Sweden and the Politics of Denial

by Andrew Stuttaford

Paulina Neuding, writing in the New York Times:

This past Saturday, a Hanukkah party at a synagogue in Goteborg [Gothenburg], Sweden, was abruptly interrupted by Molotov cocktails. They were hurled by a gang of men in masks at the Jews, mostly teenagers, who had gathered to celebrate the holiday.

Two days later, two fire bombs were discovered outside the Jewish burial chapel in the southern Swedish city of Malmo.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

…Today, entering a synagogue anywhere in Sweden usually requires going through security checks, including airport-like questioning. At times of high alert, police officers with machine guns guard Jewish schools. Children at the Jewish kindergarten in Malmo play behind bulletproof glass. Not even funerals are safe from harassment.

Jewish schoolteachers have reported hiding their identity. A teacher who wouldn’t even share the city where she teaches for fear of her safety told a Swedish news outlet: “I hear students shouting in the hallway about killing Jews.” Henryk Grynfeld, a teacher at a high school in a mostly immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, was told by a student: “We’re going to kill all Jews.” He said other students yell “yahoud,” the Arabic word for Jew, at him.

A spokesman for Malmo’s Jewish community put the situation starkly. You “don’t want to display the Star of David around your neck,” he said. Or as spokesman for the Goteborg synagogue put it, “It’s a constant battle to live a normal life, and not to give in to the threats, but still be able to feel safe.”

Historically, anti-Semitism in Sweden could mainly be attributed to right-wing extremists. While this problem persists, a study from 2013 showed that 51 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden were attributed to Muslim extremists. Only 5 percent were carried out by right-wing extremists; 25 percent were perpetrated by left-wing extremists.

Yes, left-wing extremists. Note that too. 

Meanwhile:

Swedish politicians have no problem condemning anti-Semitism carried out by right-wingers. When neo-Nazis planned a march that would go past the Goteborg synagogue on Yom Kippur this September, for example, it stirred up outrage across the political spectrum. A court ruled that the demonstrators had to change their route.

There is, however, tremendous hesitation to speak out against hate crimes committed by members of another minority group in a country that prides itself on welcoming minorities and immigrants. In 2015, Sweden was second only to Germany in the number of Syrian refugees it welcomed. Yet the three men arrested in the Molotov cocktail attack were newly arrived immigrants, two Syrians and a Palestinian.

The fear of being accused of intolerance has paralyzed Sweden’s leaders from properly addressing deep-seated intolerance.

That’s true enough. Sweden is deservedly notorious for its åsiktskorridor—its ‘opinion corridor’. Breaking outside its still narrow (if buckling) confines is frowned  upon (and more) by the ‘respectable’ political and media class.

And there is, I think, something else at play, an unwillingness to admit that this same political class, cheered on by the media, might have made a very big mistake indeed by flinging open Sweden’s doors as wide as they did (something that preceded 2015) in a display of naivete, recklessness and self-righteousness which made for a remarkable, if  occasionally repellent, spectacle.

Visiting Södertälje, a city just outside Stockholm long known for its large immigrant population, in 2006, Sweden’s then prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the vapidly-named center-right Moderaterna had  this  to say:

Ursvenskt är bara barbariet. Resten av utvecklingen har kommit utifrån.”

Translated (very roughly) into English, Reinfeldt was claiming that Sweden’s indigenous culture was simple barbarism. Civilization had come from outside.

Reinfeldt’s government was eventually thrown out of office in 2014, partly as a result of the reaction against his catastrophic immigration policies, but the left-of-center coalition that replaced it was no better.

Neuding:

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, explained radicalism among European Muslims with reference to Israel: “Here, once again, we are brought back to situations like the one in the Middle East, where not least, the Palestinians see that there isn’t a future. We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

This is the same Wallström, who, as an EU Commissioner, exploited a 2005 visit to the site of the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt (today’s Terezín) to smear critics of the proposed  EU constitution for allegedly risking a return to the nightmares of Europe’s past:

Yet there are those today who want to scrap the supranational idea. They want the European Union to go back to the old purely inter-governmental way of doing things. I say those people should come to Terezin and see where that old road leads.”

That was (I’ll be kind) fantasy. Yet when confronted with the reality of Islamist horror in Paris, Wallström, turned her attention towards…Israel.

Odd that.

However her boss, prime minister Stefan Löfven, may be beginning to wise up.

Neuding:

In an interview in June, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was asked whether Sweden had been naïve about the link between immigration and anti-Semitism. His response was typical of the way in which leading politicians have avoided giving straight answers about the threat against the country’s Jews: “We have a problem in Sweden with anti-Semitism, and it doesn’t matter who expresses it, it’s still as darn wrong.”

