Other Than All These Simmering Crises, Everything Is Quiet

by Jim Geraghty

In just the past few hours…

… a Russian Su-27 jet had air-to-air missiles under its wings and approached the U.S. Air Force RC-135 recon jet “rapidly,” coming within 5 feet of the American aircraft…

… a “U.S. F-15E fighter jet shot down a pro-Syrian regime drone near At Tanf, Syria”…

…U.S.-led coalition forces said they killed Turki al-Bin’ali, ISIS’ chief cleric, in Syria airstrike last month

…President Trump declared via Twitter, “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”…

… The Saudi Arabian navy announced “it intercepted an Iranian boat packed with explosives as it approached an offshore oilfield last week”… 

… an explosion occurred at Brussels Central Station in Brussels, Belgium, and one suspect has been shot by the military…

Other than the world spinning off its axis, it is a quiet day.

The Washington Post vs. Free Speech

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Response To...

One-and-a-Half-Cheers for the New York ...

The Washington Post was even worse on this issue, editorializing that the denial of a trademark to the Redskins was a “victory for tolerance.” It cheered the idea that senators would use their power over the tax treatment of the team to force a name change. Today’s Post editorial strikes a different tone–and a different tone from the one it ran just a few weeks ago saying that university administrators should “make crystal clear that racist signs, symbols and speech are off-limits.” But even today’s editorial includes this line: “The answer, in our view, is to redouble all lawful efforts to get that name changed, even if a federal lawsuit probably can’t be one of them.” Do those lawful efforts continue to include governmental action? 

 

One-and-a-Half-Cheers for the New York Times

by Jonah Goldberg

In the wake of the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court holding up First Amendment protections for offensive speech, the New York Times has changed its position.

The decision is likely to help the Washington Redskins, who lost their trademark protections in 2014 after years of complaints from Native American groups. At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office’s decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive. Based on this case, however, we’ve since reconsidered our underlying position.

On the one hand, good for them. Too few people and organizations change their minds based on new facts.

On the other hand, it’s amazing that a newspaper ever held a contrary position at all. The Times is in the First Amendment business after all.

More remarkable to me is that their original position was so poorly thought-through that a Supreme Court decision would cause them to abandon it. We all must abide with the Supreme Court’s decisions, but there’s no mandate to agree with them. After all, there are lots of constitutional interpretations from the 1930s and 1960s that I disagree with. Heck, there are some from the last few years I thought were batty (Chief Justice Roberts’s “it’s a tax” ruling comes to mind).

I respect their legal authority, but I am not obliged to agree with the reasoning behind them. The Times decision to say “never mind” about what they claimed to be a solid principle just because the Court disagreed with them is fascinating. Maybe it reflects real introspection. Maybe it reflects a kind of deference to power. I really have no idea. But it is interesting.

Editor’s Note: This post originally misstated the nature of Chief Justice Roberts’s Obamacare ruling. It has been corrected.

A New Study about Guns and ‘Children’

by Robert VerBruggen

Pediatrics has published a new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control entitled “Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States.” It’s straightforward, but worth reading if you care about homicide, suicide, and accidental death in this country. It covers nonfatal injuries in addition to deaths, and it explains how these incidents break down in terms of demographics, geography, and circumstances.

It also, unfortunately, seems designed to spur misleading news stories. Some of the statistics group together every gunshot victim age 17 and under; others group together those 0–12 and 13–17.

The problem is that most of us don’t see 16- or 17-year-olds as “children,” and that’s where the deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated, even within the “older children” (13–17) group. So while media coverage of the study leads off with gun accidents killing toddlers and third-graders, the actual gun-death data (which I pulled myself from the CDC’s online system) look like this:

(Those are annual rates of firearm death per 100,000, with the data combined from 2012–2014, as in the study.)

Every child death is worth preventing, and gun owners with kids absolutely should store their weapons securely. But America’s gun problem is overwhelmingly about homicides and suicides among teens and adults, not about young children finding their dads’ Glocks, and inversely, firearms are far from the biggest risk that young kids face. Kids ten and under are more than three times as likely to drown as to die from a gunshot (accidental or otherwise), for example, and more than four times as likely to die in a car accident.

Accidents involving children may draw attention to the gun issue, but they’re quite far from that issue’s heart.

We Should Have Heeded This Warning From Ronald Reagan

by Dan McLaughlin

Looking over the landscape of the Right (with its resurgence of blood-and-soil nationalism) and the Left (which these days is an uneasy alliance between corporate-suite globalism and angry, intolerant “social justice warrior” agitators who see America and its traditions as thoroughly rotten and unjust), it’s easy to wonder where it all went so wrong. How did America split into two angry, insular and increasingly ignorant camps that hate each other? How did those two camps themselves fracture into factions that also hate their own erstwhile allies?

