The Donald in Davos

Facebook Friend Tim Nerenz:

A reasonable person would have withheld judgment about the policy prescriptions advocated by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. I certainly did.

Anything sounds great in theory, where there is no consequence and no objective measure of an idea’s potency. In the abstract and theoretical world, the only measure of an idea is the pontifications of pundits, and the belief systems from which they view the world.

Unlike us common folk, the “learned” punditry believes themselves to be infallible; they assured us that skies would fall instantly should Donald Trump be miraculously elected. But we now have a year of real-world application to assess, and it is the learned punditry on both the right and left, not us common-rabble deplorables, who have to eat crow.

While the American corporate response to tax reform has been a bit surprising, the global response to the President’s tax reforms has been nothing short of stunning. At Davos this week, senior executives from Europe’s largest firms – Siemens, Nestles, Adidas, et al – praised the President’s reforms and announced significant expansions and investments in American operations – just exactly as the President and every economically literate person predicted. And just as every snake-oil peddling, media-pimp expert promised would NEVER happen.

It was a low-key affair, that Davos roundtable; serious people around a table discussing serious things in serious tones. Business leaders, not political hacks or attention whores – nobody dressed up as a genital organ or screaming obscenities or waving signs. None of them wearing a mask or making a fist or burning a flag or anything like that; serious people responsible for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of employees and millions of shareholders. Watch the video, and compare the demeanor of those serious-minded corporate leaders to the likes of Senator Cory Booker, who came unhinged at a female witness in a recent Senate hearing.

And watch the demeanor of our President. Completely different when he is in the company of persons of accomplishment, damn-near deferential, I would say. For anyone who wonders how a group of CEO’s interact, this is it. There is a reason these people have risen through the ranks and have been entrusted with great responsibility. They do not act the fool like CNN’s Jim Acosta, when given the opportunity. That is why they are entrusted with many billions of shareholders’ assets and Acosta is entrusted with a $248 microphone.

And the list of American firms who are redirecting money previously paid in taxes to the federal sink-hole into the pockets of employees is equally jaw-dropping. The first-responders drew a cynical mocking from the “smart people” who still occupy prominent positions of influence, for reasons which defy logic daily. Crumbs, empty symbolism, a stunt, saith the media seers who have never sold anything but themselves, and have never had to meet a payroll.

But now this week it’s Starbucks, Disney, Apple joining the nearly 100 American firms to announce bonuses, wage increases, investments here at home, and repatriation of funds from abroad. These are not Trump cronies – they funded his opponents, they mocked his supporters, they showed their contempt for his populist appeal.

And now each one of them is proving him right – not by their words, but by their actions. And I will give a shout-out to Paul Ryan – the tax reform was a legislative accomplishment, and although not nearly as bold as I would like, let’s give credit where it is due. Ryan took a lot of heat, and deservedly so, but he delivered the mail.

At the end of year one of Trump, the stock market is setting new highs weekly. Isis is nearly extinct. Black unemployment is at historic lows, the economy is growing at almost double the rate that we were told was the new-normal top end. The poverty rate for married black couples who work is at record lows; indistinguishable from their white counterparts. North Korea is making nice to South Korea; NATO has faced up to its chronic underfunding; the duplicity of the Muslim countries in regards to harboring and funding terrorism has been called out and there is a major re-alignment underway. The repeal of burdensome and unnecessary regulations has been breathtaking in scope – over 1,000 in just one year.

One year. The question begs: why did President Obama not do these things?

No, seriously – ask yourself why our previous President did not do these things with two terms to get them done? These things are not ideological – economics is economics, military strategies are the realm of military science, competence in government is not a Republican or a Democrat ideal. Even libertarians want a competent, albeit drastically reduced, government.

I honestly do not know the answer to that question. But is a question that should be put to former President Obama and he should respond. But it won’t and he won’t.

It is clear that our current President loves this country, whatever else you might think of him. “America First” is a perfectly rational ideal for all Americans to get behind, because “America Thirteenth” didn’t work for us. Not so long ago, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians, socialists, and every point along the bell curve would have agreed on America First. And we will again; time heals.

We could have had these increases in wages and bonuses and investments in American jobs years ago – nobody is doing this because they like The Donald’s hairstyle. None of those corporations are doing this for the PR value. A fair number of those CEOs hate Donald Trump – I would still not walk across the street to shake his hand if he called me by name.

But I also don’t care if my plumber can’t sing opera. Just fix the leaky pipes and get on out of my house, pal. That is what I want from government, and I could care less if it gives the posers and delicate flowers in the media the vapors to see a little butt crack now and then.

And President Trump, if you are listening … keep calling a shithole a shithole; those of us who have been to those shitholes have your back. And also, please send Jeff Sessions into retirement – you got a mountain of evidence of a corrupt coup attempt from our intel community in the swamp and he is out rousting Parkinson’s victims for hitting a doob to get a moment of relief. Keep being a boss – drain the swamp in year two – that is what you were hired to do.


Of s—holes

Three of my right-thinking Facebook Friends have the correct, though dissimilar, perspectives that don’t sink into virtue-signaling about the latest effort by Donald Trump to get the media to report four-letter words (assuming he said what is claimed he said).

First, Gary Probst:

Ya know, I’ve been trying very hard to stay out of this whole s-hole thing but I just can’t. When people blindly defend Trump’s every action, it is quite disgusting. I’m sorry if you want to unfriend me, but truth is truth and light is light. I prefer to speak truth and light.

Now, we’ll never know for sure if Trump said this or if its Durbin lying again. We won’t. Nobody will play it straight and be honest with us. This is politics, after all.

However, Trump’s mouth has been much more than just “plain speaking”. It has been rude, crude and vile—-quite a few times. When you act badly, people are going to find it much easier to believe it when accused a second time.

To shows photos of Haiti after an earthquake or hurricane and then say, “look, it IS a s-hole country” is just downright wrong and borderline despicable. The government there may be S— but are the people?? If you believe that, consider what Jesus would say. Would he agree? Would you agree with Jesus or Trump, or are they one and the same to you?

