‐ It figures: Homeland Security has the only government employees who don’t spend enough of their workday on Facebook . . .
‐ Senator Cruz is rising in the polls, both nationally and in Iowa, and winning a slew of social-conservative endorsements. Having backed him early in his 2012 race for the Senate, we feel a certain avuncular pride. Sentimentality aside, Cruz’s rise is a welcome departure from past presidential races, in which social and economic conservatives limited their influence by parting ways. And it’s especially gratifying to see someone thoroughly marinated in conservative principles rise to a position to challenge Donald Trump, who has barely dipped his toe in them. Whether or not Cruz ultimately wins the nomination and the presidency, he has already done a service to conservatism in this race.
‐ Nobody doubts that Cruz is well-spoken. But he could have chosen his words more carefully when he said that “some of the more aggressive Washington neocons . . . have consistently misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefiting radical Islamic terrorists.” Cruz is certainly within his rights to think that some conservatives lack sufficient skepticism about military interventions, and that particular interventions advocated by some of them have been misguided. The Republican primaries should host that debate. Yet the use of the term “neocon” does more to obscure than to clarify it. During the George W. Bush administration, it became a swear word, a signpost for conspiracy theories, and — in some quarters — a pejorative version of “Jew.” We do not believe for a moment that Cruz is using the word in any of those senses, or courting those who do. But in this case, better diction would avoid unnecessary animosity among conservatives.
‐ Senator Rubio is saying that he stopped a bailout of insurers who participate in Obamacare’s exchanges. The Obamacare law put taxpayers on the hook if those insurers lost money on the exchanges, and thus let insurers take the risk of pricing their policies low in order to attract more customers. While Rubio has exaggerated his role in putting a temporary end to the subsidies, he took a lead in raising the issue — even when other conservatives were nervous about or opposed to cutting off the insurers. To his further credit, he is not resting on his laurels: Instead he is sounding the alarm that the Obama administration is trying to find a way to revive the subsidies. Ending them definitively would not mean the end of Obamacare, as some overenthusiastic conservatives have suggested, but it would remove one of its props and provide taxpayers with a little protection. The senator has earned the right to do some bragging.
‐ Donald Trump’s call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” after the San Bernardino attack was a typical Trumpalooza. It swamped the news cycle; yet it was not as sweeping as it seemed (his shutdown would last until “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” with jihadist terror — a qualifier big enough to squeeze a casino through). The federal government has plenary power over aliens’ entering the United States, whether as immigrants or as visitors; during the Iranian hostage crisis, President Carter slammed the window on visas for Iranians. What America needs now is not a blanket prohibition on a billion people, but stricter limits on chain migration and more intense ideological grilling of would-be immigrants (do they understand the Constitution and the ethos of this country?), as well as simply better vetting. A sharp, principled politician can raise these issues in the arena. A click hog only muddies them.
‐ When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that all combat jobs will now be available to women, he was defying not just common sense but also considerable research showing that mixed-gender combat units are less effective by every important measure: They are less accurate with their weapons and less able to evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Women soldiers are twice as likely to suffer from injuries, and the strongest women are only as strong as the weakest men. The administration decided that career opportunities for women in the military matter more than the infantry’s ability to close with — and destroy — the enemies of the United States. A political class largely insulated from the realities of ground combat has made a deadly mistake.
‐ Families of our dead in Benghazi say that Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, told them that the mayhem arose from protests over an offensive Internet video. They say, further, that Clinton never mentioned that their loved ones were killed in a coordinated jihadist attack. On television recently, Clinton said that the families were mistaken: that she never told them Benghazi was a matter of a negative movie review gone murderously wrong. Someone’s lying. We bet it’s not the families.
‐ Fully embracing the “rape culture” identity politics in vogue on college campuses, Clinton has said that all women have “the right to be believed” when reporting sexual assault, so it was rather bracing when a woman stood up at a New Hampshire town hall to ask if, ahem, Bill Clinton’s various accusers should be believed. “Would you say that about Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and/or Paula Jones?” the woman asked. “Should we believe them as well?” Mrs. Clinton shot the woman a flinty look of death (the editors of National Review fear for the brave questioner’s welfare) and answered: “Everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence,” to cheers from the Democratic crowd. So Hillary’s position is that men are guilty until proven innocent or, in one case, until the allegations have mostly been forgotten.