In these angry times, it’s useful to go back to President Reagan’s 1989 Farewell Address. We remember well the warnings of George Washington against entangling foreign alliances and the loss of religious morality, and Dwight Eisenhower against the military-industrial complex. But it is Reagan’s warning, 28 years ago, that should resonate most with the crises of today:

There is a great tradition of warnings in Presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past 8 years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.

An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.

But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs [protection].

So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important-why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, 4 years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, “we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.” Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.

And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ‘em know and nail ‘em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

Reagan was, in his own way, a nationalist; he believed in placing the interests of America first, and in preferring American ideas and the American way of doing things to any other nation’s. But to Reagan, nationalism was simply a component of “informed patriotism” – an understanding of those ideas and ideals and their content and history, and a commitment to advance them both at home and abroad. Passing on that history and heritage, that understanding and appreciation of what America and the American idea have meant to its people and the world, was an essential job. And it’s hard to look at the nation and the world around us and not think we’ve failed at that task, leaving too many people on Right and Left alike to retreat to their base instincts. Reagan didn’t just want us to talk in general terms about America; he wanted us to specifically remember and celebrate its history, and “reinstitutionalize” its respect for basic freedoms and limited government. That didn’t happen.

A common language of patriotism and reverence for the founding ideals of the nation shouldn’t have to be just the province of a handful of intellectuals on the Right. Martin Luther King, who was very much a man of the Left, was so successful against long odds in moving the American people his way precisely because he appealed to the shared language of the American Founding. Reagan himself was an effective populist, and even as recently as a few years ago, the Tea Party movement was suffused with the iconography of the American Revolution and the language of American first principles.

Today, neither right-wing populists nor left-wing social reformers seem to have much faith left in those principles; the former are willing to discard them whenever temporary advantage can be gained in the tribal culture war, and the latter see American principles as the enemy. Both have embraced anti-intellectualism, the former openly, the latter by persistent assaults on language and objective truth and a stifling constriction of the topics that can be freely discussed.

Patriotism? Yes, please. But make it an informed patriotism.

A Brutal North Korean Crime That Must Not Be Forgotten

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

A Brutal North Korean Crime That Must Not Be Forgotten

Let’s not mince words: Otto Warmbier was an American kid who made one foolish mistake, one that should not have cost him his life. The North Korean regime arrested him on unjust grounds, possibly as a bargaining chip in negotiations, and ultimately tortured him to death. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post tracked down Warmbier’s roommate in North Korea, and offers a new, even more chilling account of events:

When Danny Gratton met Otto Warmbier in Beijing in late December 2015, they were on their first day of a tour to North Korea that only one of them would successfully complete. On the tour’s last day, Gratton was the only Westerner to see Warmbier detained by North Korean security services, the beginning of an 18-month ordeal for the 21-year-old American student, who finally returned to the United States in a coma this week.

Until now, Gratton has not spoken publicly about the case. He was never contacted by the U.S. government or the tour company that arranged the visit. His recollections form a part of the story that speaks to Warmbier’s innocence and further undermines the North Korean government’s version of events. His message is that Warmbier was an innocent victim of a cruel and evil regime and did nothing to warrant his sad fate.

“Otto was just a really great lad who fell into the most horrendous situation that no one could ever believe,” Gratton told me in an interview Thursday. “It’s just something I think in the Western world we just can’t understand, we just can’t grasp, the evilness behind that dictatorship.”

If you’re part of the subculture that never rejected the concept of evil, perhaps this isn’t that shocking. If you study history, the existence of evil isn’t shocking either. And if you’ve studied anything about the insanely brutal regime that rules North Korea, then no, this isn’t that surprising, either.

Gratton said that in the four days they spent together, Warmbier never said anything about a banner and that he saw zero evidence that Warmbier was planning any such act — quite the opposite. The first Gratton heard of the alleged attempted theft was when it was mentioned in news reports weeks later. Gratton and Warmbier weren’t together 24 hours each day, but they traveled together during the day and hung out each night.

“I’ve got nothing from my experiences with him that would suggest he would do something like that,” he said. “At no stage did I ever think he was anything but a very, very polite kid.”

Warmbier’s unjust murder should not have occurred. The North Koreans should not have tortured him, and should never have detained him. If he really did tear down the banner, this is the sort of manner that is resolved with a fine in most countries.

As mentioned earlier, Warmbier made one mistake: going to North Korea. There is no good reason for any American citizen to go to a land where they can be arrested at any time for any reason and tortured to death. Curiosity, charitable impulses, the desire to reach across a divide and see a place that few others dare – none of them are worth your life in the eyes of your loved ones. Do not go to North Korea. Do not go to North Korea. Do not go to North Korea.

