Poetry

by William W. Runyeon

LOST PRAYER

A prayer well known and repeated,

and repeated, the mind focused on the words,

on the words, becomes an internal ceremony,

with little room, and then no room

for another thought; sooner or later

comes the moment when the focus is lost,

the words are lost, when the internal chant

comes up empty, comes to silence;

better silence than the meaning lost.

But when the words are lost,

across that vacant moment,

an image will follow, of Divinity,

of a sacred place, of Benevolence

accepting the devotion of a

weary humanity, prone to loss

of focus and of meaning, to the

wavering use of words, tending to

obscure and not to illuminate.

The silence becomes a light,

the silence turns to light,

that the loss might be redeemed;

picture without words, the figure

surprised in the clearing, become

as a candle of sunlight, by the breath

of contemplation turned to action,

so the loss of words may come to nothing.

– This poem appears in the July 10 print issue of NR.

The Rise of Jeremy Corbyn

by NR Staff

Here’s the cover of the new issue of National Review, out today for subscribers, featuring Michael Brendan Dougherty’s cover story on the rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

For this and more insight from the best conservative writers, subscribe to National Review’s digital magazine here, and print magazine here.

How Badly Do Democrats Really Want to Defeat Trump?

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about this question today in the context of the Georgia special election: 

There’s no doubt that Democrats want to watch TV programs that excoriate the president. They want to give money to candidates opposing him. They want to fantasize about frog-marching him straight from his impeachment proceedings to the nearest federal penitentiary. But do they want to do the one thing that would make it easier to win tough races in marginal areas, namely moderate on the cultural issue? Not so much. 

In retrospect, Jon Ossoff’s loss in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District was overdetermined. He didn’t live in the district. He had no record of public service. Youthful to a fault, he looked like he should have been running for class president. Yet it didn’t help that he was an orthodox liberal who conceded nothing on cultural issues, even though he was running in a Republican district in the South. 

In this, Ossoff merely reflected his party’s attitude. Stopping Trump is imperative, so long as it doesn’t require the party rethinking its uncompromising stance on abortion, guns or immigration. Every old rule should be thrown out in the cause of the resistance—except the tried-and-true orthodoxies on social issues. 

If Democrats had to choose between opposing an honest-to-goodness coup and endorsing a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, they’d probably have to think about it. And if they dared pick opposition to the coup, NARAL Pro Choice America would come after them hammer and tongs.

Harper’s Bazaar Author Peddles Debunked Stat to Promote Overseas Abortion

by Alexandra DeSanctis

In an effort to promote the global legalization of abortion, a number of articles published during the last few years have used the example of El Salvador to argue that “unsafe” abortions lead to the deaths of thousands of women each year. El Salvador prohibits abortion except in the rare cases when a woman’s life is at risk, a policy that is considered “unsafe” by abortion-rights activists.

To illustrate this assertion, each of the authors gestures at one particular data point: the supposed fact that 11 percent of abortions in El Salvador result in the death of the mother. This claim cropped up just this week in Harper’s Bazaar, but it has also been pushed by articles in Marie Claire, National Geographic, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, and Amnesty International.

Unfortunately for proponents of this argument, the 11-percent figure is incorrect, and the origin of these claims becomes evident after a careful review of the data in question. To begin with, nearly all of these articles cite a 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) study, which doesn’t in fact provide any details about El Salvador’s abortion rates or maternal-mortality rates.

The 2011 WHO study links to a maternal-mortality trend report, estimating that 110 expectant mothers in El Salvador died for every 100,000 live births in 2008. That yields .11 percent, and it doesn’t consider specifically abortion-related maternal deaths. So far, the oft-cited figure has yet to appear.

A closer look at the Harper’s Bazaar article provides us with some further clues. To bolster her use of the 11-percent statistic, the author cites a report from the pro-abortion group Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), where we do find the claim that 11 percent of abortions in El Salvador between 1995 and 2000 were fatal for the mother.

The CRR then directs us to a Global Health Council (GHC) report, which estimates that there were 246,275 abortions in El Salvador from 1995 to 2000. If the 11-percent claim were correct, it would mean that, in a five-year span, over 27,000 Salvadoran mothers died as the result of abortion procedures.

That figure is almost absurd enough to dismiss on its face, but the GHC report goes on to put the final nail in the coffin, noting that during this five-year span only 209 women died from abortion. That’s .08 percent of 246,275, not 11 percent.

Another interesting note: The GHC report lists 1,885 total maternal deaths in El Salvador for the same period, which allows us to calculate that 11 percent of the country’s total maternal deaths were abortion-related. That statistic is evidently distinct from the claim that 11 percent of the country’s total abortions lead to maternal death.

Leaving aside the complicated questions surrounding maternal-mortality rates and abortion policy, it’s impossible to take abortion-rights activists seriously when they fail to substantiate their arguments with actual data and instead propound unfounded statistics to score political points.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended since its initial publication.

