Krauthammer’s Take: ‘Encouraging’ That McMaster Questions ‘the Prevailing Assumptions & Worldview’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer gave two main reasons why the selection of General H. R. McMaster to be national-security adviser was encouraging, and he also made another point about the language of Trump’s announcement:

What’s encouraging about him is the book that he wrote on Vietnam, and also he was the architect, one of the intellectual architects, of the surge in Iraq. In both instances he’s going against the prevailing assumptions and worldview. The surge we all now praise in retrospect — people were very skeptical of it, even within the Bush administration, in the military. It was kind of revolutionary, and he was there. So it tells you: This is a guy who will say what he thinks and promote what he wants. The other interesting element of the announcement was that the president went out of his to praise John Bolton, to say that even though he was one of the four candidates — he didn’t get the job — he said, “We want him in some other job in the White House.” It will be interesting to see what he gets.

Trump’s Team of Sort of Rivals

by Victor Davis Hanson

The selection of the multitalented and independent thinker Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster as national-security adviser is inspired and reifies Trump’s past statements that he likes outspoken and independent advisers. McMaster is best known for his counterinsurgency work in Iraq, but prior to that, he wrote a principled critique of Vietnam-era top brass, and he was the epitome of traditional Army conventional excellence, especially in armor, as evidenced by the victory at the Battle of 73 Easting in the first Gulf War.

He is also a pragmatist experienced in the interworkings of the media, politics, and the military, and he won’t be surprised by the many fault lines in the Trump administration. Along with Mattis and Kelly, McMaster reflects well on Trump’s Jacksonian and deterrent instincts. These picks also reveal Trump’s assumption that independent and frank minds will more likely enhance his judgment and reputation by their possible occasional differences with him than they would undermine him by either obsequiousness or media-driven, opportunistic criticism.

The world is a mess, but some of America’s most talented are now in critical positions to protect and strengthen the United States.

The Decent Drapery of Our Political Life

by Rich Lowry

Trump’s tweet about the press being the enemy of the people consumed much of the weekend. I think there are a couple of salient points: 1) I doubt Trump is aware of the Jacobin overtones of the phrase; 2) Whenever anyone complains about how nasty our political debate is getting, it’s worth remembering that people used to assault one another on the floor of the Congress; 3) That said, we are ripping up the decent drapery of our political life–the old standards, often depending on artifice and sometimes highly annoying, that softened the edges of our political conflict. This trend didn’t start with Trump, nor will it end with him, but he now has a large hand it.

H.R. McMaster

by Rich Lowry

I’m with David. He is hugely impressive–brilliant, independent-minded, brave, and a natural leader. My worry will be whether he has the political deftness and experience to navigate what is going to be an enormously complex job at the center of a White House driven by a populist-nationalism with which McMaster presumably has little sympathy. But on the simple principle that it is better to have more impressive people around President Trump rather than fewer, this is a reassuring  choice.

UCLA vs. Free Speech

by John J. Miller

UCLA appears to be blocking students from taking a conservative professor’s course on free speech. Lauren Fox has the story at The College Fix.

In other news at the Fix, Jackson Richman reports on Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to defund the campus left and Amanda Tidwell writes on today’s “Islamaphobia” event at Ohio State, where an al Qaeda sympathizer last fall injured multiple students by driving a car into a crowd and then attacked with a knife.

New National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster Is the Neil Gorsuch of Generals

by David French

Donald Trump has made his choice to replace Michael Flynn, and it’s hard to think of a better man. Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster will be the new national security adviser:

General McMaster is a former commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, my old unit. I served in Iraq with a host of guys who’d served under McMaster in the Battle of Tal Afar in 2005, and almost to a man they loved him. I never served under him (I came along for the next deployment), but many of the people I respect the most were with him during one of  the Iraq War’s most significant urban battles and came away deeply impressed. 

Indeed, I’d call McMaster the Neil Gorsuch of generals. Like Judge Gorsuch, General McMaster is respected by his peers, admired for his intellect, and possesses an impeccable record of public service. Professionally, he’s in the short list of the best of the best. (Seriously, read up not just on the Battle of Tal Afar, but also on the Battle of 73 Easting in the Gulf War — where McMaster’s outnumbered Eagle Troop of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment took on a numerically-superior Iraqi armored force and destroyed it in a mere twenty-three minutes). 

