The New York Times has a new blockbuster™ story this afternoon on Russian officials talking about trying to influence Trump aides, but there’s always a caveat in these kind of reports that makes them more smoke as opposed to a smoking gun. In the case of the Times piece, it is the above sentence. (And even if the Russian officials did try to influence them, that still leaves us short of collusion.)
In 2005, Thor Halvorssen founded the Human Rights Foundation (steps away from NR in the Empire State Building). In 2009, he founded its companion, the Oslo Freedom Forum. The forum is taking place this week. Thor is my guest on the latest Q&A podcast, here. We talk about two of his specialties: dictatorship and democracy. Few can talk about those important subjects so well as he.
At the end, we talk about a particular dictatorship: that in his home country, Venezuela. Thor Halvorssen, a Venezuelan? Yes: has a Norwegian name, talks like an American, is Venezuelan.
A man to listen to.
The man who killed 22 British concertgoers on Monday is reportedly Manchester native Salman Abedi, whose parents had come over from Libya as refugees. Abedi joins a long line of Muslim terrorists who were born and bred in Western Europe or the United States. Although some commentators insist there is no immigration issue here because of Abedi’s British birth, Western-born Muslim terrorists are actually the most conspicuous failure of high-immigration globalism.
For supporters of mass immigration on both sides of the Atlantic, the way to address Muslim terrorism is to forget the “Muslim” part and focus on the “terrorism” part. Carefully vet incoming immigrants to ensure they have no ties to terrorist groups, then let immersion in Western culture remove any latent sympathy for radicalism. Unfortunately, terrorism committed by Western-born Muslims discredits that approach. Such terrorists could never have been “vetted,” since they are not immigrants, and assimilation has obviously not worked for them. In fact, they are so disaffected, so alienated from Western culture, that they wish to kill their fellow citizens.
The immigration scholar Peter Skerry has observed that “assimilation is not a simple linear progression, but one that moves back and forth across the generations.” As the West accepts more Muslim immigrants, how much risk will we face from a “de-assimilated” second generation? That is a question that many would prefer not to confront. It would require acknowledging that Muslim immigration per se has fostered a small but dangerous Islamic terrorist movement within the West itself. It would also require acknowledging that the world’s peoples are not interchangeable parts that can be scattered around the globe without long-term consequences. For that reason, Western-born Muslim terrorists are like a glitch in the Matrix — a dose of reality that immigration advocates cannot explain away.
Wednesday morning was the first time I woke up, turned on the television, saw Donald Trump, and was at complete peace.
(Truth be told I’ve taken to watching cable news as infrequently as possible in recently months.)
This morning was his visit to the Holy See to visit with Pope Francis. And it was a supremely civilized one. Such a visit is an official one of heads of state, but it always has the potential to be so much more. It may have been. I pray it was.
President Trump was there with the First Lady and his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, now both administration officials, among others, including the Secretary of State. After meeting with the pontiff, the president could be heard saying: “I won’t forget what you said.” Both he and his wife appeared to be moved by the visit — it would be hard not to be.
Watching early in the morning U.S. times – the cable channels and EWTN, the Catholic channel were covering it live – it all seemed quite respectful, quite warm, quite human. One can imagine for a president who does appear somewhat in over his head, the encounter with a holy man, while official, could have also been a respite. (After all, is it possible that the most used word last week — especially in the media, but also in private conversations by non-politicos “impeachment”?)
Some of the photos seem to suggest as much.
Headlines and commentaries in the past — and today — suggest the two opponents. Taking the pope at his word, he wanted to hear the president out. Taking the president and the First Lady at their word — and tweets — there was something more about this day than other days.
Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world. pic.twitter.com/JzJDy7pllI— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2017
The Holy Father on Friday preached about a danger of ideology; perhaps here he was dropping a hint about the upside of populism. We’ll never likely know exactly what the two said to one another over a half hour, but my prayer is certainly that he keeps his heart open to something more than power and ambition and all the bad paths onto which narcissism and defensiveness can lead.
Administration officials have claimed in the past that tax reform would leave government revenues roughly unchanged. The reform would supposedly generate a lot of extra economic growth, and that added growth would result in new revenue to offset the tax cuts included in the reform. But this week the administration said that the new revenue will go to balancing the budget.
As Keith Hennessey explains, it’s got to be one or the other. Let’s assume, as the administration does, that added growth generates $2 trillion in extra revenue over ten years. Either you can use that revenue to reduce projected debt levels over the next ten years, or you can use it to finance $2 trillion in tax cuts while leaving projected debt levels unchanged. You can’t use it to do both.
Now that the double-counting has been pointed out, the administration is saying that it will use the new revenue for debt reduction. That means that they are aiming for a tax reform that a) leads to unchanged revenue levels even if no feedbacks from higher economic growth are counted and b) leads to $2 trillion in higher revenue than the current tax code when those feedbacks are counted. This creates a new problem, which is that nothing Trump or the Republicans have proposed so far come close to meeting these criteria. Getting there will require scaling back these proposals’ tax cuts, ramping up their tax increases, or both.
