Google+

The Corner

The one and only.

The Latest Tweets from Team NRO . . .


Why Do People Keep Claiming All Races Use Drugs at the Same Rate?



Text  



I’m just a poor but honest lawyer, not a statistician or social scientist, so maybe I’m wrong. But I keep hearing that, even though blacks don’t use drugs more frequently than whites and others, the war on drugs is locking them up at a wildly disproportionate rate. Now, of course one answer is that, even if use rates are the same, it doesn’t follow that the incarceration rates should be the same. People are typically locked up not for using but for dealing. And some kinds of dealing — for example, in open-air markets — are more likely to result in arrests than others. (And I have to note that most criminals are not drug criminals anyway.)

But my point today is just about the drug-use-rate claim. Take a look at table 1.19B here, which appears to be the most recent data from the federal agency that you’d expect to have the best data, namely the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The most relevant column is the one on the far right, since it is for the most recent year (2012) and the most recent use (past month) — click to expand the chart.

As you would expect, the age group that uses “illicit drugs” the most is 18–25, and males use drugs much more than females. But look at the racial groups: Not much uniformity there either. That darn model minority, the Asians, are there again busting the curve for everyone else, with only 3.7 percent using, versus 9.2 percent for all groups, which is also the white total. But blacks are at 11.3 percent, meaning that they use drugs at a rate 23 percent higher than the general population and whites.

Lately marijuana drug-law enforcement has been singled out for particular criticism in this regard, but now look at table 1.24B. Same thing: The 18–25 year-olds are by far the worst, and males smoke much more pot than females. And the racial breakdown is the same, too, so that, for example, blacks use marijuana at a rate that is again 23 percent higher than whites.

My point here is not to defend the war on drugs, but just to note one way (there are others) that the case has not been convincingly made that the war has been motivated and implemented with an eye on race.

Michael Eric Dyson Calls Impeachment Talk ‘Treasonous’. . . Even Though He Supported Bush’s



Text  



MSNBC fill-in host and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson is no fan of calling for a president’s ouster . . . unless it’s George W. Bush’s. Although he personally signed his name onto a group looking to “create a political situation where Bush himself is driven from office,” Dyson labeled Sarah Palin’s comments about impeaching President Obama as “treasonous accusations.”

“The president is acutely aware of the dire situation facing the children and their families crossing into the United States, as evidenced by his tireless effort to help them,” he said on Wednesday’s show in defense of President Obama. “The president’s push towards positive and crucial change was met with treasonous accusations.”

During the Bush years, however, Dyson was one of many signees to The World Can’t Wait! organization, which listed a series of grievances against Bush, including “moving each day closer to a theocracy” of a “narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism” and likening the former president to Hitler.

“People look at all this and think of Hitler — and they are right to do so,” the group says in the “About” section on its website. “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.”

In addition to Dyson, the organization’s supporters include other celebrity activists, such as Cornel West and Susan Sarandon. It also includes several lawmakers, among them Democratic representatives John Conyers of Michigan, Bobby Rush of Illinois, and Maxine Waters of California, as well as other former legislators, such as Senator Mark Gravel of Alaska and Representative Cynthia McKinney of Georgia.

ADVERTISEMENT

Re: The Gay War on Smoking



Text  



Spencer Case does good work in making the case that the LGBT community in America has to pay more attention to smoking than it does. That said, I’m a bit doubtful that many of the programs from the American Legacy Foundation, CDC and others will do that much good. Most them involve “doubling down” on efforts that don’t seem to be working now for gay Americans or anyone else.

The facts first: The first 40 or so years of stern public-health warnings about cigarettes resulted in a 50 percent decline in smoking amongst adult Americans (from over 40 percent to just about 20 percent.) But the declines have more-or-less stopped in the last ten years. Meanwhile, smoking rates amongst LGBT Americans remain just about where they were for the population as a whole 50 years ago. Doing more anti-tobacco advertising and expanding already broad smoking bans hasn’t done much to reduce overall smoking; adding rainbow flags to the same messages probably won’t either. This makes me think that some different approaches are worth trying. Three stand out in my mind.

First, gay teenagers — and even 18-to-21 year olds who can buy cigarettes legally but can’t drink — need special public-health attention to discourage them from picking up smoking in the first place. A lot of aspects of gay culture, the bar and club scene in particular, seem to encourage smoking. Directing anti-smoking messages to this group may work even if it doesn’t for the population as a whole.

