Category: International relations

If weapons are outlawed, only outlaws will have weapons

Reuters:

London police investigated more murders than their New York counterparts did over the last two months, statistics show, as the British capital’s mayor vowed to fight a “violent scourge” on the streets.

There were 15 murders in London in February against 14 in New York, according to London’s Metropolitan Police Service and the New York Police Department. For March, 22 murders were investigated in London, with 21 reports in New York.

In the latest bloodshed, a 17-year-old girl died on Monday after she was found with gunshot wounds in Tottenham, north London, a day after a man was fatally stabbed in south London.

“The Mayor is deeply concerned by violent crime in the capital – every life lost to violent crime is a tragedy,” a spokeswoman for Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Our city remains one of the safest in the world … but Sadiq wants it to be even safer and is working hard to bring an end to this violent scourge.”

Including January’s figures, New York had still experienced more murders so far this year than London. The cities have a similar-sized population.

Gun violence is much less of a problem in Britain, which has strict gun control laws, than in the United States, and most British police are not equipped with firearms.

But British politicians and police are increasingly expressing concern about London’s rising murder rate, which is driven by a surge in knife crime. Of the 47 murders in London so far this year, 31 have been committed with knives.

Britain’s interior ministry said it was consulting on new laws to further restrict dangerous weapons, including banning online stores from delivering knives to residential addresses and making it an offence to possess certain weapons in public.

“This government is taking action to restrict access to offensive weapons as well as working to break the deadly cycle of violence and protect our children, families and communities,” a Home Office spokesman said.

Khan, who has been in office since May 2016, is from the opposition Labour Party. Before him, Conservative Boris Johnson was mayor for eight years. The national government has been run by the Conservatives since 2010, with Prime Minister Theresa May previously serving as interior minister from 2010 to 2016.

Britain’s most senior officer, London police chief Cressida Dick, said gangs were using online platforms to glamorize violence, adding that disputes between young people could escalate within minutes on social media.

The Ben Kinsella Trust, an anti-knife crime charity named after a young victim, said social media amplified a range of other factors that have contributed to the crisis.

The charity’s CEO Patrick Green said there had been extra funding to tackle knife crime, which he welcomed, but added that the government needed to act with more urgency and that budget cuts affecting youth services had played a part.

“This has been a horrendous year. It’s looking like it’ll be worse that last year, which was worse than the year before,” he told Reuters.

“The response so far has been too slow… It feels like we’re in a crisis and we need to respond in that way.”

The British banning guns hasn’t stopped shootings. The growing ban on knives hasn’t stopped stabbings. And then there’s this, from London’s Sun:

The UK has seen a disturbing surge in acid attacks in recent years with London being the worst hit.

There are plans to further restrict the sale of corrosive substances — but why are such brutal attacks on the rise?

The UK has one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world, according to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).

It claims the country does not have “tight controls on acid sales” or “legislation specific to acid attacks”.

ASTI’s figures, quoting the police, reveal the number of recorded attacks has increased nearly three-fold from 228 recorded crimes in 2012 to 601 attacks in 2016.

With more than 400 incidents reported in the six months, 2017  was widely regarded as the worst ever year for acid attacks.

Unlike in other countries, where 80 per cent of acid attacks are against women, in the UK most victims are men, ASTI says.

Gang disputes are said to be behind the rise in acid attacks in London and other British cities.

London has emerged as a hot spot for acid attacks in recent years, with more than half of incidents within the UK taking place in the capital.

The number of cases more than doubled from less than 200 in 2014 to 431 in 2016, with Scotland Yard focusing on specific parts of the city.

Outside of the capital, areas such as the West Midlands and Essex have also seen large rises in acid attacks in recent years as reports soared from 340 in 2014 to 843.

There are guns all over the U.S., and for that matter knives, and for that matter substances that can be used in acid attacks. And yet most guns and knives aren’t used for nefarious means. Maybe it’s the people.

 

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Right > left

Tyler Cowen:

Sometimes political revolutions occur right before our eyes without us quite realizing it. I think that’s what’s been happening over the last few weeks around the world, and the message is clear: The populist “New Right” isn’t going away anytime soon, and the rise of the “New Left” is exaggerated.

Start with Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprising victory last week. Before the election, polls had almost uniformly indicated that his Liberal-National Coalition would have to step down, but voters were of another mind. With their support of Morrison, an evangelical Christian who has expressed support for President Donald Trump, Australians also showed a relative lack of interest in doing more about climate change. And this result is no fluke of low turnout: Due to compulsory voting, most Australians do turn out for elections.

The Liberal Party is the conservative party in Australia, by the way. (I know that because I wrote a term paper about the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis for a UW–Madison class.) Maybe now that they’re back in office the Liberals can discover gun ownership rights for the Aussies.

Or how about the U.K.? The evidence is mounting that the Brexit Party will do very well in this week’s European Parliament elections. Right now that party, which did not exist until recently, is in the lead in national polls with an estimated 34% support. The Tories, the current ruling party, are at only 12%. So the hard Brexit option does not seem to be going away, and the right wing of British politics seems to be moving away from the center.

As for the European Parliament as a whole, by some estimates after this week’s election 35% of the chamber will be filled by anti-establishment parties, albeit of a diverse nature. You have to wonder at what margins the EU will become unworkable or lose legitimacy altogether.

Meanwhile in the U.S., polls show Joe Biden as the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He is one of the party’s more conservative candidates, and maybe some primary voters value his electability and familiarity over the more left-wing ideas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. That’s one sign the “hard left” is not in ascendancy in the U.S. Biden’s strategy of running against Trump is another. It’s hard to say how effective that will prove, but it is likely to result in an election about the ideas and policies of Trump, not those of Democratic intellectuals.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy has remained strong, and Trump’s chances of re-election have been rising in the prediction markets.

One scarcely noticed factor in all of this has been the rising perception of China as a threat to Western interests. The American public is very aware that the U.S. is now in a trade war with China, a conflict that is likely to provoke an increase in nationalism. That is a sentiment that has not historically been very helpful to left-wing movements. China has been one of Trump’s signature causes for years, and he seems to be delighting in having it on center stage.

The Democratic Party is not well-positioned to make China a core issue. Democrats have been criticizing Trump’s tariffs for a while now, and it may be hard for them to adjust their message from “Tariffs Are Bad” to “Tariffs Are Bad But China Tariffs Are OK.” Their lukewarm support for free trade agreements — especially the Trans Pacific Partnership, which could have served as a kind of alternative China trade policy — also complicates matters. The net result is that Republicans will probably be able to use the China issue to their advantage for years to come.

Elsewhere, the world’s largest democracy just wrapped up a lengthy election. The results in India aren’t yet known, but exit polls show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition — and his philosophy of Hindu nationalism — will continue to be a major influence.

Modi’s party won big.

In all of this ferment, I am myself rooting for a resurgence of centrist cosmopolitanism. But I try to be honest about how my ideas are doing in the world. And in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of evidence that a new political era truly is upon us.

