UC Santa Cruz College Republicans Shouted Down

by Stanley Kurtz

I’ve argued lately that the campus free-speech crisis is escalating. The failure to punish shout-downs of visiting conservative speakers is now licensing disruptive attacks on administrators, professors in the classroom, and fellow students.

Now Campus Reform reports on a shout-down, not of a visiting speaker but of a peaceful meeting of College Republicans at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The organizer of the shout-down called on Facebook for students to “reject the ‘right of assembly’ or ‘right of free speech’ for white supremacists and fascists” (i.e. College Republicans). Demonstrators then shut down a Republican meeting in progress by forcing the doors and chanting at the group, calling them racists, fascists, and white supremacists. The College Republicans offered a dialogue, but the disruptors refused and continued to chant, demanding the campus Republicans break up their meeting and leave.

The disruptors even demanded that staff eject the College Republicans from the library where the meeting was being held. (You can see a brief video featuring a library staffer in the Campus Reform piece). Eventually, just to end the disturbance, library staff asked the Campus Republicans to leave. But the group rightly refused to go, and kept sitting quietly instead. According to the report, after two hours library staffers finally called the police, who promptly arrested three of the protesters.

This incident is another warning that shout-downs are threatening to morph into generalized warfare. I mean that only partly metaphorically. How long before student groups, nose-to-nose in confrontation, resort to violence? We saw some violence at Middlebury. But if nothing is done to stop these shout-downs, Allison Stanger’s concussion and neck-brace will have been only the beginning.

The Santa Cruz Republican-club shout-down bears some resemblance to the notorious UC Riverside MAGA hat-thief incident. Like the hat-thief, the Santa Cruz disruptors turned to campus officials expecting them to punish or silence peaceful Republicans. What does it tell you about the job colleges are doing when students expect administrators to punish freedom of expression?

Part of what we’re seeing at UC Riverside and Santa Cruz is the fruit of the new system of “bias reporting.” Both UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside have “bias response teams.” This new “bias response team” phenomenon poses a tremendous potential danger to freedom of speech. As FIRE puts it, bias response teams are “literal speech police.” The College Fix just reported on a case in which a bias response team actually banned criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bias response teams call on students to “report hate” to administrators, who promise to snuff it out. The Riverside hat-thief and the Santa Cruz meeting disruptors reported what they saw as hate (i.e. Republicans) to administrators, fully expecting campus officials to punish and silence those Republicans. And both the hat-thief and the UC Santa Cruz disruptors openly scorned free speech. This is what the new campus regime of “bias response teams” has created. Much of what student disruptors demand nowadays is an extension of this ideological policing to every facet of university life.

There’s plenty more to say about this incident, and I hope to follow up. But for now we can see that the campus free-speech crisis is escalating; that the targets of shout-downs are expanding; that the potential for violence is growing; and that the deadly anti-free speech culture purveyed by faculty and administrators alike is metastasizing.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at [email protected]

The Fall of Raqqa Is a Marvelous, Bipartisan American Victory

by David French

In a different time the collapse of ISIS resistance in Raqqa would be a headline-dominating occasion for national celebration. While the war continues, and ISIS still exists, the loss of its capital marks an unmistakable, undeniable reversal for the caliphate. Today is a good day, and members of both our political parties can and should take credit for victory.

First, let’s talk for a moment about Barack Obama. I disagreed vehemently with his decision to pull all American forces from Iraq in 2011. The ISIS blitzkrieg, in my view, was a predictable result. But make no mistake — he could have stayed out. He could have left Iraq to its own devices. In fact, a previous American government did just that to a previous American ally. Who can forget the American abandonment of South Vietnam? Who can forget the sight of the helicopters on Saigon rooftops, lifting out the few and leaving the many behind? 

If Obama had abandoned Iraq, most of his base would have defended him. They would have argued that the resulting catastrophe was all George W. Bush’s fault. They could have washed their hands of the whole thing.

Obama chose a different course. He did the right and necessary thing — first launching bombing campaigns to halt the ISIS advance, then spreading the campaign to Syria, and then injecting ground troops in a bid to not just contain ISIS, but to destroy it entirely. I wanted him to move more quickly. I wanted more decisive action. But he struck back, and by the time Donald Trump took the oath of office, ISIS was already in retreat. 

I have friends who participated in Obama’s phase of the war. They tell me it was far more effective than the American people knew. They tell me that ISIS was decimated from the air, and that many of the critiques of American tactics were exaggerated. They said the strategy worked, and the results speak for themselves. 

We should also talk about Donald Trump. He continued the American offensive and granted his commanders more liberty and autonomy. Allied gains accelerated. Obama began the assault on Mosul, Trump finished it. Then Tal Afar and Raqqa fell even faster. There is evidence that ISIS forces in the field are breaking, surrendering in droves in spite of sacred vows to fight to the death. That’s all happening on Trump’s watch. 