Affinity magazine is an online, teen-written magazine that last night offered an astonishingly tone-deaf assessment: “Watch whiteness work. He wasn’t a “kid” or “innocent” you can’t go to another country and try to steal from them. [sic] Respect their laws.” (I wonder if that writer would extend the “respect their laws” approach to illegal immigrants, protesters who refuse lawful orders, and drug users.)

Still, presuming this is written by a teenager, we ought to tone down the outrage and attempt to illuminate this corner of the world that has probably escaped their attention.

The reason you’ll see adults referring to Warmbier as a ‘kid’ is because most of us over 21 look back at our 21st year and marvel at everything we thought we knew and everything we later realized we still had to learn. We had adult bodies but not necessarily adult judgment. Plenty of us made foolish decisions at age 21 or a little before or a little after, but none of those foolish decisions warranted such pain and death.

Warmbier’s guilt cannot be taken for granted, considering what we know of the arbitrary North Korean justice system. The regime sentenced him to fifteen years hard labor. His confession was beaten out of him; he claimed that he stole the banner on behalf of the United States government. The Obama administration had no qualms about accusing the North Korean regime of arresting Warmbier for political purposes, in other words, as a negotiating pawn.

There’s no shortage of places to read and hear about the brutality, cruelty and paranoia of the North Korean regime. Begin with John J. Miller’s interview with Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad and Jay Nordlinger’s profile of defector Jung Gwang-il. The editors assessed “a small, hopelessly isolated prison-state that suffers from perpetual food shortages, crushing poverty, Zimbabwe-style inflation, and a cartoonishly severe electricity problem, [that] is nonetheless able to summon the rapt attention of the United States whenever it chooses.” Move on to Victor Davis Hanson on the limits of deterrence.

Then, once you know the regime and its character, ask yourself if you still feel Warmbier was so wrong, and whether the laws of that brutal, thuggish regime are so worthy of respect.

Target Omega

by John J. Miller

You’ve seen his byline in this space. Now Peter Kirsanow has written a novel–a national-security thriller called Target Omega. He’s my latest podcast victim. Listen to our 10-minute conversation here.

$255,694

by Jack Fowler

National Review’s Spring Webathon ends tomorrow, fittingly, it being the last day of Spring.

Our goal is to raise $264,000. We’re close. Thousands of NRO denizens have given generously (you are just the very best readers anywhere — we are quite appreciative). Look at that number above: That’s what has come in. As of right now, we are about $8,000 short of our goal. I am certain we can meet that challenge.

Can you please help us meet it?

Here’s how to donate: To contribute via NR, click here. If you prefer to contribute by check, please make yours payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Webathon, 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016. And if you prefer PayPal, you can donate here.

Many thanks. You all rock.

Free Speech Wins (Again) at the Supreme Court

by David French

If you’re a lawyer arguing against free speech at the Supreme Court, be prepared to lose. Today the Court affirmed once again the Constitution’s strong protections against governmental viewpoint discrimination, even when the viewpoint discrimination is directed against “offensive” speech. In Matal v. Tam, the Court considered the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to register a trademark for a band called “The Slants” on the grounds that the name violated provisions of the Lanham Act that prohibited registering trademarks that “disparage . . . or bring into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” 

Given existing First Amendment jurisprudence, there would have been a constitutional earthquake if SCOTUS hadn’t ruled for Tam. The Court has long held that the Constitution protects all but the narrowest categories of speech. Yet time and again, governments (including colleges) have tried to regulate “offensive” speech. Time and again, SCOTUS has defended free expression. Today was no exception. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Alito noted that the Patent and Trademark Office was essentially arguing that “the Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend.” His response was decisive:

[A]s we have explained, that idea strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”

Quick, someone alert the snowflakes shouting down speeches on campus or rushing stages in New York. There is no constitutional exception for so-called “hate speech.” Indeed, governments are under an obligation to protect controversial expression. Every justice agrees. 

The ruling is worth celebrating, but when law and culture diverge, culture tends to win. The law protects free speech as strongly as it ever has. The culture, however, is growing increasingly intolerant – subjecting dissenters to shout-downs, reprisals, boycotts, shame campaigns, and disruptions. Some of this conduct is legal (boycotts and public shaming), some isn’t (shout-downs, riots, and disruptions), but all of it adds up to a society that increasingly views free speech as a dangerous threat, and not as one of our constitutional republic’s most vital assets. Liberty is winning the important judicial battles, but it may well lose the all-important cultural war. 

Are Budget Cuts the Best Way to Address Campus Leftism?

by George Leef

In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers are looking to hit the UNC School of Law with a significant budget cut, clearly aimed at the far-left antics of former dean Gene Nichol and his intellectual allies. But, asks Frank Pray in this Martin Center article, is that a sound move?

Will such budget cuts “teach them a lesson” and lead to a lessening of leftist activism? Pray says that probably won’t happen, citing instances where retaliatory budget cuts have been done in the past. In fact, this approach might backfire, by giving the progressives more ammunition to attack the GOP as anti-education and just plain mean.

