Monday links

by debbywitt

Happy Memorial Day:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. 

Death in the Clouds: The Problem of Bodies on Everest

What It’s Like to be Struck by Lightning.

An earlier battle in the clash of civilizations - May 29, 1453: the fall of Constantinople. Also on this date, Kurt Vonnegut’s May 29, 1945 letter home after being released from being imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse (Slaughterhouse Five) during the Dresden bombing.

Unbuilt Los Angeles: the city that might have been – in pictures.

This Dog Sits on Seven Editorial Boards.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include a new hottest chili pepper, if meat eaters acted like vegans, early performances of future stars, and T-rex dietary requirements.

Florida Museum Celebrates the Loss of Hagia Sophia

by Daniel Pipes

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief seeing a wall plaque at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla., explaining an artifact in the “Ink, Silk, and Gold: Islamic Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” exhibit currently showing.

The plaque that caught my eye praises the Ottoman Empire for having turned the Hagia Sophia church into a mosque. Its words:

In addition to their renowned patronage of architecture, which yielded the conversion of the Church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a congregational mosque, Ottoman sultans and elites supported flourishing textile and ceramics industries.

(What does “yielded the conversion” even mean? A search engine finds seven uses of this phrase in the English language, all connected to science.)

Hagia Sophia happens to be one of the oldest, largest, most beautiful, most celebrated, and most important churches of all Christendom. Built in the 530s in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, it has always been the object of exceptional praise, from ancient times (563 AD: “As you direct your gaze towards the eastern arches, you behold a never-ceasing wonder”) to modern ones (2014: “In this paradigmatic building, beauty, wisdom and light became interwoven through the architectural structure”).

Keep reading this post . . .

‘Shall Not Perish’

by Jay Nordlinger

Happy Memorial Day, everybody. Can you say such a thing? I think so: In a sense, it’s happy to honor those who have been killed while defending their country.

(Sometimes, I like to avoid euphemisms such as “fallen”: “to remember the fallen.” They were killed.)

Today, we’re beginning my “Oslo Journal” on the homepage. This will be a multipart journal on the Oslo Freedom Forum, the annual human-rights gathering in the Norwegian capital. For Part I, go here.

As I say in my journal, my favorite Lincoln memorial, outside of Washington, D.C., is the one in Oslo: in Frogner Park. A large lilac bush is near it. (Oslo is full of lilacs.) This reminds me of Whitman’s elegy, concerning Lincoln: “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

The Lincoln memorial in Frogner Park was given by the Norwegian Americans of North Dakota in 1914 — the hundredth anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. It was presented, unaccidentally, on the Fourth of July.

It includes the final words of the greatest of all American speeches, the Gettysburg Address: “… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

An Important Message From Fareed Zakaria (VIDEO)

by Ericka Andersen

In a message today on CNN, Fareed Zakaria spoke bluntly about liberal intolerance for viewpoints they disagree with. He pared down a message he gave at Bucknell University recently and began with this:

“American universities today seemed committed to every type of diversity except intellectual diversity.”

Watch the rest and you’ll be nodding along in agreement: 

Can We Count on You this Weekend?

by Jack Fowler

Before any update about our Spring Webathon, a word about our honored dead, remembered this weekend, who died for the very freedoms — none so dramatic as free speech — that many on the American Left (such as the U.S. Senate Democrat caucus) now seek to suppress. The nation’s most charged legal battle on the First Amendment involves this very institution. In Mann v. National Review, our right to talk boldly, openly, with opinion, with gusto — a right purchased in blood and pain and sacrifice — is being sorely tested in our courts by the well-funded Left, which is intent on suppressing, if not criminalizing, speech that does not advocate the multicultural / elitist / SJW / social-engineering agenda. For them, the speech right may just as well boil down to Miranda: Conservative have the right to remain silent.

We will fight this fight till its end, which we pray will not be bitter (we are confident in our counsels’ talents and abilities). Insured for such, and not bankrolled by any kind of legal sugar daddy — like a George Soros, who is an ATM for the Left’s despicable causes — the fact is that there are many costs to this fight that hit NR’s wallet, and not that of our insurer’s.