And that brings us to the men and women who served under both presidents, a diverse group of Americans who’ve risked (and in some cases, sacrificed) their lives as part of what of what feels like an endless war against an enemy with a seemingly eternal commitment to attacking our civilization. They’re not just courageous, they’re professional. They know how to fight a war with ruthless (yet humane) efficiency. Today a New York Times story about the victory in Raqqa speaks of the “ceaseless whiz and boom” of shells from American artillery. Those are American boots on the ground, in Syria, taking the fight directly to the terrorists who inspired massacres on our home soil. 

Nothing I say should minimize the incredible sacrifice of our Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian allies. They bled more than we did. Nothing I say should minimize the formidable diplomatic and military challenges going forward. We still don’t know what the new Iraq and the new Syria will or should look like after the fall of ISIS. But our nation can and should appreciate hard-earned victories, and in these polarized times, it’s important to still say “we.” Victories in Iraq and Syria are bipartisan achievements, we should truly celebrate.

The Editors: Executive Power

by NR Staff

Check out the latest episode of The Editors, in which Rich, Reihan, Charlie, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss heathcare, the Iran deal decertification, and more!

You can subscribe to The Editors on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn. You can also download this episode here.

‘This article does not question Piketty’s integrity.’

by Theodore Kupfer

That’s from the abstract of a new paper by economist Richard Sutch, a disclaimer that may have been included because Sutch is so critical of the methodology employed by Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty draws from a massive body of historical data to show that the wealth and income distributions in the United States and Europe have skewed toward the rich. (He argues further that since the rate of return on capital tends to exceed the rate of economic growth, rising inequality is an inherent feature of capitalism — the “dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands” — and advocates policies like a “wealth tax” to counteract it.)

Sutch doesn’t discuss Piketty’s theorizing. Instead, he focuses on Piketty’s empirical work, finding enough problems with it to make a disclaimer defending Piketty’s integrity necessary.

Piketty’s analysis of the concentration of wealth in the U.S. in the twentieth century uses two data sets: an archive of estate-tax returns and a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve. But the data sets are not perfectly reliable and, what’s more, each diverges from the other, since one measures the wealth share of households and the other measures that of individuals. So Piketty adjusted the estimate of the share of wealth held by the top one percent given by the estate-tax data upward by a factor of 1.2 to reconcile it with the Fed survey. That’s not indefensible, provided the (debatable) assumption that the Fed survey is more reliable than the estate-tax archive. But Sutch says the multiplier Piketty uses “is a bit of a mystery.”

Piketty plots a rolling ten-year average of the wealth concentration of the top one percent to develop his narrative of rising inequality. While smoothing data by using a rolling average is not objectionable, a ten-year average, Sutch says, “makes it difficult to connect public policy changes, stock market swings, and other developments to changes in the distribution of income and wealth.” That’s a problem, given that Piketty makes specific claims about public policy.

Sutch is most critical of Piketty’s analysis of inequality in the nineteenth century, from which he says “very little of value can be salvaged.” Piketty himself admitted that the data from this era must be considered “uncertain,” but nonetheless tried to retrieve wealth-distribution data for 1810, 1870, and 1910. Sutch casts doubt on each of these figures, and concludes: “The heavily manipulated data, the lack of clarity about the procedures used to harmonize and average the data, the insufficient documentation, and the spreadsheet errors are more than annoying.”

Leave aside Piketty’s claims about capitalism or his preferred, fanciful tax on capital. As Alex Tabarrok notes, even scholars who demurred on Piketty’s theorizing lauded his empirical research. But Sutch’s is the second paper to find serious flaws with that research, supporting the conclusion of libertarian economists Philip Magness and Robert Murphy. This is not a case of academic fraud: There’s no evidence that Piketty’s integrity should be in doubt. But the quality of his research certainly is.

The ‘Never Trump’ Misunderstanding

by Jonah Goldberg

Response To...

The Never Trumpers’ New Strategy

In the spirit of collegiality, let me begin by saying I find Conrad Black a welcome and useful voice here at National Review.

I do not feel the same way about his column today, titled “The Never Trumpers’ New Strategy.”

The first mistake Conrad makes is terminological. He begins:

The Never Trumpers seem to have retreated, more or less in unison, to the last trench before they throw down their arms and run backwards for their lives: They are now invoking the 25th Amendment.

Now, when I read that, I was fairly stunned.

But first I should explain something. As I’ve said before, I do not consider myself a “Never Trumper” any more for the simple reason that the label is inadequate to the times. Never Trump, as I saw it, was about the primaries and the election. Once elected and sworn in, Donald Trump was the president, and to whatever extent “Never Trump” was a movement, it had failed. I call myself a “Trump skeptic,” because, among other reasons, I don’t buy any of the hagiographic explanations and justifications for his behavior. Other former Never Trumpers hold onto the label. Others don’t. This just helps illuminate a point lost on many Trump supporters and left-wingers alike: Never Trump was never some coherent, unified thing. It started as a hashtag on Twitter as far as I can tell and included people of diverse opinions and tactics, some of which I never subscribed to.

