have struggled through at times over the last 30 years in broadcasting.”

Added Banfield: “The #MeToo movement has righted a lot of wrongs and it has made your career path much smoother … what a gift. Yet, you looked that gift horse in the mouth and chiseled away at that powerful movement with your public accusation.”

Bari Weiss, writing in the New York Times:

I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading Grace’s story:

If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you.

If the inability to choose a pinot noir over a pinot grigio offends you, you can leave right then and there.

If you don’t like the way your date hustles through paying the check, you can say, “I’ve had a lovely evening and I’m going home now.”

If you go home with him and discover he’s a terrible kisser, say “I’m out.”

If you start to hook up and don’t like the way he smells or the way he talks (or doesn’t talk), end it.

Caitlin Flanagan, writing in The Atlantic:

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Karol Markowicz:

So many of the well-known #MeToo stories centered on power dynamics. Matt Lauer allegedly assaulting his underlings. Weinstein blocking the careers of actresses who turned him down. But no such power dynamic existed in this situation. Grace was not hanging out with Ansari for a career opportunity. Their date was understood to be romantic by both of them. If we’ve reached a point where #MeToo will include regrettable hook-ups the whole movement is diluted and actual sexual assault stories minimized.

It’s an odd feeling to write “Sonny Bunch is right,” but he’s got a point:

I would suggest there’s a reason this story appeared in, rather than the New York Times or BuzzFeed or the Los Angeles Times or, yes, The Washington Post. One of the reasons is that, however Grace now thinks of the encounter, what happened isn’t sexual assault or anything close to it by most legal or common-sense standards. And bad dates — including terrible ones that leave one person feeling humiliated — aren’t actually newsworthy, even when they happen to famous people.

An “I had sex with a celebrity and regretted it, and isn’t that kind of like Harvey Weinstein” claim is exactly the sort of unconvincing argument that a powerful sexual predator would want in the news right now. Because if people perceive #MeToo as being driven by a desire to publicly detail every sexual encounter that ends unsatisfactory or awkwardly, a lot of people will recoil from it. Sex is complicated and messy enough without the thought of having every encounter or attempted encounter broadcast to the world for dissection and analysis.

Meanwhile, actress Eliza Dushku described being sexually assaulted by a stunt coordinator on the set of True Lies; she was 12 at the time. Her agent went to the executive producer and told her about the assault, but “nobody really did anything.”

Tuesday links

by debbywitt

Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920: here’s some history, contemporaneous newsreels, the women who tried to telepathically influence the vote, Abraham Lincoln and Milton Friedman.

The Forgotten History Of How Automakers Invented The Crime Of ‘Jaywalking’.

Why Do Toll-Free Numbers Start With 800?

The Ultimate Paper Airplane.

Tequila is good for your health, according to top scientists.

Why do we call gadgets ”doohickeys“?

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include the 1918 Flu pandemic, Napoleon’s descendants, the 99th anniversary of Boston’s deadly 2.3 million gallon molasses flood, and neurological disorders in Alice in Wonderland.

Good King Michael

by Jay Nordlinger

There is a cliché: Sometimes you don’t know a man till he dies. Do you know King Michael of Romania? We call him a “monarch and mensch.” I have sketched him out on the homepage today, here.

When he was five, he ascended to the throne. On hearing the news, he asked for a piece of chocolate cake. He later contended with the Nazis. He led a daring coup d’état against a fascist dictatorship. His mother earned the designation “righteous among the nations.” He then contended with the Soviets. There was a long exile — then a return to Romania after the fall of the Wall.

“It’s good to be king,” people say, and often it is: gold, power, harems! It was not especially good for Michael. But he carried out his duty, and he set an example of modesty and morality in kingship.

Anyway, a life to know, and a life that tells us a lot about the century just past.

How State Legislators Can Improve Higher Education

by George Leef

Usually, the less a state does with regard to higher education, the better. Sometimes, however, there are measures that a state legislature could take that would make its higher-education system better. In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson writes about several ideas that North Carolina’s legislature should push this year.

The one that has the most national interest involves a contentious matter in Title IX cases — the burden of proof.  During the Obama administration, the Education Department sent forth its “guidance” on how colleges should handle such cases, including a directive to employ a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for finding an accused student guilty. That very weak standard led to punishment for many students based on pretty flimsy accusations. Secretary DeVos has rescinded that directive, leaving it up to individual schools to decide on the evidentiary standard. Some, in the grip of feminist/progressive ideology, have declared that they will stick with the weak Obama standard.

