Last week, at the invitation of Sen. Ted Cruz, I spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Google’s having placed more than 60 Prager University videos on its restricted list. Any family that filters out pornography and violence cannot see those particular videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google); nor can any school or library.
This statement is as much about what I and PragerU stand for as it is about Google. Those interested in viewing the presentation can do so here:
It is an honor to be invited to speak in the United States Senate. But I wish I were not so honored. Because the subject of this hearing — Google and YouTube’s (and for that matter, Twitter and Facebook’s) suppression of internet content on ideological grounds — threatens the future of America more than any external enemy.
In fact, never in American history has there been as strong a threat to freedom of speech as there is today.
Before addressing this, however, I think it important that you know a bit about me and the organization I co-founded, Prager University — PragerU, as it often referred to.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My late father, Max Prager, was a CPA and an Orthodox Jew who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II. My father’s senior class thesis at the City College of New York was on anti-Semitism in America. Yet, despite his keen awareness of the subject, he believed that Jews living in America were the luckiest Jews to have ever lived.
He was right. Having taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College, written a book on antisemitism and fought Jew-hatred my whole life, I thank God for living in America.
It breaks my heart that a vast number of young Americans have not only not been taught how lucky they are to be Americans but have been taught either how unlucky they are or how ashamed they should be.
It breaks my heart for them because contempt for one’s country leaves a terrible hole in one’s soul and because ungrateful people always become unhappy and angry people.
And it breaks my heart for America because no good country can survive when its people have contempt for it.
I have been communicating this appreciation of America for 35 years as a radio talk show host, the last 20 in national syndication with the Salem Radio Network — an organization that is a blessing in American life. One reason I started PragerU was to communicate America’s moral purpose and moral achievements, both to young Americans and to young people around the world. With a billion views a year, and with more than half of the viewers under age 35, PragerU has achieved some success.
My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person. That some label us extreme or “haters” only reflects on the character and the broken moral compass of those making such accusations. They are the haters and extremists.
PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. Our presenters include three former prime ministers, four Pulitzer Prize winners, liberals, conservatives, gays, blacks, Latinos, atheists, believers, Jews, Christians, Muslims and professors and scientists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford and a dozen other universities.
Do you think the secretary-general of NATO; or the former prime ministers of Norway, Canada or Spain; or the late Charles Krauthammer; or Philip Hamburger, distinguished professor of law at Columbia Law School, would make a video for an extreme or hate-filled site? The idea is not only preposterous; it is a smear.
Yet, Google, which owns YouTube, has restricted access to 56 of our 320 five-minute videos and to other videos we produce. “Restricted” means families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video. It also means that no school or library can show that video.
Google has even restricted access to a video on the Ten Commandments … Yes, the Ten Commandments!
We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given.
But of course, we know why: because they come from a conservative perspective.
Liberals and conservatives differ on many issues. But they have always agreed that free speech must be preserved. While the left has never supported free speech, liberals always have. I therefore appeal to liberals to join us in fighting on behalf of America’s crowning glory — free speech. Otherwise, I promise you, one day you will say, “First they came after conservatives, and I said nothing. And then they came after me. And there was no one left to speak up for me.”
Make no bones about it, the southwest border is facing a crisis like nothing the region has ever seen before. The human wave pouring over the border continues unabated, and it will only continue to do so. None of the traditional tools used to combat illegal immigration will work. A wall won’t work. Placing more sensors won’t work. Even hiring more agents to patrol the border won’t work.
They come from places as far away as India and Nepal. They speak ancient Mayan languages found only in remote central American villages. They claim to be Christians persecuted by the Chinese government. Their stories are so familiar that the officers and agents interviewing them could write the stories without bothering to interview the individuals telling the stories. They are all well coached, and know exactly what to say.
Asylum. That is the magic word, the golden ticket. The story is simply the means to the end, and the stories are familiar because those telling the story have been told exactly what to say in order to get an interview with an asylum officer.
These would be immigrants don’t bother to attempt to try to get away. All they need is a toe hold on American soil. Once they cross, they simply sit and wait for the Border Patrol to pick them up. If there is a Border Patrol Agent in the area they will save the agent the effort and walk to him or her to give themselves up. Why risk their lives when all they have to say is one little word?
The word is so small, but it has an oversized effect on our border security agencies. Border Patrol stations are bogged down with people who never bothered attempting to escape. Agents spend time working with interpreters attempting to interview individuals even though the agents already know exactly what the individual will claim. The only thing different is the names of people and places, the rest of the story is identical to the last story they heard. While agents are processing the asylum seekers, the real bad guys, the gang bangers, rapists, murderers, and potentially the terrorists are able to slip by either undetected or detected but unacted on because there are not any agents available to do anything about it.
President Trump is doing what he can to combat this flow of humanity, but there really is nothing that he can do. There is only one way to stop this wave of humanity, and only one entity can stop it.
Under current law anyone who has been in the United States for up to a year can apply for asylum regardless of how they entered the country. It is amazing that it has taken as long as it has for people to take advantage of this gaping loophole in our immigration law. The only way to fix it is for Congress to change the law. The fix is very simple.
Anyone who is able to present themselves to a port of entry for inspection and enters the United States by way other than the port of entry shall be ineligible for asylum.
There. Simple. If you are able to enter through a port of entry and you choose not to, you lose your shot at asylum and are shipped home. If you are coming from a Caribbean island country, you get a pass because you end up wherever the boat drops you off. For everyone else, you have to go to a port of entry if you want to petition for asylum.
Such a simple word, such a simple solution. Unfortunately, Congress has proven over and over that they do not work with simple solutions. So our asylum officers are backlogged for years, our Border Patrol Agents are busy processing people who simply give up, and the people who we really want to keep out of our country have a free pass to slip by overwhelmed Border Patrol Agents.
We the People.
That’s right, we the people have the right to demand that Congress act. Unless we do so, this problem will persist. It is up to you, the patriot, the concerned citizen, to contact your member of Congress and your Senators and demand that the laws be changed to reflect the current crises.
It won’t happen unless you take action.
The Wall Street Journal is the latest media outlet to report on what’s driving the border crisis. For most Guatemalans, it’s economic opportunity, not the reported violence and bloodshed.
A report this week in the Wall Street Journal chronicles the border crisis at one of its sources, a city in Guatemala that’s emptying out as families leave for the United States, and leaves little doubt that what’s motivating most of them to leave isn’t violence or persecution, but economic opportunity.
The focus of the story is the mountainous city of Joyabaj, “population 100,000 and falling.” The United States has deported 627 people to Joyabaj in the first six months of this year, more than any other municipality in the country except Guatemala City, population 2.5 million, which saw 643 deportees from the United States over the same period. According to one school official, about 2,000 out of 16,400 first- through ninth-graders in Joyabaj’s public schools have gone north over the past 18 months.
Indeed, Guatemalans now make up the largest nationality of those arrested along the southwest border, with 235,638 Guatemalans apprehended so far this year. Of these, the vast majority are family units or unaccompanied minors. As of June, more than 167,100 family units from Guatemala had been arrested, more than the previous three years combined.