‐ In 2012, the president’s reelection team had a story — “Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive!” as Joe Biden declared at the Democratic National Convention. They were determined to stick to it, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn charged in a recent interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, even if that meant ignoring reports about a new threat rising in the Middle East, the “Islamic State.” According to Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Obama administration’s top military-intelligence official, the White House downplayed ISIS-related intelligence that “did not meet a narrative the White House needed . . . that al-Qaeda was on the run, and bin Laden was dead.” During the previous administration, erroneous intelligence and allegations of manipulated intelligence led to commissions, prosecutions, and sustained media attention. General Flynn is lucky he got airtime.
‐ When the Obama White House needs a rabbi for its annual Hanukkah celebration, boy, does it know how to find one. This year, they got a woman named Susan Talve, a board member of T’ruah, which advocates “human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.” In the White House, Talve gave a speech worthy of an Occupy activist. She said she was proud to stand “with my fierce family of clergy and Black Lives Matter activists who took to the streets of Ferguson.” She hailed a group “working to get the guns off of our streets” and another “working to help clean up the fires of toxic nuclear waste that are threatening our lives.” She said, “I stand here to light these lights that say no to the darkness of Islamophobia, and homophobia, and transphobia, and racism, and anti-Semitism” — she was nice to include anti-Semitism, during a Hanukkah celebration. And she called for “justice for Palestinians,” whereupon she intoned “Insha’Allah. Insha’Allah. Insha’Allah. Insha’Allah.” Is four times the charm? Anyway, there will always be rabbis such as Susan Talve available to leaders such as Barack Obama.
‐ As the nation reeled from the deadliest act of Islamic terrorism on American soil since September 11, Attorney General Loretta Lynch homed in on the real threat — declaring her “greatest fear” to be the “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric” in the U.S. and promising that her Justice Department would “take action.” But just how common are crimes against Muslims? According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, there were 1,014 hate-crime incidents motivated by religious bias in 2014. Of those, 154 — 15.2 percent — were anti-Islamic, a slight uptick from 2013’s 135 incidents (13.1 percent). Meanwhile, there were 609 anti-Jewish incidents. Anti-Muslim crimes are thus lower in the aggregate. And while there is (roughly) one anti-Muslim crime for every 29,000 American Muslims, there is one anti-Jewish crime for every 11,000 Jews. There is no outcry about our epidemic of anti-Jewish violence, because there is no such epidemic. Still less is there an epidemic of anti-Muslim violence. We should celebrate that fact instead of denying it. But in the wake of a terrorist attack, the attorney general’s remarks were another indication that this administration would rather address negligible threats than face up to real and deadly ones.
‐ As police searched for the murderers of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., mainstream media outlets noted with alarm that, according to the crowd-sourced “Mass Shooting Tracker” available at shootingtracker.com, San Bernardino’s massacre marked the 355th “mass shooting” in 336 days. The numbers are provocative — and, unsurprisingly, misleading. The “Mass Shooting Tracker” defines a “mass shooting” as any in which “four or more people are shot [i.e., injured or killed],” including the gunmen, thus lumping in gang shootouts and familicides with events such as San Bernardino. No government agency uses such a liberal definition. The FBI does not define “mass shootings,” but by its definition of “mass killings” — three deaths, not including the offender — there have been 67 mass killings this year. According to the Congressional Research Service, “mass public shootings” (mass murders committed with a firearm in a public place and not attributable to an underlying criminal or commonplace circumstance, e.g., armed robbery, romantic entanglement, etc.) have taken place 66 times between 1999 and 2013. Overall, murder rates, including gun-murder rates, have been falling for years. Press coverage of extraordinary events induces panic, though, and partisans with an interest in panic add to it with statistical manipulation.
