Krauthammer’s Take: Kushner’s Statement ‘Rings True,’ Sessions a ‘Dangerously Wounded Man Walking’

by NR Staff

Jared Kushner’s message to Senate investigators on his dealings with Russia will keep him in the clear for now, Charles Krauthammer argued today. However, Trump’s “beleagured” Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, finds himself in hot water.

Krauthammer breaks down the palace intrigue shaking up the White House today:

I thought it was a very effective statement. Look, his defense essentially is that I was a naive, inexperienced, careless at times, clueless at times, rookie in all of this. And to me, it rings true. It’s not the greatest of defenses. It’s not exactly the one you want to go to, but you have to, in this case. And I think he comes out as a guy who’s being fairly open about what he did. There are a few phrases there that are very lawyerly like, “I never relied on Russian funds in my business.” Rely is an interesting word, implying that there might have been loans or other stuff we don’t know about. But overall, I thought it was a good statement, and it looked like he’s clean. As for Sessions, I said on Friday that he’s a wounded man walking. I would revise that after that Tweet today from Trump. I think he’s an extremely, dangerously wounded man walking, and I think it’s now only a matter of time. The only reason possibly for Trump to refer to the AG the way he did is that he wants his resignation, and it seems to me that he’ll get it very soon.

Exploiting Space: To Greedily Go (and That’s a Good Thing)

by Andrew Stuttaford

I posted something here yesterday about efforts to regulate commercial exploitation of the moon – and beyond, amongst other matters citing the activities of For All Moonkind, a group that is reportedly pushing the United Nations to protect the six Apollo landing sites.

Protecting those sites struck me as a worthwhile objective, but I was worried that extending (or reinforcing) terrestrial jurisdiction beyond our planet and its immediate vicinity could discourage the adventurers, scientists, inventors and investors needed to proceed further with the commercial exploitation of, well, space.  So far as that is concerned, the basic principle that should apply, I argued, is ‘finders, keepers’

The folks at For All Moonkind quickly tweeted to say that they were “not looking to tie the hands of entrepreneurs” They were “just trying to save some history”.

Fair enough.

I explained that I was “all for preserving the history. Just to want to make sure the legal regime that does so only does that”.

In that context, this report from Digital Trends makes encouraging reading.

Here’s an extract:

It used to be that laying claim to space rocks was tricky business, but thanks to some forward-thinking legislation enacted in recent years, many of the legal hurdles standing in the way of these space mining operations have been ironed out.

Up until recently, there weren’t many ratified international laws or treaties regarding resources found outside of our planet. In 1967, we got the Outer Space Treaty, which establishes broad parameters about the use of space for peaceful purposes, and also specifically states that no country can own anything outside of Earth. Obviously, this agreement isn’t exactly ideal for anybody looking to set up a moon mining operation.

But the game changed two years ago. In 2015, the Obama administration pushed forward the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This legislation essentially works around the semantics of existing treaties, and enables individuals to recover resources in space without outright claiming sovereignty over the lunar land that the resources were taken from.

Credit where credit’s due: That was a good move.

“Think of these planets as international waters,” says [Naveen] Jain [the co-founder and chairman of Moon Express, “arguably the world’s foremost lunar mining company”].  “Nobody gets to own the underlying things, but they can use the private resources,” “They [can] own the fish and the oil … we as a private company are flying under the U.S. flag, in some sense then, we are a ship in international waters.”

With the legal framework in place to determine who owns the rights to any resources recovered on the moon and beyond, the doors of opportunity have been flung wide open. There’s a massive hoard of loot floating over our heads, and whoever gets there first basically has carte blanche to mine it — we just have to make the trip.

And the moment when this comes to pass might be sooner than we expect:

Believe it or not, there are already a handful of private space companies racing each other toward the launchpad. In late 2016, Moon Express…received approval to launch a moon mission. This marks the first time the government has approved a private mission beyond Earth orbit.

“We go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is profitable,” jokes…Jain, co-founder and chairman of Moon Express, invoking John F. Kennedy’s famous Rice University moon speech.

Finders, Keepers: That is the way to go.

Kushner’s Russia Statement Is Plausible — But Is It Enough to Convince Congress?

by Austin Yack

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, released written remarks on Monday before a closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The takeaway: Kushner maintains that he never colluded with Russian officials to help his father-in-law win the presidency.

Kushner confessed that he did attend the highly politicized meeting with Donald Trump Jr., a Russian attorney, and other officials, but left the meeting after determining that his “time was not well-spent at this meeting.” “In looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work,” Kushner recalled, “I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.’”

He also vehemently denied the allegation that there was contact between him and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. His alibi? After Trump won the election, Kushner asked Kislyak who in the Russian government he ought to reach out to (i.e., someone who has direct contact with Russian president Vladimir Putin). “The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day,” Kushner said, “should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.” Ultimately, Kushner denied that he or anyone in the meeting with Kislyak suggested creating a secret back channel between the Trump team and the Russian government.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, is Kushner’s reasoning for failing to disclose Russian meetings in his security-clearance filing. His assistant, Kushner said, was under the impression that the entire form was completed; he had told the assistant that a particular section of the form had been finalized, which caused the confusion. “Because of this miscommunication,” Kushner said, “my assistant submitted the draft on January 18, 2017.” And contrary to media reports, the meetings with Russian officials were not the only meetings mistakenly withheld: “In the accidental early submission of the form, all foreign contacts were omitted.”

