No, Politicians Are Not ‘Exactly Like ISIS’

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Gubernatorial primaries are coming up here in Virginia on June 13. On the Republican side, Ed Gillespie’s the favorite over Corey Stewart and State Sen. Frank Wagner.

With less than two months remaining, Stewart is… well, this looks like a “Hail Mary” pass, declaring on Twitter that “Politicians who are for destroying the statues, monuments and other artifacts of history are exactly like ISIS.”

“Exactly like ISIS”? Exactly like ISIS? Wouldn’t we all agree that if you’re not killing anyone, you’re doing a poor imitation of ISIS?

This is the kind of hyperbolic attack on a lawmaker over terrorism that might even get Rep. Peter King to say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa.’ Even Alex Jones might say that’s going too far.

This stems from a decision down in New Orleans…

New Orleans on Monday began removing four monuments dedicated to the era of the Confederacy and its aftermath, capping a prolonged battle about the future of the memorials, which critics deemed symbols of racism and intolerance and which supporters viewed as historically important.

Workers dismantled an obelisk, which was erected in 1891 to honor members of the Crescent City White League who in 1874 fought in the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place against the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.

The monument, which was sometimes used as a rallying point by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, has stirred debate for decades. Local leaders unsuccessfully tried to remove it in 1981 and 1993.

The workers were dressed in flak jackets, helmets and scarves to conceal their identities because of concerns about their safety. Police officers watched from a nearby hotel.

Before you start saying, “wait, this is part of history, it ought to be preserved, even if it offends people,” note that the Battle of Liberty Place Memorial has the inscription:

“United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

Yeah, I can’t begrudge citizens of any color for wanting to remove a public memorial declaring the importance of recognizing “white supremacy.”

Think of all the great Louisiana citizens who don’t have a comparable public monument, who have great accomplishments in history or played a role in the city’s comeback from Hurricane Katrina: Fats Domino. Tennessee Williams. Doug Williams. Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. (Heck, you need a monument just to the various famous Williamses from Louisiana.) Paul Brudhomme. Anne Rice. Drew Brees. Harry Connick Jr. Bobby Jindal.

There’s no shortage of Confederate monuments in Virginia, but none have garnered quite as much controversy as the ones down in New Orleans. (Richmond added famous African-American tennis star Arthur Ashe to Monument Avenue.) In Alexandria, they renamed their portion of “Jefferson Davis Highway.” (I suggested renaming the highway after two famous Virginians, Thomas Jefferson and former local Congressman Tom Davis. Then the city could save a lot of money by just adding hyphens and making the signs say “Jefferson-Davis Highway.”)

Denouncing the removal of Confederate monuments seems like an odd move; it’s hard to imagine this is front and center in the minds of Virginia Republicans right now. As Liam Donovan pointed out, Virginia is a state of transplants; just under half of all voters in the state are native Virginians.

A Whitman’s Sampler

by Jay Nordlinger

I gave a talk the other day, and a man came up afterward and said, in essence, “I have a beef with Impromptus.” I was all ears. “It’s supposed to be a bunch of different subjects, addressed quickly. And recently you’ve been doing one or two subjects, stretched out.”

Fair enough. Today’s Impromptus is “old-fashioned,” if you will. It addresses about 20 subjects, quick-like. If you don’t like one (can’t imagine), skip to the next, and to the next. A real Whitman’s Sampler.

What’s the modern equivalent to a Whitman’s Sampler? Not sure. Readers will know.

Dana Perino likes to say that Impromptus was the original tweeting. Probably, that nod goes to fortune-cookie slips.

Start your “Confucius say” jokes now . . .

On the DOJ’s Review of Obama-Era Consent Decrees

by Peter Kirsanow

Public discourse on race is frequently, and increasingly, detached from facts. Exhibit No. 3,714 is the statement issued by the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights (from which my colleague Gail Heriot and I dissented) expressing concern about a memorandum issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions directing the Justice Department to immediately review all consent decrees and compliance reviews affecting police departments to ensure that they appropriately support state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

The Commission majority “is troubled that this action sends a message to communities across the country that reform agreements, urgently needed and in some instances already agreed to by the respective police departments and municipalities involved, may be in jeopardy.”

Setting aside for a moment the question of how a mere directive to review investigations and consent decrees necessarily jeopardizes such investigations and decrees, the Commission majority asserts, unequivocally, that these investigations and decrees “have made for better policing in communities served by law enforcement.”

Perhaps. But it depends on the definition of “better.”