On Monday night, education secretary Betsy DeVos previewed President Donald Trump’s school-choice agenda in front of a crowd of several hundred gathered in Indianapolis for the American Federation for Children’s (AFC) annual policy summit.
This week’s conference marked the AFC’s 8th annual gathering, intended to recap recent gains for the school-choice movement while surveying its upcoming challenges. DeVos’s remarks began the event on a hopeful note, and those gathered seemed excited about the possibility of federal backing for new, pro–education freedom policies.
Though DeVos didn’t offer any concrete information about the details of Trump’s proposed education policies, she suggested that his administration — chiefly through the Education Department, under her own leadership — will throw its weight behind state-led initiatives that will allow for greater variety in school options and give parents the freedom to choose the best education for their children.
This has long been the refrain of the school-choice movement: give states freedom to develop education systems that work for their residents. While DeVos acknowledged that not every state will choose to implement programs that give parents the most choices, she noted that the federal government will encourage such programs, and she emphasized the value of federalism, regardless of what states choose to do in the realm of education policy.
DeVos neglected to mention one specific policy proposal often mentioned by school-choice groups like the AFC: a federal tax-credit scholarship program. Several states already have such a program in place, where businesses or individuals contribute to education non-profits to fund scholarships for children in need. Those scholarships enable low- or middle-income children to attend private or charter schools, and the businesses or individuals who make the donation receive a tax credit in return.
A federal program would provide tax-credit scholarships as an option to families who live in states without such a program already in place, or supplement and expand the programs in states like Florida that already have a flourishing one in place.
While the crowd at the AFC summit greeted DeVos with enthusiastic applause — especially when she commented on the importance of not replacing one big-government program with another — not everyone in Indianapolis was thrilled about her arrival.
Outside the venue on Monday night, a crowd of protestors gathered with signs denouncing her education policies. Many of them seemed to have come from the nearby Indiana State Teachers’ Association building to oppose DeVos on the grounds of her pro–school choice policies, which the protestors called discriminatory and harmful to public schools and low-income students.
If the protestors had been confronted with the information presented during the conference, though, it would’ve been more difficult for them to argue that school-choice is harmful to low-income Americans. Several sociologists presented studies — the official data from which has yet to be released to the public — with tentative conclusions illustrating the benefits of education freedom, particularly in diversifying schools and encouraging children’s interest and success in their schoolwork.
Over the course of the two-day event, several young people addressed the crowd, explaining how school-choice enabled them to achieve more success than they otherwise would have. For most of those students, vouchers, education savings accounts, or tax-credit scholarships were the only means by which they could afford to attend private schools that engaged their interest and gave them the necessary resources to apply and be accepted to college.
These are the voices that are so often overlooked by school-choice opponents. While it is important continue examining the long-term benefits and drawbacks of school-choice programs — through detailed research and student or parent interviews, in particular — the knee-jerk desire on the left to reject education freedom often betrays blind loyalty to teachers’ unions rather than to considering what programs are truly best for American children and families.
A few weeks ago, Breitbart posted an article about President Trump’s defense plan being “in limbo.”
It’s worse than Breitbart said it was. The plan isn’t in limbo; it’s dying.
That’s because of the sequester, a.k.a. the “caps”, a.k.a. the Budget Control Act. The sequester was passed in 2011 and went into effect in 2013. I’ll oversimplify what it does: It automatically rolls back defense spending, and in fact all of the discretionary budget, to a baseline set in the legislation, no matter what is appropriated each year. That baseline, in the case of defense, is $1 trillion less, over ten years, than former secretary of defense Bob Gates thought in 2011 was the minimum necessary for the DOD to be able to defend America’s homeland and its vital interests abroad.
So here’s the problem. The Trump defense plan cannot be executed at the level of the caps, or anything near it. What is needed is what was recommended unanimously by the National Defense Panel three years ago:
Emergency “supplemental” appropriations — one-time payments not added to the baseline — to pay for the backlog in maintenance and training that was cut because of the sequester, to begin buying new equipment from hot production lines, and to signal to the defense industrial base that it should build up for the larger plan. That amount will have to be spread over two years, will probably be upwards of $75 billion, and will undoubtedly be more than it would have cost to maintain readiness in the first place.
Increases in the baseline to at least the Gates budget level; the Gates baseline is $100 billion above the current budget, but the increase will have to be more than that, because since the sequester began defense has been underfunded by almost $400 billion.
Full funding of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. That is the amount Congress appropriates every year for the ongoing missions in Afghanistan and the Middle East; if the OCO account is not fully funded, those operations will have to be supported out of the baseline budget, which would create another shortfall.
Again, all of this will cost more than it would have cost to fund defense adequately in the first place. That’s one of the reasons the sequester was so frustrating. It’s terrible defense policy, but it’s bad fiscal policy as well. It didn’t save money; it just postponed and increased the bill — and the longer the bill isn’t paid, the larger the shortfall will grow.
