How Your Tax Dollars Went to Harry Reid’s Friend to Research UFOs

by Jim Geraghty

From the Monday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Harry Reid’s Secret UFO Research Program

To a lot of people paying attention to the news Sunday, the New York Times’ scoop was that from 2007 to 2012, the Pentagon had a secret program to study UFOs.

But I feel like the story could have had a completely different emphasis: Three senators — Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens — sent $22 million in taxpayers money to Reid’s buddy Robert Bigelow could research UFOs. And no one else in the U.S. Senate was allowed to know!

Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, said he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Mr. Reid said in a recent interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”

None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid said. “This was so-called black money,” he said. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.” Mr. Reid was referring to the Pentagon budget for classified programs…

Contracts obtained by The Times show a congressional appropriation of just under $22 million beginning in late 2008 through 2011. The money was used for management of the program, research and assessments of the threat posed by the objects.

The funding went to Mr. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.

As a plotline to The X-Files, this is awesome; in real life, this looks like a classic abuse of  budgetary authority. Just what did the taxpayers get for this $22 million sent to Harry Reid’s friend?

To hear these guys tell it, the aliens are visiting regularly, the military knows, and only a few, lonely, Fox Mulder-like officials are willing to speak about it, while everyone else proceeds in naive denial:

The program collected video and audio recordings of reported U.F.O. incidents, including footage from a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet showing an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves. The Navy pilots can be heard trying to understand what they are seeing. “There’s a whole fleet of them,” one exclaims. Defense officials declined to release the location and date of the incident.

…A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. Mr. Reid’s request for the special designation was denied.

As we say on the Three Martini Lunch, “way to go, Nevada. Way to go.”

Monday links

by debbywitt

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903.

Why Is Your First Instinct After Hurting Your Finger to Put It in Your Mouth?

The Scientific American Guide to Cheating in the Olympics.

How to Have a British Christmas.

So, it’s not just humans – High-Ranking Male Primates Keep Wafting Their Sex Stink at Females, Who Hate It.

5 Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Someone, Backed By Research.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include how rats conquered New York City, a ‘smart condom’ that will give you more insight into your sex life than you (probably) want, and calculations showing that, if spiders worked together, they could eat all the humans in a year.

The Trump Administration Bans ‘Diversity’

by Roger Clegg

The Washington Post reported in a couple of stories over the weekend that the Trump administration has directed some Department of Health and Human Services components to stop using certain words in the budget process, including “diversity.” It’s not known whether other agencies have received such instructions, or what the reason for the direction is, but speaking just of the ban on “diversity,” I’d say this is a promising development.

Of course, the word has a legitimate meaning, but these days that’s not what it’s used for in 99 instances out of a hundred. For a long time, rather, the word has been used simply to mask a pro-preference, anti-merit, anti-assimilation agenda that ill behooves any federal government agency. Indeed, the government is banned by the Constitution and civil-rights laws from using racial and ethnic classifications except in special circumstances, and so, for instance, when an agency is “striving for more diversity in hiring,” it is likely breaking the law in doing so. Either that, or the term belongs in that category of words “used so frequently that they were essentially meaningless,” to quote the Post. In academia, I’ve noted that the word should be replaced with the barnyard expletive to clarify its meaning.

So, sure, why not ban it?

The Higher-Ed ‘Reformers’ Who Messed It Up in the First Place

by George Leef

There is a great deal wrong with American higher education. Unfortunately, some of the biggest players in the reform movement are the same folks who helped to create the mess we are now in.

That is Anthony Hennen’s argument in this Martin Center article. In particular, the Lumina Foundation, which has for many years been pushing the destructive notion that the more people who process through college, the better off the country will be, is now positioning itself as a voice for change. Lumina is behind a policy shop called Higher Learning Advocates. Hennen writes, “Higher Learning Advocates are not likely to stray too far from academia’s overall goals in the future; instead, they are more likely to prop up an unstable Ivory Tower than promote substantive repairs. One thing Higher Learning Associates may do is to help drown out the voices of reformers who do not toe the Lumina and [Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] line and offer innovative and alternative perspectives instead.”

Funding for Higher Learning Advocates also comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, sadly another loud voice for educational central planning. The people who are chosen to work in these places are never much interested in downsizing the government’s role and letting the marketplace work in education.

Lumina advances its educational vision through its grantmaking. Hennen explains:

Historically, Lumina’s strategy has been one of “grant action” where it provides funding to organizations that work to advance Lumina’s goals. Grant action means working with federal and state policymakers and various nonprofit groups, such as think tanks in higher education, rather than directly funding colleges and universities (though that may happen too). Inside Higher Ed called this an ‘advocacy’ approach, where a group engages in policy analysis and advises policymakers.