What’s driving the exodus? Grinding poverty at home, the chance to get ahead in America, and a robust smuggling industry. On this last, the Journal report is eye-opening. Radio stations in Joyabaj advertise the services of smugglers with ads that ask, “Tired of so much poverty? Tired of so much humiliation?”
Business is good. One smuggler barrels along roads in a bright yellow Hummer. He doubles as a priest in the Maya religion and is paid handsomely to perform ceremonies to insure a safe journey.
Many Guatemalans use homes and plots of farmland as collateral for high-interest loans to pay smugglers.
A popular YouTube influencer has sophisticated equipment to create videos with such titles as ‘The American Dream,’ and ‘I left for the US looking for a better life.’ Together, they have notched almost three million views. Some of the inspirational videos are, in fact, advertisements for one of the area’s most successful human smugglers.
The Journal isn’t alone in its Guatemala reporting. News organizations that have actually bothered to send people to the country have reported at length on the economic benefits of migration, how Guatemalans who sent a family member to the United States live in large, comfortable houses while those who have not live in shacks with dirt floors.
In April, the New Yorker ran an article titled, “The Dream Homes of Guatemalan Migrants,” about American-style casas de remesa, or remittance houses, “which have become ubiquitous in the country’s western highlands as a way for immigrants to invest their earnings while living abroad.”
All of this reflects what Guatemalans say about why they’re leaving. A 2016 survey by the International Organization for Migration found that more than 90 percent emigrated to the United States for economic reasons. According to the report, “56.8 percent of Guatemalans migrate in search of better employment, 32.9 percent to improve their income, 1.2 percent to buy a home, and 0.1 percent to open businesses.” Only 0.3 percent say they migrate because of violence, and 0.2 percent cite gang problems.
Meanwhile, the entire political class in Washington DC is seemingly content to pretend that none of this is happening. Rather than confront the reality that the vast majority of those crossing the border are economic migrants, media elites tend to repeat, mantra-like, that migrants are fleeing violence and crime.
Few of them ever mentioned that although the Northern Triangle remains a relatively violent place, homicide rates in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have plummeted in recent years. In Honduras, the murder rate has dropped by more than half since 2012; In El Salvador, the rate has fallen for three years in a row; and in Guatemala it has decreased by half since 2009.
Others emphasize poverty in these countries, which is understandable because poverty is rampant in this part of the world. Less emphasized is the fact that the economies of Guatemala and Honduras have grown about 3.5 percent on average in recent years (El Salvador’s GDP growth has been a bit more sluggish, at about 3 percent).
So if violence is decreasing and the economy is growing, why are so many people leaving Guatemala? The answer varies depending on the region of the country, but the common theme is that people are leaving because they are poor and have far better prospects in the United States. Subsistence farmers in the western highlands are facing crop failures due to climate change, so they pack up and leave.
In cities like Joyabaj, cheap cell phones keep people in touch with relatives in the United States, and success stories spread quickly, inspiring others to follow. As one man told the Journal, “If you work in the U.S., you get paid $12 an hour for eight hours, that’s $96 a day. Here you make 40 quetzales [$5.30] a day when there is work. Not enough to live.”
What we’re witnessing is a mass exodus from Central America driven above all by poverty but made possible by a broken asylum and immigration system in the United States. The scale of this exodus is hard to convey. About 17 million people live in Guatemala. Since October of last year, 235,638 Guatemalans have been apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol. That means over the past nine months nearly 1.4 percent of the entire population of Guatemala has been apprehended and processed by U.S. authorities.
It’s time for policymakers and establishment elites to get serious about what’s happening and quit pretending that the vast majority of those now arriving at the southwest border are anything but economic migrants doing what any of us would do in their shoes: exploit a broken U.S. asylum system to forge a better life for ourselves and our children.
The US House of Representatives is getting closer to voting on the Butch Lewis Act, which failed to pass last year. While a number of provisions in the current version of the legislation make it an unworthy solution, the truth is the problem it attempts to address is real and the legislation even with its flaws does create the opportunity to amend and improve it so that a serious financial crisis can be avoided. Conservatives should consider this an opportunity.
Many multi-employer pension and defined pension plans are now on the brink of failure. They carry over $600 billion of unfunded liabilities and are dangerously close to failing. Millions of retired Americans in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire could lose their retirement. If that happens, they will be thrust onto the welfare rolls and the fruits of their life’s work will be lost.
Even those who don’t have such pensions, are at risk. The 2008 housing bubble that triggered a huge economic slowdown, impacted everyone — not merely those whose mortgage was foreclosed upon. And we spent the next five plus years in economic turmoil and that was used as an excuse to grow the government. So we paid twice — first with the economic downturn and lost jobs and second, when government spending and debt grew dramatically and government’s penchant to over regulate drastically expanded.
President Trump could ensure his reelection in 2020 and conservatives in the House could insure a return to the majority as well — if they can fashion a sustainable, conservative fix to the pending multiemployer pension plan crisis.
In 2016, Trump won a number of states narrowly — states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In those states and many others — Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire and Florida — there are millions of citizens who are participants in multi-employer pension plans. Each of these potential voters has family and friends which only multiplies their electoral influence. By stepping in and averting this potential economic pitfall, Trump would win millions of blue collar voters in key states. Likewise, GOP congressmen who had a difficult year in 2018, could find themselves swimming with the current and regain the majority if they can take the opportunity to use the Butch Lewis Act as a starting point to address the multiemployer pension plan crisis in a conservative and sustainable way. Even Senate Republicans could see their majority grow if they move helpful legislation.
In Pennsylvania, there are more than 493,000 participants in multi-employer pension plans. In Michigan, there are more than 440,000 multi-employer pension participants. In Wisconsin, there are almost 150,000. Ohio has almost half a million. Florida has more than 340,000. Colorado has almost 200,000. In Maine, more than 50,000. In Nevada almost 135,000. In Minnesota, more than 278,000.
In each case, those numbers could either expand upon Trump’s 2016 victory, or flip a state that he narrowly lost in 2016, to make it part of his expanded victory in 2020. And once you account for family friends and relatives, those numbers only increase the potential for an impressive reelection victory.
For GOP members of Congress, this provides a powerful way to win the support of working class voters and pave the way to reclaiming the majority in the House and help the Senate preserve and grow its majority.
It may be tempting to leave this problem to fester and then let some future President and Congress deal with it when this pending crisis becomes a full blown, current crisis. But that’s dangerous and risky. The far Left has repeatedly signaled that they won’t let a “crisis go to waste.” They will use any crisis as an excuse to grow government, bust the budget and further smother economic opportunity with burdensome regulations. So solving this now is actually the conservative thing to do. It protects taxpayers and it can keep government growth in check.
