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.
By Fox News•
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Tuesday compared the push to combat climate change to the response to the attack on Pearl Harbor as he unveiled legislation that would declare a “climate emergency” and demand a massive-scale mobilization to tackle it.
“In some ways…I’m reminded today in terms of the crisis that we face in climate change about where the United States was in 1941 when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor, and what happened at that point, having to fight a war on two fronts in the East and in Europe, the United States came together and within three years it had created the type of armaments program that was necessary to, in fact, win the war,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
He went on to argue that fighting climate change was do-able, but it needed greater political will in Washington D.C. — particularly from President Trump, whom he called ignorant on the issue.
“So I don’t think the issue here isn’t that we can’t address this problem, i think we can, I think we know exactly what has to be done, and that is massive investment in sustainable energy, massive investments in energy efficiency, transform our transportation system, we know what has to be done, but the problem is the lack of political will,” he said.
He made his remarks as he, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., was set to introduce a non-binding resolution in Congress to declare a “climate emergency” that calls for a “massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.”
Ocasio-Cortez said that the U.S. has fewer than 12 years to act to combat the crisis, and echoed Sanders’ sentiment that it was a question of political will, rather than how to act.
“We know that the scientific consensus is here, the solutions are right in front of us but…this is not just a scientific crisis, not just an environmental crisis, a climate crisis but this is a political crisis of inaction, and it’s going to take political will, political courage in order for us to treat us this issue with the urgency that the next generation needs in order for us to preserve our way of life and preserve our planet as much as we possibly can,” she said.
The resolution calls for a wide-scale mobilization to combat the emergency and restore the climate “for future generations.”
“The global warming caused by human activities,” claims the draft resolution, according to the Mother Jones magazine, “has resulted in a climate emergency that … demands a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Blumenauer, meanwhile, also wrote to fellow members of Congress urging them to declare climate change an emergency in a bid to “swiftly mobilize federal resources in response.”
The resolution, according to the outlet, details how climate change impacts public health and the national security of the U.S., though it doesn’t make any exact recommendations for how to address the so-called emergency.
The latest declaration comes after Ocasio-Cortez’s signature Green New Deal, a sweeping Democratic proposal for dealing with climate change, failed a test vote in the U.S. Senate in March, with 42 Democrats and Sanders voting “present.”
Both the New York Democrat and her colleagues decried Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s move to bring the Green New Deal up for a vote, saying the Republicans purposely rushed the vote while McConnell said he only wanted Democrats to go on record to support the sweeping proposal that he himself called “a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy.”
The Green New Deal calls for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power. It calls for virtual elimination by 2030 of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. Republicans have railed against the proposal, saying it would devastate the economy and trigger massive tax increases.
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.
Last week Wall Street focused on what the Trump-Xi summit would mean for the China trade war, the global economy and the Dow Jones. But the high-stakes meeting turned out to be a warm-up act. President Donald Trump’s real diplomatic flourish came as he crossed into the DMZ to shake hands with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Investors are still trying to discern whether China trade talks will bear fruit after Trump’s big concession to Chinese President Xi Jinping. In addition to holding off on further tariffs, Trump said he would ease a ban on American technology sales to Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei. Beijing appeared to give up little or nothing, and shows no sign of caving to Trump’s demands.
That raises the risk of another sudden collapse of China trade talks and a further escalation of tariffs. If that happens, both the U.S. economy and Dow Jones look vulnerable, even as the Dow hit record highs Wednesday.
But it may make sense to look at the China trade war through the prism of Trump’s push for a North Korea breakthrough. It’s a good bet that Trump-Kim DMZ meeting wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gotten China trade talks back on track.
Now Trump is pushing for a White House visit and reportedly wants North Korea to agree to substantially freeze nuclear weapons capabilities. As long as Trump sees Beijing as a “strategic partner” reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, further escalation of the China trade war seems unlikely.