This is a big reason why higher-education changes never amount to more than tinkering at the margins and then usually in useless ways. The central assumption that it’s the job of the federal government to maximize our “educational attainment” is never challenged.

Bruni ‘Gets It’ about Disability Bias — Except for Assisted Suicide

by Wesley J. Smith

When New York Times columnist Frank Bruni isn’t driving me nuts, it’s usually because he’s on vacation from his (very well written) column.

Today was an exception. Bruni writes evocatively about how people with disabilities “disappear” from the view and concern of mainstream life.

It seems Bruni met Nancy, a woman with post polio syndrome on a cruise where he was an invited speaker. After initially attending the formal presentations, she stopped coming because, using a wheelchair, she was ignored by fellow attendees. From, “Are You Old? Infirm? Then Kindly Disappear:”

The more I thought about her experience, the more I realized how widespread it undoubtedly is, and how cruel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than two million Americans use wheelchairs for their daily activities and 6.5 million depend on canes, crutches or walkers. And the country is getting grayer and grayer.

There are roughly 50 million Americans age 65 and older, representing about 15 percent of the population. According to projections, there will be 98 million by 2060, representing nearly 25 percent.

Yes indeed. More Bruni:

Nancy increasingly makes peace with such neglect but told me that an elderly, infirm friend of hers has another approach. “She tells people to go to hell,” Nancy said. “I need to take a course from her.”

I don’t know about that. But the rest of us have a lot to learn.

Yes, we do.

Here’s the thing: Dying people often face the same kind of isolating exclusion as people with disabilities. Indeed, suicidal desires are sometimes exacerbated by the very kind of isolation that caused Nancy to feel invisible.

Disability rights organizations such as Not Dead Yet point out–often to deaf ears–that the reasons people support assisted suicide for the terminally ill would be just as applicable to people with disabilities.

Yet, in a column a few years ago, Bruni applauded legalized assisted suicide.

But these issues–invisibility of the elderly, disabled, and dying–are symbiotically connected to the question of assisted suicide.

Why do terminally ill people decide to swallow doctor-prescribed poison?

It is very rarely pain. Rather, people express the same kind of existential anguish that Nancy complained against.

For example, about 41% of people who commit assisted suicide in Oregon fear being a burden. A huge majority (90%) worry about losing dignity–which can be another way of saying that they fear being looked upon with askance by those they love.

Indeed, the poster woman for assisted suicide, Brittany Maynard, wrote that one reason she was going to kill herself was the worry that her family might not remember her well, but instead, carry bad memories of her decline and demise.

When people support legalizing assisted suicide, they unintentionally send the message to people like Nancy–who would probably qualify for euthanasia in places like Belgium, Netherlands, and Canada–that it is compassionate for us to support their literal disappearance.

So, good for Frank Bruni for discovering and highlighting a significant societal problem. Now, as a compassionate man, he needs to connect some important dots and apply his newfound wisdom to arguing against the unintentional isolating abandonment of assisted suicide.

Jerusalem and Middle Eastern Christians

by Nicholas Frankovich

Christian leaders in the Middle East oppose U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The underlying issue is that Christians in the region side with the Palestinian cause against the Jewish state, on the whole. Exceptions exist, and one could argue that pro-Israeli Christians ought to be the majority in the churches of the Middle East, but that would be another blog post, or a book.

Some American Christians, particularly Evangelicals, seem unaware that any tension exists between the Israeli flag on their wall and the Arabic letter nun — N, for Nazarene, a symbol of solidarity with persecuted Christians in Arab countries — that they wear on their lapel. Many who do see the tension look away, because they don’t know how to resolve the apparent conflict.

Christians who live in the Arab world share with the Muslim majorities there a culture shot through with hostility toward Israel and Jews. In some cases the Christians may play up their opposition to Israel to inoculate themselves against Islamist wrath. Their advocates here in America sometimes stress that cultural and political context, to try to minimize the dilemma for those of us who are sympathetic to persecuted Christians but also support Israel against its enemies and detractors.

When addressing American audiences, advocates for the Christians tend to maintain a polite silence on the subject of Israel. It’s an unwritten rule, apparently. Ted Cruz broke it a couple of years ago at an event sponsored by the group In Defense of Christians. He may have done so cynically, to create a drama and gin up support among Evangelicals, but the reaction of the Middle Eastern Christians who booed his praise of Israel was instructive nonetheless.

Christians in the Middle East have no armies. That makes them easy to dismiss from the negotiating table. But they are also disproportionately educated and helpful to the project of cultivating liberal democratic civil society. Then again, they align themselves with forces opposed to U.S. strategic aims. We saw it in Iraq, where they backed Saddam Hussein because they found some protection under his relatively secular regime, and then we saw it in Syria, where they back Assad for parallel reasons.