A better idea, Pray argues, would be to try catalyzing more intellectual diversity by creating programs that would bring more balance to law schools (and universities in general). For example, the University of San Diego Law School started a Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism a few years ago.

I think that Pray, who will enter UNC Law in the fall, makes a good case.

The London Mosque Attack: Anti-Muslim Hatred, Not ‘Islamophobia’

by Andrew C. McCarthy

British police have now identified the man who plowed a van into a crowd of British Muslims exiting the Finsbury mosque in London at midnight as 47-year-old Darren Osborne. Osborne, a Welsh father of four, killed one person and injured at least ten. Media coverage of the atrocity is refreshingly — if calculatedly — free of the usual temporizing about motive: Osborne was out to mass-murder Muslims. He saw himself as a one-man retaliation squad for attacks on British crowds by radical Muslims using the same car-ramming tactic.

The good news, at least for now, is that he really does appear to have been a lone wolf. As with any of these situations, we should hesitate to draw conclusions about the perpetrator’s background and associates at this early stage of the investigation. What we can say confidently is that the leaders of the mosque appear to have performed heroically: detaining but shielding Osborne from potential retaliatory violence until the police could arrive; tending quickly to the victims.

A couple of observations.

First, this attack is being unanimously condemned, across British society and beyond. The notion that street violence is the answer to street violence is rejected, and there will be no attempt to rationalize the savagery as an excess in a righteous cause. Osborne will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The story tomorrow, just as today, will be his attempt to carry out mass-murder, not anxiety over potential “blowback” attacks against non-Muslims. Would that all terrorist attacks were regarded this way.

Second, too many people are falling into the error of echoing the claim that attack was “motivated by Islamophobia.” Not surprisingly, this allegation was instantly made by Harun Khan, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. The MCB purports to be the face of “moderate Islam” in the U.K., notwithstanding its close ties to such sharia supremacist organizations as Jamaat-i-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood. As we’ve discussed many times, “Islamophobia” is a smear label dreamed up by the Muslim Brotherhood, designed to demagogue any legitimate concern about Islamic doctrine as irrational fear and, of course, as racism.

The man who carried out the mosque attack is not an “Islamophobe.” He is a vile specimen of anti-Muslim hatred. His hatred does not render Islamophobia real. It does not convert into hysteria our worries that a sizable percentage of Muslims — for reasons that are easily knowable if one simply reads scripture and listens to renowned sharia jurists — construes Islam to endorse violence against non-Muslims and to command the imposition of oppressive sharia.

We must be of one voice in condemning Osborne’s attack, and urging that he be swiftly tried and severely punished. But we must not allow righteous outrage over the attack to dupe us into adopting the Muslim Brotherhood’s false “Islamophobia” narrative.

Brace Yourselves, the Special Election Spin Is Coming

by Jim Geraghty

The upcoming special congressional election in Georgia’s sixth district being so close is that it scrambles the traditional preemptive spin that both parties deploy before a special election. 

After a special election, the winning side claims it is a harbinger; the losing side insists it is a meaningless fluke, a confluence of unusual circumstances and low turnout. But because tomorrow’s race is so close, neither party knows which spin to pre-deploy.

Are special elections often omens or signals of a wave election to come? The short answer is, “it depends.” Up until May 19, 2010, one could have looked at the six special U.S. House elections so far that cycle and concluded Democrats were doing fine; Democrats were six for six in mostly friendly districts. Sure, Scott Brown had won the special Senate election in Massachusetts, but Democrats could somewhat plausibly argue that Martha Coakley was a spectacularly tin-eared candidate.

But then on May 22, Republican Charles Djou enjoyed an upset victory in Hawaii’s First District, and Republicans went on to win the three other special House elections in the cycle (two of which were held on Election Day 2010).

If Democrat Jon Ossoff wins tomorrow, does it mean the Republicans will have a lousy 2018?

There are plenty of districts more competitive than this one, so it would be a big red flashing warning sign for Republicans. Karen Handel hasn’t made many errors – admittedly, with Greg Gianforte body-slamming a reporter the day before the election, the bar for “serious error” has been raised — and she’s not a Trump clone. She’s the kind of candidate who could and should win this district easily in a “normal” political environment.

A Handel loss might be a sign that it’s getting more and more difficult for down-ticket Republicans to distinguish themselves from Trump. On Election Day 2016, Trump barely won in this district, while the incumbent Republican (now HHS Secretary) Tom Price won by 23 points. Trump won a lot of places in 2016 that Republicans hadn’t won in the past two cycles, but he also performed worse in some traditionally GOP-leaning areas — mostly white suburbs where a lot of voters have four-year degrees, like Georgia’s sixth district. If Ossoff wins, Democrats will have reason to think they can win in the suburbs in 2018, and 37 House seats – mostly white suburban districts — grew significantly “bluer” from 2012 to 2016. Democrats will come out of Georgia convinced they have a real shot at making Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House again.