Ironically, the people who cling to the term the most are actually Trump’s most ardent supporters (you can choose your own label for this group: Trumpists, MAGAers, nationalists, whatever). For many of them, having been “Never Trump” is a mark of Cain, and it never washes away, short of full conversion to the cause. And, as often happens with political labels (see neocon, paleocon, libertarian, liberal, etc.), critics use them as broad generalizations that often tend to obscure more than they reveal. That’s the nature of the beast. I myself will refer to Trumpists in broad terms from time to time, even though there is a world of difference between some of our friends at, say, Claremont, and Sean Hannity, never mind Bill Mitchell.

But here’s the thing, whatever you think of Never Trumpers, then or now, they were always a movement of the Right. That is a fact, not a matter of interpretation.

Which brings me back to Conrad’s essay. The idea that “Never Trumpers” have moved “more or less in unison” to arguing for invocation of the 25th Amendment — whereby the cabinet can remove a president if they deem him incapable of doing the job — was total news to me, news you would think I’d have heard elsewhere. I have no doubt that some people who go by that moniker have come to that conclusion. But the suggestion that this is the new consensus position is simply untrue.

I kept reading Conrad’s essay, expecting to at least find a few quotes from representative voices of the Never Trump crowd. None were forthcoming.

But we do find this revealing sentence: “Hillary Clinton has become so esoteric that her claim to lead the Never Trumpers is in jeopardy.”

This is simply wrong. Hillary Clinton was never the leader — or even a leader — of anything called Never Trump.

What Conrad seems to be doing is conflating “the Resistance” with “Never Trump.” The self-styled Resistance is a wholly left-wing phenomenon in its origins, assumptions, and tactics (I’ve criticized it on more than one occasion). To conflate the two is a disservice and unfair. I will assume Conrad is doing so in good faith, but it is no less an egregious falsehood than it would be if he was deliberately misleading his readers.

It may be true that, say, Jen Rubin or Evan McMullin have embraced the “Resistance.” Though I have no idea if they have. Regardless, it is simply absurd to use the two terms interchangeably. And even then, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that the Resistance has moved in unison to call for invoking the 25th Amendment. Maybe Conrad has evidence to support such claim, but he doesn’t provide it in his column.

Meanwhile, the most prominent person to invoke the specter of the 25th Amendment is Steve Bannon.

David Horowitz’s Insightful New Book on the Academic Left

by George Leef

David Horowitz was among the first Americans to grasp just what a malignant tumor academic leftism would be. That’s probably because, as a Sixties radical himself, he really understood the “progressive” mind. He has been battling to stop the spread of the cancer for many years and his latest book, The Left in the Universities is a collection of his writings on that fight.

In this Martin Center Clarion Call, Mark Bauerlein shares his thoughts on the book.

Regarding the influence of leftism on the campus, he writes,

The leftist notions that had lost out in public life (for example, that socialism would work beautifully if only the right people were in power) retired to the quad where tenured radicals could reiterate them to rising generations who didn’t know of their record of ineffectiveness. There, Horowitz believed, the professors sent half-educated graduates into society who were enthusiastic about progressive reform and identity politics. Certain zones of the campus (especially the humanities and the various “studies” programs) had become indoctrination centers. If they weren’t curbed, the political errors of the past would be repeated in the present.

To combat the spread of leftism, Horowitz spoke and wrote continually. Then, about a dozen years ago, he conceived of a legislative attack on it and called it the Academic Bill of Rights. Naturally, the Left fought it tooth and nail, with the kind of underhanded tactics we’ve come to know all too well. The Association of American University Professors was nasty in its opposition, as Bauerlein recounts.

He writes:

It is clear from the document that the methodologies and perspectives must meet academic standards; for instance, teaching economics not just from a Marxist perspective but including libertarian and other common, respectable positions as well.

But the AAUP distorted this academic plurality into an immoral free-for-all:

No department of political theory ought to be obligated to establish “a plurality of methodologies and perspectives” by appointing a professor of Nazi political philosophy, if that philosophy is not deemed a reasonable scholarly option within the discipline of political theory.

As Horowitz notes, this was not a misunderstanding. It was an Orwellian accusation. It raises a fantastical prospect (“we must hire a Nazi”) in order to sweep the Bill of Rights off the table.

Speaking the name David Horowitz sends “progressives” into fits of rage almost as much as Charles Murray or Ben Shapiro. That’s a good reason to get and read his book.