The Perverse Incentives in University Science Funding

by George Leef

When Troy Camplin and a co-researcher sought funding for a university institute devoted to the study of spontaneous orders, they were turned down. The provost declared that he just didn’t believe that complexity was worthy of scientific study. End of story.

That unhappy experience provides the back ground for Camplin’s Martin Center Clarion Call: “Perverse Incentives in Science: 21st Century Funding for 20th Century Research.”

Camplin explains,

Our institutions are dominated by those doing science in the current paradigm. Which is what we should in fact expect. But that means that most funding sources — whether government or private — are going to be conservative and fund the already-established rather than investigations into something that may not work out. And scientists tend to protect their turf against new ideas that could replace them.

One consequence is that lots of money flows into ideas that have already been researched well past the point of diminishing returns. Another is that science professors spend an inordinate amount of time writing grant proposals, at the expense of actually doing research.

Worse still, we are seeing the increasing politicization of science. Camplin writes,

Such politicization is also a perhaps unsurprising result of the breakdown of the old paradigm in science. When those with institutional power feel threatened, they tend to politicize the situation to try to retain that power. This is part of what happened with the recent March for Science, held in large cities around the country. It wasn’t really a march for science, but rather a march for politicized science in the current paradigm.

Camplin has identified a serious problem, but doesn’t have a solution for it. Eventually, he thinks, a new paradigm of funding will emerge, but until then we will suffer through a lot of waste and folly. (Dr. Michael Mann comes to mind as an example.)

Summer Reading

by Yuval Levin

Summer is here, and so is the new summer issue of National Affairs. It’s filled with thoughtful, timely essays on policy and political thought, from Sally Satel on how to understand the opioid crisis to Andy Smarick on how education is changing, Oren Cass on the mirages of “evidence-based policymaking,” Joshua McCabe on our polarized federalism, Arnold Kling on the state of economics, Richard Reinsch on our competing majorities, Michael Cooper on the fate of the rust belt, and much more—from taxing marijuana to the radicalization of our understanding of discrimination, the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter, and the legacy of Edward Banfield.  

Some are open to all, others only to subscribers—and hey, why not?

Netherlander Euthanasia Guru Bemoans His Handiwork

by Wesley J. Smith

Boudewijn Chabot was the Netherlander psychiatrist who assisted the suicide of a deeply depressed woman who wanted to die after the demise of her two children. All she wanted to do was be buried between them. Chabot met with her four times over several weeks–never engaged actual treatment–and then supplied her with poison pills, which she took. He watched as she died.

That led to a “prosecution.” I put the word in quotes because–as Chabot’s lawyer told me in an interview for my book Forced Exit–there was never any intention of actually imprisoning Chabot, or indeed, sanction him in any way. Rather, the purpose was to set a precedent to allow deep psychological suffering to justify euthanasia.

The gambit worked. The Supreme Court ruled, essentially, that suffering is suffering–and whether physical or emotional–IT is what justifies assisted suicide/euthanasia, not disease itself.

Twenty or so years later and Netherlander psychiatrists euthanize mentally ill patients, whose organs may be voluntarily harvested post-death.

Now, Chabot has been stricken by conscience. He notes that euthanasia groups have recruited psychiatrists to kill. From his article, “Worrisome Culture Shift in the Context of Self-Selected Death:”

Without a therapeutic relationship [ME: which he didn't really have, by the way], by far most psychiatrists cannot reliably determine whether a death wish is a serious, enduring desire. Even within a therapeutic relationship, it remains difficult. But a psychiatrist of the clinic can do so without a therapeutic relationship, with less than ten ‘in-depth’ conversations?

Hey, you opened this door: Own it! More:

In 2016, there were three reports of euthanasia of deep-demented persons who could not confirm their death wish. One of the three was identified as having been done without due care; her advance request could be interpreted in different ways. The execution was also done without due care; the doctor had first put a sedative in her coffee. When the patient was lying drowsily on her bed and was about to be given a high dose, she got up with fear in her eyes and had to be held down by family members. The doctor stated that she had continued the procedure very consciously.

Chabot looks at the social and moral wreckage he helped unleash and wonders:

Where did the Euthanasia Law go off the tracks? The euthanasia practice is running amok because the legal requirements which doctors can reasonably apply in the context of physically ill people, are being declared equally applicable without limitation in the context of vulnerable patients with incurable brain diseases.

In psychiatry, an essential limitation disappeared when the existence of a treatment relationship was no longer required. In the case of dementia, such a restriction disappeared by making the written advance request equivalent to an actual oral request.

And lastly, it really went off the tracks when the review committee concealed that incapacitated people were surreptitiously killed.

Please. It was all so predictable.  Heck, I predicted it.

Euthanasia consciousness changes mindsets. It alters societal morality. It distorts our views of the importance of vulnerable lives. It leads to abandonment and various forms of subtle and blatant coercion. 