There’s something else, however, that McMaster shares with Gorsuch — a known hostility to executive overreach and a keen awareness of his proper role in a constitutional republic. Gorsuch has famously questioned the explosive expansion of the federal bureaucracy. In his seminal book, Dereliction of Duty, McMaster famously called out civilian and military leaders for their profound mistakes in the run-up to the Vietnam War. Central to his argument is the notion that generals can and should (consistent with the chain of command and respect for presidential authority) provide their independent judgment to the president, including by criticizing and pointing out the shortcomings of the president’s tactical and strategic plans. In other words, effective military leaders shouldn’t simply roll over when confronted with unreasonable presidential demands. 

With the exception of his loyalty hire of Michael Flynn, Trump’s key generals — James Mattis, John Kelly, and now H.R. McMaster — represent the best of modern military leadership. Their presence in the government is deeply reassuring. It’s now incumbent on President Trump to heed their counsel and give them the level of authority that they have earned. 

“Patriot Games”

by Rich Lowry

You may be tired of the nationalism/patriotism debate, but it isn’t tired of you. I have a piece on the home page responding to Jonah’s G-File last weekend, which elaborated on his first reply. One of my counter-counter points: 

Jonah is slicing it very, very thin here. In his first reply to our piece, Jonah wrote, “Everyone is born a nationalist, to one extent or another,” and that’s because nationalism isn’t a doctrine “but an emotional or psychological state.” It is a “natural human passion” that needs “proper channeling.” Becoming a patriot, per Jonah, takes careful ideological training of the sort set out by a Walter Berns. 

Then, in the G-File, Jonah writes, “People all over the world love their countries.” This makes patriotism sound, if not universal, quite widespread. And what is love, if not itself an emotional or psychological state that needs careful channeling? Indeed, Jonah talks about how we need to distinguish between different kind of loves.

His discussion of this point is genuinely interesting, but it seems to me that Jonah has given away whatever categorical distinction he wanted to maintain. By his account, both nationalism and patriotism are natural to some extent or other, both are passions, and both need to be channeled in constructive directions.

So what’s the fundamental difference between the two? At the end of the day, Jonah’s definition seems to come down to patriotism is everything good and right and nationalism is (mostly) everything intolerant and dangerous. If we take this literally, patriotism is the only human passion that can never be distorted or go wrong. Patriots never become chauvinists. Patriots never, in an excess of zeal, trample on another country’s interests or honor. They never, during a time of war, clamp down on dissent. Patriots are paladins of truth and justice, and if they ever misstep they, by definition, becoming something else — nationalists, presumably.

More Advice for Secretary DeVos

by Peter Augustine Lawler

So I have more advice for Secretary DeVos on another channel. In general, it’s better if the Department of Education does less, and it can do some good if it does less in the right way. 

How the Education Department Might Do a Bit of Good

by George Leef

The U.S. Department of Education shouldn’t exist and we’d be best off if we could summarily abolish it. Short of that, however, under sensible leadership, the department could at least do a bit of good. In today’s Martin Center article, economics professor Kelly Markson proposes an idea — promote financial literacy in our schools.

She teaches at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh and has observed that many of her students know very little about personal finance. That knowledge used to come from the family and having part-time jobs, but too few of America’s youth today gets much of that. Markson recounts a conversation with an economics major at UNC who wasn’t even able to explain the difference between gross and net income.

Her students are amazed to learn how much wealth they can accumulate through steady saving and investing. It’s lamentable that so few students learn that at any time during their education.

Markson concludes, “Secretary DeVos, please prioritize personal finance. There are some who will criticize you no matter what you do. They might argue ‘What good is teaching about investing in the stock market when the working poor barely have enough to eat? Let’s stick to the status quo, and focus more on things such as Algebra I.’ The truth is that not everybody needs to learn Algebra I to succeed, but everybody needs to understand the basics of budgeting, saving, and building wealth.”