The Condolence Controversy

by Rich Lowry

It might be the stupidest and most unworthy controversy of the year, and that’s saying something. Feeling defensive at a press conference on Monday over questions about his silence about the deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger, Trump hit Obama for not calling families of the fallen. This, of course, made the condolence calls an even more bitter, partisan food fight and a Democratic congresswoman present during Trump’s call to the widow of one of the soldiers killed in Niger reported that he insensitively said the solider “knew what he signed up for.”

A couple of things:

One, although it appears to be correct that Obama didn’t call all the families of the fallen, it doesn’t mean it was right for Trump to use that point as a bludgeon. Here is a relevant portion of the Washington Post fact check:

Still, in early 2011, the family of one fallen soldier, Sgt. Sean Collins, told Fox News they had requested a call from Obama and were told his schedule was too packed for a conversation. (Note: At that point, about 1,000 troops had been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan under Obama’s watch. So far in 2017, 25 troops have been killed in those countries.)

Generally, former Obama aides said, the president wrote letters or made base visits in which he met with families. “I remember he did on occasion make calls and met Gold Star families at the White House and on his base visits,” said Benjamin Rhodes, a national security aide to Obama.

Two, it might be that there was good reason that Trump was delayed in reaching out to these families. If so, this is all Trump had to say on Monday. From the Washington Post again:

The White House has not explained why Trump took so long to comment publicly about the Niger ambush, but officials said Tuesday that he was regularly briefed on the incident during that period. They declined to provide details.

The White House did not receive detailed information from the Defense Department about the four dead soldiers until Oct. 12, and that information was not fully verified by the White House Military Office until Monday, according to a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on the internal process.

At that point, the official said, Trump was cleared to reach out to the four families — both in letters that were mailed Tuesday and in personal phone calls to family members that day.

Three, Trump’s “knew what he signed up for” statement seems horrible in isolation, but it’s hard to know what to make of it except in context and listening to the conservation. Even the Democrat congresswoman says that Trump said “it hurts anyway.” On the other hand, the family confirms that it was upset by Trump’s call.

Now, Trump is engaged in a fight over what he really said. Is it too much to ask that everyone back off this one and not to add to anyone’s distress and leave condolence calls — if nothing else — out of our poisonous political debate?

The Ann Arbor City Council Is the San Francisco 49ers of Municipal Bodies

Realtors vs. Tax Reform

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The Republican tax framework leaves the deduction for mortgage interest in place, not because it’s good policy but because it’s politically untouchable. That’s not good enough for the National Association of Realtors, which is concerned that the tax break will be less important in a reformed tax code. Because the framework expands the standard deduction, fewer people will have a reason to take the mortgage-interest deduction. The realtors treat this indirect threat to the deduction as a calamity. The Wall Street Journal has a good editorial on this today.

If the realtors’ lobby followed the logic of its position through, it would also oppose cutting tax rates. The deduction is more valuable the higher the tax rate against which it is applied. The lobbyists are smart enough to grasp this point, and smart enough to avoid pressing it too.

Democrat Northam Removes Running Mate from Ads to Appease Virginia Union Supporters

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As Election Day quickly approaches in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Democratic candidate Ralph Northam appears to have scrubbed his African-American running mate, Justin Fairfax, from Northern Virginia campaign fliers, in an appeal to big labor unions.

Here’s a tweet with an image of the two fliers side by side:

Local Virginia paper the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Northam chose to remove Fairfax from some of his campaign literature at the request of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, whose spokesman claimed the lieutenant-governor candidate “wasn’t supporting [unions] on the issues.”

Specifically, Fairfax refuses to support the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned natural-gas line that would span 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina, crossing through much of Virginia on its way. Despite noting his own environmental concerns, Northam has reluctantly chosen to support the pipeline project, presumably because it is popular with Virginia residents for its economic potential.

Fairfax, however, has made no such concessions, and Northam’s campaign is clearly concerned that his failure to even begrudgingly accept the pipeline will endanger the Democratic ticket with powerful union voices in the state, and among voters who ally themselves with big labor.

The Northam campaign told the Washington Examiner that there was no malice behind the alteration of the ad, calling it “fairly innocuous.” “Out of over 3 million pieces of literature printed for the campaign, the piece for LiUNA canvassers constituted roughly 0.5 percent of the literature printed,” the spokesman added.

But Northam’s willingness to erase his own running mate from campaign fliers, at the behest of union leaders, reveals the incredible incoherence of Virginia’s Democratic party. It’s remarkable that a candidate who has long been favored to win the race — and who currently serves as second-in-command to the state’s fairly popular Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe — has to both pacify union supporters and appease environmentalists in order to piece together a November victory.

It’s worth considering for a moment, too, how Northam’s campaign and the mainstream media would’ve reacted had it been Republican candidate Ed Gillespie who erased a black running mate from certain campaign ads. “Trump-endorsed, gun-loving, Confederate-monument-supporting, racist Republican Ed Gillespie scrubs African American running mate from fliers!” the headlines surely would’ve read.