I am occasionally asked by members of Congress why this extra money is needed. Here is a partial list of the needs of the DOD that are unfunded, or largely unfunded, under the current baseline:
All of the services have serious current readiness shortfalls. In other words, the force is not only unprepared for the future; it’s not ready for its missions today.
All of the services need to increase their end strength; the Army, for example, is dropping to a size smaller than since before WWII. Personnel are expensive because they are very high quality — there is no such thing as a grunt any more — but again, continually operating with an undersized force generates tremendous stress that itself increases cost.
The Navy needs another aircraft carrier, a new missile frigate to counter growing Chinese strength, a replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarines, more naval aircraft (or else there won’t be enough planes even for the carriers it has), more amphibious ships for the Marines, and more attack submarines than currently budgeted. (The undersea domain is one area where the United States still clearly has an advantage over China; that advantage must not be lost.)
The Marines need a new landing craft and, as stated above, more amphibs and greater end strength.
The Army needs more and better artillery, mobile cruise missiles, and replacements for many of its tanks and virtually all its tracked vehicles, beginning with the Bradley fighting vehicle.
The Air Force is smaller and flying older airframes than at any time since the inception of the service. It must recapitalize comprehensively, buying out the requirement for its new fighter/attack aircraft (the F-35) and completing the design and build stages for its new bomber and tanker.
The space architecture — the satellites on which both the military and the civilian economy depend — must be replaced and either hardened or dispersed. That will be a huge cost that is currently unbudgeted.
The land-based leg of the nuclear triad — the Minutemen missiles — have to be replaced or upgraded, another enormous additional need.
Ballistic-missile defense, which was cut during the Obama years, urgently needs additional funding. Americans in Hawaii and Alaska, and on the West Coast, would be especially grateful for that.
Research and development should be better funded, particularly in the areas of directed energy and automated intelligence.
This list is off the top of my head. Reasonable people could argue about the urgency of certain items on it; on the other hand, there are other necessary programs, such as additional funding for cyber warfare, that I did not include. In any case the broad picture is clear to anyone willing to see it.
Most incoming college freshmen are told that they should read a book before showing up on campus. This “beach book” tradition goes far back in time — for me it was The Educated Imagination by Northrup Frye in 1969. The book wasn’t trendy or political, but over the decades, campus leftists, always looking for ways to spread their views, hijacked the selection of summer reading assignments. Today, it’s unusual to find a school where the selections are not meant to implant “progressive” tropes in the minds of the students.
An organization that has closely studied the “beach books” phenomenon is the National Association of Scholars (NAS) and Jesse Saffron takes a look at its new report on it in today’s Martin Center article.
A key reason why the book choices are so bad is that the people who make them are mostly Social Justice Warrior–activist types. Saffron explains:
Book selection committees usually are stacked with individuals from campus diversity, sustainability, student affairs, and residential life offices. Those individuals tend to lack the background and expertise, and in some cases the incentives, to choose challenging books of “enduring power and beauty.” These campus bureaucrats often seek to make reading programs build “community” and promote “inclusivity,” and sometimes even encourage political activism.
That’s why the books chosen almost always push some theme that is meant to get students thinking that Western civilization is bad and needs a great deal of state control to make it tolerable.
Another fact about the book selections is that they are quite easy, often written at a level more appropriate for middle-school students than students entering college. A reason for that, according to the NAS report, is that accrediting agencies want colleges to show that they’re achieving “learning outcomes.” Apparently if a college selects a book written to challenge students, that hurts them with their accrediting agencies. Once again we see that college accreditors, rather than ensuring educational quality, actually lower it.
Can anything be done about this? NAS recommends that some serious scholars be placed on the selection committees, dumping the “Student Life” functionaries. It would also help if colleges only admitted students who are capable of reading a college-level book — but that would leave many dorm rooms empty. Perhaps most effective of all, alums could let administrators know that they won’t be writing any more checks until the school stops pushing leftism in its beach-book choices (and in other ways).
Saffron’s conclusion sticks the landing:
Circumstances now, especially in academia, often appear unfavorable to great literature, in particular the Western canon. That’s why the work of organizations such as the National Association of Scholars is so important. A rigorous, passionate defense of these books is not based on political winds, which always are ephemeral. That leaves open the possibility that over time, colleges and students will change course, and seek a more rewarding intellectual path.
Some documents recently uncovered at Princeton show that, when awarding a preference on the basis of race or ethnicity, the admissions office wants to make sure that the student being considered has a strong “cultural flavor.” That is, for example, you can’t just be Hispanic, you have to act Hispanic, whatever that means for the admissions office.
Offensive, of course, but unsurprising. After all, the “diversity” rationale for such racial and ethnic discrimination is premised on such stereotyping. That is, there are supposed to be “educational benefits” to exposing students to people with different backgrounds and perspectives; if the recipient of the preference isn’t supplying the different background or perspective, then why give him or her a preference?
Add this to the long list of costs of using racial and ethnic preferences in university admissions: You encourage admissions officers to use stereotypes, and you encourage students to conform to them. Conversely, you discourage people from seeing others and themselves as individuals and as Americans first.