It would be interesting to see what would happen if Secretary DeVos did make this part of her change agenda. I think most Americans would say, “Sure — that ought to be part of every student’s education.” Progressive zealots, however, would no doubt oppose it since financial literacy tends to imbue people with both a sense of personal responsibility and far-sightedness, neither of which is consistent with the sort of citizen the progressives want to create. They’d much rather have the schools teach kids to hector everyone about climate change and white privilege than to understand compound interest and financial instruments.

Milo Yiannopoulos Disinvited from CPAC

by Jim Geraghty

American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp announced earlier today that his group decided to rescind the invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference “due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia.” (For those contending that accusation is a smear, the comments in question can be found here; decide for yourself. Strong language warning. It seems fair to say that at least at the time of that conversation last month, Yiannopoulos was not willing to make a blanket condemnation of relationships between grown adults and those under the age of consent.)

As I wrote earlier this morning, fighting Yiannopoulos with protests and boycotts is like fighting a fire with gasoline. The most salient point Yiannopoulos makes in his shtick is that the Left is intolerant, filled with rage, and incapable of respecting any dissenting view… and campus Leftists live down to his portrait, time after time. He has become a big show because he more or less is a walking, talking perpetual threat of a riot, and a big part of this is that he keeps going to places like Berkeley, the places most inclined to respond to provocation through violent outbursts.

It would be an enormous blunder for the Right to make the same mistake. And thankfully, the CPAC crowd is not a rioting crowd.

Perhaps the right measuring stick of Yiannopoulos is, what does he really have to offer an audience of conservative activists when he isn’t being shouted down, attacked, or besieged by riotous Leftists? We on the Right will rightfully instinctively defend anyone threatened by the pincers of a politically-correct speech code and the radical mob. Once that threat to free speech is removed… then what?

Are there things Yiannopoulos can teach us to advance the conservative cause, conservative ideas, or conservative policies? Can the methods that get him what he wants be used by others, or are they non-replicable? Does the toolbox of the provocateur really have the kinds of tools useful to those of us who want to build something more lasting and create structural changes – i.e., tax reform, a stronger military, a solution to the opioid addiction crisis, a thriving economy full of innovation and consumer choice, support networks of community and family, etcetera? I’m skeptical, but willing to listen. Let’s hear it.

Yiannopoulos triggers rage in Leftists like no one else in the world today other than Donald Trump, and a lot of folks on the Right will cheer that. But let’s face it, triggering rage in a Leftist is not a terribly hard thing to do.

Speaker Ryan’s Use of Reporters’ Recorders to Explain His Border Tax Was Cute — But Misleading

by Veronique de Rugy

Faced with growing opposition to their border-adjustment tax, congressional Republicans are nonetheless on the offensive trying to sell it. I have expressed my many reasons for opposing the tax, including my disbelief that Republicans would support a massive tax increase alongside what is otherwise a pro-growth tax reform. While they oppose tax increases to pay for spending increases in other contexts and usually make the case that spending increases should be paid for by spending cuts, Republicans continue to push for this massive new source of revenue, in spite of the distortions it would introduce.

Until now, supporters of the tax have used many questionable arguments. For instance, they claim we shouldn’t worry about the protectionist aspect of a tax that imposes a 20 percent rate to imports but exempts exports under the hope that the U.S. dollar will adjust fully and quickly. However, there are reasons to believe that while the U.S. currency will adjust, it won’t adjust fully (Federal Reserve Board chairwoman Janet Yellen is only the latest one to stress that point), it won’t adjust as quickly as they claim (especially if the tax is challenged under the World Trade Organization as the Europeans have warned is going to be the case), and it won’t result in unicorns and rainbows.

But the latest misguided statements about the border-adjustment tax comes from House speaker Paul Ryan — who ought to know better. During a press conference last week, he repeated the claim that United States was at a disadvantage because other countries’ exports are exempted from taxes while U.S. goods aren’t.

[Ryan] noted that most other countries already border-adjust their taxes and tax goods based on whether they were consumed in their jurisdiction.

That comment is bound to confuse reporters because, as Mr. Ryan must know, no other country border-adjusts their corporate income tax. They border-adjust their Value Added Tax. Conflating the two is misleading, to say the least.