The mainstream media, though, has predictably ignored the incident. Of course, there is absolutely no evidence that the Northam campaign altered the fliers out of racially motivated animus — Northam clearly isn’t a racist, and no one should accuse him of being one. But surely his campaign and the media would at least have alluded to Gillespie’s possible racist intent had he pulled a stunt like this.

The Never Trumpers’ New Strategy

by Conrad Black

From my most recent NRO article, about the latest anti-Trump strategy: “Recourse to the 25th Amendment would not remove Trump: It would be like the madness of King George III, and he would be writing Congress every month demanding to have the full exercise of the presidency back. The whole concept, spiked up by Tennessee senator Bob Corker’s outrageous reflections on Trump’s mental stability, is touted now by The New Yorker magazine, still feverish with Obama deprivation. It is too preposterous to bear thinking about it further.”

Whether you agree or disagree, your comments are, as always, most welcome.
 

NHS Tyranny Proposal to Ban Smokers, Obese from Surgery

by Wesley J. Smith

Calling Bernie Sanders! Calling Bernie Sanders. STAT!

A serious policy proposal in the UK would ban many surgeries for smokers and the obese. From the Telegraph story:

The NHS will ban patients from surgery indefinitely unless they lose weight or quit smoking, under controversial plans drawn up in Hertfordshire…

In recent years, a number of areas have introduced delays for such patients – with some told operations will be put back for months, during which time they are expected to try to lose weight or stop smoking.

But the new rules, drawn up by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire, say that obese patients “will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight” at all, unless the circumstances are exceptional.

The criteria also mean smokers will only be referred for operations if they have stopped smoking for at least eight weeks, with such patients breathalysed before referral.

Ah, single-payer healthcare in action.

What other patients with unhealthy lifestyles will be banned next? The promiscuous? 

Of course, that will–and should–never happen because unlike the obese  and smokers, promiscuous people are not scorned by the technocrats.

But the injustice would be the same. Centralized control in health care eventually leads to bioethical authoritarianism. 

ISIS Is Now Caught Between Raqqa and a Hard Place

by Jim Geraghty

Good news from the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

ISIS Is Now Caught Between Raqqa and a Hard Place

Outstanding news as the week progresses:

American-backed forces said on Tuesday that they had seized the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, a major blow to the militant group, which had long used the city as the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate.

Celebrations erupted in Raqqa, where residents had lived under the repressive rule of militants who beheaded people for offenses as minor as smoking. Fighters could be seen cheering and firing celebratory gunfire in the streets, according to residents reached by phone and text message.

The United States Central Command stopped short of declaring victory, saying that “more than 90 percent of Raqqa is in S.D.F. control,” a reference to the Syrian Democratic Forces, an American-backed militia group made up of Syrian Kurds and Arabs.

Col. Ryan S. Dillon, a spokesman for the United States military in Baghdad, said Tuesday that Raqqa was on the verge of being liberated, but that there were still pockets of the city controlled by the Islamic State. Syrian Democratic Forces officers, however, were emphatic in phone interviews and public statements that they had finally wrested control of the city from the militants after a monthslong campaign.

“The military operation is over,” said Talal Salo, a commander reached by phone at the group’s headquarters in Hasaka.

Newsweek looks at recent presidential boasting about ISIS and it’s easy to get the sense that the publication would love to rebuke Donald Trump for taking credit for something he did not influence. But the magazine can’t quite dismiss all of the evidence that the momentum of battle has shifted in the past year. Maybe that’s a result of presidential decisions, or perhaps Trump’s decision to defer to his generals on most of the details. Either way, Trump hasn’t loused it up, and he’s in position to reap the accolades.

Perhaps the two most symbolic victories against ISIS have occurred while Trump has been in office: the retaking of the Iraqi city of Mosul in July, and now the liberation of Raqqa. U.S. officials have also claimed that the recapturing of ISIS-held territory has accelerated under Trump. Special Presidential Envoy McGurk—who held the same role in the Obama administration—said that of the 27,000 square miles of territory in Iraq and Syria reclaimed from ISIS since 2014, around 8,000 square miles have been retaken under Trump’s watch.

But some commentators have claimed that Trump is simply reaping the benefits of the hard graft put in by the former administration. The battle for Mosul, for example, commenced in October 2016 and lasted for nine months: Iraqi forces had liberated the whole of eastern Mosul by January 24—four days into Trump’s presidency—with the remaining six months consisting of a gruelling slog for the Old City.

This is a bit like arguing that Harry S. Truman didn’t preside over the Allied victory in World War Two, because Franklin Roosevelt had done so much before.

It is worth noting that while controlling swaths of territory made ISIS distinct, it was not the only feature that made it dangerous. The New York Times talks to terrorism experts and concludes that the group will probably refocus its efforts on the method that worries us the most, attacks in Western countries:

The group has also developed a powerful social media network that with no physical presence allows it to spew propaganda, claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, and not just inspire attacks but also help plot and execute them remotely.