Actually, I can applaud that as a matter of federalism — the feds don’t have any business telling states what to do on this. State legislatures ought to insist on a “clear and convincing” standard in the colleges and universities they fund, as well as protect the rights of accused students in other ways.

Regarding the legislation that has been introduced, Robinson writes, “If enacted, the bill would require universities to give accused students ‘adequate notice including details of the allegation . . . and copies of all evidence at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.” It would also permit both parties in a case to question and cross-examine witnesses. And it states that the “standard of proof of responsibility for proving sexual misconduct shall not be less than clear and convincing evidence.”

This will no doubt come up in other “red” states where the officials in the state university system want to keep using the deck that was stacked against accused students.

Robinson also advocates more transparency in public university foundations to ensure that they operate in the public interest, and to change the funding model for state universities so that they do more to promote student success.

Admire King, but Not Blindly

by Kevin D. Williamson

CNN wants you to know that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t just about all that “I have a dream” stuff. “He’s an environmental hero,” CNN writes via Twitter. He was a socialist before it was cool.”

(Oh, socialism is “cool,” is it, CNN?)

King had a lot of batty ideas and a few truly dumb ones, and he did indeed flirt with the idea of democratic socialism toward the end of his life. But he was right about the thing we remember him for, and that was important.

Using King’s moral stature to promote socialism or global-warming legislation in 2018 is morally and intellectually dishonest, as its the adoption of King as a charismatic mascot for all things leftish. (One wonders what the Christian minister would have thought about the modern Democratic party, particularly its attitudes toward abortion and homosexuality.) King belongs in a category with Mohandas Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson, men who were giants on the issue most closely associated with them but who also had some pretty bad ideas, including destructive political ideas, and each man of course fell short of the glory in the usual human ways.

No one knows what King would have thought about the Paris climate agreement or publicly funded abortions. And even if we did know, there would be no reason to treat his preferences as dispositive, inasmuch as he was wrong about a great number of important things during his own life.

One may admire Gandhi without sharing his reverence for cattle, and one need not take the Mammoth Cheese along with one’s Jefferson. And one may admire the best of King without admiring blindly.

If a Missile Alert Sounds, Prepare to Live

by David French

You get alert on your phone that a missile is inbound. You flip on the television to confirm, and it’s repeating the same message. What do you do? Do you prepare to die, or do you prepare to live?

Prepare to live. As tempting as it may be, don’t spend the precious minutes between missile alert and missile impact texting family, sending tearful goodbyes on Snapchat, or attempting to reconcile old grudges. Don’t do it.

First, you have to understand that the odds are overwhelming that you’ll survive an initial blast. Nuclear weapons are devastating, but it’s a Hollywood myth that any individual strike will vaporize an entire American city, much less the suburbs and countryside. You can go to sites like to see the blast radius of direct nuclear strikes at various yields.

The bottom line, even if a nuclear weapon as big as the largest North Korea has ever tested were to impact squarely on Manhattan, the vast majority of New Yorkers would survive the initial blast. A strike would devastate central Honolulu but leave many suburbs intact. If the missile misses a city center even by a small amount, the number of initial casualties plunges dramatically.

Second, you also need to understand that you have far more control over your survival than you might think. Time and isolation are your friends. The more walls you can put between yourself and not just the blast but also the fallout, the better. Get in a basement. If you don’t have a basement, get in an interior room. Gather as much food and water as you possibly can and hunker down. Every single hour, every single day you can stay indoors and protected from the elements brings you closer to survival. The radiation threat tends to diminish rapidly.

Resist the urge to be an apocalypse tourist. There is no need to try to record the nuclear blast on your phone, and running outside after the boom is a really, really bad idea — unless it’s the only way to escape a fire. Otherwise the reward for your curiosity could be an agonizing, unnecessary death due to radiation sickness. Stay put. Be patient. Eat your canned food and drink your water.

Unless we’re dealing with a massive nuclear exchange with Russia — or, say, a serious attack from China — help will come. The closer you are to the blast, the more time it will take to safely transport serious aid, but your survival is far more in your hands than you think.