Ryan continued:

The Speaker picked up two reporters’ recorders to give an example of how goods are taxed currently. He suggested one was American-made and the other was Japanese-made. Early on, he dropped one of the recorders, saying “oops” and receiving laughter from the reporters.

“Here’s what Japan does when they make this tape recorder: When they send it for export they take the tax off of it, and then it comes to America and it’s not taxed, and it comes through to compete against our good, which was taxed. Theirs was untaxed twice,” Ryan said.

“When America makes something, like a tape recorder, we tax it, and then we send it to Japan. As it enters Japan it’s taxed again, to compete against their tape recorder,” he continued. “So we are doing it to ourselves. We are hurting our manufacturing and jobs. We are putting a bias against making things in America in the tax code. . . . That is why we think this is very important. This is good manufacturing policy.”

Oh boy, where do I begin? First, it is true that U.S. companies are at a disadvantage but it is not because of other countries’ tax codes. It is because our corporate-income-tax system has the highest rate of all OECD countries and because, unlike most of our competitors, it taxes U.S. companies’ profits no matter where they are earned in the world. The solution to this disadvantage is to reduce the rates and move to a territorial system. Oh, and by the way, unlike what Ryan and other proponents of a border-adjustment tax would like you to believe, you do not need to move to an expansive destination-based-cash-flow tax to have a territorial tax.

Now let me address the cute tape-recorder example used by the speaker. It is totally misleading because it conflates foreign countries corporate tax and VAT taxes and it paints a picture that is incorrect. For instance, he claims that Japanese exports are exempt from taxes. No, Japanese products exported to the U.S. are exempt from the Japanese VAT but the Japanese company is still paying U.S. corporate tax on its U.S. profits. And you know what? In that sense, the Japanese export is treated exactly like the U.S. goods sold in the U.S. In other words, the playing field is even! I repeat: Japanese goods in the U.S. are taxed like U.S. goods in the U.S.

How about U.S. exports in Japan? Well, it gets hit by the Japanese VAT in Japan and by the Japanese corporate tax but so are Japanese goods sold in Japan. Again, the only disadvantage faced by U.S. companies selling tape recorders abroad comes from the U.S. tax system, which requires that income earned in Japan be taxed by Uncle Sam at 35 percent after benefiting from a tax credit for tax paid in Japan. If the U.S. company decides to keep its Japanese income outside the U.S., the U.S. rate won’t apply.

Dan Mitchell explains why the VAT doesn’t change the terms of trade in this video.

Finally, economists have debunked the idea implied by the speaker that foreign VATs give an advantage to foreign exports — and therefor boost foreign exports. It is simply not true. It follows that imposing a border-adjustment tax in the U.S. will not boost U.S. exports either. Period.

Let me summarize this for you:

  • No, other countries do not border-adjust their corporate income tax. Comparing other countries’ VATs and our corporate tax is problematic to say the least.
  • No, foreign exports sold in the U.S. do not have an advantage over U.S. goods sold in the U.S.
  • Foreign VATs do not boost foreign exports.
  • A border tax in the U.S. will not boost our exports but it will hurt consumers and many U.S. retailers.
  • The disadvantage faced by U.S. companies exporting goods abroad comes from the terrible worldwide tax and high rates of the U.S. tax regime, not from other countries’ tax system.
  • The way to fix the U.S. disadvantage is not to create a new expansive tax that would penalize imports in the U.S. — including imports for the benefit of U.S. domestic companies — and would penalize U.S. consumers. The solution is to reform our corporate-tax rate by lowering the rate and moving to an origin-based territorial-tax regime.

Speaker Ryan should know better. This isn’t the way to reform our tax code.

Italy: Drowning not Wading

by Andrew Stuttaford

In a post the other day, I mentioned how Greece was (yet again) sliding towards another crisis in its relationship with its creditors.

This was despite the euro zone crisis being, you know, over.

I concluded that post in this way:

And then there’s Italy….

In a lengthy piece for the London School of Economics, Roberto Orsi takes a look at the situation there and doesn’t like what he sees.