‐The White House confirms that, before the year is out, President Obama will take executive action to implement stricter gun control. More specifically, Obama will go some way toward closing what he calls the “gun-show loophole” by changing the definition of “gun seller” in two portions of the federal code. Under the new definition, any private seller who sought to transfer a large number of guns would be eligible for prosecution. Because the underlying statutes are extremely tightly written, however, a serious challenge would be all but inevitable. Moreover, the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 requires that any such rule be presented for notice and public comment before it becomes law. Obama will almost certainly fail to get his changes through by the time he leaves office, and, once they are binding, he is likely to watch them be gutted by the courts. In the meantime, irritated Americans will rush out to buy more guns, as per usual.
Up with Interest Rates!
It has been so long since the Fed last enacted an interest-rate hike — back in June 2006 — that it would be the rare reader indeed who remembers what a tightening cycle looks like. Doomsayers, of course, have entered that information void, and the Fed’s gradual move toward normalization of policy seems on cable news to be a bigger threat to the future of America than terrorism. It’s not as bad a threat as income inequality and climate change, but it is not to be trifled with.
Higher interest rates do make credit-financed purchases more expensive, and that does tend to depress both consumption and investment. On the other hand, the economy has to be doing pretty well for the Fed to decide to take away the punch bowl. Tightening, then, should happen on average when times are good. If the wizards at the Fed think times are good, losing the punch bowl is probably not something to lose sleep over.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the evidence. To gain insight into the historical experience of tightening, we gathered economic data for every tightening cycle since 1985: four full cycles in all. That date seemed a good choice, as it starts our analysis just after Paul Volcker’s Olympian interest-rate lifts, which drove rates so high that even today’s most hawkish hawks should contemplate them only when medicated.
How should one define a tightening cycle? Think of monetary policy as a noose. When interest rates are lifted, the noose tightens and tightens. When the noose is as tight as it gets, the economy is still being strangled. Only when the noose is loosened has the tightening ended. So a tightening cycle begins with an interest-rate hike, and ends only when interest rates are reduced.
Using this approach, we see that there were four distinct tightening cycles after 1985: one beginning in October 1986 and ending in May 1989; one beginning in September 1992 and ending in April 1995; one beginning in February 1999 and ending in December 2000; and one beginning in June 2003 and ending in August 2007.
The chart below shows the state and evolution of several key economic variables during a tightening cycle. On average, tightening began in the past with the unemployment rate at 6.3 percent. Today’s unemployment rate is at 5.0 percent, so this Fed has started much later in a recovery than has been the case in the past. Tightening has typically occurred quite gradually, with the typical tightening cycle lifting the federal funds rate by 3.1 percentage points over 34.5 months. While short-term interest rates have moved significantly, long-term interest rates barely budge, with the ten-year Treasury rate inching up only 0.9 percentage points. Economic momentum has, historically, clearly continued to carry into past tightening cycles. The unemployment rate declined 1.4 percentage points on average. A similar experience today would take the unemployment rate all the way down to 3.6 percent. Believe it or not, even investors generally do well when the Fed tightens. Once equity markets get over the shock, they recover quickly, with stock prices increasing at an annualized rate of 8.4 percentage points on average.
If the Fed is confident enough to tighten, everyone else is confident enough to go about their business, driving growth and prosperity onwards and upwards. So if you find the conversation wandering toward Fed policy at a cocktail party this holiday season, point to the data and suggest that an interest-rate hike is like a giant Christmas present from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to the American people.
‐ In December, Wendy Davis apologized profusely for having taken a morally reprehensible policy position during her 2014 run for the governorship of Texas. Her election-season advocacy, Davis told Politico, still “haunts” her to this day. She is, she explained, feeling extremely “guilty.” She has, she confessed, no choice going forward but to live with the “consequences” for what is now a sullied “conscience.” She was not talking about her famous advocacy on behalf of late-term abortion. Instead she regretted her public (though, she now admits, insincere) support for a bipartisan bill to make Texas the 45th state in the union to permit the open carry of handguns. After all, someone could get hurt.
