Те, кто не учится на истории, обречены повторять

From the Harvard Crimson, of all places:

In 1988, my twenty-six-year-old father jumped off a train in the middle of Hungary with nothing but the clothes on his back. For the next two years, he fled an oppressive Romanian Communist regime that would kill him if they ever laid hands on him again.

My father ran from a government that beat, tortured, and brainwashed its citizens. His childhood friend disappeared after scrawling an insult about the dictator on the school bathroom wall. His neighbors starved to death from food rations designed to combat “obesity.” As the population dwindled, women were sent to the hospital every month to make sure they were getting pregnant.

My father’s escape journey eventually led him to the United States. He moved to the Midwest and married a Romanian woman who had left for America the minute the regime collapsed. Today, my parents are doctors in quiet, suburban Kansas. Both of their daughters go to Harvard. They are the lucky ones.

Roughly 100 million people died at the hands of the ideology my parents escaped. They cannot tell their story. We owe it to them to recognize that this ideology is not a fad, and their deaths are not a joke.

Last month marked 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution, though college culture would give you precisely the opposite impression. Depictions of communism on campus paint the ideology as revolutionary or idealistic, overlooking its authoritarian violence. Instead of deepening our understanding of the world, the college experience teaches us to reduce one of the most destructive ideologies in human history to a one-dimensional, sanitized narrative.

Walk around campus, and you’re likely to spot Ché Guevara on a few shirts and button pins. A sophomore jokes that he’s declared a secondary in “communist ideology and implementation.” The new Leftist Club on campus seeks “a modern perspective” on Marx and Lenin to “alleviate the stigma around the concept of Leftism.” An author laments in these pages that it’s too difficult to meet communists here. For many students, casually endorsing communism is a cool, edgy way to gripe about the world.

After spending four years on a campus saturated with Marxist memes and jokes about communist revolutions, my classmates will graduate with the impression that communism represents a light-hearted critique of the status quo, rather than an empirically violent philosophy that destroyed millions of lives.

Statistics show that young Americans are indeed oblivious to communism’s harrowing past. According to a YouGov poll, only half of millennials believe that communism was a problem, and about a third believe that President George W. Bush killed more people than Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who killed 20 million. If you ask millennials how many people communism killed, 75 percent will undershoot.

Perhaps before joking about communist revolutions, we should remember that Stalin’s secret police tortured “traitors” in secret prisons by sticking needles under their fingernails or beating them until their bones were broken. Lenin seized food from the poor, causing a famine in the Soviet Union that induced desperate mothers to eat their own children and peasants to dig up corpses for food. In every country that communism was tried, it resulted in massacres, starvation, and terror.

Communism cannot be separated from oppression; in fact, it depends upon it. In the communist society, the collective is supreme. Personal autonomy is nonexistent. Human beings are simply cogs in a machine tasked with producing utopia; they have no value of their own.

Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia. I never had that luxury. Growing up, my understanding of communism was personalized; I could see its lasting impact in the faces of my family members telling stories of their past. My perspective toward the ideology is radically different because I know the people who survived it; my relatives continue to wonder about their friends who did not.

The stories of survivors paint a more vivid picture of communism than the textbooks my classmates have read. While we may never fully understand all of the atrocities that occurred under communist regimes, we can desperately try to ensure the world never repeats their mistakes. To that end, we must tell the accounts of survivors and fight the trivialization of communism’s bloody past.

My father left behind his parents, friends, and neighbors in the hope of finding freedom. I know his story because it is my heritage; you now know his story because I have a voice. One hundred million other people were silenced.

One hundred years later, let us not forget the history of the victims who do not have a voice because they did not survive the writing of their tales. Most importantly, let us not be tempted to repeat it.

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The international view on federal taxes

James Freeman:

“We’re going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas. Hopefully that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present,” said Mr. Trump. “Corporate rate will be reduced from 35 percent all the way down to 20 percent, which will make us competitive again, and companies won’t be leaving our country.” He added that “our tax plan will return trillions of dollars in wealth to our shores so that companies can invest in America again.”

Overseas, there seems to be some concern that Mr. Trump and tax reformers in Congress are about to do exactly that. The long-running Cantillon column in the Irish Times noted over the weekend that Thursday’s U.S. House vote to cut taxes “is highly significant” and that most Republicans in America “are united behind reforming the corporate-tax system.” The column in the Dublin-based newspaper added:

This is unsettling for Ireland. Addressing the House this week, Paul Ryan – a proud Irish-American – cited the example of Johnson Controls, a company that has had roots in his home state of Wisconsin since the 1880s but is now based in Ireland. The new tax system will help make the United States “the most competitive place in the world”, he said. Worrying words for Ireland.

This is the corporate taxation equivalent of the New England Patriots suddenly becoming concerned about the competitive threat posed by the Cleveland Browns. With its 12.5% tax rate on business income, Ireland has for years been pulling corporate headquarters away from the United States and attracting investment from all over the planet. Ireland routinely has the fastest-growing economy in the euro zone, so we can only imagine how Europe’s also-rans feel about the prospect of the U.S. economy suddenly becoming much more competitive.