A workable and permanent solution will include a number of important principles. First, the affected pension plans must be reformed by requiring them to meet more rigorous and realistic actuarial standards. Second, the reform must engage all the stakeholders to share in the costs, including at least temporarily, the retirees — rather than passing off the costs to taxpayers. Third, modest loan guarantees must be authorized to help pension plans that make the required reforms. This will allow them to get through their short term cash crunch and get back on a firm actuarial footing when the loans would be fully repaid. Fourth, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) must be reformed to make it function as a real insurer where risks and cost balance out. If nothing is done, the PBGC will be bankrupt within 6 years — leaving taxpayers to make good on its promises which will cost hundreds of billions.
If President Trump and GOP conservatives become the champion of a wise pension plan solution like this, they can easily win re-election in 2020, regain the House majority, and expand their Senate majority. That is why the Butch Lewis Act with all its problems, presents conservatives with a real opportunity to fashion a solid conservative solution that benefits all Americans.
Perhaps it’s time for Bernie Sanders to put his money where his mouth is and pay his staffers a “living wage”—and the overtime they should be entitled to.
For all is rhetoric, it may turn out that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is just another hypocritical politician who takes money from big corporations, invests in Wall Street and, reportedly, pays his workers “poverty wages” (and NO overtime)—despite the fact that they’re unionized.
Back in March, to show his “pro-union” bonafides, Bernie Sanders made headlines when he encouraged his staffers to unionize with the United Food & Commercial Workers, turning his campaign into the first-ever unionized presidential campaign.
However, as often happens when activists who campaign to dictate standards upon others actually have to live under those standards, things do not always go as planned.
On Thursday, the same day that the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour—which Sanders has long advocated for—the Washington Post ran an article that shed some light on a wage dispute that is currently going on within his campaign.
Apparently, Sanders’ campaign workers are lashing out at campaign management regarding the low wages that they are receiving.
“I am struggling financially to do my job, and in my state, we’ve already had 4 people quit in the past 4 weeks because of financial struggles,” one field organizer reportedly wrote on a message board to Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir.
Another employee wrote his co-workers “shouldn’t have to get payday loans to sustain themselves.”
Then, there was this interesting statement:
The draft letter estimated that field organizers were working 60 hours per week at minimum, dropping their average hourly pay to less than $13. [Emphasis added.]
As field organizers are paid an annual salary of $36,000 under their new union contract, things would be fine—if they are only working 40 hours per week.
However, it appears they are not.
If they are truly working 60 hours per week (or 3,000 hours per year), on a salary of $36,000, they are only making $12 per hour, instead of the $17.30 they should be making on a standard 40-hour week, 2,080-hours per work year.
Obviously, $12 per hour is far less than the $15 Bernie Sanders claims to support.
However, it’s worse than that.
Based on the article, it also appears that Sanders is not paying overtime.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, employees who are not exempted from the law are entitled to time and one half pay for every hour worked after 40 hours in a given workweek.[Some states (and, more importantly, some union contracts) actually mandate time and one half after eight hours.]
If the Sanders campaign workers are not exempt from the FLSA and are entitled to overtime, they should be making nearly $26 per hour for every hour worked over 40.
Following the 2016 election, the DNC was sued by former field organizers who alleged that the “the state party defendants conspired with one another and with Defendant DNC to unlawfully designate Plaintiffs, and those similarly situated, as exempt employees under the FLSA and applicable state wage statutes, thereby denying Plaintiffs full and appropriate compensation.”
Unfortunately for the DNC’s field organizers, the suit was dismissed in 2018.
In dismissing the overtime suit, according to this summary, “the Court relied on an often-overlooked defense to the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) – namely, that the FLSA only covers employees engaged in interstate commerce as opposed to employees engaged in purely local activities. [Emphasis added.]”
That case involved multiple state parties (as well as the DNC)–and not a singular candidate.
In the case of Bernie Sanders, however, a court could determine his campaign to be a singular employer…and, if so, it is definitelyoperating across state lines (interstate commerce).
It is also possible that the new union contract may aid a court in establishing that employees are not exempted from the FLSA. However, neither the campaign, nor the UFCW has released the contract to the public.
Perhaps it’s time for Bernie Sanders to, quite literally, put his money where his mouth is.
By Fox News•
Like most people who follow the news, I’ve seen the difficult stories of families crossing the southern border into the U.S. and how they are treated, no matter if they crossed legally seeking asylum or illegally. My heart breaks seeing little children with no shoes and threadbare clothes clinging to their parents.
What could I do to help? Turns out, quite a lot. Here’s what I experienced on Saturday in Texas at a humanitarian respite center run by Catholic Charities. But first, a little background…
I’m an outspoken pro-life woman. A movie, “Unplanned,” was made about my conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate. While being pro-life is certainly about helping women in crisis pregnancies and caring for their needs, it’s also about helping the most vulnerable, no matter where they are.
Volunteers unloading the truck of supplies at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
I have eight children, I run a non-profit ministry, and I travel around the world as a speaker — I’m a good multi-tasker. I can help people in my community, in my country and even in other parts of the world.
My friend, Destiny Herdon-De La Rosa, who runs New Wave Feminists, is also a pretty good multi-tasker and came up with the idea to help these immigrants we were seeing in the news. I jumped right in because that’s what a pro-life woman should do.
The Bottles2TheBorder campaign was born from pro-life women who wanted to do more to help others. And we weren’t alone. We created a registry of items needed at the respite center run by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas.
Warehouse of supplies in respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
That registry sold out in a matter of days so we created another one, which we had to close because we had too many items to take down there and needed time to sort it all before bringing it to the border.
A man from a local church in Houston heard about our efforts and donated an 18-wheeler to haul the items to McAllen. Over $120,000 worth of items were donated, which was used to purchase water, pull-ups, powdered milk, and a host of other supplies to bring with us.
When we got to the respite center on Saturday there was a press conference with several Democratic members of Congress at the same location.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, New Wave Feminists, unloads water at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
National media were covering their field trip, which reached its lowest point when aides to the Congressmen and women gave them cheap toys, which they, in turn, gave to the little kids at the respite center in front of all the cameras for the ideal photo op.
They were dressed in starched suits and pressed dresses, pants, high heels, and polished shoes.
I headed into the center in shorts and a T-shirt I had snagged from Groupon, minutes after pumping milk for my six-week-old baby, and walked up to the group after their photo-op because I had something to say.
Abby Johnson (in shorts and black top) speaking with Democratic members of Congress at the respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
I introduced myself and said we had an 18-wheeler arriving at the respite center in the next 20 minutes full of supplies for these poor people, who had nothing and needed help unloading it. I told them their cheap toys and photo op wasn’t helping these people.
Abby Johnson and others getting ready to unload supplies at the respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
If they truly wanted to help, they could lend a hand in unloading the semi-truck in the 102-degree heat with all of us women who came from all over Texas to help.
They looked stunned that someone had the gall to ask them to actually do something, as in not just for the cameras. They told me they couldn’t help because they only had 10 more minutes, which they used to move to the other side of the room and continue their press conference — for another 30 minutes. They told me they “would help,” but they had another press opportunity to get to.