Yesterday’s warning presents an opportunity to take stock. Do you have an emergency plan? Do you have a basic stock of emergency supplies? Do you know exactly where you’d go in your house? Have you gone to websites like to understand the basics? There’s nothing weird or strange about being a basic “prepper.” The odds of facing a nuclear strike are very, very small, but there’s nothing wrong with preparing for the far-more-likely hurricane, tornado, snowstorm, or ice storm. When you live in the South and Midwest, it’s hardly unusual for the power to go out, the emergency alerts to sound, and for families to hunker down in their safe spaces. Why not be ready?

Democrats Don’t Want to Face Their Own Demonization of Trade Deals

by Jim Geraghty

In a lengthy transcribed discussion in Politico about an upcoming documentary, former Obama deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, critiqued the Trump administration’s approach to diplomacy: “The America-first approach, if that is their organizing principle, is the opposite of where Barack Obama took that lesson. He took that lesson to what’s in the movie, which is we need to be diplomatically—we need to be in Laos and Vietnam, because that’s how we’re going to have to deal with China, not we’re going to retreat from TPP and get out of Asia.”

Elsewhere in the discussion, Rhodes elaborates, “the strategic consequences of leaving TPP, I think, are massive. When I think of the things that Trump has done, ironically, everything is sort of—we care so much about Cuba and the Iran deal. I think pulling out of TPP is just devastating. I think the Chinese have just a wide-open field in Asia now, and they’re doing their One Belt and One Road Initiative, and they’re setting the agenda.”

Apparently all of Washington has forgotten that Hillary Clinton pledged to get rid of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, too, not just President Trump. “I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” she said at a rally in Warren, Michigan on August 11, 2016. “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.”

No matter what happened on Election Day 2016, the United States was going to elect a president who opposed TPP.

Because of Clinton’s history, quite a few folks may have believed that she was lying when she declared she opposed TPP. As Secretary of State, she had called it the “gold standard.” Perhaps Hillary Clinton never intended to withdraw from TPP, and only pretended to oppose it to win votes in Rust Belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. (If that was the case, that approach failed miserably.)

Also in the conversation, Rhodes adds, “we were hoping we’ll get that in a lame duck if Hillary wins, and try to figure something out.” In other words, the Republican nominee ran against a particular trade deal, the Democratic nominee ran against the same trade deal, and the perspective of one of Obama’s top advisors was that the trade deal should be enacted anyway. That is some gourmet artisan cynicism there.

Bernie Sanders opposed TPP, too, meaning the Democratic Party was more or less unified in opposition.

The Democrats embrace anti-free-trade populism as much as the Republicans do. Rhodes and company are lamenting that Trump is opposing policies that the 2016 Democratic nominee wasn’t willing to defend or advocate, and not many Congressional Democrats are willing to defend or advocate free trade policies, either. One can’t help but feel that the Democrats are enraged by Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric in part because he’s doing their shtick better than they did. If Democrats – or Republicans! — want to enact more free trade deals, they need to stand up and make the case for why they benefit the country in aggregate, instead of winking and nodding and then attempting to ram them through in lame duck sessions.

Incompetence Is More Frightening Than Hackers

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Incompetence Is More Frightening Than Hackers

I spent much of Saturday wondering if the false warning of an imminent ballistic missile strike on Hawaii was the work of malicious hackers. That scenario would be strangely preferable, having a malevolent entity to blame, instead of accepting that the entire system for warning the public really can be activated by one employee pressing the wrong button, as the state’s governor described it.

Apparently it wasn’t even a button; it was a drop-down menu on a computer screen.

Shortly after 8 a.m. local time Saturday morning, an employee at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency settled in at the start of his shift. Among his duties that day was to initiate an internal test of the emergency missile warning system: essentially, to practice sending an emergency alert to the public without actually sending it to the public.

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.

“In this case, the operator selected the wrong menu option,” HEMA spokesman Richard Rapoza told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Around 8:07 a.m., an errant alert went out to scores of Hawaii residents and tourists on their cellphones: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” A more detailed message scrolled across television screens in Hawaii, suggesting, “If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor.”

Imagine getting that text, turning on the television for some sort of confirmation or reassurance that it was only a drill, and finding the same message running across the top of the screen, with a pre-recorded voice repeating the warning. No wonder Hawaiians were terrified; they awoke to find themselves in the early scenes of The Day After.