Some Europeans have been urging us for years to get our house in order. An official with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based association of industrialized economies, co-authored a 2016 diagnosis of the U.S. problem:

The United States’ 39 percent combined statutory corporate tax rate is the highest among the largest 50 economies. The American tax and accounting system has trapped over $2 trillion of deferred taxable income as “permanently reinvested” offshore. It encourages the acquisition of U.S. headquartered companies by foreign companies, and then allows foreign companies to strip taxable income from the US activities. This system is bad for domestic job creation, penalizes the entire U.S. economy, and needs to be fixed urgently.

Although the Obama Administration never acted on this advice, they acknowledged the benefits for U.S. workers that would result from lower marginal tax rates on corporate income:

When effective marginal rates are higher, potential projects need to generate more income if the business is to pay the tax and still provide investors with the required return. Businesses will therefore limit their activities to higher-return projects. Thus, all else equal, a higher effective marginal rate for businesses will tend to reduce the level of investment, and a lower effective marginal rate will tend to encourage additional projects and a larger capital stock. Increases in the capital available for each worker’s use, also referred to as capital deepening, boost productivity, wages, and output.

That’s a passage from the 2015 Economic Report of the President, and Team Obama even recognized in a footnote the research on this topic conducted by Kevin Hassett, who now chairs President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Yet now that Mr. Hassett and his boss are promoting a reform of corporate taxation to achieve the goals sketched out by Team Obama, former Obama advisers like Larry Summers and Jason Furman are railing against it. Are they nervous that the resulting Trump economy will compare too favorably with the Obama economy?

Mr. Summers for his part has lately been warning that countries might get into a race to lower corporate tax rates. In a world threatened by North Korean missiles and Islamic terror, he now asks us to be concerned at the possibility that the whole world might decide to encourage economic growth and job creation. That’s a world we want to live in.

Единственный урок истории состоит в том, что он ничего не учит

Last week included this depressing news reported by Campus Reform:

More than four-in-ten U.S. millennials would prefer to live under socialism than capitalism, according to a new survey by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

When given the choice to pick a preferred system of government, 44 percent of millennials responded that they would rather live in a socialist country while another seven percent opted for a communist state. Capitalism, on the other hand, was preferred by 42 percent of millennial respondents, with the remaining 14 percent split evenly between fascism and communism.

Perhaps that’s because the New York Times has been publishing paeans to communism in its Red Century series.

Carthage College Prof. Yuri Maltsev has something different to say:

Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to ignore the Bolshevik Revolution, which marks its 100th anniversary next month. Putin reportedly told his advisers that it would be unnecessary to commemorate the occasion. He knows better—it is nothing to be proud of.

The horrors of twentieth-century socialism—of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, and Pol Pot—were the offspring of 1917. Seventy years earlier, Marx and Engels predicted the overthrow of bourgeois rule would require violence and “a dictatorship of the proletariat . . . to weed out remaining capitalist elements.” Lenin conducted this “weeding out” using indiscriminate terror, as Russian socialists before him had done and others would continue to do after his death.

The late Rudolph Rummel, the demographer of government mass murder, estimated the human toll of twentieth-century socialism to be about 61 million in the Soviet Union, 78 million in China, and roughly 200 million worldwide. These victims perished during state-organized famines, collectivization, cultural revolutions, purges, campaigns against “unearned” income, and other devilish experiments in social engineering.

In its monstrosity, this terror is unrivaled in the course of human history.

Lenin’s coup on November 7, 1917, the day Kerensky’s provisional government fell to Bolshevik forces, opened a new stage in human history: a regime of public slavery. Collectivist economic planning led to coercion, violence, and mass murder. Marx and Engels had defined socialism as “the abolition of private property.” The most fundamental component of private property, self-ownership, was abolished first.

The Marxists’ biggest targets have always been the family, religion, and civil society—institutional obstacles to the imposition of the omnipotent state. With the Bolsheviks in power, Lenin set out to destroy them.

Murder of children became a norm after he ordered the extermination of Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children. Millions of families were rounded up and forcibly relocated to remote and uninhabited regions in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Hundreds of thousands of children died of starvation or disease during their journey into exile and were buried in mass unmarked graves.

In 1935, Stalin introduced Article 12 of the USSR Criminal Code, which permitted that children age twelve and older be sentenced to death or imprisonment as adults. This “law” was directed at the orphans of victims of the regime, based on the belief that an apple never falls far from the tree. Many of these kids, whose parents had been jailed or executed, were commonly known as bezprizorni, street children. They found themselves living in bare, dirty cells in a savagely violent gulag, where they were mixed with dangerous criminals and were brutalized and raped by guards and common criminals.

The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological and practical objective the elimination of religion or, in other words, physical extermination of religious people. With Lenin’s decree of January 20, 1918, nationalization of the church’s property began: cathedrals, churches, church grounds, and all buildings owned by churches were looted, and valuables (gold, silver, platinum, paintings, icons, historical artifacts) were either stolen by Communist atheists or sold to the West via government agents, communist sympathizers, and fellow travelers such as American business tycoon Armand Hammer, who met Lenin in 1921.

To be religious often meant a death sentence. The goal was the state’s absolute monopoly over thought by means of a secular religion, socialism. Almost all clergy and millions of believers of all (traditional) religions were shot or sent to labor camps. Seminaries were closed, and religious publications were prohibited.