It remains to be seen whether members of the Senate Intelligence Committee will buy this narrative.

Re: The Left’s Backward-Looking Racial Narrative

by Roger Clegg

Response To...

The Left's Backward-Looking Racial Narrative

I have just finished reading part I of Jason Riley’s new book False Black Power?, which NRO is excerpting today, and I want to recommend it right away as highly as I can (full disclosure: Mr. Riley recently joined my organization’s board of directors). I’ll write more when I finish part II, in which the always-interesting John McWhorter and Glenn Loury offer their critiques and Mr. Riley responds.

It’s a short book (only 122 pages), and I’m savoring every paragraph. The thesis, in brief:

The major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination and hasn’t been for decades. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the antisocial, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.

Churchill, Hitler, and Islam

by Daniel Pipes

Winston Churchill disparaged the impact of Islam on Muslims in his 1899 book, The River War:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.”

Adolf Hitler admired Islam, as quoted by Albert Speer in his 1969 book, Inside the Third Reich:

You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?

Comments:

(1) The arch-enemies of World War II agreed in their perception of Islam as a martial faith — except that Churchill rued its “fanatical frenzy” and Hitler admired its representing the opposite of “meekness and flabbiness.”

(2) These positions echo in the West today. Paul Weston, a right-wing candidate for the European Parliament, took a stand by reading publicly from of The River War, leading to his arrest. Fascists still admire Islam’s perceived ferocity and want to ally with it: “I offer my most sincere best-wishes to those who wage holy Jihad against the infrastructure of the decadent, weak and Judaic-influenced societal infrastructure of the West,” wrote August Kreis, an Aryan Nations leader, sounding like Hitler.

(3) Today’s Left sees Muslims not as bellicose but as victims exploited by capitalism, tormented by Zionism, and victimized by “Islamophobia.” This marks a new understanding, one with no World War II precedent.

(4) How Westerners see Islam and Muslims can say more about them than about Islam or Muslims.

What’s the Matter with Democrats?

by Jonah Goldberg

The Democrats have unveiled their new slogan: a “Better Deal.”

We are in the minority in both houses of Congress; we cannot promise anyone that this Congress will begin passing our priorities tomorrow. But we have to start raising our voices to present our vision for the country’s future. We will seek the support of any Republicans willing to work with us, but more important, we must start rallying the American people to support our ideas.

In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there. We also failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake. This is the start of a new vision for the party, one strongly supported by House and Senate Democrats.

Our better deal is not about expanding the government, or moving our party in one direction or another along the political spectrum. Nor is it about tearing down government agencies that work, that effectively protect consumers and promote the health and well-being of the country. It’s about reorienting government to work on behalf of people and families.

When it’s time to columnize on it, I’ll look at the specific policies they’re pushing more closely. But two thoughts immediately come to mind. First, it is just amazing how the New Deal remains an organizing principle and cargo cult for Democrats almost a century later. I mean, the word “Deal” is hardly subtle.

Second, focusing on economics alone may make sense for internal party reasons and for external marketing ones. After all, you can always get Democrats to agree on more government activism and intervention. What you can’t do is get them to agree on cultural issues. And that’s a big problem for them. The Democrats have a brand problem. Schumer says that they’re going to focus on the concerns of working families. No doubt many of those concerns are economic. But as anyone who has kids can tell you, these are not the only concerns parents bring to politics. The Thomas Frank school says that voters who care about social issues don’t understand their own interests. This has always struck me as nonsense. The voters’ real interests are defined by what they think is important. So that includes everything from race and abortion to guns and gay rights to free speech.

The Democratic party’s base literally and figuratively — coastal elites, liberal Millennials, various ethnic and sexual minorities, environmentalists, feminists, etc. — is full of people who define politics about more than kitchen table economics. You can claim that, say, abortion is solely an economic issue. You can even believe it. But you can’t argue that the Handmaid’s Tale cosplay crowd sees it that way.

Chuck Schumer probably has the discipline to stay on message, but I sincerely doubt the rest of the party does. Bill Clinton understood that he could only focus on his “Putting People First” platform after he reassured voters that he wasn’t going to kowtow to the party’s left flank. That’s why he threw Sister Souljah under the bus, campaigned on welfare reform, and took time off from the campaign trail to oversee the execution of a mentally retarded man.

Politics have changed a lot since then and so have the demographics of the country and the Democratic party. But it’s hard to think of the Democratic politician out there who has either the courage or the cynicism to similarly stand up to the left-wing base and the media outlets that run interference for them. Virtue signaling is too central to both parties these days to think that you can skate by just talking about college tuition and apprenticeships for very long.

Smuggling Deaths: What Is to Blame?

by Mark Krikorian

In the wake of the death of 10 illegal aliens Sunday in a truck trailer in San Antonio, enforcement opponents were quick to assign blame. The League of United Latin American Citizens e-mailed a statement within hours calling for amnesty as the way to avoid such tragedies: “It also underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive solution to our country’s broken immigration system.” Rep. Joaquin Castro said “This represents a symptom of a broken immigration system that Congress, of which I am a part, has had the chance to fix but has not.” Similarly, ThinkProgress wrote that “Once Trump’s border wall is built, more tragic deaths like this could happen.”

