Month: September 2018

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UPDATE: Child porn probe triggered mysterious closure of solar facility…




A federal search warrant reveals that Sunspot Solar Observatory was shut down as FBI agents conducted computer forensic searches for child pornography.

The source of child pornography was traced to an IP address used at the observatory and a source within the building observed a computer with “not good” images on it, the warrant states.

An investigation by the FBI revealed that a janitor is the main suspect in the search, however he has not been charged with a crime even though his name is on the warrant.

The warrant states the suspect would use the observatory Wifi and a personal laptop to download the child pornography. 

A limited number of people have access to the observatory from dusk until dawn, which helped narrow their search.

The observatory in the mountains of southern New Mexico had been closed since Sept. 6 because of an undisclosed security concern, but reopened on Monday.



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Chinese Star Missing; Hollywood Spooked…


With Fan Bingbing accused of tax fraud, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ failing to land a Chinese release and film stocks plummeting, president Xi Jinping’s crackdown on “money worship” is reshaping the country’s cultural landscape: “The government is going to make examples out of a lot of high-profile people.”

On Sept. 16, filmmaker Jia Zhangke unveiled his epic drama Ash Is Purest White in Beijing, days ahead of its wide release in China. Noticeably missing from the movie was a scene featuring director and sometime actor Feng Xiaogang. Just four months earlier, Feng and frequent collaborator Fan Bingbing had been front and center when the film made its world premiere in Cannes, with Feng gracing the poster and Fan, who is not in the drama, walking the red carpet as something of an ambassador given her status as China’s biggest female star.

Now, Fan and Feng are missing in action, believed to be the targets of a Chinese government crackdown on celebrity tax evaders. That has sent shock waves throughout China and all the way to Hollywood, where such projects as Universal’s ensemble female spy pic 355 — featuring Jessica Chastain as star and producer — hang in limbo.

And Fan and Feng’s legal predicaments aren’t the only red flags spooking Hollywood. A wave of aggressive action by Beijing regulators the past year suggests that Chinese President Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on the country’s cultural sector. Warner Bros., among those affected, has all but conceded that Crazy Rich Asians will not receive a China release, making it doubtful the potential sequel, based on author Kevin Kwan’s follow-up novel, China Rich Girlfriend, will shoot in the nation. The crackdown has left U.S. studios and agencies more uncertain than ever of their footing in the massive China market.

“The government is going to make examples out of a lot of high-profile people who’ve made a lot of money and spent a lot of time in the West, because that’s not what a good Chinese citizen does,” says a U.S. producer who works frequently in China.

Fan, whose CAA agents have not heard from her since she disappeared from public view in June, is one of those people. The 37-year-old actress’ troubles began with her involvement in a widely publicized tax evasion scandal in May when her so-called “yin-yang” contract for Cell Phone 2, the upcoming sequel to a hit Feng film from 2003, was posted on social media (the leaked contract indicated that Fan tried to claim $1.6 million for four days of work on the film when her actual pay totaled an additional $7.8 million).

Two sources familiar with the situation say Fan hasn’t been imprisoned but that’s the expectation, with authorities using her vertiginous fall from grace to send a strong signal to stars and studios to put greater emphasis on toeing the party line rather than pursuing personal enrichment. On May 24, the government also announced an investigation into widespread tax fraud in the film business, which sent share prices of many publicly traded Chinese film studios tumbling (most have yet to fully recover). Huayi Brothers Media, with its numerous Hollywood tentacles that include a $250 million majority investment in the Russo brothers’ Agbo, has been hit the hardest — its stock is off 38 percent since the announcement. Similarly, Beijing Enlight Media is down 36 percent, while Alibaba Pictures Group has declined 19 percent.

The situation with Fan puts CAA in an awkward position. The agency has funneled millions into its China Motion Picture Group, which is run by Wei Hao and Daniel Manwaring (Fan and Feng’s agent), and has built its roster to include Jackie Chan, Donnie Ye and Zhang Yimou. When CAA promoted Hao, the Sept. 12 news release made no mention of Fan as a client. CAA declined comment for this story.

As a result of Fan’s tax woes, the Simon Kinberg-helmed 355‘s financing will likely have to be restructured. In Cannes, Huayi spent $20 million for Chinese distribution rights even though there was little interest from other distributors at the time (CAA negotiated the U.S. and China distribution component of the deal). “Fan would play a spy from China cooperating with Western spies. That would probably never get a release in China,” says a source who considered the property at the time. Production isn’t expected to begin until 2019, and Universal, which paid $20 million for domestic rights, will have the right to walk away if it doesn’t approve of Fan’s replacement.

Meanwhile, Crazy Rich Asians may have captured the cultural zeitgeist in the U.S., but its timing couldn’t have been worse in China, with Communist Party officials berating the country’s stars for encouraging “money worship” among the youth. China Rich Girlfriend, which is primarily set among Shanghai’s one-percenters, will almost certainly run into trouble if it tries to shoot in China.

“There are sensitivities, to be certain. The key to navigating China is paying careful attention to those sensitivities,” says Millennium Films president Jeffrey Greenstein, who has secured a China release for an average of two films a year — including London Has Fallen and all three Expendables movies — for the past five years. “Potential land mines are anything sensitive to the Chinese culture, anything politically oriented. Even things pertaining to Chinese allies like Russia and North Korea.”

Those sensitivities were on display when China nixed Disney’s Christopher Robin from getting a release in the country. A source pinned the blame on the country’s crusade against images of the Winnie the Pooh character — a central character in the film — who has become a symbol of the resistance with foes of the ruling Communist Party. The only other Disney film this year to receive a no from China was A Wrinkle in Time. Even HBO, which doesn’t have a service inside China (its content is licensed locally by Tencent), felt the displeasure of the Chinese this summer in the wake of John Oliver mocking Xi on his Last Week Tonight, poking fun at the president’s resemblance to Winnie the Pooh. Oliver was promptly scrubbed from the internet in China, and the HBO website was taken offline there and remains so to this day.

Elsewhere, China’s investment spree in Hollywood appears to be dead. Dalian Wanda Group kickstarted the former frenzy with its $2.6 billion acquisition of AMC Entertainment in 2012. Billions of dollars worth of yuan soon flowed East, with Chinese firms large and small pouring capital into slate-financing deals and high-priced Hollywood acquisitions. But Sept. 14, Wanda, already shrunken and battered by regulatory action during the preceding year, signaled a full retreat, selling off a third of its stake in AMC — widely considered one of the most valuable U.S. movie assets China had acquired — for $421 million.

Making matters worse for Hollywood is President Trump’s tough stance on trade with China. Absent a trade war, China likely would have revised the quota upwards and allowed more Hollywood films into the marketplace this year, simply because the country is feeling newly confident in the domestic industry’s ability to compete for market share. During the first eight months of this year, China’s box-office revenue for imported foreign films — the vast majority of which are Hollywood blockbusters — fell 18.1 percent, year over year. If the downward trend continues for the final third of the year, 2018 will mark the first time in more than a decade that Hollywood hasn’t notched a full year of robust growth in the world’s most populous nation. This is particularly notable given that the studios are having a strong year at the North American box office. Instead, the old quota has remained in place, and it’s entirely possible that Beijing will crack down on the highly visible import of Hollywood films if the trade war continues to escalate.

But Cristal Pictures president Scott Einbinder, whose L.A.-based production and finance company is backed by China’s East Light Film Co., says there is still plenty of opportunity in the Middle Kingdom. He pointed to the success of summer shark hit The Meg, which was co-financed by China’s Gravity Pictures and earned $153 million of its $507 million worldwide haul in that country, as an example of striking the right balance.

“There’s still a lot of potential upside in doing business in China. But everybody doing business there has to be cautious and has to have an eye on what’s going on geopolitically around the world in order to understand how to make movies in China,” says Einbinder, whose debut film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, was a hit here and in China. “Anyone who doesn’t is being naïve.” 

Ultimately, being on top in China might not be desirable. Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin was China’s richest man, and Fan was China’s highest-paid actress. Both have been cut down to size by Beijing in the past year, sending a stark reminder of who’s really No. 1 in the world’s most populous nation: the Communist Party of China.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.



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Blasey Ford Must Be Acknowledged and Then Dismissed


In a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and an article in the Washington Post, Christine Blasey Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge of sexually assaulting her.  She claims that this happened somewhere around 1982 when she was 15 years old and consisted of Kavanaugh groping her while holding her down with his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream while both 17-year-olds laughed maniacally.  As corroborating evidence of the assault, she provided partial notes from couples’ therapy she attended with her husband in 2012. 

She released only selected portions of her therapist’s notes – what would Democrats call that?  Oh yeah, “cherry-picking,” just as many Democrats have described what Trump is choosing to declassify with respect to the Carter Page FISA Court applications. 

Her therapist’s notes describe an attempted sexual assault, but neither Kavanaugh nor Judge is mentioned.  In addition, her therapist’s notes say there were four boys present “from an elitist boys’ school,” whereas in the Feinstein letter, she claims only two assailants (Kavanaugh and Judge).  Both have categorically denied the allegations, with Judge calling the accusation “absolutely nuts.”

Blasey Ford says the therapist made a mistake in his notes.  Her claim is that a therapist, who by definition and job description must rely heavily on his notes to delineate and document needed therapy, made a mistake.  Yet, though he was incompetent enough to make an error of fact, he was still sufficiently competent to save his notes for six years.