Second, the simplest and cheapest approach to quitting smoking — going cold turkey — should get more attention from gay organizations. Most gay-community health centers were founded in response to the AIDS epidemic and, for both political and medical reasons, came to rely (correctly) on complex pharmaceutical approaches as a key tool in fighting that public-health threat. They often take the same approach towards smoking. The problem is that all “quit smoking” drugs have enormous failure rates over a period of a few years. While “abrupt cessation” (as medical professionals call it) works best when a doctor is involved, it’s also simpler and cheaper than using drugs and may have a higher success rate.

Third, harm reduction approaches that encourage “switching” for those who can’t quit should get some attention given the urgent public-health need to reduce LGBT smoking rates. Nicotine is very, very addictive and, as a stimulant, almost certainly can cause heart disease. That said, inhaling smoke does a lot more damage to one’s body and causes many more diseases than chewing tobacco or puffing on an e-cigarette. Switching should never be a first effort, but it’s worth looking at when all else fails.

The current smoking rate amongst gay Americans is a public-health crisis. Confronting it requires new approaches.

— Eli Lehrer is president of the R Street Institute and a member of the board of the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization for LGBT conservatives and their allies.

Web Briefing: July 10, 2014

Jesse Jackson: If Congress Can Secure the Border, It Can Spend Money on Chicago



Text  



Jesse Jackson suggests that if Congress can spend money securing the border, it can spend money on Chicago:

“If we can find $4 billion for those children — and we should — we can find $2 billion for Chicago. There are more children involved, and more have been killed, and more have been shot,” said Jackson.

Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, disagreed with Jackson blaming the president.

“I slightly disagree with the reverend,” Emanuel said. “I wouldn’t put this at the president’s door. I put this at the door of Washington, D.C. This has been a long time that they have stopped investing in our children, and they need to invest in our kids.”

It’s no surprise that Jesse Jackson doesn’t consider there to be an either/or component to federal spending. In the real world, though, there always is — even if the point at which we are expected to set our priorities is much further away from sanity than conservatives might like. Going forward, I wonder to what extent this question is going to highlight cleavages in the Democratic party’s coalition. By and large, the Left has a built a winning team by gluing together a series of interest group, two of which seem to be set against each other in the immigration debate. African-Americans are consistently the group that is most vocally opposed to reform; Hispanics consistently the most in favor. Glib as it is, “it’s time for some nation building at home” carries quite the appeal. If the federal government starts to throw money at dealing with foreign citizens rather than at those already here, at what point do black voters start to rebel — not by becoming Republicans, naturally, but by, say, staying at home in the midterms?

ADVERTISEMENT

New War Over High School U.S. History



Text  



Americans are only just now waking up to a quiet but devastatingly effective effort to replace the teaching of traditional American history in our high schools with a new, centrally-controlled, and sharply left-leaning curriculum.

The College Board, the company that issues the SAT and the various Advanced Placement (AP) exams, has created an elaborate new framework for the AP U.S. History Exam that will effectively force nearly all American high schools, public and private, to transform the way they teach U.S. History.

The traditional emphasis on America’s founders and the principles of constitutional government will soon be jettisoned in favor of a left-leaning emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc.

There are serious questions about the legality of the new AP U.S. History Exam, insofar as it may conflict with existing history standards in a number of states.  These questions, however, as well as public debate over this massive and tremendously controversial change, have been largely suppressed by the stealthy way in which the College Board has rolled out the new test.

The new AP U.S. History Exam has been issued under the authority of David Coleman, president of the College Board and, not coincidentally, architect of the Common Core.  We are witnessing a coordinated, two-pronged effort to effectively federalize all of American K-12 education, while shifting its content sharply to the left.

While the College Board has publicly released a lengthy “framework” for the new AP U.S. History Exam, that framework contains only a few sample questions.  Sources tell me, however, that a complete sample exam has be released, although only to certified AP U.S. History teachers.  Those teachers have been warned, under penalty of law and the stripping of their AP teaching privileges, not to disclose the content of the new sample AP U.S. History Exam to anyone.

This is clearly an effort to silence public debate over these heavily politicized and illegitimately nationalized standards.  If the complete sample test was available, the political nature of the new test would become evident. Public scrutiny of the sample test would also expose potential conflicts between the new exam and existing state standards.  This is why the College Board has kept the test secret and threatened officially certified AP U.S. History teachers with severe penalties for revealing the test.

The College Board claims that its highly directive new framework for AP U.S. History is actually adaptable to the preferences of particular states, school districts, and teachers.  This is deeply misleading.  It is true that the new history framework allows teachers to include examples of their choice.  Yet the framework also insists that the examples must be used to illustrate the themes and concepts behind the official College Board vision.