And they’re right.

Foreigners sometimes take foolish risks to sneak into the United States precisely because we have limits on immigration which we try to enforce. But there are no limits we could impose, no rules regarding immigration that would not exclude scores of millions from coming here who would otherwise want to.

So while LULAC and Rep. Castro are correct in their diagnosis, their proposed solution is inadequate. The most recent attempt at “comprehensive immigration reform,” the Gang of Eight bill, for instance, would only have doubled legal immigration to two million a year, and almost doubled guestworker visas. Does anyone think that would satisfy demand for residence in the U.S.? If anything, like all previous increases in immigration, it would have created new cross-border networks that would have stimulated increased desire to move here, and thus increased smuggling and increased likelihood of deaths such as those we saw yesterday.

There is only one way to truly avoid such tragedies – abolish immigration regulation altogether. No numerical caps, no welfare bans, no education requirements, no health checks. I await the Cato Institute white paper making the case for that.

Meanwhile, here in the real world, the culprit is not immigration limits as such, but nominal immigration limits which aren’t adequately enforced. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made this point:

Sanctuary cities entice people to believe they can come to America and Texas and live outside the law. Sanctuary cities also enable human smugglers and cartels. Today, these people paid a terrible price and demonstrate why we need a secure border and legal immigration reform so we can control who enters our country.

Such enticement is caused by more than just renegade sanctuary Democrats nullifying Federal law. Without E-Verify and worksite enforcement, we send the message that hiring illegal aliens is okay. Without prosecution of immigration-related Social Security fraud and tax fraud we send the message that lying and cheating is okay. Without tracking the departure of temporary visitors, and following up on those who overstay, we send the message that violating the terms of admission is okay.

Foreigners hear that message loud and clear, which is why they’re so willing to pay criminals to smuggle them here.

At least the kooky libertarians who oppose any limits on immigration are being honest. The more conventional supporters of “comprehensive immigration reform” claim to support immigration limits but oppose meaningful enforcement of those limits.

Listless and desultory enforcement of immigration laws is a prescription for more tragedies. Abolish all immigration laws, or start enforcing them for real.

The Indefensible, Ineffective Mortgage Deduction

by Robert VerBruggen

The mortgage-interest deduction is just one of those things: Just about everyone who’s studied it thinks it’s a horrible policy, but it’s probably not going anywhere because so many upper-middle-class families benefit from it.

Why is it a bad policy? Like all deductions, it’s more valuable to people in higher tax brackets. It rewards people for buying bigger homes, not just becoming homeowners. Because it applies to mortgage interest, which represents risk, it subsidizes risky loans more than sound ones. And unsurprisingly, given all the foregoing, the benefits overwhelmingly go to wealthier taxpayers.

Also, according to a new study (coauthored by Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber), it might not boost the rate of homeownership at all.

The study is a close look at a reform that Denmark enacted three decades ago, slashing the deduction for wealthy taxpayers but reducing it much less or not at all for others. In effect, this raised interest rates by 80 percent for the rich, 30 percent for the middle class, and not at all for those with lower incomes. The abrupt change in policy — applied to some taxpayers in Denmark but not others — allows the researchers to see how home-buying decisions changed in response.

The results? The effect on homeownership was about zero – an estimate that holds up through several different approaches to calculating it and is rather precise because the authors have an enormous data set. There is, however, “a clear effect of tax subsidies on the size and value of homes,” as well as on households’ interest expenses.

One limit here stems from the fact that the policy change focused on the wealthy and to a lesser extent the middle class. It’s possible that these folks will buy homes no matter what, while those lower on the income spectrum might buy or not depending on the subsidies available. It would be quite odd if subsidies couldn’t have any effect on homebuying no matter what, after all.

But given how skewed toward the wealthy America’s own deduction is, this suggests we’re throwing away a lot of money helping rich people buy bigger houses.

 

The High Cost of Charlie Gard Coercion

by Wesley J. Smith

The American specialist finally allowed by the courts–after four months of cruel obstinacy–to examine Charlie Gard apparently concluded that the baby is now beyond his help. 

As a result, Chris and Connie, Charlie’s loving parents, have decided to call off their legal efforts to force the hospital maintain their son’s life support. Charlie will soon die.

None of the added hell Chris and Connie experienced over the last several months was necessary or warranted. As their difficult decision today indicates, they would have made the proper call if allowed to run the options string to its conclusion–as should gave been their right.

Now, the “what if” question will always hang over this case. 

Charlie’s condition was degenerating. He is in worse shape now than he was four months ago. Had the hospital allowed the US specialist to examine Charlie when the parents first wanted, he might have then been eligible for the experimental medical Hail Mary pass they hoped to attain for him.

If not, at least Chris and Connie would have had the cold comfort of knowing they and medicine had done everything possible to save their sick little boy.

The hard obstinacy of doctors and courts refusing to allow parents to try experimental care for their baby has both sown distrust and raised fears that utilitarian bioethics will readily abandon the sickest and most vulnerable among us on the altar of “quality of life” and/or cost containment. That is not paranoia. 

As I have written, the question of stopping Charlie’s life support was a value judgment, not a medical determination. The doctors didn’t insist on stopping treatment because it was not working, but because it was. Charlie was being kept alive as desired by his parents when the doctors believed it was better for the baby to die sooner rather than later.