Well, in all of this ferment I am myself rooting for a resurgence — or maybe “surgence,” if that’s a word (like “disgruntled” not being the antonym of “gruntled”) — of political parties based on individual rights, liberty and free markets, like the pre-Trump Republican Party, and smaller government.. Readers know Trump has been as he should be in many areas (i.e. the tax cut), but tariffs are not a feature of free markets.

Worldwide electoral success isn’t the only place where the right is succeeding over the left, as Ron Ross claims:

You may have noticed that conservatives are blessed with an impressive lineup of intellectual heavyweights. Liberals have none, literally none. A few of those on the conservative side are Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Dennis Prager, Shelby Steele, Jordon Peterson, and Mark Levin.

Thomas Sowell is an economist, ex-Marine, Hoover Institution scholar, and the author of over 30 books. If you’ve never read one you don’t know what you’re missing. Two of his classics are Knowledge and Decisions and The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. He is well known for his many pearls of wisdom which he terms, “random thoughts on the passing scene.” Those now can be found on Twitter.

Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and Hillsdale College. He is best known for his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Several million copies have been sold. It was even a number-one bestseller in Sweden. If you read that book you will understand life better, and if you follow the rules you will be a better person. The book is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Jordan Peterson is possibly the wisest man alive. Fortunately for the rest of us he shares his wisdom through his books, interviews, podcasts, and seminars. Peterson is despised by the left. That says much more about them than him.

Besides his columns, daily radio show, and books, Dennis Prager is the founder and frequent contributor to Prager University. Prager U presents concise, thoughtful five-minute lectures on a weekly basis, and recently reached a milestone of two billion views. His latest book is The Rational Bible: Genesis.

Victor Davis Hanson is a former professor of classical Greek history and is also a scholar at the Hoover Institution. He writes columns usually once or twice a week and appears on Fox News about as often. The amount of logic and historical perspective he includes in his columns is mind-boggling. His latest book is The Case for Trump.

Mark Levin is founder of the Landmark Legal Foundation, the author of several best-selling books, host of a daily radio show and a weekly hour-long interview show on Fox News. His just published book, Unfreedom of the Press, is the number one best seller on Amazon. Levin never leaves you wondering what he believes.

Shelby Steele is another scholar at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, and Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country. His essays appear regularly on the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages.

You cannot name a single liberal who has anything approaching the above credentials or intellectual output. Why? There are a number of reasons.

Liberalism is fundamentally about feelings rather than thoughts. Also the left focuses on intentions, the right focuses on results and the ways by which results are achieved.

An advantage of making intentions your goal is that once you choose and announce them, you’re done. No need to follow up to see if your intentions were realized. No need to consider second or third order effects.

Leftism is about force, conservatism is about freedom and voluntary exchange. The use of force needs no theory or ideology. Anyone willing to rely on force to accomplish his or her objectives doesn’t really need to understand how the world works.

The mindset of the writers listed above reflects what is written in Ecclesiastes, “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven… and I gave my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.”

The foremost source of the left’s intellectual poverty is arrogance. Arrogance kills curiosity. Those on the left feel they already know all they need to know. They have nothing left to learn or to bother thinking deeply about. Ironically, they feel intellectually superior to conservatives.

A prerequisite for being a serious thinker is curiosity. It requires being curious about how things work — society, the economy, human nature, for example. Curiosity is the incentive for doing the hard work of study and serious thought.

The left also feels morally superior to any of our predecessors. Conservatives, on the other hand, possess a deep respect and reverence for the wisdom we’ve inherited from, for example, the Greeks, the Bible, Shakespeare, and the Founding Fathers.

Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Even Newton needed to know what those preceding him had discovered. On the left there’s no gratitude for the wisdom endowed to us by our forebears. Rather than gratitude there’s disdain, another reflection of their arrogance.

The opposite of arrogance is humility. As Isaac Newton also recognized, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

A 2018 study reported in the Journal of Positive Psychology entitled “Links Between Intellectual Humility and Acquiring Knowledge” found that Intellectual humility (IH)

was associated with a variety of characteristics associated with knowledge acquisition, including reflective thinking, need for cognition, intellectual engagement, curiosity, intellectual openness, and open-minded thinking.… These links may help explain the observed relationship between IH and possessing more knowledge.

The entire study, by Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso, Megan Haggard et al., is worth reading.

As long as the left holds on to its arrogance it will never match the richness of the right’s intellectual offerings. It’s another reason why being a conservative is a whole lot more fun than being a liberal.

Liberals think having more college degrees and postgraduate degrees makes them smarter. The People’s Republic of Madison is full of taxi drivers and waiters with master’s degrees and doctorates. There is nothing wrong with taxi-driving or the restaurant industry, but intelligence is not necessarily measured in level of education. Two of the most wise people I knew, my grandmother and my father-in-law, got no farther than the eighth grade in school.

Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying that the facts of life are fundamentally conservative. Dennis Prager expands on that:

At the core of left-wing thought is a rejection of painful realities, the rejection of what the French call les faits de la vie, the facts of life. Conservatives, on the other hand, are all too aware of these painful realities of life and base many of their positions on them. …

Liberals find it too painful to look reality in the eye and acknowledge that human nature is deeply flawed. This is especially so since left-wing thought is rooted in secularism, and if you don’t believe in God, you had better believe in humanity — or you will despair.

Another fact of life that the Left finds too painful to acknowledge is the existence of profound differences between men and women. There is no other explanation for the rejection of what has been obvious to essentially every man and woman in history. It is certainly not the result of scientific inquiry. The more science knows about the male and female brain, not to mention male and female hormones, the more it confirms important built-in differences between the sexes.

Why then would people actually believe that girls are as happy to play with trucks as are boys, and boys are as happy to play with dolls and tea sets as are girls?

贸易战中的输家

I’m not sure I buy Tyler Cowen‘s claim, but it is an interesting point of view:

With the U.S.-China trade talks now at a halt, odds are that the recent U.S. tariffs on China will continue — and perhaps even rise and multiply. So it’s worth considering what effects those tariffs will have. One prominent argument, which can also serve as a criticism of President Donald Trump, is that the U.S. consumer is the loser. Yet in reality, China is probably in the more vulnerable position.

To be clear, there are well-done studies showing that the recent tariffs have translated into higher prices for U.S. consumers. I am not contesting that research. The question is whether those studies give sufficient weight to all relevant variables for the longer run.

To see why the full picture is more complicated, let’s say the U.S. slaps tariffs on the industrial inputs (whether materials or labor) it is buying from China. It is easy to see the immediate chain of higher costs for the U.S. businesses translating into higher prices for U.S. consumers, and that is what the afore-mentioned studies are picking up. But keep in mind China won’t be supplying those inputs forever, especially if the tariffs remain. Within a few years, a country such as Vietnam will provide the same products, perhaps at cheaper prices, because Vietnam has lower wages. So the costs to U.S. consumers are temporary, but the lost business in China will be permanent. Furthermore, the medium-term adjustment will have the effect of making China’s main competitors better exporters.

Obviously, no final long-run estimates are possible right now. But it is quite plausible that China will bear the larger costs here, not the U.S.

Another risk for China is this: As its access to U.S. markets becomes more difficult, China may be tempted to look to Europe. It remains to be seen whether the European Union will adopt additional protectionist measures, but China must consider that the possibility is more than zero.