The upshot is that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and the other founders are largely left out of the new test, unless they are presented as examples of conflict and identity by class, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.  The Constitution can be studied as an example of the Colonists’ belief in the superiority of their own culture, for instance.  But any teacher who presents a full unit on the principles of the American Constitution taught in the traditional way would be severely disadvantaging his students.  So while allowing some minor flexibility on details, the new AP U.S. History framework effectively forces teachers to train their students in a leftist, blame-America-first reading of history, while omitting traditional treatments of our founding principles.

Texas is at the forefront of the resistance to the new AP U.S. History Exam, but the battle is not going well.  Ken Mercer, a member of the Texas School Board, is attempting to introduce a resolution rebuking and rejecting the new AP U.S. History Exam.  Unfortunately, he is now being told that he must wait to introduce the resolution until September, when it will be too late.

Texas makes up about 10 percent of the College Board’s market.  Were Texas to reject the new AP U.S. History Exam, the entire project could be put into doubt.  It is imperative that Ken Mercer be allowed to introduce his resolution.

Texans need to wake up and demand that Mercer’s resolution be introduced and passed as soon as possible.  The rest of the country needs to wake up and demand similar action in every state.

The public should also insist that the College Board release its heretofore secret sample AP U.S. History test for public scrutiny and debate.  There is no excuse for withholding this test from the public.

Just as the Common Core became an established fact before most American parents, lawmakers, and school districts even knew it existed, the new AP U.S. History Exam is about to entrench a controversial and highly politicized national school curriculum without proper notice or debate.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and a full understanding of our founding principles are on the way out.  Race, gender, class, and ethnicity are coming in, all in secrecy and in clear violation of the Constitution’s guarantee that education remain in control of the states.

The time to oppose the new AP U.S. History Exam is now.

McCain: Obama Should Have Visited the Border



Text  



Shortly after President Barack Obama’s Dallas address on the immigration crisis at the border, Arizona Senator John McCain criticized the president’s approach. Speaking on The O’Reilly Factor Wednesday night, McCain faulted Obama for failing to visiting the southern U.S. border.

“I think it’s pretty clear that by not going to the border or even to Lackland Air Force Base where thousands, hundreds of these children are, it showed a lack of sensitivity to the issue,” McCain said. “And one thing he could do, by the way would be [being] down there and thanking the people who are laboring 24/7 trying to care for these kids.”

McCain added that Obama’s proposals did not include plans for repealing a 2008 law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, that makes it easier for alien minors to stay in the U.S. without fear of expedited removal.

“The way that it’s going to stop is when those families see planeloads of those kids arriving back in the countries that they came from,” McCain said.

 

Feinstein: Sending Children Back to Central America Like Turning Back ‘Boatloads of Jewish Immigrants’ during Holocaust



Text  



Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) pushed back against calls to return the thousands of unaccompanied illegal-immigrant children along the border by saying it would be like refusing to let Jews into the country during World War II.

As Democrats and Republicans are still split on what to do with the children, Feinstein staked out her position for how to treat them with the loaded analogy. The Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman told the New York Times that sending the Central American children back to their home countries would be like “boatloads of Jewish immigrants trying to come to this country during Nazi Germany and getting turned back.”

“That’s not what this country is all about,” she continued. “This, in my view, has to be handled in a way which is compassionate.”

Spies Like US?



Text  



Germans are shocked, shocked by the news of a second investigation of a German who has allegedly been spying on his own country for the US (another was arrested last week). Indignation at the alleged traitors’ possible betrayal of their own homeland is understandable enough, and from an American point of view it would indeed be unfortunate if two of its agents have really been caught: embarrassing and all that. Doubtless this will be used to whip up anti-Americanism in a country where there is always a noisy and influential constituency for that sort of thing.

If the diplomatic calculus goes that way, the US should make the necessary apologies with the necessary insincerity and carry on, I assume, as before.  The only real scandal would be if the US was not spying on Germany. Countries spy on each other and, in particular, major powers spy on each other. To believe that this should not apply between two ‘allies’ is to be very, very naïve: The interests of Germany are not always those of the US, and the interests of the US are not always those of Germany. If the Germans don’t have spies here, I would be amazed.  