But the problem has grown so dire that it finally forced Mr. Lofven to admit in an interview this month: “We will not ignore the fact that many people have come here from the Middle East, where anti-Semitism is a widespread idea, almost part of the ideology. We must become even clearer, dare to talk more about it.”

That’s easier said  than done. As Neuding reports, the headline chosen by one newspaper to explain the firebomb attack in Gothenburg was “attack against synagogue linked to Trump”, a  reference to the President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Sweden has, however, started to toughen up its  immigration policies, a welcome development after the dangerous irresponsibility of earlier years, but that still leaves the consequences  of that irresponsibility to contend with.

Neuding:

It is also vital for Sweden to adopt a coherent strategy to combat radical Islamism. The country has become one of Europe’s richest recruiting grounds for Islamic State fighters. Five people were killed in an Islamist attack in downtown Stockholm in April, and Swedish Islamists have been involved in other deadly attacks in Europe, including in Paris and Brussels.

‘Barbarism’, it seems, can be imported too.

Read the whole thing.

Here Are the Details of the Republicans’ Final Tax Bill

by Jibran Khan

GOP leadership has just filed its final version of the reconciled tax reform bill. The bill, which had been secret until today, underwent a number of changes throughout the week. Here are some of the key alterations:

  • The new tax rates per individual income tax bracket are (example incomes are for married individuals filing jointly):
    • 10 percent (up to $19,050)
    • 12 percent (above $19,050 up to $77,400) 
    • 22 percent (above $77,400 up to $165,000)
    • 24 percent (above $165,000 up to $315,000)
    • 32 percent (above $315,000 up to $400,000)
    • 35 percent (above $400,000 up to $600,000),
    • 37 percent (above $600,000).
  • The child tax credit will be raised to $2,000, with $1,400 of that amount being refundable. It will phase out for families making at least $400,000, a massive change from current policy which phases out the credit for individuals making $75,000 and couples making $110,000.
  • The state and local tax (SALT) deduction is capped at $10,000, which can be from any mix of local taxes, rather than just property.
  • The mortgage interest deduction for second homes, a policy widely reviled by economists and conservatives, has been restored.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) has been repealed for corporations, but it will continue to apply to individuals, though with narrowed eligibility. The details of the narrowing are not yet clear.
  • The corporate income tax rate is now 21 percent; this will take effect next year.
  • The estate tax will remain, but with a doubled exemption. For example, under current policy, the exemption for estate tax in 2018 would be $5,600,000, so under the new plan that would be $11,200,000.

It has not yet been announced whether the bill will go to the House or the Senate first, but with a Senate majority currently firm, the issue of timing around Senator McCain’s medical treatment is less pressing.

Debate and voting is set to begin next week.

Senate GOP All In On Tax Bill

by Jibran Khan

The Senate GOP is now united in support of the party’s tax plan.

Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Scott (R-SC) announced their support after securing an increase in child tax credit refundability, which they have been pushing for throughout the bill’s finalization process. This was followed by a surprise announcement from Senator Corker – the sole Republican senator to vote against the previous bill — that he would support the final product, even though it still contains the deficit effects that he opposes.

If no senators change their minds between now and the day of the vote, GOP leadership can pass the bill even if Senators McCain and Cochran are not able to attend due to medical treatment.

With No Evidence, Twitter Mob Convicts Bullying Victim of Being ‘Racist’

by Philip H. DeVoe

On Friday, eleven-year-old Keaton Jones’s mother posted a video of him recounting through tears the bullying he’s been enduring at his Tennessee middle school. Over the weekend, his video went viral, and he received thousands of messages of support from everyday Americans and celebrities on social media.

By Monday morning, however, Keaton was being bullied again. As it turns out, his mother had posted two photos of the family posing with a Confederate flag and criticized Colin Kaepernick’s protest in a separate post, leading to a rapid withdrawal of support for Keaton and claims that the family is racist. Then, after 24 hours of misinformation, erroneous reports, and knee-jerk judgments spread throughout social media, the mob concluded that Keaton probably deserved to be bullied. The reason?