I never liked Trump but I appreciate the economic benefits he has helped to create. I have given him credit, when earned. However, do not think for one minute this man is anything like Reagan. I met Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan loved people. He had a warm and open heart. He believed in elevating people and expecting the best from them. Ronald Reagan, even in a secluded place, would never have said something of that nature. Do you truly believe Donald Trump would not?

Harry Truman was “plain spoken”. Reagan was “plain spoken”. Abe Lincoln was “plain spoken”. LBJ and Trump—vile in their profanity and attitudes. If Hillary Clinton had said this, we’d be all over her and refuting her. She has, in fact, degraded others in this fashion and conservatives have called her out on it. That’s good. That’s proper.

However, only a few decades have passed since people from places like Ireland and Italy were considered to have come from S-hole nations. Watch “Gangs of New York”. The Butcher was a real character in Five Points. The movie was based on truth.

So, when you allow the attitude that any nation is a S-hole nation, you are calling the people of that nation such. Really?

There are cultures I have spoken up against. I’m not impressed with the voodoo and satanic worship that goes on in Haiti. However, its not everybody there and much is based upon ignorance and centuries of suffering. I am not a fan of Islam, after actually taking the time to read their holy book. Yet, not all people in places like Iran are S–people. Again,, they are victims of ignorance, suffering and oppression.

When you rush to the defense of somebody of Trump’s ilk, you may want to think about what Jesus of Nazareth would have said or be saying, right now. WWJD? In his time, the Romans considered his land a S—hole nation, too.

Well … Truman apparently used that N-word considerably often as well, though Truman desegregated the military when it didn’t necessarily benefit his party. Johnson got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed and crowed that it would have blacks (and he didn’t use that word) voting Democratic for 200 years.

Next, Rick Esenberg:

Writing at American Greatness, Roger Kimball argues that Trump’s s***hole comments state a truth that our public sanctimony refuses to acknowledge. Some countries are awful places, America has no obligation to accept anyone and evertyone that wants to escape them and that immigrants from these countries – because of the ways in which these countries are broken – are less likely to do well here. He’s got a point. But while I’m all for exploring the limits of sanctimony, there is usually some reason that we’ve become sanctimonious. We don’t want to be indifferent to the problems of the rest of the world and we don’t want to slip into making easy judgments about others based on their race and nationality. And we want a President who takes care not to do these things. Words matter. Clarity and care in thinking matter. The “Trump is a racist threat to people of color” reaction to this is overblown and occasionally bordering on hysteria. But Trump did screw up. Again. And these screw-ups matter. He needs to understand that the first thing that comes to his mind often needs to be rethought. The Trumo administration has done some great things. The economy is booming, ISIS is in tatters and much (although not all) of the worst things that the Obama administration did are being reversed. We might actually be about to do something sensible about immigration. Yet his approval ratings are horrible. There’s a reason for that.

Finally, Michael Smith:

Let me state for the record that I am neither shocked or offended by a President – any President – who uses a profane word or phrase during a meeting. It’s done – I’ve done it – it may not be civil or appropriate but it happens. What also happens is that the same words are rarely used with the greater population of the office or company.

It is not unusual for a member of the meeting, one opposed to the discussion or decision, to continue to shop his or her grievances to the general population in search of sympathy and/or support.

Now, if Trump rolled such a phrase or word during a televised meeting with world leaders or at the SOTU address, that would be concerning to me.

Aside from the “hair on fire” reactions of the Democrats, their enablers in media and the NeverTrump factions, I’m nonplussed (can you actually be “plussed”?) and pretty sanguine about the whole deal. To the leaders of the UN, Mexico, the African states, the Middle Eastern regimes and Haiti, my responses to you all are:

1. Well? What part of “shithole” is wrong?
2. Why aren’t you upset your people are fleeing your country?
3. Have you ever asked yourself why refugees come FROM your country?
4. Fix your own damn problems before you start criticizing America – Americans aren’t flooding your shores and begging for asylum in your countries.

From a deeper perspective, the sum total of this ridiculous affray is the confirmation that Democrats believe every other people are better than Americans, and that American are the only humans on earth who should be criticized. Their words (and actions) clearly indicate a preference for any non-citizen over any citizen and they would never go the the lengths to protect an American citizen of any race, creed or color the way they do citizens of other countries.

Democrats are most assuredly the “Party of the People” – as long as “the people” are from another country.

Trump and Iran

Fred Fleitz:

President Trump will make some important decisions this month that could not only end the controversial 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran but also convey America’s support for Iranian protesters and hasten the overthrow of Iran’s ruling mullahs. By January 12, Mr. Trump must decide whether to renew a waiver of sanctions lifted by the Iran deal—i.e., the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The law requires him to make such a determination every 120 days. By January 15, the president must decide whether he will continue to “decertify” to Congress Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

When President Trump decertified the JCPOA to Congress in October, it looked like he was on track to withdraw from the deal if Congress did not use a 60-day window to pass legislation to toughen or “fix” it. However, even though Congress failed to act, Trump is now being pressured to extend the agreement, as its supporters claim that any action he might take to kill it would play into the hands of Iran’s ruling mullahs.

This approach is wrong. It would sustain a fraudulent agreement that has endangered global security and bolstered a brutal theocratic regime.

None of President Obama’s promises about the JCPOA — that it would keep Iran one year away from a nuclear weapon, improve U.S.–Iran relations, and bring Iran into the community of nations — have been borne out. Instead, the deal has emboldened Iran’s ruling mullahs to continue the nation’s international isolation, as Tehran spends billions of dollars on expensive belligerent activities, money that was made available to it through sanctions relief and that it could have spent to shore up the civilian economy.

There are many reports that the agreement did not appreciably slow Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran continues to make progress toward making nuclear-weapons fuel, as it is allowed under the deal to enrich uranium with over 5,000 centrifuges and to develop advanced centrifuges. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said in August 2017 that Iran would be able to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which can be quickly converted to weapons-grade uranium — within five days if the JCPOA is revoked.