In addition to the discrepancy, also note the term “elitist,” a word that was not commonly used in 1982 to describe a private school, especially by a private school girl.  In the hyper-class-conscious world of 2012, however, it was in broad usage.  To me, this shows that her memory had at least to some extent been adjusted by her later political indoctrination.

The corroborating (at least, to her, her lawyer, and the media) therapist’s notes, apart from being incomplete and listing the wrong number of assailants, also do not mention Kavanaugh, whose name came up only in discussions she had with her husband in 2012.  In the Washington Post article, her husband told the author, “he recalled that his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name and voiced concern that Kavanaugh – then a federal judge – might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.” 

This is another political aspect of her accusation; she sees her alleged assault through the prism of Kavanaugh’s politics and potential Supreme Court nomination. 

In the letter to Feinstein, she calls the get-together a “gathering,” and it has been described elsewhere as a “party.”  This is easy to understand since either one sounds a lot better than saying she went to a house to hang out with four boys to drink and smoke pot.

Her attorney’s later addition of another female to the group should be taken the same way.  It sounds better that she went with another girl than alone to a “party,” “gathering,” or “hangout.”  I would also note that while it’s possible to forget the names of the male attendees, the location of the party, and the year of the hangout, were there another girl present, I would think she not only would remember that girl’s name, but probably would have told her what happened as well.

Another “elitist” classmate, Patrick J. Smyth, had this to say: “I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post[.]”  Smyth has also said (in a letter to the Judiciary Committee), “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

She claims that she never told anyone contemporaneously, and for 30 years, she repressed the memory, recovering it only during her 2012 therapy.  Weren’t there a whole bunch of people who went to prison as the result of repressed and recovered memories, only to be later exonerated?  No matter; they can be trusted this time as reason enough to ruin a man’s life, reputation, and career.

Were one to accept her story as true, it would be understandable why she would not tell the authorities or her parents.  It would be embarrassing to admit she went with four boys to hang out, drink, and smoke pot.  In addition, being roughly fondled, however wrongly, probably would not have been considered a sexual assault in 1982.

It is also understandable how she wouldn’t know the location of the house or its owner.  Presumably, she was with people she trusted (or she wouldn’t have gone) and didn’t require it.  At 15 years old, she would have been driven there and probably was not paying attention, perhaps because she was conversing with those in the car.  One would think, though, she would remember those in the car.  But it’s still somewhat believable that she might not remember getting there or where it was.

But…

How did she get home?  According to her story, she had been so traumatized that she claimed in the Feinstein letter she “received medical treatment.”  She provided no evidence of this because hospitals in 1982 presumably didn’t keep records, or perhaps she was referring to her therapy, or merely being hyperbolic.  In any case, after a traumatizing assault, she would surely be terrified and looking to get out of there as soon as possible. 

Who took her home? 

Whoever did take her home would have been her savior and thus at the very least someone she would remember vividly, or at the minimum, his name.  This, to me, is most damning.  Everyone remembers his savior.

As Conrad Black says:

Kavanaugh denies it, no one corroborates it, no illegality is alleged, no subsequent claimants of like behavior have come forward, and scores of women who have known the judge for decades have attested to his irreproachable behavior and character.

From Andrew C. McCarthy:

This has all the hallmarks of a set-up.  If the Democrats had raised the allegation in a timely manner, its weakness would have been palpable, it would have been used for what little it’s worth in examining Kavanagh [sic] during his days of testimony, it would be put to rest as unverifiable, and we’d be on to a confirmation vote.  Instead, we’re on to a delay – precisely the Democrats’ objective.  They want to slow-walk Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote until after the midterms, in the hopes that they swing the Senate in their favor and have the numbers to defeat the nomination.

Also from McCarthy:

I don’t know if something awful really happened to Ford when she was 15.  None of us will ever know.  Apparently, Ford herself does not know basic facts either, since she cannot tell us where and when the alleged assault happened, and what she did in the aftermath.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt that it happened as she claims it happened, she hasn’t come close to establishing that Brett Kavanaugh, as opposed to some other kid she has forgotten, was her assailant; that is, she has not established that her memory of the assailant can be trusted when she cannot recall other rudimentary details.  We can feel sympathy for her while nevertheless inferring that she does not want to testify because she cannot explain the oddities of her account.  Or we can justifiably suspect that the whole thing is a partisan stunt.

In my opinion, she should have stayed “anonymous.”  We know how much the left likes “anonymous” allegations.

In a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and an article in the Washington Post, Christine Blasey Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge of sexually assaulting her.  She claims that this happened somewhere around 1982 when she was 15 years old and consisted of Kavanaugh groping her while holding her down with his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream while both 17-year-olds laughed maniacally.  As corroborating evidence of the assault, she provided partial notes from couples’ therapy she attended with her husband in 2012. 

She released only selected portions of her therapist’s notes – what would Democrats call that?  Oh yeah, “cherry-picking,” just as many Democrats have described what Trump is choosing to declassify with respect to the Carter Page FISA Court applications. 

Her therapist’s notes describe an attempted sexual assault, but neither Kavanaugh nor Judge is mentioned.  In addition, her therapist’s notes say there were four boys present “from an elitist boys’ school,” whereas in the Feinstein letter, she claims only two assailants (Kavanaugh and Judge).  Both have categorically denied the allegations, with Judge calling the accusation “absolutely nuts.”

Blasey Ford says the therapist made a mistake in his notes.  Her claim is that a therapist, who by definition and job description must rely heavily on his notes to delineate and document needed therapy, made a mistake.  Yet, though he was incompetent enough to make an error of fact, he was still sufficiently competent to save his notes for six years.

In addition to the discrepancy, also note the term “elitist,” a word that was not commonly used in 1982 to describe a private school, especially by a private school girl.  In the hyper-class-conscious world of 2012, however, it was in broad usage.  To me, this shows that her memory had at least to some extent been adjusted by her later political indoctrination.

The corroborating (at least, to her, her lawyer, and the media) therapist’s notes, apart from being incomplete and listing the wrong number of assailants, also do not mention Kavanaugh, whose name came up only in discussions she had with her husband in 2012.  In the Washington Post article, her husband told the author, “he recalled that his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name and voiced concern that Kavanaugh – then a federal judge – might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.” 

This is another political aspect of her accusation; she sees her alleged assault through the prism of Kavanaugh’s politics and potential Supreme Court nomination. 

In the letter to Feinstein, she calls the get-together a “gathering,” and it has been described elsewhere as a “party.”  This is easy to understand since either one sounds a lot better than saying she went to a house to hang out with four boys to drink and smoke pot.

Her attorney’s later addition of another female to the group should be taken the same way.  It sounds better that she went with another girl than alone to a “party,” “gathering,” or “hangout.”  I would also note that while it’s possible to forget the names of the male attendees, the location of the party, and the year of the hangout, were there another girl present, I would think she not only would remember that girl’s name, but probably would have told her what happened as well.

Another “elitist” classmate, Patrick J. Smyth, had this to say: “I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post[.]”  Smyth has also said (in a letter to the Judiciary Committee), “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

She claims that she never told anyone contemporaneously, and for 30 years, she repressed the memory, recovering it only during her 2012 therapy.  Weren’t there a whole bunch of people who went to prison as the result of repressed and recovered memories, only to be later exonerated?  No matter; they can be trusted this time as reason enough to ruin a man’s life, reputation, and career.

Were one to accept her story as true, it would be understandable why she would not tell the authorities or her parents.  It would be embarrassing to admit she went with four boys to hang out, drink, and smoke pot.  In addition, being roughly fondled, however wrongly, probably would not have been considered a sexual assault in 1982.

It is also understandable how she wouldn’t know the location of the house or its owner.  Presumably, she was with people she trusted (or she wouldn’t have gone) and didn’t require it.  At 15 years old, she would have been driven there and probably was not paying attention, perhaps because she was conversing with those in the car.  One would think, though, she would remember those in the car.  But it’s still somewhat believable that she might not remember getting there or where it was.

But…

How did she get home?  According to her story, she had been so traumatized that she claimed in the Feinstein letter she “received medical treatment.”  She provided no evidence of this because hospitals in 1982 presumably didn’t keep records, or perhaps she was referring to her therapy, or merely being hyperbolic.  In any case, after a traumatizing assault, she would surely be terrified and looking to get out of there as soon as possible. 

Who took her home? 

Whoever did take her home would have been her savior and thus at the very least someone she would remember vividly, or at the minimum, his name.  This, to me, is most damning.  Everyone remembers his savior.

As Conrad Black says:

Kavanaugh denies it, no one corroborates it, no illegality is alleged, no subsequent claimants of like behavior have come forward, and scores of women who have known the judge for decades have attested to his irreproachable behavior and character.

From Andrew C. McCarthy:

This has all the hallmarks of a set-up.  If the Democrats had raised the allegation in a timely manner, its weakness would have been palpable, it would have been used for what little it’s worth in examining Kavanagh [sic] during his days of testimony, it would be put to rest as unverifiable, and we’d be on to a confirmation vote.  Instead, we’re on to a delay – precisely the Democrats’ objective.  They want to slow-walk Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote until after the midterms, in the hopes that they swing the Senate in their favor and have the numbers to defeat the nomination.