The relationship between North Korea and China is complex. But China has significant economic ties with North Korea, has often taken Pyongyang’s side against harsh international sanctions and has been seen as able to influence its behavior. International relations experts also say that Beijing has long used its role in mediating North Korea’s threat as a buffer against criticism by the West.
Trump has previously discussed China’s North Korea ties as a consideration in the U.S.-China trade dispute. While that hasn’t averted a major trade conflict, this past weekend isn’t the only time North Korea nuclear issue and China trade war have seemed to follow a parallel path.
Last December, Trump and Xi agreed to their first trade cease-fire. Then came Trump’s February summit with the North Korean leader in Hanoi. Trump walked away from that meeting, putting talks on ice. In May, China trade talks also broke down as Trump lost patience with Beijing for backtracking on commitments. On May 5, Trump threatened to escalate tariffs. Four days later, North Korea fired off short-range missiles in an implicit challenge to the U.S.
The odds of a China trade deal look pretty low, given the depth of the differences separating the two sides. The U.S. insists that China write new laws resolving complaints over theft of intellectual property, forced technology transfers, currency manipulation, access to Chinese markets and state subsidies. Even then, the U.S. wants Trump tariffs to remain in force, with some falling away as Beijing clears these benchmarks. China has refused all of these demands as humiliating and a violation of its sovereignty.
Trump may be losing hope for a huge China trade deal, but he seems to think a North Korean nuclear deal could be in reach. Trump may even see a certain logic in letting a North Korea deal come first. If Beijing really is a “strategic partner,” as Trump said in a Saturday press conference, Chinese leaders will encourage North Korea to complete a nuclear deal with him. If that happened, Trump might be more trusting of China to abide by any trade agreement, rather than keeping tariffs in place until Beijing proves it will keep its word.
Democratic presidential candidates are trying to revive a dead deal
On Monday, the regime in Iran announced that it’s intentionally violating the 2015 nuclear deal. Since then, no Democratic presidential candidates have reversed their pledges to reenter the accord if elected. In other words, several Democratic candidates would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by returning to a nuclear agreement that Iran is no longer following. If that strategy sounds illogical, that’s because it is. But that isn’t the worst of it. Recall that, under the deal, the most important restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program begin to disappear at the end of the next presidential term and the beginning of the following one. So, assuming for a moment that a Democrat is elected president in 2020, the tool by which that president would constrain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions—the deal—would effectively expire as they are set to start a second term, or as their predecessor is set to take office, in either case putting the United States in an impotent position to stop an Iranian capability to develop nuclear weapons. And yet, too many Democrats are hell-bent on preserving a nuclear deal that is on its deathbed. At this point, arguments for reviving the narrow nuclear deal in roughly its original form are dangerous and delusional.
The nuclear deal, which President Trump withdrew from last year, allowed Iran to store 300 kilograms of uranium. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Monday that his country exceeded that limit. The International Atomic Energy Agency has since confirmed this violation. The deal also allowed Tehran to enrich its stored uranium to a low concentration of 3.67 percent, a cap the regime also plans to breach in the coming days. “Our next step will be enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent allowed under the deal,” Zarif said.
Despite what the media have reported this week, Iran’s latest actions are hardly its first in violation of the nuclear accord. Indeed, Tehran has repeatedly exceeded the limits of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors to help produce plutonium, permitted under the deal. The regime has also operated more advanced nuclear centrifuges than are permitted by the accord, while refusing to grant international inspections of nuclear research and military facilities. Furthermore, German intelligence agencies have flagged Iran’s continued illicit attempts to buy nuclear and missile technology. As I explainedin January, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iranian media that the regime
circumvented a section of the deal that explicitly requires Tehran to remove the reactor core at its Arak nuclear facility in central Iran, and then to fill its tubes with cement so the facility cannot be used to pursue a plutonium path to a bomb. Iran’s nuclear chief explained that Tehran secretly acquired and stored replacement tubes, noting that only Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, knew about the decision. … [Salehi] added that images showing the reactor core filled with cement were “photoshopped.”
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned Wednesday that the regime “will restore the Arak reactor to its previous condition.”