We seek your financial support in this Spring Webathon, launched last week (to date $110,000 has been raised — thank you so much — and our goal is $246,000) for three main reasons: 1) To help us defray the costs of the suit, 2) To help us defray the costs of the rebuild of NRO (sorely needed, and under way, but the price tag is a not insignificant $500,000), and 3) To fund the position, also sorely needed, of an editor. Many have given, and have told us why, such as these kind NR friends:

Thomas comes through with Benjamin Franklin–sized money and explains why: “I have been a subscriber since I was in junior high school and I’m now 60 years old. I have never witnessed an environment more hostile to our founding principles. Please keep fighting the good fight NR.”

Another $100, this time from Jim, and a similar directive: “Keep up the good fight!! Make Mr. Buckley proud.” We try Jim. In our thoughts, always, is this: WWWFBD?

My pal Mary from way out West sends $150 and the kind of cheering that one must admit — you like to hear: “YOU keep doing YOU, NR! Love the website (but agree, it needs some improvement) and even love my print version of NR. The writers are thoughtful and insightful and I feel smarter every morning when I read the Morning Jolt. I go to bed smarter when I read the posted writings in the evening. All around, I’m smarter because of you great work. Here’s my small contribution to keeping up your important work!” Nothing small about your generosity Mary.

Now you have to love the way Peter, who gives a big $400, thinks and acts: “A dollar a day to keep Michael Mann away and $35 for a case of beer and a couple of pizzas for the writers on Friday. Enjoy!” Okay my friend, next Friday will be in your honor!

In the Strange Bedfellows department, we received $25 from Joshua. I’ll let him explain: “I’ll be straight with you. I’m a 27-year-old, godless West Coast liberal. I agree with perhaps 1 percent of everything I read on NRO, and even that might just be a rounding error in the data. But I keep coming back, every day, because the work you publish is insightful, well-argued, and ‘above all else’ intellectually honest. There is no other publication I trust to push me out of my bubble and force me to come up with actual, reasoned explanations of why I believe the things I claim to believe. I know I didn’t give much, but it’s all I can afford at the moment, and I wanted to do my part to give back. Unlike many of my fellow travelers, I still hold free speech dear, and I want to see NRO survive and flourish for decades to come (into Chelsea Clinton’s third term, at the very least).” Thanks Joshua, and really — it’s time to let go. You know you want to.

But about this Joshua cat: There are hundreds of thousands of you who dwell on (rely on!) NRO, for the same reasons — insightful, well-argued, intellectually honest commentary on events and principles — and seek fulfillment from such. If that describes you, and you are a conservative, and an NRO frequent flyer, well, if a liberal like Joshua here can cough up $25, what about you?

Please help. You can make your contribution on NR, right here. If you prefer making contributions by check and mail, then make the check payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Webathon, 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016. And if you prefer to make donations via PayPal, you can do that here. Whatever you do, this weekend remember the brave and fallen.

Euthanasia Not About Ending Uncontrollable Pain

by Wesley J. Smith

The euthanasia movement fear mongers its agenda as a means of preventing an agonizing death in pain that cannot be controlled. It’s all a false pitch. That’s not why it’s actually done.

Rather, existential anguish drives people to seek doctor-administered or prescribed termination. That has been experience in Oregon. Now too, Canada. From a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine;

Those who received MAiD [medical aid in dying] tended to be white and relatively affluent and indicated that loss of autonomy was the primary reason for their request.

Other common reasons included the wish to avoid burdening others or losing dignity and the intolerability of not being able to enjoy one’s life.

Few patients cited inadequate control of pain or other symptoms.

These are important issues that need to be addressed through vigorous suicide prevention and other mental health interventions.

But they are not provided. Instead, the desire to die for fear of being a burden or losing autonomy is validated with the lethal jab or the poison pills. And then, that type of death is pushed toward normalization.

Not providing vigorous interventions for existential anguish is like depriving a cancer patient of morphine, and then helping her die because she is in so much pain.

The Easy Part of Being President

by Rich Lowry


The generally favorable reviews of Trump’s foreign trip demonstrate the great advantages of just showing up and reading a script, which Trump did almost the entire time he was abroad (except for an impromptu comment in Israel and some chippiness in Brussels). There is much more to being president than this, but if Trump could manage it more routinely–i.e., no off-the-wall tweeting, etc.–he’d be in a substantially better place.