Over time, it can’t be controlled.

 

‘They Are Never Talking About Issues Like Russia.’

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

‘They Are Never Talking About Issues Like Russia.’

“Our brand is worse than Trump.”

That quote from Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the New York Times is going to get a lot of attention. For Republicans, that comment is a reason for glee; for Democrats, it is a devastating self-assessment that challenges them on an almost existential level.

But the comment that probably ought to spur even more thought in Democratic lawmakers’ offices is this one from Chris Murphy, who dares to utter the heretical thought that the preeminent obsession of Democrats since Election Day 2016 – the as-yet-unproven possibility of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – simply is a non-factor in the lives of most Americans:

“The fact that we have spent so much time talking about Russia has been a distraction from what should be the clear contrast between Democrats and the Trump agenda, which is on economics,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether Ossoff’s defeat means the party should become more progressive, the senator responded that it’s more an issue of what they’re talking about. “When I’m back in Connecticut, I often get on a commuter bus and ride it for just an hour to talk to folks that don’t normally call my office or write my office,” Murphy explained. “They are never talking about issues like Russia. They are not talking, frankly, about what’s on cable news at night.”

Now, this idea that a party should only focus on “kitchen table issues” or what’s on the mind of the “common man” can be taken too far. There are a lot of issues that the average voter doesn’t think about much that are still important. The debt and deficit, the long-term outlook for entitlement programs, almost everything involving foreign relations that don’t involve the war on terrorism, cyber-security, most issues involving the judiciary and debates about interpreting the Constitution, most government regulations outside of a high-profile news story, the state of higher education institutions, most energy issues beyond gas prices… People tend to talk about anything that affects them directly or something that has been in the news a lot, particularly if there’s an element of human drama.

The New York Times article makes a fleeting reference that probably deserves more attention…

Part of the Democrats’ challenge now is that the jobless rate is low, and many of the districts they are targeting are a lot like the Georgia seat: thriving suburbs filled with voters who have only watched their portfolios grow since Mr. Trump took office.

Back in March, during his address to Congress, Trump boasted that the stock market had gained almost $3 trillion in value since his election; since then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen another couple hundred points. In other words, if you’re an investor, these are the good times. Your 401(k) probably looks better than you ever figured it would a year ago. Yes, the stock market could go down, and some analysts think it will. But for now, anyone who’s putting away money for retirement probably is feeling a little better about the future.

Ben Shapiro points out how apocalyptic modern political rhetoric is on both sides. How apocalyptic do you think those voters in those white-collar suburban Congressional districts feel?

California Court Dismisses 14 Criminal Charges against Center for Medical Progress

by Alexandra DeSanctis

This afternoon, the San Francisco Superior Court tossed out 14 of the 15 criminal charges that had been brought by the state of California against two journalists from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), after they released a series of undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s possible involvement in illegal fetal-tissue trafficking.

In late March, California attorney general Xavier Becerra charged David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with 15 felony charges for recording what he deemed to be confidential communications. Today, a judge dismissed 14 of those charges, but will still consider the remaining fifteenth charge, against Merritt alone, for conspiring to invade privacy.

In a statement today, an official with the group representing Merritt said they are optimistic about having this charge dropped as well. He also pointed out that Becerra received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL during his time as a Democratic congressman.

More details from Life News:

The San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday dismissed 14 of 15 criminal counts but the pair are still charged with one count of conspiracy to invade privacy. However the court dismissed the charges with leave to amend — meaning Becerra could re-file the charges with additional supposed evidence against the pair.

The court ruled that counts 1-14 were legally insufficient. The state has the opportunity to amend if it can plead a more legally sufficient and specific complaint. The California’s Attorney General filed 15 criminal counts against Merritt, with counts 1-14 for each of the alleged interviews and count 15 for an alleged conspiracy. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite gave the state attorney general’s office until mid-July to file a revised complaint.

Aside from being a victory for the freedom of the press, this decision is another big win for the CMP journalists — who were cleared of criminal charges last year in Texas, as well — vindicating them against the frequent claim from pro-abortion activists that they engaged in illegal activity and duplicitous editing of footage to falsely incriminate Planned Parenthood.

There is still a civil lawsuit on this matter pending in California, brought against the CMP by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. Unlike these criminal charges, however, that suit does not carry the threat of jail time.

The Incomplete Media Narrative about a Murdered Muslim Girl

by Tiana Lowe

Early Sunday morning, a 22-year-old man bludgeoned a Muslim girl, Nabra Hassanen, to death with a metal baseball bat on her way home from an all-night Ramadan observance at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque. The murderer dumped the 17-year-old’s abaya-dressed corpse into a pond, where it was found by Fairfax County, Virginia authorities later that afternoon. Outrage ensued, as it rightly should, given a murder so savage, thuggish, and evil. Yet once again, the media wildly overstepped its bounds to craft a false narrative.