And the other costs of using racial and ethnic preferences? So glad you asked: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it mismatches African Americans and Latinos with institutions, setting them up for failure; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school and encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership — an untenable legal regime as America becomes an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic society and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic.
To the surprise of nobody, students at Middlebury College received minimal punishment for violently disrupting Charles Murray’s talk in March. The mob got everything it wanted — the talk disrupted, professors intimidated, and Murray’s work tut-tutted in the media — and the only repercussions are meaningless “probation” and “a permanent record in the student’s file.”
Middlebury deployed several pretexts for abdicating its disciplinary role. The police could not confirm who injured Professor Allison Stanger or damaged property, so the college proceeded as if no violence had occurred. As for disrupting the talk, that flagrantly violated the school’s rules, but Middlebury administrators were satisfied with disciplinary letters and putting the disrupting students before a “Community Judicial Board” staffed by students and faculty.
Despite the college president herself warning them beforehand to behave, the protesters went forward as if they had nothing to fear. They were right.
This embarrassing institutional response exposes striking tolerance of a mob’s imposing its will on a university. Participation in this kind of spectacle ought to carry serious repercussions, but here the size of the mob did the opposite: It served as the college’s reason for mitigating punishments.
As David French has pointed out, leftist activists strategically use crowds during riots. Not everyone wants to be the one to attack an innocent woman, but the mob can serve as cover while someone in a mask does so, and no one stops him or points him out to authorities.
The mob has good reason to believe that it can make the Charles Murrays of the world into untouchables. If professors know that they can incur physical harm from associating with Murray, then their behavior will change.
In the aftermath of the events, the professor who signed off on AEI’s event with Murray repented, and think pieces have appeared questioning what kind of free-speech rights people like Murray should have. This demonstrates the sophisticated side of the same coin: using political opposition to Murray to expel him from academic circles.
However sophisticated its reasoning, Middlebury College’s poor excuse for punishment provides further evidence that it sides with the mob.
Remember the overblown, hysterical protests that roiled the University of Missouri in 2015? Remember how professor Melissa Click called for “muscle” to boot the press from protest sites? Remember how ESPN previewed its Colin Kaepernick lovefest with its fawning coverage of the football team’s threat to boycott a game? Well, it turns out that lots of people still do, and that’s not good for the university. Here’s the Chronicle of Higher Education:
This fall the University of Missouri at Columbia will welcome its smallest freshman class in nearly two decades. As of this month, just 4,009 first-time freshmen had made enrollment deposits, a decline of 35 percent from the 2015 class of 6,191 students.
The precipitous drop is striking for a public flagship with a prominent national brand, one that has seen enrollment grow almost every year since the turn of the century.
In 2015 the student population reached a record high of 35,448. Come August, Mizzou plans to enroll about 30,700 students over all. Seven of its residence halls will be closed temporarily.
University officials claim that a “negative public perception” of the school is the “main reason for the drop” (Missouri’s population is also stagnant.) I’m not surprised. The Southeastern Conference is not the Ivy League, and the student/parent constituency is very different. The school found itself trapped between radical minority students who described it as hell on earth (why would a black student want to come to Mizzou?) and a more moderate population that thought the entire affair was absurdly overblown.
The Chronicle doesn’t note this, but the football gods were displeased as well. In 2013 and 2014 the team was a powerhouse. It had two consecutive 7-1 records in the SEC, it won the Cotton and Citrus bowls, and it’s combined record was 23-5. In 2015 and 2016 the team went 1-7 and 2-6 in the conference and finished with a combined record of 12-20. But Mizzou football was even worse than the record indicated. At times the offense was the single most painful sight on television until the absurd Twin Peaks reboot.
The lesson, as always, never mess with SEC football. The consequences are too awful to contemplate.
From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:
No, ‘Unity, Love and Coexistence’ Will Not Resolve the Threat of Terrorism
There’s not too much point in fuming about Katy Perry’s saccharine-to-the-point-of-insulting comments about the Manchester bombing, her declaration that, “I think the greatest thing we can do is just unite, and love on each other… no barriers, no borders, we all need to just coexist.”
I just wish there was someone around Perry who could pull her aside after a statement like that and say, “Katy, dear, a lack of unity, love, and coexistence is really not the problem here.”
If there were 20,000 people around the bomb as it detonated this week, 19,999 of them had no real significant conflict with each other. Whatever gripes, grievances and problems they had, they had no murderous rage directed at another person. They just were there to either enjoy a concert or do their jobs at the venue.
There was only one guy in that whole crowd who couldn’t unite, who didn’t have love for anyone, and who couldn’t coexist with everyone else around him. And all it took was his bloodthirsty act to end young, innocent lives and create a lifetime of pain for so many people there that night.
Unity, love, and coexistence? We saw how quickly and eagerly people were to open their homes and offer assistance with the #openformanchester campaign. Generous souls have already donated more than one million pounds to help the families. So many people donated blood that the blood banks in the Manchester area said they’re full and can’t take any more contributions.