Jared’s Turn in the Barrel

by Rich Lowry

The Washington Post had a story last night on Jared wanting to establish a back channel with the Russians during the transition that adds detail–he talked to Kislyak about it and allegedly wanted to use Russia diplomatic facilities for the conversations–to what was already known. There’s nothing necessarily nefarious about a back channel–as the Post reports, the Trump transition was also secretive about its dealings with other government, including the U.A.E. This particular, very odd approach to the Russians may well have been simple amateurishness, but the pattern of Trump officials forgetting or minimizing contacts with the Russians, combined with the latest on the attempted back channel, is bound to stoke further suspicions. A couple of other thoughts:

–This can’t be good news for the JVanka faction in the White House. It makes Steve Bannon’s reported private warnings that Kushner’s Russia dealings would become a major distraction to the White House look prescient. It also makes it more interesting that Kushner, apparently against type, was reportedly strongly in favor of firing James Comey.

–It is the natural tendency of special-counsel probes to widen rather than narrow, which means it could be that Jared’s business dealings will eventually come under scrutiny as part of the new focus on him.

–Finally, a key to the administration’s scandal management will be keeping Trump under control. That was going to be difficult in any circumstance, but presumably gets harder with a family member in the spotlight.

The Editors: Manchester

by NR Staff

Check out the latest episode of The Editors, in which Rich Lowry, Reihan Salam, Ian Tuttle, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss the attack in Manchester, Trump’s trip overseas, and more.

Clinton at Wellesley, Again

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In a short post at Bloomberg View, I explain how Hillary Clinton’s comparison of Donald Trump to Richard Nixon in a commencement speech was a little bit more revealing than she may have intended.

Judge Niemeyer’s Dissent

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Judge Niemeyer’s dissent from the Fourth Circuit’s decision against the travel ban does a nice job of explaining what’s wrong with the majority’s decision to base its ruling on its reading of President Trump’s motives. I’m going to quote the whole discussion of the issue:

Keep reading this post . . .

‘I wasn’t paying attention. I thought it was a man. I would never kick a woman.’

by Rich Lowry

Congrats and thank you to the New York Times and Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller for not letting the Turkish attack last week go. They have both produced close analysis of the attackers, which should be followed-up on by law enforcement. The Times video break-down is particularly impressive and the above quote comes from one of the perpetrators tracked down by the paper.

Don’t Forget about GDP Per Capita

by Fred Bauer

With the release of the Trump administration’s budget, increased attention has been paid to the question of economic growth. The budget forecasts real economic growth of about 3 percent a year — which is within the norms of the second half of the 20th century but well below the average of the past 15 years.

This optimistic growth projection has provoked snorts of derision from some professional economists, many of whom forecast slower growth. In his recent article on the homepage, Kevin Williamson rightly argues that policymakers can’t just blindly trust in high levels of growth to balance budgets; a growth number might be impossibly high, and hoping for more growth is not the same thing as putting in place policies that will deliver it. And it’s doubtful that another round of tax cuts targeting high-income earners will deliver the kind of growth that the Trump administration projects under its budget. Williamson also helpfully distinguishes between real GDP growth (the growth of the size of the economy as a whole) and real GDP growth per capita (the increase in economic activity per resident). He finds that, if the U.S. wants to hit high growth rates, it might have to consider efforts to expand its population, which would cause the economy as a whole to grow.

But we shouldn’t forget that per capita economic growth still probably needs to be improved (not that Williamson says otherwise!). When we compare the post-2000 era to 1947–2000, a huge divergence in GDP growth per capita emerges. Between 1947 and 2000, inflation-adjusted GDP per capita grew a little over 2 percent a year. Since 2000, it has grown at about 0.9 percent a year. So, GDP growth per person has more than halved since Y2K. This slowdown in per capita GDP growth is unprecedented in the postwar era. In no 15-year period between 1947 and 2000 did average annual GDP growth per capita fall below 1.5 percent, so a 15-year stretch of under 1 percent is a radical departure from recent history.

It’s possible that demographic factors have had some influence on the trajectory of GDP per capita, but the fluctuations of this trajectory match up with broader events in the economy and the decisions of policymakers. Vigorous growth continued throughout the late ’90s. There was a faltering in 2001 and 2002 in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the 2001 recession. Growth returned to 20th-century expansionary norms during a brief period in 2004 and 2005, at the apex of the credit orgy. It then collapsed. Since 2006, not a single year has reached the average annual per capita GDP growth of 1947 to 2000. The overall economy has also limped along over the past decade and a half.