Marxism-Leninism pretended to be “scientific socialism,” the universal explanation of nature, life, and society. However, deviation from its ideology, especially traditional “bourgeois” science, was punishable by death. The scope of the persecution of scientists was a real genocide.

After seventy-four years of mayhem and misery, the Bolshevik Revolution failed. The biggest country on Earth, with abundant natural resources of all kinds, could not meet the basic needs of its citizenry. The system had no means to rationally allocate resources in the absence of property rights and the market institutions that rely on them.

From my own life in the Soviet Union, which ended the same year that Vladimir Putin reported on the collapsing Berlin Wall for his KGB bosses, I can attest to the truth of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises’s statement that socialism amounts to a “revolt against economics.”

Yet, socialism still has sympathizers in the West. Many Americans believe that socialism is good, whereas communism, fascism, and Nazism (National Socialism) are violent and antidemocratic. A public-opinion survey published last year proved that general assumption: 43 percent of respondents younger than thirty had a favorable view of socialism; only 32 percent had a favorable view of capitalism. This is a powerful warning. The anticapitalistic mentality has brought suffering and mass murder in all socialist countries and has reduced standards of living and the quality of life in mixed economies.

The Soviet Union is now gone, as are the huge statues of Marx and Lenin that littered the East, but ideas have consequences, and no body of ideas attracted a greater following than Marxism-Leninism. A Russian aphorism says, “The only lesson of history is that it teaches us nothing.” For too many people this is as true as ever.

 

Collusiongate

David French:

For once, the Twitter speculation was mainly correct. When news broke Friday night that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had obtained an indictment, the smart money pegged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. After all, the FBI had raided Manafort’s home and widespread reporting indicated that he had complex and lucrative dealings with pro-Russian leaders and entities in Ukraine.

Today, Manafort and his business partner, Richard Gates, surrendered to federal authorities, and the special counsel’s office released its indictment. Hours later the special counsel’s office released a “statement of the offense” indicating that former Trump-campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos pled guilty to providing material false statements to the FBI. Let’s use a question-and-answer format to walk through their scope, meaning, and implications.

First things first, does the Manafort indictment have anything to do with the Trump campaign?

No, not on its face. The indictment relates to Manafort’s personal business dealings with the Ukrainian government, former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych, and a Ukrainian political party called the Party of Regions. It remains to be seen whether Special Counsel Mueller will use this indictment as leverage to pressure Manafort to cooperate fully with his much broader investigation into whether there were “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”

If the indictment’s not about the campaign, then what does it allege?

Essentially, it claims that Manafort and Gates engaged in an extensive scheme to conceal a vast amount of foreign revenue, hide the true extent of their ties to their Ukrainian clients, and to frustrate federal attempts to collect taxes and obtain information about their activities. The special counsel alleges that Manafort and Gates funneled roughly $75 million through offshore accounts and laundered more than $18 million.

The indictment claims that Manafort would, for example, use foreign bank accounts to purchase real estate in the United States, and then take out mortgages on the property to grant him access to tax-free cash. It also claims that he failed to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts and that he failed to register as an agent of the government of Ukraine.

I heard one of the counts was “conspiracy against the United States.” That sounds like treason.

No, it’s not treason. It essentially means that Manafort and Gates conspired together to defeat IRS efforts to enforce tax laws. It’s a common charge under the general federal conspiracy statute, which makes it a crime to “commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.”

So, this indictment has nothing to do with Russia?

Not on its face, but one can’t divorce this case from its geopolitical context. The survival of the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime in Ukraine was a matter of extreme urgency for the Russian government and was considered a matter of vital Russian national interest. Yanukovych’s fall was one of the proximate causes of the Russian invasion of Crimea and the ongoing civil war in southeast Ukraine.

I just heard another Trump-campaign official is in trouble. What gives?

As noted above, just as the nation was digesting the Manafort indictment, the special counsel’s office released a “statement of the offense” against former Trump-campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos. In short, Papadopoulos admitted to making material false statements to the FBI.

What did Papadopoulos do?

He lied to the FBI about his contacts with a professor who had “substantial connections to Russian government officials.” This professor claimed to have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton “in the form of ‘thousands of emails.’” Papadopoulos claimed to have obtained this information before he became a Trump adviser. In reality, the professor told him about the alleged Russian “dirt” only after he joined the Trump team.

The statement of offense also details extensive contacts between Papadopoulos, an unnamed “Female Russian National,” and an unnamed “Campaign Supervisor.” Essentially, Papadopoulos was serving as a go-between to set up a potential meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, a meeting that never happened. It’s in that context that Papadopoulos learned of the alleged “dirt” on Clinton.

So, is this guilty plea proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?

No, but it does raise serious questions, and it does demonstrate how little we truly know about the Mueller investigation. It seems from the statement of offense that the bulk of the contacts between Papadopoulos and his Russian intermediaries involved his efforts to set up the meeting between Trump and Putin, activity that’s certainly legitimate, but he also pushed to set up a meeting between Trump-campaign representatives and “members of president putin’s office [sic] and the mfa [Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs].”

What does all this mean?