Last summer an Eastern Orthodox priest with roots in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and with connections to Damascus explained to me his view of the proxy war, as he saw it, in Syria. On one side were Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Israel. On the other side, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia. The second side happened to be good for the Christians, although they were not its focus, just as for the most part they were collateral damage, not the target, for the forces arrayed against Assad.

Feel free to dispute his analysis or his understanding of who constituted the opposing camps. I sketch out his map of the conflict because it’s a window into how Christians of that region see America’s involvement in their homelands. Of course he reminded me about the religious persecutions that raged in Iraq after Saddam’s fall. If American foreign-policy conservatives are wary of Middle Eastern Christians, the wariness is mutual.

Typically, advocates for the Christians skirt the issue. They practice diplomacy. But they don’t fool anyone. Maybe they would do better to acknowledge more clearly that Christians in the Middle East are not always on America’s side in regional conflicts — and that America is not always on theirs.

A friend who has changed careers to dedicate himself to helping the Christians of Iraq and Syria says, “They’re like us: not perfect.” Lay such candor on those who are in a position to make or influence American foreign policy. If they conceal, from themselves or others, some distaste or prejudice that leads them to discount the humanitarian case for aiding persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, flush it out. Bring the disagreement into the daylight. Then hash it out.

If Robert Mueller Will Ultimately Vindicate Trump, Why Fire Him?

by Rich Lowry

We are seeing two trends in the Robert Mueller matter that should be pulling in opposite directions, but aren’t:

1) As far as we can tell at the moment (and this is necessarily speculative), Mueller doesn’t seem to be closing in on a collusion conspiracy. If that’s true, he’s also unlikely to be closing in on a real obstruction-of-justice case. In other words, the best bet right now is that, after catching up people guilty of various, extraneous crimes, the Mueller investigation will leave President Trump relatively untouched.

2) Momentum is building for the idea of firing Robert Mueller. This is a result of the disturbing evidence of political bias of top FBI agents and prosecutors, (we editorialized about this Thursday) but is completely at odds with point 1.

If Trump knows he has something to hide that’s potentially impeachable, he should probably — putting ethics and the truth aside — fire Mueller and try to out-run the law. Otherwise, cashiering Mueller would be insane. It would be like firing Comey only worse. If Democrats took the House — and firing Mueller would increase the odds of that happening — Mueller might be the lead witness at an impeachment hearing, even if there isn’t any Russian collusion.

I have to say that there would be something perfect about this — a special counsel investigating, in part, the circumstances that led to his appointment would be fired, perhaps leading to an impeachment about the circumstances of his ouster. It’d be the most self-referential alleged high crime in the history of the republic.

Listen to the Great Books Podcast

by John J. Miller

Next week we’ll post the final Great Books podcast of 2017. Subject: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Subscribe for free today and have it delivered to your device immediately upon release. Also, catch up on podcasts from recent weeks, such as: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain; and The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. We’ll be back in 2018 with more episodes

Sweden and the Politics of Denial

by Andrew Stuttaford

Paulina Neuding, writing in the New York Times:

This past Saturday, a Hanukkah party at a synagogue in Goteborg [Gothenburg], Sweden, was abruptly interrupted by Molotov cocktails. They were hurled by a gang of men in masks at the Jews, mostly teenagers, who had gathered to celebrate the holiday.

Two days later, two fire bombs were discovered outside the Jewish burial chapel in the southern Swedish city of Malmo.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

…Today, entering a synagogue anywhere in Sweden usually requires going through security checks, including airport-like questioning. At times of high alert, police officers with machine guns guard Jewish schools. Children at the Jewish kindergarten in Malmo play behind bulletproof glass. Not even funerals are safe from harassment.

Jewish schoolteachers have reported hiding their identity. A teacher who wouldn’t even share the city where she teaches for fear of her safety told a Swedish news outlet: “I hear students shouting in the hallway about killing Jews.” Henryk Grynfeld, a teacher at a high school in a mostly immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, was told by a student: “We’re going to kill all Jews.” He said other students yell “yahoud,” the Arabic word for Jew, at him.

A spokesman for Malmo’s Jewish community put the situation starkly. You “don’t want to display the Star of David around your neck,” he said. Or as spokesman for the Goteborg synagogue put it, “It’s a constant battle to live a normal life, and not to give in to the threats, but still be able to feel safe.”

Historically, anti-Semitism in Sweden could mainly be attributed to right-wing extremists. While this problem persists, a study from 2013 showed that 51 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden were attributed to Muslim extremists. Only 5 percent were carried out by right-wing extremists; 25 percent were perpetrated by left-wing extremists.

Yes, left-wing extremists. Note that too. 