This theory, though, appears to be completely unsubstantiated, born out of mere possibility given the so-called sins of the mother. Additionally, the mob offered this as proof (which appears to have been deleted):

Disregarding the fact that this “evidence” proves nothing, the mob surged forward to accuse the celebrities who hadn’t yet withdrawn their support for Keaton of enabling white supremacy. Avengers star Don Cheadle pointed out that even if this eleven-year-old boy lobbed racial slurs at his black schoolmates, he didn’t deserve to be bullied. Former fans replied that Cheadle’s fame had run its course, prompting this sensible reply:

On Wednesday, media outlets discovered Keaton’s estranged father, Shawn Aaron White, who seems to be an actual white supremacist — if tattoos reading “White Pride” and “Pure Breed” are any indicator. This discovery served only to strengthen the mob’s accusations that the Jones family as a whole is racist. Is this fair? No, it is not. Not only has White been estranged from the family for nearly ten years, due both to his own choices and to multiple stints in prison, but he also assaulted Keaton’s mother, according to arrest warrants, “wished death upon” a seven-month-old Keaton when the boy was suffering from severe illness. These would be peculiar circumstances in which to visit the sins of the father upon the son.

Shock: The GOP’s Tax Bill Is a GOP Tax Bill

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The tax bill is almost finished, and, with the exception of a couple of its minor provisions, it looks to me like a pretty standard Republican effort. Effectively, Paul Ryan and co. are doing the things they either didn’t get to do at all back in 2001/2003, or the things that they did do back in 2001/2003 but that were subsequently undone. The 2001/2003 measures didn’t seriously touch the corporate income tax, so they’re doing that now. The 2001/2003 measures did cut the top rate of tax, but that change was undone during the Obama administration — both by an explicit increase of the rate, and by Obamacare’s attendant taxes — and so they’re re-cutting it. On top of this are a couple of policies that have been popular in Republican circles for decades — reforming the SALT deduction, and cutting the mortgage interest deduction are in there, albeit weakly — and a small expansion of a “reformicon” policy that Marco Rubio has managed to extract at the last moment. Whatever one thinks of the bill, the notion that it is in some way unusual is a peculiar one. This is what Republicans do when they get the chance to cut taxes.

Minnesota Is Next Year’s Biggest Election Battleground

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Assuming Al Franken resigns from the Senate, Minnesota is going to have two Senate elections next year. The state will also be electing a new governor, since incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton is not running again. Minnesota hasn’t had simultaneous elections for these three offices since 1978.

The state has several competitive House races, too. Roll Call’s list of the ten most vulnerable incumbents in the House includes two Minnesotans; the Cook Political Report includes three Minnesota seats among the 21 it considers “toss-ups.” Those three include two seats held by Democrats and one held by a Republican. Another seat not on either list, the one held by Republican Erik Paulsen, could generate a real race too: It went for the Democrats in the presidential race in each of the last three elections. Minnesota will also be holding elections for the state house, where Republicans currently hold a majority.

One of the statewide races seems to be nearly a lock for the Democrats: Senator Amy Klobuchar should have an easy re-election. The other Senate race should be more competitive, especially if former Governor Tim Pawlenty is the Republican candidate to replace Franken.

While Minnesota has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972, it has been shifting to the right. Judged by its presidential-vote margin, it was the second-lightest-blue state in the country in 2016. If next year’s elections turn out to be a national Democratic wave, however, that trend won’t save the state’s Republicans.

Introducing the Reality Check with Jeanne Allen Podcast

by Jeanne Allen

On my inaugural Reality Check podcast (and thank you, NR for hosting it), Howard Fuller chastises teachers union boss Randi Weingarten for berating people who choose to get their kids out of bad schools and send them to other schools, such as charters: “When someone like Randi Weingarten says . . . ‘Charter schools are the [polite] cousins of segregation,’ It’s demagoguery at the highest level.”

Having been a leader in the coalition to bring vouchers to Milwaukee’s poorest in 1990, and in doing similar for kids every day since, Fuller knows of what he speaks. Today in America, the greatest country on earth, more than half of our children fail to master the critical knowledge and lessons necessary to be successful and truly live the American Dream. That’s not only unacceptable, it’s benign neglect. As the seminal report “A Nation at Risk” admonished in 1983 (an unbelievable 34 years ago!),

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.”

How about today, we resolve together to say, “not on our watch!”

You can listen to Reality Check on National Review Online, and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or directly to the feed.

 

Roy Moore Has One More Embarrassment Up His Sleeve

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Roy Moore Has One More Embarrassment Up His Sleeve

One of the many, many reasons you do not nominate unhinged narcissists for political office is that their ego won’t let them do some of the most basic tasks in politics… like concede a race.

Nothing has changed since late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning; the margin in Alabama’s Senate race is still roughly 20,000 votes, or about 1.5 percent. It remains well outside the half-a-percent threshold that triggers an automatic recount.

Almost all of the political world has moved on.

As the White House Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president’s actions prove that he believes the race is done.

“I think the President’s position is pretty clear, in his outreach to Doug Jones directly, he called and they spoke yesterday,” Huckabee Sanders said.

When a reporter followed up and asked if the president thought Moore had lost ‘fair and square,’ the press secretary agreed.