If it hadn’t been terrifying, it would have been comic; having scared the bejeebers out of most residents in the state, the state agency couldn’t quickly figure out a way to tell everyone it had been a false alarm:

Part of what worsened the situation Saturday was that there was no system in place at the state emergency agency for correcting the error, Rapoza said. The state agency had standing permission through FEMA to use civil warning systems to send out the missile alert — but not to send out a subsequent false alarm alert, he said.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said it has also suspended all internal drills until the investigation is completed. In addition, it has put in place a “two-person activation/verification rule” for tests and actual missile launch notifications. On Saturday, Ripoza said, the employee was asked in the computer program to confirm that he wanted to send the message. In the future, a second person will be required for confirmation.

Our John Fund asks a fair question: if this sort of mistake doesn’t get you canned, what does?

“This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose. It was a mistake on his part and he feels terrible about it,” explained Hawaii EMA administrator Vern Miyagi, a former Army major general. But Miyagi declined to say that the staffer would face any disciplinary actions. Richard Rapoza, the official spokesman for EMA, declined to identify the errant employee and added, “At this point, our major concern is to make sure we do what we need to do to reassure the public. This is not a time for pointing fingers.”

Actually, it is. In the Air Force my father served in for some 20 years, anyone who committed such a blunder would have been demoted or cashiered — along with any superior officer, such as Miyagi, who had failed to put in place redundancies to prevent such a fiasco. That kind of accountability strikes me as a pretty good way to start to “reassure the public.” It’s not as if EMA didn’t have any clues something was potentially wrong. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that while 93 percent of test alerts issued last month had worked, some could hardly be heard and a dozen mistakenly played an ambulance siren.

See? Hackers would be a more reassuring explanation.

Monday links

by debbywitt

On Jan. 15, 1919, Boston’s 2.3 million gallon molasses flood killed 21 people.

Napoleon’s Heirs Include a Wall Street Banker, the Founder of the FBI and a Star Trek Actor.

The Impossible Task of Reconstructing the Rules to an Ancient Board Game.

How deep have humans dug into the Earth?

The Neurological Disorders in Alice in Wonderland.

Ten Myths About the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include Thomas Edison’s sci-fi novel, a Victorian dinosaur park, how to celebrate the Feast of the Ass, and why you can’t take an orange through customs.

S***hole Politics

by Rich Lowry

A few more thoughts on the controversy:

One benefit of a merit-based system is that it would move us away from special ethnic pleading in immigration policy. The visa lottery began as affirmative action for Irish immigrants. My understanding is that Dick Durbin said in the meeting that he wanted to preserve the visa lottery in a slightly changed form because the Congressional Black Caucus wanted it. This is not how we should be making decisions about who comes here and who doesn’t.

I have generally supported Lindsey Graham’s approach to Trump. He’s concluded, rightly, that Trump isn’t going anywhere and that it’s better to try to influence him rather than pointlessly wail and gnash his teeth. But this episode is a real setback. Graham brought Trump a deal with Durbin that basically had nothing in it for immigration restrictionists, and then the meeting about it blew up in a very awkward way for Graham (he can take Durbin’s side only by ruining his relationship with Trump but he opposes Trump on the policy and the premises — so he’s been quiet).

Everyone seems to think that Durbin really wants a deal, which makes it weird that he has gone out of his way to blow up the s***hole meeting. Maybe he was so genuinely appalled he couldn’t help himself, but the last couple of days have made a deal less likely. He could think that a clean DACA deal is much more of a possibility now since Republicans might abandon Trump. It sounds to me, though, like top congressional Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy believe that such a surrender would be a disaster, so it’s unlikely to happen.

There is brave talk about Democrats forcing a shutdown over the issue, but it’s going to be hard to get enough Senate Democrats on board that strategy (especially red-state Democrats). Here is Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) on Meet the Press this morning:

Chuck Todd: All right, before I let you go, is it worth shutting down the government if DACA, if a DACA compromise doesn’t happen?

Senator Michael Bennet: I – I – I, Chuck, I hope it doesn’t come to that. I think that politicians –

Todd: But it is worth it?

Bennet: in Washington –

Todd: But it is worth it? It is potentially worth it?

Bennet: It should not come to that. We should stop shutting this government down.

Todd: Okay.

Bennet: And we should start doing the work the American people sent us to Washington to do. Chuck, we have not passed a real budget for the ten years that I’ve been in the Senate.

Listen to The Great Books Podcast

by John J. Miller

Listen to the Great Books podcast: 30-minute conversations with scholars and experts on the classic books they love. Last week we discussed Jane Eyre. Previous episodes cover Macbeth, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Gulag Archipelago. Coming soon: The Merchant of Venice, My Antonia, and The Federalist Papers. Subscribe for free today!