A large share of its attacks in the West in recent years have been carried out by men who communicated online with ISIS, taking detailed instructions through encrypted messages, but never meeting their terrorist mentors…

And the group has continued to sow chaos even as it has lost territory. In 2017 alone, it has claimed responsibility for three terrorist attacks in Britain that killed 37 people, the Istanbul nightclub bombing on New Year’s Eve that killed 39 people, and strikes in more than seven other countries.

As the group was losing Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in August, it sent a van tearing through crowds in the heart of Barcelona, killing 13 people and loudly declaring its continued relevance.

Our fight against ISIS, and the broader movement of violent Islamist extremism, is far from over. But we have enough bad days; we should take moments to celebrate the victories.

Living with the Unsolved Mysteries of Modern American Life

by Jim Geraghty

Response To...

The Las Vegas Shooting Is ...

It’s fair to wonder whether the Las Vegas shooting is about to join the ranks of infamous crimes that are solved… but not quite explained.

In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation formally closed the investigation of the anthrax mailings, having concluded the attacks were carried out by Bruce Ivans, an Army biodefense expert who killed himself in 2008. The mailings infected 22 people and killed five. Some lawmakers, including Rep. Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, were less than fully convinced by the FBI’s final report. Two independent reviews of the investigation disputed that the bureau’s scientific evidence definitely showed that the anthrax came from the Maryland bioweapons laboratory of Ivins. There’s considerable evidence that Ivins was deeply mentally troubled, but why he chose to commit bioterrorism and how he chose his targets will probably never be answered.

Last year John Schindler reminded readers about the unsolved 1975 bombing of LaGuardia Airport that killed 11 people, and laid out the circumstantial evidence pointing to an obscure Croatian separatist group. The group’s leader was arrested on separate charges, paroled in 2008 and killed himself in 2013.

We know Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed and small pieces of wreckage washed up on Mozambique. We don’t know why the plane crashed, or what happened to most of it. We know what D.B. Cooper did (hijacked a plane and collected $200,000 in ransom) and why (greed) but not his true identity or his fate. It seems safe to assume the Zodiac Killer is no longer murdering people; or if he is, he’s not taunting police anymore. He sent his last known message in 1974.

Hopefully, the investigation in Las Vegas will turn up something clarifying soon. Otherwise, how will Americans come to terms with the most deadly mass shooting in the country’s history… being perpetrated by a man with no clear motive?

The Arch of Titus: A Useful Model

by Jonah Goldberg

Response To...

Knock Down the Taj Mahal?

I liked Kevin’s post about the Taj Mahal, and it reminded me of a point I wanted to make when all of this iconoclasm was erupting over the summer.

I think the Confederate statues put up in the 1960s as a middle finger to the civil-rights movement are hard to defend, and I certainly wouldn’t bother trying. But, as we’ve already seen, the statue topplers are part of a larger war on American history generally. When activists want to get rid of Abraham Lincoln, you know this is more of a fever and fad than an argument.

I keep thinking of the Arch of Titus, the model for similar arches all around the world, including most famously the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. For those who don’t know, Titus — who would later become emperor — led the siege of Jerusalem in the first Jewish-Roman War. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, mostly non-combatants, were slaughtered, and the Second Temple — the holiest site in Judaism — was destroyed. Tens of thousands of Jews were captured and sold into slavery.

The Arch of Titus, which celebrates all this, is a big tourist attraction in Rome. It’s also an important part of Rome’s history. Jews, understandably, did not celebrate the monument. From an article in The Forward:

Jews have lived in Rome for more than two millennia. According to an ancient ban placed on the monument by Rome’s Jewish authorities, once a Jewish person walks under the arch, he or she can no longer be considered a Jew. So, from the time the Arch of Titus was first built, no Jew has ever willingly walked under it, unless he or she was oblivious to its significance.

Until the creation of Israel in 1948, the ban was taken quite seriously. In 1997, it was lifted.

I’m not saying this is a perfect model for how to deal with every monument to some historic villain or crime, real or imagined. But I do think it is a useful one. There are ways to make your dissent known in this life without demanding total victory through the bowdlerizing of the past.

About Those Middle Class Tax Cuts

by Veronique de Rugy

These days, you can’t turn around without hearing someone talk about how the Republican tax cuts shouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class, should cut taxes on the middle class, or will for sure hike taxes on the middle class. Senator Rand Paul has been quite vocal about his concerns about the framework’s impact on the middle class. He isn’t the only one concerned about this, but considering the small margin in the Senate, his vote matters a great deal.

As many have pointed out before, his concerns are premature since in truth we do not know how the middle class will be affected quite yet. The framework is missing some key elements that make it really hard to say who will pay what and whose taxes will go up or down, contrary to what the liberal Tax Policy Center model claims. Ryan Ellis is optimistic about how the middle class will fare under the tax framework. I also assume that the Ways and Means Committee will work out the math to make sure the tax works and provides somewhat of a tax cut to the middle class and more money for low income earners. Also, it appears that the president has now given some guarantees to Sen. Paul that the middle class won’t be adversely affected by the tax reform.