“Muslim Teen Kidnapped and Brutally Murdered in Virginia: This Is Terrorism” read a headline from Affinity magazine. Actress and producer Mindy Kaling also decried the murder on Facebook as “another innocent Muslim person targeted for their faith.” The Atlantic then ran a profile, “‘Muslims Feel Under Siege’” highlighting Islamophobia around Ramadan. Many stories used Hassanen’s murder as a lede to foray into a greater narrative about the collective crisis of violence against Muslims.

But then actual facts and details around the case emerged. First, the Fairfax County Police Department publicly ruled out a hate crime as a motive, announcing that they were looking more closely into extreme road rage. Then, the Daily Caller reported that the murderer, Darwin Martinez Torres, was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, with ICE confirming that it had issued a detainer request against him. Reports subsequently emerged that Torres, who has a girlfriend and son, barely speaks English and required the use of a translator following his arrest.

On these developments, the media has maintained near-complete radio silence. A Fusion piece reporting that the police ruled out anti-Muslim bias as a motive was still tagged as “Islamaphobia,” and did not include the identity of the killer. They declined to even label Torres a “white Hispanic” illegal immigrant!

That Torres’s motive was not as initially reported should make the murder no less enraging. And nor should his immigration status make it any more deplorable. But any conversation about Nabra Hassanen, be it about hate crimes or immigration policies, will inevitably be half-baked if we’re only served half-truths.

 

This Acquittal Was Correct — Jury Exonerates Cop in Milwaukee Shooting

by David French

Each police shooting has to be evaluated on its own facts Today, a Milwaukee jury rightly acquitted former police officer Dominique Heaggen-Brown in the 2016 shooting of Sylville Smith — a shooting that led to unrest in the city. This case was markedly different from the Philando Castile shooting, and the prosecution was highly problematic. 

Smith ran from a traffic stop, approached a chain-link fence, and turned to face the pursuing officers, gun in hand. Heaggan-Brown fired his first shot — a shot the prosecution conceded was lawful — and then fired the second, fatal shot less than two seconds later, just after Smith had thrown away his pistol. The prosecution claimed that the second shot constituted reckless homicide. 

The problem with the prosecution is obvious. A police officer who reasonably perceives a mortal threat (as the officer did here) doesn’t shoot, reflect, observe, and shoot again. He shoots until the threat is neutralized. The officer’s expert witness was right:

The defense rested Monday after calling its lone witness, Robert Willis, an expert in police use of force, according to WISN.

Willis testified that Heaggan-Brown acted in “accordance with his training,” CNN affiliate WTMJ-TV reported.

His testimony centered on the 1.69 seconds separating the two shots. He testified the officer’s decision to fire again was made before he even pulled the trigger. The second shot was justified, Willis told the jury, because officers are trained to assume a suspect may have more than one weapon.

Heaggan-Brown experienced the encounter in “real time,” not in frame-by-frame motion as it was shown to the jury, Willis said, according to WTMJ.

“So when we see the trigger being pulled, we have to not consider that the moment of decision,” he said. “It’s not. We have to go back — and I can’t tell exactly how many frames but we have to go back two-tenths or three-tenths of a second — we have to go back several frames … to delve into the decision-making process that goes into firing this shot.”

The officer chose his witness well. According to CNN, Willis “wrote the use of force manual used by Milwaukee police officers.”

Smith’s confrontation with police created exactly the situation the law is designed to address. We can’t impute god-like perception to police officers, and the split-second reasonable decision to fire on an armed suspect isn’t something that has to be reconsidered with every pull of the trigger. In this case, the jury reached the just result. 

 

0-4 and an About-Face: Democrats Suddenly Believe Ossoff No Longer Matters

by Tiana Lowe

He was a candidate on whom it would be worth risking millions. He was a messianic, baby-faced neophyte slated to stage a Macron-esque takeover of Georgia’s sixth congressional district in the #Resistance’s first great blow to Trump’s America. CNN’s Don Lemon even likened him to Barack Obama.

Jon Ossoff was supposed to be a vessel for the categorical repudiation of the Trump administration, but alas, as the president gleefully noted this morning, the Democrats marked two new entries in a growing line of losing streaks in special elections framed by some in the media as referendums on one of the most unpopular presidents in modern American history.

After sinking $25 million into Ossoff’s campaign, Democrats are stuck rewriting the narrative that all hope and glory rested on the fate of GA-06. 

The original liberal logic went: An effective Democratic candidate, not bogged down by the scandals and unlikability of Hillary Clinton and running, in effect, against Trump (who beat Clinton in the district by an uncharacteristically low margin of 1.5 percent), could easily outperform Clinton. The Democrats put so much weight on this concept that Ossoff’s campaign became the most expensive congressional bid in U.S. history. California donors and super PACs outspent every other state nine-to-one to try to flip the sixth district, only to see Ossoff actually underperforming both the polls and Clinton’s 2016 GA-06 vote to go down in a stunning defeat.