Volunteers line up to get supplies from the truck into the respite center warehouse in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
President Ronald Reagan once said that the most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He should have added, “…to help and to have a photo op.” This trip to the border wasn’t about politics; it was about people. But seeing those Congressional representatives blatantly use those immigrants for their own political purposes was sickening, especially since there was a legitimate opportunity to do something to actually help them right at the center.
We didn’t give up though. Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who donated $1,000 to the center, according to the monitor, walked by our 18-wheeler as we were just getting ready to start unloading and we asked him again to help.
Donated diapers for respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
With a dismissive wave of his hand, he smugly said “I’ll send someone” and then walked to his air-conditioned car and left. No one from his office came to help. Are you surprised?
In the end, we had about two dozen women and a handful of awesome men unload the truck. We unloaded it in the smelly back alley next to half a dozen dumpsters to get everything into the back door of the center, up the dilapidated conveyor belt and into the warehouse.
Volunteers unloading supplies into respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
It took us over three hours in 102-degree heat to unload 119,608 diapers, 13,230 bottles of water, 6,660 pull-ups, 30,000 pairs of shoelaces, 16,172 ounces of formula, 420 canisters of Nido powdered milk, 8,100 maxi pads, 3,100 drawstring backpacks, and thousands of deodorant, baby wipes, bottles, nursing supplies, Lysol, Germ-X, hair ties, baby blankets, Dramamine, Tylenol, Advil, DayQuil, and chapstick.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, New Wave Feminists, and Abby Johnson taking a break from unloading supplies at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
As we walked through the respite center, we saw moms and dads cradling infants and trying to stem toddler tantrums.
We saw wide-eyed children who were perhaps seeing freedom for the first time.
We saw smiling volunteers handing out whatever the families needed.
We were sore and tired and thirsty and probably smelled horrible. But we did something the government couldn’t do — we used whatever resources we had to make something happen for the good of vulnerable human beings. And the offer still stands for elected officials to help us out next time.
It is typical for pundits to criticize the Jones Act claiming that it harms American consumers or benefits others — some even outlandishly claim it benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin. These hypercritical pundits all seem to either overlook or completely ignore a number of critically important facts. In a fact free world, one can come to any conclusion — even silly ones. But when facts and sound reasoning matter, the conclusions must stand up to scrutiny.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also known as the Jones Act) was passed in the aftermath of World War I to ensure that America had a viable merchant marine that could provide support to our navy and military in times of war or national emergency. It was also intended to ensure that we had a viable ship-building and ship repairing capability — again to support our military. In a world where many foreign nations heavily subsidize their shipping industries as well as their ship building and repairing industries, we must not allow ourselves to become dependent upon other nations to maintain our naval strength.
Contrary to the view that the Jones Act is favored by despots like Vladimir Putin, the act has significant national security benefits for the U.S. Consider the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, who said, “I am an ardent Supporter of the Jones Act. It supports a viable ship building industry, cuts costs and produces 2,500 qualified mariners. Why would I tamper with that?” Likewise, Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zunkunft has said, “You take the Jones Act away, the first thing to go is these shipyards and then the mariners… If we don’t have a U.S. fleet or U.S. shipyard to constitute that fleet how do we prevail?” The military understands that the Jones Act is critically important to our national security.
History teaches an important lesson. In 1812, Napoleon left France with an army of about 700,000 soldiers. Napoleon’s army easily pushed through western Russia and made it all the way to Moscow. But as Napoleon’s supply lines became attenuated, his army lacked the ability to feed and supply itself. Napoleon, despite having the world’s greatest army, was defeated because he couldn’t supply his troops. When he returned to France six months later, his army had only 27,000 soldiers who could defend France and the balance of power in Europe was radically altered for a century.
The lesson we must learn from this is obvious — we may have the best technology and the best trained military on the planet, but if we cannot properly supply them, we too could meet with disaster. The Jones Act is an important part of our military’s ability to supply itself.
In a world in which China and Russia are expanding their naval capabilities, the need for the Jones Act is all the greater. Putin would like a weaker America, not a strong America – with a functioning domestic shipping industry to support our nation’s military strength.
The Jones Act also has a significant impact on homeland security. It limits foreign flagged ships and foreign crewed ships from sailing around America’s inland waterways. Dr. Joan Mileski, head of the Maritime Administration Department at Texas A&M, said, “If we totally lifted the Jones Act, any foreign-flagged ship — with an entirely unknown crew — could go anywhere on our waterways, including up the Mississippi River.” Obviously, this would make our defenses very porous.
Since 9/11/2001, our homeland security approach has been to place most of our security resources and assets at our coasts and at the ports that have the most traffic. But few assets and resources are used along the more than 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in the United States. There we rely upon the Jones Act to provide security. American flagged and American crewed ships are trained and keep a watchful eye for signs of terrorism and are thus an important part of our nation’s homeland security layered defense.
Our southern border is 1,989 miles long. The U.S. has more than 25,000 miles of navigable waters. Without the Jones Act, we’ve just made both sides of every river a possible entry point. Michael Herbert, Chief of the Customs & Border Protection’s Jones Act Division of Enforcement has said: “We use the Jones Act as a virtual wall. Without the Jones Act in place, our inland waterways would be inundated with foreign flagged vessels.”
The truth is the Jones Act is more important today than even when it was first passed. Today, it not only provides America with trained and skilled mariners and a viable ship building and ship repairing capability to support our military and Navy, but it also protects us from terrorists and other nefarious international bad actors.
Imagine if Chinese government owned ships could operate freely up and down the Mississippi River and remain there throughout the year. They would use that access to spy and intercept even civilian communications.
Adam Smith, the father of free market economics, in his seminal work — The Wealth of Nations — strongly supported and defended the British Navigation Act, which was a cabotage law much like America’s Merchant Marine Act. His rationale included, “The defense of Great Britain, for example, depends very much on the number of its sailors and shipping.”
The Jones Act protects America. This is a verifiable fact. Any alleged costs are amorphous and difficult to verify or prove. But what is not difficult to prove is that America’s security is benefited and protected by the Jones Act. The world is a dangerous place, filled with adversaries that will be all too happy if the Jones Act is weakened. It is time tested and proven.
A new proposal under discussion by the Senate Finance Committee is a perfect example of the folly of trying to centrally design the economy — in this case by a ham-handed attempt at price controls.
The proposal, from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and under consideration by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would change the Medicare Part D prescription drug rebate to penalize drugs whose prices rise faster than the rate of inflation.
It’s ironic the proposal targets Part D, one of the few islands of economic sanity to be found in the health care sector, which, beset by rampant government intervention, suffers from a wide variety of perverse unintended consequences.
Part D is one of the few government health care programs to successfully foster price-based productivity increases. In most parts of the economy, over time, prices go down and quality goes up, due to increases in productivity. The underlying mechanism driving this is competition.
One sign of how successful Part D has been in wielding competition is that in its first decade of existence, it cost over 40% less than what the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would, a historical and underappreciated achievement.
Tacking on feel-good, one-off pricing rules like Wyden’s “faster than inflation” penalty could easily disrupt the market-based dynamics that enabled Part D to flourish in the first place.