Over at the Daily Beast, James Kirchick wades in, correctly arguing that “American intelligence agencies would be crazy not to conduct intensive espionage operations in Germany”, and citing more specific reasons:

Given the righteous indignation [over the alleged spying], one would suspect that Germans were fuming about Russia, a country that had perpetrated the first annexation of territory on European soil since World War II. But their muted reaction to Russia’s outrageous behavior, combined with the hysterical response to American spying, neatly illustrates why the United States has felt a need to conduct espionage in Germany: Berlin has been a less than trustworthy ally…

‘’’German firms do a great deal of business in Russia and have been strong voices against sanctioning Moscow. Germany imports a third of its oil and gas from Russia, and Russia is its 11th-largest export market.

On the political side, Russia can count upon sympathizers spanning from the center-right business community to the post-communist left. Last year, in a highly publicized trip, Green Party politician (and former lawyer for members of the terrorist Red Army Faction) Hans Christian Stroebele visited Snowden in Moscow, something that could not have taken place without the express permission of Putin. Failing to convince the German government to grant Snowden asylum, Stroebele got the next best thing: a parliamentary investigation into American espionage. Russian espionage, judging by the attention devoted to it by the press and politicians, apparently does not exist in Germany.

In March, several parliamentarians from the German Left Party traveled at the behest of Moscow to Crimea alongside a batch of European right-wing extremists. There they observed Russia’s phony “referendum” authorizing the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula. Weeks after leaving office in 2005, former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder joined the board of a Russian government-owned energy venture to the tune of a quarter-million Euros a year. In April, as Russian-backed terrorists rampaged their way through eastern Ukraine, he celebrated his 70th birthday in St. Petersburg alongside a bevy of German businessmen and political leaders and received a bear hug from Putin himself.

German outrage at American spying would also be easier to swallow if it weren’t so hypocritical. According to former NSA intelligence and computer systems analyst Ira Winkler, the BND has penetrated the SWIFT financial messaging network, passing on the information to German businesses.

I’d add that, when it comes to hypocrisy, there’s also this (from Reuters) or does Swiss law not count?

(Reuters) – In the digital age, pen and paper are useful tools for intrigue. In 2007, Sina Lapour, an assistant to a private banker at Credit Suisse, hand-copied the names of potential tax evaders listed on two of the firm’s internal computer systems. By not downloading information, Lapour avoided leaving electronic fingerprints. His employer did not detect his actions.

He put the notes in his briefcase and took them home, where he created an Excel spreadsheet which he called “Mappe1-test1.xls.” The spreadsheet held names, addresses, and amounts held by clients.

Despite trying to cover his tracks, Lapour was eventually convicted of economic espionage, among other crimes. According to a statement he made in a plea bargain, the data he stole gave details of as many as 2,500 clients with combined assets up to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion). He sold it to a middleman, who then sold it to German tax inspectors. The information led to police raids in 2010 on Credit Suisse’s main offices in Germany.

Lapour’s spreadsheet was one of a half-dozen sets of stolen data for which Germany has paid millions of euros over the past five years. Those purchases pushed the boundaries of German law; Reuters’ inquiries have found Germany’s 16 federal states all cooperated in making them.

Back to Kirchick:

In [Winkler’s]  book Spies Among Us, he writes of “the apparent willingness of German businesses to funnel sensitive information and technology to nations that are hostile to the United States,” including Iran.

Germany remains one of the Islamic Republic’s largest trading partners. American espionage in Germany—home of the Hamburg Cell, the circle of 9/11 hijackers who hung out in the port city, unmolested, for years—is aimed at protecting the national security of both America and its allies, Germany foremost among them. And while the BND cooperates extensively with America’s intelligence services, it also has worked toward giving a leg-up to German businesses, an unwritten no-no in the intelligence world.

Kirchick is, however, critical of all the apologizing that has been going on:

Regrettably, rather than keep mum on the disclosures of NSA and CIA spying in Germany, American officials have been apologizing left and right while simultaneously declaiming all responsibility. Obama apparently told Merkel he was unaware of what his own spy services were doing, but had he known, he would have stopped them from monitoring her phone. Senior Obama adviser John Podesta told the magazine that “some of the disclosures as to who had been targeted were probably beyond the knowledge of anybody at a political level in government.”

Keeping mum, Mission Impossible-style is, of course, always best, but if that option is not realistically available, apologies are fine.

So long as they are insincere, of course. 

The Fix Continues



Text  



I mentioned the other day how the EU parliament’s oligarch parties had torn up the usual conventions of that body to stop one of the euroskeptic EFDD MEPs  being appointed to a job to which she would normally have been entitled.