“I think the numbers reflect that, and I think the President’s outreach shows that,” Huckabee Sanders said.

But Roy Moore isn’t willing to concede, declaring in a video statement that “the battle rages on.” Except… it doesn’t. The votes have been counted and cast, and it wasn’t as close as he’s insisting it is. The battle is over and he lost. Doug Jones doesn’t need Roy Moore’s concession; there is no legal or Constitutional requirement for it.  It’s just a longstanding American tradition of grace, respect and honoring the results of our democratic process. Thus, it’s not surprising that Roy Moore can’t understand it. By refusing to concede, he’s not making a statement about Jones or the vote-counting; he’s making a statement about himself.

Moore said in his video statement that the current vote count does not include military and provisional ballots, and that is why he is waiting on the certification of the votes from Alabama’s Secretary of State. But Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Fortune it was highly unlikely that counting these ballots would result in a change.

“There are a lot of votes that would need to be thrown out for that to occur,” Merrill said.

Again, just to reach the automatic recount threshold, Moore has to gain about 14,000 votes on Jones.

There are only 8,000 active duty military personnel living in Alabama, with another 20,294 in the reserves. To get the automatic recount, Roy Moore needs roughly half the combined military personnel in Alabama to be deployed overseas right now, for all of them to have voted in this election, and for him to have won all of their votes.

As the Alabama Secretary of State noted Wednesday, “I don’t know how many ballots are going to be returned from overseas voters or how many provisional ballots there are, but I’m confident not all of them are going to be for one candidate.”

As for the notion of Moore requesting a recount and paying for himself…

In the small chance it does happen, Moore would then have to deal with the issue of funding, which Merrill estimated could be between $1 million and $1.5 million. The total amount has to be put up when the request is made. As of November 22, the last time a filing was made publicly available, Moore’s campaign only had $636,046 in cash on hand. That means Moore would have to finance the rest of the recount himself, paying as much as $863,000.

Allahpundit wonders if we’re watching a man who had so much faith in his own victory that he cannot mentally comprehend that he lost.

Maybe that’s part of it, that Moore convinced himself that God would speak through the results and simply can’t fathom the reality that he wasn’t chosen. That reminds me of his spokesman, Janet Porter, allegedly telling Nancy French in 2008 that she didn’t love America because she preferred the Mormon Mitt Romney to the evangelical Mike Huckabee in the GOP primary. If Huckabee versus Romney was a litmus test on patriotism and Christian virtue, imagine how much more of a litmus test Moore versus Jones was. Surely the good lord prefers the former to the latter. So how can the vote totals be accurate?

Is sanity too much to ask for these days?

Tax Reform Could Create Obstacles for Infrastructure Push

by Fred Bauer

A recent Politico story suggests that the Trump administration may have some trouble convincing congressional Democrats to go along with an infrastructure plan. There are many reasons for this — some partisan, some policy. One of the major hang-ups could be the funding of this plan. The Trump administration is considering paying for this infrastructure plan with cuts to other domestic-spending initiatives, a proposal that repels many Democrats.

Early on in 2017, some on both sides of the aisle had proposed paying for an infrastructure plan through the repatriation of profits held abroad. Large American corporations have trillions of dollars parked overseas, and a repatriation measure could allow businesses to bring in these foreign profits at a reduced rate. The repatriation of these foreign assets would be an injection of revenue, which could be spent on a variety of proposals (including infrastructure).

However, the current effort at tax reform uses the repatriation of foreign profits as a way of offsetting tax cuts elsewhere in the legislation. How much revenue could be generated through repatriation remains up for dispute, and we won’t know for sure until congressional Republicans release their final plan. It could be a significant amount of money. The Joint Committee on Taxation, for instance, estimated that the Senate’s repatriation provisions could generate $298 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As the old adage goes, “To govern is to choose.” Republicans could have chosen to use repatriation revenue as a significant down-payment on infrastructure; instead, they decided to bundle it in with tax reform. But now their choices on how to fund infrastructure get harder.

Oberlin and the Bakery

by Andrew Stuttaford

Exactly a year ago today, Michelle Malkin wrote a piece for the home page describing how a small business, Gibson’s Bakery, had fallen foul of Oberlin’s (yes, Oberlin again) for allegedly racist behavior.

The dispute rumbles on.

CBS:

Students at Oberlin College have long enjoyed pastries, bagels and chocolates from Gibson’s Bakery, a century-old, family-owned business near campus. That sweet relationship has turned bitter amid hotly disputed accusations of racism, roiling a school and town long known for their liberal politics.