This is not the beginning of the end of the Trump/Russia investigation; it’s the end of the beginning. It’s also a reminder that after countless news reports, an indictment, and a guilty plea we are still like the proverbial blind men feeling the elephant. But when you combine the Papadopoulos indictment with previous reports of the 2016 meeting between purported Russian government representatives and Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, then it appears clear that Russians seemed determined to at least lead Trump-campaign officials to believe that they had negative information on Clinton.

While the Papadopoulos indictment directly bears on the collusion investigation, Manafort unquestionably had greater overall situational awareness of the campaign’s operations, was unquestionably advancing vital Russian national interests, and apparently was operating an illicit operation on a scale larger than we previously imagined. When it comes to Manafort, Trump didn’t drain the swamp. He hired the swamp. If anyone thought Mueller’s investigation wasn’t necessary before today, the revelations from the special counsel’s office should dispel all doubt.

100 years of evil

Daniel Mitchell:

Just in case you didn’t realize, we’re “celebrating” an anniversary.

In 1917, at this time of year, the Bolshevik revolution was occurring in Russia. It resulted in the creation of the Soviet Union, followed in subsequent decades by enslavement of Eastern Europe and communist takeovers in a few other unfortunate nations.

This is a very evil and tragic anniversary, a milestone that merits sad reflection because communism is an evil ideology, and communist governments have butchered about 100 million people.

I’ve written about the horrors that communism has imposed on the people of Cambodia, Cuba, and North Korea, but let’s zoom out and look at this evil ideology from a macro perspective.

My view is that communism is “a disgusting system…that leads to starvation and suffering” and “produces Nazi-level horrors of brutality.”

But others have better summaries of this coercive and totalitarian ideology.

We’ll start with A. Barton Hinkle’s column in Reason.

…the Bolsheviks…seized power from the provisional government that had been installed in the final days of Russia’s Romanov dynasty. The revolution ushered in what would become a century of ghastly sadism. …it is hard even now to grasp the sheer scale of agony imposed by the brutal ideology of collectivism. …In 1997, a French publisher published “The Black Book of communism,” which tried to place a definitive figure on the number of people who died by communism’s hand: 65 million in China, 20 million in the Soviet Union, 2 million in Cambodia, 2 million in North Korea, and so on—more than 90 million lives, all told. …depravity was woven into the sinews of communism by its very nature. The history of the movement is a history of sadistic “struggle sessions” during the Cultural Revolution, of gulags and psychiatric wards in Russia, of the torture and murder of teachers, doctors, and other intellectuals in Cambodia, and on and on.

Here’s some of what Professor Ilya Somin wrote for the Washington Post.

May Day. Since 2007, I have defended the idea of using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. …Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events help sensitize us to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government control of the economy and civil society.

In an article for National Review, John O’Sullivan explains the tyrannical failure of communism.

Those evil deeds…include the forced famine in Ukraine that murdered millions in a particularly horrible fashion; starting the Second World War jointly with Hitler by agreeing in the Nazi–Soviet Pact to invade Poland and the Baltic states; the Gulag in which millions more perished; and much more. …The Communist experiment failed above all because it was Communist. …Economically, the Soviet Union was a massive failure 70 years later to the point where Gorbachev complained to the Politburo that it exported less annually than Singapore. …it is a fantasy that the USSR compensated for these failures by making greater social gains than liberal capitalism: Doctors had to be bribed; patients had to take bandages and medicines into hospital with them; homelessness in Moscow was reduced by an internal passport system that kept people out of the city; and so on.

We’re just scratching the surface.

As an economist, I focus on the material failure of communism and I’ve tried to make that very clear with comparisons of living standards over time in Cuba and Hong Kong as well as in North Korea and South Korea.

But the evil of communism goes well beyond poverty and deprivation. It also is an ideology of mass murder.

Which is why this tweet from the Russian government is morally offensive.

Yes, the Soviet Union helped defeat the National Socialists of Germany, but keep in mind that Stalin helped trigger the war by inking a secret agreement with Hitler to divide up Poland.

Moreover, the Soviet Union had its own version of the holocaust.

I don’t know who put together this video, but it captures the staggering human cost of communism.

Meanwhile, Dennis Prager lists 6 reasons why communism isn’t hated the same way Nazism is hated.

The only thing I can add to these videos is that there has never been a benign communist regime.

Indeed, political repression and brutality seems to be the key difference between liberal socialism and Marxist socialism.

Let’s close with this chart from Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute.

All forms of totalitarianism are bad, oftentimes resulting in mass murder. As Dennis Prager noted in his video, both communism and Nazism are horrid ideologies. Yet for some bizarre reason, some so-called intellectuals still defend the former.

Or put another way:

 

Good news and bad news

Investors.com begins with the good news:

Nine months after President Trump promised to defeat ISIS “quickly and effectively,” U.S.-backed forces captured Raqqa, which until Tuesday had served as the ISIS capital. The battle now is over who deserves credit: Trump or President Obama.

Trump, not surprisingly, claims it for himself: “It had to do with the people I put in and it had to do with rules of engagement,” Trump said in a radio interview.

Before dismissing this as typical Trump self-aggrandizement, consider that for several years Obama insisted that a quick and decisive victory against ISIS was all but impossible.

After belittling ISIS as a “JV” team and then being surprised by its advances, Obama finally got around to announcing a strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militant Islamic group.