Yet, I am left wondering if this focus on the middle class tax relief is a wise way to frame this debate. Everyone wants to pay less in taxes, of course. But lowering taxes while government spending is growing is not a good idea in the long run. Instead, Congress and the administration should focus on the most pro-growth elements of their tax plan, such as the reduction of the corporate income tax rate, rather than tax relief for the middle class or the expansion of the child tax credit. Corporate income tax reform, we know, will spur investment, bring foreign earned income back into the country, improve workers’ productivity and grow their wages, and create employment opportunities that didn’t exist before. That is, of course, if the administration doesn’t mess it up with a global minimum tax

Now, I do understand that it would be politically difficult to implement a large reform on the corporate side without doing something for individuals. Still, I worry that continuing to focus on giving the middle class a tax relief could be a golden opportunity for Democrats to extract counterproductive compromises like agreeing to more handouts for the middle class — paid for with a higher corporate income rate. If that’s the case, Republicans will have agreed to more spending through the tax code in exchange for less economic growth.

Then, there’s the minor detail that the middle class isn’t shouldering that much income tax burden in the first place. Most income taxes are paid by higher income earners. As Chris Edwards noted a few weeks ago, the average income tax rate of the middle income quintile was 2.6 percent in 2013. In 2014, the top 10 percent shouldered around 70 percent of the total income tax burden, up from 49 percent in 1980. This means that the bottom 90 percent have seen their share of taxes go down considerably as the weight was shifted to higher income earners. Do we really want to shift even more of the burden to the top? Well, apparently yes, considering that middle-class tax relief is often debated alongside the proposal to slap an extra tax rate on higher income earners.

Also worth noting is the fact that more tax relief for the middle class means that many will be removed from the income tax rolls entirely. I, for one, think this is not a good idea and that it makes the fight for smaller government even harder than it is now. It is also not reasonable if having fewer taxpayers paying the income tax isn’t matched with serious spending cuts.

The bottom line is that Republicans should stay away from the “middle class tax relief” rhetoric and instead focus on the power of economic growth, business expansion and hiring of new employees, and wage growth. They should explain how reductions to the corporate income tax will benefit workers and how their tax reform framework will make filing taxes easier for all, as opposed to the nerve-racking exercise it is now. These points are more inspirational.

Here are Edwards’ charts:

 

In 2009, Fox News Was Told to Apologize for Calling Bergdahl a Deserter

by Philip H. DeVoe

In July 2009, 23 members of Congress signed a letter demanding that Lt. Col. Ralph Peters apologize for stating on a Fox News segment that PFC Bowe Bergdahl “abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post, and just walked off” a U.S. Army base in Afghanistan prior to his capture by the Taliban. Peters’s comments “call into question, without any supporting evidence whatsoever,” the congressmen wrote, “PFC Bergdahl’s patriotism and commitment to his country.” Yesterday, Bergdahl admitted to that abandonment, pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in a military court.

Here are Peters’ original comments, which he made on Monday, July 20:

Nobody in the military that I’ve heard is defending this guy; he is an apparent deserter, reports are indeed that he abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post, and walked off. We’ll see what the ultimate truth of it is, but if he did, he’s a deserter in wartime . . . 

I want to be clear — if when the facts are in, we find out that through some convoluted chain of events, he really was captured by the Taliban, I’m with him. But if he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime, I don’t care how hard it sounds. As far as I’m concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.

His comments quickly attracted criticism for their insensitivity and frankness, and lead to “efforts” made by the show’s anchor, Julie Banderas, to express that Peters’s opinions are not those of Fox News. The next day, Tuesday, July 21, the congressmen – all veterans, 14 Democrats and nine Republicans — published their letter, in which they “demand[ed] an apology to PFC Bergdahl’s family” from apparently both Fox News and Peters — the letter was addressed to then-Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

To clarify his statements and answer the criticism, Peters joined Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor that night. This is Peters, speaking during the segment:

Let’s lay out what our military knows happened, Bill. First of all, I asked a very senior military leader for a yes or no answer: “Is PFC Bergdahl a deserter?” The answer was yes . . .  Our army also knows that he left his combat outpost, he left his buddies in the hours of darkness, left his weapon behind of his own volition.

O’Reilly stopped Peters here to argue this makes Bergdahl “crazy,” saying “there’s gotta be something mentally wrong with [him]” to abandon his weapon and fellow soldiers in somewhere as dangerous and remote as Afghansitan. Peters continues by explaining that the reason for his frustration is grounded in elevations of Bergdahl to “hero” status; the media is celebrating a controversial prisoner of war while ignoring injured soldiers in hospitals or decorated veterans at home:

I do hope for his family’s sake this guy comes back safely . . .  [but] the other networks aren’t doing the investigative work; [they should] say “What’s the circumstances? Can we talk to the guys in his unit?” . . .  It’s also a legal case. As a minimum this is a court-martial offense. Of course, we may just put him on Oprah’s couch when he gets back, we’ll see.