There are credible reports, including several from German intelligence agencies, that Iran is cheating on the agreement. Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Tom Perdue (R., Ga.) raised concerns about Iranian noncompliance and cheating in a July 2017 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I also note that Tzvi Kahn, an analyst for Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, penned a brilliant op-ed for The Hill last October, debunking claims by JCPOA defenders that the IAEA has fully certified Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

The Iranian people were supposed to benefit from the Iran deal’s sanctions relief, but this didn’t happen. Instead, Iran’s ruling mullahs wasted billions of dollars in sanctions relief on the military and meddling in regional disputes. Iran’s 2016–17 military budget reportedly increased by 90 percent. In April 2017, Rouhani claimed that it had grown by 145 percent.

A week before the JCPOA was announced in July 2015, Iran offered the Syrian government a $1 billion line of credit. In September 2015, Iran sent troops to Syria. The Houthi rebels in Yemen are backed by the Iranian government and have attacked Saudi Arabia with missiles provided by Iran. In addition, some experts believe that Iran has used JCPOA sanction relief to help fund North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear-weapon and missile programs.

Iran probably has used sanctions relief to fund terrorism. In 2016, Tehran reportedly pledged $70 million to the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad to conduct “jihad” against the State of Israel. In 2017, the Iranian government quadrupled its annual support to Hezbollah, an Iranian terrorist proxy, to $830 million and resumed providing aid to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Although the amount of Iranian payments to Hamas has not been released, it is known that Tehran provided it with $50 million a month before relations between them broke down in 2012.

The Iranian government’s squandering of billions of dollars, made available through sanctions relief, on its military harmed the country’s poor economy and led to the recent protests after a rise in prices of eggs and poultry. Food prices are a sensitive issue in Iran. The price of many basic foods increased by as much as 40 percent over the past year. The nation also suffers high inflation, about 10 percent in 2016. Youth unemployment is at about 40 percent. There are reports that some Iranians are selling their organs to raise cash.

But the country’s troubled economy was not the only reason for the recent protests. They have been driven also by a large youth population (60 percent of Iranians are under 30) who are linked to the rest of the world through smartphones and yearn for the freedom and culture of the West. They resent their country’s corrupt and repressive theocracy. The protests have included the burning of Shiite seminaries and chants of “Death to Khameni” (Iran’s supreme leader) and “Death to the dictator.” Some protesters have said they are ready to die for regime change.

Unfortunately, it appears that the mullahs will succeed in quelling the protests. But they are part of what Iran expert Michael Ledeen has long predicted: an irreversible movement toward the day when the Iranian people topple a regime they despise.

President Trump took exactly the right approach in his vocal support of the Iranian protesters. The Trump administration deserves credit for its efforts to pressure European leaders at the U.N. to speak out in support of the protesters and against the Iranian government’s crackdown.

President Trump should persist in his moral clarity on Iran’s brutal and corrupt regime and on how the Obama administration enabled it. He should withdraw from the deal, re-impose all sanctions lifted by it, and impose new sanctions, targeting Iran’s missile program, sponsorship of terrorism, and human-rights violations.

Trump critics and JCPOA supporters urging the president to stick with the nuclear agreement argue that killing it would play into the hands of the Iranian mullahs, who would blame Iran’s economic hardship on new U.S. sanctions. In truth, many are making this argument because they remain committed to President Obama’s “blame America” foreign policy, according to which Iran was treated as a victim of previous U.S. administrations and not as a state sponsor of terror.

As for the “fake” Republican JCPOA opponents, President Trump should ignore them when he makes his decision on the fate of the nuclear deal this month. This influential group, which includes a handful of conservative officials and experts and a few Republican House members as well as Senator Bob Corker, national-security adviser H. R. McMaster, and Tillerson, claim to be fervent opponents of the JCPOA but insist that the president not tear up the deal and instead try to fix it by improving its verification provisions and duration and by addressing Iran’s missile program. Some of them hold the preposterous position that new sanctions could force Iran to return to the negotiating table to discuss amendments of the nuclear deal.

These people are not actually opponents of the JCPOA; they are opponents of the agreement in its current form. This is the same group that last summer fought to prevent President Trump from decertifying the nuclear deal because they did not want to irritate European leaders and the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Their fixes to the JCPOA are a ploy to prevent President Trump from tearing up the agreement. They have zero chance of being accepted by Iran, European states, China, or Russia. Despite recent claims by Secretary Tillerson that he is in negotiations with Congress to fix the nuclear deal, legislation to do this is unlikely to pass, because of bipartisan opposition.

Instead of following bad advice by JCPOA supporters and fake opponents, President Trump should listen to one of his strongest supporters, Ambassador John Bolton, who has argued persuasively that the Iran deal is dangerous and unfixable and that the United States should withdraw from it immediately. Bolton proposes that the U.S. do this through a clean withdrawal from the agreement, together with its allies, including Israel. He addresses the full range of threats posed by Iran.

In September, 45 national-security experts sent the president a letter urging him to implement the Bolton plan. I strongly urge President Trump to implement the plan quickly and to kill a fraudulent nuclear agreement that has severely harmed global security and the people of Iran.

The Tehran spring?

Stephen L. Miller asks an inconvenient question about this photo from London’s Daily Mail:

The most striking images coming out of the Iran human rights protests are not of men – they are of women. And while American media was slow and even hesitant to pick up that anything at all was actually happening – this, while protests ignited for what is now six full days around Iran, nine years after the Green Movement protests began – Twitter was flooded with videos and photos on the ground, in defiance of the Iranian regime’s social media policy.

Almost none was more striking than a young Iranian woman standing atop a container and shedding her hijab – a garment mandated and enforced upon her and all women in Iran – while simultaneously waving it as a flag. It was an act of defiance much like that of the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani, who was expelled from competition in Iran for refusing to wear a headscarf in competition.

There were unconfirmed reports that the unidentified girl was taken into custody and the spot where she stood had become a makeshift shrine, but because of the scattering of information on the ground there’s no way to confirm that.

Nevertheless, she became an immediate symbol for the growing movement now in its fifth full day. Twitter avatars were changed to an illustration capturing the moment. The drawing was spread on Facebook. But she wasn’t the only one.

Another video spread on social media shows a woman confronting security forces and proclaiming “Death to Khamenei” while crowds around her join in.