Also from McCarthy:

I don’t know if something awful really happened to Ford when she was 15.  None of us will ever know.  Apparently, Ford herself does not know basic facts either, since she cannot tell us where and when the alleged assault happened, and what she did in the aftermath.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt that it happened as she claims it happened, she hasn’t come close to establishing that Brett Kavanaugh, as opposed to some other kid she has forgotten, was her assailant; that is, she has not established that her memory of the assailant can be trusted when she cannot recall other rudimentary details.  We can feel sympathy for her while nevertheless inferring that she does not want to testify because she cannot explain the oddities of her account.  Or we can justifiably suspect that the whole thing is a partisan stunt.

In my opinion, she should have stayed “anonymous.”  We know how much the left likes “anonymous” allegations.



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Putin and Xi Are Not Embracing Each Other (Yet)


The Vostok-2018 war games are underway.  Understandably, the world is watching with grave concern.  After all, it is the largest military exercise between the Russian and Chinese (and Mongolian) militaries since the Cold War.  The exercises themselves involved nearly 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 80 warships, and 36,000 armored vehicles, according to Bill Gertz of The Washington Times.  Many strategists in the West worry that Vostok-2018 is a portent of a new strategic alliance between two of the largest powers in all of Eurasia against the United States.

This would be the nightmare scenario.  The landmass known as Eurasia encompasses a majority of the world’s natural resources – potable water, oil, natural gas, metals – and is home to most of the world’s population.  For much of its history, though, Eurasia has been defined more by its regional divisions than its similarities. Many attempts at creating either a regional hegemon or a concert of powers to dominate this rich region have failed.

Changing Times

There are seismic shifts occurring in the global political order.  Since the 1990s, foreign policy thinkers such as Joseph S. Nye, Jr. have warned American leaders about the dawn of a multipolar world order.  Other thinkers, such as the historian Paul Kennedy, have worried that the United States is a power in relative decline suffering “imperial overstretch.”  The leaders of Russia, China, and various European states (like Germany and France) have pined for the birth of a multipolar world order where there are many centers of power, as opposed to only Washington, D.C.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, while the United States has recovered economically, long running negative trends in both the economic and military realms have undermined America’s once unquestionable global dominance.  For the duration of the Obama administration, American elites spoke openly about managing America’s relative decline.

Countries like China have worked to build the “new silk road” aimed at linking as much of Eurasia together under Chinese control as possible. It was a policy designed to empower Beijing and weaken American influence in the region.  Analysts, such as Michael Pillsbury of the Hudson Institute, have warned of China’s plan to become the world’s hegemon by 2049 (the hundredth-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s victory in the Chinese Civil War), thereby replacing the United States.

The Vostok-2018 military exercises have been followed on by announcements from Beijing that the Chinese are preparing to ask the World Trade Organization to sanction the United States for anti-dumping duties that Washington has imposed on Chinese goods.  Moscow reportedly supports Beijing’s request to the WTO in order to “protect global trade.”  For its part, the WTO settlement dispute body is set to take up Beijing’s request on September 21, just four days after the Sino-Russo-Mongolian Vostok-2018 exercises conclude.

What’s more, both China and Russia have renewed discussions to move away from the U.S. dollar as being the world’s reserve currency.  Recently, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Turkish counterpart (Turkey is upset over the Trump administration’s sanctions imposed that country for its unfair treatment of an American pastor) and announced that Turkey would be joining with Russia, Iran, and China in relying on their own national currencies to conduct international trade (as opposed to using the U.S. dollar).  This comes a year after China got Saudi Arabia to allow for a small amount of oil to be traded on China’s currency as opposed to the U.S. dollar.  The limited trade went gangbusters for investors.  There will be greater levels of such trades conducted over the next five years, according to Beijing.

This is not the first time that both China and Russia have attempted to undermine the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency.  During the 2008 Great Recession, Moscow attempted to get Beijing to dump their combined shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an attempt to devastate the American economy.  China refused only because the economic blowback on China would have been great.

After 2008, Beijing argued that the world’s overreliance on the U.S. dollar is what precipitated the Great Recession.  Until 2010, both Moscow and Beijing – as well as a litany of European states – wanted to create a new international reserve currency to conduct global trade.  All of these agitations for a new world reserve currency went away after the Obama administration made an historic nuclear arms limitation agreement with Moscow.  While Obama’s New START weakened America’s nuclear posture relative to Russia’s, it did have the salutary effect of redirecting Moscow’s attention away from the West and toward its east (at least until Russian president Vladimir Putin became convinced that Washington was trying to prevent his return to the Kremlin in the highly corrupt Russian presidential election of 2012).

Trump should, therefore, make a deal with Russia.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

There is no doubt that Russia, China, Turkey, France, Germany, and a host of other powerful countries are looking to limit what they view as the damage of the Trump administration’s “America First” trade and foreign policies.  Plus the advent of the Chinese Belt-and-Road Initiative has prompted many of these countries to begin working closer together than ever before.  Yet, for all of the rhetoric about a new Eurasian anti-American alliance, nothing truly substantive has changed geopolitically.  And large gaps exist in China’s proposed “new silk road.”

Most states will realize they need the U.S. for trade more than any other country.  China still relies on the United States for a disproportionate level of trade; Russia remains skeptical about Chinese intentions along its eastern border; Germany and France remain concerned about Russian revanchism in Eastern Europe.  As secretary of defense James Mattis commented to Bill Gertz about the Vostok-2018 military exercises: there “is little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”

Similarly, financial analyst Charles Wallace has written in Forbes that the ubiquity of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency means that no alternative will be crafted anytime soon.  While Putin likes being seen with China’s President Xi Jinping, he understands that China’s ultimate goal is to cleave the Russian Far East away from Moscow and place it under Chinese control.  Both China and Russia are looking for better deals from Washington.  President Trump must continue with his efforts to deal with Russia, while standing firm against China on trade.

Trump can win in separating Russia from China.  In fact, Russia is begging for a better deal from the United States.  In poker terms, Beijing is running a full house off a pair on trade.  Or, in the words of Allianz corporations chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian:

One of the upside risks [to the trade war] is that you may end up changing the global landscape in a way that favors the U.S.  Because countries will realize, if we slip into a trade war, while everybody suffers, [the] U.S. does better in relative terms.  The rest of the world is less solid than the U.S.

Despite appearances to the contrary, the Sino-Russian alliance is not solidified.  Moscow and Beijing just want a better deal from Washington.

The Vostok-2018 war games are underway.  Understandably, the world is watching with grave concern.  After all, it is the largest military exercise between the Russian and Chinese (and Mongolian) militaries since the Cold War.  The exercises themselves involved nearly 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 80 warships, and 36,000 armored vehicles, according to Bill Gertz of The Washington Times.  Many strategists in the West worry that Vostok-2018 is a portent of a new strategic alliance between two of the largest powers in all of Eurasia against the United States.

This would be the nightmare scenario.  The landmass known as Eurasia encompasses a majority of the world’s natural resources – potable water, oil, natural gas, metals – and is home to most of the world’s population.  For much of its history, though, Eurasia has been defined more by its regional divisions than its similarities. Many attempts at creating either a regional hegemon or a concert of powers to dominate this rich region have failed.

Changing Times

There are seismic shifts occurring in the global political order.  Since the 1990s, foreign policy thinkers such as Joseph S. Nye, Jr. have warned American leaders about the dawn of a multipolar world order.  Other thinkers, such as the historian Paul Kennedy, have worried that the United States is a power in relative decline suffering “imperial overstretch.”  The leaders of Russia, China, and various European states (like Germany and France) have pined for the birth of a multipolar world order where there are many centers of power, as opposed to only Washington, D.C.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, while the United States has recovered economically, long running negative trends in both the economic and military realms have undermined America’s once unquestionable global dominance.  For the duration of the Obama administration, American elites spoke openly about managing America’s relative decline.

Countries like China have worked to build the “new silk road” aimed at linking as much of Eurasia together under Chinese control as possible. It was a policy designed to empower Beijing and weaken American influence in the region.  Analysts, such as Michael Pillsbury of the Hudson Institute, have warned of China’s plan to become the world’s hegemon by 2049 (the hundredth-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s victory in the Chinese Civil War), thereby replacing the United States.

The Vostok-2018 military exercises have been followed on by announcements from Beijing that the Chinese are preparing to ask the World Trade Organization to sanction the United States for anti-dumping duties that Washington has imposed on Chinese goods.  Moscow reportedly supports Beijing’s request to the WTO in order to “protect global trade.”  For its part, the WTO settlement dispute body is set to take up Beijing’s request on September 21, just four days after the Sino-Russo-Mongolian Vostok-2018 exercises conclude.

What’s more, both China and Russia have renewed discussions to move away from the U.S. dollar as being the world’s reserve currency.  Recently, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Turkish counterpart (Turkey is upset over the Trump administration’s sanctions imposed that country for its unfair treatment of an American pastor) and announced that Turkey would be joining with Russia, Iran, and China in relying on their own national currencies to conduct international trade (as opposed to using the U.S. dollar).  This comes a year after China got Saudi Arabia to allow for a small amount of oil to be traded on China’s currency as opposed to the U.S. dollar.  The limited trade went gangbusters for investors.  There will be greater levels of such trades conducted over the next five years, according to Beijing.

This is not the first time that both China and Russia have attempted to undermine the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency.  During the 2008 Great Recession, Moscow attempted to get Beijing to dump their combined shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an attempt to devastate the American economy.  China refused only because the economic blowback on China would have been great.