Country of Origin Matters

by Rich Lowry

Jeremy Carl already noted some of the statistics from Steven Camarota and his colleagues at CIS, but I wanted to post some tables, demonstrating how the national origin of immigrants does matter. This doesn’t mean any given immigrant from a certain place is going to have a hard time here. It doesn’t mean that any of the immigrants who are poor or on means-tested government programs are bad people. What it mostly means is that education matters a lot, and that immigrants who tend to be poorly educated are going to struggle and there are clear patterns based on national origin.

Countries that are close enough to send desperate migrants, including illegal immigrants, look much worse; this is why the numbers for Central America and Mexico are so poor. Countries like Germany, Japan, and Canada sending people who have more wherewithal look much better. It’s worth noting that in these tables Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa are not the worst by any means, probably reflecting how we are able to skim doctors, nurses, and students from these countries and how it takes some resources for them to get over here in the first place. This is why Trump’s statements were overly simplistic — it’s not the s***holes that matter most, it’s who we are getting from the s***holes.

Finally, none of this can determine the value question central to our immigration debate — should immigration to the U.S. fundamentally be about the interests of the immigrants (in which case you don’t care so much about these outcomes, since the immigrants themselves are better off than in their home countries), or should it the interests of the United States (in which case, you are going to want to put more emphasis on skills). I’m in the latter camp.

Here is the poverty rate by country of origin:

Here is language skills:

Here is use of welfare:

It all tracks pretty strongly with levels of education:

‘Yes’ to the FCC’s Proposed Office of Economics

by Veronique de Rugy

Under the leadership of Chairman Pai, the FCC just released a proposed Order to create an Office of Economics and Analytics. The office would provide an important and systematic feedback during the regulation-making process on whether a real problem exists that regulation might solve, as well as about what the costs and benefits of proposed rules and orders. The feedback is clearly lacking today not for lack of economists working at the FCC but because as the chairman noted in a speech in April:

[E]conomists are not systematically incorporated into policy work at the FCC. Instead, their expertise is typically applied in an ad hoc fashion, often late in the process. There is no consistent approach to their use.

In other words, the FCC hires economists but does not always use their specific skills to of systematically informing the regulatory decision making process about what we theoretically and empirically know works or doesn’t work, what the expected costs and unintended consequences of rule may be, and whom the winners and losers should be expected to be. My college Brent Skorup explains:

Several years ago when I was in law school, I was a legal clerk for the FCC Wireless Bureau and for the FCC Office of General Counsel. During that ten-month stint, I was surprised at the number of economists, who were all excellent, at the FCC. I assisted several of them closely (and helped organize what one FCC official dubbed, unofficially, “The Economists’ Cage Match” for outside experts sparring over the competitive effects of the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger). …

And since the economists are sprinkled about the agency, their work is often “siloed” within their respective bureau. Economics as an afterthought in telecom is not good for the development of US tech industries, nor for consumers.

It is the problem considering the regulatory reach that the FCC has and the consequences of over-regulation. Well, now this will change. Skorup rightfully notes:

Bringing economic rigor to the FCC’s notoriously vague “public interest” standard seemed to be occurring (slowly) during the Clinton and Bush administrations. However, during the Obama years, this progress was de-railed, largely by the net neutrality silliness, which not only distracted US regulators from actual problems like rural broadband expansion but also reinvigorated the media-access movement, whose followers believe the FCC should have a major role in shaping US culture, media, and technologies.

Good for the FCC. Hopefully, this will inspire and influence changes in other federal agencies. Unfortunately, there are many instances where bureaucrats ignore economics entirely when making decisions that will affect millions of American individuals and companies. In some cases, like in the case of the FCC, it is because economists are not systematically integrated in the decision making process. In other cases, it is because by law, the decision-makers are required to ignore the economic impact their decisions will have. A great example, and very timely, is the way the antidumping cases are decided.

When an American firm accuses a foreign firm of dumping in the U.S. market, the company files a petition to the International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce. If the Commerce Department decides that there is merit to the claim (the process itself is biased toward deciding in most cases that it is), an investigation will take place to determine whether the foreign company’s competition is causing “injury” to the domestic industry. The determination is based on:

(1) whether there is a “reasonable indication” that an industry is materially injured or is threatened with material injury, or (2) whether the establishment of an industry is materially retarded, by reason of imports under investigation by the Department of Commerce that are allegedly sold at less than fair value in the United States or subsidized.