As his strategy dragged on and seemed to go nowhere, Obama kept telling the country that this was just the nature of the beast.

“It will take time to eradicate a cancer like (ISIS). It will take time to root them out.”

“This is a long-term and extremely complex challenge.”

“This will not be quick.”

“There will be setbacks and there will be successes.”

“We must be patient and flexible in our efforts; this is a multiyear fight and there will be challenges along the way.”

And he kept insisting that winning the war against ISIS has as much to do with public relations as it did weapons. “This broader challenge of countering extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas.”

What Obama didn’t say is that reason defeating ISIS was taking so long was of how he was fighting it.

A former senior military commander in the region told the Washington Examiner that the Obama White House was micromanaging the war “to the degree that it was just as bad, if not worse, than during the Johnson administration.” Johnson, you will recall, once bragged that “they can’t bomb an outhouse in Vietnam without my permission.”

Contrast this with Trump. Rather than talk endlessly about how long and hard the fight would be, Trump said during his campaign that, if elected, he would convene his “top generals and give them a simple instruction. They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS.”

Once in office, Trump made several changes in the way the war was fought, the most important of which were to loosen the rules of engagement and give more decision-making authority to battlefield commanders.

Joshua Keating, writing in the liberal commentary site Slate, noted that Trump had “instructed the Pentagon to loosen the rules of engagement for airstrikes to the minimum required by international law, eliminated White House oversight procedures meant to protect civilians, and ordered the CIA to resume covert targeted killing missions.” (He meant it as a criticism.)

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who can hardly be called a Trump lap dog, praised what he said was “a dramatic shift in a very positive way — away from the political micromanaging of the Obama years to freeing up generals and troops to destroy ISIS.”

The result of this shift seems pretty obvious. In July, ISIS was booted from Mosul, and this week Raqqa was liberated. For all intents and purposes, ISIS has been defeated. Trump did in nine months what Obama couldn’t in the previous three years.

Trump’s critics will insist that victory was inevitable, given that Obama had severely degraded ISIS over the previous years, and that all Trump did was continue Obama’s strategy.

But the bottom line is that while Obama preached patience, Trump promised a swift end to ISIS, and then delivered on it.

The “yeah, but” comes from the Associated Press:

Over several nights in September, some 10,000 men, women and children fled areas under Islamic State control, hurrying through fields in northern Syria and risking fire from government troops to reach a province held by an al Qaeda-linked group.

For an untold number of battle-hardened jihadis fleeing with the civilians, the escape to Idlib province marked a homecoming of sorts, an opportunity to continue waging war alongside an extremist group that shares much of the Islamic State’s ideology — and has benefited from its prolonged downfall.

While the US-led coalition and Russian-backed Syrian troops have been focused on driving IS from the country’s east, an al Qaeda-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee has consolidated its control over Idlib, and may be looking to return to Osama bin Laden’s strategy of attacking the West.

Syrian activists with contacts in the area say members of the Levant Liberation Committee vouched for fleeing IS fighters they had known before the two groups split four years ago and allowed them to join, while others were sent to jail. The activists spoke on condition of anonymity because they still visit the area and fear reprisals from the jihadis.

IS has lost nearly all the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq, including the northern Iraqi city of Mosul — the largest it ever held — and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, which once served as its de facto capital. Tens of thousands of its fighters have been killed on the battlefield, but an untold number have escaped. As it gradually disintegrates, theological splits have also emerged within the organization, including the rise of a faction that blames its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for the setbacks. …

“Al Qaeda will welcome ISIS members with open arms, those are battled-hardened with potent field experience,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of “ISIS: A History.” …Two Iraqi intelligence officials told The Associated Press in Baghdad that bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahri, sent an envoy to Syria to convince IS fighters to defect and join his group. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, said this might have been the reason behind an audiotape released by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Sept. 28, in which he ordered his fighters not to “retreat, run away, negotiate or surrender.”

Benny Avni has more bad news:

On Monday, Iraqi forces trounced Kurdish fighters and emerged victorious in a short fight for control of the oil-rich northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk.

And they couldn’t have done it without us. …

Problem is, the Iraqi army wasn’t alone in defeating the Kurds. Much of the fighting was done by Iraqi Shiite militias — many of which swear allegiance to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s vanguard, even as they, too, get American arms. …

And now Kirkuk, a key regional asset, is about to be dominated by militias that answer to [Qassem] Suleimani, the IRGC general charged with exporting Iran’s Shiite Islamist revolution to the world.

The easy victory over Kirkuk and America’s indifference could encourage a further Iranian-led push into Kurdish areas. If so, expect fighting to become increasingly bloody. And the longer the crisis remains unresolved, the more Iran gets involved — and the deeper its influence over the Abadi government becomes.

[Prime Minister Haider al] Abadi has long juggled alliances, hoping to keep ties with both Washington and Tehran. But only Americans can force him to face reality and acknowledge Kurdish aspirations. Only America can facilitate a negotiated agreement to prevent a long, bloody war between Baghdad and Erbil — which will force Abadi into Tehran’s arms.

America has spent too much blood and fortune in Iraq to allow Iran to take over now that ISIS is on the verge of extinction.