UK law, it is true, gives ultimate decisional power in this kind of disputes to doctors. That is an unfortunate consequence of a centrally controlled healthcare system.

But make no mistake: We in the US face a similar push to grant doctors and/or hospital bioethics committees the ultimate power to refuse wanted life-sustaining care.

We need not go down that road. Almost all families do the necessary thing in dire medical circumstances. Coercion leads to greater resistance and the suspicion that a patient is being abandoned.

That doesn’t benefit anyone. The watchword in such disputes should be “mediate,” not “dictate.”  

Game of Thrones Episode 2 — Dany’s Blunder

by David French

Beware, Spoilers! Stop reading if you’re not caught up.

How does a queen who commands perhaps the most potent army that Westeros has ever seen — an army greater and more powerful than Aegon the Conqueror’s — squander her advantages and give her enemies hope? By committing the classic military blunder of splitting a superior force. Rather than hitting King’s Landing with a mighty, dragon-led hammer blow, she decides to win the war without using the main force of her army. She sends part of her fleet to the south and part of her army to the west — all part of a complex effort to conquer her kingdom without, in her words, becoming the “queen of the ashes.”

It’s a noble thought, and it’s a sign that in the battle for Dany’s soul that good still prevails. She still has a war to win, however, and she can’t simply presume that the greater military power will always triumph.

The problem is obvious. Divide your force, and even an otherwise-inferior opponent can defeat it piecemeal. That’s exactly what Euron Greyjoy did. He ambushed Yara’s fleet, left it a burning wreck, and sailed off with valuable hostages. At the same time (if previews are to be believed), it’s entirely possible that the Unsullied may face their own challenges in their attack on Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister. If that battle goes poorly, by this time next week Dany will be left with her Dothraki and her dragons, leaving her with the one option she hoped to avoid — a massive and destructive foreign assault against the united houses of the south.

Leaving Daenerys for the moment, one of the things that I love about Game of Thrones is how the show is constantly aware of its own history, and it was a real treat watching the assembled Northmen and Knights of the Vale express their incredulity that yet another Stark was idealistically riding south to meet yet another monarch. After Rickard, Ned, and Robb, they had no stomach to watch “Stark Death Ride IV: the Snow Melts.” Call me an optimist, but I’ve got a better feeling about Jon Snow’s chances in Dany’s court. I’m less optimistic, however, that the North will still be his to command when he returns home.

One of the central questions of the season is how much Stark is left in the Stark sisters? Is Arya nothing but a cold-blooded killer? Has Sansa evolved into a Cersei apprentice, convinced that only the most ruthless measures guarantee her survival? Arya’s decision to return home and postpone her killing spree signals that she still remembers who she is. But the grimly satisfied look on Sansa’s face when she realized that the she would rule the North in Jon’s absence was a chilling reminder that in Game of Thrones — just like in life — neither villainy nor virtue are fixed traits in the human heart.

Firing Mueller

by Rich Lowry

Some more thoughts on this possibility from a purely analytical perspective: The safer play for Trump would seem to be limiting Mueller’s ambit to keep his investigation from running out of control as Andy has suggested, political warfare against him in preparation for discrediting any damaging findings (see Bill Clinton v. Ken Starr), and using both “the everyone does it” defense (again, see Bill Clinton) and the pardon power when and if necessary.

Maybe the rumblings from Trump on Mueller are a way to pressure Rosenstein (i.e., rein in Mueller or this thing could get really ugly), which might have some effect, but I don’t think Mueller is going to be swayed by any “brushback pitches.” We can be certain that Mueller hates Trump for the same reason that Louis Freeh and Ken Starr hated Bill Clinton — straight-arrow law-enforcement types have a natural distaste for politicians who think they can talk or maneuver their way out of anything.

The only reason firing Mueller makes sense on Trump’s terms is if Trump finds it so intolerable that this investigation has reportedly spread from a Russia-collusion story to his business dealings that he simply can’t let it go, either because he thinks it’s so unfair or because he has things to worry about in his past. Even if it’s the latter, it would still be better to see what Mueller comes up with, and resort to the “old news” or “everyone — or every real-estate mogul — does it” defense, if it comes that.

All that said, if Trump is determined to fire him (and cares about it more than the prospects of tax reform), sooner probably makes more political sense than later — it will be an incredible shock to the system and the more time it has to absorb it, the better.

Today, an Easily Overlooked Vote on Choice in Veterans Health Care

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week, a look at maintaining veterans’ choices in health care, one of those things that Congress is doing that it seems almost no one is noticing, along with those new sanctions on Russia. (Boy, that election meddling is not turning out the way Vladimir Putin expected, huh?)

Today, an Easily Overlooked Vote on Choice in Veterans Health Care:

Remember the Veterans Choice program, discussed in my recent article about reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs?

In 2014, in response to the scandal of veterans in Phoenix and other locations facing interminable waits for needed care, Congress and the Obama administration established the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), allowing veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA health clinic or who face a wait of more than 30 days for an appointment to get treatment from non-VA facilities. The VCP was intended as a pilot program and scheduled to end this August, but earlier this year President Trump signed legislation extending its duration until funding runs out.