Ignoring for now the problems with the arcane and arbitrary way by which Department of Commerce determines that “dumping” has occurred, it is striking that by law the determination about whether or not an injury has taken place can only take under consideration effects that could very well be the result of regular competition between firms. In addition, the ITC Commissioners that vote (decide the case) can’t take under consideration the things that an economist would look at like the impact of the import duties on consumers or firms downstream of the industry. Commissioners can only look at the competition effects on the industry of the petitioner and none of the effects on the economy overall.

Now, this is not to say that in some cases the importer is not largely subsidized by their home country, or that the imports don’t hurt domestic firms. However, if you want to assess the real economic impact of the imports, you need to allow commissioners to look beyond the domestic firms. Imports could hurt domestic companies on some margins and yet be a tremendous net positive for the economy as a whole. Indeed, the reverse is true. As you have heard me complain about many times, a subsidy to a domestic firm can be beneficial for the company and yet be a net negative for the economy.

Failing to take under consideration the overall economic impact of a given import as the law requires, more than anything else, creates a fundamental bias against importers whose activities were targeted by US companies. It also is a system built to give an incredible edge in the fight to the US firm complaining about a given import.

Making a small change to the law in order for the ITC to get a full view of the impacts before they make their decisions would go a long way towards bringing some sanity to this process.


Norway or Haiti?

by Rich Lowry

On CNN, last night, I asked Joan Walsh whether she would rather live in Norway or Haiti? The answer is obvious, but she refused to answer, saying that she had never been to either country and it was none of my business. People have pointed out, including the anchor Erin Burnett in real time, that my question doesn’t get to the real issue, which is whether people from both those countries can make good immigrants, not whether Americans would want to live in either place. Fair enough. But the reason I asked is if you are making a highly reductive argument that acknowledging any distinction between Norway and Haiti in Norway’s favor is tantamount to racism, you can’t even say where you’d prefer to live. And that is exactly why Walsh couldn’t answer.

Trump Is Wrong: U.S. Should Move to Merit-Based Immigration System

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As has already been ably pointed out, in NRO and elsewhere, the comments from President Trump that came to light yesterday evening were obviously abhorrent. The president evidently doesn’t understand the substance of the immigration issue in any demonstrable way, nor does he appear to have much respect for human beings as individuals with unique personal dignity. And it surely isn’t a shock to any of us that he continues to be inarticulate and unpresidential. He deserves the blowback he’s getting, and you won’t hear me defend him on any of this.

We shouldn’t, however, allow his heinous remark to pass for a real, thoughtful articulation of a suitable immigration policy. And we mustn’t let it distract us from having a substantive conversation about our immigration system and the ways in which we might shape immigration policy going forward.

It is wrong, of course, to discriminate between immigration applicants based on immutable characteristics such as race. It is a shame that we even have to state that. But it is not wrong to discriminate based on other criteria such as literacy, education level, and other skills. To claim otherwise is akin to advocating open borders, or at least a first-come, first-served immigration policy.

Consider, too, that some of our existing immigration policies already discriminate between applicants based on their country of origin. Many on the left praise the diversity lottery, which explicitly prioritizes applicants from some countries over others based on how many immigrants from each are already present in the U.S., giving priority to under-represented groups.

Temporary-protected status, meanwhile, grants admission to the U.S. based on where individuals are from, explicitly on the grounds that their home country is, in some way, an undesirable place to live, at least for the time being. Interestingly, Haiti is one such country whose residents were given protected status by the U.S. in recent years.

When immigrant-enforcement advocates suggested last year that conditions in some of these countries have improved enough to require temporarily protected immigrants to return home, the Left screamed foul, insisting that these places are too horrific to even contemplate forcing immigrants to return. Is Haiti a great place to vacation, as progressives have suddenly determined over the last 24 hours? Or is it such an inconceivably terrible place to live that we can’t possibly send anyone back there?

The conditions in Haiti — or any other country — aren’t really the point. Consistent thinking is necessary if we are to reshape our broken immigration system, and it is evidently lacking in this ongoing debate. The simplest and most effective solution to all of this controversy would be to move to an immigration system like Canada’s — a points-based system that prioritizes applicants based on merit alone.