Something similar seems to have happened in another vote, and once again by a secret ballot, hallmark of democratic parliaments everywhere. Not.  The best English-language account that I can find comes from a (somewhat unsympathetic) Eurointelligence:

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine is the mouthpiece of the country’s sururban conservatism, and we always noted an undisguised sympathy for the AfD, the anti-euro party. That sympathy radiates also to deep inside the CDU and in particular the CSU.

For some background: the AfD is right-of-center, anti-euro but pro-EU. The CDU and (the more conservative, Bavarian-based) CSU are the two right-of-center parties behind Angela Merkel.

Eurointelligence:

We reported yesterday that the European Parliament’s ECON committee did not elect AfD chief Bernd Lucke to one of mostly ceremonial jobs of the vice-chairmanship of the committee – the jobs are usually distributed across the party groups [according to an established formula]

Amongst the arguments used by those who stiffed Lucke was the childish suggestion by a Green MEP that (as Eurointelligence noted approvingly) it wasn’t a great idea to hand confidential European Central Bank documents to somebody who wants to break-up the euro zone. Absurd: Lucke would have been bound by the confidentiality requirements that went with the post. He is also a distinguished economist. A bomb-thrower he is not.

So once again we are reminded that, in this insulting impersonation of a parliament, the usual rules don’t apply to those who dissent from the ruling orthodoxy. More sinister still, those who see the single currency for the disaster it has been are to be barred, where possible, from taking a look at how it is being run.

And yet David Cameron continues to argue that it is possible to negotiate with the EU establishment in good faith and, in the meantime, continue with business as usual.  It’s no comfort  at all to realize that by this time next year  he will almost certainly be history, having led the Tory party to a general election defeat that might (perhaps) have been avoided with rather more deft footwork over Europe.

The only faint (and it is very faint) note of cheer from this sad little story is this comment from a CSU MEP:

The truth is the Lucke says what some of these CDU/CSU guys are thinking but are not allowed to say. Over the years, we would expect the CDU, post-Merkel, to open up to co-operation with the AfD, just as the SPD opens up to co-operation with the Left Party. The Left Party’s uncritical support of Vladimir Putin was a setback for SPD/Left cooperation. But the parties are now talking to each other. Expect the German political dialogue to become more confrontational once the Grand Coalition love-in ends.

It can’t happen soon enough. But don’t hold your breath. 

Cue Dukas



Text  



According to this account, an Iranian cleric made an important pronouncement on state television: “The Jew is very practiced in sorcery. Indeed most sorcerers are Jews.”

Q.: What do you call an intern at AIPAC? A.: The sorcerer’s apprentice.

Bien Sûr



Text  



You’ll remember Ray Nagin from the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. He was mayor of New Orleans when George W. Bush arranged for all those black people to drown (as the Left told it). Or, if he didn’t arrange it, he cackled as they did.

Nagin has now been sentenced to ten years in prison — corruption. (For a news report, go here.) Thus does Louisiana continue its long tradition.

As far as I know, one Louisiana senator, Mary Landrieu, is scandal-free. I hope that Louisiana voters hold it against her this November. I also believe that Bobby J. is clean, even squeakily so. Is he sure he’s a Louisiana governor?

This very day, Edwin Edwards is running for office — not for the governorship, but for a congressional seat.

Anyway, laissez les bons temps rouler, as they say down there.

Back He Goes



Text  



Two days ago, Gengsong was hauled off to prison again. He is a leader of the Democracy Party of China. He has been in and out of prison for many years, typically charged with “subversion of state power.” (For a report, go here.)

In a way, the charge is true: Lü wishes a democratic China, which would subvert the one-party dictatorship of the Communists. They would have to submit to popular will like everyone else.

Why they have not killed Lü yet is interesting. Almost certainly, they could do so with impunity — without any international repercussions. They imprison a Nobel peace laureate (Liu Xiaobo). Does it cost them anything, internationally? Not a farthing, as far as I can see.

And why does Lü stick his neck out, year after year? Why do people like him resume their democratic activities the second they get out of prison, knowing that those activities will ensure another prison term, or worse? Better than to analyze is simply to be grateful for such people.

The Honor of a Ban



Text  



Two summers ago, we published a piece called “Scholars with Spine: Notes from the field of China studies.” To see it, go here. It lauded scholars who have sought and expressed the truth about China, even though such honesty carries a risk: the risk of being expelled from, or denied admission to, China. Not to be able to visit China can be a serious handicap for a China scholar. And, of course, many of them pull punches (to put it as gently as possible).