As Heather Mac Donald has shown time and again, there’s copious evidence that the intrusive, politically correct Obama-era decrees have contributed to the “Ferguson effect,” i.e., steep increases in crime due to the restraints and disincentives contained in such decrees. In Baltimore, where both city officials and the Obama administration came down on the city’s cops after the Freddie Gray incident, violent crime has soared to record levels. Shootings are up nearly 80 percent over last year. The number of shootings in parts of Chicago resemble those in failed states.

Most of the investigations and decrees are due to alleged patterns of civil-rights abuses by police departments. Of course, abuses exist. But the Obama administration began with the assumption that racial disparities in arrests and police interactions with the community were necessarily the result of racial discrimination and without a rational basis.

That assumption is, in a word, idiotic. In almost every instance racial disparities in law enforcement are due to higher crime rates among blacks. In fact, in some areas arrest rates for blacks are actually lower than would be predicted by black crime rates.

It would be charitable to suggest these decrees are solely or even mainly a product of mathematical incompetence. Narrative maintenance and power arrogation also have roles. And facts must never be allowed to get in the way of a useful narrative.

CBO: Federal Employees Are Still Overcompensated

by Jason Richwine

In a report released yesterday, the CBO concludes that federal employees receive total wages and benefits that average 17 percent above what comparably skilled workers earn in large private-sector firms. The federal premium comes from slightly higher salaries — about 3 percent higher than the private sector, on average — coupled with massively higher benefits, which average 47 percent above private-sector levels. The new report is an update of the CBO’s 2012 analysis, which found close to the same thing.

Federal pay was a hot issue back in 2012, when Republicans pointed out that federal employees receive higher average compensation than private-sector workers. The Obama White House insisted, reasonably, that the only fair comparison would adjust for the greater education and experience possessed by federal employees. Several studies (including one by Andrew Biggs and myself for the American Enterprise Institute) took the White House seriously on that point, showing that federal employees enjoyed a compensation premium over comparably skilled private workers. In its 2012 report, the CBO concurred.

The CBO is not the final word on any issue, but its methodology in this case was generally sound, and the results were consistent with the prevailing literature. Unfortunately, public-employee unions did their best to obfuscate the findings, and reporters went along with the “no one can be sure about this” line. Congress did refrain from granting cost-of-living increases between 2011 and 2013, and new workers now must pay more into the defined-benefit (annuity) portion of the federal retirement plan. Nevertheless, significant steps such as phasing out the annuity altogether, loosening tenure restrictions, and allowing more merit-based pay were never enacted.

Will this time be different?

Uncommon Knowledge: How JetBlue Does It

by Peter Robinson

CEO Robin Hayes and Hoover Institution board member Joel Peterson talk to Peter Robinson about how JetBlue has remained successful, despite all the regulations, competition, and pitfalls of running an airline.

Peterson and Hayes argue that consolidation and the limited number of airlines in the United States have allowed for sustainable operating margins. JetBlue continues to have double-digit operating margins and great customer loyalty by focusing on safety, culture, and delighting customers. JetBlue has been voted best airline for customer satisfaction by JD Power for twelve years in a row.

They discuss how JetBlue has become synonymous with innovation and its decision to bring JetBlue’s investment arm to the Silicon Valley to further integrate disruptive technology into their airline. JetBlue, which wants to use technology to improve customer relations and track equipment, has invested in FLYR to study how the pricing method can be disruptive and thus improve ticketing.

JetBlue’s keys to success and longevity are a great culture, innovation, great products, and maintaining cost advantages. JetBlue seeks to create a culture in which all employees are empowered to improve customers’ experiences, from the time they check-in to the time they pick up their bags.

Recorded on February 14, 2017

Krauthammer’s Take: Trade War with Canada Is Unlikely and Would Be Gratuitous

by NR Staff

Arguing that a trade war with Canada is unlikely, Charles Krauthammer said that feuding with our neighbor to the north would be “gratuitous,” and Trump is most likely trying to get them to loosen their own tariffs:

That is the problem with protectionism. If we were to prevail upon the Chinese to stop dumping steel, and we were to raise tariffs on steel — this has happened in the past — that’s great for steelworkers, but it’s not so good if you are making autos or other stuff out of steel. The costs are passed on and they become less competitive. So Juan is right. If you put a tariff on the lumber, homes are going to be a little more expensive.

I think after having insulted Australia, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, and just about every one of our friends, it is about time we hit Canada. I still haven’t gotten over the War of 1812, so I have a personal animus here.

Look, I think this is Trump proclaiming a principle that we are going to be really tough on trade because the tariffs on our dairy products are something like 200-300 percent, it’s really outrageous. And what he is doing, he is bargaining. This is a real-estate guy saying, “Here is my opening bid. I threaten you with tariffs on lumber, you show us some give on dairy.” I think they will likely get this done. I can’t imagine that we are going to start this administration with a trade war with Canada. I could understand China, could understand other people, but this is our closest ally in the world, and in a way, it is gratuitous.