To understand another feature of the longer-term perspective, consider that the impact of tariffs can be felt in at least two ways. In highly competitive markets, prices have to match costs, and so a cost-boosting tariff really does translate into higher consumer prices. (This is the case with many of the recent U.S. tariffs on China.) But for profitable branded goods, the economics aren’t the same. If the U.S. puts higher tariffs on Mercedes-Benz, for example, the prices of those cars will still exceed their costs of production. Mercedes, wishing to keep some of its strong market position, will probably decide to suffer some of the cost of the tariffs in the form of lower profits, rather than passing them along to its customers.

China has prominent brands as well, be it Huawei in electronics or other firms in exotic food products, and over time it aspires to climb the value chain and sell more branded goods to Americans. In fact China has an industrial policy whose goal is to be competitive in these and other areas. Tariffs will limit profits for these companies and prevent Chinese products from achieving full economies of scale. So this preemptive tariff strike will hurt the Chinese economy in the future, even if it doesn’t yet show up in the numbers.

There is also a broader reason why a trade war with the U.S. hurts China, and this gets to an important point with trade agreements more generally. A U.S. trade agreement with China would (if enforceable) certify China as a place where foreigners can invest and be protected against espionage, intellectual property theft and unfair legal treatment. That prospect of certification is now suspended. That makes investing in China less desirable for many multinationals, not just U.S. ones. That, in turn, limits Chinese domestic wages as well as long-term learning and technology transfer. A U.S. certification of China might even boost Chinese domestic investment, but again that is now off the table.

In my numerous visits to China, I’ve found that the Chinese think of themselves as much more vulnerable than Americans to a trade war. I think they are basically correct, mostly because China is a much poorer country with more fragile political institutions.

And finally: My argument isn’t about whether Trump’s policy toward China is correct. I am only trying to get the basic economics straight. Next time you hear that the costs of the trade war are simply being borne by Americans, be suspicious. In their zeal to make Trump look completelywrong, on tariffs or other issues, too many commentators pick and choose their arguments. A more fair and complete economic analysis indicates that China is also a big loser from a trade war. Trump’s threats are exerting some very real pressure on the country.

This question of who is worse off omits one important detail. If Trump wants to stay president, he has to run for reelection next year, as do Congressional Republicans supporting and opposing his trade policies. China’s leaders have no such concern; they could tank their entire country’s economy and remain in power. So ask yourself what China really has to lose from this trade war.

中国的贸易战

Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein:

Since hitting new all-time highs two weeks ago, the S&P 500 has fallen about 2.2% as trade negotiations with China hit a snag. Last week, the US announced new tariffs on Chinese imports. This morning, China announced new tariffs on some US goods. Many fear a widening trade war.

Don’t get us wrong. We want free trade, and we understand the dangers of trade wars and tariffs (which are just taxes on consumers). At the same time, we think trade deficits themselves are not a reason for trade wars. We all run personal trade deficits with the local grocery store and benefit from that. Even if the entire world went to zero tariffs, the US would almost certainly still run trade deficits, even with China.

But today, the trade deficit with China is partly due to the fact that China has higher tariffs on imports than the US does – working to eliminate these lopsided tariffs is worthwhile.

In 1980, China was an impoverished nation. Then it began adopting tools of capitalism – property rights, markets, free prices and wages. Chinese businesses started to import the West’s technology, and growth accelerated.

Initially, China didn’t have to worry about intellectual property. When you replace oxen with a tractor, all you have to do is buy the tractor, not reinvent the internal combustion engine. But China has now picked, and benefited from, the lowest hanging fruit. So, China decided to steal the R&D of firms located abroad. Some estimates of this collective theft run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

That’s why normal free market and free trade principles don’t neatly apply to China.

Remember President Reagan’s old story supporting free trade? “We’re in the same boat with our trading partners,” Reagan said. “If one partner shoots a hole in the boat, does it make sense for the other one to shoot another hole in the boat?” The obvious answer is that it doesn’t, and so our own protectionism would hurt us.

But China hasn’t just shot a hole in the boat, they’ve become pirates. If Tony Soprano and his cronies robbed your house, would free market principles require you to trade with them to buy those items back? Of course not!

It’s true tariff increases will not help the US economy. But $100 billion of tariffs spread over $14 trillion of consumer spending is not a recession inducing drag. It’s true some business, like soybean farmers, are hurt. But the status quo means accepting hundreds of billions in theft from companies that are at the leading edge of future growth.

Either way, if tariffs nick our economy, China’s gets hammered. Last year we exported $180 billion in goods and services to China, which is 0.9% of our GDP. Meanwhile, China exported $559 billion to the US, which is 4.6% of their economy. We have enormous economic leverage that they simply can’t match.

An extended US-China trade battle means US companies will shift supply chains out of China and toward places like Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, or “Made in the USA.” If that happens, the Chinese economy is hurt for decades.

Anyone can invent a scenario where some sort of Smoot-Hawley-like global trade war happens. Realistically, though, that appears very unlikely. We’re not the only advanced country China’s piracy has victimized, and China may realize it’s more isolated than it thought. In the end, China wants to trade with the West, not North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela. China needs the West. And all these trade war hysterics just aren’t warranted.

 

This is what drinking at lunch does to you

London’s Daily Mail claims:

The birth of Prince Harry and Meghan‘s baby boy has signalled the first time that a person has had the right to become both the British monarch and the US President.

Baby Sussex is automatically a British citizen based on the Duke of Sussex’s citizenship status and also due to being born in the UK.

But assuming Meghan did not voluntarily give up her own US citizenship when she married Harry, which she was no required to do by law, the baby will also be granted American citizenship himself.

The implication of being naturally-born citizen of the United States means Baby Sussex could one day run for office as US President.

However the US constitution states that any runner for the job must also have lived in the US for at least 14 years, as well as be over the age of 35.

In order for a child who was born abroad to a US citizen parent who is married to a non-US citizen, the citizen, who would be Meghan in this case, must have lived in the United States for at least five years, and two of those years must have been after the age of 14.

The birth of Baby Sussex must then be officially reported to an American consulate in order for him to obtain US citizenship.

US law does not officially recognize dual citizenship, but it doesn’t prohibit it either.

This is what collusion looks like

John Solomon of The Hill:

The boomerang from the Democratic Party’s failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia’s 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow’s pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton.

In its most detailed account yet, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country’s president to help.

In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly’s office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort’s dealings inside the country, in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress.

Chalupa later tried to arrange for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to comment on Manafort’s Russian ties on a U.S. visit during the 2016 campaign, the ambassador said.

Chaly says that, at the time of the contacts in 2016, the embassy knew Chalupa primarily as a Ukrainian-American activist, and learned only later of her ties to the DNC. He says the embassy considered her requests an inappropriate solicitation of interference in the U.S. election.

“The Embassy got to know Ms. Chalupa because of her engagement with Ukrainian and other diasporas in Washington D.C., and not in her DNC capacity. We’ve learned about her DNC involvement later,” Chaly said in a statement issued by his embassy. “We were surprised to see Alexandra’s interest in Mr. Paul Manafort’s case. It was her own cause. The Embassy representatives unambiguously refused to get involved in any way, as we were convinced that this is a strictly U.S. domestic matter.