On the other hand, this race has seen more than $50 million in spending, a gargantuan sum that will be impossible to replicate on a national scale in the run-up to the 2018 midterms. And while fortunes have been spent on both sides, Democrats have an advantage:

Still, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent nearly $5 million on TV ads boosting his campaign or slamming Handel, while other left-leaning groups chipped in about $1 million more. In all, left-leaning groups and Ossoff combined for about $2 million more in ad spending than Handel and conservative allies during the runoff phase.

If Karen Handel wins, it’s yet another case where Democrats felt they had a fired-up grassroots and as much money as a candidate could ever hope for… and fell short. 

Calling Shenanigans on Jake Tapper’s Superman-Haircut Theory

by Jonah Goldberg

Jake Tapper has a fantastic tweet thread on how Superman cuts his hair.

One of Superman’s tried and true methods, apparently, is that he uses his own laser vision to burn back his hair. I didn’t know this because — confessing my unpopular opinion here — I always thought Superman was kind of a dumb superhero and so I rarely read the comic.

Still I call shenanigans on this.

A quick Google search reveals, much as I expected, that Superman has flown into the sun many times.

There’s even video:

And yet I’ve been looking in vain for a single image of Superman with his hair burned off. Now, you might say that of course he won’t lose his hair in our “yellow” sun, because he derives his powers from it. When he goes into our sun, he gets stronger and so does his hair.

But according to Wikipedia and some more googling, Superman has also been able to withstand the heat inside the Earth’s core which, according to NASA, could range as much as 7,000 to 12,000 degrees. That is hotter than the surface of the sun and presumably hotter than his heat vision. And yet, he emerges with that glorious just-showered look.

Obviously, the truth is that Superman wears a wig. Either that, or Superman is a ridiculous comic-book character. Take your pick.

Verdict First, Trial Later

by Peter Kirsanow

Two items related to last Friday’s meeting of the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights perfectly capture knee-jerk bureaucratic and media hostility toward President Trump.

First, the Commission voted to conduct an efficacy review of civil-rights enforcement by federal agencies. Not only is such review unremarkable, the Commission is required by statute to produce an annual civil-rights-enforcement report. Such report was done in each of the 15 years I’ve served on the Commission. And each year the media yawned, if they bothered to report about them at all.

Friday, however, several media outlets reported the present efficacy review in breathless terms suggesting some wrongdoing, scandal, or nefarious conduct by the Trump administration related to civil-rights enforcement, failing to note that these reviews are not unique or peculiar to this president. Headlines such as ”Civil Rights Commission Launches Probe of Trump Administration” convey a different impression than “Civil Rights Commission Conducts Routine Review.”

Second, after voting to embark on the efficacy review, the Commission’s liberal majority (Kirsanow and Gail Heriot dissenting) issued a statement condemning President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to certain civil-rights agencies and expressing ”grave concerns” that due to ”the President’s proposed budget and statements of Cabinet and some administration officials, that the protection and fulfillment of civil rights of all persons will not be appropriately prioritized.”

Got that? Before calling even one witness, propounding a single interrogatory, reviewing any documents, analyzing an iota of data, or evaluating any outcomes whatsoever, the Commission has condemned the administration’s civil-rights budget and enforcement priorities.

Contrary to the impression one would get from the Commission majority’s statement, the Trump budget proposal modestly increases funding for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. What’s really remarkable isn’t the Trump administration’s proposal, but rather the fact that despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), which significantly reduced the Civil Rights Division’s workload, the Obama administration repeatedly expanded its budget. The Commission majority’s concern that the budget proposal reduces the Division’s staffing by 14 lawyers neglects to mention that 383 lawyers remain.

Similarly, the Commission majority expresses alarm over budget reductions for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. But the proposed budget cut is a mere 1.57 percent. This, after OCR received an unusually large (and in Heriot and Kirsanow’s opinion, unjustified) 7 percent increase in Fiscal Year 2016. OCR has been exceeding its authority for years. An even larger cut to its $108.5 million (yes, you read that right) budget would be better.

Given the above, there can be little doubt that the Commission’s efficacy review will be, to put it mildly, negative. So why spend manpower and taxpayer dollars on a foregone conclusion? Just cut to the chase and slam the administration as hostile and dangerous to civil rights.

The Trump administration dare not trim a few dollars from the budget when the deficit is only a few hundred billion and the national debt is a mere $20,000,000,000,000. Fiscal sanity must not be allowed to prevail over bureaucratic, ideological, or political imperatives.