A Federal Judge Issues a Mostly Meaningless Ruling Against a Mostly Meaningless Executive Order

by David French

This afternoon a federal judge did not much at all to stop an executive order that didn’t do much at all. Don’t pay attention to the breathless headlines. Here is what you need to know, in five easy steps.

First, Donald Trump signed an executive order in the first days of his presidency that was 90 percent hype and 10 percent substance. Here’s the key language:

Sec. 9. Sanctuary Jurisdictions. It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.

(a) In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary. The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction. The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of federal law. (Emphasis added.)

Note the bolded portion. The executive order was not changing the law. It did not strip federal funds from sanctuary cities. It directed federal officials to enforce existing law and then larded up that directive with meaningless legalese that made the order look far more dramatic to the untrained eye. 

Second, Trump did Trump things, and by that I mean he and his administration hyped the order beyond its plain meaning. Here’s Trump’s comment to Bill O’Reilly: “I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.” To be clear, Trump can’t do that by himself. He’s bound by the language of statutes, and he can’t change the language of statutes through executive order. 

Third, Santa Clara and San Francisco sued, using the brand-new standing rule applicable to the age of Trump. The new standing rule is this: courts shall torch, stretch, and contort ordinary standing jurisprudence and hear lawsuits they wouldn’t ordinarily hear because Donald Trump is super-scary and super-mean. So the court allowed the case to go forward.

Fourth, DOJ lawyers tried to introduce sanity to the proceedings by noting that neither Santa Clara nor San Francisco face enforcement action under the order and explaining that the Trump administration had no intention to go beyond existing law to implement the order. Instead, it mainly represented a use of the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement.”

Fifth, the court responded with a ruling that was, much like the executive order itself, 90 percent hype and 10 percent substance. Here’s the key section of the judge’s ruling:

That said, this injunction does nothing more than implement the effect of the Government’s flawed interpretation of the Order. It does not affect the ability of the Attorney General or the Secretary to enforce existing conditions of federal grants or 8 U.S.C. 1373, nor does it impact the Secretary’s ability to develop regulations or other guidance defining what a sanctuary jurisdiction is or designating a jurisdiction as such. It does prohibit the Government from exercising 9(a) in a way that violates the Constitution.

Allow me to translate. The Court is telling the Trump administration that it can still enforce existing law, it just can’t do what its lawyers promised not to do anyway — strip funding without appropriate Constitutional authority. The rest of the opinion is basically nothing more than interesting fluff, outlining a basic civics lesson in federal spending power. In other words, the court larded up its ruling with legalese that made the opinion look far more dramatic to the untrained eye.

The bottom line? Trump isn’t blocked from enforcing existing law. He’s only blocked from engaging in illegal acts that the DOJ promised the court that it wasn’t considering. In other words, move along. There’s not much to see here. 

The French Election and the Normalization of Extremes

by Veronique de Rugy

Response To...

Fillon Endorses Macron for the ...

Andrew’s post about the French election is spot on. While I thought François Fillon was impressive in his stated commitment to reforming the country and I am pretty disappointed by the poor support he gathered, I can’t help being relieved that the next round will not be Le Pen vs. Mélenchon. Andrew is also correct about Emmanuel Macron. He isn’t a socialist and he is more free-market than he has led on during his campaign but he may not be able or willing to do anything with his presidency to improve the country.

But I would like to spend a little time on the most striking thing in my opinion. With Fillon only getting 19.5 percent of the votes and Macron only getting 23.5 percent, 55 percent of the French vote went to extreme-something candidates. Fifty-five percent!

Enough has been said about Marine Le Pen, who although she is described as “far-right” actually has a very left-wing agenda. But it is worth noting that in spite of her awful rhetoric and bad policies, Le Pen has managed to make being a statist-protectionist with some strong fascist tendencies relatively more acceptable in France.

But what blows my mind even more is the French people’s continued embrace of a Communist (Mélenchon) and their impermeability to the fact that the ideology has been used to kill millions around the world. I know French Communists were quite remarkable and even heroic during the Second World War in opposing and trying to derail the Nazi regime. But that was over 70 years ago, and since then Communist regimes have been synonymous with executions, famines, and repressions much more than the welfare of the working man.

Yet, Jean-Luc Mélenchon got close to 20 percent of the vote. That’s as many votes as Fillon got. As if this alone isn’t bad enough, I suspect that if he — and not Le Pen — had been the one running against Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff, many fewer people would have crossed party lines to avoid externalism and the calls to cross these lines would have been limited to Fillion and a few others.