From National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on down, Trump is surrounded by advisers well-versed in the nuanced realities of Iraq. They need to take charge ASAP and get Erbil and Baghdad talking.

Otherwise, Soleimani will do it his way.

An UN-settling speech

Erick Erickson is a fan of Donald Trump’s United Nations speech Monday:

Quibble all you want with what he said or how he said it, I was only a kid when Ronald Reagan uttered the phrase “Evil Empire” and I still remember the press reaction. I was an adult when George W. Bush uttered the phrase “axis of evil” and I remember the press reaction. And I suspect that Donald Trump, like those two, will be vindicated against his critics for his tough stance at the United Nations.

What a politician says and what he really does or does not do are different things. But what President Trump said yesterday at the United Nations really restores a realistic approach to American foreign policy and a key, core sentiment that Ronald Reagan understood and the left decried: better our a**hole than their a**hole.

The fact is we cannot convert every country to our form of constitutional republic. And the fact is that there are always going to be third world hell holes from which terrorists might stage attacks or do bad things. It is far better for us to admit this and make sure those third world hell holes are controlled by allies who will help us destroy our enemies than by our enemies allies who will wage war against us.

The President’s bluntness may be off putting to some on this, but it was really telling yesterday when former Obama staffers were unable to reconcile how the President could say he will not impose our way of life on another country while also saying he would take action against Venezuela.

In the real world, the Venezuelan regime is destabilizing an entire region, sparking a humanitarian crisis, and ceding ground to nefarious groups including drug lords and terrorists. If the Venezuelan President could run his country without it collapsing into anarchy that will be taken advantage of by interests opposed to ours, President Trump would leave him alone. But because the Venezuelan President cannot do that, our President will act to keep us safe and his team is smart enough to know that acting today will prevent disaster tomorrow.

The same holds true with North Korea where this President is having to clean up the idealized vomit fest of three prior administrations and their “diplomatic” efforts that did nothing except buy North Korea time to make a nuke while learning the fine art of shake down saber rattling.

Whether this President lives up to his vision is another matter and will largely be for history to judge. But his stated foreign policy is mature, stable, and needed. It is grounded in historic American leadership around the world, not isolationism, and not multinational interventionism.

President Trump’s immediate predecessor took the world stage and often made it seem he though no nation was better or worse, but all were equal. Every nation said the same thing about how great their nation was and their nation was the best. We did it too as team sport, in Obama’s mind, but his policies were premised on us not being the best nation.

Yesterday at the United Nations, President Trump all but declared the United States actually really is the best damn nation that ever was, but is humble enough not to try to force everyone to our level.

I’ll take it!

If media reports that the Trump administration is trying to not back out of the horrible Paris economic-destruction — I mean climate change — treaty, I’ll be back to criticizing Trump again. Trump deserves credit for this speech to the relativist organization that believes that all countries are equal, including serial human rights abusers.

 

More inconvenient truths

Alex Epstein chops up Algore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel”:

The more than seven billion people living in the world today need affordable, abundant energy — and a livable climate — to flourish. But the world’s leading source of energy is also the leading source of increasing greenhouse gases.

What to do? This is the vital question Al Gore took on in his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth, and takes on again in his newly released follow-up An Inconvenient Sequel.

As the most influential figure in the international climate conversation, Gore has a responsibility to give us the whole picture of fossil fuels’ impacts — both their benefits and the risks they pose to humans flourishing. Unfortunately, Gore has given us a deeply biased picture that completely ignores fossil fuels’ indispensable benefits and wildly exaggerates their impact on climate.

The running theme throughout An Inconvenient Sequel is that Gore’s first film was even more right than he expected. The movie begins with defenders of fossil fuels mocking or ignoring the dramatic predictions of An Inconvenient Truth. Leaving aside a heroic (and highly disputed) portrayal of Gore rescuing the Paris climate accord, the rest of the movie focuses on vindicating Gore’s two chief predictions: 1) That we could replace fossil fuels with cheap solar- and wind-powered “renewables”; and 2) that continued use of fossil fuels would lead to catastrophic temperature rises, catastrophic sea-level rises, catastrophic flooding, catastrophic drought, catastrophic storms, and catastrophic disease proliferation.

To justify these claims, Gore makes extensive uses of anecdotes: he shows us the town of Georgetown, Tex. and its use of 100-per-cent renewable energy, a deadly heat wave in India, a deadly flood in Miami, a deadly drought in Syria, a deadly storm in the Philippines, and the Zika virus penetrating the United States.

Some of his anecdotes are meant to prove that cheap solar and wind are, as 2006 Gore prophesied, quickly dominating the world’s energy supply and, as 2006 Gore also warned us, that our rapidly warming climate is killing more and more people each year. But he has not given us the whole picture.

Take the rising dominance of solar and wind, which is used to paint supporters of fossil fuels as troglodytes, fools, and shills for Big Oil. The combined share of world energy consumption from renewables is all of two per cent. And it’s an expensive, unreliable, and therefore difficult-to-scale two per cent.

Because solar and wind are “unreliables,” they need to be backed up by reliable sources of power, usually fossil fuels, or sometimes non-carbon sources including nuclear and large-scale hydro power (all of which Gore and other environmentalists refuse to support). This is why every grid that incorporates significant solar and wind has more expensive electricity. Germans, on the hook for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s self-righteous anti-carbon commitments, are already paying three times the rates for electricity that Americans do.