My colleague Patrick Brennan alerted me to this interesting report in the New York Times — which tells us that a professor from Indiana University, Elliot Sperling, has been banned. His offense: to have supported a Uighur professor of economics, who has been arrested.

Not every Western scholar who is allowed to visit China is toadying or dishonest. And not every bold and honest scholar is banned. (Is the CCP sleeping at the switch?) But I can’t help seeing a ban as a badge of honor. And to those free to work in China, I’m tempted to say a variation on what Thoreau said to Emerson: What are you doing in there?

Geraghty: Obama Can’t Even Give Good Photo-Ops



Text  



Not One for Photo-ops: Obama Defends Decision Not to Visit Border



Text  



President Obama pushed back against repeated calls, including from members of his own party, for him to visit the southwestern border during his fundraising trip to Texas.

“This isn’t theater,” he said shortly after arriving in Dallas. “This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving a problem.”

In his remarks, the president also warned parents in Central America to stop illegally sending their children to the United States.

“While we intend to do right by these children, their parents need to know this is an incredibly dangerous situation and it’s unlikely that their children are going to be able to stay,” President Obama said. “And I’ve asked parents across America not to put their children in harm’s way in this fashion.”

“They cannot just show up at the border and automatically assume that they’re going to be absorbed,” he added.

Saying One Thing, But…



Text  



We hear a lot from the EU about the wickedness of fossil fuels, the horrors of fracking and so on, so (if accurate, and it seems to be) this report from The Washington Post makes interesting reading:

The European Union is pressing the United States to lift its longstanding ban on crude oil exports through a sweeping trade and investment deal, according to a secret document from the negotiations obtained by The Washington Post. It’s not entirely surprising. The EU has made its desire for the right to import U.S. oil known since the U.S. started producing large amounts of it in the mid-2000s. It signaled again at the outset of trade negotiations, and its intentions have become even more clear since.

This time, though, the EU is adding another argument: Instability on its Eastern flank threatens to cut off the supply of oil and natural gas from Russia. “The current crisis in Ukraine confirms the delicate situation faced by the EU with regard to energy dependence,” reads the document, which is dated May 27. The leak comes in advance of another round of discussions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which kicked off last fall and is expected to encompass $4.7 trillion in trade between the U.S. and the European Union when it’s finished (here’s an explainer on the deal). That won’t happen for several years — if ever — but knowledge of the E.U.’s position has inflamed the already-hot debate over whether to allow the U.S.’ newfound bounty of crude oil to be exported overseas.

Particularly irksome to environmentalists is the EU’s request that the U.S. make a “legally binding commitment” to export its oil and gas, which U.S. negotiators have so far resisted, according to the correspondence. (The U.S. Trade Representative declined to comment on a leaked document, except to say that it’s too early to characterize its position on any matter).

“We find it particularly outrageous that a trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors is being used as a means to secure automatic access to both crude oil and natural gas,” said Ilana Solomon, director of the responsible trade program at the Sierra Club. “By lifting the ban, you’re creating a whole new market for the oil industry to export to, and windfall profits for oil companies, which means more money to frack more, to produce more, to burn more….”

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

Should the US sign a legally binding agreement committing it to permit free export of its oil and gas? I don’t think so. And if that means walking away from the TTIP so be it. The EU has decided to go with what is (theoretically at least, but…) a low carbon approach to its energy supply. Its leaders should be made to account for that to their electorates. For them to gain legally-guaranteed access to America’s wicked fuel while at the same time lecturing the US about the wickedness of that fuel would be to facilitate a hypocrisy too far.

The degree to which the US should permit the export of such fuels is an entirely different debate, but the argument that European nations should be given access to US oil to wean them off their unhealthy dependence on Russian energy resources is one that should not be pushed too far either as a matter of fact (how much difference would it really make in the reasonably foreseeable future?) or strategy: somehow these nations have to be persuaded to assume much more responsibility for their own defense. Is an easy assist on the energy question the best way to achieve that?

NATO members have a longstanding commitment to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense, but it is a commitment honored for the most part in the breach.  Check out this March piece in The Washington Post for details. It doesn’t make pretty reading, If Europeans want the US to take their strategic worries seriously, it would be good if they could show that they did too.

The War on Israel Is Being Waged by a Hamas-Syria-Iran Troika



Text  



While the world powers seek to end Iran’s illicit nuclear-weapons program, the Islamic Republic and its strategic partner Syria are supplying the Palestinian terrorist entity Hamas with conventional arms – which Hamas is using right now to target Israel.