It’s crazy. Obviously, Mélenchon’s supporters like his crazy, backward, and oppressive positions (such as introducing a 100 percent tax on income above $425,000, a four-day work week, more vacation days for workers, no new free-trade agreements, etc.) and they are obviously as ignorant as he is about the already dramatic consequences of France’s punishing tax system, inflexible labor markets, and overly generous government policies even in the face of high unemployment numbers, slow growth, and large waves of millionaires moving out of the country (10,000 in 2015).

But what’s even crazier is Mélenchon’s unchallenged support for Hugo Chávez and other Communist dictators. And the worst is that in France he isn’t alone — as we saw when Fidel Castro finally died. What are people thinking? As long as I live, I will never understand how there is so little stigma attached to Communism in France (and elsewhere) and how in 2017 the ideology is on the rise. Poor France.

Nothing expresses my feelings better than this Reason video from 2008 called “Killer Chic” about the sick love affair of Hollywood with Che Guevara and the world with Communist leaders like Mao.

We Need More Ships!

by Jim Talent

New presidents begin to appreciate America’s armed forces at their first National Security Council meeting during their first foreign-policy crisis, when the first question asked is usually: “Where is the nearest aircraft carrier?”

President Trump has decided where two of the carriers will be. The United States is extending the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to join the USS Ronald Reagan in the waters near the Korean peninsula. The Nimitz is scheduled to relieve the Vinson in the Pacific later this year.

General McMaster, the national-security adviser, has said that the United States does not anticipate using military force against North Korea. Yet the carriers are still vital to our policy there. The carrier strike group is the tip of the iceberg of American power; its presence is a powerful signal the United States is serious about protecting its people and its interests in a crisis.

In fact, the most common use of hard power generally is to reinforce the soft power that all American presidents prefer to use when exerting national influence. George Kennan put it concisely in a lecture to the National War College in 1946: “You have no idea how much it contributes to the general politeness and pleasantness of diplomacy when you have a little quiet armed force in the background.”

There should be two aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater at all times. Only one is deployed there consistently. There should also be a two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf, yet only one is typically there. There should be a continuous carrier presence in the Mediterranean, but typically there is no carrier there at all. This is because the United States only has eleven aircraft carriers and at any given time only about a third of them can be deployed at sea. Carriers have to steam to and from deployments, and they must be maintained in home port. This “two for one” rule is true for the entire Navy (and in fact, for most of the armed forces) but it’s especially true for carriers, because they require so much maintenance.

Numbers matter, both in actual combat and because forward presence, which requires numbers to sustain, is as important a mission for the Navy as combat. At 275 ships, the Navy is at least 75 ships too small — no matter what PolitiFact or the Washington Post says.

In the early 1990s, when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, he proposed a plan for the armed forces in the new post-Cold War world. He thought that the Navy would need twelve carriers and almost 200 more ships in total than it has today. That was before the rise of Chinese power, before global Islamic terrorism, before Iran’s nuclear program, before Russia became hostile, and before North Korea acquired nuclear weapons. It was a relatively peaceful world then; the world today, as Madeleine Albright put it a few years ago, is “a mess.”

Aircraft carriers cost $12-13 billion. That’s a little more than 1/15th of one percent of America’s GDP, and a little less than one third of 1 percent of the federal budget. (It’s also about one eighth of Bill Gates’ personal fortune; maybe the Navy should apply to Bill and Melinda for a grant.)

America can afford more carriers, more ships of other kinds, and a larger military generally. The problem isn’t money. It’s time. You can’t throw a switch and get an aircraft carrier; it takes five years or more to build one. Other classes of ships can be built much quicker, if they are already designed and ready for production, and if the industrial base is robust enough to absorb the extra work. That’s another problem for the Navy; the United States has lost half its public shipyards in the last 20 years.

Foreign policy is the product of capability and intention. One of the ironclad rules is that intention can change quickly — we have seen that in the last two weeks of the Trump administration — but it takes a lot longer to change capability, which is why it was such a consequential mistake to allow American strength to sink so low over the last 20 years.

I’ve always believed that Donald Trump grasped all this intuitively, that in this area his instincts were much sounder than those of his predecessors. When Mr. Trump says that his policy is “peace through strength,” he means it. He knows that negotiating from strength is better than negotiating from weakness. His defense plan calls for a 350-ship Navy. My guess is that as time goes on, he will conclude he needs a bigger Navy than that.

He can have it, and he can have the military he wants; in the process he can revitalize American manufacturing and American innovation, and get the high-end job creation he wants as well. Many of those jobs will be in the heartland, in Trump country. The defense plan alone, if pursued with vigor and purpose, can by itself go a long way toward fulfilling his pledge to make America great, and safe, again.