Meanwhile:

Swedish politicians have no problem condemning anti-Semitism carried out by right-wingers. When neo-Nazis planned a march that would go past the Goteborg synagogue on Yom Kippur this September, for example, it stirred up outrage across the political spectrum. A court ruled that the demonstrators had to change their route.

There is, however, tremendous hesitation to speak out against hate crimes committed by members of another minority group in a country that prides itself on welcoming minorities and immigrants. In 2015, Sweden was second only to Germany in the number of Syrian refugees it welcomed. Yet the three men arrested in the Molotov cocktail attack were newly arrived immigrants, two Syrians and a Palestinian.

The fear of being accused of intolerance has paralyzed Sweden’s leaders from properly addressing deep-seated intolerance.

That’s true enough. Sweden is deservedly notorious for its åsiktskorridor—its ‘opinion corridor’. Breaking outside its still narrow (if buckling) confines is frowned  upon (and more) by the ‘respectable’ political and media class.

And there is, I think, something else at play, an unwillingness to admit that this same political class, cheered on by the media, might have made a very big mistake indeed by flinging open Sweden’s doors as wide as they did (something that preceded 2015) in a display of naivete, recklessness and self-righteousness which made for a remarkable, if  occasionally repellent, spectacle.

Visiting Södertälje, a city just outside Stockholm long known for its large immigrant population, in 2006, Sweden’s then prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the vapidly-named center-right Moderaterna had  this  to say:

Ursvenskt är bara barbariet. Resten av utvecklingen har kommit utifrån.”

Translated (very roughly) into English, Reinfeldt was claiming that Sweden’s indigenous culture was simple barbarism. Civilization had come from outside.

Reinfeldt’s government was eventually thrown out of office in 2014, partly as a result of the reaction against his catastrophic immigration policies, but the left-of-center coalition that replaced it was no better.

Neuding:

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, explained radicalism among European Muslims with reference to Israel: “Here, once again, we are brought back to situations like the one in the Middle East, where not least, the Palestinians see that there isn’t a future. We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

This is the same Wallström, who, as an EU Commissioner, exploited a 2005 visit to the site of the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt (today’s Terezín) to smear critics of the proposed  EU constitution for allegedly risking a return to the nightmares of Europe’s past:

Yet there are those today who want to scrap the supranational idea. They want the European Union to go back to the old purely inter-governmental way of doing things. I say those people should come to Terezin and see where that old road leads.”

That was (I’ll be kind) fantasy. Yet when confronted with the reality of Islamist horror in Paris, Wallström, turned her attention towards…Israel.

Odd that.

However her boss, prime minister Stefan Löfven, may be beginning to wise up.

Neuding:

In an interview in June, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was asked whether Sweden had been naïve about the link between immigration and anti-Semitism. His response was typical of the way in which leading politicians have avoided giving straight answers about the threat against the country’s Jews: “We have a problem in Sweden with anti-Semitism, and it doesn’t matter who expresses it, it’s still as darn wrong.”

But the problem has grown so dire that it finally forced Mr. Lofven to admit in an interview this month: “We will not ignore the fact that many people have come here from the Middle East, where anti-Semitism is a widespread idea, almost part of the ideology. We must become even clearer, dare to talk more about it.”

That’s easier said  than done. As Neuding reports, the headline chosen by one newspaper to explain the firebomb attack in Gothenburg was “attack against synagogue linked to Trump”, a  reference to the President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Sweden has, however, started to toughen up its  immigration policies, a welcome development after the dangerous irresponsibility of earlier years, but that still leaves the consequences  of that irresponsibility to contend with.

Neuding:

It is also vital for Sweden to adopt a coherent strategy to combat radical Islamism. The country has become one of Europe’s richest recruiting grounds for Islamic State fighters. Five people were killed in an Islamist attack in downtown Stockholm in April, and Swedish Islamists have been involved in other deadly attacks in Europe, including in Paris and Brussels.

‘Barbarism’, it seems, can be imported too.

Read the whole thing.

Here Are the Details of the Republicans’ Final Tax Bill

by Jibran Khan

GOP leadership has just filed its final version of the reconciled tax reform bill. The bill, which had been secret until today, underwent a number of changes throughout the week. Here are some of the key alterations:

  • The new tax rates per individual income tax bracket are (example incomes are for married individuals filing jointly):
    • 10 percent (up to $19,050)
    • 12 percent (above $19,050 up to $77,400) 
    • 22 percent (above $77,400 up to $165,000)
    • 24 percent (above $165,000 up to $315,000)
    • 32 percent (above $315,000 up to $400,000)
    • 35 percent (above $400,000 up to $600,000),
    • 37 percent (above $600,000).
  • The child tax credit will be raised to $2,000, with $1,400 of that amount being refundable. It will phase out for families making at least $400,000, a massive change from current policy which phases out the credit for individuals making $75,000 and couples making $110,000.
  • The state and local tax (SALT) deduction is capped at $10,000, which can be from any mix of local taxes, rather than just property.
  • The mortgage interest deduction for second homes, a policy widely reviled by economists and conservatives, has been restored.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) has been repealed for corporations, but it will continue to apply to individuals, though with narrowed eligibility. The details of the narrowing are not yet clear.
  • The corporate income tax rate is now 21 percent; this will take effect next year.
  • The estate tax will remain, but with a doubled exemption. For example, under current policy, the exemption for estate tax in 2018 would be $5,600,000, so under the new plan that would be $11,200,000.

It has not yet been announced whether the bill will go to the House or the Senate first, but with a Senate majority currently firm, the issue of timing around Senator McCain’s medical treatment is less pressing.

Debate and voting is set to begin next week.

Senate GOP All In On Tax Bill

by Jibran Khan

The Senate GOP is now united in support of the party’s tax plan.

Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Scott (R-SC) announced their support after securing an increase in child tax credit refundability, which they have been pushing for throughout the bill’s finalization process. This was followed by a surprise announcement from Senator Corker – the sole Republican senator to vote against the previous bill — that he would support the final product, even though it still contains the deficit effects that he opposes.

If no senators change their minds between now and the day of the vote, GOP leadership can pass the bill even if Senators McCain and Cochran are not able to attend due to medical treatment.

With No Evidence, Twitter Mob Convicts Bullying Victim of Being ‘Racist’

by Philip H. DeVoe

On Friday, eleven-year-old Keaton Jones’s mother posted a video of him recounting through tears the bullying he’s been enduring at his Tennessee middle school. Over the weekend, his video went viral, and he received thousands of messages of support from everyday Americans and celebrities on social media.

By Monday morning, however, Keaton was being bullied again. As it turns out, his mother had posted two photos of the family posing with a Confederate flag and criticized Colin Kaepernick’s protest in a separate post, leading to a rapid withdrawal of support for Keaton and claims that the family is racist. Then, after 24 hours of misinformation, erroneous reports, and knee-jerk judgments spread throughout social media, the mob concluded that Keaton probably deserved to be bullied. The reason?

This theory, though, appears to be completely unsubstantiated, born out of mere possibility given the so-called sins of the mother. Additionally, the mob offered this as proof (which appears to have been deleted):

Disregarding the fact that this “evidence” proves nothing, the mob surged forward to accuse the celebrities who hadn’t yet withdrawn their support for Keaton of enabling white supremacy. Avengers star Don Cheadle pointed out that even if this eleven-year-old boy lobbed racial slurs at his black schoolmates, he didn’t deserve to be bullied. Former fans replied that Cheadle’s fame had run its course, prompting this sensible reply:

On Wednesday, media outlets discovered Keaton’s estranged father, Shawn Aaron White, who seems to be an actual white supremacist — if tattoos reading “White Pride” and “Pure Breed” are any indicator. This discovery served only to strengthen the mob’s accusations that the Jones family as a whole is racist. Is this fair? No, it is not. Not only has White been estranged from the family for nearly ten years, due both to his own choices and to multiple stints in prison, but he also assaulted Keaton’s mother, according to arrest warrants, “wished death upon” a seven-month-old Keaton when the boy was suffering from severe illness. These would be peculiar circumstances in which to visit the sins of the father upon the son.

Shock: The GOP’s Tax Bill Is a GOP Tax Bill

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The tax bill is almost finished, and, with the exception of a couple of its minor provisions, it looks to me like a pretty standard Republican effort. Effectively, Paul Ryan and co. are doing the things they either didn’t get to do at all back in 2001/2003, or the things that they did do back in 2001/2003 but that were subsequently undone. The 2001/2003 measures didn’t seriously touch the corporate income tax, so they’re doing that now. The 2001/2003 measures did cut the top rate of tax, but that change was undone during the Obama administration — both by an explicit increase of the rate, and by Obamacare’s attendant taxes — and so they’re re-cutting it. On top of this are a couple of policies that have been popular in Republican circles for decades — reforming the SALT deduction, and cutting the mortgage interest deduction are in there, albeit weakly — and a small expansion of a “reformicon” policy that Marco Rubio has managed to extract at the last moment. Whatever one thinks of the bill, the notion that it is in some way unusual is a peculiar one. This is what Republicans do when they get the chance to cut taxes.

Minnesota Is Next Year’s Biggest Election Battleground

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Assuming Al Franken resigns from the Senate, Minnesota is going to have two Senate elections next year. The state will also be electing a new governor, since incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton is not running again. Minnesota hasn’t had simultaneous elections for these three offices since 1978.