We know about Iran’s most significant violation of the deal thanks to the Israelis, who last year captured about 100,000 secret files from Iran concerning its nuclear program. The files revealed, among other insights, that the regime had plans to build at least five nuclear bombs. That the Iranians were hiding such information strongly suggests that they were planning to use it later and still seek nuclear weapons today. Why would a bank robber who promised to quit still have blueprints of banks stashed away in his basement? Recall one of the deal’s first sentences: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons.” It seems that Iran was lying from the start, violating the most basic and overarching term of the agreement.
News of Iran’s latest illicit activities came a few days after the first Democratic presidential debates, during which several candidates promised to reenter the nuclear deal if elected.
At the first debate on Wednesday, moderators asked the 10 candidates present whether they would rejoin the deal. Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) was the only one not to raise his hand, although he said he wants to return to a similar agreement. “It was a mistake to pull out of that deal,” he said. Trump “took us out of the deal that gave us transparency into their nuclear program and push back a nuclear breakout 10—20 years. We need to renegotiate and get back into a deal.”
The other two candidates allowed to comment on the issue, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), expressed similar sentiments.
Every Democrat running for president has said or heavily implied that they would reenter the nuclear deal, either before entering the race or during the campaign. Some, such as Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, have added a caveat that they would seek tougher conditions. But the leading candidates have all indicated that they would return to the original agreement.
A few of the candidates have alluded to the fact that, under the deal, the key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over the next 12 years. Beginning in 2026, Tehran is free to enrich uranium using advanced centrifuges, which make the enrichment process much more efficient, and to install and operate more of its older models. In 2031, restrictions on the amount and level of enriched uranium that Iran can stockpile disappear—restrictions that Iran is already violating. These are the two key dates, after which Iran will be able to build as large of a nuclear program as it wants. And the best part: If the United States were in the deal, Iran could also enjoy relief from sanctions.
But there are several key expiration dates before then. In 2025, for example, the “snapback” provision, under which sanctions by the United Nations would be reimposed should Iran violate the deal, will end. New sanctions would require the U.N. Security Council to pass another resolution, which China or Russia would surely veto. Moreover, in 2023, Iran will have an easier time acquiring components and technology for its ballistic-missile program, the key for Tehran delivering nuclear bombs, with the lifting of a U.N. ban on assisting Iran’s missile program.
Taken together, these dates show that, regardless of who is inaugurated in January 2021, the president will find the nuclear deal unsustainable over the next four years, as key clauses of the deal expire. And if the president during this time foolishly returns to the nuclear deal, imagine the situation they would hand to their successor, who, at that point, would only be able to stop or delay an Iranian nuclear bomb with military strikes. Of course at that point Iran would be better able to defend itself, with the U.N. ban on Iranian arms imports and exports set to expire in 2020 under the deal. Reentering the nuclear accord simply boxes in future presidents, giving them fewer options.
With Iran breaching the deal today and key provisions set to expire in a few years, it simply does not make sense for the United States to return to a dying agreement. Some Democrats at the debate said they wanted to renegotiate their way back into the accord. Well, like it or not, the best way to make that happen, to return to some kind of an agreement, is to follow the Trump administration’s policy: to exert maximum pressure on the regime to force it back into negotiations, with the United States having greater leverage. Other options will lead down a predictably dangerous road of appeasing the Iranians to prevent a full-scale war that won’t erupt if America shows strength and resolve—the opposite of what most Democratic candidates are proposing. So, looking at the big picture, the Democratic candidates can get an agreement. They just have to follow Trump’s road to get there. Don’t hold your breath.
By Fox News•
I’m not quite old enough to remember the “global cooling” scare of the 1970s and the media’s drumbeat of the coming ice age that would end mankind. But I have been told many times the end is near by doomsday prophets who have frightened people into green orthodoxy better than any cult leader.
As an 8-year-old kid I was particularly jarred by an episode of the TV show “Diff’rent Strokes” in which acid rain caused Kimberley’s hair to turn green. I lived in New York City just like the TV character, I believed my rain was poison.