The vast majority of people walking down the street in Manchester on any given day are good people – or at least, they bring out their best in a crisis. This is not a collective or a societal problem, and it doesn’t do us much good to pretend that it is, that if somehow we just walked around with more “unity, love, and coexistence,” the problem of the next suicide bomber would be resolved.
I’m sure this hits home for Katy Perry; as she said in that interview, “Ari’s fans are my fans and my fans are Ari’s fans.” Yes, that’s precisely the point, in the eyes of the Islamists, you must be wiped out. Through no real fault of your own, you have filled them with murderous rage simply by existing and contradicting their twisted dark vision of how the world should be. This is what unites Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, you, me – they hate all of us. None of us did anything to them, insulted them, provoked them, mistreated them or “triggered” them. We have to dispel this idea that there’s some proper combination of words and actions that will stop them from wanting to attack us.
The only way they will not feel murderous rage towards us is if we completely submit to their worldview. That’s their idea of coexistence.
A couple folks online are focusing on the “no borders” aspect of Perry’s comments, and arguing that the Manchester attack demonstrates the danger of refugees or immigrants. The problem with this argument is that the bomber* was born in Manchester. His parents were Libyan refugees who fled the rule of Qaddafi.
Of course, there’s this troubling comment from his imam:
At the mosque, Mohammed Saeed El-Saeiti, the imam at the Didsbury mosque yesterday branded Abedi an dangerous extremist. “Salman showed me the face of hate after my speech on Isis,” said the imam. “He used to show me the face of hate and I could tell this person does not like me. It’s not a surprise to me.”
It’s great that the imam is preaching against ISIS. Of course, if it’s “not a surprise” that someone chose to become a suicide bomber… was there something else this imam could have done that could have prevented this?
Then again, maybe everybody was reporting this guy…
Abedi had traveled to Libya within the last 12 months, one of multiple countries he had visited, the official said. And while he had “clear ties to al Qaeda,” the official said, Abedi could have also had connections to other groups.
Members of his own family had even informed on him in the past, telling British authorities that he was dangerous, according to the intelligence official.
The U.S. official said Abedi’s bomb was “big and sophisticated,” using materials hard to obtain in Britain — meaning “it’s almost impossible to see he didn’t have help.”
* Because some suicide bombers, mass shooters, etc. want their names to be remembered after they die for their vicious acts, I generally refer to them as “the bomber” or “the shooter” in print – a small effort to ensure they are denied their ultimate goal. I leave the name in when it is mentioned in another report.
We are on Day Nine of NRO’s Spring Webathon and thrilled that some 639 of you have seen fit to send a contribution. Raised so far: just over $97,000. That ain’t hay. But we still have a long way to go to reach out target of $246,000, which is a lousy thousandth of the largesse that George Soros showered and spread over his left-wing minions in the early part of this decade. That’s still a lot of dough for us normal folk, but In the cause of defending liberty and free speech and unalienable rights – which NR brilliantly articulates and aggressively fights for around the clock – it’s a goal we urge you to help achieve.
In doing this, you will help NRO cover a big hunk of the bill for the website rebuild (mama mia come this Fall, NRO is going to be so swift, klunk-free, and groovy), plus defray the legal bills we incur in the ongoing Mann v. National Review battle to defend the First Amendment and free speech, and then to give us the means to hire a desperately needed editor.
To those who have stepped up so far, many thanks. What follows are a few examples of who gave what, and said what when doing so:
I like this Phillip. He gives $100 and offers a simple and honest assessment of this joint: “Your site is a port in the storm of irresponsible traditional media.”
Debra did a sweet thing. She sent us $50 to honor a pal. Here’s why: “In loving memory of my friend Carol . . . who introduced me to National Review back in the early 80’s. Who also snapped a pic of me, looking like the star-struck fan I was, and WFB outside the NY Public Library one evening.” Deb you are a class act.
It sure was generous of Michael to send us $200, and these inspiring words: “From my first introduction in the university library, to the last issue well into my 61st year, NR has been a constant source of inspiration and thoughtful analysis. This is only the smallest token of the gratitude I feel.” Mikey you have made my day!
Now there are notes, and then, there are notes. Along with a $100 kiss from Abigail is this: “My 10-year-old homeschooled son reads NRO over my shoulder every day. I have been an NR reader since high school when a cute boy offered to let me read it at his house when my liberal parents wouldn’t let me read it at mine. (This might be setting some sort of bad example but then again it might not.) I look forward to my email from JG every Friday evening, although I question the embedded targeted ads: last week my husband walked by, paused to look at my iPad, and said ‘why did Jonah Goldberg send you a bra?’ I assured him it was all aboveboard and thus he graciously allows me to donate. To sum up, thanks, NR, for changing the course of my life when I was 15; and no, I will not say how many years ago that was.” But Abie honey, did you marry that cute boy? And as for that Jonah bra thing, I need to talk to your husband.
Let’s end by noting Kenneth’s $25 high five and the Latin lather he has worked up over our founder: “I am happy to donate even a small amount to a publication that gives me such a consistently fair and conservative account of our world. Long live the memory of William Buckley! Deus te benedicat!” Thankus youibus!