It’s just silly to think that something as complex, distributed and organic as a worldwide market for pharmaceutical drugs could be controlled by something as ramshackle as a “faster than inflation” rule.
Consider the variety of pricing mechanisms that exist in well-functioning markets. In retail, there are coupons, package deals, membership plans and other discounts. In the stock market, there is the “continuous auction,” providing ongoing price discovery that can react to new information in a matter of seconds.
Amazon’s server rental business offers clients a tremendous range of pricing options, split by eighteen datacenter regions, dozens of server types, and several tiers of availability.
There is a whole world of financing, from store-offered, no interest payment plans to credit cards to mortgages. Stores employ all manor of psychological pricing tricks, such as charging 99 cents instead of $1. One of the more incredible such tricks, which would be hard to believe without the well-established research backing it up, is that prices that contain fewer syllables (when read out loud) are more attractive than those with more syllables. For instance, $28.16 (five syllables) is better than $27.82 (seven syllables).
The incredible diversity in pricing practices stems from the decentralized nature of the market. You could never ask a single committee, or even a large organization, to come up with this level of creativity and variety on its own. It’s only from the organic interaction between millions of businesses and billions of customers, each expertly seeking their own interests, that it can ever arise.
You might compare Wyden’s “faster than inflation” proposal to the fences in Jurassic Park — “life finds a way,” as Dr. Ian Malcolm tells us, foreshadowing the inability of the park to contain the beasts contained within. Except, at least the 40-foot electric fences were a good faith effort. Wyden’s proposal is more like if they attempted to keep the T-Rex at bay with only the thin walls of the bathroom hut the hate-able lawyer ran and hid inside, shortly before becoming a dinosaur’s dinner.
In other word’s this “faster than inflation” rule is a laughable, pitiful attempt at something that isn’t even achievable by the most expert, determined effort — something like, say, the Soviet Union, which tried, and failed, to put price controls into practice at super power scale.
But that’s not to say it can’t do harm. At the very least, it will increase the cost of participating in the market, both in terms of compliance costs, and in the changed incentives and their inevitable unintended consequences. For example, a company that requires more revenue to survive might raise the prices slightly on all its products, instead of steeply on just one. How this all plays out is impossible to predict. What can be said for certain is the market’s “logic” would now be less about providing the most value for customers at the lowest price, and now more about the political ramifications of pricing decisions.
More specifically, as it relates to the Part D drug market in particular, the rule could crowd out existing rebates negotiated by the plans buying the drugs. Many plans have already secured “price protection rebates” which kick in if prices increase more rapidly than some agreed-upon threshold. In other words, the market has already invented, in a much more sophisticated and dynamic way, the “faster than inflation” rule on its own.
The worst case scenario is more dire. Generally speaking, fostering well-functioning markets in the health care sphere is exceedingly difficult, given the immense government intervention at every level. Part D’s success in doing so is nearly unique. Additional rules that make supply and demand less important to how the market functions could result in it ceasing to function as a market entirely. It certainly would not be the first time the government accidentally killed a market.
Wyden’s proposal exemplifies the folly of centrally-designed price controls. It will harm one of the only well-functioning parts of the federal government’s health care policy. For those reasons, Chairman Grassley and Committee Republicans should cast it in the dustbin of bad socialist ideas.
This essay is part of a RealClearPolicy series centered on the American Project, an initiative of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. The project looks to the country’s founding principles to respond to our current cultural and political upheaval.
The Declaration of Independence served a dual function at the momentous occasion of its adoption, July 4, 1776. The first was that it was the issuance of a statement of political independence containing within it a rational defense of our dramatic break with the government of Great Britain and its unaccountable king. The second, however, was the annunciation of the principles animating that declaration. According to the Founders, it was the violation of these principles that justified separation; their defense demanded the birth of a new nation.
These principles are outlined in the document’s most famous line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The rights to life and to liberty suggest the autonomy of the individual, whereas the statement that men are created equal highlights the universal dignity of all. The dynamic tension between these two principles, liberty and equality, underlies the ongoing left-right dialectic that has characterized American politics from the beginning. For this reason, it may be easy to overlook the last phrase in this statement, “the pursuit of Happiness.” It reads to modern eyes, perhaps, like a poetic after thought to the weightier philosophical statements that precede it. Yet it is in the pursuit of happiness that we are called upon to exercise the virtues needed to weave the fabric of a nation.
It is the role of virtue in realizing happiness through community — especially a community of free and equal citizens — that conservatism should remind us of today.
What is virtue? Before offering an answer, it is worth noting that it is a term that exists in our moral vocabulary today largely as an artifact of classical literature and our Christian heritage — rather like a poetical term sapped of substantive meaning. We think of moral questions today predominantly in deontological or consequentialist terms, rather than in terms of the virtues. Deontological ethics holds that an action is right or wrong depending on whether it conforms to some rule or maxim (“It is always wrong to do X,” “It is my duty to do Y.”). Consequentialism, by contrast, holds that we should evaluate an action based on its outcomes or consequences. In the political sphere, we often waver between these two, incompatible approaches to moral questions.
Take just about any debate in the realm of policy. The right to own a firearm or the right to health care is often met with arguments about why such alleged rights may or may not be practical. The right to bear arms makes it too easy for bad actors to buy guns; universal health care is too expensive or will have other harmful consequences, etc. Some oppose abortion on the basis of the right to life for unborn children, whereas opponents object with practical arguments about the difficulty of raising children in certain conditions. These disagreements, however legitimate, leave us speaking conflicting moral languages that offer no path to resolution. More importantly, both moral languages overlook the importance of moral character, which is what yields meaningful happiness and establishes the basis of flourishing community.
The virtues are habits of moral character. In the classical tradition, these include such qualities as fortitude or courage, prudence, temperance, and justice. The Christian tradition adds the “theological virtues:” faith, hope, and charity (love). We might easily add qualities such as honor, nobility, fairness, equanimity, and wisdom (the cornerstone of the good life, according to Aristotle). According to the tradition of virtue ethics, we should aspire to cultivate these habits, which conduce to lives of human flourishing, rather than basing our actions on rules or consequences.
This classical understanding informed the founding of the United States. Though the empirical orientation of the Enlightenment had much to do with setting us on a course away from virtue as the ground of morality, the founding fathers nevertheless recognized the indispensability of moral virtue in securing the project of liberty, representative government, and the pursuit of happiness. As Benjamin Franklin put it: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Or Thomas Jefferson: “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” Or, finally, George Washington: “There is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists … an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.”
This is not to downplay the glaring vices present in American society at the founding. The point is that the Founders were at least minimally aware of the vital role virtue plays in establishing a political society capable of securing individual liberty and the common good. Whence the motivation for John Adams’ saying: “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”
American society today has reaped the benefits of a prosperous economy aided by a political system that is the legacy of previous generations of Americans bound by more than the pursuit of riches. Indeed, the political liberalism of the Enlightenment has had much to do with the quest for a more egalitarian society in America, rooted in the dignity of the individual. However, the moral basis not merely of the Founding but also many of the great periods of moral progress in our history since the Founding can be traced to a religious consciousness that has stirred popular demands for social reforms, expressed through a moral language preserved by a Christian culture far older than classical liberalism.