Throughout high school I was told that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and aerosols were tearing a hole in the ozone layer, and that it could never be repaired. Deadly UV rays would give us all cancer because I used spray deodorant. I switched to roll-on.
Then came the mother of all doomsday scenarios: global warming. It blew away other environmental issues like candles on a cake. Deadly heat and floods. Ice caps melting. Polar bears dying. Alligators and sharks invading. TV shows. Movies. Books.
Former Vice President Al Gore warned we were all going to die from global warming.
Thirty years ago this week, the United Nations issued a global warming report that I distinctly remember. It predicted worldwide disaster.
According to the report, the Great Plains of America would return to the Dust Bowl. The oceans would rise by several feet, causing low-lying countries like the Maldive Islands and Bangladesh to be underwater.
The report said North Africa would bake into wastelands. Rainforests would be gone, as would much animal life. And it was all because of fossil fuels. American greed. Us. Me. Switching deodorant did nothing to stop it.
Tough lessons for a 15-year-old high school sophomore.
And here we are 30 years later, and I look back at that 1989 report, I think only this: What happened?
The predictions in the report were not just a bit “off” – like my calculations in my high school math class, my understanding of Shakespeare, or my failed attempt to high jump. The U.N. report was flat-out wrong. It was 100 percent, complete opposite, 180-degree wrong.
Can I get an explanation, please?
The report claimed “even the most conservative scientists” said there was nothing we could do to stop the Earth from warming three degrees. But Earth didn’t warm that much.
The report claimed we had a 10-year window to fix this or it would be irreversible. It wasn’t.
The report claimed the Soviet Union would have a bumper crop harvest because of shifting weather patterns. The Soviet Union collapsed months later.
I’d be OK if this were a one-time mistake, but the U.N. continues to issue such hyperbolic reports. It’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the latest one last December, and it, too, triggered a countdown clock.
The phrase “we have 12 years to fix this” is parroted by almost every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and their party’s de facto leader, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
On the bright side, we were told we had 10 years in 1989, so at least the prognosis is better this time.
Why issue another report without correcting the first one? That’s not the scientific method. Can we ask for a correction? Here’s a simple question: What did the U.N. report get wrong in 1989?
After all, this is “science,” and one is expected to believe in science. So let’s lay out the facts dispassionately and objectively, as any unbiased scientist would. Please identify the error and methodological change or formula or data point that has been corrected. Show your work.
Otherwise, why should we believe you got it right 30 years later?
Surely the IPCC has the means to do an after-action review. Since the report was issued the IPCC has raked in over $150 million.
Looks like there’s a prophet making a profit.
No presidential candidate, and practically no politician, would ever say he or she is skeptical of these U.N. predictions. “Climate denier” is an accusation akin to “war criminal,” and with a leftist movement that is growing more violent and assaulting and doxing journalists, it’s almost imprudent to voice an alternative view.
But the U.N. has a 30-year track record of being wrong on this issue, so I take its reports on climate change and “we have 12 years left” with a grain of salt the size of the Maldives.
In 30 more years, I’ll be 75. I can’t wait to read the U.N. report.
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.
While the press portrayed Hope Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality she testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Following the Thursday release of the transcript from Hope Hicks’s testimony before the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee, the media quickly concentrated on the questions Trump’s former communications director refused to answer. But while the press portrayed Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality Hicks testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And that testimony established yet again that the Russia collusion narrative was a hoax.
One theme of Democrats’ questioning of Hicks concerned the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. Several times Hicks confirmed the lack of contacts between top Trump campaign members and Russia.
“I’m telling you,” Hicks testified, “I wasn’t aware in the campaign of any contacts with Russian officials.” Later, when asked again what, if any, communications and contacts there were between the Trump campaign and Russian or Russian officials, Hicks noted that during the campaign she wasn’t aware of any but later learned of insignificant contacts, such as Jeff Sessions meeting the Russian ambassador at a foreign policy speech.