A Majority of Infrastructure Spending Is Private

by Veronique de Rugy

The New York Times had an article Friday warning us about the president’s plan to “lean heavily on private business in conjuring a trillion dollars’ worth of American infrastructure.” The case the article is trying to make is that time and time again we find examples of governments outsourcing public work to the private sector with terrible outcomes. Here is a tidbit:

Handing profit-making companies responsibility for public works can produce trouble.

In India, politically connected firms have captured contracts on the strength of relationships with officialdom, yielding defective engineering at bloated prices. When Britain handed control to private companies to upgrade London’s subway system more than a decade ago, the result was substandard, budget-busting work, prompting the government to step back in. Canada has suffered a string of excessive costs on public projects funneled through the private sector, like a landmark bridge in Vancouver and hospitals in Ontario.

Well yes, there are major problems with private contractors doing work everywhere in the world for the government. Cost overruns for government projects are the rule rather than the exception. Stories about corruption and waste are very easy to find.

But in the end this article is very anecdotal. The author unfortunately fails to mention the growing literature from the Brookings Institution to the Cato Institute to the OECD that details how vastly superior (while still less than perfect, because it remains government contracting) public-private partnerships are over straight-up government contracting in infrastructure. The primary reason, of course, is that the partnership transfers most of the risk to the private sector, which makes for better incentives and outcomes.

Th author also fails to recognize that the poor outcomes in his article have more to do with inherent features of the government (such as decision-making based on politics — e.g., favoring union workers and connected firms or treating the investment as a job program — rather than good economics) and the bad incentives created by easy government money and poor accountability on the private sector. The government is not known for making good hiring decisions, holding its employees accountable, or firing them when they don’t perform. On the other hand, it is known for being an employer that ties contractors’ hands with useless requirements and endless licensing processes.

In other words, cronyism sucks and federal-government intervention in most markets and industries create less than ideal results when not paired with good institutions, which rarely happens.

In fact, if you were wondering which of the two actors (government or the private sector) is likely the source of the problems described in the article, I have some data for you. I recently wrote about a new paper by Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute — called “Who Owns U.S. Infrastructure?” — which breaks the issue down in great detail. Edwards writes, “In 2015, private infrastructure assets of $40.7 trillion were four times larger than state and local assets of $10.1 trillion, and 27 times larger than federal assets of $1.5 trillion.” Read the whole thing here, it is excellent.

In the U.S., a vast majority of the infrastructure spending is actually done and financed by the private sector. And it’s not that there aren’t some problems there, but there are fewer cases of outrageous cost overruns and waste because the private clients paying for the work wouldn’t put up with it. Also, private investors, when not encourage to invest in a particular place due to government incentives such as tax credits or interest-free loans, tend to be careful about the projects they pick. Besides, when private projects are wasteful and corrupt, they don’t waste taxpayers’ money.

Unfortunately, the author of the New York Times article totally ignores the prevalence of private investment and its success when he seems to imply that the blame for poorly performing private-public partnership projects falls squarely on “profit-making companies.” Absolutely, the marriage between the government and private companies often leads to undesirable outcomes, but in my opinion it is the government incentives that are to blame.

I should also add that I am not a fan of the Trump administration’s plan to extend tax credits to the private sector. During a recent discussion about infrastructure between economists Larry Summers and Ed Glaeser, Summers said the following in making the case for user fees:

“There is no reason why people who use infrastructure more heavily should not pay for it,” Mr. Summers noted. But providing private contractors undertaking infrastructure projects with tax credits, as advocated by Mr. Trump, “would enrich those who are the recipients of the credits, in many cases for projects that would have been undertaken anyway, rather than bring about a necessary infrastructure revival,” Mr. Summers said.

I agree, but that’s always the problem with government intervention. Goverment often hands out a benefit or privilege to companies that may not need it to do something that they would have done anyway. That’s why I would get the federal government out of the infrastructure-financing business entirely.

Finally, the New York Times article sends a very confusing message when it contrasts public-private partnership to the Chinese government’s heavy-handed investment in infrastructure — in order to praise the latter:

By contrast, China has engineered one of the most effective economic transformations in modern history in part through relentless investment in infrastructure, traditionally financed and overseen by an unabashedly powerful state. China illustrates both the benefits and perils of state domination. It has constructed projects strategically, as part of a highly successful effort to catalyze economic growth. Yet the state has wielded authoritarian powers, generating waste and corruption.

Which one is it: strategic and highly successful or wasteful and corrupted?

It’s also odd to use China as an example of “the benefits of the state guiding infrastructure spending,” since the author recognizes that “that process has been aided by features of the Chinese political system that are anathema in the democratic world.”

Also, there is this:

In many areas, China overbuilt infrastructure, helping bring government debt levels to alarming proportions. The construction industry has frequently conspired with state banks and local officials to unleash projects that can be justified only as opportunities to make money change hands, enabling well-connected fingers to extract a cut.