Examples of this include the Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. William Lloyd Garrison, apart from Frederick Douglass perhaps the most well-remembered figure of the late abolitionist movement, might be described as less orthodoxly Christian than some of his peers in the movement. Yet, he could not have been more Christian in the framing of his moral arguments against slavery and the institutions that abided it, decrying both South and North in the years preceding the Civil War for their complicity:
The reason why the South rules, and the North falls prostrate in servile terror, is simply this: with the South, the preservation of slavery is paramount to all other considerations above party success, denominational unity, pecuniary interest, legal integrity, and constitutional obligation. With the North, the preservation of the Union is placed above all other things-above honor, justice, freedom, integrity of soul, the Decalogue and the Golden Rule-the infinite God himself.
Such language leans heavily upon conceptions of virtue harvested from Christian ethical teachings. Similarly, the sermons of Quaker minister and women’s rights activist Lucretia Mottemphasized the ethical substance of New Testament teachings against dogmatic interpretations that justified the subjugation of women, emphasizing religious behavior over rigidity of doctrine.
The nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr., should be understood as the application not only of the methodology of Gandhi but also the moral substance of the Gospels. “Christian love” demanded more than a belief in equality. One of the most important and distinguishing elements of nonviolence, according to Reverend King, was that it “avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love.” Love was not only the preeminent value but also the preeminent virtue of the Nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. The embrace of love as a virtue required the embrace of attendant virtues such as patience, courage, forgiveness, humility, and the suite of moral attributes that lent such ethical force to the work of King and those who followed his moral path.
If the importance of virtue is evident in great social movements it is also visible in the ideational edifice of America’s long-standing institutions. The United States Armed Forces is not merely as a functional organization that safeguards our national security, it is also, at its best, an institution that models and cultivates in its soldiers many of the virtues that we associate with what is most admirable in the American character. “The Army Values” lists seven key virtues that soldiers are trained to adhere to: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. In a similar way, the judicial oath taken by every judge or justice of the United States requires that they “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and the rich,” and to do so “faithfully and impartially,” clearly implying the virtues of faithfulness and impartiality as necessary to the moral character of a proper judge or justice. Even the traditional etiquette of reference that attends the addressing of members of congress (‘the honorable senator…’) expresses the hope that our elected officials possess, or should be held accountable to, the virtue of honor.
It may not be an exaggeration to say that virtue alone serves as the enforcer of all social contract and civic obligation. There are practical arguments that may justify the existence of our institutions, and there are rules, more or less reasonable, that might compel certain behavior from individuals or groups. But if the inward motivation to act in accordance with these rules or to seek the common good through participation in these institutions is lacking, what prevents any of us from subverting our institutions and social relationships for our own gain or becoming altogether alienated from them and one another?
The institution of marriage requires its participants to practice the virtues of selflessness and fidelity in order for it to be sustained. To be a proper friend, one must exhibit the qualities of understanding, patience, and helpfulness. To be a good parent, educator, or really anyone in a position of authority, one must be temperate, fair-minded, and balanced. To be a good student, employee, or soldier, one should be humble and coachable. To be a good leader, one ought to have courage, integrity, and, perhaps, even nobility.
Virtue, as opposed to legal compulsion or mere rationality, forms the basis of genuine interpersonal and social trust. The more we are able to see in and demonstrate for each other those habits of character necessary for flourishing, the more we find ourselves able (as both a reflection of our own virtues and those of our fellows) to collaborate with others, bear with each other’s faults, accept each other’s legitimate authority, and refrain from doing one another harm, whether out of fear, contempt or ambition.
Individual virtue breeds communal virtue, and vice versa, making virtue the great nourisher of our social fabric. If virtue seems to be vanishing from our social, political, and cultural spheres — if it is no longer something that we even pretend to demand of our politicians — this may be because virtue is vanishing from our moral language. At a moment when our political discourse is increasingly limited to our commitments to equality or individualism, and the policies they may seem to imply, American conservativism would do well to reintroduce the virtues into our moral vocabulary — those inward qualities of moral character have always formed the basis for our national excellence and our political community.
Ezra Klein thinks it’s “ridiculous” to ask Democratic presidential candidates whether they want to abolish private health insurance. It’s supposedly ridiculous because the correct answer isn’t yes or no, but “it depends.”
Several of the Democratic candidates have endorsed Senator Sanders’s Medicare for All bill. Klein takes up the subject:[I]f you assume both the generosity and the financing of Sanders’s plan, there’s really no reason to debate private insurance. If the government will cover everything, with no copays or deductibles or hidden forms of rationing, then there’s no need for private coverage. . . .[Sanders’s bill] doesn’t actually abolish private insurance. It outlaws “health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act.” If the proposed benefits contracted during the legislative process, it would open more room for private insurers to enter the system. So even Sanders’s answer to this question isn’t truly “yes” or “no.” It depends on what’s covered, which in turn depends on how much Americans are willing to pay in taxes.
Klein then lists questions that he thinks debate moderators should be asking instead: Would your plan include cost sharing at the point of service, how would prices be determined, and so on. They’re not bad questions. But neither is the question about outlawing private insurance. In the first place, whether the Sanders proposal would change in the legislative process is irrelevant to the question of what the candidates are seeking. Their endorsement tells us the answer to that question. It is also hard to picture the Sanders proposal changing so much that anything like the private health-insurance policies that scores of millions of Americans now rely on could survive.
Several candidates — Gillibrand, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten — have endorsed, of their own free will, making it illegal for Americans to buy the kind of insurance most of them now have. Americans should be informed about what Democratic health programs will look like. They should know as well whether they’ll have a choice about participating.
The savage beating of journalist Andy Ngo in Portland by far-left antifa rioters last Saturday shocked everyone. Well, conservatives anyway, plus a few honorable liberals. As the police stood by watching at a distance, masked thugs hit him, stole his camera and threw milkshake, rocks and eggs at him. He ended up in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage.
Criminal laws are supposed to deter criminal behavior. But that only works when the criminal gets caught and punished, and when people are permitted to hide their identities behind a mask, as antifa thugs are, no one gets caught.
Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has vowed to hold the offenders accountable. Let us know who the perpetrators are, he asked, and the city would hold them accountable — a supremely useless plea when dealing with a largely masked and anonymous group.
The antifa slogan in Portland is “we own the streets.” And they do. The city has let it happen. Last October, they blocked a street and threatened drivers and passers-by who wanted to get through. A few months before that, they beat up a Bernie Sanders supporter who was carrying an American flag.
And it isn’t just Portland. We saw similar brutality in Washington, during President Trump’s Inauguration. Hundreds of rioting antifa members took over downtown DC. They marched in black bloc fashion, five abreast, their faces wholly covered, smashing windows and pushing people off the sidewalk. The police arrested 234 people, but not one of them was found guilty.