The dispute, which began in November 2016 with the arrest of three black Oberlin students who were accused of stealing wine from Gibson’s, is now a lawsuit in which the exasperated bakery owners accuse the college and a top dean of slandering Gibson’s as a “racist establishment” and taking steps to destroy the family’s livelihood….

A member of the Black Student Union at Oberlin College told CBS affiliate WOIO-TV last month that other students have accused the bakery of racial profiling.

“Multiple students have had accounts of being followed around the store, being accused of stealing, having to turn their pockets out when they weren’t stealing anything just because they were black or brown students,” the student, who didn’t give a name, said. 

The three students were arrested after punching and kicking the white shopkeeper. The 18- and 19-year-old students said that they were racially profiled and that their only crime was trying to buy alcohol with fake identification; the shopkeeper, Allyn Gibson, said the students attacked him after he caught them trying to steal bottles of wine….

The three students arrested at Gibson’s pleaded guilty in August to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing and said in statements required by a plea agreement that their actions were wrong and that the store wasn’t racist. Even so, students continue to boycott Gibson’s over perceived racial profiling, causing business to suffer. Pressed by a reporter to provide evidence or examples of profiling, they said only that when black students enter the store, they feel as though they’re being watched.

“Racism can’t always be proven on an Excel sheet,” said Kameron Dunbar, an Oberlin junior and vice chair of the student senate. Copeland [a retired Oberlin professor] and other residents say the accusations of racism are unfounded.

“I’ve never seen evidence; it’s always hearsay,” Copeland said. “When your fellow student is shutting down a conversation because he or she is made uncomfortable, it leads to a hive mentality.”

Indeed it does. And, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, being “uncomfortable” is not an argument. The objective ought generally to trump the subjective.

And, it is alleged that, as so often in these sort of controversies, the student protestors enjoyed the explicit or implicit support of some members of the college’s staff, either (I imagine) through conviction or cowardice. If the allegation turns out to be true and the motivation is the latter, it won’t buy any favors the next time that the inquisitors find themselves short of a heretic or two. 

CBS:

On Nov. 7, the Gibsons sued Oberlin and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, for slander, accusing faculty members of encouraging demonstrations against the bakery by suspending classes, distributing flyers, and supplying protesters with free food and drink.

It says Raimondo took part in the demonstration against Gibson’s with a bullhorn and distributed a flyer that said the bakery is a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”

Because block capitals always make an argument so convincing.

CBS (my emphasis  added)

Today, the lawsuit says, college tour guides continue to inform prospective students that Gibson’s is racist.

Dave Gibson, the bakery’s owner, says the lawsuit is about standing up for his right to crack down on shoplifting without being branded as a racist. The suit says Oberlin demanded that he stop pushing criminal charges on first-time shoplifters and call school deans instead.

“I have not taken a paycheck since this happened more than a year ago,” Gibson said in an email. “Sometimes you have to stand up to a large institution. Powerful institutions — including Oberlin College — and their members must follow the same laws as the rest of us.”

The Gibsons’ lawsuit can be read here.  It’s worth reading, not least for some of the back-story.

Oberlin has pushed back.

The Chronicle (my emphasis added):

Oberlin College has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the institution from Gibson’s Bakery, which is asking for more than $200,000 in damages stemming from a November 2016 incident in which a student attempted to steal wine from the shop and a community uproar followed….

According to the college’s version of events as described in the Dec. 6 motion, three students, who are black, went to Gibson’s Bakery and one of the students, Jonathan Aladin, attempted to purchase wine with a fake ID. Allyn Gibson, who is white, followed the students out of the store and across the street into Tappan Square, property owned by the college, and “violently assaulted the male student,” the motion states. The motion says that the two female students… intervened on behalf of Aladin when Gibson refused to stop the assault.

“When police arrived on the scene, they arrested only the three Oberlin College students despite witness statements that Allyn D. Gibson was the aggressor,” the motion states.

The motion does not include information from the police report of the incident that accused Aladin of attempting to conceal two bottles of wine under his shirt while trying to purchase a third with the fake ID. According to the police report, when officers arrived, Allyn Gibson was on the ground with the three students standing over and punching him….

Following the incident, protesters gathered in front of Gibson’s Bakery to  [Oberlin argues] “peacefully exercise their constitutional rights.” The college also canceled a standing order it had with Gibson’s, which it later reinstated, but then canceled again when Gibson’s filed the lawsuit.

During the protests, Gibson’s claims Raimondo assisted and joined in with the protests. The college said these claims are “demonstrably false” and that Raimondo acted within her authority to temporarily suspend daily bakery orders from Gibson’s

The police incident report can be read here.