“All ideas floated by Alexandra were related to approaching a Member of Congress with a purpose to initiate hearings on Paul Manafort or letting an investigative journalist ask President Poroshenko a question about Mr. Manafort during his public talk in Washington, D.C.,” the ambassador explained.

Reached by phone last week, Chalupa said she was too busy to talk. She did not respond to email and phone messages seeking subsequent comment.

Chaly’s written answers mark the most direct acknowledgement by Ukraine’s government that an American tied to the Democratic Party sought the country’s help in the 2016 election, and they confirm the main points of a January 2017 story by Politico on Chalupa’s efforts.

In that story, the embassy was broadly quoted as denying interference in the election and suggested Chalupa’s main reason for contacting the ambassador’s office was to organize an event celebrating women leaders.

The fresh statement comes several months after a Ukrainian court ruled that the country’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), closely aligned with the U.S. embassy in Kiev, and a parliamentarian named Serhiy Leshchenko wrongly interfered in the 2016 American election by releasing documents related to Manafort.

The acknowledgement by Kiev’s embassy, plus newly released testimony, suggests the Ukrainian efforts to influence the U.S. election had some intersections in Washington as well.

Nellie Ohr, wife of senior U.S. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, acknowledged in congressional testimony that, while working for the Clinton-hired research firm Fusion GPS, she researched Trump and Manafort’s ties to Russia and learned Leshchenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, was providing dirt to Fusion.

Fusion also paid British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, whose anti-Trump dossier the FBI used as primary evidence to support its request to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

In addition, I wrote last month that the Obama White House invited Ukrainian law enforcement officials to a meeting in January 2016 as Trump rose in the polls on his improbable path to the presidency. The meeting led to U.S. requests to the Ukrainians to help investigate Manafort, setting in motion a series of events that led to the Ukrainians leaking the documents about Manafort in May 2016.

The DNC’s embassy contacts add a new dimension, though. Chalupa discussed in the 2017 Politico article about her efforts to dig up dirt on Trump and Manafort, including at the Ukrainian embassy.

FEC records show Chalupa’s firm, Chalupa & Associates, was paid $71,918 by the DNC during the 2016 election cycle.

Exactly how the Ukrainian embassy responded to Chalupa’s inquiries remains in dispute.

Chaly’s statement says the embassy rebuffed her requests for information: “No documents related to Trump campaign or any individuals involved in the campaign have been passed to Ms. Chalupa or the DNC neither from the Embassy nor via the Embassy. No documents exchange was even discussed.”

But Andrii Telizhenko, a former political officer who worked under Chaly from December 2015 through June 2016, told me he was instructed by the ambassador and his top deputy to meet with Chalupa in March 2016 and to gather whatever dirt Ukraine had in its government files about Trump and Manafort.

Telizhenko said that, when he was told by the embassy to arrange the meeting, both Chaly and the ambassador’s top deputy identified Chalupa “as someone working for the DNC and trying to get Clinton elected.”

Over lunch at a Washington restaurant, Chalupa told Telizhenko in stark terms what she hoped the Ukrainians could provide the DNC and the Clinton campaign, according to his account.

“She said the DNC wanted to collect evidence that Trump, his organization and Manafort were Russian assets, working to hurt the U.S. and working with Putin against the U.S. interests. She indicated if we could find the evidence they would introduce it in Congress in September and try to build a case that Trump should be removed from the ballot, from the election,” he recalled.

After the meeting, Telizhenko said he became concerned about the legality of using his country’s assets to help an American political party win an U.S. election. But he proceeded with his assignment.

Telizhenko said that, as he began his research, he discovered that Fusion GPS was nosing around Ukraine, seeking similar information, and he believed they, too, worked for the Democrats.

As a former aide inside the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev, Telizhenko used contacts with intelligence, police and prosecutors across the country to secure information connecting Russian figures to assistance on some of the Trump organization’s real estate deals overseas, including a tower in Toronto.

Telizhenko said he did not want to provide the intelligence he collected directly to Chalupa, and instead handed the materials to Chaly: “I told him what we were doing was illegal, that it was unethical doing this as diplomats.” He said the ambassador told him he would handle the matter and had opened a second channel back in Ukraine to continue finding dirt on Trump.

Telizhenko said he also was instructed by his bosses to meet with an American journalist researching Manafort’s ties to Ukraine.

About a month later, he said his relationship with the ambassador soured and, by June 2016, he was ordered to return to Ukraine. There, he reported his concerns about the embassy’s contacts with the Democrats to the former prosecutor general’s office and officials in the Poroshenko administration: “Everybody already knew what was going on and told me it had been approved at the highest levels.”

Telizhenko said he never was able to confirm whether the information he collected for Chalupa was delivered to her, the DNC or the Clinton campaign.

Chalupa, meanwhile, continued to build a case that Manafort and Trump were tied to Russia.

In April 2016, she attended an international symposium where she reported back to the DNC that she had met with 68 Ukrainian investigative journalists to talk about Manafort. She also wrote that she invited American reporter Michael Isikoff to speak with her. Isikoff wrote some of the seminal stories tying Manafort to Ukraine and Trump to Russia; he later wrote a book making a case for Russian collusion.

“A lot more coming down the pipe,” Chalupa wrote a top DNC official on May 3, 2016, recounting her effort to educate Ukrainian journalists and Isikoff about Manafort.

Then she added: “More offline tomorrow since there is a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I’m working on you should be aware of.”

Less than a month later, the “black ledger” identifying payments to Manafort was announced in Ukraine, forcing Manafort to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman and eventually face criminal prosecution for improper foreign lobbying.

DNC officials have suggested in the past that Chalupa’s efforts were personal, not officially on behalf of the DNC. But Chalupa’s May 2016 email clearly informed a senior DNC official that she was “digging into Manafort” and she suspected someone was trying to hack into her email account.

Chaly over the years has tried to portray his role as Ukraine’s ambassador in Washington as one of neutrality during the 2016 election. But in August 2016 he raised eyebrows in some diplomatic circles when he wrote an OpEd in The Hill skewering Trump for some of his comments on Russia. “Trump’s comments send wrong message to world,” Chaly’s article blared in the headline.

In his statement to me, Chaly said he wrote the article because he had been solicited for his views by The Hill’s opinion team.

Chaly’s office also acknowledged that a month after the OpEd, President Poroshenko met with then-candidate Clinton during a stop in New York. The office said the ambassador requested a similar meeting with Trump but it didn’t get organized.

Though Chaly and Telizhenko disagree on what Ukraine did after it got Chalupa’s request, they confirm that a paid contractor of the DNC solicited their government’s help to find dirt on Trump that could sway the 2016 election.

For a Democratic Party that spent more than two years building the now-disproven theory that Trump colluded with Russia to hijack the 2016 election, the tale of the Ukrainian embassy in Washington feels just like a speeding political boomerang.

This, of course, is nothing new with Democrats.

 

On World “Press” “Freedom” Day

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association announces:

As World Press Freedom Day approaches on Friday, May 3, news organizations around the world are encouraged to join in the “Defend Journalism” campaign.