It’s the masks that save them. They’re a get-out-of-jail-free card. Deterrence doesn’t work when you can hide your identity. That’s a lesson we should have learned from the Ku Klux Klan.
Thanks to the masks, antifa won’t pay a cost. Instead, they will luxuriate in their sense of justified political hatred. They will also have the backing of prominent apologists in the liberal establishment, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who endorsed the antifa handbook, and CNN’s Don Lemon, who said in defense of the group that “no organization is perfect.”
Best of all for antifa, their actions have an effect. They are letting conservatives and even dissident liberals like Ngo know that they aren’t safe in Portland.
Mind you, that only works if the state is complicit. And when the city abandons its duty to protect its citizens, its inaction amounts to permission.
Mayor Wheeler is picky about the people he will protect. When a federal immigration building was surrounded by protesters last summer, its workers feared for their safety. But the mayor supported the protesters, and, following his orders, the local police refused to take sides.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement workers were effectively imprisoned in their building until federal forces from Homeland Security arrived to rescue them. When it was over, Homeland Security installed a “no-climb” fence to protect the ICE workers, to which the city objected because it was too high.
Wheeler says he is against violence. But the hooded antifa riots are still tolerated. The Portland police chief wants to ban masks, but fat chance the state will pass such a law, against protests by civil libertarians. And an anti-mask law isn’t necessary. The state already has a perfectly suitable remedy, in its anti-riot law. A person commits the crime of riot if, while participating with at least five other people, he engages in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly creates a grave risk of causing public alarm.
I can’t think of a better definition of the antifa method of operation.
After Ngo was beaten, the police declared a riot. Next time, the riot should be declared the moment hooded antifa protesters show up. But Wheeler won’t let that happen. That would get in the way of antifa’s free-speech rights, he thinks.
Evidently, it’s time for the federal government to step in — and crack down. It has had to do so in the past, especially during the civil rights era in the South.
There’s a federal law against conspiring to injure or intimidate a person in the free exercise of enjoyment of his rights or privileges, and I should think the elements of the offense are complete the moment the antifa goons show up in Portland.
What’s missing is the will to protect ordinary citizens, and since the city of Portland won’t do so, it’s time for federal marshals or the FBI to step in.
Democracy dies in arresting genocidal would-be militants
The most amusing part of the Washington Post‘s profile of Representative Ilhan Omar this past weekend was unquestionably the part where they caught her blatantly ripping off classical literature and passing it off as part of her life story. As Omar tells the story, she was once in a courtroom and saw a “sweet, old . . . African American lady” arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-old granddaughter.”
The old woman spent two days in jail awaiting trial, and the when the woman was given a fine of $80 that she couldn’t pay, Omar stood up and yelled “Bulls—!” The entire room began to clap. Omar then addressed the judge and said, “And so, Your Honor, you see it’s true, that woman bears no more guilt than you!” Ripping open her jacket, Omar revealed a tattoo on her chest and bellowed “2-4-6-0-1!”
That last part I made up of course, but Omar seriously tried to pretend everything up to and including the loud profanity was true. One wonders how she beat the contempt of court charge. Yet as the Post notes, Omar’s story “echoed the plot of ‘Les Miserables.'” If not entirely fictional, it’s highly embellished; Minneapolis police are not allowed to lock people up simply for shoplifting and the typical sentence is just attending a three-hour class. The Post reports that Omar later acknowledged that “she may have flubbed some facts.”
That was certainly worth a chuckle, but what really threw me for a loop came later on in the piece, when the Post profiled another typical Minnesota Somali-American family. Filsan Ibrahim and her family run a day care, they celebrate Ramadan together, they share jokes around the dinner table, they worked their way through college and graduate school, they got a welcome letter from George W. Bush when they immigrated to the States, they rally behind convicted ISIS terrorists, they lived through the “uncertainty, hope and joy that accompanied her family’s first days in America,” and “have complicated views of their adopted country that mix gratitude, frustration, alienation and pride.”
Wait, what was that one part? About the ISIS terrorists?
A few days later Filsan, her mother and her sisters attended a fundraiser and rally for nine Somalis who had been convicted in 2016 of trying to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.
Omar had written a letter on behalf of the men on the day she was elected in 2016, urging rehabilitation instead of prison time. “The desire to commit violence is not inherent in people — it is the consequence of systemic alienation,” she wrote the judge. She had known other young men from school who died fighting for al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.
Since her letter she has kept her distance from the case, which she knew was politically toxic, an easy opportunity for her enemies to paint her as un-American.
Can you imagine? If Omar’s enemies used her public defense of a convicted ISIS terrorist? To “paint her” as un-American?
For Filsan, the trial remained a source of anger and frustration. Her generation of Somali refugees saw America as home, but they lived under a shadow of suspicion. Armed American drones regularly fired missiles into their homeland. In Minneapolis, the FBI was surveilling their mosques and paying off informants.
Filsan had protested the FBI’s “countering violent extremism” program in Minneapolis, which sought to dissuade Somalis from joining terrorism groups, but which she believed stigmatized the Somali community.
Just your average Somali-American family that opposes Obama-created federal programs to peacefully persuade American Muslims to reject radical terrorism and feels “anger and frustration” when radical terrorists are arrested. You’d think the apprehension of nine radical Islamic terrorists in Minneapolis– a hotbed for terror recruitment— would be seen vindication of the FBI’s surveillance and persuasion efforts, but I guess not.
To Filsan, it didn’t make sense. The men on trial had never touched a weapon or left the United States. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting into and I don’t think they need to give up their lives for something that never happened,” she said. “That’s madness.” The heavy sentences, she said, were the product of racism, Islamophobia and the never-ending war on terror.
The men never touched a weapon or left the United States because they were arrested before they went through with their concrete and detailed plan to leave the United States and take up weapons. They knew exactly what they were getting into. Ibrahim surely knows this.
As for the heavy sentences, racism has nothing to do with it. It’s true that the specific terrorist Ibrahim was rallying for, Guled Ali Omar, received 35 years. That was a combination of the fact that he was the ringleader and that he refused to take a plea deal and elected to take his chances at trial. The two other members who refused plea deals got 30 years. Those who took deals got only ten years and those who turned state’s witness got even less prison time. That seems more than fair for plotting to join a genocidal enemy of the state.
About a dozen of Guled’s friends lingered in the parking lot, posing for pictures they planned to post on Instagram. “Fingers up,” someone called out.
Most of the men raised their index fingers, a gesture that symbolizes the oneness of God and has become widely associated with the Islamic State. They flashed the same sign during the trial in 2016, drawing the ire of the prosecutor.
The young Somalis in the parking lot — a mix of men and women — said they didn’t subscribe to the Islamic State’s fanatical interpretation of the Koran. And they certainly didn’t support any terrorist groups. But, on this night, they were trying to send a message — one of Muslim solidarity, alienation and defiance.
You must be kidding.