Hicks further testified that a Russian official’s post-election comment that Russia was “in constant communication or constant contact with members of Trump’s inner circle throughout the campaign,” “was not true.” “I’m not aware of anybody that regularly interacted with Mr. Trump that was a decisionmaker that advised him on a frequent basis that had, ‘regular contacts’ with any Russian officials,” Hicks stressed.
Hicks, who had previously worked for the Trump organization, also testified that she was not aware of any financial ties between Russia and the Trump Organization during the campaign. Nor did Hicks have any knowledge of any “foreign government providing cash or any other thing of value to Mr. Trump during the campaign,” or of any conversations during the campaign about Trump traveling to Russia (other than for the Miss Universe Pageant), or meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hicks further told the committee that she only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press.
Democrats on the committee nonetheless pushed the Russia collusion narrative by attempting to portray an email Hicks received from the editor-in-chief of the Russian internet newspaper Vzglyad as evidence of a Russian conspiracy. Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse flipped to the much-referenced Robert Mueller report to read the special counsel’s finding that “one day earlier the publication’s founder and former Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Rykov had registered two Russian websites, Trump2016.ru and DonaldTrump2016.ru.”
But Neguse’s attempt to implicate the Trump campaign in Russia’s online efforts to interfere in the election failed badly. “I don’t recall receiving the interview request,” Hicks noted, “I received hundreds of interview requests, sometimes daily.” Because Trump had no intention of participating in the interview, Hicks explained, she was not concerned about the identity of the outlet, and hadn’t even realized until after the fact that the email had come from a Russian.
Concerning the WikiLeaks hacks, Hicks made clear that the only discussion the campaign had was “speculation about if there would be more emails or information released, but that was prompted by things in the media,” and it wasn’t with certainty that more leaks would happen, but “with speculation and skepticism.”
“No,” Hicks stressed, Trump did not talk about WikiLeaks or the hack, nor did anybody else in the campaign, other than what was discussed in the public domain. Hicks also testified that during the campaign she had heard nothing about Roger Stone and his supposed relationship with WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange, or about WikiLeaks’ “divulgence of information about the emails of Hillary Clinton and Mr. Podesta,” beyond media coverage.
In short, Hicks stated that during the campaign, Trump never indicated that he knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was responsible for the Democratic National Committee hacks or that he had knowledge that additional information would be released. Hicks also confirmed that before the election she had not been told that anyone at the Trump campaign had been offered information about Hillary Clinton.
The Trump Tower meeting was another focus of committee questions: Hicks told the committee that she did not know about the Trump Tower meeting or Donald Trump Jr.’s emails about that meeting until after Trump was elected president. She had also never heard “any discussion from any Trump Organization employee or Mr. Trump about an ongoing effort to pursue a potential Trump Tower Moscow at that time,” another thread weaved into the Russia collusion hoax.
Hick’s responses during last week’s hearing also provided fresh insight into Trump’s behind-the-scenes response to news of Russian interference. Hicks noted that the campaign only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press. The president’s former confidant added that any conversations she was privy to during the campaign concerning Russia interference in the election mirrored what Trump said publicly.
Then, when asked what specifically Trump said during the campaign about public reports that his team was coordinating with Russia, Hicks relayed that Trump called it “nonsense.” Trump believed that the Russia collusion conspiracy “was something that the Clinton campaign had made up to deflect from the information that they viewed as harmful to their candidate, to their campaign,” Hicks explained.
Hicks also testified that she agreed with his assessment and that the “unsubstantiated claims that [the Trump campaign] were coordinating with Russia was an attempt to distract and deflect.” The former communications director added that the Trump campaign obviously knew there was no collusion, but admitted that had she been working instead for the Clinton campaign, she “probably would have taken a similar strategy.” Hicks further noted that, whether the Russia collusion hoax was being peddled by the “Clinton campaign or speculated about in the media,” her discussions with candidate Trump focused on how to respond to the false claims.