‐ In December, the New York Times ran an editorial on its front page for the first time in 95 years. The editors’ pressing topic: the need to ban so-called “assault weapons” and, thereby, put an end to the “gun epidemic” in the United States. That last phrase was revealing: Guns can indeed be found in increasing proliferation, even if gun violence has been falling. “Assault weapons” barely register in the diminishing annual numbers. The Times nonetheless argues not just for a ban on their sale but for the confiscation of the existing stock. Americans are likely to give this advice the same hearing they gave to the Times’s last front-page editorial: the one abhorring Warren Harding a few months before his record-setting landslide.
‐ Since ISIS attacked Paris in November, the New York Daily News has been focused like a laser on the real enemies of the Western way of life: law-abiding gun owners. In the space of just three weeks, the paper has run no fewer than four covers attacking the right to keep and bear arms and blaming it for all the world’s ills. In two of the offerings, the head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, was depicted as a jihadi. In another, advocates of the Second Amendment were held responsible for the actions of international terrorists. For good measure, one of the covers also took aim at the virtue of prayer. The god of liberalism is both an angry and a jealous one.
‐ The Pew Research Center generated a round of headlines declaring the death of the middle class. The reality uncovered by the group’s report is less dramatic. Fewer people make between 67 and 200 percent of the median income: Alter those parameters, and what disappears is not the middle class but this trend. More important, people’s absolute income should matter more to us than their relative standing, and the Pew measure could find a shrinking middle class even if every individual member of the middle class was doing better. Americans have real economic problems, but an obsession with equality cannot illuminate them.
‐ Robert Dear, accused killer of three at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, told a courtroom, “I am a warrior for the babies.” No, you are not. You are a peer of their killers. Reason and justice condemn you. The great pro-life faiths condemn you. The pro-life movement, which has labored for four decades to break the abortion idol, condemns you. You are a madman, a disgrace to the cause you claim to uphold. May God have pity on you; here below, only a saint could.
‐ The party of science is having a fit over Justice Antonin Scalia’s reference to a well-documented body of scholarly research showing that black and Hispanic students admitted to highly selective schools that loosen their academic standards out of concern for racial diversity often do poorly, and that many of them would be better off attending slightly less competitive schools. For this, Senator Harry Reid (D., Nev.) denounced the justice as, in effect, a black-robed justice in a white hood. Professor Jesse Goldberg of Cornell answered with an economical “F*** you, Scalia.” But John McWhorter of Columbia was an unusual voice of professorial reason. “I don’t usually agree with Justice Scalia’s perspectives,” he wrote, “but we are doing him wrong on this one.” As McWhorter notes, the “mismatch” between students’ preparedness and institutional expectations often causes minority students to cluster at the bottom, especially in sciences and law. “Black and Latino students are often less prepared for the pace of teaching at tippy-top schools because of the societal factors that dismay us all,” he writes. “The question is: Do we respond to this by nonetheless placing students in schools teaching beyond what they are prepared? The data suggest this harms more than it helps, and that is not a racist observation in the least.” But the purpose of shouting “Racist!” isn’t to identify racists; the purpose is to shout “Racist!”
‐ Professor Robert Reich, a figure of some importance in the Clinton administration and a leading light of the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party, has in the past demanded that U.S. companies be made to sign a “Corporate Pledge of Allegiance,” and is a conspiracy theorist who believes that nefarious foreigners are using U.S. corporations as a cover to turn American policy against our interests. A recent column is titled “What to Do about Disloyal Corporations.” The day before yesterday, Democrats maintained that questioning a rival’s patriotism was the height of villainy, but Reich et al. have become quite fond of doing so, with Barack Obama denouncing Republicans as “unpatriotic” and his surrogates charging Mitt Romney with “economic treason,” while Reich himself refers to firms that relocate out of high-tax jurisdictions as “deserters.” (Note the rhetorical imposition of martial law.) Reich’s answer to corporate “disloyalty” — by which he means making business decisions that do not comport with his political preferences — is stripping firms of their legal rights. In the broader context of a Democratic party that recently voted to repeal the First Amendment and that is currently attempting to prosecute Americans as criminals for holding the wrong views on global warming, this is worrisome.