The causes of this slowdown remain up for debate. A Trumpian might argue that trade policies and illegal immigration have driven down wages and thereby limited economic growth. Others might blame it on over-regulation, the increasing financialization of the economy, the need for a more highly trained workforce, or resistance to reform on the part of major economic institutions. The cause of this stagnation might be some combination of those factors or some other factors. However we diagnose this problem, it seems likely that events and policy decisions have contributed to this slowdown. If per capita GDP growth and the incomes of working- and middle-class Americans increase, that prosperity might also help increase the birthrate; a vibrant economy doesn’t always lead to more births, but extended economic decline usually does take a toll on the birthrate (many studies have shown a decline in birthrates after the Great Recession).

All this suggests that policymakers could take steps to help increase GDP per capita. That enterprise, though, might require sacrificing policy nostalgia in order to focus on the problems of the present. If we want ’80s-level growth, we’ll probably need more than ’80s-style policies.

10 Things That Caught My Eye This Week

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

1. Lord have mercy.

God protect the Coptic Christians.

2. “My friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.” Samuel Tadros discusses ISIS’s favorite prey: Coptic Christians, whose persecution affects Christians everywhere.

3. Cardinal Dolan talks Trump administration openness to helping persecuted Christians and getting direct aid to the people who need it most – not going through agencies that don’t have the access to displaced Christians that dioceses and parishes, religious orders, the Knights of Columbus, and others do. Listen here.

4. An interesting tweet from the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the day of the President Trump-Pope Francis meeting:

5. The President’s new Twitter look:

6. Popes and presidents:

7. Russell Moore on temptation, Anthony Weiner, and all of us.

8. “The Church and people of faith need holy warriors now more than ever, people who are willing to stand for the truth, for God’s will, and for the welfare of their homeland. ” Celebrating Joan of Arc’s legacy on her feast day.

9. Archbishop Matti Warda from Iraq, talking about the persecuted Coptic Christians:

Iraq – ‘Many Christians hope to return to their homes’

Christian IDPs in Erbil, Kurdish Iraq continue depend to depend on aid as they are awaiting the opportunity to return to their home on the Nineveh plains. They have been cared for by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil—under the leadership of Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, Css—ever since ISIS invaded their homeland in the summer of 2014.

Archbishop Warda, in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), takes stock.

By Maria Lozano

Please describe the context and the general situation of the Christian IDPs in Erbil now.

At present there are still more than 10,000 Christian IDP families in the greater Erbil region. While many still hold a hope to return to their homes in Nineveh, for the majority of them this remains a very uncertain time due to the continuing conflict in the region and lack of any stable security plan from the central government in Baghdad or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

There is at present no meaningful plan or support for reconstruction in these towns from either the KRG or the Central Government in Baghdad. As such the IDPs currently in the greater Erbil region face the two main obstacles: lack of security and lack of civil infrastructure. In this environment, the majority of the IDPs are not willing to return yet to their former homes, especially in the Iraqi controlled sector of Nineveh, which includes Qaraqosh.

The situation in the Kurdish controlled sector, which includes the towns of Teleskof, Batnaya and Baqofa, is somewhat clearer as it pertains to security, and returns to those towns are beginning. However, these returns are completely dependent on private sources of funding for reconstruction

Regarding the economic situation of the IDPs—what are their living conditions? What do people lack most?

The IDP families are nearly all unemployed, or employed on the books of the government but without any meaningful pay. Such employment as does exist is largely in the form of self-employment, selling various items on the street, in most cases without proper permits. Those with savings at the outset of the crisis have in most cases greatly depleted these funds in the past three years.

We expect to see a rise over the coming months in terms of the need for financial and humanitarian assistance. The three most critical areas of need continue to be housing, food and medicine.

Could you please describe the situation of the children and of the youngsters?

Thanks to the heavy involvement of Church-based support, schools have been built to handle the needs of the IDP children at the early ages and elementary school. Significant assistance in terms of both teachers and facilities are still available at the High School level.

However, college level access for the IDPs remains a crisis and many students have been forced to delay their college years. This problem is a specific issue for the IDPs as the universities in the KRG are generally using the Kurdish language for instruction, a language in which very few of the IDP students are fluent.

The recently established Catholic University of Erbil, which has English as its language of instruction, has sought to address this issue by focusing on IDP student scholarships, but additional funding is still needed to support this effort.

What is the situation of the elderly people?

They are experiencing a true crisis. In many cases, elderly IDPs have been left behind by their children who have left the country. In nearly all these cases the only support group for the elderly is the Church.