After 2008, Beijing argued that the world’s overreliance on the U.S. dollar is what precipitated the Great Recession.  Until 2010, both Moscow and Beijing – as well as a litany of European states – wanted to create a new international reserve currency to conduct global trade.  All of these agitations for a new world reserve currency went away after the Obama administration made an historic nuclear arms limitation agreement with Moscow.  While Obama’s New START weakened America’s nuclear posture relative to Russia’s, it did have the salutary effect of redirecting Moscow’s attention away from the West and toward its east (at least until Russian president Vladimir Putin became convinced that Washington was trying to prevent his return to the Kremlin in the highly corrupt Russian presidential election of 2012).

Trump should, therefore, make a deal with Russia.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

There is no doubt that Russia, China, Turkey, France, Germany, and a host of other powerful countries are looking to limit what they view as the damage of the Trump administration’s “America First” trade and foreign policies.  Plus the advent of the Chinese Belt-and-Road Initiative has prompted many of these countries to begin working closer together than ever before.  Yet, for all of the rhetoric about a new Eurasian anti-American alliance, nothing truly substantive has changed geopolitically.  And large gaps exist in China’s proposed “new silk road.”

Most states will realize they need the U.S. for trade more than any other country.  China still relies on the United States for a disproportionate level of trade; Russia remains skeptical about Chinese intentions along its eastern border; Germany and France remain concerned about Russian revanchism in Eastern Europe.  As secretary of defense James Mattis commented to Bill Gertz about the Vostok-2018 military exercises: there “is little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”

Similarly, financial analyst Charles Wallace has written in Forbes that the ubiquity of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency means that no alternative will be crafted anytime soon.  While Putin likes being seen with China’s President Xi Jinping, he understands that China’s ultimate goal is to cleave the Russian Far East away from Moscow and place it under Chinese control.  Both China and Russia are looking for better deals from Washington.  President Trump must continue with his efforts to deal with Russia, while standing firm against China on trade.

Trump can win in separating Russia from China.  In fact, Russia is begging for a better deal from the United States.  In poker terms, Beijing is running a full house off a pair on trade.  Or, in the words of Allianz corporations chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian:

One of the upside risks [to the trade war] is that you may end up changing the global landscape in a way that favors the U.S.  Because countries will realize, if we slip into a trade war, while everybody suffers, [the] U.S. does better in relative terms.  The rest of the world is less solid than the U.S.

Despite appearances to the contrary, the Sino-Russian alliance is not solidified.  Moscow and Beijing just want a better deal from Washington.



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Fight looms over national privacy law…


The tech industry and consumer groups are gearing up for a fight as lawmakers begin considering whether to draft a national privacy law.

The push to get Congress to enact federal privacy standards is gaining new urgency after California passed what is seen as the nation’s toughest privacy law this June. The measure forces businesses to be more transparent about what they do with consumer data and gives users unprecedented control over their personal information.

But the California law has sparked worries within the tech industry, which fears having to comply with a patchwork of varying state regulations.

Now industry groups are pushing Congress to pass a national privacy bill that would block states from implementing their own standards.

Privacy advocates are skeptical of the industry proposals and concerned that internet giants will co-opt the process in order to get protections that are weaker than the California standard implemented across the country.

“They do not want effective oversight. They do not want regulation of their business practices, which is really urgently needed,” Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), told The Hill. “They’re going to work behind the scenes to shape legislation that will not protect Americans from having all of their information regularly gathered and used by these digital giants.”

“They see federal law as an opportunity to preempt stronger rules,” he added.

Next week, executives from Google, Apple, AT&T and other major technology and telecommunications companies will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee as the panel’s Republican chairman, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWant to improve health care? Get Americans off of their couches More Dems want focus on job creation than wage growth Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month MORE (S.D.), prepares to introduce a new privacy law.

Consumer groups are concerned that only industry voices will be heard at the hearing and that internet companies will have an outsized role in shaping the legislation. They are now demanding a seat at the table.

On Wednesday, a coalition of public interest groups including the CDD, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center sent a letter to Thune asking him to ensure that consumers have a voice in the process.

“While we have no objection to the participation of business groups in Senate hearings on consumer privacy, the Senate’s first instinct should be to hear from the American public on these important issues,” the letter reads.

Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the committee, told The Hill in an email that the panel will hold more hearings on the issue.

“For the first hearing, the committee is bringing in companies most consumers recognize to make the discussion about privacy more relatable,” Hill said. “We expect there will be opportunities for other voices at future hearings on the subject.”

A source familiar with the committee’s plans told The Hill that it could hold a hearing for privacy advocates to testify in the coming weeks.

The stakes are high for all sides in the privacy debate after a year which saw Facebook rocked by a massive data scandal.

The company disclosed earlier this year that a data firm had accessed the personal data of over 80 million Facebook users. The revelation sparked a firestorm that saw CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook teaming with nonprofits to fight fake election news China may be copying Facebook to build an intelligence weapon Facebook announces verification to images and video on platform MORE testifying before Congress in a pair of marathon hearings to address lawmakers’ concerns.

Overseas, Europe has already passed its own tough privacy law, which took effect this year.

Whether Congress can actually get behind a national privacy framework, though, is an open question. Lawmakers have tried before, unsuccessfully.

In 2012, the Obama White House unveiled a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” that it hoped to enact into law. The debate dragged on for several years and the process was eventually derailed by contentious disagreements between business and consumer groups.

As Congress gears up to try again, industry groups in recent weeks have been pushing wish lists for what they hope to see in a federal privacy framework. Lobbying groups including the Chamber of Commerce, the Internet Association and BSA | The Software Alliance have all released their own sets of privacy principles.

The industry proposals include calls for codifying transparency rules that require businesses to disclose their collection practices and giving consumers the right to request copies of their data and request that some data be deleted.

Shaundra Watson, BSA’s policy director, said the group’s privacy principles were not a response to the new California law but the result of a discussion among their members, including companies like Apple and Microsoft, of how to codify the consumer protections they already offer.

“Our companies really are responsible for personal data, and so they not only want to continue to embrace those practices but look more broadly to see what protections should be in place across the board and concluded the best way to do that is a [federal] law,” Watson told The Hill.

But privacy advocates remain skeptical. After a series of data scandals, many tech critics believe that any effective privacy framework needs to restrict the data collection practices that companies like Facebook and Google rely on as a business model.

Chester, who says public interest groups are banding together to come up with their own legislative principles, believes the frameworks being pushed by industry lobbyists don’t go far enough.

“What has to happen is the basic business practices have to change,” he said. “We believe there need to be restrictions on how these companies engage in data collection.

“These so-called principles are really principles to undermine privacy, not to protect it,” he said.



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Trump: Expected to Advance Religious Liberty at the UN


Every year, without fail, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for religious freedom.  Persecution of religious minorities is rampant and deeply ingrained in government institutions, and Christians are high on the list of those at risk, especially Christians who have converted from Islam.

The most recent State Department report on international religious freedom notes that between 2010 and 2017, more than 600 Christians were imprisoned solely for the practice of their faith.  The same report points to an upsurge in anti-Christian sentiment within Iranian state media, accompanied by more frequent and aggressive raids on home-based churches.

International human rights groups can naturally be counted on to back up the State Department’s findings and to push for activism on behalf of at-risk individuals and populations in the Islamic Republic.

This goes to show how deeply Islamic extremism is ingrained into the identity of Iran’s theocratic regime.  Every time that regime prosecutes someone for national security crimes on the basis of membership in a religious minority, it is effectively admitting that the regime cannot survive in the presence of religious freedom.  As such, the mullahs tacitly admit this fact almost every single day.

There is no sensible reason for any modern, democratic government to dispute that fact.  Yet the previous White House did just that when it joined the European Union in pursuing negotiations with the Iranian regime on the expectation that this would promote “moderation” among the leadership.  More than three years after the signing of a nuclear deal that was supposed to usher in this moderation, the naïveté of this view has been clearly exposed.

As was revealed recently, some of the Obama administration officials have not given up hope for keeping this deal afloat.  John Kerry, for instance, has met with his Iranian counterparts and advised the ayatollahs to wait until the Trump administration is out.  His conduct is hard to fathom, and it is very damaging to U.S. national security imperatives as well as prospects for promoting religious liberty in the Middle East.

Fortunately, the current presidential administration has no such impulse to turn away from systematic violations of religious freedom and other human rights while waiting for Tehran to correct its own behavior.

In fact, the Trump administration has commendably made religious freedom a major focus of its foreign policy. This was demonstrated in July, when the State Department hosted its first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.  It will be demonstrated again this week when secretary of state Mike Pompeo attends the Values Voter Summit to participate in a discussion of international religious liberty.  None of his predecessors in the office has done the same.

The significance of these gestures is amplified, particularly where Iran policy is concerned, by the fact that the Trump administration has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to assertive foreign policies that will actually hold Tehran and other repressive governments accountable for violations of the rights of Christians and other minorities.  The U.S. is now in the midst of re-imposing the sanctions that were suspended in the wake of shortsighted international negotiations, and this is being done with the express purpose of compelling the Iranian regime toward a comprehensive change of behavior.

To complement its correct policy, the White House should publicly recognize that there is a viable alternative to the clerical regime, which has already specified unqualified religious freedom as part of its vision for Iran’s democratic future.  The 2018 Iran Uprising Summit to be held later this week will echo this message.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the coalition of Iranian opposition movements with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) at its core, is that alternative.  The longstanding pro-democratic Resistance has made itself known in recent months as the driving force behind a far-reaching protest movement that speaks for the economically disenfranchised, for the wrongfully imprisoned, for persecuted minorities, and so on.