Imagine this sequence of events: a group of young white, right-wing people attend a rally for, let’s say, the man convicted of threatening to kill Ilhan Omar. In the course of this rally, they tell reporters that they feel anger and frustration at the government’s surveillance of nativist groups and hostility to white nationalism. They downplay the crime– because hey, it’s not like he ever went through with it!– suggest the harsh sentence was politically motivated. Then afterwards, they all head outside and flash the alt-right “okay sign” or grab some tiki torches, but then explain that they don’t subscribe to alt-right beliefs or support alt-right terrorists.
Do you believe, in a million years, that Washington Post reporters would A) credulously parrot the claim they aren’t actually extremists, and B) finish by characterizing it all as a show of “solidarity, alienation and defiance”? Or might they conclude that this rally is at best a hotbed of white nationalist apologists, and more realistically is full of plain old white nationalists?
Alas, the actual extremists and terror sympathizers in questions are part of a liberal constituency, supported by a popular young liberal politician, and are members of a faith group often targeted by the Trump administration. The reporters allowed their biases to blind themselves to reality and the result is absurd: an honest-to-god puff piece of a rally on behalf of convicted terrorists. Take a bow, WaPo.
The left's new extremism condones assaulting conservatives in public. Antifa's attack on a journalist is yet another example that our norms have changed.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post published an opinion article written by Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Wilkinson famously kicked out White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family last June over what Wilkinson felt was a moral obligation to stand up to the Trump administration. The restaurant owner not only ejected Sanders, but followed her into another restaurant to continue the harassment.
Wilkinson doubled down on her actions in her Washington Post article, claiming that all restaurants and businesses have a moral obligation to prevent dissenters from participating in public life because, as she said, “this isn’t about politics. It’s about values, and accountability to values, in business.”
Her position, like many others, is that President Trump is akin to a murderous dictator, that he is an unabashed anti-LGBT racist, despite no evidence to support this. She has subscribed to the rules and followed them to the letter, so naturally, anyone who shares any values with the conservative president is the enemy. In closing, she suggests:
When the day comes that the world feels returned to its normal axis, I expect we’ll see fewer highly charged encounters making headlines. In the meantime, the new rules apply. If you’re directly complicit in spreading hate or perpetuating suffering, maybe you should consider dining at home.
The New York Times ran a companion article this weekend in their opinion section that suggested civilians should expose those attempting to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. Author Katie Cronin-Furman, an “assistant professor for human rights,” didn’t mean the human smugglers and the scores of people exploiting children to gain access to the United States, but the government employees of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She cited the cash-starved agencies as being solely responsible for the deplorable conditions at the detention facilities.
The author further suggests that the best way to combat the crisis at the border, which was repeatedly denied by the left until very recently, was to obtain the names and identities of government agents and shame them publicly in their home towns and churches. She said, “Immigration lawyers have agent names; journalists reporting at the border have names, photos and even videos. These agents’ actions should be publicized, particularly in their home communities.”
Cronin-Furman further suggested that attorneys should think twice about representing these government agents: “the American Bar Association should signal that anyone who defends the border patrol’s mistreatment of children will not be considered a member in good standing of the legal profession.” Mind you, even serial killers, rapists, terrorists, and pedophiles have the right to legal representation in this country. But apparently U.S. government employees attempting to deal with a crisis our Congress refuses to address do not.
These are the new rules of civility. Last week, a server at The Aviary, an upscale cocktail lounge in Chicago, spit in the face of the president’s son, Eric. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot condemned this, as did the owners of The Aviary, but public support for the server was astronomic. A fundraising page for the employee (later determined to be fake) raised more than $5,000 in less than two days.
Carlos Maza, an employee of liberal outlet Vox, made headlines in June for causing YouTube to yank ad revenue from conservative Steven Crowder. He claimed Crowder was guilty of “hate speech” and harassment. Crowder frequently poked fun at Maza and his extremely leftist views on his show, “Louder with Crowder.” Just a month earlier, however, Maza suggested attacking all conservatives by hurling drinks at them. In a tweet, he said, “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.”
Vice published an article in May titled, “How to Make the Perfect Milkshake for Throwing at Fascists,” which encouraged readers to hurl the beverages at any conservative they recognize in public. Food blog Eater doubled down on Vice’s suggestion with a tongue-in-cheek piece about the best throwing food for “fighting fascism.”
The Boston Globe published an article in April that suggested food service workers should tamper with the food of conservatives, including of Bill Kristol, who has never supported the Trump administration in any way. The Boston Globe later removed their article after severe backlash. Throwing any object at a person is considered assault.
In the past year, nearly a dozen members of the Trump administration and conservative lawmakers have been chased out of restaurants and pelted with milkshakes, not for causing civil disruption, but simply for being in public. The new rules being touted so strongly by the media aren’t limited to lawmakers and cabinet members any longer, however. Milkshakes, harassment, and public shaming are now excused penalties for anyone who doesn’t fully subscribe to their ideology.
In that vein, any journalist critical of policies now considered by the left to be nothing short of moral imperatives would also be unwelcome in the public square and therefore a complicit “fascist.” After the shocking moment in Thursday night’s Democratic debate when all ten candidates raised their hands in favor of unlimited taxpayer-provided health care for illegal immigrants, noted Trump critic Andrew Sullivan suggested their extreme position could cost them the election. He was quickly labeled on social media as a Trump apologist and racist.
Then there was the attack on journalist Andy Ngo this weekend in Portland, Oregon, by Rose City Antifa. While the extreme left continues to tout their new rules of civility as being merely “peaceful protests,” Ngo was targeted and brutally attacked by black-mask-wearing members of an extremist organization. As Antifa pelted Ngo with fists, milkshakes, and other objects, stealing his camera and phone as he lay bleeding on the ground, police stood idly by under directives of a very liberal mayor in a very liberal city. Just three arrests were made. Ngo was hospitalized with a brain bleed.
Ngo, who is openly gay, is an editor for Quillette, a magazine that stays in the center politically but often publishes articles that fall outside of the “correct way” of thinking as laid out by extreme progressives. The new rules seem to ban any contradicting thought from public life, and if peaceful protesting doesn’t make people fall in line, then more forceful, violent methods now have received the green light.
The political line in the sand between the left and right has evolved into a fracture so deep and wide that the idea of crossing it in either direction has become almost unthinkable. Progressive liberals have set a far-left course that has been followed by most congressional Democrats, even those who once considered themselves to be moderate. They’ve laid out their rules for the “correct” way to think, to speak, and to vote.
“Correct” for the new left includes eliminating border enforcement, giving government benefits to illegal immigrants, socializing education from pre-K all the way through college, striking private health insurance in favor of Medicare, and using taxpayer revenue to pay for abortions without restriction. The stunning ascension of such extreme policy proposals from high-profile Democrats has further cast conservatives, moderates, and many in their own party as the villains in a battle between good and evil.
What has been made abundantly clear in recent days is that the new left has no intention of negotiating their terms. In addition to laying out the way they feel every man, woman, and child should think, the party of “decency” and “tolerance” has become totally intolerant of dissenting thought. Those who challenge their ideas are often branded as racists, misogynists, and even Nazis because to the new left, their extremism isn’t a political ideology, it’s the new national code for morals and values.