All his administration — or the top level of it anyway — needs to do is focus like a laser on two things: a) getting more money for defense, and b) spending the money with reasonable efficiency, so that Congress will give him even more money. Money is not the solution to most of the problems in Washington. But for all intents and purposes, it’s the solution to this one.

The industrial base has become so fragile that Mr. Trump won’t be able to complete a rebuild of the military in his administration, even if he serves two terms. But he can get us most of the way there, and there is nothing he could do that would help his country more, or secure his place in history better.

Who Will Take the Threats to Free Speech on Campus Seriously?

by George Leef

Nasty, thuggish attacks on free speech by leftist students, often aided by outside “Antifa” allies, has reached crisis stage. We have a large cadre of people who’d have fit in perfectly with Mao’s Red Brigades because they are eager to enforce ideological purity and punish those who disagree with “progressive” beliefs. What must be done?

That is the question Martin Center president Jenna Robinson and Anna Beavon Gravely (the North Carolina spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity) explore in this article.

While some college leaders at least say they want to stop the attacks and restore free speech and civility, we shouldn’t expect too much from the higher-education establishment itself. As the authors explain,

A recent survey of 440 American universities indicates that nearly half of them have adopted policies that infringe on the First Amendment rights of students. Also, many schools are willing to fire dissenting employees and create “free speech zones” for the sake of maintaining their public image and avoiding controversy. And in some cases a double standard has been established, where controversial expression is tolerated so long as it has a “liberal” slant.

Perhaps state politicians can use their authority over the colleges and universities they fund (and are supposed to be able to control but that’s very problematic) to deal with the free-speech problem. Toward that end, the Goldwater Institute has drafted model legislation called the Restore Campus Free Speech Act and it is now under consideration in a number of states, including North Carolina. The General Assembly has begun hearings on a bill modeled on the RCFSA. Guess what? The general counsel for the UNC system testified that it is unnecessary and the ACLU’s spokesperson objected that it is “overly broad.” The bill will probably pass despite such objections. Then we will find out if Governor Cooper, a Democrat who narrowly won last November, will sign it or veto it to make leftists happy.

One thing all the riots and disruptions have accomplished is to wake many Americans up the the fact that free speech is in danger. “Perhaps soon,” optimistically write Robinson and Gravely, “higher education will return to being a bastion of free speech and intellectual diversity.” That indeed must be the goal, and it it is not accomplished, more and more Americans might decide to do their college work at schools that haven’t let themselves become enclaves of, to use Jonah Goldberg’s apt phrase, “liberal fascism.”

Handel Campaign Raises $1 Million Online in a Week

by Alexandra DeSanctis

In the week since the April 18 jungle primary in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the Handel campaign has raised over $1 million in online contributions. The race pitted 18 candidates against one another and ended with no outright victor, triggering a runoff competition between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

This money will be a huge help to the GOP campaign as the former Georgia secretary of state heads into a June 20 face-off with Ossoff, who, at 48.1 percent of the vote, fell just short of the 50 percent needed to take the congressional seat in the first round of voting. Handel came in a distant second at just under 20 percent.

No GOP congressional campaign has ever raised so much online in such a short period of time. In the two months leading up to the April 18 contest, the Handel campaign had raised about $290,000 online in a total fundraising haul of $457,000.

Meanwhile, the Ossoff campaign raised over $8.3 million in donations before the election, over 90 percent of which came from outside Georgia, and $6 million of which he spent on his efforts to take the seat outright. On the day after the primary alone, his campaign landed nearly half a million more in contributions.

Recent reporting shows that Ossoff’s strong showing on April 18 was the result of unusually strong Democratic turnout for an off-year election. While Republican primary voters turned out at rates typical for a midterm election, which is rare in a special election, Democratic voters beat them in this instance by a four-percentage-point margin, a rare feat. Much of this was due to the strong early-vote turnout for Ossoff, who was hailed from early on in the race as the Democratic party’s preferred candidate. However, Ossoff did not do as well in the district as Hillary Clinton did in November, despite losing GA-06 to Donald Trump by a razor-thin margin.

Since last week’s election results came in, both Trump and House speaker Paul Ryan have announced their intention to visit the sixth district and campaign with Handel.

Washington Post: More Young Republicans Know a Millionaire Than a Muslim

by Jonah Goldberg

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake tweets:

I’m not sure why this is all that interesting a stat (or why they went with this picture) but okay. The tweet and headline are also misleading. The Harvard poll that the data come from asks if you have a “close relationship” with someone who fits a certain category and “Muslim” is one of them. There are lots of people I “know” but I wouldn’t say I have a close relationship to them.

I strongly suspect the point of the headline is to suggest that there’s something nefarious or revealing about conservative attitudes here. For instance, here is one of the first responses to Blake’s tweet:

Ah yes, if we could only introduce more young people to Muslims that will magically make them Democrats — just like rubbing a leprechaun’s head.