In January, the supreme leader of the Iranian regime credited the MEK with facilitating the rapid spread of the protests and used that fact to spur a more aggressive crackdown on the group.  But even after 8,000 arrests and 50 deaths, the Iranian public remained ready to take to the streets again, and the protest movement showed a significant resurgence in March, following a message from NCRI president Maryam Rajavi calling for “a year full of uprisings” in pursuit of “final victory” over the Iranian regime.  In August, protests erupted in more than two dozen cities and towns.  Anti-government protests have become a new feature of the Iranian political landscape.

The Trump administration has done something admirable by giving international religious freedom a place of prominence in its foreign policy.  But it can truly follow through on its commitment to that principle only if it partners with local actors who share the same commitment.

Although Iran is presently one of the world’s most troubled areas in terms of religious liberty and human rights, it is also home to one of the most active, organized, and well established movements in favor of Western-style values and democratic governance.  There is no better or more obvious way of promoting those values in Iranian society than by endorsing and supporting the MEK and its allies.  President Trump presiding over the U.N. Security Council session on September 26 provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. to make a stand for universal values including religious freedoms and to make a clear case for greater multilateral pressure on Iran.

Ken Blackwell advises the Family Research Council and serves on the board of First Liberty Institute.  He was formerly a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Every year, without fail, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for religious freedom.  Persecution of religious minorities is rampant and deeply ingrained in government institutions, and Christians are high on the list of those at risk, especially Christians who have converted from Islam.

The most recent State Department report on international religious freedom notes that between 2010 and 2017, more than 600 Christians were imprisoned solely for the practice of their faith.  The same report points to an upsurge in anti-Christian sentiment within Iranian state media, accompanied by more frequent and aggressive raids on home-based churches.

International human rights groups can naturally be counted on to back up the State Department’s findings and to push for activism on behalf of at-risk individuals and populations in the Islamic Republic.

This goes to show how deeply Islamic extremism is ingrained into the identity of Iran’s theocratic regime.  Every time that regime prosecutes someone for national security crimes on the basis of membership in a religious minority, it is effectively admitting that the regime cannot survive in the presence of religious freedom.  As such, the mullahs tacitly admit this fact almost every single day.

There is no sensible reason for any modern, democratic government to dispute that fact.  Yet the previous White House did just that when it joined the European Union in pursuing negotiations with the Iranian regime on the expectation that this would promote “moderation” among the leadership.  More than three years after the signing of a nuclear deal that was supposed to usher in this moderation, the naïveté of this view has been clearly exposed.

As was revealed recently, some of the Obama administration officials have not given up hope for keeping this deal afloat.  John Kerry, for instance, has met with his Iranian counterparts and advised the ayatollahs to wait until the Trump administration is out.  His conduct is hard to fathom, and it is very damaging to U.S. national security imperatives as well as prospects for promoting religious liberty in the Middle East.

Fortunately, the current presidential administration has no such impulse to turn away from systematic violations of religious freedom and other human rights while waiting for Tehran to correct its own behavior.

In fact, the Trump administration has commendably made religious freedom a major focus of its foreign policy. This was demonstrated in July, when the State Department hosted its first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.  It will be demonstrated again this week when secretary of state Mike Pompeo attends the Values Voter Summit to participate in a discussion of international religious liberty.  None of his predecessors in the office has done the same.

The significance of these gestures is amplified, particularly where Iran policy is concerned, by the fact that the Trump administration has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to assertive foreign policies that will actually hold Tehran and other repressive governments accountable for violations of the rights of Christians and other minorities.  The U.S. is now in the midst of re-imposing the sanctions that were suspended in the wake of shortsighted international negotiations, and this is being done with the express purpose of compelling the Iranian regime toward a comprehensive change of behavior.

To complement its correct policy, the White House should publicly recognize that there is a viable alternative to the clerical regime, which has already specified unqualified religious freedom as part of its vision for Iran’s democratic future.  The 2018 Iran Uprising Summit to be held later this week will echo this message.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the coalition of Iranian opposition movements with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) at its core, is that alternative.  The longstanding pro-democratic Resistance has made itself known in recent months as the driving force behind a far-reaching protest movement that speaks for the economically disenfranchised, for the wrongfully imprisoned, for persecuted minorities, and so on.

In January, the supreme leader of the Iranian regime credited the MEK with facilitating the rapid spread of the protests and used that fact to spur a more aggressive crackdown on the group.  But even after 8,000 arrests and 50 deaths, the Iranian public remained ready to take to the streets again, and the protest movement showed a significant resurgence in March, following a message from NCRI president Maryam Rajavi calling for “a year full of uprisings” in pursuit of “final victory” over the Iranian regime.  In August, protests erupted in more than two dozen cities and towns.  Anti-government protests have become a new feature of the Iranian political landscape.

The Trump administration has done something admirable by giving international religious freedom a place of prominence in its foreign policy.  But it can truly follow through on its commitment to that principle only if it partners with local actors who share the same commitment.

Although Iran is presently one of the world’s most troubled areas in terms of religious liberty and human rights, it is also home to one of the most active, organized, and well established movements in favor of Western-style values and democratic governance.  There is no better or more obvious way of promoting those values in Iranian society than by endorsing and supporting the MEK and its allies.  President Trump presiding over the U.N. Security Council session on September 26 provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. to make a stand for universal values including religious freedoms and to make a clear case for greater multilateral pressure on Iran.

Ken Blackwell advises the Family Research Council and serves on the board of First Liberty Institute.  He was formerly a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.



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Ford vs. Kavanaugh: There's Nothing to Investigate


The fact that Christine Blasey Ford is refusing to testify before Congress makes it clear that even she doesn’t think she’s credible.

But wait, you say: she’s willing to testify after an FBI investigation.

The problem with that is that there is nothing to investigate.  Christine Blasey Ford’s claims don’t involve rape; that’s just her opinion of what was going on.  She wasn’t even undressed; her clothes weren’t ripped; and once she got off the bed, the alleged rapist just let her walk away and eventually leave the house without any further problem.  That’s the worst-case scenario, assuming she’s not lying.  That sure sounds more like a drunk kid clumsily hitting on a girl who he thought was interested than a kid intent on raping a girl.  It’s bad, to be sure, but it’s not “destroy a person’s life decades later” bad.

Forget that for a moment.  Let’s assume that everything she’s said is true.  What could the FBI investigate?

The bureau would have to find every house in the area where there had been a party for teens over a period of several years and see if anyone remembered anything.  Remember: not only doesn’t Christine Blasey Ford remember the house that this amazingly traumatic event occurred in, but she’s not even sure what year it was.  

But what could any of those people remember?  If Christine Blasey Ford isn’t lying, there are only three possible witnesses: herself, Kavanaugh, and Judge.  According to Christine Blasey Ford’s account, whoever else – the number seems to be changing with time – was in the house would have no way of knowing if something had happened, since the stereo was too loud for anyone not in the room to hear her screams.

What Christine Blasey Ford is asking for is for the FBI to spend literally years tracking down every party anyone at Kavanaugh’s or her high school went to over a span of several years decades ago.  Then, having found nothing more than what we already know today – there are only three people who can be witnesses, according to Christine Blasey Ford, and we already know who they are – then and only then might Christine Blasey Ford be willing to testify.

Every sane person realizes that decades after an event such as what Christine Blasey Ford describes, the only evidence is the witnesses’ testimony.  We can’t do a rape kit when there was no rape.  We can’t check for DNA when there was no sex.  We can’t check phone records when there were no cell phones.

Whether it’s now or after an FBI investigation, it all boils down to the witnesses identified by Christine Blasey Ford.  Kavanaugh has never been accused of such behavior before in his life and says it didn’t happen.  Judge says it didn’t happen.  And Christine Blasey Ford didn’t even mention it to anyone for decades.  When she did mention it, her claim was contradicted by the notes her therapist took.  Which is more likely: he didn’t understand what she was saying, or she desperately needs to change her story to attack Kavanaugh?

What Christine Blasey Ford and her Democrat enablers are asking is that we should allow her charges to go forward without her actually having to expose herself to perjury charges until after a years-long FBI investigation.

The FBI looked at her claim and said there was nothing to investigate.  Either the Democrats have to say the FBI is incompetent, which will really undermine their war on Trump, or they have to accept that there is nothing to investigate.

It’s clear that the Democrats are just trying to delay the vote so they can keep the Court as a tool to make up the laws that Democrats can’t get passed through the democratic process.

It’s time to end this farce.  In every valid #MeToo case, the perpetrators harassed several women, and they harassed in the present, not just decades ago.  All the Democrats have is one politically active leftist woman who can’t even remember where the alleged assault occurred.  She has a lot of incentive to lie and, until she is forced to testify under oath, no reason to tell the truth if it doesn’t support her attack on Kavanaugh.

For those people who say we must believe the “victim,” we can only point to the many cases where women have lied about being assaulted.  Take the stripper in the Duke Lacrosse case, the college student in the Rolling Stone story, and Nikki Yovino.  While leftists think we should just presume that every non-leftist man is guilty based on the uncorroborated claims of one woman, that’s not how justice works.  Women aren’t always honest, and men aren’t always rapists.