In April, Slate branded Ossoff the pioneer of “Georgia’s progressive renaissance” — a man gearing up to answer the “existential insult of Trump.” Following Ossoff’s win in the Georgia primary, CNN’s Sally Kohn boasted that the election “damn sure was a referendum on Trump and Trump lost big league.” The Left continued to characterize the race as Ossoff versus Trump as the runoff drew nearer. Just this past weekend, the New York Times declared it would be a “high-stakes referendum on Trump,” with the “highest” stakes for Republicans.

Yet as the votes poured in and Handel began to exceed polling and expectations, the media began to sing a different tune.

The spin began as the New York Times tweeted that “Handel averted a humiliating upset for Republicans.”

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, who had previously compared Ossoff’s crusade to “Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign” reflective of a “leftward shift of the Democratic Party’s message,” today decried his “bland and inoffensive” image of “just a nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump.”

In a similar 180, Kohn tweeted out, “In many ways, [Handel] distanced herself from [Trump]. This is not Trump’s victory.”

Wait, so is Ossoff basically Barack Obama or a tepid centrist? Is Handel a Trump surrogate or a Never Trumper? Most importantly, wasn’t Ossoff supposed to win with a five point lead?

The Democratic panic is warranted. Ossoff’s losing 1.2 percent of Clinton’s GA-6 vote after the Democratic party put everything, emotionally and financially, on the line for a candidate they equated to their only remaining widely liked leader, has worrisome implications. Perhaps if the Democrats had put slightly less of a moral investment in this election, it would be seen for what it really is: a special election. But FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver aptly noted, “Sometimes dumb things matter if everyone agrees that they matter.”

With taxpayer-subsidized Planned Parenthood dumping nearly $735,000 into Ossoff’s campaign and the DCCC pouring in over $5 million, Republicans turned out to vote in record numbers. Ultimately, for Georgia voters the election was less of a referendum on Trump than a rejection of an untried carpetbagger.

Spending Cuts Are the Best Way to Pay for Tax Reform

by Veronique de Rugy

Yesterday, Speaker Ryan promised that tax reform would happen before the end of 2017. My two cents is that it won’t until Ryan finally agrees to drop the border-adjustment tax that has fractured our movement, the business community, and the Republican caucus. As it stands, tax reform may not even be able to get out of the House, let alone the Senate (the White House is also skeptical of the border-adjustment tax).

When Ryan does drop the border-adjustment tax (BAT), we can finally unite behind tax reform and look for alternative ways to get it done. As such, now is as good a time as any to remind the Republicans in charge of leading this effort that there’s a right way and a wrong way to move beyond the border-adjustment tax. Recently, Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady, the most dogged proponent of the border-adjustment tax in Congress after Speaker Ryan, simultaneously admitted that the only function of the BAT is to raise revenue and suggested that dropping it may require Congress revisiting the revenue raisers in the Camp proposal (named after former congressman David Camp of Michigan), though Brady was quick to point out that he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

Perhaps this is Brady’s way of pressuring critics to just give up and accept the BAT because falling back on the Camp plan is a poor substitute for real tax reform.

Like the current effort, Camp was hamstrung by a misguided insistence on “revenue neutrality.” Revenue neutrality means that the government continues collecting just as much in taxes after reform. While some may think it make sense in today’s high-debt environment, it is no solution to our debt and economic-growth problem. First, overspending is the driving cause of our giant debt and there is no amount of revenue that will address the explosion of our national debt that is caused by the entitlement-crisis wall into which we are heading very quickly. Second, revenue neutrality means that Congress is voluntarily deciding to tie its hand on what it can do to grow the economy through tax reform because lawmakers have to choose between lowering tax rates in exchange for increasing double taxation or reducing the tax burden on savings and investment in exchange for only slightly lowering rates.

Granted, unlike Representative Camp in 2014, Republicans plan to finally use dynamic rather than static scoring — dynamic scoring takes into account the impact of tax reform on economic growth. However, CBO’s modeling still leaves a lot to be desired. So while they are trying to actually reduce the tax burden overall, they are still likely to overpay with revenue offsets.

The revenue constraints placed on Camp forced inclusion of many bad ideas in his proposal such as increasing the tax bias against savings and investment by raising the tax rate on capital gains and “extending the length of the period over which businesses may deduct the cost of buying machinery or equipment and building factories or other structures,” as David Burton explained back in 2014. In that vein, and among other items, the plan randomly targeted advertising expenses for the sole purpose of raising revenue. Burton explains:

The Camp plan would require that half of advertising expenses be deducted over a 10-year period. This entirely unwarranted provision would deny businesses the ability to deduct their expenses and thus overstate their taxable income. This provision would increase business taxes by $169 billion over 10 years.