The campaign is intended to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism. Special editorial coverage dedicated to the campaign will be amplified by UNESCO.

This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.” Organizations are encouraged to promote the key messages:

  • Facts, not falsehoods should inform citizens’ decisions during elections.
  • Technology innovations should be used to help achieve peaceful elections.
  • Transparency and the right to information protect the integrity of elections.
  • Journalists should be able to work without fear of attacks.
  • Internet shutdown compromise democracy.
  • An open and accessible internet for all.
  • Fair and independent reporting can counter incitement and hate.
  • Informed citizens that think critically can contribute to peaceful elections.
  • Media contributes to peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

More from World News Publishing Focus:

News organisations across the globe are encouraged to participate in the “Defend Journalism” campaign surrounding #WorldPressFreedomDay to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism, and to dedicate special editorial coverage in the build-up to May 3. UNESCO will amplify their content, as they have done with media partners in previous years.

UNESCO is providing news organisations with materials such as banners for print, digital, and social media in the six official UN languages to build momentum around #WorldPressFreedomDay.

The global conference for the Day will take place in Addis Ababa, jointly organised by UNESCO, the Government of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission.

This year, the annual World Press Freedom Prize will be awarded to the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar.

First: UNESCO, for those unaware, is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The U.S. and Israel left UNESCO earlier this year over UNESCO’s organizational bias against Israel, which is only our longest-standing ally in the Middle East. But that’s not the only problem with UNESCO, as Time Magazine reports:

The Trump administration’s statement cited “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” as reasons for the decision. Those rationales echo arguments made by the administration of president Ronald Reagan in December 1983, when the U.S. previously announced a decision to pull out of UNESCO: “UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited hostility toward a free society, especially a free market and a free press, and it has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion.” …

When 37 nations created UNESCO as a human rights organization promoting education, science and cultural causes in November 1945, “it was essentially a western entity, dominated by western funding,” says political scientist Jerry Pubantz, co-author of To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the United Nations. School systems in Europe were undergoing “denazification” and, as part of that process, the U.S. wanted to be sure that they taught World War II accurately. UNESCO was a way to influence those curricula. Likewise, during the Cold War, American officials imagined UNESCO as an advocate for free speech in an era of communist propaganda.

But, as more members joined the group — about 160 members by July 1983 — U.S. policy makers grew worried their voices would be drowned out. The newest members were “largely the decolonized new independent states of Africa and Asia” who “tended to be less supportive of American policies, and more supportive of the Soviet bloc’s position,” says Pubantz.

In addition, some U.S. officials soured on the group because, despite the new members, they felt the U.S. was left footing a disproportionate amount of the bill for UNESCO’s work. Or Jeane Kirkpatrick, who represented the U.S. at the U.N. put it, “The countries which have the votes don’t pay the bill, and those who pay the bill don’t have the votes,” as TIME reported in a Jan. 9, 1984, article.

That feature, “Waving Goodbye to UNESCO,” summed up specific events that contributed to the decision to pull out of UNESCO:

The voters who elected Reagan may have influenced the decision, too. Russell L. Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia, adds that the rationale behind leaving UNESCO jibed with the Reagan administration’s overall economic agenda: “It was an easy way to save a little money and could prove to Americans that we [U.S. government officials] were being fiscally responsible.”

Increasing government control over the media and press freedom are oxymorons, and UNESCO’s involvement should make everyone suspect of …

This is the second time in nine months that the media felt the need to rally around and promote itself. The first was due to the orange-haired meanie in the White House, for whom they should be thanking God — or would if they were religious, though they are not — for Trump’s making their work as easy as humanly possible. In the same way that dissent has become patriotic again now that an R and not a D is in the White House, harsh reporting upon said Oval Office occupant and his party is back in style, as it was not between 2009 and 2016.

Some of the aforementioned “key” messages should be noncontroversial. (Point three was lost on the Obama White House, and appears to be lost on this state’s Evers administration, which bars the MacIver Institute from access because MacIver has the wrong ideology.) Point four, about journalists’ working without fear of attacks (I thought the only thing we had to fear was fear itself), seems more motivated by those mean words of Donald Trump than people like Lyra McKee, who was killed in Northern Ireland by “dissident republicans.” Every time a journalist whines about mean Trump, that journalist demonstrates a lack of backbone (which I suppose reads less harsh than “cowardice”) when journalists elsewhere in the world are reporting at risk to their own lives.

What about Annapolis? Read here.

That part about “diverse sources” is ironic given that much of the news media’s current problems have to do with a lack of “diverse” sources — that is, intellectually and ideologically diverse, sources beyond the liberal institutional/governmental status quo. Arguably diversity is less of a media problem than reporters’ inability to relate to their own readers.

People will jump, and should, all over the part about “just and inclusive societies.” Our job as journalists is to report, not foment societal change, and those in for the latter reason are in journalism for the wrong reasons. Reporting might start societal change, but (1) remember that “change” and ‘progress” are not synonyms and change can be positive or negative, and (2) it is incredibly arrogant for journalists to assume they know where society should change.

Then there’s this, from Ryan Foley:

On Sunday’s edition of her weekly syndicated show Full Measure, host Sharyl Attkisson discussed the results of a poll conducted by Scott Rasmussen that reflects very negatively on media credibility. During an on-screen interview with Attkisson, the pollster highlighted the most shocking result of the poll: “78 percent of voters say that…what reporters do with political news is promote their agenda. They think they use incidents as props for their agenda rather than seeking to accurately record what happened” while “only 14 percent think that a journalist is actually reporting what happened.” Rasmussen continued: “if a reporter found out something that would hurt their favorite candidate, only 36 percent of voters think that they would report that.” Rasmussen summed up the results of the poll by declaring that voters see journalists as a “political activist, not as a source of information.” 

One reason why Republicans and conservatives should support press freedom, including open government records, is in this state, during Act 10 and Recallarama, when, thanks to the fact that election petition signatures are public records (specifically the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker), we got to find out the people who (1) get government paychecks, (2) are candidates for office, or (3) are in the news media who signed the petitions. That is the public’s right to know.

There will never be support for press freedom from politicians. There is no question in my mind that all the Democrats jumping on the media bandwagon are hoping they will be treated with the same light touch that the media used on Obama, before him Bill Clinton, and after him Hillary Clinton. (Which has a lot to do with mean orange-hair man now in the Oval Office, but you can tell that to neither Democrats nor journalists.) Reporters worth their salt revel in being hated by politicians of any or no party. Then again, reporters worth their salt don’t hold parties celebrating themselves.

Something else you may not see acknowledged today is that the First Amendment does not belong merely to the press. (And the news media includes more than however the media defines itself, with the intent of squelching out alternative voices. The marketplace of ideas should decide which news media outlets are legitimate and which are not based on the quality of their work.) Like this state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, our First Amendment rights apply to every American, not just to the news media. It would be nice if the news media acknowledged that fact, as well as our other constitutional rights.