Everything about Christine Blasey Ford’s actions – wanting to be able to accuse Kavanaugh anonymously, refusing to testify, not remembering the facts necessary to check her claims, waiting until after the last minute to come forward – is fundamentally different from the other #MeToo cases we’ve seen.  Further, Kavanaugh is completely different from the perpetrators in other #MeToo cases.  Women say he’s a gentleman.  No other accusations have surfaced since he was in high school.  There is no pattern of harassment – only the word of one politically active woman who hates his adherence to the Constitution.

Ignoring for the moment the double standard that let Ted Kennedy to murder a woman and stay in politics but demands that Kavanaugh be cast into darkness based on the uncorroborated, denied, and full of problems claims of one woman, if Kavanaugh isn’t appointed because of this, no conservative will ever be appointed again, because there will always be a leftist woman willing to lie so that she can make sure Americans can keep killing their unborn babies.

You can read more of Tom’s rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.

The fact that Christine Blasey Ford is refusing to testify before Congress makes it clear that even she doesn’t think she’s credible.

But wait, you say: she’s willing to testify after an FBI investigation.

The problem with that is that there is nothing to investigate.  Christine Blasey Ford’s claims don’t involve rape; that’s just her opinion of what was going on.  She wasn’t even undressed; her clothes weren’t ripped; and once she got off the bed, the alleged rapist just let her walk away and eventually leave the house without any further problem.  That’s the worst-case scenario, assuming she’s not lying.  That sure sounds more like a drunk kid clumsily hitting on a girl who he thought was interested than a kid intent on raping a girl.  It’s bad, to be sure, but it’s not “destroy a person’s life decades later” bad.

Forget that for a moment.  Let’s assume that everything she’s said is true.  What could the FBI investigate?

The bureau would have to find every house in the area where there had been a party for teens over a period of several years and see if anyone remembered anything.  Remember: not only doesn’t Christine Blasey Ford remember the house that this amazingly traumatic event occurred in, but she’s not even sure what year it was.  

But what could any of those people remember?  If Christine Blasey Ford isn’t lying, there are only three possible witnesses: herself, Kavanaugh, and Judge.  According to Christine Blasey Ford’s account, whoever else – the number seems to be changing with time – was in the house would have no way of knowing if something had happened, since the stereo was too loud for anyone not in the room to hear her screams.

What Christine Blasey Ford is asking for is for the FBI to spend literally years tracking down every party anyone at Kavanaugh’s or her high school went to over a span of several years decades ago.  Then, having found nothing more than what we already know today – there are only three people who can be witnesses, according to Christine Blasey Ford, and we already know who they are – then and only then might Christine Blasey Ford be willing to testify.

Every sane person realizes that decades after an event such as what Christine Blasey Ford describes, the only evidence is the witnesses’ testimony.  We can’t do a rape kit when there was no rape.  We can’t check for DNA when there was no sex.  We can’t check phone records when there were no cell phones.

Whether it’s now or after an FBI investigation, it all boils down to the witnesses identified by Christine Blasey Ford.  Kavanaugh has never been accused of such behavior before in his life and says it didn’t happen.  Judge says it didn’t happen.  And Christine Blasey Ford didn’t even mention it to anyone for decades.  When she did mention it, her claim was contradicted by the notes her therapist took.  Which is more likely: he didn’t understand what she was saying, or she desperately needs to change her story to attack Kavanaugh?

What Christine Blasey Ford and her Democrat enablers are asking is that we should allow her charges to go forward without her actually having to expose herself to perjury charges until after a years-long FBI investigation.

The FBI looked at her claim and said there was nothing to investigate.  Either the Democrats have to say the FBI is incompetent, which will really undermine their war on Trump, or they have to accept that there is nothing to investigate.

It’s clear that the Democrats are just trying to delay the vote so they can keep the Court as a tool to make up the laws that Democrats can’t get passed through the democratic process.

It’s time to end this farce.  In every valid #MeToo case, the perpetrators harassed several women, and they harassed in the present, not just decades ago.  All the Democrats have is one politically active leftist woman who can’t even remember where the alleged assault occurred.  She has a lot of incentive to lie and, until she is forced to testify under oath, no reason to tell the truth if it doesn’t support her attack on Kavanaugh.

For those people who say we must believe the “victim,” we can only point to the many cases where women have lied about being assaulted.  Take the stripper in the Duke Lacrosse case, the college student in the Rolling Stone story, and Nikki Yovino.  While leftists think we should just presume that every non-leftist man is guilty based on the uncorroborated claims of one woman, that’s not how justice works.  Women aren’t always honest, and men aren’t always rapists.

Everything about Christine Blasey Ford’s actions – wanting to be able to accuse Kavanaugh anonymously, refusing to testify, not remembering the facts necessary to check her claims, waiting until after the last minute to come forward – is fundamentally different from the other #MeToo cases we’ve seen.  Further, Kavanaugh is completely different from the perpetrators in other #MeToo cases.  Women say he’s a gentleman.  No other accusations have surfaced since he was in high school.  There is no pattern of harassment – only the word of one politically active woman who hates his adherence to the Constitution.

Ignoring for the moment the double standard that let Ted Kennedy to murder a woman and stay in politics but demands that Kavanaugh be cast into darkness based on the uncorroborated, denied, and full of problems claims of one woman, if Kavanaugh isn’t appointed because of this, no conservative will ever be appointed again, because there will always be a leftist woman willing to lie so that she can make sure Americans can keep killing their unborn babies.

You can read more of Tom’s rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.



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Kavanaugh, Ellison, and the Presumption of Innocence


The Democratic and legacy media mantra that every alleged victim must be deemed credible and heard seems to have one big exception to the rule: it does not apply if you are a Democrat, as evidenced by the reaction of the Democratic National Committee to the credible charges of abuse leveled against Rep. Keith  Ellison, deputy DNC chair and candidate for Minnesota attorney general.

The woman who accused Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of domestic abuse said on Monday that Democrats don’t believe her story and threatened to isolate her over the allegations.


Karen Monahan, a former girlfriend, came forward last month alleging that Ellison sent her threatening text messages and once screamed obscenities at her as he dragged her off a bed by her feet[.] …


Monahan slammed the Democratic Party for its response to her allegations when compared to its treatment of Christine Blasey Ford.  Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to force himself onto her during at a high school party nearly four decades ago, prompting prominent Democrats to get behind Ford’s allegations.


“No, they don’t,” Monahan tweeted in response to a question whether the party believes women’s stories.  “I’ve been smeared, threatened, isolated from my own party.  I provided medical records from 2017, stating on two different Dr. Visits, I told them about the abuse and who did it.  My therapist released records stating I have been dealing and healing from the abuse.” …


She added: “Four people, including my supervisor at the time, stated that I came to them after and shared the exact story I shared publicly, I shared multiple text [sic] between me and Keith, where I discuss the abuse with him and much more.  As I said before, I knew I wouldn’t be believed.”

Let us be kind and for a fleeting moment say the DNC was giving Keith Ellison the presumption of innocence and granting him the right to confront his accuser, things that are being denied Judge Kavanaugh.  Okay, that moment has passed.  Compare Karen Monahan’s specific charges and actions to Christine Blasey Ford’s 36-year-old recovered memory, which fails to include little details like just when Kavanaugh’s assault occurred, just where it occurred, how she got there, and just who was in the room at the time.

A  mid-August news report details another credible charge against Ellison:

This is the second time Ellison has been publicly accused of domestic violence.  Another woman, Amy Louise Alexander, spoke out in 2006, going public with her account that Ellison verbally abused her while they were having an affair.  She also said he grabbed and pushed her during an argument.

When it comes to Democrats, the so-called #MeToo movement becomes a #MeNeither movement, dismissing out of hand any accusations against a Democrat.  Again, in the second incident, we have documentation in the form of a 911 call:

Amy Alexander claimed that Ellison had abused her during a 2005 relationship in a 2006 article published in The Wright County Republican and blogger Laura Loomer uncovered documentation of a 911 call.


Alexander said in the article that she began seeing Ellison in 1993, while he was still married, and that the relationship eventually went downhill, which prompted her to move out of state.


They would cross paths again in 2004, but the relationship came to a quick end in May 2005 – that’s when Alexander said Ellison showed up at her house uninvited and assaulted her.


“In May, Keith wanted to try and quiet me so he came to my home uninvited,” wrote Alexander.  “We had words.  His anger kicked in.  He berated me.  He grabbed me and pushed me out of the way.  I was terrified.  I called the police.  As he fled he broke my screen door.  I have never been so scared.”


As Loomer noted, the caller’s name on the 911 report has been redacted, but she said a records search under the name of “Amy Alexander” shows that “Alexander lived at the address on the report: 1403 Washington St NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ellison gets a break where Kavanaugh is guilty until proven innocent largely because Kavanaugh is an originalist who would interpret the Constitution as written according to the intentions of those who wrote it in the context of the times in which it was written.  His accuser’s famous 2012 therapy occurred just as it appeared that Mitt Romney might win and likely appoint Kavanaugh himself.  That didn’t happen, and Christine Blasey Ford went back into hibernation – as Peter Strzok might put it, an “insurance policy.”