Hamas launched a long-range Syrian-made M320 rocket at Israel on Tuesday. Iran furnished Hamas with similar long-distance rockets during Israel’s 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. A recent report from the U.N. (yes — the U.N.!) outlines Iran’s role in funneling weapons to Hamas in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. (Pillar of Defense was an eight-day mini-war that resulted in preventing large-scale Hamas aggression since it concluded.)

Israel has termed its new operation to stop Hamas rocket fire Operation Protective Edge. The conflict now appears to be headed toward a full-blown war, largely because Hamas has rained over 200 rockets into Israel and targeted the country’s nuclear reactor in Dimona.

What should the Obama administration do? State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “We . . . support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks.” So far, so good. But the U.S. still defends and funds the Palestinian Authority–Hamas unity regime.

As Clifford D. May, my colleague at FDD, showed in early July, U.S. taxpayers are paying handsome salaries to Palestinian jihadists, to the tune of $400 million a year in overall aid to the Palestinian state.

American taxpayer dollars are now involved in the third Hamas war against America’s most important ally in the Middle East. What will it take to jolt the U.S. administration out of its Middle East slumber and pull the plug on its recognition and funding of the Hamas-PA regime?

In a separate but related note, Algeria’s World Cup team donated its $9 million prize money to Gaza last week. I strongly suspect FIFA will neither suspend Algeria’s team nor fine it for possibly funding Hamas’s terrorist policies. While Germany humiliated Brazil at the World Cup, Hamas lobbed missiles at the German tourist cruise ship “AIDAdiva” off the coast of Israel. Predictably, Germany chose not use its warships in the Mediterranean to strike back.

On the media front, the French can’t seem to forgive Israel for defending itself. The paper Libération, citing the wire service AFP declared, “Rockets fired at Jerusalem after deadly offensive against Gaza.”

The Israeli cartoonist Dry Bones neatly captures, with biting sarcasm and irony, the reaction of many countries/people to Hamas missile attacks on Israeli cities:

Finally, the BBC, whose coverage of Israel over the last decade has not been sympathetic to the Jewish state, to put it mildly, issued a surprisingly apt headline, “Israel under renewed Hamas attack,” on Tuesday. But the headline apparently later morphed into ”Israel step up plans to stop rocket attacks from Gaza on Wednesday. The BBC did, however, document the fact that Hamas posts inaccurate photographs on social media to advance its terrorist agenda — some of the photographs used are from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

For some excellent on the ground multimedia coverage of Operation Protective Edge, see Israeli journalist Seth J. Frantzman.

To decimate state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East (e.g., Hamas and Syria) and across the globe, the West will need to dismantle Iran’s terroristic nuclear and conventional-weapons apparatus. The place to start is the ongoing negotiations in Vienna with the mullah regime. 

The Tax Treatment of U.S. Citizens Abroad Is Absurd and Unfair, and Getting Worse



Text  



The Wall Street Journal has an article today about the nightmare faced by Americans living abroad trying to comply with the U.S. tax code. America is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens living abroad on their income earned there, which means that expatriates have to file taxes in the country where they live and in the U.S. Most people can claim a credit on their U.S. returns for foreign taxes paid, but this doesn’t generally eliminate the double taxation of part of their non-U.S. income. This whole issue is likely the main reason behind a recent increase in Americans trying to renounce their citizenship. 

But just as important, the cost of compliance and the consequences for failing to comply can be terrible. This is particularly brutal for middle-class American living abroad, and it’s been worsened by the recently passed Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which is the topic of the WSJ’s piece.  

Fatca requires these institutions to report on the financial holdings of their U.S. clients with the aim of reducing the incidence of off-shore tax evasion by wealthy Americans. Yet officials are less willing to discuss how Fatca worsens the already profoundly unjust tax treatment of millions of middle-class Americans living abroad.

The vast majority of U.S. expatriates living abroad harbor a strong sense of patriotism that includes a willingness shoulder their fair share of the nation’s tax burden. Deep resentment arises, however, when they confront the byzantine complexity of preparing a tax return that includes non-U.S. income and non-U.S. financial accounts. Fatca demands rigorous compliance with arcane rules that the IRS has until now never even attempted to enforced on a widespread basis. For Americans abroad, desperately trying to comply, the outcome to family finances is often disastrous.