It’s all worth reading, but here are some extracts:

Italy’s economy is not going to grow much faster than 1% per year in the foreseeable future in the best possible scenario. This comes after roughly twenty years of stagnation-depression. If Italy can only record a 0.9% growth in 2016, a year when numerous external circumstances were massively in its favour (a weak euro, ultra-low interest rates, quantitative easing from the ECB [European Central Bank], low oil prices, growing trade partners), what will happen when this exceptional alignment of propitious planets dissolves?

A series of financial cracks have started to appear: not only the well-known story of MPS bank, but the banking sector in general is under pressure, with numerous institutions facing serious trouble. Unicredit, the largest bank in Italy, has closed 2016 with a loss of €8 billion, and it is now trying to raise an unprecedented €13 billion in new capital. Furthermore, it emerged recently that INPS, the largest state-owned pension fund and one of the largest in Europe, runs a deficit of over €12 billion/year and during 2016 has crossed the boundary into negative equity.

Italy has a debt/GDP ratio of well over 130%. With an economy which cannot grow in real terms, it can only reduce its debt burden by means of inflation. However, on the one hand the ECB has to keep inflation within limits in the interest of the Eurozone at large, and on the other higher inflation would push interests in the Italian debt higher, with a heavier interest burden which Italy cannot afford (if not financially, then certainly in political terms). After 2011-2012, when it became clear that markets were pushing Italy towards insolvency, the ECB has engineered a protection net to prop-up the national debt, thereby gaining time. However, this came as a consequence of a political agreement within the EU, according to which Italy received (indirect, but massive) financial aid in exchange for deep reforms of its economic system: from labour market laws to pensions, from spending cuts to governance changes. The German/EU idea was that Italy could be put back on the tracks of economic-financial sustainability through those reforms, which were even listed in all detail in a famous letter from the ECB in summer 2011.

After more than five years and three governments (Monti, Letta, Renzi) in which the technocrats of the economic ministries and the Bank of Italy have played an important role, it is clear that Italy is fundamentally unable to reform itself and therefore it will not regain the aforementioned economic and financial sustainability. In all frankness, the German/EU plan was hyper-optimistic at best, bordering on delusion…

Against this backdrop, the question for the EU is whether it will accept to prop-up the finances of Italy and Greece almost unconditionally in the future. In other words, whether the Eurozone will become a veritable and practically irreversible transfer union, where money is channelled, directly or indirectly (the latter is already happening), from sounder fiscal systems to cover the deficits of Rome and Athens….The European partners may accept to do so, out of political, geopolitical, or even humanitarian considerations. Indeed given that Italy and Greece will probably never be back on a sustainable track, the only real alternative to a transfer union is them leaving the Eurozone. This would entail a further, massive political blow to the European project, as well as a wave of acute financial instability (Italy’s national debt is well above the €2.2 trillion mark)…

On the other hand, however, instituting a transfer union would go against the EU treaties (arguably, although that may somehow be circumvented by creative jurisprudential interpretation), the constitutions of numerous member states, particularly Germany, the will of many in the EU elite, and certainly of electorates.

For my part, I suspect that quite a few in the EU elite would welcome a transfer union: ‘Ever closer union’ means what it says.  How voters in the better-run EU states would react—if they are given a say—to the prospect of subsidizing the eurozone’s  poorer countries indefinitely might be a different matter, however.  And, yes, thanks to the continuing effect of the vampire currency on its weaker members, it would be indefinitely.


At a deeper level, the Eurozone and the EU in general is rapidly turning into the opposite of what it was supposed to be at its inception a quarter of century ago. From a club of advanced economies and well-run states governed by the principles of Ordnungspolitik, fiscal integrity, and market oriented competition, it has turned into a redistribution system which accepts the failure of modernisation for vast areas of the continent, accommodates clientelistic if not kleptocratic elites in the South, and openly accepts economic parasitism, until the exhaustion of the relatively few, still productive economic centres in the North.

As was always reasonably likely to be the case for the euro zone, at least, and as (if not in quite such dramatic terms) Germany’s Chancellor Kohl, the statesman who effectively greenlighted the euro, was warned before the currency’s birth.