Why would the plan arbitrary treat advertising expenses differently than other business costs? I do not know. Advertising serves an important purpose in helping the economy function smoothly. It provides information to consumers and facilitates competition and entry of new products to the market. Moreover, the whole point of tax reform is to simplify the code and end distortions such as that.

Oh and then there was this:

One of the most egregious violations of sound tax policy in the plan is a tax on systemically important financial institutions (SIFI). The tax, better known as a bank tax, would apply to only a few of the largest banks and other financial firms — those with more than $500 billion in assets. The tax would be 0.035 percent on those banks’ assets, assessed quarterly. It would raise more than $86 billion over 10 years. Sound tax policy does not single out particular businesses in certain industries for extra taxation. If there are issues arising because of how other laws affect these banks, those issues should be addressed outside of the tax code.

I would like to repeat this: “Sound tax policy does not single out particular businesses in certain industries for extra taxation.”

In other words, falling back on the Camp reform pay-fors such as the few named above would be a step backward. There is no way that Republicans believe that these are are only two options for tax reform. They must know that a better approach would be to acknowledge fiscal reality and cut spending. Or not. An imperfect and partial alternative is to extend the budget window, as some are now considering. It would have the merits of better accounting for the positive economic impact of tax reform and lessening the need for counterproductive new taxes.

Immigration Has Changed the Progressive Movement

by Jason Richwine

Peter Beinart has an excellent essay in The Atlantic on how the American Left has shifted on immigration. Just a decade ago, he writes, progressive intellectuals such as Glenn Greenwald, Paul Krugman, and even Barack Obama at least acknowledged the costs of immigration. In fact, Krugman outright stated that, “Realistically, we’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.”

I would add to those examples the New York Times editorial from 2000, “Hasty Call for Amnesty,” which declares, “Amnesty would undermine the integrity of the country’s immigration laws and would depress the wages of its lowest-paid native-born workers.” Far from sounding progressive to our 2017 ears, this is the kind of statement that might get a speaker disinvited from a college campus these days.

The strange marriage of progressivism and mass immigration has always puzzled me. Last month, I wrote an article for RealClearPolicy showing that progressive and high-immigration California is failing by progressives’ own standards. California has the nation’s highest poverty rate, its math and reading scores rank near the bottom, and its communities suffer from low levels of social trust. These problems have many causes, but mass low-skill immigration has clearly exacerbated them. Two questions for progressives follow. First, if the nation’s leader in blue-state governance cannot mitigate the problems related to mass immigration, which state will? Second, and more broadly, how does immigration move us closer to the egalitarian, cooperative, and science-loving society that progressives envision?

I never received any answers to these questions, but maybe the Beinart article points to one: Immigrants and the organizations that lobby for them are now an important Democratic-party constituency. As a result, boosting immigration has itself become a progressive cause, even if it means the old-fashioned vision of egalitarian communities has to be permanently set aside. This is a major political realignment, and yet another example of how mass immigration fundamentally changes nations.

A Few Lessons Democrats Aren’t Learning

by David French

After a day of commentary and hot takes following Karen Handel’s relatively comfortable win in Georgia’s Sixth District, it’s clear that there are a few lessons that Democrats are slow to learn.

First, abortion and socialism aren’t big winners in center-right districts. It’s been stunning to see more than a few folks on the Left declare that one lesson of the loss is that it’s futile to move towards the center. Absent a total collapse in Republican support, a move to the hard left is only going to help spur Republican turnout. Lots of suburban voters have qualms about Donald Trump, but they hate abortion-on-demand, loathe the idea of single-payer health care, and have no interested in being enlisted in the social justice culture war.

Second, politics is still a subculture. There is an extraordinary gap between regular voters and the obsessive tweeters who spend their days agonizing over every Trump tweet and sputtering with outrage over every Trump scandal. I live in the middle of Trump country, and trust me when I say that the average voter isn’t tracking a tenth of the coverage. It takes time for political trends to bake fully into the cultural cake, and there is yet no “consensus” about the Trump presidency. It’s still early.

Third, aside from hating Trump, hard-core progressivism is the Democrats’ only coherent message. Putting aside the Bernie Bros and the social justice warriors, what is the Democratic Party’s message to America? What does it stand for? And you can’t say “equality,” “diversity,” or “inclusion.” Those are platitudes, not policies. At the least the progressives have a vision. It’s not one that has much hope of winning over center-right voters, but it is a message. Where is the rest of the Democratic Party? Is there a rest of the Democratic Party?

The bottom line is that a party built from the ground-up to appeal to single women and minorities is going to struggle locally where those demographics don’t dominate, and it’s going to struggle nationally when those demographics aren’t inspired. They have 16 months to either get a better message or, failing that, pray for a Republican collapse. 

How Many Libertarians Are There?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Likely writing in response to this study, which finds that only 3.8 percent of the public falls into the category, Emily Ekins surveys a range of studies that have found a larger percentage. Most put them in the 10-20 percent range, which makes them too large a group to be ignored.