 

The West is best

Tom Holland:

Declarations of hope that Notre-Dame can be resurrected have been much in evidence this Holy Week. Such is the lesson of Easter: that life can come from death. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, that other great emblem of Paris, Notre-Dame provides the French with evidence that their modern and secular republic has its foundations deeply rooted in the Middle Ages. Notre-Dame has always been more than just an assemblage of stone and stained glass. It is a monument as well to a specifically Christian past.

Last summer, one of the world’s best-known scientists, a man as celebrated for his polemics against religion as for his writings on evolutionary biology, sat in another cathedral, Winchester, in the United Kingdom, listening to the bells peal. ‘So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar”,’ Richard Dawkins tweeted. ‘Or is that just my cultural upbringing?’ A preference for church bells over the sound of Muslims praising God does not just emerge by magic. Dawkins — agnostic, secularist and humanist that he is — absolutely has the instincts of someone brought up in a Christian civilization.

Perhaps, then, the debt of the contemporary West to Christianity is more deeply rooted than many — believers and non-believers alike — might presume.

Today, as the flood-tide of western power and influence ebbs, the illusions of European and American liberals risk being left stranded. Much that they have sought to cast as universal stands exposed as never having been anything of the kind. Free-thinkers who mock the very idea of a god as a sky fairy, an imaginary friend, still hold to taboos and morals that palpably derive from Christianity. In 2002, in Amsterdam, the World Humanist Congress affirmed ‘the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others’. Yet this — despite humanists’ stated ambition to provide ‘an alternative to dogmatic religion’ — was nothing if not itself a statement of belief. The humanist assumption that atheism and a concern for human life go together was just that: an assumption. What basis — other than mere sentimentality — was there to argue for it? Perhaps, as the humanist manifesto declared, through ‘the application of the methods of science’. Yet this was barely any less of a myth than the biblical story that God had created humanity in his own image. It is not truth that science offers moralists, but a mirror. Racists identify it with racist values; liberals with liberal values. The primary dogma of humanism — ‘that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others’ — finds no more corroboration in science than did the dogma of the Nazis that anyone not fit for life should be exterminated. The wellspring of humanist values lies not in reason, not in evidence-based thinking, but in the past, and specifically in the story of how a cult inspired by the execution of an obscure criminal in a long-vanished empire emerged to become — as the great Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin has put it — ‘the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world’.

The Easter story lies at the heart of this narrative. Crucifixion, in the opinion of Roman intellectuals, was not a punishment just like any other. It was one peculiarly suited to slaves. To be hung naked, helpless to beat away the clamorous birds, ‘long in agony’, as the philosopher Seneca put it, ‘swelling with ugly weals on shoulder and chest’, was the very worst of fates. Yet in the exposure of the crucified to the public gaze there lurked a paradox. So foul was the carrion-reek of their disgrace that many felt tainted even by viewing a crucifixion. Certainly, few cared to think about it in any detail. Order, the order loved by the gods and upheld by magistrates vested with the full authority of the greatest power on earth, was what counted — not the elimination of such vermin as presumed to challenge it. Some deaths were so vile, so squalid, that it was best to draw a veil across them entirely.

The surprise, then, is less that we should have so few procedural descriptions in ancient literature of what a crucifixion might actually involve, than that we should have any at all. Nevertheless, amid the general silence, there is one major exception which proves the rule. Four detailed accounts of the process by which a man might be sentenced to the cross, and then suffer his punishment, have survived from antiquity. These accounts are to be found, of course, in the New Testament. There is no reason to doubt their essentials. Even the most skeptical historians have tended to accept them. In the words of one of the most distinguished, Geza Vermes, ‘The death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross is an established fact, arguably the only established fact about him.’

Altogether more controversial, of course, are the stories of what happened next. That women, going to the tomb, found the entrance stone rolled away. That Jesus, over the course of the next 40 days, appeared to his followers, not as a ghost or a reanimated corpse, but resurrected into a new and glorious form. That he ascended into heaven, and was destined to come again. Time would see him hailed, not just as a man, but as a god. By enduring the most agonizing fate imaginable, he had conquered death itself. ‘Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…’

The utter strangeness of all this, for the vast majority of people in the Roman world, did not lie in the notion that a mortal might become divine. The border between the heavenly and the earthly was widely held to be permeable. Divinity, however, was for the very greatest of the great: for victors, and heroes, and kings. Its measure was the power to torture one’s enemies, not to suffer it oneself. Even Christians, in the early years of the cult, might flinch at staring the manner of Jesus’s death full in the face. They were as wise to the connotations of crucifixion as anyone. Paul, the most successful and influential of early missionaries, readily described Christ’s execution as a ‘scandal’. The shame of it was long felt. Only centuries after the death of Jesus did his crucifixion at last start to emerge as an acceptable theme for artists. By 400 ad the cross was ceasing to be viewed as something shameful. Banned as a punishment decades earlier by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, crucifixion had come to serve the Roman people as an emblem of triumph over sin and death. An artist, carving the scene out of ivory, might represent Jesus in the skimpy loincloth of an athlete. Far from looking broken, he would be shown as no less muscled, no less ripped than any of the ancient gods.

We are the heirs to a later, much more unsettling way of portraying Christ’s crucifixion. The Jesus painted or sculpted by medieval artists, twisted, bloody, dying, was a victim of torture such as his original executioners would have recognized. The response to the spectacle, though, was far removed from the mingled revulsion and disdain that had typified that of the ancients to crucifixion. Christians in the Middle Ages, when they looked upon an image of their Lord upon the cross, upon the nails smashed through the tendons and bone of his feet, upon the arms stretched so tightly as to appear torn from their sockets, upon the slump of his thorn-crowned head on to his chest, did not feel contempt, but rather compassion, and pity, and fear. That the Son of God, born of a woman, and sentenced to the death of a slave, had perished unrecognized by his judges, was a reflection fit to give pause to even the haughtiest monarch. This awareness could not help but lodge in the consciousness of medieval Christians a visceral and momentous suspicion: that God was closer to the weak than to the mighty, to the poor than to the rich. Any beggar, any criminal, might be Christ. ‘So the last will be first, and the first last.’

Christianity had revealed to the world a momentous truth: that to be a victim might be a source of strength. No one in modern times saw this more clearly than the religion’s most brilliant and unsparing critic. Because of Christianity, wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘the measure of a man’s compassion for the lowly and suffering comes to be the measure of the loftiness of his soul’. The commanding heights of western culture may now be occupied by people who dismiss Christianity as superstition; but their instincts and assumptions remain no less Christian for that. If God is indeed dead, then his shadow, immense and dreadful, continues to flicker even as his corpse lies cold. The risen Christ cannot be eluded simply by refusing to believe in him. That the persecuted and disadvantaged have claims upon the privileged — widely taken for granted though it may be today across the West — is not remotely a self-evident truth. Condemnations of Christianity as patriarchal or repressive or hegemonic derive from a framework of values that is itself nothing if not Christian.

Familiarity with the Easter story has desensitized us to what both Paul and Nietzsche, in their very different ways, instinctively recognized in it: a scandal. The cross, that ancient tool of imperial power, remains what it has always been: the fitting symbol of a transfiguration in the affairs of humanity as profound and far-reaching as any in history. ‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ It is the audacity of it — the audacity of finding in a twisted and defeated corpse the glory of the creator of the universe — that serves to explain, more surely than anything else, the sheer strangeness of Christianity, and of the civilization to which it gave birth.