Now folks, especially those of you who 1. are NRO fanatics, but 2. have yet to make a contribution in recent months or (for many of you) years: Please get down to business so we can continue this business. Here’s how you can the Spring Webathon become a Soros-souring success. Make your contribution on the NRO donation page. Or, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, make the check payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Webathon, 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016. And finally, PayPal pals can contribute here. Thanks one and all!
Poets inherit conventional verse forms and then pour words into them, like wine into a glass. It sounds confining, but it’s liberating in practice. While you’re preoccupied with finding words and phrases to fit a prescribed sound pattern, your subconscious mind roams freely, playing at the higher-order business of expressing your true thoughts.
Academic disciplines are like verse forms. Take the case of Peter Augustine Lawler, the political scientist. It was within the defined scope of his academic expertise that he cultivated his ideas. Over time, they took shape and grew. He could have scattered them here and there, as is the common practice, but he was disciplined — not because he was fussy, but because he enjoyed planting seeds and watching them sprout and mature. “Political science” was only the border that separated the organized products of his fertile mind from the wilderness outside it.
What would a word cloud of Peter’s collected writing look like? Terms in big type would include Tocqueville, Walker Percy, southern Stoicism, Flannery O’Connor, relational life, and, of course, postmodern conservative, which he coined, or so he maintained, wryly but seriously. I believe him.
He created and for many years served as the editor of and primary contributor to the blog by that name, “Postmodern Conservative.” National Review Online picked it up a few years ago. We discontinued it last summer because apparently readers perceived the blog within the bigger website to be less a special venue than a ghetto. We asked Peter to write for the Corner, NRO’s high-traffic public square, and he did. He remained a regular contributor there until his death, which came for him suddenly, yesterday.
I was Peter’s “editor” at NRO — quotation marks because he was a senior scholar who had earned our trust, and my job was mostly just to fix the typos, although occasionally he asked me whether I thought a piece of his was “sound.” I would shoot him an e-mail when he’d left out a word or phrase and I couldn’t make sense of the sentence without it. He would reply promptly with the answer, usually preceded by the word “Sorry.” His tone in his e-mails was what it was in his blog posts: light-handed and mildly self-deprecating often enough that, even when it wasn’t, I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt.
His humility and sense of humor about himself flowed from his self-awareness. His copy was typically graceful and fluid but far from “clean,” for example, and he knew it. His ear in these matters was better than his eye. Yesterday an official at Berry College, where he had taught since 1979, said — affectionately — something about his messy office, and I had to laugh: It’s what I would have guessed.
Peter had recently been appointed the editor of Modern Age, the journal founded by Russell Kirk 60 years ago. The assignment was fitting in that the “postmodern conservative” who was Peter was in some respects the natural heir to the cultural conservatism that Kirk had fleshed out and represented for an earlier generation. Peter was wary of the exaggerated individualism that he saw as the logical conclusion of “liberalism” in the classical sense of that term. He was of the view that, human nature being what it is, absolute autonomy is an illusion anyway — we are social creatures, and no amount of libertarian posing could ever change that. He was alert to the perils of collectivism but also to those of its opposite. He worried about conservatives who in their enthusiasm for free-market principles got carried away and forgot the necessity of “relational life.”
He thought that our social values were in danger of being reduced to economic values. That concern of his extended to his criticism of higher education, which, he complained, was being flattened by “the empire” of “competency,” a bureaucrat’s idea of what teachers should engender in their students. He wrote in sorrow about
making your living as an adjunct or temporary faculty member (increasingly the fate of philosophy PhDs) or even as a tenure-track faculty member stuck with conducting highly specialized research that produces publishable breakthroughs by knowing more and more about less and less and having your teaching increasingly scripted by the intrusive and leveling requirements of accreditation. How many of those “philosophers” really have the leisure to savor what Wittgenstein or Plato or Thomas Aquinas have to say?
Peter was the nephew of the theologian Ronald Lawler, a Franciscan priest and figure to be reckoned with among the leading Catholic thinkers of his day. Peter, a cradle Catholic and adopted southerner, had an affinity for Walker Percy, who was his mirror image: a native southerner and Catholic convert. (Peter grew up in northern Virginia, but the D.C. suburbs hardly count as the South. He moved to Georgia in his twenties and lived there the rest of his life.) Peter was not a sectarian apologist — that is, his aim was not to affirm and defend his religion — but neither did he resist his intellectual patrimony or try to hide how it informed his ideas, which were Catholic insofar as they were catholic. Or perhaps it was vice versa.
Later this morning, Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign will release its second television ad in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, one of only two such races taking place in the country this year. Here’s an exclusive early look at the ad:
In an effort to appeal to middle-class Virginians, the 30-second spot highlights Gillespie’s fiscal proposals, including simplifying the tax code, eliminating tax breaks for big businesses, and cutting taxes for families and small businesses.
“Ed demonstrates for Virginians his focus on putting forward substantive policies that will grow our economy, create new jobs and make life better for all Virginians,” Gillespie’s campaign manager Chris Leavitt tells National Review.