Anyway, the stat I find more interesting is that less than half (49 percent) of young people who call themselves Democrats “know” (in Blake’s usage) a gun owner, compared to 80 percent of young Republicans. There are by one reputable estimate some 3 million Muslims in America. They tend, like many ethnic or religious groups that are disproportionately made up of immigrants, to be concentrated in few enclaves. Meanwhile, roughly 44 percent of American households have at least one gun in them (it may well be higher as some people lie or refuse to answer the question).

In terms of electoral politics, I think that datum is much more significant.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article. If you get past the click-baity headline, you’ll even learn this:

Some of these numbers are perhaps a little less surprising than you might think. There are actually more millionaires in the United States (about 3 percent of the population) than there are Muslims (1 percent), for example.

“Culturally Loaded”

by Andrew Stuttaford

From the New York Times’ Public Editor (my emphasis added):

One reader wrote in this week to ask why The Times, in a story on a Michigan doctor who is accused of performing female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls referred to the practice as “genital cutting.”

We asked Celia Dugger, the editor of Health and Science, to explain the reasoning behind the decision.

“I began writing about this back in 1996 when I was an immigration reporter on the Metro desk covering the asylum case of Fauziya Kassindja. I decided in the course of reporting that case — especially after a reporting trip to Togo, her home country, and the Ivory Coast — to call it genital cutting rather than mutilation. I never minced words in describing exactly what form of cutting was involved, and there are many gradations of severity, and the terrible damage it did, and stayed away from the euphemistic circumcision, but chose to use the less culturally loaded term, genital cutting. There’s a gulf between the Western (and some African) advocates who campaign against the practice and the people who follow the rite, and I felt the language used widened that chasm.”

I was just going to let those words stand there in all their squalor, but then I read this in the Washington Post, a newspaper that, unlike Ms. Dugger, seems comfortable with an accurate description of this barbaric procedure:

The attorney for a Detroit-area doctor accused of mutilating the genitals of young girls acknowledges that her client performed the procedure, but she says it was part of a religious practice.

The revelation came during a detention hearing on Monday, a few days after Jumana Nagarwala was charged in what authorities say is the first case of its kind in the country. Shannon Smith said in federal court in Michigan that her client removed the girls’ genital membrane as part of a custom practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra, a small sect of Indian Muslims of which Nagarwala is a part, the Detroit Free-Press reported.

I imagine that a First Amendment defense would fail on, among other grounds, the fact this particular ‘religious practice’ involved third parties (and young children at that), but the fact that religion is even mentioned, albeit by a defense attorney trying to throw in some supposedly mitigating circumstances for her client is—and I’ll put it no more strongly than this— an interesting straw in the wind.

Back to The Washington Post:

Female genital mutilation — or removing all or part of a female’s genital for nonmedical reasons — is considered a human rights violation, though it is practiced extensively in some African countries and areas of the Middle East, according to UNICEF. A June 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office found that increased immigration from countries where it is practiced had brought it to the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2012, 513,000 women and girls here were “at risk of or had been subjected” to it.

The report also found that while female genital mutilation was a crime under federal and many state laws, there were few investigations or prosecutions stemming from it — because of underreporting and other problems, The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky reported. The report said the FBI had two investigations from 1997 to 2015, one which resulted in a prosecution on other charges. Department of Justice officials indicated to the Government Accountability Office they were aware of two state prosecutions involving the practice.

“And other problems.”

‘I’m Not an Expert, But I Play One on TV.’

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt

‘I’m Not an Expert, But I Play One on TV.’

This would be a better country if those engaged in public debate had a little humility about what they know and what they don’t know. No one is an expert in everything.

But we’ve seen several high-profile commentators go beyond the realm of understandable errors and flubs to the realm of spouting at length and getting things completely wrong.

Shaun King, the “senior justice writer” of the New York Daily News, asked his Twitter followers how to change the Constitution, and upon learning how difficult it was, wrote a column wishing it was easier. Last fall, CNN’s Chris Cuomo contended that it was illegal for anyone who wasn’t a member of the news media to possess the DNC and John Podesta documents posted on WikiLeaks. That was a muddy explanation at best; hacking or stealing information is a crime but looking at it or publishing it is not.

And now we have Howard Dean arguing that the Constitution doesn’t protect nebulously-defined “hate speech” and citing three Supreme Court cases whose rulings are the opposite of the position he supports…

The generous interpretation is that this reflects the difficulty of explaining complicated concepts off-the-cuff while the bright lights of the television studio are shining. Or maybe Dean has, at best, a cursory understanding of these cases, or maybe no understanding at all. At the core of his argument is an effort to blur the line between speech that is merely objectionable or offensive to someone and speech that presents an imminent threat of physical harm to someone. The former is protected under the Constitution, and the latter isn’t, particularly if the threat is explicit and specific.