Stories about “100-per-cent renewable” locations like Georgetown, Tex. are not just anecdotal evidence, they are lies. The Texas grid from which Georgetown draws its electricity is comprised of 43.7 per cent natural gas, 28.8 per cent coal, 12 per cent nuclear, and only 15.6 per cent renewable. Using a virtue-signalling gimmick pioneered by Apple, Facebook, and Google, Georgetown pays its state utility to label its grid electricity “renewable” —  even though it draws its power from that fossil-fuel heavy Texas grid — while tarring others on the grid as “non-renewable.”

If we look at the overall trends instead of engaging in anecdotal manipulation we see that fossil fuel energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the world — still. Fossil fuels have never been more vital to human flourishing. There are 1,600 coal plants planned for the near future, which could increase international coal capacity 43 per cent. Advances in technology are making fossil fuels cleaner, safer, and more efficient than ever. To reduce their growth let alone to radically restrict their use — which is what Gore advocates — means forcing energy poverty on billions of people.

Gore and others should be free to make the case that the danger of greenhouse gases is so serious as to warrant that scale of human misery. But they should have to quantify and justify the magnitude of climate danger. And that brings us to the truth about climate.

The overall trend in climate danger is that it is at an all-time low. The Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) shows 6,114 climate-related deaths in 2016. In other recent years the numbers have maxed out in the tens of thousands. Compare this to the 1930s when, adjusted for population, climate-related deaths hit the 10-million mark several times.

The most significant cause of our radically reduced climate danger is industrial development, which takes a naturally dangerous climate and makes it unnaturally safe. And industrial development is driven by cheap, plentiful, reliable energy — which, today, overwhelmingly means fossil fuels. Climate will always be dangerous so priority number one is to have the energy and development to tame it. Modern irrigation, residential heating and air conditioning have made once uninhabitable places perfectly comfortable.

Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel gives a biased, self-serving, and convenient picture of fossil fuels and climate — convenient for Gore’s legacy, that is, but inconvenient for the billions his energy poverty policies will harm. As citizens, we must start demanding responsible thought leaders who will give us the whole picture that life-and-death energy and climate decisions require.

The correct view of climate change

The Wall Street Journal prints some inconvenient truth about our global climate

Climate change is often misunderstood as a package deal: If global warming is “real,” both sides of the debate seem to assume, the climate lobby’s policy agenda follows inexorably.

It does not. Climate policy advocates need to do a much better job of quantitatively analyzing economic costs and the actual, rather than symbolic, benefits of their policies. Skeptics would also do well to focus more attention on economic and policy analysis.

To arrive at a wise policy response, we first need to consider how much economic damage climate change will do. Current models struggle to come up with economic costs commensurate with apocalyptic political rhetoric. Typical costs are well below 10% of gross domestic product in the year 2100 and beyond.

That’s a lot of money—but it’s a lot of years, too. Even 10% less GDP in 100 years corresponds to 0.1 percentage point less annual GDP growth. Climate change therefore does not justify policies that cost more than 0.1 percentage point of growth. If the goal is 10% more GDP in 100 years, pro-growth tax, regulatory and entitlement reforms would be far more effective.

Yes, the costs are not evenly spread. Some places will do better and some will do worse. The American South might be a worse place to grow wheat; Southern Canada might be a better one. In a century, Miami might find itself in approximately the same situation as the Dutch city of Rotterdam today.

But spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as imposing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Most buildings are rebuilt about every 50 years. If we simply stopped building in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible. Such investments in climate adaptation are small compared with the investments we will regularly make in houses, businesses, infrastructure and education.

And economics is the central question—unlike with other environmental problems such as chemical pollution. Carbon dioxide hurts nobody’s health. It’s good for plants. Climate change need not endanger anyone. If it did—and you do hear such claims—then living in hot Arizona rather than cool Maine, or living with Louisiana’s frequent floods, would be considered a health catastrophe today.

Global warming is not the only risk our society faces. Even if science tells us that climate change is real and man-made, it does not tell us, as President Obama asserted, that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Really? Greater than nuclear explosions, a world war, global pandemics, crop failures and civil chaos?

No. Healthy societies do not fall apart over slow, widely predicted, relatively small economic adjustments of the sort painted by climate analysis. Societies do fall apart from war, disease or chaos. Climate policy must compete with other long-term threats for always-scarce resources.

Facing this reality, some advocate that we buy some “insurance.” Sure, they argue, the projected economic cost seems small, but it could turn out to be a lot worse. But the same argument applies to any possible risk. If you buy overpriced insurance against every potential danger, you soon run out of money. You can sensibly insure only when the premium is in line with the risk—which brings us back where we started, to the need for quantifying probabilities, costs, benefits and alternatives. And uncertainty goes both ways. Nobody forecast fracking, or that it would make the U.S. the world’s carbon-reduction leader. Strategic waiting is a rational response to a slow-moving uncertain peril with fast-changing technology.

Global warming is not even the obvious top environmental threat. Dirty water, dirty air and insect-borne diseases are a far greater problem today for most people world-wide. Habitat loss and human predation are a far greater problem for most animals. Elephants won’t make it to see a warmer climate. Ask them how they would prefer to spend $1 trillion—subsidizing high-speed trains or a human-free park the size of Montana.