Mind you, this wasn’t inauguration protests from January of last year with celebrity activists screaming freely into microphones about how much they’ve thought about blowing up the White House. This was a woman endangering her life and possibly the lives of her loved ones to stand up to government forces of a hardline Islamic theocracy. She was risking death. And yet, nevertheless, she persisted.

Another woman was seen on tape declaring “You raised your fists and ruined our lives. Now we raise our fists. Be men, join us. I as a woman will stand in front and protect you. Come represent your country.”

Another image that managed to make its way into some mainstream coverage shows a young woman – reported to be a student – covering her face as she runs from tear gas just outside the University of Tehran, her fist raised defiantly in the air. She was a symbol of a growing secular youth movement merging with thousands of others protesting the regime’s involvement with Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria.

And as the protests entered their fifth night, another striking video on Twitter shows a woman demanding fair wages and an end to regime attempts to silence them. Women reportedly led protests in the city of Isfahan.

Every one of these searing images are of women. Women are the predominant face of this blossoming revolution. Women are risking the most to speak out against the Iranian Mullahs. So the question must be asked: Where are the women’s movement supporters in the United States and Europe, which gathered en masse to protest a newly inaugurated American president last year?

More specifically, empowered by the cultural muscle of #MeToo celebrity leaders and Women’s March organizers such as Linda Sarsour: Why are you silent? If these nameless women can speak out in the face of true tyranny, risking actual imprisonment and death, why can’t you?

Iranian women are not adorning pink knitted hats, or costumes resembling female genitalia. They won’t be attending award shows. They aren’t wearing red cloaks and bonnets inspired by their favorite Netflix show. No, these brave women are caught on videotape and in photographs for the world to see, and the women’s movements have yet to barely offer so much as a tweet or a Facebook post of support. The official Women’s March Twitter account has tweeted exactly zero times in support of women protesting in Iran. Zero.

Among such “women’s” leaders as Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Janaye Ingram and Linda Sarsour, only one tweet has been offered at all about the protests, and that came from Sarsour and had nothing to do with the women at all, but President Trump. “Is it just me or is Trump praising Iranian protesters AND at the same time also banned Iranians from entering the USA?”

What seems to be lost on Ms. Sarsour is that these women are currently risking their lives and protesting – not for the right to come to the United States – but for the rights to live and thrive in their own country.

I do sympathize with Sarsour and the women’s movement of the political left and their sudden predicament with supporting these brave women. Women in Iran are shedding their hijabs while progressive women’s movements in the United States try to hold them up as a symbol of empowerment and feminism – going so far as Shepard Fairey-esque illustrations attempting to mainstream the hijab into pop culture.

What’s empowering about the hijab is the choice to don one. Muslim women in the United States have that choice. Women in Iran do not. If these pro-women groups are all about choice for deprived women around the globe, now would be a good time to speak up on behalf of them.

Women in Iran are standing in defiance of the regime’s financial support of Hezbollah and Hamas rather than fair wages and human rights. But for progressive women’s groups to oppose Hamas in the face of these protests, it would mean abandoning months of pro-Palestinian support, capped off last week when pop singer Lorde cancelled her Tel Aviv show.

Sarsour, as a self-professed leading advocate for Muslim women in the United States and around the world, should be asked to clarify her position by journalists who are all too eager to present her with awards and speaking gigs: Does she support the women of Iran or the hardline theocracy that is currently brutalizing them?

Remaining silent in the face of this growing movement is another black eye for Sarsour in particular, who is facing charges of ignoring complaints of sexual abuse while she was director of the Arab American Association.

Of the prominent supporters for progressive women’s movements in Congress, only Bernie Sanders has offered measurable support for the protestors, tweeting, “It is the right of all people to speak out against their government. The government of Iran should respect this right and heed the voices of thousands of Iranians who are demonstrating across the country for better opportunities and a better future.”  Not hard stuff.

Chuck Schumer found time to tweet out support of the New York Giants football team keeping quarterback Eli Manning, but not for the women now splashed across news services worldwide.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand – leading progressive women’s rights advocates all – have not only not released statements in support of these women, they’ve said nothing in support of the protests at all. Not a press release. Not a tweet. Nothing.

Hillary Clinton has not offered support of the women beyond a tweet stating she hopes “their government responds peacefully and supports their hopes.” Hate to break it to the onetime self-declared ceiling breaker, but the government is very much not responding peacefully nor are they supporting their hopes. They are, indeed, emboldened financially by an Iran Nuclear deal she herself claimed partial credit for.

Powerful women in entertainment have never been hesitant to raise their voices and organize in support of their personal beliefs. And today, because of the #MeToo wave, they have never been more influential in politics or culture. Yet they remain silent. First Lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump could also certainly publicly show support, but would the left then just simply write off joining them?

Political support for the women of Iran would of course contradict the careful echo chamber narrative Democrat politicians spent months crafting in support of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran – which is in fact a major reason for the uprising happening now. The Mullahs squandered most of their financial windfall from the Iran deal on support for terror groups such as the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Hamas after promising to invest it in the people at home. The people of Iran have had enough of these empty promises.

More importantly, the women of Iran have had enough and are leading the way, with or without public support from the self-declared women’s groups on the left around the world, who have decided they are the public voice of resistance for women – except in places where a collective voice of support could actually help women the most. Their ideas of empowerment apparently stop where their politics start.

Despite a world attempting to rationalize looking away, a solitary woman stood up in defiance of the rule of law, risked her life and removed her head scarf. She did this at the risk of arrest, or death. She did this without public support from women’s groups who claim their entire existence is to support this very act of defiance. While they remain silent, I’m with her.

One assumes that U.S. liberals think being on the side of Barack Obama and his disastrous Iran policy is more important than being on the side of oppressed Muslim women. And apparently we can also conclude that Iranian men are either cowards or perfectly fine with being less oppressed than Iranian women are.


For, let’s see, about the 18th year and the 11th consecutive year, it’s time for That Was the Year That Was 2017, patterned on …

In contrast to the ’60s British TV series “That Was the Week That Was,” rarely has been a year of so many things that defied rational description. Some of them had nothing to do with America’s First Tweeter, either.