Demand for the program has increased rapidly, almost a 50 percent increase over last year’s number of appointments. In the first six months, veterans made 8 million community care appointments through the program. Current funding is projected to run out by the second week of August.

Today the House is scheduled to vote on a bill that will provide another $2 billion in funding for the program by diverting funds from other parts of the VA budget.

Eight veterans groups issued a statement opposing the legislation, contending it’s just a band-aid solution: AMVETS, (Disabled American Veterans), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Wounded Warrior Project.

As we have repeatedly told House leaders in person this week, and in a jointly-signed letter on June 28, we oppose legislation that includes funding only for the “choice” program which provides additional community care options, but makes no investment in VA and uses “savings” from other veterans benefits or services to “pay” for the “choice” program.

In order to ensure that veterans can receive necessary care without interruption, we call on House leaders to take the time necessary to work together with Senate leaders to develop acceptable “choice” funding legislation that not only fills the current funding gap, but also addresses urgent VA infrastructure and resource needs that led to creation of the “choice” program in the first place.

That’s a lot of scare quotes. But another veterans group, Concerned Veterans for America, is supporting the bill, seeing it as the best possible temporary solution as Congress considers bigger changes. (Keep in mind some groups on the Left are wary about the Veterans Choice program, seeing it as a backdoor effort to promote the privatization of veterans care and/or reducing the government’s role in getting veterans care.)

“The Veterans Choice Program isn’t perfect, but many veterans depend on it to access care in the private sector when the VA fails them,” said CVA Executive Director Mark Lucas. “Chairman Roe’s proposal to quickly solve the program’s budget shortfall is pragmatic, fiscally responsible and will prevent lapses in care in upcoming weeks. Opponents of this measure are transparently using this situation as an opportunity to advance their own anti-choice agenda instead of doing what’s best for veterans. It’s critical that Congress take decisive action to keep the choice program afloat until more permanent choice reforms are in place and we urge elected officials to vote in favor of the House solution today.”

WFB, KDW, NR, Etc.

by Jay Nordlinger

You may have missed it, but the week just passed was Made in America Week, according to the White House. (Maybe it should have been Health-Care Reform Week?) I had a post about this, recalling a previous Made in America campaign. It took place in 1985, and it starred such celebrities as Bob Hope and O.J. Simpson. (Simpson was in the news last week, as it happens.)

Bob Hope was a prominent conservative Republican. And he was saying, “Buy American.” How could you argue with that? Anything else would be unpatriotic, and maybe even globalist (although we did not have that epithet at the time).

And yet, WFB and National Review were arguing with it, and explaining the benefits of free trade and a globally integrated economy. This was interesting to me. And, after a time, I embraced it.

I was a “foreign-policy conservative” — i.e., a hawk — and a “social conservative” before I was an “economic conservative.” (Let’s not get into the use and abuse of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” just now.) The economic domino was the last one to fall for me, but fall it did.

A million times, with WFB sitting next to me, I said, “Bill and NR did not teach me what to think, but they helped teach me how to think, and I am grateful.” In 1985, I needed my thought guided on this Made in America stuff. And this magazine did it for me.

It is still doing it, in the form of Kevin D. Williamson’s excellent piece today: here. It is guiding young people and it is guiding me (because who doesn’t need reminding?).

We are in a nationalist-populist time, especially on the Right, although the Left has its Bernie phenomenon. There are probably not many votes in what Kevin is arguing, or explaining.

The words “populist” and “popular” are related. Also, Kevin has an expression: “pop conservatism.”

Let me talk about music for a second. In classical-music circles, there are always people wishing that this music were more popular. I always say, to their annoyance, “There’s a reason they call it ‘pop music,’ you know: It’s popular. Classical music will never be popular. That’s not the point of it. Nonetheless, a healthy minority will always love it, and want it, and need it.”

The Williamsonian view may not be popular — but Kevin is not running for office, asking for our votes, trying to ingratiate himself. He is simply saying what he believes to be true. How about political leaders? What do they do?

This brings me to my peeve about TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There are pols who flat-out oppose it, or America’s membership in it: Donald Trump, for example. I have no doubt that his opposition to TPP is sincere (although I also doubt that he understands TPP). But what about those politicians who know it’s in America’s interest but oppose it anyway, because they are unwilling to argue for it, especially when they know that popular outlets have convinced people that TPP is a foreign plot to screw Uncle Sam?

There is an old and beloved expression, “to speak truth to power.” But there is also such a thing as speaking truth to people — which too few leaders are willing to do. In other words, they aren’t really leaders; they are more like followers — loud ones.

One could go on (of course), but I will close by saying that I am grateful for KDW, and for NR generally.

P.S. I have just read, and reviewed, Harvey Sachs’s new biography of Toscanini. When the maestro first came to America, he was asked, “What do you think of American orchestras?” He answered, “What’s an American orchestra?” The orchestras he saw were filled with people from all over.

In his piece, KDW describes American products that are filled with components from all over.

Anyway, this might could be, as we say in some parts, the basis of another essay …

Automation: This Byte’s For You

by Andrew Stuttaford

Writing for City Journal, Mark Mills warns that the robots (to use the shorthand) will be gnawing their way far higher up the food chain than we have seen before.

Here’s the dirty little secret about automation: it’s easier to build a robot to replace a junior attorney than to replace a journeyman electrician. And that fact helps explain why economists and politicians are feeling misgivings about “creative destruction,” which, up to now, they have usually embraced as a net good for society….