The question of the transfer union is a real and quite imminent crossroads for the EU. If the EU gives up on its core idea of modernisation, the euro-project can kick the can for another generation or so, at the price of being held together almost exclusively by negative forces, namely the fears of a complete break-up and the unwillingness to face its costs, and accepting the defection of several smaller economies in the North. Otherwise, no transfer union will mean the break-up of the Eurozone: initially involving Italy and Greece, with an extremely uncertain future for both countries, and almost certainly the successive disintegration of the rest (France’s trajectory is in the long-run unsustainable, too).

We shall see. My guess is that those running the euro zone will indeed choose to kick the can even further down the road, and I’d be surprised (particularly in the present geopolitical climate) if any of those smaller Northern countries will be prepared to abandon this voyage of the damned.  

America’s Misnamed Mad Dog

by Jay Nordlinger

The defense secretary, Jim Mattis, flew to Iraq. And he talked with reporters about the idea of seizing Iraq’s oil.

President Trump, the day after he was sworn in, said this at the CIA: “We don’t win anymore. The old expression ‘To the victor belong the spoils’ — you remember. I always used to say, ‘Keep the oil.’” The president then told the assemblage, “Maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is — should have kept the oil.”

In Iraq today, Mattis said, “I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I’m sure that we will continue to do that in the future.”

That is such a simple statement. Hardly worthy of making the news. Hardly worthy of repeating in a blogpost like this one. A humdrum statement. But those simple words — we “have generally paid for our gas and oil” — stood out to me. They are sort of stirring. Which is strange.

In this first month of the new presidency, Mattis has stood out as a beacon of reason, composure, and normalcy. (A word from Harding, in the ’20 campaign!) When I was a kid, I sometimes heard that military guys shouldn’t be let near civilian control. But Mattis, along with the DHS secretary, John Kelly, helps put the lie to that.

Ike did all right too, in the White House.

Good for Donald Trump for appointing Mattis and Kelly, along with (Thank Heaven For) Betsy and others. And may we Americans continue to pay for our gas and oil — at low prices. And produce the bejesus out of them.

How You Helped Pay for America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

How You Helped Pay for America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis

A stunning detail from Nicholas Eberstadt’s opus in Commentary, revealing how the national opioid addiction crisis was largely fueled by Medicaid:

How did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program. Here is how it works (we are with Quinones in Portsmouth, Ohio):

[The Medicaid card] pays for medicine—whatever pills a doctor deems that the insured patient needs. Among those who receive Medicaid cards are people on state welfare or on a federal disability program known as SSI. . . . If you could get a prescription from a willing doctor—and Portsmouth had plenty of them—Medicaid health-insurance cards paid for that prescription every month. For a three-dollar Medicaid co-pay, therefore, addicts got pills priced at thousands of dollars, with the difference paid for by U.S. and state taxpayers. A user could turn around and sell those pills, obtained for that three-dollar co-pay, for as much as ten thousand dollars on the street.

In 21st-century America, “dependence on government” has thus come to take on an entirely new meaning.

You may now wish to ask: What share of prime-working-age men these days are enrolled in Medicaid? According to the Census Bureau’s SIPP survey (Survey of Income and Program Participation), as of 2013, over one-fifth (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent). And for un-working Anglos (non-Hispanic white men not in the labor force) of prime working age, the share enrolled in Medicaid was 48 percent.

By the way: Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. Disability checks and means-tested benefits cannot support a lavish lifestyle. But they can offer a permanent alternative to paid employment, and for growing numbers of American men, they do. The rise of these programs has coincided with the death of work for larger and larger numbers of American men not yet of retirement age. We cannot say that these programs caused the death of work for millions upon millions of younger men: What is incontrovertible, however, is that they have financed it—just as Medicaid inadvertently helped finance America’s immense and increasing appetite for opioids in our new century.

We did this to ourselves – or more specifically, generous federal health care spending programs, who had the best intentions about helping the poor and disabled, worked with reckless doctors to finance life-destroying addictions from coast to coast. No terrorist group could have hit Americans this hard.