The state has several competitive House races, too. Roll Call’s list of the ten most vulnerable incumbents in the House includes two Minnesotans; the Cook Political Report includes three Minnesota seats among the 21 it considers “toss-ups.” Those three include two seats held by Democrats and one held by a Republican. Another seat not on either list, the one held by Republican Erik Paulsen, could generate a real race too: It went for the Democrats in the presidential race in each of the last three elections. Minnesota will also be holding elections for the state house, where Republicans currently hold a majority.

One of the statewide races seems to be nearly a lock for the Democrats: Senator Amy Klobuchar should have an easy re-election. The other Senate race should be more competitive, especially if former Governor Tim Pawlenty is the Republican candidate to replace Franken.

While Minnesota has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972, it has been shifting to the right. Judged by its presidential-vote margin, it was the second-lightest-blue state in the country in 2016. If next year’s elections turn out to be a national Democratic wave, however, that trend won’t save the state’s Republicans.

Introducing the Reality Check with Jeanne Allen Podcast

by Jeanne Allen

On my inaugural Reality Check podcast (and thank you, NR for hosting it), Howard Fuller chastises teachers union boss Randi Weingarten for berating people who choose to get their kids out of bad schools and send them to other schools, such as charters: “When someone like Randi Weingarten says . . . ‘Charter schools are the [polite] cousins of segregation,’ It’s demagoguery at the highest level.”

Having been a leader in the coalition to bring vouchers to Milwaukee’s poorest in 1990, and in doing similar for kids every day since, Fuller knows of what he speaks. Today in America, the greatest country on earth, more than half of our children fail to master the critical knowledge and lessons necessary to be successful and truly live the American Dream. That’s not only unacceptable, it’s benign neglect. As the seminal report “A Nation at Risk” admonished in 1983 (an unbelievable 34 years ago!),

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.”

How about today, we resolve together to say, “not on our watch!”

You can listen to Reality Check on National Review Online, and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or directly to the feed.

 

Roy Moore Has One More Embarrassment Up His Sleeve

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Roy Moore Has One More Embarrassment Up His Sleeve

One of the many, many reasons you do not nominate unhinged narcissists for political office is that their ego won’t let them do some of the most basic tasks in politics… like concede a race.

Nothing has changed since late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning; the margin in Alabama’s Senate race is still roughly 20,000 votes, or about 1.5 percent. It remains well outside the half-a-percent threshold that triggers an automatic recount.

Almost all of the political world has moved on.

As the White House Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president’s actions prove that he believes the race is done.

“I think the President’s position is pretty clear, in his outreach to Doug Jones directly, he called and they spoke yesterday,” Huckabee Sanders said.

When a reporter followed up and asked if the president thought Moore had lost ‘fair and square,’ the press secretary agreed.

“I think the numbers reflect that, and I think the President’s outreach shows that,” Huckabee Sanders said.

But Roy Moore isn’t willing to concede, declaring in a video statement that “the battle rages on.” Except… it doesn’t. The votes have been counted and cast, and it wasn’t as close as he’s insisting it is. The battle is over and he lost. Doug Jones doesn’t need Roy Moore’s concession; there is no legal or Constitutional requirement for it.  It’s just a longstanding American tradition of grace, respect and honoring the results of our democratic process. Thus, it’s not surprising that Roy Moore can’t understand it. By refusing to concede, he’s not making a statement about Jones or the vote-counting; he’s making a statement about himself.

Moore said in his video statement that the current vote count does not include military and provisional ballots, and that is why he is waiting on the certification of the votes from Alabama’s Secretary of State. But Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Fortune it was highly unlikely that counting these ballots would result in a change.

“There are a lot of votes that would need to be thrown out for that to occur,” Merrill said.

Again, just to reach the automatic recount threshold, Moore has to gain about 14,000 votes on Jones.

There are only 8,000 active duty military personnel living in Alabama, with another 20,294 in the reserves. To get the automatic recount, Roy Moore needs roughly half the combined military personnel in Alabama to be deployed overseas right now, for all of them to have voted in this election, and for him to have won all of their votes.

As the Alabama Secretary of State noted Wednesday, “I don’t know how many ballots are going to be returned from overseas voters or how many provisional ballots there are, but I’m confident not all of them are going to be for one candidate.”

As for the notion of Moore requesting a recount and paying for himself…

In the small chance it does happen, Moore would then have to deal with the issue of funding, which Merrill estimated could be between $1 million and $1.5 million. The total amount has to be put up when the request is made. As of November 22, the last time a filing was made publicly available, Moore’s campaign only had $636,046 in cash on hand. That means Moore would have to finance the rest of the recount himself, paying as much as $863,000.