Ellison, by contrast, is the poster child of the radical progressive left.  His sins may be forgiven because he is right on their issues, such as his support for cop-killers.  As Professor Alan Dershowitz notes, Ellison is a virulent anti-Semite who freely associates with the race-baiting Al Sharpton and unhinged Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan:

Ellison has a long history of sordid association with anti-Semitism.  He worked with and repeatedly defended one of a handful of the most notorious and public anti-Semites in our country: The Reverend Louis Farrakhan.  And worked with Farrakhan at the very time this anti-Semite was publicly describing Judaism as a “gutter religion” and insisting that the Jews were a primary force in the African slave trade.  Ellison has publicly stated that he was unaware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism.  That is not a credible statement.  Everyone was aware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism.  Farrakhan did not try to hide it.  Indeed, he proclaimed it on every occasion.  Ellison is either lying or he willfully blinded himself to what was obvious to everyone else.  Neither of these qualities makes him suitable to be the next chairman of the DNC.

Ellison has deep ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.  As the watchdog group Jihad Watch reports:

Ellison has spoken at a convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).  Yet ISNA has actually admitted its ties to Hamas, which styles itself the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Justice Department actually classified ISNA among entities “who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood.”  It gets worse.  In 2008, Ellison accepted $13,350 from the Muslim American Society (MAS) to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The Muslim American Society is a Muslim Brotherhood organization: “In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews.  One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.”  That’s from the Chicago Tribune in 2004, in an article that is now carried on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website, Ikhwanweb.  Also, the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) raised large amounts of for Ellison’s first campaign, and he has spoken at numerous CAIR events.  Yet CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case – so named by the Justice Department.  CAIR officials have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups.

So the Democrats would have us believe that Brett Kavanaugh, who has a impeccable conservative judicial record, a judge with a wife and two kids who coaches a girls’ basketball team, is a closet sexual predator, while Keith Ellison, a far-left serial abuser, should be the next attorney general of Minnesota, interpreting and enforcing its laws from a sharia law perspective.  It does indeed depend on whose political ox is being gored.

The Democratic and legacy media mantra that every alleged victim must be deemed credible and heard seems to have one big exception to the rule: it does not apply if you are a Democrat, as evidenced by the reaction of the Democratic National Committee to the credible charges of abuse leveled against Rep. Keith  Ellison, deputy DNC chair and candidate for Minnesota attorney general.

The woman who accused Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of domestic abuse said on Monday that Democrats don’t believe her story and threatened to isolate her over the allegations.


Karen Monahan, a former girlfriend, came forward last month alleging that Ellison sent her threatening text messages and once screamed obscenities at her as he dragged her off a bed by her feet[.] …


Monahan slammed the Democratic Party for its response to her allegations when compared to its treatment of Christine Blasey Ford.  Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to force himself onto her during at a high school party nearly four decades ago, prompting prominent Democrats to get behind Ford’s allegations.


“No, they don’t,” Monahan tweeted in response to a question whether the party believes women’s stories.  “I’ve been smeared, threatened, isolated from my own party.  I provided medical records from 2017, stating on two different Dr. Visits, I told them about the abuse and who did it.  My therapist released records stating I have been dealing and healing from the abuse.” …


She added: “Four people, including my supervisor at the time, stated that I came to them after and shared the exact story I shared publicly, I shared multiple text [sic] between me and Keith, where I discuss the abuse with him and much more.  As I said before, I knew I wouldn’t be believed.”

Let us be kind and for a fleeting moment say the DNC was giving Keith Ellison the presumption of innocence and granting him the right to confront his accuser, things that are being denied Judge Kavanaugh.  Okay, that moment has passed.  Compare Karen Monahan’s specific charges and actions to Christine Blasey Ford’s 36-year-old recovered memory, which fails to include little details like just when Kavanaugh’s assault occurred, just where it occurred, how she got there, and just who was in the room at the time.

A  mid-August news report details another credible charge against Ellison:

This is the second time Ellison has been publicly accused of domestic violence.  Another woman, Amy Louise Alexander, spoke out in 2006, going public with her account that Ellison verbally abused her while they were having an affair.  She also said he grabbed and pushed her during an argument.

When it comes to Democrats, the so-called #MeToo movement becomes a #MeNeither movement, dismissing out of hand any accusations against a Democrat.  Again, in the second incident, we have documentation in the form of a 911 call:

Amy Alexander claimed that Ellison had abused her during a 2005 relationship in a 2006 article published in The Wright County Republican and blogger Laura Loomer uncovered documentation of a 911 call.


Alexander said in the article that she began seeing Ellison in 1993, while he was still married, and that the relationship eventually went downhill, which prompted her to move out of state.


They would cross paths again in 2004, but the relationship came to a quick end in May 2005 – that’s when Alexander said Ellison showed up at her house uninvited and assaulted her.


“In May, Keith wanted to try and quiet me so he came to my home uninvited,” wrote Alexander.  “We had words.  His anger kicked in.  He berated me.  He grabbed me and pushed me out of the way.  I was terrified.  I called the police.  As he fled he broke my screen door.  I have never been so scared.”


As Loomer noted, the caller’s name on the 911 report has been redacted, but she said a records search under the name of “Amy Alexander” shows that “Alexander lived at the address on the report: 1403 Washington St NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ellison gets a break where Kavanaugh is guilty until proven innocent largely because Kavanaugh is an originalist who would interpret the Constitution as written according to the intentions of those who wrote it in the context of the times in which it was written.  His accuser’s famous 2012 therapy occurred just as it appeared that Mitt Romney might win and likely appoint Kavanaugh himself.  That didn’t happen, and Christine Blasey Ford went back into hibernation – as Peter Strzok might put it, an “insurance policy.”

Ellison, by contrast, is the poster child of the radical progressive left.  His sins may be forgiven because he is right on their issues, such as his support for cop-killers.  As Professor Alan Dershowitz notes, Ellison is a virulent anti-Semite who freely associates with the race-baiting Al Sharpton and unhinged Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan:

Ellison has a long history of sordid association with anti-Semitism.  He worked with and repeatedly defended one of a handful of the most notorious and public anti-Semites in our country: The Reverend Louis Farrakhan.  And worked with Farrakhan at the very time this anti-Semite was publicly describing Judaism as a “gutter religion” and insisting that the Jews were a primary force in the African slave trade.  Ellison has publicly stated that he was unaware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism.  That is not a credible statement.  Everyone was aware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism.  Farrakhan did not try to hide it.  Indeed, he proclaimed it on every occasion.  Ellison is either lying or he willfully blinded himself to what was obvious to everyone else.  Neither of these qualities makes him suitable to be the next chairman of the DNC.

Ellison has deep ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.  As the watchdog group Jihad Watch reports:

Ellison has spoken at a convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).  Yet ISNA has actually admitted its ties to Hamas, which styles itself the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Justice Department actually classified ISNA among entities “who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood.”  It gets worse.  In 2008, Ellison accepted $13,350 from the Muslim American Society (MAS) to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The Muslim American Society is a Muslim Brotherhood organization: “In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews.  One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.”  That’s from the Chicago Tribune in 2004, in an article that is now carried on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website, Ikhwanweb.  Also, the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) raised large amounts of for Ellison’s first campaign, and he has spoken at numerous CAIR events.  Yet CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case – so named by the Justice Department.  CAIR officials have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups.

So the Democrats would have us believe that Brett Kavanaugh, who has a impeccable conservative judicial record, a judge with a wife and two kids who coaches a girls’ basketball team, is a closet sexual predator, while Keith Ellison, a far-left serial abuser, should be the next attorney general of Minnesota, interpreting and enforcing its laws from a sharia law perspective.  It does indeed depend on whose political ox is being gored.



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A DC Tale of Mugs, Tariffs, and Oikos


I finally visited Made in D.C. when my mom came to town.  I had been meaning to go for months, but I never get around to fun stuff until company comes and demands it.  We perused the home-grown everything: plants, candles, mugs, jewelry, greeting cards, you name it.  Each table of wares had a corresponding portrait and biography of the creator, who was a D.C. resident.

What first caught my eye was Comarca Lagunera’s “Postcards from Washington, D.C.”  His work was born from “a self-imposed challenge to gaze at this amazing city, one illustration a week.”  My mom bought me a wheelthrown mug made by museum specialist Kate Hardy.  She had, we read, made all her creations at Hollow Work studio in D.C.’s northeast quadrant, a twenty-minute walk from where I live.  I bought a pair of earrings created by Mallory Shelter, the creator and designer of Mallory Shelter Jewelry, who realized her love of mixing gemstones and metals ONLY when she moved to D.C. and trained under a local goldsmith.  We left the shop happy not only with our purchases, but also with ourselves.  We had put some money in our neighbors’ pockets.  A fellow D.C.-er could perhaps treat herself to coffee because of us.  We had done some good.

I think this is a sentiment easily felt by many folks, regardless of political persuasion.  But perhaps it ought to be not only felt, but understood – by conservatives especially.  In How to Be a Conservative, published by Bloomsbury in 2014, Sir Roger Scruton wrote that “those things that we truly value are precisely the things, such as life, love and knowledge, that we are reluctant to price.  Value begins where calculation ends, since that which matters most to us is the thing that we will not exchange.”  I value my home and the people I share it with; I value my neighborhood and neighbors; and I value my city, the beautiful, big-skied, brick-pathed hub of Washington, D.C.  I naturally value its residents more than I value the residents of Nepal or Tokyo.  The slightly higher price of their goods and wares is not a deterrent to me, because for them, I feel a kinship that transcends the marketplace, a kinship I am not willing to price.