Today, the power of this strangeness remains as alive as it has ever been. It is manifest in the great surge of conversions that has swept Africa and Asia over the past century; in the conviction of millions upon millions that the breath of the Spirit, like a living fire, still blows upon the world; and, in Europe and North America, in the assumptions of many more millions who would never think to describe themselves as Christian. All are heirs to the same revolution: a revolution that has, at its molten heart, the image of a god dead upon an implement of torture.

Jonah Goldberg:

The other day Ben Shapiro offered what should have been an utterly banal statement about the fire at Notre Dame:

Absolutely heartbreaking. A magnificent monument to Western civilization collapsing.

Now, I have no problem with quibbles (and neither does Ben) from Catholics who point out that Notre Dame was a monument to the glory of God and what Catholics believe to be the One True Church as delineated in the Nicene Creed. But, I doubt any of those Catholics took offense at what Ben said. And if they did, they should probably lighten up. I’d also point out that Cathedrals were the space programs of their day (“The Knights Templar were the first Space Force”: Discuss). Cities and nations constantly competed to see who could build the tallest Cathedral — which is why most are built on the tallest ground available. The idea was both theological and political. Theologically, the idea was to get as close to God as possible. Politically, it was a desire for, well, national greatness.

Anyway, what I have a huge problem with is the bonfire of asininity that ignited from people who think “Western civilization” is a term reserved solely for the alt-right and other bigots (David French addressed the point well here). In a piece about Ben’s excellent book on Western civilization — I’ll reserve my quibbles for later — The Economist labeled him an “alt-right sage” and a “pop idol of the alt right.” To The Economist’s credit, they retracted and apologized. But the immediate assumption that praise for, or pride in, Western civilization is a species of bigotry and racism is a perfect example of the sort of civilizational suicide I describe in my own book on the subject.

So adamantine is this absurdity that some Shapiro haters actually assume he’s not actually saying he thinks the West is superior, only “tacitly” suggesting it.

Ben might as well be standing in the center of Times Square waving a giant foam finger that reads “Western Civ #1” on it. But the idea is so offensive to some people they think he wouldn’t dare say it outright.

What’s So Great about Western Civilization?

I’ve covered much of this at length — book length but also in this G-File — elsewhere. So I’ll go in a slightly different direction.

Forget calling it Western civilization for a moment. Instead think of a kind of party platform with a bunch of planks:

  • Support for human rights
  • Belief in the rule of law
  • Dedication to democracy
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of conscience
  • Admiration for science and the scientific method
  • Curiosity about other cultures
  • Property rights
  • Tolerance or celebration of technological and/or cultural innovation

I’ll be generous and stipulate that 90 percent of the people who are offended by pride in Western civilization actually believe — or think they believe — in most or all of these things. They just have a problem connecting the dots, so I’ll try.

Where do they think most of these ideas come from? Where were they most successfully put into action? What civilization today or in some bygone era manifests these values more? Chinese civilization? Islamic civilization? Aztec? African? Indian? Persian? Turkish?

I’m not trying to belittle any of those cultures, nor deny their contributions to human history. I’m not even trying to argue – here, at least — that Western civilization is objectively superior in some scientific or God’s-eye-view sense. As with the debates over nationalism, there’s no arguing — and no reason to argue — with a French patriot about whether or not America is “better” than France. I would think less of a Spaniard who didn’t love Spain more than he or she loves France. It’s like arguing whose family is better, we love what is ours. As Bill Buckley liked to say, De gustibus non est disputandum.

But the weird thing is that many of the people who are outraged by benign nationalism or the benign pan-nationalism that is pride in Western civilization take no umbrage when someone from Iran or China says they think their civilization is best.  This of course is a manifestation of the ancient cult of identitarianism, which the best traditions of the West have battled internally at great cost for thousands of years. Saying Western civilization is great hurts the feelings of some people invested in some other source of identity. And it hurts the feelings of some Westerners because they think it’s a sign of enlightenment to get offended on other people’s behalf or to denigrate the society that gave them their soap box.

The irony is that the willingness to entertain the possibility that some other culture has something important to offer or say to us is actually one of the hallmarks of Western civilization (and the condescension with which many Americans treat other cultures is also a more regrettable side of Western culture). We “borrow” stuff from other cultures constantly, starting with Christianity itself.

This is particularly true of America, which is why our menus read like the requested meal plans from a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. This profound lack of self-awareness manifests itself most acutely among progressives who wear their Europe-envy on their sleeves. Oh, they’re so much more civilized over there. Well, what civilization do you think “over there” is part of?

Western civilization is a work in progress because that’s what civilization means. If you want a Cliff’s Notes version of what my book was about it’s simply this: Every generation, humans start from scratch. As Hannah Arendt said, every generation Western civilization is invaded by barbarians — we call them “children.” As babies we come into the world with the same programming as Viking, Hun or caveman babies. These barbarians need to be civilized and that’s a job primarily done by families, which is why the days are long and the years are short. We teach barbarians how to be citizens in the broadest sense of the word, through formal education, religious teaching, social norms and the modeling of proper behavior. In other words, we assimilate people into a culture.

As Alan Wolfe writes in his discussion of Immanuel Kant:

As cultivating a field yields a better product, the arts and sciences cultivate us by improving the quality of who we are. No wonder, then, that when we look for a term that expresses the way we improve upon nature, we use “culture,” which has the same root as “cultivate.” And civilization—expressed in German not only as Zivilisation but also as Kultur — far from corrupting our soul, makes it possible for us to bring good out of evil.

The way you sustain and improve upon a culture is by fostering a sense of gratitude for what is best about it. You celebrate the good in your story while putting the bad in the correct context. Conservatism is gratitude, and as I noted on Fox the other night, one of the most compelling things in reaction the fire of Notre Dame was seeing how many people recognized their own ingratitude for this jewel of their own civilization. The Church was in peril because the French took it for granted. But, like that feeling one gets deep in the soul when a loved one in peril, millions were overcome with a sense of what they might lose. And now France is devoting itself to restoring what was almost lost.

Has Western civilization made mistakes? Sure (cue the Monty Python skit about Rome). Terrible things have been done in its name, a statement one can make about every civilization that has ever existed. But to say that the mistakes define us more than the accomplishments is suicidally stupid. And if you subscribe to those planks I mentioned above, I’d like to suggest that telling people they’re bigots for taking pride in the civilization that brought them forth better than any other is like taking a sledgehammer to the soapbox you’re standing on.

And to do it in the name of virtue tweeting is one of the purer forms of asininity.

On Assange

Tucker Carlson:

If you watched a lot of the coverage of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s arrest on television Thursday, you likely came away with the understanding that he is some kind of Russian spy who is in trouble because he stole classified documents from the U.S. government.

That is not true. It’s factually incorrect, and saying so is not a defense of Assange. We’re not here to promote him or excuse any number of things he said over the years that we disagree with quite a lot.

But just so it’s clear, whatever his sins, Assange did not steal documents from the United States government. He did not hack the DNC servers. He didn’t break into John Podesta’s Gmail account.