Durbin’s Dim ‘History’ Lesson

by Jonah Goldberg

I think Trump’s sh**hole comment was bad, and I have a G-File coming out shortly explaining why. But I just heard Dick Durbin say, “I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

I call shenanigans.

Woodrow Wilson lamented that the South lost the Civil War and screened Birth of a Nation in the White House. Teddy Roosevelt was not exactly a master of sensitivity. Harry Truman was legendary for his barnyard language and more than once used offensive language about Jews. LBJ dropped the N-word often and with gusto. He also said, “I never met a man from Indiana who was worth a sh**” — for what that’s worth. Richard Nixon had a lot of choice language for Jews and gays. He also famously observed that “Aristotle was a homo” in a rant about the TV show All in the Family and gays. I can only imagine some of the things Andrew Jackson said in the White House.

Yes, yes, I know: Times have changed, and we’re all so much more enlightened. But you can criticize Trump for what he did and said without making a fool of yourself. Then again, Durbin has a history beclowning himself with bad historical analysis.

Quick Thoughts on the Latest

by Jay Nordlinger

What a president says, matters. His language is important. He’s not just another guy at the bar. His words have repercussions, at home and abroad.

His words affect foreign policy, as realists understand. They affect our relations with other countries and they affect our image in the world at large. This has a lot to do with our leeway, our leverage, our ability to shape events.

When you’re the top dog, as America is, you don’t have to put other countries down. You don’t have to refer to them as sh**holes. They know they’re sh**holes. You can afford a little graciousness, even a touch of nobility. Think of the conservatism of Burke or Buckley. There is a long tradition of this.

Kindness, courtesy, honesty, integrity — these are not the qualities of weaklings. These do not indicate an absence of strength. Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan — to name three presidents — were strong. They were also humane.

Over the generations, many “losers” from sh**hole countries have come to America to start a new life. Those who are sittin’ pretty in the Old Country tend not to come. Why should they? My ancestors weren’t doctors, lawyers, and nuclear engineers. How about yours?

Think of Italy and Ireland. Today, they are fairly happy and prosperous countries. Once upon a time, they were not. You could even have described them as sh**holes. That’s why a lot of people emigrated from those countries, coming to America. They were not necessarily sh**ty people. Far from it.

“But it was different then!” you might say. “It’s different now!” You may be right. But bear in mind that Americans in every generation have said those same words: “It was different then! It’s different now!” Remember how they complained about the Italians and the Irish: wrong religion, too many children, too alien — all of it.

The Left is loath to acknowledge any problems with immigration. They are apt to denounce our concerns and prescriptions as racist, xenophobic, etc. The Right, I’m afraid, is often loath to acknowledge any blessings of immigration. It would behoove us to offer a good word about immigration from time to time. You can be for e-verify — even the Wall — and still appreciate the place of immigration in the American story and the American Dream.

Last year, Anthony Daniels, a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple, had this to say about Trump: “By his crudity, he will end up strengthening the forces of political correctness.” Will Trump end up hurting the cause of restriction in immigration? I don’t know — but it’s something to think about.

In the ’80s, I heard Alan Simpson say something in a Senate hearing on immigration. It was charming. “No fair quotin’ the Statue of Liberty,” he said. Well, if it’s no fair quotin’ the Statue of Liberty, it’s doubly unfair to quote Reagan at the Statue of Liberty, as he was in 1986, celebrating the Lady’s centennial. He spoke of people “who had a special love for freedom and a special courage that enabled them to leave their own land, leave their friends and their countrymen, and come to this new and strange land to build a New World of peace and freedom and hope.”

Reagan was a conservative too. His strain was not the strain that is dominant or popular today, but it still exists, within the broader orbit of conservatism.

We are in a huge mess, where immigration is concerned. We must curb illegal immigration. We must do something about the ruinous combination of mass immigration and social-welfare programs. We must honor the rule of law (which has been left in tatters). We must be mindful of jobs and wages. We have to work out some sensible policy.

I know that “merit” is all the rage now — merit as in graduate degrees and other credentials. Maybe that ought to be the standard. But I can’t help thinking that, sometimes, your merit is that you cross an ocean, embrace America, and work your tail off.

Above all, we should try to solve this problem amicably, remembering that the issue is tangled and that lives of various kinds are involved.

(End of sermon. Don’t forget to stuff your largest bills in the velvet pouch as it passes.)