The good news is that states are belatedly taking steps to address this:

States such as New York, Rhode Island, and Maine adopted new limits on the number of pills that doctors can prescribe, and West Virginia will, starting next year, require prior authorization from the state’s Medicaid program for opioid painkiller prescriptions. In the 2016 fiscal year, 22 states either adopted or toughened their prescription size limits, and 18 did so with prior authorization.

As mentioned in my profile of West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey last week, the WV AG office has targeted pharmaceutical companies, contending they provided massive quantities of painkillers to small-town pharmacies and doctors, and obtained $47 million in settlements that will go to drug-abuse prevention and treatment programs. 

In January, Morrissey’s office won a fight to sue McKesson Corp., the nation’s largest wholesale drug distributor, in state court, contending the company failed to develop an adequate system to identify suspicious drug orders. The company shipped more than 100 million doses of painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia —a state with fewer than 2 million people — in a five-year period.

His office isn’t just pursuing high-dollar settlements from the biggest fish, either. In December, he filed suit against Larry’s Drive-In Pharmacy in Madison, W.Va., alleging the pharmacy failed to identify suspicious prescriptions. The pharmacy dispensed nearly 10 million doses of prescription painkillers over eleven years — in a county of fewer than 25,000 people.

There aren’t a lot of cases where conservatives will instinctively root for lawyers against pharmaceutical companies, who are often unfairly demonized and rarely given enough credit for developing life-saving drugs. But if a company has profited from the jaw-dropping explosion of painkiller use and abuse, it seems fair to ask them to kick in for solving a problem they helped create, even if it wasn’t deliberate.

Whatever Happened to Democratic Capitalism?

by Peter Augustine Lawler

Let me join Yuval here at the Corner and many others in remembering Michael Novak as a singularly generous and charitable man, an influential, eloquent, and prolific author, and devoted Catholic and a loyal American. One of kind in many good ways.

When thinking about Michael, I also remember what a huge distance we are from the spirit of 1980s, the spirit of confidence in democratic capitalism.

Then, conservatives were confident that our capitalism would defeat their socialism or communism.

Not only is capitalism more productive, it, contrary to the claims of the Marxists, consistently improves the lot of the ordinary person. It’s effects aren’t so much egalitarian as democratic. Most everyone benefits.

Most important, a free economy is the basis for every other form of freedom. That means the Marxists (and, for that matter, Catholic reactionaries and many libertarian economists) are wrong about how comprehensive the category ”capitalism” is. It doesn’t devalue all of human life, reducing everything and everyone to nothing but resources to be exploited. “Democratic capitalism” isn’t an oxymoron. Neither is “capitalist Christian.” 

The example of America shows that economic freedom can be perfectly compatible with the flourishing of the family, the church, and patriotic citizenship — not to mention a vigorous democratic political life under the constraints of a written Constitution.

Communism was defeated! The socialist brand has lost most of its loveliness. And American theorists got so full of themselves in the Nineties that they even believed that the victory of our form of democratic capitalism was “the end of History.” A better way of life, it was said, could no longer even be reasonably imagined. All that remained was the work of perfecting the details and purging the deviant evildoers who still remained. And doomed currents of thought that were so clearly on the wrong side of History.

Well, what went wrong? Why has democratic capitalism lost its spirit? 

Let me conclude for now with an observation in the new book by my buddy Tyler Cowen: All the evidence we’ve seen lately reminds us that History isn’t linear. Instead,  iit once again seems cyclical. That means history doesn’t have sides either right or wrong.

All the evidence lately isn’t all the evidence simply. Christianity itself depends on progress based on unprecedented and unexpected events.  Simply cyclical is too pagan to be true. Semi-cyclical? That means our nostalgia has to be selective. And maybe–with some help from the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity–democratic capitalism or liberal democracy can be spirited once again.

Baltic Boy Makes Good

by Jay Nordlinger

Last fall, I traveled to two of the three Baltic states: Latvia and Estonia. I was there to report on NATO, Russia, and all that. When I arrived in Riga, the Latvian capital, practically the first words I heard were “Kristaps Porzingis.” I told them I had traveled from New York, and I heard, instantly, “Kristaps Porzingis.”

He is a New York Knick. I live in New York, and love basketball, but I am a die-hard Detroit Piston, being from Michigan. I follow the Pistons, practically to the exclusion of other teams. I had never heard of Porzingis.