There are libertarians and neo-conservatives who are either incapable of understanding or unwilling to understand this sentiment.  Scruton writes how economists establish their “empire over the human imagination by pricing everything that human beings might want, need, admire or value, so replacing the great questions of human life with the abracadabra of experts.”  The question of value – which relates inevitably to questions of life, love, and the idea of the human person – is reduced to a toy at the mercy of equations.  “For the economist,” Scruton writes, “value and price are indistinguishable.”

Here’s an example.  On September 10, I went to the Heritage Foundation’s first event in its “Free Markets: The Ethical Economic Choice” speaker series.  Dr. Walter E. Williams gave a (mostly) excellent lecture titled “The Role of Government in a Free Society,” which compared the Founders’ ideas to progressive liberals’ ideas on the role of government.  A conservative myself, I was mostly in agreement with Dr. Williams, until he proposed that the market be free from cumbersome tariffs.  I remembered my excursion to Made in D.C. and wondered how such a market, though free from tariffs and economically efficient in the short term, could account for not only the preference, but the duty I felt for shopping local and eschewing foreign goods.

I therefore asked Dr. Williams if he thought tariffs could ever be justified.  Not a one, said he.  Dr. Williams informed me, and the rest of the audience, that he believes in “peaceable, voluntary exchange.”  If Canada imposes heavy tariffs on our dairy products, and America retaliates by imposing heavy tariffs on Canadian wood, then consumers of both nations are simply “getting screwed.”  It is as if two people are in a rowboat at sea, he said, and after one person shoots a hole in his end of the boat, the other retaliates by shooting a hole in his side of the boat.  It’s “just foolishness.”  When exchanges traverse national borders, Dr. Williams would have us believe we are wrong to consider these exchanges instances of countries trading with countries; he would rather have us think these exchanges are individuals trading with individuals.

But conservatives know that none of us is merely an individual.  We are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, each of us belonging to the certain town or city in which we grew up, the school we attended, the company we work for, the church in which we worship.  We are also citizens of cities; of states; and, yes, of countries.  These privileges of membership confer, along with honors and rights, various duties and responsibilities.  In a deep, real sense, we belong to our country, just as surely as our country belongs to us.

I wished Dr. Williams would have said that, at their best, tariffs benefit and motivate creators like Cormaca Lagunera, Kate Hardy, and Mallory Shelter.  They are not always “just foolishness.”  They are a way for governments to distinguish and favor creators of the homeland.  There are things in our marketplace that have been made by people we know and love; there are things in our marketplace that have been made by people with whom we share a home.  There are also those things that have been made by people far away from us, who do not live like us, think like us, or care for us.  It is more than understandable for a government to want its own people to do well in their own marketplaces, and if such a government decides to do what it can to benefit the endeavors of its own people and not the endeavors of foreigners, who will cast the first stone?  Dr. Williams, apparently.

Levying a tariff is wrongly conceived as a purposeless way to burden the high-functioning, high-power consumer.  It is rightly conceived as a way of uniting, motivating, and showing patriotic preference for one’s own.  And why not?  We are animated, Scruton writes, by “oikophilia: the love of oikos, which means not only the home but the people contained in it.”  I make life decisions based not merely on convenience, low cost, and what is good for me, but also on reality, beauty, and what is good for everyone around me.  This is the way I act in all realms of life, including the marketplace.

Economists, who see no factors in the equation of human action except minimum input and maximum output, can never hope to understand the oikos to which their economics owes its Greek etymology – oîkos, “house,” and némō, “distribute, allocate.”  Ironically, they are the poorer for it.  I sip my coffee from my forty-dollar wheelthrown mug, knowing that it connects me to a life both of and beyond my own.  Economists, I gather, sip their coffee from cheap, foreign, factory-made cups, complaining about politics and thinking only of themselves.

I finally visited Made in D.C. when my mom came to town.  I had been meaning to go for months, but I never get around to fun stuff until company comes and demands it.  We perused the home-grown everything: plants, candles, mugs, jewelry, greeting cards, you name it.  Each table of wares had a corresponding portrait and biography of the creator, who was a D.C. resident.

What first caught my eye was Comarca Lagunera’s “Postcards from Washington, D.C.”  His work was born from “a self-imposed challenge to gaze at this amazing city, one illustration a week.”  My mom bought me a wheelthrown mug made by museum specialist Kate Hardy.  She had, we read, made all her creations at Hollow Work studio in D.C.’s northeast quadrant, a twenty-minute walk from where I live.  I bought a pair of earrings created by Mallory Shelter, the creator and designer of Mallory Shelter Jewelry, who realized her love of mixing gemstones and metals ONLY when she moved to D.C. and trained under a local goldsmith.  We left the shop happy not only with our purchases, but also with ourselves.  We had put some money in our neighbors’ pockets.  A fellow D.C.-er could perhaps treat herself to coffee because of us.  We had done some good.

I think this is a sentiment easily felt by many folks, regardless of political persuasion.  But perhaps it ought to be not only felt, but understood – by conservatives especially.  In How to Be a Conservative, published by Bloomsbury in 2014, Sir Roger Scruton wrote that “those things that we truly value are precisely the things, such as life, love and knowledge, that we are reluctant to price.  Value begins where calculation ends, since that which matters most to us is the thing that we will not exchange.”  I value my home and the people I share it with; I value my neighborhood and neighbors; and I value my city, the beautiful, big-skied, brick-pathed hub of Washington, D.C.  I naturally value its residents more than I value the residents of Nepal or Tokyo.  The slightly higher price of their goods and wares is not a deterrent to me, because for them, I feel a kinship that transcends the marketplace, a kinship I am not willing to price.

There are libertarians and neo-conservatives who are either incapable of understanding or unwilling to understand this sentiment.  Scruton writes how economists establish their “empire over the human imagination by pricing everything that human beings might want, need, admire or value, so replacing the great questions of human life with the abracadabra of experts.”  The question of value – which relates inevitably to questions of life, love, and the idea of the human person – is reduced to a toy at the mercy of equations.  “For the economist,” Scruton writes, “value and price are indistinguishable.”

Here’s an example.  On September 10, I went to the Heritage Foundation’s first event in its “Free Markets: The Ethical Economic Choice” speaker series.  Dr. Walter E. Williams gave a (mostly) excellent lecture titled “The Role of Government in a Free Society,” which compared the Founders’ ideas to progressive liberals’ ideas on the role of government.  A conservative myself, I was mostly in agreement with Dr. Williams, until he proposed that the market be free from cumbersome tariffs.  I remembered my excursion to Made in D.C. and wondered how such a market, though free from tariffs and economically efficient in the short term, could account for not only the preference, but the duty I felt for shopping local and eschewing foreign goods.

I therefore asked Dr. Williams if he thought tariffs could ever be justified.  Not a one, said he.  Dr. Williams informed me, and the rest of the audience, that he believes in “peaceable, voluntary exchange.”  If Canada imposes heavy tariffs on our dairy products, and America retaliates by imposing heavy tariffs on Canadian wood, then consumers of both nations are simply “getting screwed.”  It is as if two people are in a rowboat at sea, he said, and after one person shoots a hole in his end of the boat, the other retaliates by shooting a hole in his side of the boat.  It’s “just foolishness.”  When exchanges traverse national borders, Dr. Williams would have us believe we are wrong to consider these exchanges instances of countries trading with countries; he would rather have us think these exchanges are individuals trading with individuals.

But conservatives know that none of us is merely an individual.  We are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, each of us belonging to the certain town or city in which we grew up, the school we attended, the company we work for, the church in which we worship.  We are also citizens of cities; of states; and, yes, of countries.  These privileges of membership confer, along with honors and rights, various duties and responsibilities.  In a deep, real sense, we belong to our country, just as surely as our country belongs to us.

I wished Dr. Williams would have said that, at their best, tariffs benefit and motivate creators like Cormaca Lagunera, Kate Hardy, and Mallory Shelter.  They are not always “just foolishness.”  They are a way for governments to distinguish and favor creators of the homeland.  There are things in our marketplace that have been made by people we know and love; there are things in our marketplace that have been made by people with whom we share a home.  There are also those things that have been made by people far away from us, who do not live like us, think like us, or care for us.  It is more than understandable for a government to want its own people to do well in their own marketplaces, and if such a government decides to do what it can to benefit the endeavors of its own people and not the endeavors of foreigners, who will cast the first stone?  Dr. Williams, apparently.

Levying a tariff is wrongly conceived as a purposeless way to burden the high-functioning, high-power consumer.  It is rightly conceived as a way of uniting, motivating, and showing patriotic preference for one’s own.  And why not?  We are animated, Scruton writes, by “oikophilia: the love of oikos, which means not only the home but the people contained in it.”  I make life decisions based not merely on convenience, low cost, and what is good for me, but also on reality, beauty, and what is good for everyone around me.  This is the way I act in all realms of life, including the marketplace.

Economists, who see no factors in the equation of human action except minimum input and maximum output, can never hope to understand the oikos to which their economics owes its Greek etymology – oîkos, “house,” and némō, “distribute, allocate.”  Ironically, they are the poorer for it.  I sip my coffee from my forty-dollar wheelthrown mug, knowing that it connects me to a life both of and beyond my own.  Economists, I gather, sip their coffee from cheap, foreign, factory-made cups, complaining about politics and thinking only of themselves.



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Vehicle of Future?




Vehicle of Future?

(Third column, 9th story, link)


Related stories:
BMW autonomous motorcycle…

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