Two Arguments on Immigration

by Ramesh Ponnuru

My new Bloomberg View column:

Part of the long aftershock of President Donald Trump’s election is a new debate over immigration. Two provocative entries in that debate have appeared in recent days. Both featured columnists playing against type.

Conservative Bret Stephens wrote tongue-in-cheek in the New York Times that to make America great again, we should be deporting complacent native-born Americans rather than industrious immigrants. At the Atlantic, liberal Peter Beinart wrote that Democrats have become too insouciant about illegal immigration and need to remember the virtue of assimilation. . . .

My thoughts on both arguments continue here.

FBI Report on Alexandria Quietly Debunks the Gun-Controllers’ Talking Points

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The FBI has published a brief report on the shooting in Alexandria. It is devastating to the idea that the gun-control measures presently coveted by the Democratic party would have done something to prevent the attack.

Over the past two decades, Democrats have focused on three major proposals for reform. They are: 1) That all private transfers should be contingent upon a federal background check; 2) That firearms that look a certain way should be classed as “assault weapons” and prohibited from sale; and 3) That civilians should be forbidden from buying magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. None of these proposals intersect with what happened in Alexandria.

First, the FBI confirms that Hodgkinson moved to Virginia in March of 2017:

In March 2017, Hodgkinson, of Belleville, Illinois, told a family member that he was traveling to Washington D.C., but he did not provide any additional information on his travel. FBI analysis of Hodgkinson’s computers showed a Google search of truck stops, maps, and toll-free routes to the Northern Virginia area. Prior to his travel, local law enforcement in Belleville had been called to Hodgkinson’s residence due to complaints of target practice he was conducting on his property. Local law enforcement requested he keep the noise down but determined Hodgkinson was not in violation of any local laws. Hodgkinson’s prior criminal record includes a charge of domestic battery in 2006.

Evidence collected thus far indicates Hodgkinson had been in the Alexandria area since March 2017.

It then confirms where — and how — he obtained his weapons:

The investigation thus far determined that Hodgkinson purchased his SKS 7.62mm caliber rifle in March 2003 and 9mm handgun in November 2016 legally through federal firearms licensees. The investigation has determined that there were cartridges found to be chambered in the SKS rifle and the FBI’s Evidence Response Team found 9mm and 7.62mm shell casings on scene. The SKS rifle was modified to accept a detachable magazine and the original stock was replaced with a folding stock.

This means that Hodgkinson bought the guns in Illinois, where he was resident.

Why does this matter? Well, because before they knew anything about the case, many in the press had reflexively tried to use the incident as an argument for stricter gun control. The Atlantic’s David Frum, for example, immediately went on an error-laden tear about Virginia’s laws, which he considers to be too lax, and then took to proposing the sort of “common sense” reforms that the Democratic party has been so impotently trying to sell. But, as the FBI confirms, this reaction was an ignorant one. For a start, the guns weren’t bought in Virginia; they were bought in Illinois, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. And they weren’t purchased privately, illegally, or without attendant background checks, but “legally through federal firearms licensees” that are obliged under federal law to run checks. Moreover, Hodgkinson only got the weapons after he obtained an additional possession-and-purchase license (FOID) of the sort that more extreme gun-control advocates want to see made mandatory in all states.

Or, put another way: Illinois has stricter rules than even Barack Obama endorsed — it quite literally licenses all gun-owners in the state — and those rules made no difference to this case. This is not rare. It is typical.

Alas, the errors don’t end there. Frum and co. also berated Virginia for being among the 40+ states to permit open carry. But Alexandria, where the shooting took place, doesn’t permit open carry, a fact that prompted one of the most hilariously convoluted arguments I have seen in my life. Others talked about both “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines. But as the FBI notes, the firearm used was an SKS in 7.62mm, which has never been classed as an “assault weapon,” and which wasn’t included in the ban that obtained from 1994-2004. Further, when he bought it, Hodgkinson’s SKS was unable to take “high-capacity” magazines at all; rather, it came with an internal 10-round box magazine. Per the report, Hodgkinson seems to have modified it to take external magazines after the purchase, a change that raises the fair question of how effective any at-sale restrictions can really be in stopping the determined. Either way, even after he modified it there is no evidence that Hodgkinson introduced a larger than 10-round external magazine (that’s the standard for the modified SKS), or that, if he did, it had any effect on the outcome.

Finally, I am seeing it said that Hodgkinson should not have had his weapons — and shouldn’t have been permitted to buy his handgun in 2016 — because he was a “domestic abuser.” But that’s not true either. The FBI report confirms that “Hodgkinson’s prior criminal record includes a charge of domestic battery in 2006.” Note the key word: “charge.” Charge, not “conviction.” I understand that this is an emotive issue, but we presumably do not want to start taking away people’s rights on the basis of accusations alone? There are a lot of terrible men out there — men who do unspeakable things to women. Perhaps Hodgkinson was one of them; perhaps he was not. Either way, unless a person has been convicted of a crime he remains innocent under the law, and he must be treated as such by the state. Due process matters, and I hope that our self-described “liberals” are not going to abandon their commitment to it simply because they dislike the Second Amendment.