The next day, Wednesday, July 22, saw a second firestorm, including a separate statement by then-representative Eric Massa (D., N.Y.), titled “Congressman Eric Massa demands that Fox News immediately fire Bill O’Reilly and Lt. Col Ralph Peters and apologize to the family of PFC Bowe Bergdahl.” To be clear, those who critiqued Peters took issue most with the supposed implication that Peters hoped the Taliban executed Bergdahl. But their incredulity was founded in a disbelief that Bergdahl could’ve deserted his post.

On her MSNBC show that day, Rachel Maddow played a clip of Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, saying Peters “needs to shut his mouth” because “he doesn’t know what happened on the ground.” Maddow then provides her own incredulity:

[Paraphrasing Peters] “I can guarantee you that he ashamed his unit.”

Guarantee us? Really?

Her guest, Jim Miklaszewski, chief Pentagon correspondent for NBC News, then says there’s no evidence that Bergdahl deserted his unit:

Well, you know, as you mentioned a moment ago, senior military and Pentagon officials, not only in Washington but there on the ground in Afghanistan, say there’s no question he’s not a deserter.

Now, he did leave his post by himself. He came off a patrol on June 30th, dropped off his weapon, his body armor, grabbed up a bottle of water, compass and a knife, and took off out on his own. And it was some time after that, apparently, that some local militants grabbed him and turned him over to the Taliban.

Now, should he have left the post alone? Of course, not. But it doesn’t make him a deserter.

Perhaps Peters’s statements were too aggressive, but he was correct that Bergdahl’s capture was due to desertion. Even O’Reilly was right in his assumption that Bergdahl was mentally unstable, which was confirmed following Bergdahl’s return to the U.S.

Poll Puts Gillespie in the Lead in Virginia

by Alexandra DeSanctis

poll out this afternoon from Monmouth University shows Republican Ed Gillespie just edging out Democrat Ralph Northam in the race for Virginia governor, 48 to 47 percent. This is the first poll to put Gillespie in the lead, but recent forecasts of the race have shown the gap between the two candidates narrowing as the Republican slowly gains on his opponent.

According to a Wason Center survey of likely voters out just this morning, current lieutenant governor Northam is leading former Republican National Committee chair Gillespie by only 4 percent — 48 to 44 percent — and 5 percent of Virginia likely voters remain undecided with the race three weeks away. This is the first Wason Center poll of the Virginia race that puts Northam’s lead within the survey’s margin of error. In the group’s benchmark poll from September 25, Northam led by 6 percent.

Of course, no single poll can reliably predict the outcome of an election. But this Monmouth survey should serve as an important reminder for Democrats who are feeling a little too comfortable about Northam’s chances to cross the finish line with a win on November 7. In a race that many are reading as a referendum on Trump and the GOP, pundits and casual viewers alike should remember our current president’s last-minute comeback as October bled into November. It’s not out of the question that Gillespie could pull off something similar in Virginia.

Some Tax Links

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Several good short items about taxes have come out today.

Chris Edwards argues that people should not be required to start withdrawing from their retirement accounts at age 70 ½.

Edward Lazear suggests some changes to the Republican framework’s treatment of business income.

Ernie Tedeschi confirms that how the eventual bill treats the middle-class will come down to how it expands the child tax credit. And Josh McCabe points out that the credit has already lost a lot of value over the last fifteen years.

Update: I forgot to mention my own NRO article, on why Republicans should quit trying to cut tax rates on people making more than $420,000 a year.

Greenhouse vs. the Pences

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I wrote a post yesterday criticizing Linda Greenhouse’s latest column in the New York Times. But I didn’t quite plumb its depths. Here, again, is Greenhouse’s parting thought: “Conservatives, even the publicly pious ones, don’t seem to have a problem with limiting the size of their families. (Vice President Mike Pence has two children, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has three. Need I say more?) The problem they have is with what birth control signifies: empowering women — in school, on the job, in the home — to determine their life course.” Let me make two additional points about this passage. The first is that the Pences have three children. The second, as I am reminded by former colleague Katrina Trinko’s twitter feed, is that Mrs. Pence has discussed her family’s struggle with infertility: “The Vice President and Mrs. Pence tried for six long years to start their family. They tried medical procedures. They joined an adoption wait list and came close to adopting a little boy, when they learned Mrs. Pence was pregnant with their first child. That son was quickly followed by two daughters, answering the Pences’ prayers for parenthood. . .” So Greenhouse’s shot at the Pences is even more baseless than it appeared to be.