The Archdiocese of Erbil has made repeated efforts to establish basic living facilities and proper care for the elderly, but meaningful support has not been found due to the emphasis being placed on the basic needs of the broader population.

As many of these elderly individuals are now without family to support them, this crisis is expected to continue even after any return to Nineveh by the general population.

How may IDPs remain in Erbil?

The situation regarding IDPs remains fluid, but current estimates are that at least 10,000 IDP families remain in the greater Erbil region who are in need of food assistance, with well over half of these individuals being women, children, and the elderly.

Reliable statistics are not available regarding the numbers of sick due to lack of coordination between medical facilities, but anecdotal evidence from the clinics run by the Archdiocese of Erbil indicates high levels of chronic diseases, especially among the elderly, which are in most cases related to the stress and the difficult physical conditions that are part of their IDP status.

How are the IDPs in Erbil feeling at the moment, after the villages on the Nineveh plains have been liberated?

The feelings and disposition of the IDPs varies according to the town they are from and their economic condition. Those IDPs from the towns in the Kurdish sector have greater optimism given the clarity of Church leadership and the security structure that exists there.

Those IDPs whose homes are in the Iraqi sector, which represents 70 percent of the total Christian IDP population, are generally in a very uncertain and fearful state of mind. While their towns have technically been “liberated,” the political and security situations remain very dangerous and unclear.

Despite the firm support of the local Church, many Christian IDPs continue to feel abandoned by both governments (within Iraq and abroad) and by major international aid organizations.

Are there many people traumatized?

The mental condition and traumatization of the IDPs is a crisis of its own. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is clearly evident in those that faced violence first-hand. Depression and anxiety are at extremely high levels among adults.

Treatment is hampered by the lack of capacity of medical and psychological treatment, as well as by the cultural reluctance to admit to any sort of mental weakness.

Yet, people’s faith by all accounts has remained very strong.

Without question the persecution which the IDPs have faced has made their faith stronger. We see this every day. Having had the very existence of their faith threatened with extinction, the people have come to value its importance in their lives in a much deeper way.

The people’s highest hopes are for the welfare and safety of their children, as would be the case for parents anywhere.

10. And, finally, this Memorial Day flashback:

Sign up for Kathryn Jean Lopez’s weekly NRI newsletter here


by Andrew Stuttaford

It may well be that the current concern over the Labour Party’s surge in the opinion polls will be  remembered as one of those panics (“wobbly Thursday” from 1987 comes to mind)  that occur from time to time in many election campaigns. Maybe.

Nevertheless, it might be helpful if the Tories started to get their act together, as this brutal piece by The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson makes very clear.

The public like [May’s] style, but her shambolic U-turn over the so-called ‘dementia tax’ has given everyone cause to doubt whether she is as ‘strong and stable’ as she says she is. In fact, she can look indecisive and a bit dozy. She repeatedly promised us that she would not hold a general election, but then did. She made National Insurance increases the cornerstone of her first Budget, only to abandon the idea days later when she worked out that it violated her manifesto pledge. And she made the abolition of the cap on care home fees the single most significant announcement of her manifesto launch, then abandoned that as well when working out that critics would lampoon it as a ‘dementia tax’…. People have not forgotten about the debacle.

And nor should they. As I see it, proposing the dementia tax was (and still may be: we still haven’t been told what the new cap will be) shockingly bad policy. Mr. Nelson disagrees about that, but we both agree (albeit for differing reasons) that announcing it in the way that she did was politically disastrous, an error then compounded by her refusal to put a hard figure on the cap she later conceded. If you are going to do a U-turn, do it promptly and do it properly. May reacted quickly enough to the mess that she and her advisors had made, but then failed to finish cleaning it up. By not specifying what the cap would be she has let unease linger with voters while simultaneously leaving an impression of weakness and indecision. 

This is the sort of mistake that Hillary Clinton (a name beginning to circulate in discussions about May’s prospects) would have made—and we saw where that led.

And the fact that the campaign has been more about May than the Conservative Party comes with very specific perils.


In this ridiculously personalised campaign – she always asks us to vote for ‘me and my team’, rather than her party – the personal credibility of the leader matters more than ever. And if the leader is in the habit of accidentally firing tornadoes at her own credibility, then this matters too.

And then, beyond the dementia tax, there was the rest of the Conservative manifesto. It had its moments, but for the most part, as a centerpiece this shabby and oppressive little sermon was worthy only of a funeral pyre.