There is no proof that he is working for the Russian government or ever has worked for the Russian government. Assange has never been charged with any of that and wasn’t on Thursday, no matter what they tell you.

If you’re upset about the theft of classified documents from the U.S. government — and there is reason to be — we already know who did that.

A 22- year-old Army private named Bradley Manning, now called Chelsea Manning. In 2013, Manning pleaded guilty to stealing secret material and got 35 years in prison for it.

Shortly after that, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. This allowed Manning to leave jail decades early, go back on television as a commentator, and then run for political office.

So if your real concern is America’s national security, you have someone to be angry at — Barack Obama. And yet strangely, nobody is.

Instead, they’re furious at Julian Assange for posting the documents that other people stole. “Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services,” wrote professional moralizer Ben Sasse, who also serves in the U.S. Senate. “He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Wicked? The rest of his life in prison? Idi Amin ate people and never faced this kind of scorn.

Not even close. Nor, for the record, was Amin ever extradited. He died at 78 years old in his own bed, leaving behind 43 loving children.

So what’s going on here? A couple of things. First, Julian Assange embarrassed virtually everyone in power in Washington.

He published documents that undermined the official story on the Iraq War and Afghanistan. He got Debbie Wasserman-Schultz fired from the DNC.

He humiliated Hillary Clinton by showing that the Democratic primaries were, in fact, rigged. Pretty much everyone in Washington has reason to hate Julian Assange.

Rather than just admit that straightforwardly – that he made us look like buffoons, so now we’re sending him to prison — instead, they’re denouncing him as, you guessed it, a Russian agent. “Justice should come to Julian Assange for his role in Russian meddling in our election and the sooner the better,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Okay, so once again, just to be totally clear, no one has ever shown that Julian Assange is a Russian agent. The indictment against him does not say that; t doesn’t mention Russia at all.

But that has not stopped virtually every politician in Washington from repeating Senator Blumenthal’s line, including many Republicans. Robert Mueller nearly killed the Russia collusion hoax. Julian Assange is allowing them to keep it alive.

You’d think journalists would say something about this. Assange is, after all, one of them. What do you call a man who publishes news for a living?

Assange is no sleazier than many journalists in Washington; he’s definitely not more anti-American. He’s broken stories the New York Times would have won Pulitzers for. And yet many of his colleagues have disowned him.

So why all the hostility to Julian Assange? Assange’s real sin was preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

“Oh, please,” wrote Alexia Campbell of Vox. “Assange is no journalist. We know who he works for. ” (Meaning Russia.) “Julian Assange is not a journalist,” explained Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker, without actually explaining. Ken Dilanian of NBC, who doesn’t so much cover the national security state as he writes memos on its behalf, noted that, “Many believe that if Assange ever was a journalist, those days ended a long time ago.”

At NBC when they tell you “many believe” something, it means they believe it.

So why all the hostility to Julian Assange? Assange’s real sin was preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

Former Democratic staffer and current CNN anchor Jim Sciutto explained it this way: “He is central to several cases. He is central to Russian interference in the election. The U.S. intelligence views him as a middleman, a cutout that he was in effect part of this interference.

He’s central to questions about what the Trump administration or Trump campaign, I should say, knew prior to the release of those materials, right? What were the communications between Roger Stone, et cetera? It’s possible that this has something President Trump himself is not particularly excited about.”

It’s remarkable to watch this. It’s bewildering, actually. There was a time, not so long ago, really, when reporters didn’t applaud the arrest of other journalists for publishing information.

In 1971, the Washington Post and the New York Times published a trove of stolen classified documents about the Vietnam War.

It was called the Pentagon Papers. Remember that? Liberals loved it. Books were written celebrating their bravery.

As recently as 2011, the Washington Post saw the connection: “A conviction of Julian Assange would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms.”

A Post op-ed said that year, “It is difficult to distinguish Assange or Wikileaks from the Washington Post.” And that’s true.

But that was before the Trump election and the total war that followed, a war in which the media have definitively chosen a side.

Press freedom?

Sure, as long as we agree with your politics. The First Amendment? Well, that all depends. Who did you vote for?

The guardians of speech or now the enemies of speech.

The people charged with policing power are now colluding with power.

There’s a reason you see John Brennan on NBC all the time. They’re all on the same team now.

We’re not saying any of this to defend Julian Assange.

We just want to be absolutely clear about who hurts this country more — and it’s not him.

Off target on trade

Jonah Goldberg:

Trump said Friday: “I’ll just close the border, and with a deficit like we have with Mexico and have had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operation.” …

This is hardly the first time the president has said this type of thing. He’s often claimed that tariffs are essentially profitable because other countries pay them (they don’t).  In September he said “China’s now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs and hopefully we’ll be able to work something out.” And there was this:

….I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN

If you don’t understand why the president’s statements are wrong, this post isn’t for you. But closing the border would, among other things, throw the supply chains of various American businesses into a tailspin. Also, trade deficits aren’t like budget deficits which reflect spending in excess of revenue. I have a trade deficit with my cigar shop, barber shop, supermarket and liquor store. They get my money and I get goods and services in return. Here are some explainers.

Anyway, what I’m sincerely curious about is what Trump supporters think of stuff like this. Do they think he understands how trade works and just deceives the public in order to sell protectionist policies or tactics? Or do Trump supporters think that he honestly believes that closing the border with Mexico would be profitable and that China and other trading partners pay tariffs instead of American consumers? Does he really think trade deficits are akin to budget deficits?

On the latter theory, one could, I suppose, make the case that this is brilliant statecraft; by sending the signal that he actually believes these untrue things, he makes his protectionist threats more believable. One hears this sort of thing often. He’s a free trader, but he’s using protectionism to get to a desirable goal. (But as Charlie Cooke often notes, the same people often also defend tariffs as good things in and of themselves. If tariffs are so “profitable,” why pursue free trade at all?).

This is of a piece with the “chessmaster” school of Trumpology. It seems to me this is a very hard theory to support. You’d have to believe that Trump’s tendency to say whatever comes into his mind is a ruse or a façade and that he in fact has incredible message discipline, refraining from ever once speaking accurately about his true feelings or betraying his real knowledge of how trade actually works.

It’s a sincere question. Whenever I hear versions of it asked of Trump administration officials, the answers are usually evasive. Such as: “Look, the president hears arguments on all sides of the issue” (I’ve heard one Trump official say this in four different off-the-record settings).  Another reply one often hears on TV is “I may not see eye-to-eye with the president on every aspect of trade, but at least I know he’s fighting for American workers and putting America first.”

That’s all fine as political handwaving or statements of emotional support. But my question remains: Does the president know the facts and is therefore deceiving the public about his beliefs or is he truly ignorant of some of the most basic concepts of one of his signature issues?

Or, is there some way to square this circle I am missing? I am eager to hear it if so (Oh, and a pro-tip for folks on Twitter and even in the comment section, “Shut up you RINO asshat” is not a dispositive answer to the question).

I specifically want to hear from Wisconsinites who defend this:
Trump’s trade war(s) are hurting Wisconsinites and Wisconsin farmers. You cannot support this state’s farmers and support this.