Here are some of horror stories reported by the Journal:

In one case, a California school teacher lost her Swiss husband of 30 years to cancer. In the ensuing family trauma, she failed to file a foreign asset disclosure form to report her husband’s Swiss pension. Despite having paid all of her U.S. taxes on time, she is advised by a California law firm to enter the IRS’s Off-Shore Voluntary Disclosure Program. She paid the firm a retainer fee of $124,000 to begin the OVD process and was told to expect penalties of up to $800,000.

In Malaysia, a modest, local family business was thrown into financial turmoil when the authorities discovered that because one of the founder’s daughters, a partial owner of the business through a family trust, married an American and took U.S. citizenship. The entire business was, as a result, subject to complex U.S. accounting and U.S. tax reporting requirements.

In Toronto, an American-born professor made no investments in anything other than bank saving accounts for fear of running afoul of one of the scores of obscure U.S. tax rules regulating investments outside the U.S.

The compliance cost is huge, and so is the tax bill. Here is one example:

An American family living in Germany that buys five or six different German-domiciled mutual funds to create a diversified portfolio is faced with tax complications that almost defy belief. They will have to report each of their six non-U.S. mutual funds on separate forms, every year. The IRS Instruction manual for this Form 8621 estimates that the time needed to prepare the form include “Recordkeeping, 15 hr., 4 min; Learning about the law or the form, 11 hr., 13 min; Preparing and sending the form to the IRS 20 hr., 21 min.”

In other words, the U.S. government expects this family to spend more than 200 hours annually preparing and filing the forms necessary to report their six mutual funds bought from a local German investment advisor. Furthermore, once the filing is made, the tax payers will find their investment gains taxed annually and subject to a tax rate no less than 39.6%, and potentially much higher.

The whole thing is here.

The U.S. should move to a territorial tax system, under which incomes of Americans living in the U.S or abroad would only be taxed by the country where the income is earned. Under that system, you wouldn’t have this outrageous double taxation and you would have no reason to force absurd compliance costs on American expats.

Hunting Photos Glorify Violence, but ‘Kill Kendall Jones’ Facebook Page Apparently Doesn’t



Text  



Facebook recently removed the controversial pictures of Texas cheerleader Kendall Jones with animals that she had hunted in Africa. 

The Texas Tech University sophomore had outraged animal activists with her Facebook page that displayed photos of her posing with carcasses of leopards, lions, and rhinos.

A Facebook spokesperson told Mashable that the pictures violated the social network’s standards. They were said to have broken Facebook’s rule regarding “graphic images shared for sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence,” as outlined on this ”Facebook Community Standards” page. 

“We remove reported content that promotes poaching of endangered species, the sale of animals for organized fight or content that includes extreme acts of animal abuse,” the spokesperson said. 

An online petition that called on Mark Zuckerberg to “Remove the page of Kendall Jones that promotes animal cruelty” had earned over 325,000 signatures by the time the photos were removed, but the spokesperson said this did not influence the decision to take down the photos. 

Apparently, though, a Facebook page entitled “Kill Kendall Jones” does not violate Facebook standards. The page, which has earned almost 1,000 “likes,” displays the same photos that were taken down from Jones’s original page. 

The page also displays this creative Photoshop job:

 

Juneau Empire reporter Matt Woolbright reported the page as “harassment” and a “credible threat of violence” when he came across it. But Facebook responded that the page did not violate the site’s Community Standards:

De Blasio’s New York Sees 8 Percent Increase in Shootings



Text  



As of June 30, New York City has seen an 8 percent increase in the number of shooting incidents since last year. According to an NYPD report, there are been 521 incidents so far this year, compared with 482 during the same span of time in 2013.

Former NYCPD officer and security expert Lou Palumbo believes this increase is the result of the abandonment of the city’s “stop-and-frisk” policy. If the question is whether there is a correlation between higher violence and the NYPD’s curtailment of the policy, he said on CNN, “the answer is unequivocally yes.”

He recalled that when Bill Bratton became NYC police commissioner 20 years ago, there were over 2,200 homicides in the city annually, which they were then able to reduce to about 500 per year. “Stop-and-frisk was one of the most effective tools that was implemented,” he said. “That’s the statistical truth.”

Palumbo acknowledged that there has been a lag between when stop-and-frisk was seriously curtailed — in the final year or so of the Bloomberg administration — and the increase in shootings. “It takes a little bit of time until it filters to the street that the police are in the hands-off mode,” he explained.

“The simple truth of the matter is the individuals that carry out these acts with firearms realize now that the police have been instructed to lay off,” Palumbo said. “They have no fear or reticence about carrying weapons.”

Pages

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review