First Amendment lawyers across the country and across the political spectrum probably threw things at their television as Dean asserted that the three cases supported greater government restrictions on speech instead of the opposite.

Just how harmful is ill-informed talking head blather on television? I can’t help but wonder if it adds to public skepticism and distrust of “elites” or scoffing about “so-called experts.” Of course, actual experts are indeed actual experts. But our country has a lot of people who aren’t experts, but who play them on TV.

The joy of journalism is that if you’re doing it right, you learn something new every day. The dark side of journalism is the number of people who write about topics they… maybe, kinda-sorta understand.

I was talking with a neighbor about his work, a complicated profession measuring and projecting the economic effects of corporate mergers, and asked him how his field is covered by the media. He mentioned an article in a national magazine that made his profession seem secretive, greedy, and a bit sinister, and scoffed at how the reporter simply didn’t understand the work he and his colleagues did. He described a version of what the late author Michael Crichton called “the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.”

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

It’s not hard to find cases of reporters metaphorically tripping over their shoelaces, and either forgetting or never learning about facts and events important to their beat: Forgetting Obama statements from five years earlier. Botching a description of what the Easter holiday is about. Not knowing who Alger Hiss is, not knowing about the Clinton administration bombing Iraq in the 1990s, not know who A.Q. Khan is.

Recall the sneering contempt that Obama administration official Ben Rhodes had for the White House press corps:

Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something. We all start at zero. The real shame comes from not picking up more knowledge as we stumble along the path of life.

As Hugh Hewitt put it:

So many of the people writing under bylines are willing to do just the opposite today. It cannot end well when a free people are choosing leaders based upon the reporting of a class of people both biased and blind as well as wholly unaware of both or if aware, unwilling to work at getting smart enough to do their jobs well.

Still, young journalists at least have the excuse of being young. What’s Howard Dean’s excuse?

Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi Are Right

by Ramesh Ponnuru

They’re the moderates in a debate among Democrats about how their party should treat candidates who are not in complete agreement with the abortion lobby. I write about the controversy–which centers on Sanders’s endorsement of Heath Mello, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, who has a mixed record on abortion–at Bloomberg View today.

A few additional points:

First: Some of the coverage of this controversy is obscuring the status quo ante. Even this column by Bill Scher, which gently cautions abortion-rights activists to make a little more space for dissenting Democrats, says that Sanders “re-opened old wounds” by endorsing Mello and that it’s understandable that activists would “speak up when their agenda is at risk of being downgraded.” But Sanders’s endorsement of a Democrat who is not down-the-line with NARAL followed a longstanding practice among Democrats–as this article by D.D. Guttenplan in The Nation makes plain. What’s new is the assertion by Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez that all Democratic candidates have to side with NARAL. It’s pro-life and abortion-ambivalent Democrats who are being downgraded.

Second: As that Guttenplan article also makes clear, misunderstandings of Mello’s position and record that made him appear more anti-abortion than he is fueled the controversy. But Perez has taken a position that goes beyond the particulars of this case.

Third: I note in my Bloomberg article that a Pew poll last year found that 28 percent of Democrats think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Also worth mentioning: A Marist poll for the Knights of Columbus after the election found that 34 percent of Democrats think abortion should be illegal with exceptions, at most, for cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life. An additional 24 percent of Democrats think abortion should be available only within the first three months of pregnancy. That’s a majority of Democratic voters with views to the right of the ones that have gotten Mello into trouble.

Fourth: In Perez’s statement that all Democratic candidates should support “the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights,” he also says that he “fundamentally disagrees” with Mello’s “personal” opposition to abortion. The statement can, however, be read to indicate tolerance for people who think abortion is wrong but don’t want the law to follow the implications of its wrongness. In Gallup’s most recent poll on the subject, from last year, 47 percent of Americans say abortion is not morally acceptable and 43 percent say it is.

Fifth: There remain limits to how aggressive even Perez is willing to be in support of abortion. His statement steers clear of actually using the word.

Chelsea Clinton Has Some Seriously Committed Fans

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Judging by the back-and-forths of last few days, Chelsea Clinton is well on her way to joining Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Ron Paul, and Beyoncé as an executive platinum member of the Club of the Praetorian guard. Just try it: Say a few words in public that are critical of any of them, and out will come the apologists — vehemently, angrily, at length. Chelsea hasn’t even run for anything yet and already she’s garnering more loyalty than her mother ever did.