In the age of the algorithm, though, they’re not so sure any more, and no wonder: instead of creative destruction coming to factories and farms, it’s sweeping through city centers and taking white-collar jobs. The chattering classes have talked and written for years about the “end of work.” Doubtless many fear that the end of their work is in the offing, this time around.

Creative destruction doesn’t sound so benign when it’s coming your way.

Mills:

Consider a bellwether of more white-collar disruption yet to come: of the nearly 200 so-called Unicorns—private, venture-backed companies such as Uber that are valued over $1 billion—90 percent are in nonmanufacturing businesses. There’s a good reason for such a skewed focus. Supercomputer-class software in the cloud can perform, at minimal cost, once-daunting information-centric tasks, from reading X-rays to managing a “passive” investment fund. But the engineering challenges are far greater and many times more complex in cyber-physical systems, where software meets steel in real time…

[W]e’re in the midst of an upheaval in what we might call the “means of management.” The overall effect, I believe, will be the same as in the past—a boost to the economy and more jobs—but the makeover this time will affect the professional and managerial classes. We should expect them to be at least as vocal about it as many factory workers were a generation ago.

While I doubt that this revolution will create more jobs (at least any time soon — and then there’s its depressing effect on the wages of those who still have work to consider) I’d agree with Mr. Mills that those being displaced will be ‘at least’ as vocal about it. In fact, my guess is that they will be very much more vocal about it.

I touched on this topic last year on a piece on automation for NRODT.

Here’s an excerpt:

When Americans do finally grasp what automation is doing to their prospects, rage against the machines (or, more specifically, their consequences) will blend with existing discontent to form a highly inflammable mix. This broader economic unease is already spreading beyond left-behinds and Millennials, but when we reach the point where even those who are still doing well see robots sending proletarianization their way, there’s a decent chance that something akin to “middle-class panic” (a phenomenon identified by sociologist Theodor Geiger in, ominously, 1930s Germany) will ensue. Many of the best and brightest will face a stark loss of economic and social status, a blow that will sting far more than the humdrum hopelessness that many at the bottom of the pile have, sadly, long learned to accept. They will resist while they still have the clout to do so, and the media, filled with intelligent people who have already found themselves on the wrong side of technology, will have their back…

Every revolution, whether at the polling station or on the street, needs foot soldiers drawn from the poor and the “left behind.” Still, it’s the leadership that counts. Add the impact of automation to the effects of existing elite overproduction and the result will be that the upheaval to come will be steered by a very large “officer class” — angry, effective, efficient, a “counter-elite”…looking to transform the social order of which, under happier circumstances, it would have been a mainstay.

The consequences are unlikely to be pretty.

Pushing Medical Authoritarianism Over Parents

by Wesley J. Smith

It’s not bad enough that Charlie Gard’s parents have been told by courts that doctors can take their son off of life support without consent, and also, they can’t retain other doctors to take over his care.

But Chris and Connie have put up a hell of a fight for their son — generating support around the world — and that can’t be allowed to happen again. At least, not if George Gillett, a medical student, gets his way.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, he wants the laws further tightened to keep parents from daring to defy doctors by establishing rules to determine when parental autonomy will be suspended based on their supposed lack of “capacity”: 

However, what a capacity-based assessment of parental autonomy would do is introduce some consistency in the law, and provide a far more sophisticated and ethically justified approach than the one we currently have.

It would be honest with parents about when they have a right to make decisions on behalf of their children and when they do not, rather than offering parents the façade of parental autonomy before selectively over-ruling the decisions doctors disagree with…

Only once we’ve clarified our own attitudes towards parental autonomy can we begin to effectively communicate decisions to patients, their families and the wider public. Until then, our collective doublethink surrounding parental autonomy will only contribute to greater uncertainty.

Coercion to die should have no place in medicine. It sows greater distrust than already exists and has the potential to generate a dangerous rage — I’ve seen it — by parents or family against doctors who they believe killed or caused their loved one’s death.

Such authoritarianism might not be limited to decisions about withdrawing life support, but could one day also include include sick babies being lethally injected without consent:

The year is 2040. After years of campaigning, the UK introduces its first assisted dying legislation. Active euthanasia is legalised for those suffering from a terminal illness and a number of patients make use of the legislation in the following months.

A few years later, a baby lies in a London Hospital, trapped in a bitter dispute between his parents and doctors. He lives with a terminal illness causing some pain, but doesn’t require ventilation or life support.

His doctors believe it in his best interests to die, and to his parents’ horror, recommend that he should undergo active euthanasia to alleviate his suffering. The courts rule in favour of the doctors’ judgement and prevent the parents from removing their child from the hospital. The baby dies by lethal injection a week later

That kind of thing happens in tyrannies, not free societies.

But Gillett is right. If we increase doctors’ authority in the way he envisions over what are essentially value judgments rather than medical determinations — e.g., whether the quality of life is worth living — we could well end up with babies (and others) being non or involuntarily euthanized based on the doctors’ views about their quality of life.

Be warned: This kind of thinking is pretty typical — if not universal — in utilitarian bioethics. And it illustrates why we must never allow a medical ”expertocracy” to rule over whether our lives are worth living.