Allahpundit wonders if we’re watching a man who had so much faith in his own victory that he cannot mentally comprehend that he lost.

Maybe that’s part of it, that Moore convinced himself that God would speak through the results and simply can’t fathom the reality that he wasn’t chosen. That reminds me of his spokesman, Janet Porter, allegedly telling Nancy French in 2008 that she didn’t love America because she preferred the Mormon Mitt Romney to the evangelical Mike Huckabee in the GOP primary. If Huckabee versus Romney was a litmus test on patriotism and Christian virtue, imagine how much more of a litmus test Moore versus Jones was. Surely the good lord prefers the former to the latter. So how can the vote totals be accurate?

Is sanity too much to ask for these days?

Tax Reform Could Create Obstacles for Infrastructure Push

by Fred Bauer

A recent Politico story suggests that the Trump administration may have some trouble convincing congressional Democrats to go along with an infrastructure plan. There are many reasons for this — some partisan, some policy. One of the major hang-ups could be the funding of this plan. The Trump administration is considering paying for this infrastructure plan with cuts to other domestic-spending initiatives, a proposal that repels many Democrats.

Early on in 2017, some on both sides of the aisle had proposed paying for an infrastructure plan through the repatriation of profits held abroad. Large American corporations have trillions of dollars parked overseas, and a repatriation measure could allow businesses to bring in these foreign profits at a reduced rate. The repatriation of these foreign assets would be an injection of revenue, which could be spent on a variety of proposals (including infrastructure).

However, the current effort at tax reform uses the repatriation of foreign profits as a way of offsetting tax cuts elsewhere in the legislation. How much revenue could be generated through repatriation remains up for dispute, and we won’t know for sure until congressional Republicans release their final plan. It could be a significant amount of money. The Joint Committee on Taxation, for instance, estimated that the Senate’s repatriation provisions could generate $298 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As the old adage goes, “To govern is to choose.” Republicans could have chosen to use repatriation revenue as a significant down-payment on infrastructure; instead, they decided to bundle it in with tax reform. But now their choices on how to fund infrastructure get harder.

Oberlin and the Bakery

by Andrew Stuttaford

Exactly a year ago today, Michelle Malkin wrote a piece for the home page describing how a small business, Gibson’s Bakery, had fallen foul of Oberlin’s (yes, Oberlin again) for allegedly racist behavior.

The dispute rumbles on.

CBS:

Students at Oberlin College have long enjoyed pastries, bagels and chocolates from Gibson’s Bakery, a century-old, family-owned business near campus. That sweet relationship has turned bitter amid hotly disputed accusations of racism, roiling a school and town long known for their liberal politics.

The dispute, which began in November 2016 with the arrest of three black Oberlin students who were accused of stealing wine from Gibson’s, is now a lawsuit in which the exasperated bakery owners accuse the college and a top dean of slandering Gibson’s as a “racist establishment” and taking steps to destroy the family’s livelihood….

A member of the Black Student Union at Oberlin College told CBS affiliate WOIO-TV last month that other students have accused the bakery of racial profiling.

“Multiple students have had accounts of being followed around the store, being accused of stealing, having to turn their pockets out when they weren’t stealing anything just because they were black or brown students,” the student, who didn’t give a name, said. 

The three students were arrested after punching and kicking the white shopkeeper. The 18- and 19-year-old students said that they were racially profiled and that their only crime was trying to buy alcohol with fake identification; the shopkeeper, Allyn Gibson, said the students attacked him after he caught them trying to steal bottles of wine….

The three students arrested at Gibson’s pleaded guilty in August to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing and said in statements required by a plea agreement that their actions were wrong and that the store wasn’t racist. Even so, students continue to boycott Gibson’s over perceived racial profiling, causing business to suffer. Pressed by a reporter to provide evidence or examples of profiling, they said only that when black students enter the store, they feel as though they’re being watched.

“Racism can’t always be proven on an Excel sheet,” said Kameron Dunbar, an Oberlin junior and vice chair of the student senate. Copeland [a retired Oberlin professor] and other residents say the accusations of racism are unfounded.

“I’ve never seen evidence; it’s always hearsay,” Copeland said. “When your fellow student is shutting down a conversation because he or she is made uncomfortable, it leads to a hive mentality.”

Indeed it does. And, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, being “uncomfortable” is not an argument. The objective ought generally to trump the subjective.

And, it is alleged that, as so often in these sort of controversies, the student protestors enjoyed the explicit or implicit support of some members of the college’s staff, either (I imagine) through conviction or cowardice. If the allegation turns out to be true and the motivation is the latter, it won’t buy any favors the next time that the inquisitors find themselves short of a heretic or two. 