Let’s start with the worst trend of 2017, a continuation of the last few years — tribalism and people’s stubborn refusal to judge things on their merits. That includes unthinking praise of everything Donald Trump does, and knee-jerk criticism of anything Donald Trump does.

Worst trend number 1B is also a continuation of the last few years — hypersensitivity and, on the left, unthinking accusations of racism, sexism, misogyny and every other -ism they hate, and on the right, unthinking accusations of disloyalty, particularly when confronted by ideas they don’t agree with but cannot say why or what’s wrong with those ideas.

I saw an example of that Sunday — the latest Star Wars movie, which some conservatives have been complaining about because of what they claim to be too much diversity. As if normal viewers should care one way or another about that.

I’m certainly fine with the self-demolition of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, etc., whose past bad acts ended their careers this year. Due process was completely ignored, of course, which will make for interesting days depending on which liberal icon is next claimed to be a sexual harasser like Bill Clinton. (Who skated, as did Hillary, because of their positions on abortion rights.)

How did The Donald do? Rob Saker posted this list …

… I expected Jeff Sessions to be beyond horrible. I think I am on the record as saying I believe him to be an authoritarian religious zealot who isn’t very bright. To date, I can’t think of anything he has done that I disagree with (Any suggestions on how to prepare crow would be appreciated).

My list of great accomplishments…

1. Signed an Executive Order demanding that two regulations be killed for every new one creates. He cut 16 regulations for every one created, saving $8.1 billion.

2. Gorsuch on the SCOTUS.

3. Tax cut bill.

4. Jerusalem announcement, ending a game of delaying tactics and signaling our firm support for Israel (after they were attacked by Obama’s administration).

5. Revoking the EPA’s navigable waters interpretation, which was an egregious seizure of property rights.

6. Nominated 73 federal judges. Trump is filling up lower courts with lifetime appointees.

7. Recognized opioids as a national epidemic and putting resources against it. This is possibly Obama’s greatest failure.

8. Removed the gloves on the fight with ISIS. What was believed a year ago to be a war that would last years is now in its last stages.

9. Eliminating the Obamacare individual mandate.

10. Generating such confidence in the economy that a mature market saw record gains (Yes, Obama saw large gains but on an artificially low market thanks to the crash).

11. Respect for law making process. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice will cease the practice initiated by President Obama of issuing “guidance memos” to enact new regulations that sometimes have had the effect of changing federal laws.

12. Diversity of opinions. EPA Director Scott Pruitt placed 66 new experts on three different EPA scientific committees who espouse more conservative views than their predecessors.

13. Manufacturing. During Trump’s first six months, the manufacturing index was the highest it had been since 1983 under President Reagan. Michigan’s ISM reported its June barometer of manufacturing rose to 57.8, the fastest pace in three years (50 is flat).

14. Withdrawal from a Paris climate treaty that would have required huge sums on the US with no appreciable beneficial impact on the climate.

15. Rescinded Title IX “dear colleague” letter that led to kangaroo courts and the denial of due process. There are numerous general benefits such as VA reform, reducing waste in government spending, and a healthy uptick in government job attrition.

… to which was added:

Arctic wildlife drilling, keystone pipeline, UN budget cut
Hiring freeze at State.
Placing a Secretary of HUD who has lived in public housing.
With respect to policy toward North Korea, no longer kicking the can down the road.

How did the stock market do?

Based on admittedly a small sample size, Trump could be said to be the most pro-business president in the nation’s history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained one-third in the 14 months since Trump was elected president.

As someone who did not vote for Trump but has vowed to praise Trump when praise is due and condemn Trump when condemnation is due (see previous comment about tribalism), I find that to be a pretty good list of accomplishments, whether Trump actually accomplished them or regular old Republicans did. Trump’s various idiotic tweets and public statements make some people forget those actual accomplishments, while other question, with some validity, who deserves credit — Trump or “establishment” Republicans — for those accomplishments.

Meanwhile, how was Gov. Scott Walker’s year?

The project at the top made Kevin Binversie comment:

You know who I feel sorry for sometimes? The children of deeply-committed Scott Walker haters who due to their parents’ obsessions will never own either an iPhone, Nintendo Switch or 3DS.

All three products are assembled by Foxconn.

The MacIver Institute assembled its own top 10 list, which included:

#10 – WISDOT Audit

It was a bad sign when Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb resigned just weeks before the Legislative Audit Bureau was set to release a report on the State Highway Program. When the report came out in January, it was in a word – devastating.

The auditors found the DOT regularly breaks state law in budgeting, negotiating, communicating, and managing contracts. Among these statutory violations: the department does not always solicit bids from more than one vendor, it does not spread out solicitations throughout the year, it does not post required information on its website, its cost estimates to the governor are incomplete, and it skips steps in the evaluation process for selecting projects. These practices manifest themselves through an inescapable reality: the cost of major projects tends to double after the DOT gets approval from the governor and Legislature to proceed. The auditors looked at 16 current highway projects and found they are over-budget by $3.1 billion.

Some public officials tried to spin the report, claiming it indicated the state is not spending enough on transportation. That didn’t fly. Instead the audit became an insurmountable obstacle for those seeking to raise the gas tax. It also sparked a series of reforms that aimed to make the DOT more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

#8 – UW Regents Protect Free Speech

As protests and demonstrations gripped campuses across the country, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents took a stand for free expression this year. In October, the Regents voted to allow any UW campus to expel students who repeatedly disrupt speakers or stifle speech.

The sole dissenting vote was that of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who is running for governor.

Jose Delgado, a UW Regent who came to America from his native Cuba in 1961 at the age of 13, spoke to MacIver about his yes vote. Delgado’s family fled the oppressive Castro regime, which brutally struck down dissenting speech. Delgado said that back then, the Cuban government would simply arrest and murder anyone who disagreed with it. For that reason, the 70-year-old said, he has always been passionate about his freedom of speech as an American. He’s been deeply troubled by the decline of peaceful dialogue, especially on university campuses.

Summing up his reason for the vote, Delgado said “I cannot make you listen, but I can certainly prevent others from preventing you from listening. You have the right to listen.”