Atif Ansar, the co-author of a paper studying China’s infrastructure investments and a management scholar at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, said he and his colleagues found many roads that “were almost empty” in parts of southwestern China.

“Had China focused on about a third of its most productive investments, it would have reaped lasting economic benefits without the debt overhang,” Dr. Ansar said.

So I guess it hasn’t worked that great after all.

Is Running Down Pedestrians ‘an Eye for an Eye’?

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Is Running Down Pedestrians ‘an Eye for an Eye’?

Our friends over in the United Kingdom are enduring a brutal stretch: an attempt to mow down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, the bombing at the concert in Manchester, the van and stabbing attacks near London Bridge, the inferno that engulfed the Grenfell Tower public housing project… and now, it seems, another act of brutal violence allegedly committed in the name of opposing terrorism that is indistinguishable from the terror it claimed to oppose.

One man has died and 10 others are injured after a van was rammed into worshippers in a terror attack near a London mosque, before the driver is said to have screamed: “I’m going to kill all Muslims”.

The van driver – described by witnesses as a large white man – was detained by members of the public after the incident in Finsbury Park early on Monday that police said had “all the hallmarks of terrorism”.

The white van ploughed into pedestrians who were helping an elderly worshipper who had collapsed in an area that was busy with people who had attended Ramadan night prayers.

The pensioner they were helping later died. Police said he had already been receiving first aid from members of the public and it is not yet known if his death was caused by the attack.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder over the incident in Seven Sisters Road at 12.20am.

Another said the attacker shouted about killing Muslims as he was held by local people. He his alleged to have said: “I did the job… I done my bit”. Witnesses claimed he added: “I’d do it again, I’d do it again.”

Eight people were taken to hospital and two more were treated for minor injuries at the scene. Police said all the casualties were Muslims.

Perhaps this is relevant in our current moment here in the United States. We’ve been living in an era of escalating political and cultural animosity and provocation. Quite a few politically-active Americans are starting to think, “because the other side has done X; at the very least, they deserve X done to them in response and perhaps even an escalation to Y.”

Radical Islamists have committed several attacks using vans and other vehicles and hitting pedestrians; this hate-filled maniac decided to do the same to Muslims coming out of a mosque. In his mind, it didn’t matter that these were old men and women with no known connection to terrorism or extremism of any kind; all that mattered is that they were a group of “those people.”

He became, quite literally, what he thought he was fighting, the kind of murderous lunatic who tries to kill as many people as possible in the name of a cause.

Since 9/11, there have been many heated debates among non-Muslims about just how much separates radical Islamist jihadist and the average Muslim; some intemperate voices contend there really isn’t that much separating the Muslim family that lives down the street and Osama bin Laden. If you really believe that, then was the driver of the van wrong?

Writing over at Popehat, Ken White considers the protesters disrupting the performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park, contending the play is “normalizing political violence against the Right” because in this production, Caesar resembles President Trump.

The “eye for an eye” theory of respecting free speech is particularly pernicious because it represents the worst sort of collectivism, something the principled Right ought reject. Note that people who say “apply the Liberals’ own rules to the Liberals” aren’t disrupting, say, an Antifa rally or the meeting of some Berkeley student group that advocated shutting down a conservative speaker. They’re disrupting other people entirely, on the theory that everyone they deem part of the nebulous collective “Liberal” deserves to be silenced because someone else in that nebulous collective engaged in silencing behavior. The actors and playgoers in New York, under this theory, deserve to be shut down because they stand responsible for the acts of all “liberals” everywhere. (The suggestion that anyone going to see Julius Ceasar must be a liberal does not reflect a very healthy self-image amongst the Right.) This closely resembles the logic of hecklers on college campuses, who argue that nearly any conservative speaker stands responsible for Klansmen and neo-Nazis and overt bigots everywhere. It’s contemptible and can be used to justify doing nearly anything to nearly anyone. It’s the sentiment behind saying American Muslims may fairly be oppressed because Christians are oppressed in Saudi Arabia — even while celebrating our nation having greater freedoms than Saudi Arabia.

Quite a few people like to invoke the slogan “by any means necessary,” because they think it communicates determination; hopefully, they don’t actually mean it. Because running people down in a van is a “means” to stop members of a group you oppose; we reject this option because it’s morally wrong, as well as illegal.

Oceans of Enjoyment

by Jack Fowler

From the WFB vaults are 4 hardcover and 8 paperback editions of Bill’s sailing classic, Atlantic High: A Celebration, documenting his month-long 1980 passage, with a crew of hearty friends, on the Sealestial, departing the Caribbean for Bermuda and then Spain. It is a fascinating adventure that Bill captures beautifully (as does photographer Christopher Little – the book overflows with his exceptional work).

We’re moving, so — Do you want a copy? You can have the hardcover for $20, and the softcover for $15.