Update: I have added the words, “to die,” to modify my statement, “Coercion has no place in medicine,” since apparently some didn’t understand — or ignored — that circumstance as the clear context of the Charlie Gard case and the column arguing to expand physicians’ authority over parent autonomy quoted in this post. The more literally minded have brought up extraneous concerns, and so I added the modifier to assure clarity of subject.

Update 2: I have heard from Gillett, who says he would oppose the involuntary baby euthanasia hypothetical scenario, if such killings were legal. He also believes I have misread his meaning generally. I don’t think so. But if you are interested, you can check out our polite exchanges on Twitter @forcedexit. More to the point, these “who gets to decide” type issues — and the potential power of the bioethical expertocracy with which we are threatened — transcend national borders.

Leaked CBO Numbers: 73 Percent of GOP ‘Coverage Losses’ Caused By Individual Mandate Repeal

by Avik Roy

In the national debate over the GOP health reform proposals, one data point has stood out above all others: the estimate, from the Congressional Budget Office, that more than 20 million people would “lose” coverage as a result. And there’s been an odd consistency to the CBO’s projections.

Do you want to repeal every word of Obamacare and replace it with nothing? The CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with a system of flat tax credits, in which you get the same amount of assistance regardless of your financial need? The CBO says 23 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with means-tested tax credits, like the Senate bill does, in which the majority of the assistance is directed to those near or below the poverty line? The CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance.

22 million, 23 million, 22 million — these numbers are remarkably similar even though the three policies I describe above are significantly different. Why is that?

Thanks to information that was leaked to me by a congressional staffer, we now have the answer. 

Nearly three-fourths of the difference in coverage between Obamacare and the various GOP plans derives from a single feature of the Republican bills: their repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. But the CBO has never published a year-by-year breakout of the impact of the individual mandate on its coverage estimates.

But the CBO has developed its own estimates of that impact, during work it did last December to estimate the effects of repealing the individual mandate as a standalone measure. Based on those estimates, of the 22 million fewer people who will have health insurance in 2026 under the Senate bill, 16 million will voluntarily drop out of the market because they will no longer face a financial penalty for doing so: 73 percent of the total.

As you can see in the above chart, two factors — repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate and the CBO’s outdated March 2016 baseline – explain nearly all of the CBO-scored coverage difference between GOP bills and Obamacare.

It’s why the various Senate tweaks to the Better Care Reconciliation Act — repealing fewer of Obamacare’s tax hikes, say, or throwing $45 billion at opioid addiction — have no impact on the CBO’s coverage estimates.

Some Republicans advocate starting over and writing an entirely new Obamacare replacement that can get a better CBO score. But any replacement that repeals the individual mandate will be scored by the CBO as covering at least 16 million fewer people — and probably worse.

GOP moderates, in particular, have been intimidated by the CBO coverage scores, expressing reluctance to vote for a plan that “takes coverage away” from so many. But if the only reason you’ve stopped buying insurance is because the government is no longer fining you for doing so, nobody has “taken away” your coverage.

It’s time for those moderates to choose. Do you support Obamacare’s individual mandate? If you do, then no GOP replacement will ever satisfy you. If you oppose the individual mandate, and would vote for its repeal, then you should ignore at least three-fourths of the CBO’s coverage score. The CBO has left us with no middle ground.

To Boldly (But in Compliance With Applicable Regulations) Go

by Andrew Stuttaford

The prospect of the commercial exploitation of the resources that might be found beyond this planet of ours is beginning to worry some people.

In the course of reporting of an auction of some moon rocks, Bloomberg News is reporting that a “nonprofit called For All Moonkind is pushing the United Nations to protect the six Apollo landing sites….”

“What we need to do is to create, basically, a Unesco for space,” said Michelle Hanlon, a Connecticut attorney who is leading the effort, referring to the UN world heritage designation.

The last time I looked at the United Nations logo, it only covered this world. That said, I can see the argument for providing for some sort of terrestrial jurisdiction over this world’s satellite and, for that matter, this world’s immediate vicinity. And, yes, preserving the relics of the early space age is a praiseworthy objective.

 But 1967’s ambitiously-named Outer Space Treaty goes further than that.

Bloomberg:

The basic legal underpinning for space activity is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is administered by the UN’s Vienna-based Office for Outer Space Affairs. The agreement’s central tenet keeps space free of all national sovereignty or ownership claims—plus nuclear weapons—and restricts the use of the moon and other space bodies to peaceful purposes. (The U.S. signed it.)

And then:

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Moon Agreement, which says that the moon’s natural resources are a “common heritage of mankind” and that a new international body should govern the use of those resources “as such exploitation is about to become feasible.” (The U.S. and most of the countries that have space programs didn’t sign that.)

Some nations, including the U.S. and Luxembourg, have passed laws to recognize the legal ownership of resources private companies collect in space. And while legal scholars may disagree about whether such laws conflict with the Outer Space Treaty’s mandates against national appropriation, Hanlon said, the point is clear: Plenty of countries and entrepreneurs have grandiose plans for space, with the moon being just one of many commercial and scientific prospects.

Roughly 239,000 miles away, the moon is a large and relatively close target, rich with helium and other resources. At least five nations are actively planning to explore it with manned missions, and China is eager to assess the potential in mining helium-3, a nonradioactive isotope for nuclear fuel that is rare on earth but abundant in the lunar crust.