#7 – Gas Tax Battle Heats Up

Predictably, the forces behind a push to increase the state gas tax, vehicle registration fee, or other source of revenue for transportation saddled up in 2017.

Gov. Walker – insistent he would not sign a budget that raised the gas tax or registration fees – made the first move when he appointed Dave Ross to be secretary of the Department of Transportation after the resignation of Mark Gottlieb. Since he took over in January, Ross has been steadfast in insisting the department doesn’t need new revenue, it needs to find savings in the multibillion dollar budget it already has.

Members of the Legislature spent the summer sparring over the issue. A protracted public relations battle raged across the state – possibly manifesting itself in a series of phony letters to the editor that appeared in newspapers from Janesville to Rice Lake begging lawmakers to increase taxes. All along, MacIver was suspicious that more revenue was truly needed – and we found plenty of examples to back us up.

Proponents of an increased gas tax have advocated putting more money into a department with a record of wasting it. We, at MacIver, refuse to just go along with this ‘increase taxes first, ask questions later’ mentality. We’ve suggested instead that Secretary Ross should have the opportunity to scour the department for savings before Madison lawmakers foist a permanent tax increase on Wisconsinites.

#6 – Russia, Russia, Russia!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no human contact throughout all of 2017, you’ve likely heard the words “Russia” and “collusion” on a near-daily basis.

Ever since President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, liberals – still in shock that they lost – have been charging that the Trump campaign was working with Russian agents behind the scenes to hack the election, propagate fake news, and swing the election. Throughout 2017, a special investigation being run by former FBI Director Robert Mueller has produced nonstop daily headlines that might sound nefarious to the casual observer. But other than nabbing Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI (never do that, by the way) the probe has so far come up mostly empty-handed.

We saw the birth of this story all the way back in December 2016, when members of Wisconsin’s electoral college cast their ballots for Donald Trump at the state Capitol – the first time Wisconsin Republicans did so since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide. While they voted, they were serenaded by protesters screaming about selling out the country to Russia and Putin and ushering in fascism. …

#4 – Foxconn

At the beginning of 2017, it’s likely the vast majority of Wisconsinites had never heard of Foxconn, but most had likely used their products.

Then earlier this year, President Trump hinted that the state would soon get good economic news when visiting a Snap-on plant in Kenosha in April. The mystery soon was lifted, and a months-long saga of negotiations, deal-making, and legislative action ended in a contract signing between the electronics manufacturing giant and the State of Wisconsin.

The deal that was inked is the largest development agreement of its kind in American history, offering Foxconn up to $3 billion in tax incentives if the company invests $10 billion in a massive manufacturing campus and creates 13,000 jobs. Foxconn’s Wisconsin operation — now on track to begin construction in 2018 — won’t just be a plant, it will be a small city unto itself in southern Racine County.

Emerging over the course of a few months in 2017, the Foxconn deal will surely be a transformational project for the entire state of Wisconsin. The company’s leaders have signaled their goal is to establish a high-tech manufacturing hub right here in Wisconsin to rival (and supply hardware to) Silicon Valley.

From groundbreaking ceremonies to other new announcements related to the massive new development, we expect 2018 to bring lots more news about Foxconn.

#3 – Wisconsin State Budget: Entire Taxes Eliminated, No Tax Increase

What would a list of the top stories of the year be without talking about the state budget? It might’ve crossed the finish line months late, but the 2017-19 budget included some historic reforms, including completely eliminating two taxes.

Under the new budget, the state Forestry Mill Tax and Alternative Minimum tax are both deleted from the books. The budget also holds the line on income taxes and continues the push to reduce the property tax burden, while increasing spending in classrooms.

It’s easy to forget the old days when Jim Doyle and the Democrats were raising every tax imaginable and increasing spending by leaps and bounds. It’s also easy to take today’s momentum for reducing taxes for granted.

It’s for exactly that reason that here at MacIver, we work hard to celebrate these conservative wins. It’s certainly not every day that entire taxes are eliminated, and it’s certainly not every state that is determined to walk down a path of lowering taxes and shrinking government. On, Wisconsin.

#2 – John Doe Returns

In last year’s annual roundups, we had hoped that 2017 would bring a new era of toleration for ideas from all sides of the debate, including for the victims of the John Doe probes. With the Supreme Court officially declaring the efforts illegal and ordering that they be shut down immediately, we hoped that those victims would see some justice.

After all, those individuals had their private information illegally seized, their homes searched in pre-dawn raids, their rights to free speech trampled, and their names dragged through the mud, all while an unsympathetic media continued to cover the story with an eye on Gov. Walker.

Unfortunately, in 2017, that new era did not come. Rather, we learned that government employees had continued their unconstitutional search through private records. The very watchdog meant to uphold the government’s standard of ethics seized even more personal records – including private text messages between a Senator and her daughter – and put them in a file labeled “opposition research.”

This all came to light after the state’s Department of Justice looked into leaks, suspecting that private records had been illegally handed off by members of the Ethics Commission – the old Government Accountability Board. In the end, the DOJ declined to press charges in the leak, saying that the wrongdoing was so widespread and the data so mishandled that they couldn’t determine who exactly was the source of the leak.

In many ways, John Doe returned to headlines this year…but in reality, we found out that it never went away at all. In its report, the DOJ itself refers to the new probe as “John Doe 3.” Just before Christmas, the Senate Committee on Organization voted to authorize the DOJ to dig deeper into the wrongdoing. While we hoped that the saga would come to an end, we now know that the last chapter of this story has not yet been written.

Without further adieu, the biggest story of 2017…

#1 – Time to Cut Taxes – the federal government’s first go at significant tax reform since ‘86

The last time they did this, Top Gun was the highest-grossing movie in America, the world met Ferris Bueller, and Whitney Houston’s self-titled album was at the top of the charts. That’s right — it was 1986 the last time the federal government took on tax reform. Boy, has the world changed.