Legal Insurrection:

Oberlin College Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo provided this statement to Legal Insurrection in response to the news report that she was passing out literature accusing Gibson’s of racism:

Information and literature available at the protest was prepared by organizers, not the college. I passed along a flyer that was circulating among the crowd to a news tribune reporter who was seeking information from students about what was taking place. I did not prepare the flyer and do not have a copy of the flyer. My presence was to help ensure that a safe environment was maintained.

This will be an interesting case to watch. I should add, I suppose, that, whatever its reason, Oberlin (like any other customer) is fully entitled to cancel its standing order with Gibson’s should it so choose. 

Breaking: Rubio a ‘No’ Vote on Tax Bill Unless Child Tax Credit Increases

by Jibran Khan

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that he will vote against the GOP tax bill, unless refundability of the child tax credit increases from its current $1,100, a choice he calls “Not tough at all.”

Rubio came to the decision after party leadership budged on the corporate tax cut to cut individual taxes for top earners, which they had refused to do to fund the child tax credit. If Rubio votes against the bill and all other senators vote the same way as before, it will be a 50-50 vote requiring a tie-breaker from the Vice President.

If leadership loses both Rubio and another senator’s support, the bill cannot pass.

Oldies but Goodies

by Jay Nordlinger

On the homepage today, I do some fundraising, and talk about WFB.

One of the most recurring phrases around here is “Buckley legacy.” What does it mean? I suppose it means different things to different people. WFB was big and multifaceted, and so is his “legacy.”

Here is another little section:

WFB was devoted to high culture. And at his table were many, many artists. I thought of one of them the other night, for I reviewed her in recital.

This was Sharon Isbin. WFB said to her, “So, I understand you’re the best guitarist in the world.” She responded, “No, no. There is no ‘best guitarist in the world.’ That would be like saying there’s a best writer or something” — whereupon the great writer flashed his 1,000-watt smile and said, “Waal … ”

I have a new episode of Jaywalking, which I begin with that story. Actually, I begin with some music — Sharon Isbin playing Asturias, by Isaac Albéniz. I then talk about Jerusalem, the NFL, Theresa May (two of them), and other things. I end with what may be the most beautiful song ever written — an oldie (like 1600) but goodie.

Re: Misplaced Trust in Antitrust

by Robert VerBruggen

Response To...

Misplaced Trust in Antitrust

I appreciate Iain Murray’s response to my article about the tech monopolies. I don’t have a ton to add — the question of when a monopoly becomes a problem worthy of government action is highly subjective, so it’s an agree-to-disagree type of situation. But I did want to clarify a few things:

At the end of my piece I laid out a variety of actions that analysts have suggested which fall short of breaking these companies up. I said these were “gentler” than demolishing the companies, which is undeniably true; I didn’t say they were “gentle,” and I explicitly avoided endorsing a specific combination of them. Generally speaking, I think it’s good to target specific bad practices by monopolies rather than smashing up or taking over businesses that gained their market share legally. I do, however, think it’s important to stop companies from abusing their monopoly power, and sought to give a lay of the land of what measures are possible.

I specifically noted that it’s not illegal simply to have a monopoly, and quoted Judge Learned Hand only as to the definition of what a monopoly is, which is kind of important to spell out in an article about monopolies.

I also didn’t claim that Amazon’s deliberate destruction of its upstart rival Quidsi was illegal under current law (though I did point out that predatory pricing is banned in certain circumstances); the question is whether such behavior should be legal. I tend to think consumers would be better off if they still had Diapers.com competing with Amazon in the realm of online shopping for baby products, but of course it’s impossible to prove what the world would look like in a different timeline — again underscoring the subjectivity noted above.

Misplaced Trust in Antitrust

by Iain Murray

I was mystified to see Robert VerBruggen’s story in the latest issue calling for “gentle approaches” to solving what he regards as a monopoly problem in the current dominant positions of Google/Alphabet, Facebook, and Amazon. My normally insightful colleague appears to have ignored the rich history of free-market legal and economic thought about the questions of competition and antitrust in favor of what has come to be known as “hipster antitrust,” which is not only contrary to the free-market tradition but, worse, draws much of its inspiration from the European Union.

It is important to get a couple of misconceptions out of the way first, before I get on to Robert’s specific arguments about the tech giants, because those misconceptions flavor the piece. To begin with, American antitrust law is not particularly concerned with size or market share, whatever Learned Hand might have said. Our bipartisan legal consensus in America holds that the primary issue for antitrust is consumer welfare, as the late, great Robert Bork argued in The Antitrust Paradox. It is the fact-based “rule of reason” not hypothetical concern about size that drives American antitrust law.

And a good thing too. What this means is that government is not empowered to steam in and break up companies that are increasing consumer welfare through efficiency and innovation in favor of their less efficient, less innovative, and less welfare-enhancing competitors.