Hicks also shared details of her conversation with Trump following his late-July 2016 off-the-cuff remark: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Hicks explained that she informed Trump that “some in the media had taken the expression quite literally, and that they were concerned he was encouraging foreign governments to, you know, locate those emails, and that that was obviously something that the media felt was extremely inappropriate and demanded a response from Mr. Trump and the campaign as to what exactly he meant by that.”
Hicks stated that, “both from Trump’s remark and her discussion with him after,” she understood the comment as a joke. When pushed about what Trump had said, Hicks conveyed that he noted “it was intended as a light-hearted comment.”
In practice, however, Trump took concerns about Russia’s meddling seriously, Hicks explained. For instance, according to Hicks, after the media began questioning Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Trump, not realizing Manafort’s close relationship with Richard Gates, asked Gates to keep an eye on Manafort.
Trump questioned some of Manafort’s “past work with other foreign governments, foreign campaigns,” and stressed that “none of that would be appropriate to be ongoing during his service with the Trump campaign,” Hicks elaborated. He also asked Gates to let him know “if anything led him to believe that was ongoing.”
When, following Trump’s election, then-President Barack Obama raised questions about Michael Flynn to Trump, Hicks explained that warning tainted Trump’s view of Flynn going forward. Trump “was a bit bewildered that, you know, of all the things that the two of them could have been discussing,” it was Flynn that came up. (This detail also raises the question of Obama’s motivation and his efforts to sour the president-elect’s relationship with Flynn.)
Hicks’ testimony also negated several other Democratic and media talking points on Russia interference and collusion. While Democrats attempted to portray Trump as unperturbed by Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, Hicks countered, “I think he was concerned, but I think he was simultaneously concerned that folks with a political agenda were going to weaponize that assessment to try to undermine the legitimacy of this election.”
She similarly exposed how the media misrepresented information to further the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, when Rep. Ted Lieu attempted to do the same during the hearing.
“In 2008, Donald Trump, Jr., was quoted as saying ‘In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,’” Lieu quoted to Hicks. Hicks acknowledged that she had spoken with Trump Jr., about this statement, but only to ensure “the media wasn’t misrepresenting the remark or presenting it in any misleading way.”
“And how was the media mischaracterizing Donald Trump, Jr.’s remarks?” Lieu quizzed. The media “made it seem like there was Russian money coming into the Trump Organization in a way that was inappropriate or somehow sinister,” when Trump Jr., was merely “describing the kinds of clientele that were purchasing luxury apartments, both in New York City, Chicago, and in South Florida.”
“They’re a luxury, globally recognized real estate company,” Hick explained, so “it would be odd if [the Trump Organization] weren’t selling to people just because they’re affiliated with Russia.”
By the end of her nearly eight hours of testimony last week, Hicks obliterated many of the Russia-collusion talking points pushed by Democrats and the media for the last three years, even more expertly than Mueller did in his special counsel report. As one Democrat noted during the hearing, Hicks was “with [Trump] every day,” during both the primary and general election. She would have known had the campaign colluded with Russia.
Yet her testimony made clear there was no Russia strategy, significant contact, collaboration, or collusion, which is why when Hicks was asked whether she thought the president “might be angry about [her] testifying before Congress today,” her ready reply punctuated her significant—but unreported—testimony: “I think the president knows that I would tell the truth, and the truth is there was no collusion. And I’m happy to say that as many times as is necessary today.”
On Tuesday night my CNN colleague Chris Cuomo correctly asserted that I, and people like me, embrace terms such as “nationalist” and “America First” — phrases that are, in his view, “stained.” He challenged me to provide an example of “nationalism that was positive and not oppressive to another.” My immediate answer was “American nationalism,” to which he responded, “There’s no American nationalism.”
It is abundantly clear, of course, that American nationalism is a real thing. We can consider, of course, the merits of this ideology, but we cannot honestly litigate its existence. Our TV debate that night revealed a foundational chasm that is magnified in our political discourse. For those of us embedded in the widespread 2016 movement toward sovereignty, a muscular return to nationalism forms a prerequisite for economic fairness and the diffusion of power. Conversely, the “resistance” views nationalism as a retrograde parochialism that usurps the allegedly enlightened internationalism that has dominated policy and thinking among elites of government, big business, academia, and the media for several decades.