Now, there will be be voters out there who say, “Fine, but I don’t want these sorts of minor changes, I want to get rid of all the guns.” And that’s fair enough, if extraordinarily naive. But we need to separate out that argument from the ones we actually hear. Repeatedly, conservatives such as myself are told that “confiscation” and “outright banning” are red herrings and straw men and “NRA lies,” and that what is being proposed is merely ”common sense” gun control. Specifically, we are pitched on the ideas I mentioned above — and they are sold as the means by which incidents such as this one will be prevented. Well, those ideas didn’t have anything to do with this incident, and those who are honestly limiting their ambitions to them need to stop for a moment and acknowledge that. And if they’re really talking about something else . . . well, they should acknowledge that, too.

Hard Choices, Hard Lives

by Jay Nordlinger

When people under dictatorship decide to go dissident, they make a choice with huge consequences. (Almost invariably, they will tell you they did not “decide” to go dissident; they could simply do no other.) They set off a chain of events for themselves, and for their family.

Gao Zhisheng did this. A human-rights lawyer, he is one of the greatest men in all of China. What he has endured is almost unimaginable. And his family has had to endure a great deal too. About this, he is wracked with guilt.

I met his daughter, Grace, and wrote a piece. It is on the homepage today, here.

It is a vicious period for human-rights lawyers in China. The boss of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has cracked down on them, hard. Two years ago, the Party rounded up some 250 of them, in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown.” (The arrests started on July 9.) These lawyers have been tortured, some of them into insanity.

What business is this of the United States? We have to engage with China, right? Get along? Of course. But an awareness of the reality of China is desirable.

Recently, President Trump spoke about Cuba, and spoke rightly. He also said, “We will not be silent in the face of Communist oppression any longer.”

Hypocrisy is inevitable in human affairs, and this goes double for foreign policy. And yet sometimes hypocrisy is so flagrant, it costs you credibility in the world.

President Trump has gone out of his way to flatter Xi. He refers to him by his first name (which, in the Chinese style, is actually the second name): Jinping. More than once, he has called him “a great guy.” He has said, “I like him a lot. I think he likes me a lot.” And so on.

This is unnecessary. Like a broken record, I quote Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Soviet-era dissident. He said something like this: As democratic governments go about their business, dealing with dictatorships, they should occasionally pause to wonder, How will it look to the boys in the camps?

My piece today is entitled “A Hero’s Daughter.” The subtitle says that she has led “a hard life.” That’s putting it mildly. The piece concludes with these sentences: “The Communist system — wherever it is installed — is evil in a thousand ways. But not least in what it does to girls like Grace, and to families like Gao Zhisheng’s.”

Planned Parenthood’s Spending Falls Short in Georgia’s Sixth

by Alexandra DeSanctis

It’s difficult to determine who ended up as the biggest loser in yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s sixth district. The most obvious choice is Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who, despite raising an historic $23 million in campaign funding, could not bring home the victory for his party last night.

The Democratic party itself was another dud in Georgia’s sixth. After months of spinning this race as an entirely winnable one — and a referendum on the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency — the party and its advocates are once again being forced to reexamine their strategies and their appeal to American voters.

But one outside group was dealt a particularly heavy blow in Ossoff’s stunning defeat last night: Planned Parenthood. The group’s political-activism arm poured nearly $735,000 into the Democrat’s campaign, a contribution that was topped only by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

After the results came in last night, Planned Parenthood immediately shifted the narrative, attempting to justify its obscene spending levels by portraying the race as some of kind of moral victory. This claim is an exercise in blatant goalpost-moving. Progressives, Planned Parenthood included, insisted throughout that Ossoff had the potential to turn Georgia blue. A loss does no such thing.

Planned Parenthood’s activist rhetoric was clearly lacking as well. The abortion group was the campaign’s biggest purveyor of the fiction that Ossoff’s opponent, Republican Karen Handel, had intentionally deprived women of essential health care by severing ties with Planned Parenthood when she served as a vice president for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. But Handel wasn’t the instigator of that policy change; the foundation had considered it for over a decade, largely due to Komen donors’ concerns that their gifts might indirectly fund abortion.

By tacking a $735,000 price tag onto Ossoff’s failed effort, Planned Parenthood has revealed its own futility at influencing elections. That failure underscores another important point. Planned Parenthood consistently argues that, if it were to be stripped of its federal funding, millions of women would lose “vital health care.”

If money is really so tight over at Planned Parenthood — and if American women are truly in desperate need of life-saving care that they can’t get anywhere else — perhaps the abortion-rights group should think twice before dropping hundreds of thousands on insignificant political races, whether or not those races end in bitter defeat.