‐ The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in mid December, promises to return much control of education policy to states and school districts. Under ESSA, the federal government will maintain performance standards, but offer more ways for schools to meet them than the current regimen of tests; it will eliminate the rigid “adequate yearly progress” requirement, which has haunted teachers and administrators, and the “highly qualified teacher” provision, which keeps competent teachers out of the classroom for a lack of proper licensing; and it will allow states and school districts, instead of Washington, to determine the best way to bring failing schools up to snuff. The law will also put other constraints on the federal government, among them checks on the secretary of education’s liberal regulatory powers, used and abused to educators’ and administrators’ despair under current secretary Arne Duncan. Our ideal policy would go farther than this law, but ESSA is a strong step in the right direction.
‐ To the campus-rape alarmists, due process and free speech make colleges unsafe for women. At least that’s the message from the makers of the acclaimed documentary The Hunting Ground, which repeats standard (and discredited) claims of a rape epidemic on American campuses. After 19 Harvard Law School professors wrote a letter noting its “unfair” portrayal of a Harvard student, the filmmakers accused them of creating a “hostile climate” for women at the university. That wasn’t a lightly chosen phrase: Under prevailing interpretations of federal law, creating a “hostile climate” is something over which a college or university can lose its federal funding. The filmmakers were, in other words, encouraging Harvard to take disciplinary action against the professors for criticizing their documentary. Nothing the professors said about the documentary’s fairness and commitment to due process is remotely as damning as this response.
‐ Dean Skelos (R.), former majority leader of the New York state senate, and his son Adam were convicted of conspiracy, extortion, and soliciting bribes: Companies eager to do business with the state gave Adam no-show jobs after being wheedled and bullied by Dean. The verdict comes a fortnight after Sheldon Silver (D.), former speaker of the New York assembly, was convicted of profiting from an asbestos referral racket (a friendly doctor bucked cases to Silver’s law firm, which gave him millions of dollars in fees). New York has perfected big-government bipartisanship: All voters (in theory) get benefits, a few get favors, and most politicians get rewarded. The closest thing to a two-party system in such a place is a zealous prosecutor (in this case, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara), but it’s slow work throwing the rascals out one at a time.
‐ In July 2010, Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim Qosi — also known as Sheikh Khubayb al-Sudani — pleaded guilty to charges, brought by a military tribunal, of conspiracy and material support for terrorism. Two years later, he was released. Unsurprisingly, two years after that he joined al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which recently released a new video featuring Qosi among its “Guardians of Sharia.” Qosi makes 196 former detainees either confirmed (117) or suspected (79) of returning to the battlefield after their release — a recidivism rate of about 30 percent. Still, the president hopes to empty out the prison before his time in office ends. Perhaps the 107 remaining detainees will embrace a quieter retirement.
‐ Venezuelans, having noticed that the cupboard is bare, have turned against Chavismo, delivering the national assembly to the opposition in the recent elections. Venezuela, which has pursued the sort of economic policies that Bernie Sanders dreams of, have faced shortages of everything from food staples to toilet paper. The opposition has promised a degree of economic liberalization and the release of political prisoners, opposition figure Leopoldo López prominent among them. Between the opposition and its aims stands President Nicolás Maduro, a protégé of Hugo Chávez who has done much to immiserate his people. Maduro already is working to stop reform: He has declared that he simply will refuse to comply with any law that releases political prisoners and is seeking a “labor stabilization” law that would forbid firms from firing any employees so long as Maduro is president. (What’s the Spanish for “I have a pen and a phone,” anyway?) Venezuela once was the world’s fourth-wealthiest country, and it enjoys vast natural resources, particularly oil and gas. Its penury is an entirely man-made disaster. The United States should do what it can for Venezuela’s reformers, but we should also remember how popular Chávez and his ideas were among our own Democrats, such as Chaka Fattah and Jimmy Carter, and among so-called liberals such as Sean Penn, Michael Moore, and Oliver Stone. Chávez and Maduro built the world they dream of, and it is a hungry prison camp.