But instead of confronting American nationalism on its actual tenets, the Democratic Party and mainstream media complex smear the movement as inherently racist and evocative of oppressive fascism. For example, permissive immigration advocates assail U.S. border enforcement as intrinsically racist. During that CNN discussion, my colleague Angela Rye insisted that the motivations of people — like me — who desire stronger border protection flow from “fear that white people are losing their power in this country. That is what is driving this. White fear. What is what is driving this. It is racism.”
In addition to slandering me, a Hispanic and immigrant son, as motivated by “white fear,” Miss Rye’s diatribe conveniently overlooks the clear reality that America is not a race. American citizenship pays no regard at all to color. In point of fact, protecting America from illegal alien trespassers proves particularly crucial for Americans of color, who suffer disproportionately from the ravages of mass illegal immigration, including unfair labor market competition and totally preventable street crime from dangerous troublemakers mixed among the migrants.
Rye then extended the verbal attacks. She echoed the alarmism of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, warning that, by operating detention facilities for border trespassers, America heads down a road that leads to “death camps” like those operated by Nazi Germany. I wish that such inane hyperbole could be dismissed as a radical outlier but, in fact, such comparisons have become all too common in the mainstream media since President Trump’s election. For example, MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch admonished “Morning Joe” viewers that “if you vote for Trump then you the voter – you, not Trump – are standing at the border like Nazis.”
In this effort, agents of the left deliberately conflate American nationalism with the rancid ethno-fascist history of the Axis powers. The latter built political bonds based on blood and soil, focusing on racial purity and cross-border military conquest. In direct contravention to such evil, American nationalism discounts heritage and genetics. As a nation of immigrants, our founding instead focused almost totally on shared beliefs, on our creed as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence: “we hold these truths…” There is no DNA test for American nationalism; it is, rather, a commonality of believers. Among these beliefs are the principles of pluralism, religious liberty, free-market economics, respect for our Constitution, and reverence for our great flag.
In addition, quite unlike the expansionist ethos of ethno-fascism, American nationalism, properly understood, seeks protection of our interests with a minimum of U.S. intervention abroad. Whereas actual fascists overrun borders and abuse the prerogatives of sovereign nations, our nationalism strives to protect the integrity of our borders. In such efforts, we fulfill the teachings of a very famous nationalist, Mahatma Gandhi. As leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement, he once remarked that “our nationalism can be no peril to other nations inasmuch as we will exploit none, just as we will allow none to exploit us.”
America First stipulates that we, like any proud people, place our country’s own self-interest before the goals of multinational structures. I believe this aspect of American nationalism drives much of the visceral disdain displayed by the globalist elites. Luminaries of media and big business, for example, have thrived in a multilateral world, and largely find stronger bonds with journalists or executives in Paris, France than with the people of Paris, Texas. These cronies, therefore, recoil at the notion of enlightened nationalism and consequently seek to delegitimize it as somehow racist and despotic.
But these privileged influencers should stop this dishonest disparagement. They should also look beyond their narrow self-interest and instead acknowledge the incredible benefits both here and abroad from an America motivated by a rational, mature, and edified self-interest. To channel Teri Hatcher’s famous breakup line to Jerry Seinfeld way back in 1993: American nationalism: It’s real … and it’s spectacular!
"This is the flip side (of) tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. The rich leave, and now what do you do?" said New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Feb. 4
After the Trump tax cut went into effect one year ago, we predicted that the Trump tax reform would supercharge the national economy but could cause big financial problems for the highest-tax states: New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, and New York.
The capping of the state and local tax deduction at $10,000 raised the highest effective state tax rates by about 66% (for example, in New York City, the rate on millionaires rose from about 8% to 13.3%). In New Jersey, the highest rate has risen from 7.5% to 12.75%.