Not since Labour’s 1983 ‘Suicide note’ has a manifesto launch done so much to cheer the other side. I’m not sure quite what the thinking was behind those fervent disavowals of right-wing politics and the embrace of bad Labour ideas, but if the aim was to lure Labour voters then it doesn’t seem to have been a great success. The Labour recovery – Corbyn surge, even – is nothing short of extraordinary.

Does this matter for Americans?

I’m afraid so: It is difficult to overstate just how much of a menace Corbyn would be. The domestic policies of Labour’s most high profile Chavez fan would be bad enough. But from an American perspective Corbyn’s arrival in 10 Downing Street would wreck its cooperation with Britain and (at the worst possible time) represent a major blow to NATO. If there’s a consistent theme that runs through Corbyn’s foreign policy (other than a psychologically interesting sympathy—one he shares with Lenin— for the thugs and hard men), it has been anti-Americanism.

In the end, I don’t think that Labour wins. Voters consider that May would make the better prime minister by almost 2:1  and, as The Spectator’s Tom Goodenough notes:

On the question of who ‘do you trust to make the right decision about keeping Britain safe from terrorism?’, the answer is never in doubt: 55 per cent say Theresa May; only a third say Jeremy Corbyn.”

And yet.

An Excellent Trump Budget Cut: International Organization Contributions

by Veronique de Rugy

The hysteria over President Trump’s budget cuts is interesting considering that one of my main complaints is that it doesn’t cut enough spending. Moreover, some big spending programs (e.g., Social Security and Medicare) that are driving our future debt have been pretty much left untouched. Also, in a budget that has obviously thought a lot about how to best spend taxpayers’ money in many areas, there is very little attempt to undertake a reform of the Department of Defense to assure the best use of the extra money it’s getting.

And for all the complaints about the cruelty of this budget, it is worth noting that the federal government will grow by almost 3.5 percent annually in the next ten years. A few numbers from my Washington Examiner article:

[These cuts] only represent a small portion of the $49 trillion the federal government will spend, and many of the programs that are cut will continue to see their spending grow during the next 10 years.

The federal government, overall, will continue to grow. Total spending in fiscal 2018 will be $4.1 trillion, and it will grow to $5.7 trillion in 2027. That’s almost $1.7 trillion in spending growth over 10 years. That’s still a lot of money, 65 percent of which will be going to four programs: Interests on the debt ($5.2 trillion over 10 years), Social Security ($13.4 trillion over 10 years), Medicare ($8.6 trillion over 10 years) and Medicaid ($4.8 trillion over 10 years).

All of these programs continue to grow considerably over the 10-year budget window — even Medicaid, which only sees a slower spending growth than previously projected.

Since the budget was released, ignoring the unicorn-like assumptions used to make the math work on paper, I have been going back and forth between thinking that such a budget is counter-productive because it is dead on arrival and thinking that even if if none of this ever makes it into law, there is a real value when someone is making an articulate case for some programs to be cut, reformed, or terminated.

Right now, I am thinking the latter. While the Trump budget may not be as radical as I would have liked it to be, I am certainly glad to see that this budget proposes to cut down the financial contributions made by the U.S. to international organizations. In the main budget, we read this:

The Budget proposes to reduce or end direct funding for international programs and organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests. The Budget also renews attention on the appropriate U.S. share of international spending at the United Nations, at the World Bank, and for many other global issues where the United States currently pays more than its fair share.

The Major Savings document explains that “the Budget proposes to end or reduce funding for international programs and organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests or for which the funding burden is not fairly shared amongst members.”

The cuts to the overall contribution would be $786 million. We will still be spending $900 million in fiscal year 2018 on international bureaucrats. But that’s down from the $1.59 billion we spent in fiscal year 2017.

The budget instructs that “the Department of State examine options to: (a) reduce the levels of international organizations’ budgets, (b) reduce U.S. assessment rates, and/or (c) not pay U.S. assessments in full. (the full justification for the cuts is on p. 71 of the Major Savings document).

I, for one, hope that the State Department will have the good sense to zero out the budget of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The U.S. paid $77 million last year just so that the OECD bureaucrats can push for international tax cartels, the end of privacy, redistribution schemes, and other big-government fantasies. That’s what I call working against U.S. interests.