‐ Journalists had a ready-made line: Would the Festival of Lights take place in the City of Light? French authorities asked the Jews of Paris to curtail their Hanukkah activities. The number of public menorah lightings was greatly reduced. But the big one took place: at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The police were out in force. Paris has been the scene of murderous Islamist attacks. The Times of Israel quoted a Parisian woman named Coen who said, “I’m not afraid. This is proof that the Jewish people are alive. This year, Hanukkah is more significant, we have to give more light.” Arnold Schwarzenegger happened to be in town for the global climate talks. According to the Times, “he gamely danced to the simcha music with a flock of Lubavitch rabbis at the foot of the stage.” An Austrian-born American movie star and politician, the son of a Nazi, joining Jews in Paris for Hanukkah: not bad.
‐ Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has announced that he intends to transfer 99 percent of his shares in the company to a new enterprise dedicated to philanthropy. At current share prices, that’s a donation of about $45 billion; his newborn daughter, virtually dispossessed, would be left with a mere $450 million to see her through. There are the usual (inevitable, really) complaints that Zuckerberg isn’t doing enough, or that he is pursuing some furtively self-interested agenda. Most people will never in their lives give away $4,500 at a go, much less $45 billion. Zuckerberg is going about this in an unusual way, choosing to form an LLC rather than a tax-exempt charitable foundation, which will deprive him of immediate tax benefits (the Kennedy-family model of charity) but will give him more flexibility in how the money is used. His agenda is interesting and encouraging for a couple of reasons: Putting equity to work on behalf of those in need is preferable to simply writing large checks (it is easier to do good with wealth than with mere cash flows), and he is pursuing this course at the age of 31 rather than as a retirement hobby. It is the business of nitpickers to pick nits; let Zuckerberg’s critics weigh in after they’ve donated their first dozen billions.
‐ When the principal of a Brooklyn elementary school banned Santa Claus, the word “Christmas,” and depictions of angels or stars (plus Thanksgiving and the Pledge of Allegiance for good measure), annoyed parents made her back down. In Indiana, after a judge prohibited a traditional Nativity-scene tableau enacted by students, the school presented the same tableau with mannequins instead. And when the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion — last heard from when it directed UT students to use “xyr” and “ze” instead of English pronouns — issued detailed instructions on how to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise” (“Refreshment selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture”), the rules were quickly replaced with a few anodyne paragraphs encouraging sensitivity and understanding. As conservatives say every Yuletide: A Christmas party is nowhere near being an establishment of religion; using the word “Christmas” no more amounts to praising Christ (or Mass) than saying “Thursday” implies worship of Thor; and anti-religious activists should know that if you treat Christmas like the Ebola virus, as something you must avoid every last hint of contact with, then you’re the one who is clinging to outdated superstitions.
‐ The career of Frank Sinatra, who would have been 100 years old this month, paralleled that of the United States at mid-century: a rapid rise during World War II, some post-war stumbles, smooth sailing during the Eisenhower years, and unquestioned supremacy under Kennedy, before being blindsided by the 1960s. In 1969, by which point he seemed as outdated as an i like ike button, Sinatra’s cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” typified the man: He treats the song as a joke, changing and inventing lyrics at will to make clear his disdain for rock ’n’ roll, yet his performance is flawless (the same album contains his all-time best-seller, “My Way,” a song he reportedly disliked for its musical and lyrical bombast). A childhood during Prohibition and the Depression left Sinatra with an unfortunate attraction to gangsters, and he was famously quarrelsome and wrathful; yet he was a longtime supporter of civil rights for African Americans (and of Israel), and a JFK Democrat who left the party when it veered left, supporting Nixon and then Reagan. When it comes to music, there is no need for balancing; he was quite simply the best American pop singer ever.
After San Bernardino
ISIS came to the Inland Empire when Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, murdered 14 of Farook’s co-workers at a Health Department holiday luncheon in San Bernardino and injured 22 others. Farook, a school-kitchen inspector, was an American-born child of Pakistani immigrants, Malik a Pakistani he had met in Saudi Arabia. They were shot by police on a street near their home, to which they had fled — evidently to retrieve a stash of ammunition and pipe bombs.