Now, we have Andrew Cuomo conceding that the trend of rich people moving out of New York has caused the loss of $2.3 billion of tax revenue in Albany’s coffers. Cuomo called this tax change “diabolical.” We think it was a matter of tax fairness. No longer do residents of low-tax states have to pay higher federal taxes to support the blob of excessive state/local spending and pensions in the blue states.
As we predicted, the wealthy are fleeing these states. The new United Van Lines data were just released that are a good proxy for where Americans are moving to and from. Guess what four states had the highest percentage of leavers in 2018: 1) New Jersey, 2) Illinois, 3) Connecticut and 4) New York. Even high-tax California had more Americans pack up and leave than enter.
Ironically, liberals like Cuomo who argued for years that businesses don’t make location decisions based on taxes in their states are now forced to admit that the cap on the state and local tax deduction (which primarily affects the richest 1%) is depleting their state coffers. The rich change their residence by moving for at least 183 days of the year to low taxers such as Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
We advised Cuomo and other blue state governors to immediately cut their tax rates if they wanted to remain even semi-competitive with low-tax states. They are doing the opposite. Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey have led the nation in tax increases on the rich over the last three years, while “progressives” have cheered them on.
Last year, legislators in Trenton went on a taxing spree, raising the income tax on those making more than $5 million a year to 10.75% — now the third-highest in the country — and then enacting a health care individual mandate tax on workers, a corporate rate increase and an option for localities to impose a payroll tax on businesses. And they are still short of cash. Idiotically, these tax hikes were passed after the state and local tax deduction cap was enacted, thus pouring gasoline on their fiscal fires.
How has this worked out for them?
In addition to New York’s fiscal woes, the deficit in Illinois is pegged at $2.8 billion (with a $7.8 billion backlog of unpaid bills), and Connecticut faces a two-year $4 billion shortfall despite three tax increases in five years.
New Jersey has a $500 million deficit this year (even after the biggest tax hike in the state’s history) and Moody’s predicts that gap will widen to $3 billion over the next five years. This is all happening at a time when most states have healthy and unexpected surplus revenues due to the Trump economic boom and the historic decline in unemployment.
A Pew study published late last year on which states are bleeding the most red ink ranked New Jersey worst, Illinois second worst and Connecticut seventh worst. New York was also in the bottom 10.
Let us state this loud and clear in the hopes that lawmakers in state capitals across the country are paying attention: The three states that have raised their taxes the most now have the worst fiscal outlook.
Worst of all, things don’t look like they are going to get better in any of these states.
Last fall, Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey voters elected mega-rich Democratic Govs. Ned Lamont, J.B. Pritzker and Phil Murphy, who have promised to sock it to the rich — the ones who haven’t yet left. In Illinois, Pritzker would eliminate the state’s constitutionally protected flat tax so that he can raise the income tax on the rich by as much as 50%. After raising income taxes three times in the last five years, Connecticut’s legislature now wants to raise the sales tax rate. No one in any of these progressive states even dares utter the words tax cut. In just one decade, New York lost 1.3 million net residents; Illinois 717,000, New Jersey 516,000 and Connecticut 176,000. California has lost 929,000.
There is also a useful warning for the soak-the-rich crowd of progressives in Washington. If a rise in the state tax rate from 8% to 13% because of the state and local tax deduction cap can have this big and immediate negative impact, think of the economic carnage from doubling of the federal tax rate from 37% to 70% as some want to do. The wealthy would relocate their wealth and income in low-tax havens like Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and Ireland. That would do wonders for the middle class living in those countries.
We are sticking with our warnings from last year. If the four states of the Apocalypse — Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York — do not reverse their taxing ways and choose to keep making things worse, these once very rich and prosperous states will see thousands more rich taxpayers leave. The politicians in these states just don’t seem to understand math. A soak-the-rich tax rate of 8%, 10% or even 13% on income of zero yields zero income when the wealthy leave the state. Cuomo was right: The bleak outlook for the four states of apocalypse is “as serious as a heart attack.”