As I explained a few weeks ago in a column on this issue, in addition to their decade-long attack on lower-tax countries, the OECD eagerly pursues Keynesian and insane anti-privacy policies:

For the sole purpose of a massive tax grab, the OECD is now targeting American corporations with excessive and expansive new reporting requirements. As David Burton of The Heritage Foundation has reported, this puts trade secrets unrelated to tax assessment in the hands of unscrupulous governments and makes proprietary data vulnerable to unauthorized access by third parties.

After years documenting their disingenuous and downright statist work, Dan Mitchell with the Cato Institute found that OECD bureaucrats have repeatedly pushed Keynesian spending binges on countries trying hard to eliminate government red ink.

At the same time they make unsubstantiated claims that “higher taxes would lead to more economic development or more public goods” and that “a nation isn’t developed unless taxes consume at least 25 percent of GDP,” Mitchell said. It may come as some surprise that the United States isn’t developed yet!

Adding insult to injury, these OECD bureaucrats make all these claims about the need for more taxes while earning large and tax-free salaries subsidized by you and me.

While I see the value of NATO (which the budget justification suggests should keep its entire funding), it is hard to see the value of paying OECD bureaucrats to pontificate on economic policy (there are plenty of academics and think-tank people already doing that) and write papers that no one reads. This is especially the case since the OECD has clearly chosen to side with those who argue for the big-government policies that have slowed down so many of the OECD countries’ economies.

The bottom line is that I am glad someone in the White House is finally shedding some light on this issue.

Should the Feds Try to Save Free Speech on Campus?

by George Leef

The federal government has accumulated such far-reaching powers that it’s tempting to want to employ them to solve problems that those of us on the right see, now that the government is (temporarily and to some unknown degree) under our control. Here’s an example — the relentless assault on free speech on college campuses. Why not use the government’s power over higher education (constitutionally unwarranted though it is) to crack down on schools that fail to uphold First Amendment values?

A writer I greatly respect, Harvey Silverglate (the co-founder of FIRE), recently made a case for doing that in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. And a few days later, another writer I respect, Preston Cooper of AEI, wrote a cautionary essay, reminding us that using government power, even for presumptively good ends, can backfire. In this Martin Center article, I consider both of their positions.

This is a close call, but I come down on Silverglate’s side. That’s because the Department of Education is already an out-of-control monstrosity staffed mainly with arrogant apparatchiks (sadly, Betsy DeVos isn’t able to broom the place out and start fresh) who have and will continue to do whatever they want. So we might as well try to scare colleges with the possible loss of federal money if they ignore attacks on free speech. Middlebury College, for instance, just “punished” the rioters there with nothing more than reprimand letters in their student files. As John Leo writes about that, “It’s not real punishment and (the letter) won’t be seen by anyone unless if falls out of the folder and a janitor spots it.”

No more student-aid money for Middlebury? Boo hoo. Our ultimate aim should be to do away with the Department of Education and get the feds out of the business of financing higher ed.

Mnuchin vs. Mulvaney

by Ramesh Ponnuru

How large are the tax cuts the Trump administration is seeking? As I noted the other day, it has been giving inconsistent answers on this question. And that inconsistency has not yet been resolved.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney says that tax reductions will be balanced by scaling back tax breaks. Tax reforms will be designed to raise as much revenue as the current tax code, without counting on any extra economic growth. Mulvaney expects that extra growth to materialize and produce new revenues–but those extra revenues will go to balance the budget.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin says that the extra revenues from growth will be used to make the tax package balance. The new tax code will raise as much money as the old one after accounting for extra growth. In effect, then, he wants a tax reform plan that yields $2 trillion less in revenue than Mulvaney does.

If the Mulvaney view prevails, then either the administration’s proposed tax cuts have to be pared back or it needs to find new ways to scale back tax breaks. If the Mnuchin view prevails, then the administration has to either make steeper spending cuts or abandon the goal of balancing the budget even under ambitious growth projections.

Maybe Trump will make a decision about what he wants, or maybe Congress will figure it out. It’s hard to proceed much further without an answer. Even in Washington, D.C., $2 trillion is a lot of money.

Update: Undercover Planned Parenthood Video Removed from YouTube at Judge’s Order

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated since its initial publication.

Yesterday evening, the Center for Medical Progress undercover footage — recorded at the 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation conventions — was removed from YouTube, supposedly for a violation of the site’s Terms of Service agreement. (A copy of the video can be found here. More detailed footage giving context for some of the clips is available here and here.)