Keep reading this post . . .

‘Can Only Trump Survive Trump?’

by Rich Lowry

In my Politico column today, I wrote about Alabama:  

Ed Gillespie ran away from Trump and lost in Virginia. Roy Moore ran toward Trump (with a lot of excess baggage) and lost in Alabama. One was a wonky establishment Republican careful to sand away any hard edges in his political persona; the other was an obstreperous and ignorant insurgent Republican who prided himself on his outrageousness. It didn’t matter.

They both were defeated the same way, holding their own Republican voters, but getting overwhelmed by a tide of millennials, suburbanites and minorities motivated by their abiding animus toward Trump.

The backlash that conventional wisdom thought Trump would create among these voters in 2016, to his own detriment, is coming about in 2017, to the detriment of his fellow Republicans. They can’t rely on the circumstances or the personal qualities that helped Trump get over the top last year.

Does This Mean We Don’t Have to ‘Bow Down’ to the President Anymore, Omarosa?

by Jim Geraghty

Former “The Apprentice” contestant, Trump campaign surrogate, and White House staffer Omarosa Manigault, back in September 2016: ”Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Omarosa Manigault, this morning: ”As the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

If only someone had warned her.

The Mouse Buys the Fox

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Mouse Buys the Fox

Back on the old television show Fringe, there was a fictional megacorporation called Massive Dynamic that advertised with the vaguely ominous slogan: “What do we do? What don’t we do!”

How long until we feel that way about Disney-Fox, or whatever the new merged megacorporation is called?

Walt Disney Co. is close to a deal to acquire a large piece of 21st Century Fox Inc., people familiar with the situation say, in a pact that could help the entertainment giant accelerate its ambitions in streaming media, shore up its television business and grab hold of lucrative movie franchises.

The deal, expected to be announced Thursday, would value the assets Disney is acquiring at $60 billion, including debt. Those assets include the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studio, cable channels including regional sports networks and key international properties. They don’t include properties such as Fox News and broadcast assets.

If Disney can afford to buy almost every entertainment brand in the world… I guess they were right, it really is a small world after all.

The bad news about this deal is that one super-conglomerate will soon own and run so many of our entertainment options. Ask any new parent how much Disney stuff they have in their house. Disney owns Pixar. Disney owns Star Wars. Disney owns Marvel’s superheroes. Disney owns the Muppets. Disney owns ABC television, ESPN, and half of A&E. Disney owns 30 percent of Hulu. From your youngest years with Mickey Mouse and the Muppets, to Star Wars and Marvel, to ESPN, to A&E, you’re probably watching a Disney product at every stage of life.

More than a few conservatives contend they see some heavy-handed propagandizing in Disney’s entertainment options. The controversies about ESPN growing more political are well-covered. Julie Gunlock recently laid out the increasingly crass and activist tone on the programs of the Disney Channel and Disney XD. Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, has grown increasingly vocal about topics like the DACA program, the Paris climate accords, and gun control.

Even if the new mega-company is relatively apolitical, at what point do arguments about a monopoly or a near-monopoly kick in for the world of entertainment?  Hey, it’s not like we’ve just heard about monstrous abuse in the entertainment industry enabled by particular individuals having the ability to create or destroy careers in Hollywood, right?

The good news is that in the world of the movies, the X-Men can now join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Way back when, Marvel Comics sold the rights to make movies about their superheroes to several different companies: 20th Century Fox got the X-Men and related mutant characters like Deadpool; Sony bought the rights to Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Universal had the Hulk, and New World Pictures bought the rights to the Punisher. When Marvel Studios launched, it had the rights to what was left over… and what rights had returned back to the comic book company. It turned out Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were pretty popular in their own right, and Marvel was able to reach a deal with Sony to bring Spider Man back into their universe and share the profits. (Thus the in-joke of the title of this summer’s movie, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”)

Actor Chris Evans jokingly pitched, “Who do I talk to about a Cap/Human Torch buddy comedy spin-off? I’m thinking Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Parent Trap.” (The joke is that he played both characters.)

In Marvel’s comic-books, all of these heroes operate in the same world and have cross-over adventures pretty regularly, and that’s one of the aspects that makes Marvel’s movies fun. Thor needs help from Doctor Strange, Iron Man is mentoring Spider-Man, Captain America’s third movie featured a conflict that affected just about every heroic character seen so far. But the X-Men can’t appear (and don’t appear to exist in Marvel’s cinematic fictional world so far) because 20th Century has the rights.*

(It’s fair to wonder if this separation is actually for the best, because the Marvel comics universe featured a world where the X-Men and mutants were distrusted and feared by the general public for their powers, while the Avengers were largely trusted and celebrated. More than a few writers struggled to write around that contradiction. The real reason is that the two sets of characters were created to tell two different kinds of stories – one for classic adventure stories and the other for an allegory about discrimination and being an outsider.)