This year, congress made good on its promise to pass a tax reform bill and get it signed into law by Christmas. Among many (many) other things, the bill cuts both individual and corporate rates, cleans the tax code, and nearly doubles the standard deduction. According to the Department of Revenue, the average Wisconsin family will see a tax cut of more than $2,500. That’s more than $200 every month that hard-working families won’t have to turn over to the IRS.

Not only will individuals be able to file their taxes on a form the size of a postcard, our economy will take notice, too. By lowering the tax burden on everyday Americans and unlocking the secret to economic success, the plan is undeniably pro-growth.

Sean Davis has a list of the top 10 undercovered stories, including …

2. The economy roared

The U.S. economy came roaring back in 2017. GDP growth is strong and steady, and the unemployment rate now approaches lows not seen since the early 2000s. The economy has added over 1.9 million payroll jobs this year. Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high. The 2017 economic recovery is nonetheless a major story widely ignored by the political press. …

4. Islamic State was crushed in Raqqah and Mosul

A year ago, the Islamic State wasn’t just on the rise in the Middle East, it was firmly in charge, with wide swaths of the region under its control. But in October, U.S.-backed forces completed the total liberation of Raqqah, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital. That followed the liberation of Mosul, a major Iraqi city captured by the Islamic State in 2014. In less than a year, Trump and his national security team accomplished what the previous administration suggested was impossible.

5. Thanks to James Comey, the FBI’s reputation is in tatters

This year we learned that the FBI’s top ranks were infested with political actors eager to use the agency to settle scores. Not only did former Director James Comey abscond with confidential documents, he leaked them to his friends and the press, then refused to give those documents to Congress. In addition, his top deputies — those responsible for investigating both Hillary Clinton and Trump — were sharing text messages about how important it was to defeat Trump. One of these Comey deputies even mused about deploying a secret “insurance policy” to keep Trump out of the White House. Comey’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t equitable enforcement of the law; it was the corrupt politicization of the agency’s leadership ranks and the destruction of its reputation.

6. We still know nothing about what motivated the Vegas shooter

Months after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, we don’t know why the gunman fired on a crowd of innocent concertgoers. If law enforcement authorities have any leads or theories, they’re not sharing them with citizens eager for answers. Perhaps the feds don’t have a clue, either. Either way, it’s shocking that, months later, the country is still in the dark about what happened.

7. The Iran deal’s facade collapsed

Despite the Obama administration’s assurances that Iran would be a reliable partner for peace, the opposite has proved true. By deliberately funding and fomenting terror against the U.S. and its allies in the region, Iran has shown that it cannot be trusted, and the Obama administration’s claims about the peaceful intentions of the top terror sponsor on Earth had no basis in reality.

8. Persecution of religious minorities continues across the globe

In the U.K., Jews were targeted in record numbers in 2017. Just weeks ago, a synagogue in Sweden was firebombed. Throughout India, Christians continue to be targeted by violent religious extremists. In North Korea and China, totalitarian atheist governments regularly imprison and torture those who openly worship and proselytize. And in the Middle East, Muslims remain the No. 1 target of radical jihadists hell-bent on purging from the Earth anyone who rejects the authority of the Islamic State’s caliphate. …

10. Due process and rule of law were restored to college campuses

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos finally restored the rule of law to college campuses and put an end to disastrous campus courts. Prior to her much-needed rule change, campuses across the country declared that secret proceedings, bereft of due process, were the best way to handle sexual assault allegations. That kangaroo system, justifiably gutted by DeVos, resulted in predators who were allowed to avoid law enforcement, victims who never received justice, and innocent people who were denied basic rights such as jury trials and access to attorneys.

As far as football was concerned, to quote Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of recent times. The Badgers had their best season that didn’t include a Rose Bowl berth, winning a record 13 games and their first Orange Bowl. With a young team, this season might not be the best season of the decade.

The Badgers’ season was particularly good because the Packers’ season was quite bad, thanks to the second broken collarbone of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career, which served to expose all the holes the Packers have on both offense (including backup quarterback) and defense (for which defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be sacrificed). Every football problem today can be traced back to the players, but the person responsible for getting those players, general manager Ted Thompson, hasn’t shown signs of departure, voluntarily (he could retire) or not.

As always, may your 2018 be better than your 2017. It can’t be stranger … can it?

Unhinged Nations

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton:

As an assistant secretary of state in the George H.W. Bush administration, I worked vigorously to repeal a hateful United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. Foreign diplomats frequently told me the effort was unnecessary. My Soviet counterpart, for example, said Resolution 3379 was only a piece of paper gathering dust on a shelf. Why stir up old controversies years after its 1975 adoption?

We ignored the foreign objections and persisted because that abominable resolution cast a stain of illegitimacy and anti-Semitism on the U.N. It paid off. On Dec. 16, 1991, the General Assembly rescinded the offensive language.

Now, a quarter-century later, the U.N. has come close to repeating Resolution 3379’s original sin. Last week the U.N. showed its true colors with a 128-9 vote condemning President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

This seemingly lopsided outcome obscured a significant victory and major opportunity for the president. Thirty-five countries abstained, and 21 didn’t vote at all. Days earlier the Security Council had endorsed similar language, 14-1, defeated only by the U.S. veto. The margin narrowed significantly once Mr. Trump threatened to penalize countries that voted against the U.S. This demonstrated once again that America is heard much more clearly at the U.N. when it puts its money where its mouth is. (In related news, Guatemala announced Sunday it will move its embassy to Jerusalem, a good example for others.)

While imposing financial repercussions on individual governments is entirely legitimate, the White House should also reconsider how Washington funds the U.N. more broadly. Should the U.S. forthrightly withdraw from some U.N. bodies (as we have from UNESCO and as Israel announced its intention to do on Friday)? Should others be partially or totally defunded? What should the government do with surplus money if it does withhold funds?

Despite decades of U.N. “reform” efforts, little or nothing in its culture or effectiveness has changed. Instead, despite providing the body with a disproportionate share of its funding, the U.S. is subjected to autos-da-fé on a regular basis. The only consolation, at least to date, is that this global virtue-signaling has not yet included burning the U.S. ambassador at the stake.