A few hours later, news emerged that Judge William Orrick — the California district judge who granted NAF and Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the release of this video footage — had ordered the CMP’s lead investigator David Daleiden and his attorneys to appear at a June 14 hearing to consider holding them in contempt for releasing the footage yesterday morning.

According to the attorneys defending CMP — Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira — they had the ability to release the footage in conjunction with California’s prosecution of Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt, both of whom are facing 14 felony charges in the state for recording “confidential communications.” More clarification from the attorneys’ PR representative to National Review yesterday:

[Calif.] Attorney General Xavier Becerra has entered this footage into the public record by filing a public criminal proceeding based on it. The preliminary injunction obtained by NAF in a federal civil suit cannot bind this State criminal proceeding. (In fact, the SF Superior Court is now releasing certified copies of the court filings to the public with the links to the videos.)

It remains unclear, then, how Orrick had the authority yesterday evening to order Cooley and Ferreira to take down the footage and threaten them with contempt charges. National Review is awaiting further clarification from the CMP’s lawyers, and more information is expected later today.

Some mainstream media outlets that did not report on the new CMP footage yesterday have posted the AP wire report regarding the possible contempt charges. Other outlets, including the New York Times, NBC, and CNN have yet to report on the latest video at all.

More details on the undercover video and the related felony charges against Daleiden and Merritt are available here.

Update May 26, 4:15 p.m.: One of the defense attorneys for David Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt tells National Review that he removed the latest undercover CMP footage from his website around 8 p.m. EST yesterday evening, after he received word that Orrick had determined the release of the footage to be in violation of the preliminary injunction he had issued in the civil case against Daleiden.

Orrick’s gag order arose during the case brought against Daleiden by the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood, both of which wanted the court to prevent the release of the undercover footage from the 2014 and 2015 NAF conventions. That case is currently on appeal.

Meanwhile, Steve Cooley is one of two attorneys representing Daleiden and Merritt in their criminal case, which began in late March when Calif. attorney general Xavier Becerra charged the two undercover investigators with 14 felony counts of recording “confidential communications.”

According to Cooley, the San Francisco Superior Court made much of the undercover footage publicly available when the videos were filed as part of the proceedings in that criminal case. Cooley’s decision to make that footage available on his own site was primarily an effort to make public what is already technically part of public records, in order to give the media and the public better access to information as the case unfolds.

Cooley referred to the issue as a “conflict of laws,” pitting a district judge’s injunction against the Superior Court’s decision to file the videos as part of public records. “The blog was nothing more than a memorialization of public filings in the history of the case,” Cooley says of the webpage where he posted the videos yesterday morning. He called California’s criminal case a “selective, ill-motivated, and ill-founded prosecution.”

Daleiden, Cooley, and defense attorney Brentford Ferreira will appear before the San Francisco Superior Court on June 8 to receive the court’s ruling on the demurrer filed in response to Calif.’s felony charges. Orrick has ordered a June 14 hearing in U.S. district court as part of the ongoing civil case, to consider contempt sanctions related to the release of the video footage that was subject to the injunction.

Why Are There So Many Social Media Hoax Stories About Trump?

by Jim Geraghty

Jeryl Bier reports that no, Trump’s lawyers did not send a threatening letter to Berkeley Breathed, creator of “Bloom County.”

No, the Pope didn’t refuse to smile during his meeting with President Trump.

No, the Trump administration didn’t make a long, diva-ish list of demands to the Israelis before his visit.

No, Trump did not praise the Civil War service of Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

No, Trump did not plagiarize his inaugural address from the film Avatar.

No, President Trump is not planning on banning Facebook.

Nor did Trump legalize the hunting of bald eagles.

No, FBI Director James Comey did not tweet about the “pee tape” before he was fired.

No, a little girl did not tell the president that he’s “a disgrace to the world.”

Fake news didn’t get invented in the fall of 2016. Throughout the campaign, plenty of liberals fell for “satire” stories about the GOP presidential candidates, and shared them as if they were actual news. And yes, many Trump voters eagerly shared news that the Pope had endorsed him, that Robert DeNiro had apologized to him, etc.

Trump has plenty of serious flaws as president. But he’s only helped when liberals who are convinced they’re crafting a hilarious hoax end up creating what becomes “fake news” – and the legitimate criticism of his actual actions get mixed in with tall tales and urban legends.

And if Trump is so self-evidently awful, why do so many of his opponents feel the need to make up hoax stories about him?