Helmut Kohl, RIP

by David Pryce-Jones

Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998, winner of four general elections, Helmut Kohl had political weight and enjoyed throwing it about — it helped that he had the physique of a steamroller. The re-unification of West and East Germany happened during his watch, and it was probably the biggest political surprise of post-war Europe. At the beginning of 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down, Kohl himself was still not anticipating the historic change at hand. Kohl shared the common assumption that Mikhael Gorbachev, general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, would declare a state of emergency and introduce martial law rather than let East Germany go.

Valentin Falin, Gorbachev’s advisor on German affairs and an experienced hard-liner, told me in an interview that he had been advising Gorbachev to stand firm. In July 1990, Kohl flew to the Soviet Union for a period of 52 hours, in the course of which he and Gorbachev went for a walk without advisors. Telephoning afterwards, Falin repeated his view that the Soviet Union could never allow Germany to be re-united within NATO, only to hear Gorbachev say that it was too late, the train had already left the station. Kohl had earned his place in the history books, but Falin wanted to know how exactly he had done it.

Re-unification in Kohl’s view obliged Germany to drop its national character and adopt a new one as a member of the European Union. Otherwise, he said with an unmistakable undertone of threat, Germany might revert to its bad old Nazi ways. Actually, integration between the two Germanys was as difficult and economically unsound as the country’s integration into the EU has been. The victory of the euro over the deutschmark was something of a trauma. Mrs. Thatcher was the most consistent alarmist on the subject of German re-unification, and people around her recall snappy remarks she liked to make about how ponderous and German she found Kohl. French President Francois Mitterand swiftly came to terms with him. The pair were photographed holding hands at a solemn occasion, to which Mrs. Thatcher commented, “How disgusting.” (The satirical magazine Private Eye improved the photograph by adding a brown envelope slipping between the two.)

Born in 1930, Kohl had been enrolled into the Hitler Youth, and he no doubt sincerely hoped that his country’s future would not be an extension of its past. The first German chancellor to address the Knesset in Jerusalem, he took Israeli interests to heart, and invited emigrating Soviet Jews to rebuild the community in Germany. He handpicked Angela Merkel to succeed him as chancellor. When prosecutors discovered that he had been illegally taking large sums of money from anonymous donors for his Christian Democrat party, this cozy relationship became Kaputt, as Kohl expressed it. He was obliged to repay $100,000, and the scandal of it darkened the end of his life.

If the European Union proves a success, then Kohl will be seen as a major statesman. If the EU proves a failure, he will be one among other minor fantasists. The jury is out, and meanwhile RIP.

A Father’s Day Remembrance

by Jonah Goldberg

It’s been twelve years now since my Dad died. Re-posting my eulogy to my Dad remains something of a tradition for me and at least for some readers. I’m grateful to those readers because it helps remind me to reread it at least once every year. Happy Father’s Day to everyone.

A Tragedy and an Acquittal

by Robert VerBruggen

Response To...

The Philando Castile Verdict Was ...

Like my colleague David French, today I’ve been thinking a lot about the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony, Minn., police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, a black man with a concealed-carry permit, in July of last year.

Castile’s death is a tragedy. With the benefit of hindsight it seems clear he had no intention of harming anyone. Had Yanez not pulled the trigger, the world would be a far better place.

But Yanez did not have the benefit of hindsight at the time, and we cannot judge him as if he had.

Thanks to an appalling lack of transparency on the part of St. Anthony, we still don’t have the single best piece of evidence in this case — Yanez’s dash-cam video was played in court but has not yet been fully released to the public. But here is what seems to have happened, according to the prosecution’s own timeline (which David also noted) and other accounts.

Yanez pulled Castile over and asked to see his license and proof of insurance. Castile provided his insurance card but not his license, and calmly informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm.

It seems undisputed that at this point Castile reached for something. The officer claims Castile actually put his hand on the weapon. Castile’s girlfriend claimed he was just getting his license, as he’d been instructed to do — albeit before telling the officer he was carrying. (I think David and I place different weights on this detail. I would argue that when you tell a police officer you have a gun, that interrupts any previous instruction that involves putting your hand in your pocket.) Yanez said “Don’t reach for it” once and “Don’t pull it out” twice before firing.

I think it’s obvious why Yanez would have been alarmed if Castile reached for his pocket and continued to do so when told not to “reach for it” or “pull it out.” As I wrote in this space half a decade ago, police officers cannot be expected to wait until someone actually produces a firearm before taking action. By that point, it’s too late.

But we just don’t know exactly what Castile did. Body-camera footage, instead of dash-cam footage, might have helped.

It’s also possible Castile wasn’t thinking clearly. He had THC in his system and marijuana in his car, though there’s disagreement over his precise level of intoxication during the encounter.

I wish more than anything that Castile had not been killed. But with a standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” I just don’t know that there was any other decision for the jury to reach.