After the shock of slaughter came the lesser, but still disturbing, shock of reactions. Twitter and other media filled with anti-gun crusaders, mocking politicians who offered prayers for the victims (“god isn’t fixing this,” brayed the New York Daily News). Since the rifles that Farook and Malik used had been legally bought in one of the strictest anti-gun states in the nation, a better moral might be, put not thy trust in princes. The News sank lower yet when columnist Linda Stasi vilified Nicholas Thalasinos, one of the murdered, as a “hate-filled bigot.” His offense: being a Messianic Jew who condemned Islamic terror. Well, he got his comeuppance.
President Obama offered his own prayers, which shut up the village atheists, and addressed the nation four days later. He placed the attack in the context of an evolving “terrorist threat,” linking it with the Fort Hood massacre in 2009, the Boston Marathon bombing, and June’s Chattanooga shootings. This was forthright and welcome. He went on, however, to say that “the strategy we are using now” will lead to “victory.” What strategy? He specified: air strikes; special forces’ aiding local anti-ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq; stricter vetting of visas; cooperation with allies.
All fine, but not nearly enough. On the ground, the Kurds do the best they can, and anti-ISIS Sunni tribes have begun to stir again in Iraq. But they need the support of U.S. boots on the ground. Vetting of visitors and immigrants needs a complete overhaul. In the shooting’s aftermath we learned of a U.S. government policy that forbade investigators from inspecting the social media of would-be immigrants. “They felt looking at public postings was an invasion of [an applicant’s] privacy,” a former DHS official told ABC News. What would it take to invade our officials’ stupidity? The gospel of PC, embraced at the top, has seeped out to society as a whole. A man working in Farook’s neighborhood noted what he thought was suspicious activity — strange Middle Eastern men coming and going to the apartment — but did not report it because, as he told CBS, “he did not wish to racially profile.” See something, say nothing.
ISIS’s homeland churns out the pornography of violence, beheadings as propaganda theater. Money and inspiration meanwhile flow here to the disaffected, and possibly to sleeper cells. We must put our own house in order, and bring the fight to ISIS in its lair. To do that we need a commander-in-chief who is not running out the clock.
The Paris Deal: Just Say No
The world is momentarily united in cheering the new climate-change accord — “Inspired! Historical! Game-Changing!” — reached in Paris.
Republicans should kill it.
The agreement, which is to be regarded as a treaty when the Obama administration or its successors and allies seek to enforce it legally, but which is to be understood as not a treaty on the question of whether it must be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent before ratification, fails on key criteria: First, it imposes very high costs in return for promised benefits that would be, according to the climate activists’ own models, negligible; second, it does not serve the national interests of the United States, in that it would place heavy burdens on our economy while placing none on those of India and China, two of the world’s three largest emitters of greenhouse gases; third, it is being pressed on the United States by the Obama administration in an extralegal and unconstitutional process.
On the matter of cost-benefit analysis — which is to say, the basic question of the efficacy of what is being proposed — the evidence is, for a change, fairly straightforward. Current analysis by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (not exactly a nest of fossil-fuel conservatism) suggests that the emissions cuts being agreed to in Paris would reduce that estimated warming by as little as 0.0°C or by as much as 0.2°C. At a real cost of some hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy alone, one would like to get in front of the decimal point. That proposed improvement is scanty in part because of the agreement’s second defect: It burdens mainly the United States and other Western countries, while countries such as China and India (far larger emitters, when one makes the relevant comparison, which is economic output per ton of emissions) give up little or nothing. China has committed to peaking its emissions precisely when U.S. government estimates believed they would peak anyway. India’s commitment represents a slowing of its recent efficiency improvements and falls squarely in the middle of a business-as-usual forecast, even as the country promises to double its coal consumption in the next several years.
If the Obama administration wants to legally bind the United States to such a deal, then it must submit the Paris agreement to the Senate as a treaty. If it refuses to do this, then Congress should make it clear that the agreement is not to be considered legally binding, and that federal regulations may not be promulgated under it.
There are things that can and should be done as prudential measures against the possibility of disruptive global warming. Hobbling the U.S. economy for a rounding error’s worth of improvement in the forecasts isn’t one of them.