Turtle Bay has been impervious to reform largely because most U.N. budgets are financed through effectively mandatory contributions. Under this system, calculated by a “capacity to pay” formula, each U.N. member is assigned a fixed percentage of each agency’s budget to contribute. The highest assessment is 22%, paid by the U.S. This far exceeds other major economies, whose contribution levels are based on prevailing exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity. China’s assessment is just under 8%.

Why does the U.S. tolerate this? It is either consistently outvoted when setting the budgets that determine contributions or has joined the “consensus” to avoid the appearance of losing. Yet dodging embarrassing votes means acquiescing to increasingly high expenditures.

The U.S. should reject this international taxation regime and move instead to voluntary contributions. This means paying only for what the country wants—and expecting to get what it pays for. Agencies failing to deliver will see their budgets cut, modestly or substantially. Perhaps America will depart some organizations entirely. This is a performance incentive the current assessment-taxation system simply does not provide.

Start with the U.N. Human Rights Council. Though notorious for its anti-Israel bias, the organization has never hesitated to abuse America. How many know that earlier this year the U.N. dispatched a special rapporteur to investigate poverty in the U.S.? American taxpayers effectively paid a progressive professor to lecture them about how evil their country is.

The U.N.’s five regional economic and social councils, which have no concrete accomplishments, don’t deserve American funding either. If nations believe these regional organizations are worthwhile—a distinctly dubious proposition—they are entirely free to fund them. Why America is assessed to support them is incomprehensible.

Next come vast swaths of U.N. bureaucracy. Most of these budgets could be slashed with little or no real-world impact. Start with the Office for Disarmament Affairs. The U.N. Development Program is another example. Significant savings could be realized by reducing other U.N. offices that are little more than self-licking ice cream cones, including many dealing with “Palestinian” questions. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees could be consolidated into the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many U.N. specialized and technical agencies do important work, adhere to their mandates and abjure international politics. A few examples: the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. They shouldn’t be shuttered, but they also deserve closer scrutiny.

Some will argue incorrectly that unilaterally moving to voluntary contributions violates the U.N. Charter. In construing treaties, like contracts, parties are absolved from performance when others violate their commitments. Defenders of the assessed-contribution model would doubtless not enjoy estimating how often the charter has been violated since 1945.

If the U.S. moved first, Japan and some European Union countries might well follow America’s lead. Elites love the U.N., but they would have a tough time explaining to voters why they are not insisting their contributions be used effectively, as America has. Apart from risking the loss of a meaningless General Assembly vote—the Security Council vote and veto being written into the Charter itself—the U.S. has nothing substantial to lose.

Thus could Mr. Trump revolutionize the U.N. system. The swamp in Turtle Bay might be drained much more quickly than the one in Washington.

Or the U.S. could tell the UN to leave. The UN includes countries that are not friends of the U.S., and could be said to be enemies of the U.S. — for instance, Iran. Indeed, it could be argued that the U.S. and actual democracies should form their own national organization and leave the Muslim theocracies and other enemies of the U.S. to stew in their own hatreds. The moral relativism of the UN is one reason why Donald Trump is president.

Proof that Republicans know the proper role of the UN and Democrats do not can be found in the list of UN ambassadors appointed by GOP presidents — Jeane Kirkpatrick by Ronald Reagan, Madeline Albright by Bill Clinton, Bolton by George W. Bush, Susan Rice and Samantha Power by Barack Obama, and now Nikki Haley by Trump. Democratic UN ambassadors bend over to the UN; Republican U.S. ambassadors (including Kirkpatrick, who was actually a Democrat) stand up to the UN and its collecting of America-haters and anti-Semites.

Twice wrong

Josh Meyer exposes another of what could be the Wall Street Journal Best of the Web Today’s Longest Books Ever Written — bad decisions of the Obama administration:

In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.

They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.

The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

The untold story of Project Cassandra illustrates the immense difficulty in mapping and countering illicit networks in an age where global terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have merged, but also the extent to which competing agendas among government agencies — and shifting priorities at the highest levels — can set back years of progress.

And while the pursuit may be shadowed in secrecy, from Latin American luxury hotels to car parks in Africa to the banks and battlefields of the Middle East, the impact is not: In this case, multi-ton loads of cocaine entering the United States, and hundreds of millions of dollars going to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization with vast reach.

Obama had entered office in 2009 promising to improve relations with Iran as part of a broader rapprochement with the Muslim world. On the campaign trail, he had asserted repeatedly that the Bush administration’s policy of pressuring Iran to stop its illicit nuclear program wasn’t working, and that he would reach out to Tehran to reduce tensions.

The man who would become Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and then CIA director, John Brennanwent further. He recommended in a policy paper that “the next president has the opportunity to set a new course for relations between the two countries” through not only a direct dialogue, but “greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system.” …

Project Cassandra members say administration officials also blocked or undermined their efforts to go after other top Hezbollah operatives including one nicknamed the ‘GhostThe GhostOne of the most mysterious alleged associates of Safieddine, secretly indicted by the U.S., linked to multi-ton U.S.-bound cocaine loads and weapons shipments to Middle East.,” allowing them to remain active despite being under sealed U.S. indictment for years. People familiar with his case say the Ghost has been one of the world’s biggest cocaine traffickers, including to the U.S., as well as a major supplier of conventional and chemical weapons for use by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his people.

And when Project Cassandra agents and other investigators sought repeatedly to investigate and prosecute Abdallah Safieddine, Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran, whom they considered the linchpin of Hezbollah’s criminal network, the Justice Department refused, according to four former officials with direct knowledge of the cases.

The administration also rejected repeated efforts by Project Cassandra members to charge Hezbollah’s military wing as an ongoing criminal enterprise under a federal Mafia-style racketeering statute, task force members say. And they allege that administration officials declined to designate Hezbollah a “significant transnational criminal organization” and blocked other strategic initiatives that would have given the task force additional legal tools, money and manpower to fight it.

… other sources independent of Project Cassandra confirmed many of the allegations in interviews with POLITICO, and in some cases, in public comments.

One Obama-era Treasury official, Katherine Bauer, in little-noticed written testimony presented last February to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, acknowledged that “under the Obama administration … these [Hezbollah-related] investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.”


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.

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.