The ad also emphasizes Gillespie’s role in putting together the “Contract with America,” a proposal signed by nearly all the Republicans in the House of Representatives during the 1994 election cycle, detailing specific, conservative legislation that the party would champion if it took back the House. (It did.)
Gillespie advised George W. Bush during his presidency and, more recently, served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. On June 13, the GOP primary election will pit Gillespie against two challengers — Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner — but the most recent poll on hte race shows Gillespie leading both competitors by at least 20 percentage points.
Because Gillespie is widely considered the favorite to take the GOP nomination, there have been several polls testing his chances against the two Democratic contenders, Virginia’s current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam and a former U.S. congressman from Virginia, Tom Periello. In the latest poll, each Democrat leads Gillespie by over ten percentage points.
“While Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello continue to advocate for policies that have held back growth and weakened our economy, Ed will continue delivering a positive, upbeat message in every corner of the Commonwealth,” Leavitt added.
As the two Democratic candidates try to edge each other out in a calculated race to the left to capture Virginia’s progressive voters in the primary, Gillespie’s latest ad shows that he hopes to improve his odds in the general election by appealing to the state’s large group of middle-class voters and their desire for economic improvements.
I spent most of Tuesday morning watching the hearing put on by the House Ways and Means Committee on the Border-Adjustment Tax (BAT) proposal. As I mentioned Monday, the BAT proposal is the main obstacle to uniting the conservative and free-market movement on tax reform. But what struck me was that it is unclear that a tax-reform plan that includes a BAT could even get out of the Ways and Means Committee.
What a counterproductive distraction. There isn’t the support necessary for the BAT to pass it — but the House Leadership seems unwilling to look at alternatives. Instead, they had a hearing where Representative Devin Nunes peddled the good old “Made in America Tax” argument about the unfair treatment of U.S. companies due to other countries’ tax codes. I am sure Nunes learned about this reading the Ways and Means memo that I mentioned yesterday. Unless, that is, he learned about it reading former Bush White House CEA director Larry Lindsey’s testimony. Lindsey wrote in his testimony:
Under the current system, when we produce something and ship it to Germany, we tax its production here, and the Germans tax its sale in Germany. Alternatively, when something is produced in Germany and shipped here, Germany rebates a portion of the tax on its production, and we impose no tax on its sale in America. Our exports are taxed in both countries, while their exports are taxed in neither.
“While their exports are taxed in neither”? You’ve got to be kidding me. I have corrected him before but I feel I must do it again: Actually, Mr. Lindsey, the German exports are taxed in Germany with a corporate-income tax. That’s right, the Germans have a corporate-income tax like we do. Their Value Added Tax is rebated when the German goods are shipped to the U.S. But you know what? U.S. goods don’t need to have their VAT rebated because the U.S. doesn’t have a VAT. In other words, there is no Made in America Tax due to other countries’ tax codes — despite what some Republicans like to say and Larry Lindsey likes to repeat.
In fact, there is a level playing field in term of tax treatment. A U.S. good competing in Germany with a German good is taxed at the corporate level in the U.S. and at the consumption level in Germany, while the German good is taxed at the corporate and consumption levels in Germany. The German good sold in the U.S. is taxed at the corporate level in Germany, and the U.S. good sold in the U.S. is also only taxed at the corporate level in the U.S. See the parity? But for some reason, there are still plenty of people willing to say things such as “their exports aren’t taxed in either country.”
Lindsey wasn’t the only one making that weird claim. Juan Luciano, chief executive officer of Archer Daniels Midland Co., said that “the U.S. income tax system has no offset for exports” and that “this systematically disadvantages our own producers.” Oh boy. Other countries don’t offset their exports with the income tax. They rebate their consumption tax — i.e., their VAT. The United States doesn’t have a VAT so there is nothing to rebate. I will say this again in the hope that it will eventually stick: Other countries rebate their VAT on exports, but companies are still hit with a corporate-income tax.
Incidentally, it was also stunning see Lindsey assure the committee that the World Trade Organization would never dare punishing the U.S. for a BAT, because the Europeans have their own border tax. He had to be reminded by Democratic Representative Levin that a Value Added Tax, which the Europeans have and is okay under WTO rules, isn’t the same as a BAT.
As expected, Chairman Kevin Brady made an argument normally associated with leftists that destination-based taxes are good because they undermine tax competition.
Companies will no longer gain by moving their headquarters to Bermuda, their manufacturing plants to China or their intellectual property to Ireland.
First, the best way to create an incentive for U.S. companies to stop avoiding taxes by relocating abroad is to lower the corporate-income tax rate and end the U.S.’s punitive worldwide tax system. It is not, as the chairman implies, to put in place an untested tax system that exempts exports and hammers imports. Second, while this may not be the end of the world when the tax rate is 15 or 20 percent, it is a big, fat deal when the rate is 30 percent or more (as some are already calling for).
Also, as I predicted yesterday, the Peterson study was mentioned. Chairman Brady even asked that it be introduced into the record. This study doesn’t say what the chairman thinks it says. It certainly doesn’t provide a ringing endorsement of the BAT at all.