Then, we need to know what effect proposed policies have and at what cost. Scientific, quantifiable or even vaguely plausible cause-and-effect thinking are missing from much advocacy for policies to reduce carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “scientific” recommendations, for example, include “reduced gender inequality & marginalization in other forms,” “provisioning of adequate housing,” “cash transfers” and “awareness raising & integrating into education.” Even if some of these are worthy goals, they are not scientifically valid, cost-benefit-tested policies to cool the planet.

Climate policy advocates’ apocalyptic vision demands serious analysis, and mushy thinking undermines their case. If carbon emissions pose the greatest threat to humanity, it follows that the costs of nuclear power—waste disposal and the occasional meltdown—might be bearable. It follows that the costs of genetically modified foods and modern pesticides, which can feed us with less land and lower carbon emissions, might be bearable. It follows that if the future of civilization is really at stake, adaptation or geo-engineering should not be unmentionable. And it follows that symbolic, ineffective, political grab-bag policies should be intolerable.

To save the planet, your life must suck

Last week it was revealed (or, more accurately, re-revealed) that environmentalists are socialists.

On the similar theme of making your life worse, Julie Kelly writes:

The Merchants of Misery — a.k.a., climate scientists — are working overtime to shame you about all the pleasures you’re enjoying this summer and how your selfish indulgences will cause the planet’s demise. Grilling your favorite cheeseburger? Glutton! Packing up your brood for a drive to the lake house? Monster! Hoping vacation sex will result in a new baby to add to the family? Hedonist! Even mowing your lawn earns a tsk-tsk.

A study from Sweden’s Lund University published July 12 lists many of the sacrifices you should make to reduce your carbon footprint. Most of the media coverage — and criticism — focused on the study’s recommendation to have one fewer child (as the mother of two teen girls, I have my own irrational reasons for sharing that same advice right now, but I digress).

Not only did the researchers consider more than three dozen scientific papers to compile their list, they also reviewed a handful of school textbooks and government publications to see whether the ruling class in Canada, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. was appropriately indoctrinating the masses, particularly young people, about which “high-impact actions” will most effectively reverse global warming. But apparently, public authorities are falling short of that goal. (This will come as a surprise to anyone with school-age children, who are routinely admonished, in every subject from science to health class, about the dangers of manmade climate change.) “Textbooks overwhelmingly focused on moderate or low-impact actions, with our recommended actions mostly presented in a less effective form, or not at all,” the researchers found. “No textbook suggested having fewer children as a way to reduce emissions.” *Hint hint, McGraw-Hill*

The one-less-child policy was just one example of the study’s absurdity. Other suggestions include eating a plant-based diet, living car-free, and avoiding air travel. The paper also ranks other “low-impact” recommendations made in government guides and textbooks, such as keeping backyard chickens, letting your lawn grow longer, and hanging your clothes outside to dry. Thankfully, pet owners get a pass for now: “We originally hypothesized that two additional actions, not owning a dog and purchasing green energy, would also fit our criteria for recommended high-impact actions, but found both to be of questionable merit.”

So your life, according to the Merchants of Misery, should look something like this: stuck at home without a car, washing laundry in cold water and then clipping it on a clothesline while chasing down chickens and preparing locally grown vegetables for dinner. It’ll be just like Little House on the Prairie!

As if on cue, another study issued the following week warns about the price that extra child will pay should you be foolish and selfish enough to have one. James Hansen, known as the “father of climate-change awareness,” is the lead author of a paper published July 18 entitled, “Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions.” It’s not now sufficient to just limit CO2, we now need to remove it from the atmosphere: “Such targets now require ‘negative emissions,’ i.e., extraction of CO2 from the air.” “Continued high fossil-fuel emissions today place a burden on young people to undertake massive technological CO2 extraction if they are to limit climate change and its consequences,” the study’s authors conclude.

Hansen’s continued activism on climate and his growing hysteria about the future have nothing to do with staying relevant and everything to do with the children, of course. His latest study is intended to support a lawsuit he enjoined that was filed in 2015 by nearly two dozen young people, including his granddaughter, to sue the federal government over climate change. The lawsuit, Juliana et al. v. U.S. et al., claims that due to “the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” A trial date has been set for February 2018.

During a hearing last fall, Hansen told a U.S. district-court judge that “this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”

If you think that the Merchants of Misery have a preoccupation with death, you might be right. Now a few of them are just waiting (hoping?) for so-called climate deniers to die so they can get on with their misery message unchallenged. Here’s what climate catastrophist Bill Nye, aka The Science Guy, told the L.A. Times last week:

Climate-change deniers, by way of example, are older. It’s generational. So we’re just going to have to wait for those people to “age out,” as they say. “Age out” is a euphemism for “die.” But it’ll happen, I guarantee you — that’ll happen.

People are guaranteed to die — hey, science!

So while most of us are enjoying the fleeting delights of summer, the Merchants of Misery are ratcheting up their message of death, doom, and sacrifice. No wonder people are tuning them out.

I wonder which climate scientist will tell Muslims they need to stop reproducing so much. Muslim birth rates are far higher than European birth rates.