CBS:

On Nov. 7, the Gibsons sued Oberlin and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, for slander, accusing faculty members of encouraging demonstrations against the bakery by suspending classes, distributing flyers, and supplying protesters with free food and drink.

It says Raimondo took part in the demonstration against Gibson’s with a bullhorn and distributed a flyer that said the bakery is a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”

Because block capitals always make an argument so convincing.

CBS (my emphasis  added)

Today, the lawsuit says, college tour guides continue to inform prospective students that Gibson’s is racist.

Dave Gibson, the bakery’s owner, says the lawsuit is about standing up for his right to crack down on shoplifting without being branded as a racist. The suit says Oberlin demanded that he stop pushing criminal charges on first-time shoplifters and call school deans instead.

“I have not taken a paycheck since this happened more than a year ago,” Gibson said in an email. “Sometimes you have to stand up to a large institution. Powerful institutions — including Oberlin College — and their members must follow the same laws as the rest of us.”

The Gibsons’ lawsuit can be read here.  It’s worth reading, not least for some of the back-story.

Oberlin has pushed back.

The Chronicle (my emphasis added):

Oberlin College has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the institution from Gibson’s Bakery, which is asking for more than $200,000 in damages stemming from a November 2016 incident in which a student attempted to steal wine from the shop and a community uproar followed….

According to the college’s version of events as described in the Dec. 6 motion, three students, who are black, went to Gibson’s Bakery and one of the students, Jonathan Aladin, attempted to purchase wine with a fake ID. Allyn Gibson, who is white, followed the students out of the store and across the street into Tappan Square, property owned by the college, and “violently assaulted the male student,” the motion states. The motion says that the two female students… intervened on behalf of Aladin when Gibson refused to stop the assault.

“When police arrived on the scene, they arrested only the three Oberlin College students despite witness statements that Allyn D. Gibson was the aggressor,” the motion states.

The motion does not include information from the police report of the incident that accused Aladin of attempting to conceal two bottles of wine under his shirt while trying to purchase a third with the fake ID. According to the police report, when officers arrived, Allyn Gibson was on the ground with the three students standing over and punching him….

Following the incident, protesters gathered in front of Gibson’s Bakery to  [Oberlin argues] “peacefully exercise their constitutional rights.” The college also canceled a standing order it had with Gibson’s, which it later reinstated, but then canceled again when Gibson’s filed the lawsuit.

During the protests, Gibson’s claims Raimondo assisted and joined in with the protests. The college said these claims are “demonstrably false” and that Raimondo acted within her authority to temporarily suspend daily bakery orders from Gibson’s

The police incident report can be read here.

Legal Insurrection:

Oberlin College Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo provided this statement to Legal Insurrection in response to the news report that she was passing out literature accusing Gibson’s of racism:

Information and literature available at the protest was prepared by organizers, not the college. I passed along a flyer that was circulating among the crowd to a news tribune reporter who was seeking information from students about what was taking place. I did not prepare the flyer and do not have a copy of the flyer. My presence was to help ensure that a safe environment was maintained.

This will be an interesting case to watch. I should add, I suppose, that, whatever its reason, Oberlin (like any other customer) is fully entitled to cancel its standing order with Gibson’s should it so choose. 

Breaking: Rubio a ‘No’ Vote on Tax Bill Unless Child Tax Credit Increases

by Jibran Khan

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that he will vote against the GOP tax bill, unless refundability of the child tax credit increases from its current $1,100, a choice he calls “Not tough at all.”

Rubio came to the decision after party leadership budged on the corporate tax cut to cut individual taxes for top earners, which they had refused to do to fund the child tax credit. If Rubio votes against the bill and all other senators vote the same way as before, it will be a 50-50 vote requiring a tie-breaker from the Vice President.

If leadership loses both Rubio and another senator’s support, the bill cannot pass.

Oldies but Goodies

by Jay Nordlinger

On the homepage today, I do some fundraising, and talk about WFB.

One of the most recurring phrases around here is “Buckley legacy.” What does it mean? I suppose it means different things to different people. WFB was big and multifaceted, and so is his “legacy.”

Here is another little section:

WFB was devoted to high culture. And at his table were many, many artists. I thought of one of them the other night, for I reviewed her in recital.

This was Sharon Isbin. WFB said to her, “So, I understand you’re the best guitarist in the world.” She responded, “No, no. There is no ‘best guitarist in the world.’ That would be like saying there’s a best writer or something” — whereupon the great writer flashed his 1,000-watt smile and said, “Waal … ”

I have a new episode of Jaywalking, which I begin with that story. Actually, I begin with some music — Sharon Isbin playing Asturias, by Isaac Albéniz. I then talk about Jerusalem, the NFL, Theresa May (two of them), and other things. I end with what may be the most beautiful song ever written — an oldie (like 1600) but goodie.