*One odd exception: In the comics, the super-fast Quicksilver was a longtime character in both the Avengers and the X-Men series, and so the studios negotiated for two slightly different versions of the character to appear in the separate movie series.

Personally, I’ve Never Dreamt of Sugarplums

by Jack Fowler

And I bet you haven’t either, even though it’s the time of year for that. But I bet you have thought about making special choices for charitable (tax deductible!) giving – it’s the time of year for that too. We encourage you to consider National Review Institute as a recipient for such generosity. If for no other reason than this: Its powerful array of fellows constitute NRI America’s premier conservative journalism think tank. The collective wisdom and influence of these writers – each one possessing great talent and persuasiveness – are key to defending the principles you cherish and hope to see propagated, promoted, and promulgated (proudly and profoundly!) now and for future generations. With your selfless support — which you can donate here — NRI carries out the mission especially entrusted to it by Institute founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Of whom, and of whose legacy, NRI Fellow Jay Nordlinger writes today. Wonderfully. Give it a read. Be persuaded. (And maybe later check out Jay’s relatively new podcast, Jaywalking).

Other fellows have other wonderful things to say about what NRI does. For example, Kevin Williamson wrote an excellent piece making the case about NRI’s Buckley Journalism Fellowship program (this year it stars Alexandra DeSanctis and Teddy Kupfer). And then Rick Brookhiser revealed his thoughts on the importance of NRI’s Regional Fellowship Program. And Jonah Goldberg, in his most recent G-File, gave a great overview of NRI’s broad array of consequential programs.

Hey: We don’t do programs for programs’ sake, or fellowships for fellows’ sake. NRI does what it does, and darned well, in order to carry out, in its special way – amplifying and complimenting the efforts of your favorite magazine and website – the two-fold Buckley mission of standing athwart history yelling stop, and looking ahead to the future – a month, a year, a generation from now – to make sure conservative principles are sustained and thriving.

This is what we do. And this is what you want done. But the doing and the done-ing only happen with your help. As Jonah put it

because most people have lots of things going on in their lives — work, family, friends, faith, hobbies, etc. — not everyone can give as much of themselves to the conservative cause as we do here. But the only reason we can do as much as we do is because of you and people like you. We live every day knowing that we are indebted not just to Bill Buckley but to the numerous people who give what they can to keep the mission alive.

So please donate to NRI’s End-of-Year appeal – it’s seeking to raise $250,000. Boy do we have a long way to go. Help us reach it: You can make that generous contribution here. Of course, you can send a check (payable to “National Review Institute”) to the new digs at 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. Many thanks.

Oh, and one last thing: What the heck is Santa feeding those reindeer? One of them is green!

Our Man in the Middle East

by Jay Nordlinger

Ryan Crocker is my guest on Q&A, here. He is one of the outstanding U.S. diplomats of our time. In addition to his other posts, he was ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Nothing but the easy assignments for him, as you can see. George W. Bush, in the last days of his presidency, hung the Presidential Medal of Freedom around Crocker’s neck.

In our Q&A, we talk about the State Department, about which Crocker is very concerned. We also take a tour — to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Crocker illuminates issues past, present, and even future.

With Ryan Crocker, you’re in the hands of someone who knows what he’s talking about. This is a good feeling, even when the issues are terribly grim. Again, our podcast is here.

Pay Hasn’t Stagnated for Fifty Years

by Ramesh Ponnuru

“Real average hourly wages have not increased for fifty years.” That arresting claim appears in an essay by Matthew Schmitz in the latest issue of First Things. And you can find some support for that reading of the data. The Pew Research Center reports that the average wage in 1964, in 2014 dollars, was $19.18. In 2014, it was $20.67. If that’s right, then something has gone really wrong with our economy, and the political upheavals we have been through look small and long-delayed.

But there are two reasons not to take this apparent stagnation at face value. First, it ignores the growth in non-wage compensation, such as health benefits. Wages have shrunk as a percentage of total compensation. (Pew mentions this issue.) Maybe the balance between wages and benefits has gotten out of whack, as I believe, but that’s a different problem, demanding different responses, than stagnation in total compensation would be.

Second, it is based on the wrong measure of inflation. Figure 2 in this report by Scott Winship gives us more relevant information: the growth in compensation for the median male worker since 1967, properly adjusted for inflation. He finds that figure has risen by 31 percent. Presumably including women in the figures would make the growth trend look even better.

Whatever other concerns we should have about our economic system, it does not seem to have yielded stagnant pay for five decades.