“It would be great to have those debates” about space commercialization, Hanlon said. “Right now, there’s nothing.”

There’s no need for a debate.  In this context, ‘finders, keepers’ looks like a sensible enough principle, not least because it ought to encourage adventurers, scientists, inventors and investors to get on with the job.  

And while we’re on this sort of topic, the Prime Directive has got to go.

Dutch Euthanasia Is ‘Killing’

by Wesley J. Smith

Apologists for euthanasia in the Netherlands often lie by omission. Rarely, for example, do they fully admit that the mentally ill are being killed. Nor do they discuss the conjoining of euthanasia with organ harvesting. Perhaps it a case of not seeing what they don’t want to see.

A piece by Dutch journalist Hasna El Maroudi, reacting against a Wall Street Journal op/ed by a Dutch parliamentarian — warning that activists want to now extend authority for euthanasia to the healthy elderly who believe they have a “completed life” — is a classic case in point.

El Maroudi decries the use of “killing” to describe euthanasia. From, “In the Netherlands, Doctors Care How You Live and Die,” published in the Huffington Post:

Doctors don’t kill their patients, they assist them with ending their lives. The difference between the two might not be clear to the dense, but is of great importance. If doctors would kill their patients, they would be punishable by law.

By framing euthanasia as ‘killing’, conservatives have long tried to block legislation, unsuccessfully. They fought the battle and lost. Now that the kill-frame has proven a failure, they’re going with something new, trying to turn back the hands of time by using fake news. Or as I like to say: constructed lies.

Well, no. The definition of “killing” is “to cause death” or “to end life” — which is accurate and descriptive of what happens when a doctor injects poison into a patient’s bloodstream. Indeed, it is homicide — no different in outcome — e.g. killing — than if the doctor shot the patient in the head.

Euthanasia apologists try to convince people that because most of those are killed in euthanasia have proffered at least some level of consent, it isn’t really killing. Again false.

In the Netherlands, doctors put more than 400 people to death each year — perhaps El Maroudi will accept that descriptive? — who have not asked to die. It is called “termination without request or consent” in the Dutch euthanasia lexicon. 

Would El Maroudi agree those homicides — murder under Dutch law that are never prosecuted meaningfully — are “killing”? Or would she prefer to call it something else — something more soothing and deflecting — because doctors do the lethal deed to end a life they consider not worth the living?

Euthanasia is homicide, e.g., the killing of a human being. Legalized murder one might say, and when without consent, it is murder that goes unpunished.

If El Maroudi would like to see an example of “constructed lies,” she should read her own piece.

A University’s Anti-Free Speech Rules Upheld — For Now

by George Leef

The old saying, “You can’t win ‘em all” applies to the case Abbott v. Pastides.

It is a rather typical case involving a school’s policies that restrain students in the exercise of free speech. The school in this instance is the University of South Carolina. For years, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been litigating with remarkable success against such policies, but in this case the first round went to the speech controllers, as I explain in today’s Martin Center article.

The case is funny in that the complaints about “discrimination” grew out of an event that was specifically about the problem of campus free speech, with posters that covered past cases where free speech had been at issue. The students behind the event (Young Americans for Freedom and College Libertarians) even got express permission from a university official for the posters they’d display.

Naturally, a few USC students griped about the event, claiming that they were upset at, e.g., seeing a swastika and reading the word “wetback” (which figured in one of the cases). Then the campus Office of Educational Equality got involved. It informed student Ross Abbott that he needed to make an appointment to see the director within ten days to answer the charges. He was also informed that failure to do so could lead to severe sanctions, such as mandatory “training” or even expulsion.

Abbott did as ordered, but stood his ground at the meeting, refusing to admit he had done anything wrong and defending each of the posters. Several weeks later, the university informed him that it would take no further action in the matter.

Still, the university’s policies are inconsistent with the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, so Abbott sued (with the able assistance of FIRE). Unfortunately, the case was assigned to a federal district judge (a Clinton appointee) who decided that USC’s speech policies were reasonable. FIRE’s executive director, the attorney who handled the case and I disagree. The case will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Breaking: Senate Health-Care Bill Won’t Defund Planned Parenthood

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The Senate parliamentarian has issued guidance suggesting that the sections of the Better Care Reconciliation Act that defund Planned Parenthood and prevent tax credits from funding abortion are subject to a 60-vote threshold. As a result of this preliminary determination, it appears likely that unless 60 senators vote to maintain those provisions, they will be stricken from the legislation.

Because Republicans hold a tenuous majority of just 52 senators — two of whom are moderate Republicans opposed to defunding Planned Parenthood — this decision would mean that the Democrats have the votes to block the pro-life provisions. Even if the bill is somehow able to pass, there is now no way for the GOP to defund the abortion giant without the votes of several Senate Democrats, which is more than unlikely.

This guidance is a setback to conservative Republicans and those in the pro-life movement, who have worked for years to remove Planned Parenthood’s annual $500 million in federal funding over the group’s provision of abortion. According to its own annual report, Planned Parenthood performed over 328,000 abortions in the last fiscal year alone.

UPDATE: This post has been updated since its initial publication to reflect the fact that the Senate parliamentarian issued guidance rather than a formal, final ruling on the Senate bill.