It’s not merely the scale of the reaction that is notable; it’s the extraordinary depth of the witlessness it involves. On the many occasions that I have criticized Sarah Palin, I have watched in amusement as her name became a stand-in for America itself. “You don’t like Palin?” I would be asked. “But she’s a real American. So you must hate real America.” So it was with Donald Trump, albeit in a slightly different manner, and with Ron Paul, who represented to his fans the very distillation of American liberty. To criticize any of them, it seemed, was to exhibit a moral failing.

With Chelsea, the same dynamic applies. It cannot be that the PR push is awkward and obvious; that Chelsea is embarrassingly mediocre, despite the abundance of coverage; that her denials of ambition are parsed to perfection. It cannot be that people are irritated by her desire to comment on politics without suffering any pushback. It must be something else: sexism, racism, fragility, a lack of love. It must be obsession. It must be mental illness.

T.A. Frank has written a perfectly pitched takedown of Clinton in Vanity Fair. But nobody — nobody — has engaged with its substance. Rather, they have attacked T. A. Frank. It’s a peculiar thing, to whom the Gods give vigorous acolytes. We’ll see what they have in mind for Chelsea.

Tuesday links

by debbywitt

April 25th is ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps ) Day, the anniversary of the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli:  history, maps, contemporaneous footage, a brief documentary, and a Lego re-enactment.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Medieval Dragons.

Is a Drunk Witness a Bad Witness?

It’s Oliver Cromwell’s birthday - here’s his excellent speech throwing out the corrupt Parliament, with bonus Monty Python.

The World’s Most Stubborn Real Estate Holdouts.

Inside the FBI’s Colossal Pre-Computer Fingerprint Factory.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include the science of cheap wine, Earth Day’s murderous co-founder, a 1964 coffee revolt, fighting communism with jazz, and a 1983 episode of The Family Feud that pitted the cast of Gilligan’s Island against the cast of the Batman TV series.

Mentally Ill Woman Euthanized in Canada

by Wesley J. Smith

I did a radio interview yesterday warning that I expected Canada to, one day, allow euthanasia as a “treatment” for serious mental illness.

Today, I find out it already happened. A court apparently allowed a mentally ill woman to be euthanized. From the CTV story:

In the case of E.F., court documents show the 58-year-old woman told the court she was “suffering intolerable pain and physical discomfort,” and “that her symptoms were irremediable.” She said she suffered from muscle spasms, digestive problems, immobility and periods of insomnia.

She said she was exhausted from her suffering, as well as depressed and fully mentally competent yet unable over eight years to find any effective treatment.

Despite objections from the attorneys general of Alberta and B.C., who argued E.F.’s condition did not meet the criteria of being terminal, the Court of Appeal sided with E.F. and allowed a doctor to help her die by suicide.

Dr. Ellen Wiebe, a former family physician in B.C. who has become a vocal and prominent advocate of medically assisted death, says she met with E.F. and knows how she suffered. “The case of E.F. is so important because she was the only case where someone received an assisted death for…mainly a purely psychiatric condition,” Wiebe told CTV News.

So, Wesley? She was suffering! She sure was.

That’s the logic. So let’s quit pretending that assisted suicide will ever remain solely for the terminal ill–once society accepts the premise that killing can be a proper remedy to suffering–and have an honest debate rather than the crapola about strict guidelines.

Canada is following the path trod by Belgium and the Netherlands. (Mark my words, euthanasia conjoined with organ harvesting within a few years.) We will too one awful day if we get on Assisted Suicide Highway.

 

Krauthammer’s Take: ‘The Whole 100-Day Thing Is Absurd’

by NR Staff

Taking on the issue of tax reform, Charles Krauthammer argued that Trump only has to worry about getting it done in time to stimulate growth, not to meet an arbitrary 100-day deadline:

I think this is the single most important legislative initiative for the Trump presidency. I think health-care reform is much more a congressional deal, it preceded Trump. But Trump is the one who ran on this, he ran as a businessman — and also, this is his one chance, and I think it will be a good chance, to actually stimulate the economy, to get to three percent or near three percent. And that would make his presidency. I think the whole 100-day thing is absurd. Does anybody remember what Obama accomplished in 100 days, or George W. or Clinton? Nobody remembers. All that matters is what happens in your first term, and the key is going to be tax reform.

If Trump has to answer on the first term, I think he says Gorsuch, Keystone, Dakota Access, deregulation, and around the world he’s put the world on notice that America is back, it’s willing to act. I think those are major achievements.

Isn’t That Special?

by John J. Miller

My latest Bookmonger podcast is with Mark Moyar, author of Oppose Any Foe: The Rise of America’s Special Operations Forces. In a 10-minute conversation, we talk about what makes the Special Forces so special, the biggest mistakes that presidents make with Special Forces, and how President Trump should use them.