Finally, in order to explain why it was risky for the committee to bet on currencies adjusting fully and quickly to offset the punishing effect of a tax on imports, Brian Cornell, the CEO of Target, reminded us of a great quote from David Woo, the head of global rates and FX strategy at Bank of America. He is currency trader — his job and pay are based on observing and predicting the changes in a $5.1 trillion-per-day currency market — and he said the following: “The FX market is the most difficult thing to forecast, and to build an inter-generational tax reform based on the assumption of what the FX market will do is a laughable notion.”
I am hoping that now that we’ve got this hearing out of the way we will be able to focus on a tax-reform plan that can unite rather than divide us. Wishful thinking?
Charles Krauthammer argued that the most important goal of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia was to establish a coalition of Sunni Arabs to deal with Sunni radicals:
A lot of presidents have been saying that, but I thought the dramatic effect of the president’s Saudi visit was the meeting of the 50 nations at the summit, mostly, I think overwhelmingly, Sunni, where essentially what Trump did was put together posse, a coalition of Sunni Arabs. The first objective is to oppose the Iranians, the Shiite threat to fight the civil war within Islam, between the Shiites and the Sunnis, between the Persians and the Arabs. But there was a secondary message, and that is to fight the Sunni radicals among them. Al Qaeda and ISIS are Sunni radicals. They are not Iranian. They are not Shiite. I think it’s time, after 50 years of the Saudis using their wealth to spread their Wahhabi radical ideology through the Madrassas, throughout the Muslim world, and thereby radicalizing people throughout the world. We’re now seeing the fruits, a generation later, of that. The Saudis understand the irony of what they’ve done. And I think this could be the beginning of Saudis and other Sunni radical nations — radical, in the sense that they spread this radical ideology — reining it back. And that would be a major step.
We have been told over many years that assisted suicide is unstoppable, an idea for which the time has come.
Baloney. Assisted suicide legalization efforts almost always lose. Now, in Maine. From the Portland Press Herald story:
House lawmakers rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed doctors to prescribe fatal doses of medication to terminally ill patients who want to end their own lives.
The bipartisan 85-61 vote against the bill followed lengthy and oftentimes emotional debate among lawmakers sharing personal stories of watching loved ones battle terminal diseases.
If the media weren’t so in the assisted suicide tank and did their journalistic job of explaining why the opposition to legalization extends very far beyond religion, people would see that universal legalization is anything but “inevitable.”
I’m planning a longer article tomorrow on the Trump budget after I have had some time to digest the whole thing. Tonight, however, I would like to focus on the following: Why on Earth would the OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, keep the Export-Import Bank alive when he decides to kill the Overseas Private Investment Corporation?
Don’t get me wrong. OPIC deserves to be terminated under any circumstances. But so does Ex-Im. Both institutions are pretty similar in what they do. They use some of same fake rational to justify why they do what they do. Moreover, the budget team shows that it gets why crony programs like OPIC and the Ex-Im Bank must be terminated. Look at the great justification (on page 102 of the one of the budget books) they give for killing OPIC:
OPIC, which provides financing and political risk insurance to help American businesses invest in emerging markets, is not currently authorized beyond 2017. Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) like OPIC can at times displace the private sector, particularly in emerging and developing markets that have active international finance firms or domestic financial institutions capable of providing similar financing. While the Administration wants U.S. businesses to invest in emerging markets to grow their businesses and create American jobs, private sector financing is often available.
OPIC has not had a stand-alone authorization bill since 2008; instead, Congress has extended OPIC’s authorization annually via appropriations. This has allowed OPIC to operate for nearly 10 years without any changes by its authorizers, avoiding significant reforms that may have addressed some of these challenges while OPIC’s portfolio continued to expand.
Due to OPIC’s outstanding $22 billion portfolio and the long-term nature of some OPIC transactions, OPIC cannot be eliminated immediately without putting taxpayer dollars at risk. While the Budget would not support any new OPIC transactions starting in 2018, the Budget would support significantly reduced OPIC staff to monitor and maintain OPIC’s existing portfolio, allowing for repayments to be collected and minimizing the risk to the taxpayer from OPIC’s outstanding exposure.
Exactly!! These are the same reasons for why we should kill the Export-Import Bank. So what gives? I guess the Democrats, Boeing, and GE haven’t lobbied the administration for OPIC like they have for Ex-Im.
The unexpected death of Peter Lawler is stunning and horrifying. In public life, he was a model patriot and Christian philosopher.
He had impressive talents – most notably a brilliant, versatile, and witty mind. His virtues – magnanimity, ambition, humility, empathy, industriousness, and boldness – were even more praiseworthy. Most awe-inspiring of all was the generosity that seemed to spring from him both naturally and endlessly. If one could collect all of his acts of kindness, it would fill a library. All who knew him even a little bit have their stories.
My deepest condolences to his family, and all who knew and admired him.
Peter liked to write that we were all wanderers in this life. He used his time to make things better for his fellow voyagers. His journey has now ended in the embrace of the Lord. RIP.
The one and only.