But he is possibly the most famous person in Latvia. (He is famous in New York as well.)

I mention him because he is in the news tonight. He won the NBA Skills Challenge, a side event to the All-Star game. The Skills Challenge is a test of ball-handling, passing, and shooting. And Kristaps Porzingis is King (at least of that).

I imagine that Riga will be rocking this weekend, or at least buzzing, and that goes for the rest of the Latvian nation, too. We don’t pronounce “Porzingis” the way they do. But, increasingly, we know who he is.

What Is a Conservative?

by Jay Nordlinger

C-PAC is sort of like the conservative Super Bowl, and one of its star speakers this year will be Milo Yiannopoulos. There are many things to say about him. I’ll say just one. First, you need to know about “cuckservative.”

Buckle your seatbelt. 

“Cuckservative” is a term that the “alt-Right” uses to describe a normal conservative (for lack of a better phrase). “Cuck” comes from “cuckold.” The idea is, white conservative men enjoy seeing their wives have sexual relations with dark-skinned men, for the purpose of making the country at large darker.

Last year, the conservative journalist Ben Shapiro and his wife had a child. Ben sent out a tweet that said, “With infinite gratitude to God, we’re overjoyed to welcome to the world our new baby boy, who arrived at 10:30 this morning.”

Ben got the usual torrent of Nazi tweets, wishing his new baby and the rest of the family to the gas chambers. There were tweets showing the Shapiro family as lampshades. And so on.

Yiannopoulos wrote a tweet of his own. It said, “Prayers to Ben who had to see his kid come out half-black. And already taller than he is!” Accompanying this tweet was a comical picture of a black baby.

From where I sit, conservatives are going through something of an identity crisis. Who are we? What should our movement be? There is a lot of repulsive stuff out there, traveling under the name “conservative.” We can cough politely and look away. Or stare it square in the face.

I’m for staring, and forswearing.

N.B. It has been reported — by Breitbart and other outlets — that Milo Yiannopoulos will be the keynote speaker at C-PAC. But the organizers of the conference say this is not true. This post has been edited to reflect that. It originally said that Yiannopoulos would be the keynoter.

Leaving California with a Light Heart

by Wesley J. Smith

After more than 67 years as a Californian–since my birth–I have moved to the Commonwealth of Virginia, following my wife to DC after she obtained a prime journalism gig in the nation’s capital.

Once I would have left California with a heavy heart. Not now, for reasons I explain more fully at First Things:

Today, radical governance is the rule at both the state and big city levels. The California Republican party self-destructed, allowing the Jacobin wing of the Democrat party to take absolute control.

How skewed to the left have the state’s politics become? Due to a voter-approved initiative that has the two highest primary vote-getters appearing on the general election ballot regardless of party, some November races for major state offices are contests between a leftwing Democrat and a radical Democrat.

“San Francisco values,” once something of a national joke, drive contemporary California politics with a whip hand. Indeed, until the Los Angeles–area congressman was recently appointed Attorney General, San Francisco politicians controlled every important statewide office…

San Francisco’s predominance drives public policy into ever more extreme liberalism. With the election of President Donald Trump, “Calexit” activists plot to put a proposal on the 2018 ballot in support of constitutional secession. A recent poll found that a whopping one-third of Californians want to secede—and this before the campaign has gained major steam.

I describe how California no longer solves problems effectively. A new eastern span of the Bay Bridge took more than two decades to complete, and a few years later, rust and corrosion are already calling into question its safety.

Then, there is the tragedy of the Central Valley, sacrificed on the altar of environmentalism and coastal elite indifference –so powerfully and repeatedly described by Victor Davis Hanson on these pages and elsewhere.

I conclude my lament:

So, I leave behind the mess with a light heart, glad to have escaped before the economic and cultural collapse I fear will result from the public-employee pension crisis or another tech bust (not to mention the “Big Ones” that are overdue on the San Andreas and Hayward faults, which could do to Los Angeles or San Francisco what a Vesuvius eruption would do to Naples).

I am sure many contented Californians would say, “Don’t slam the door as you leave.” I get that.

And, to be sure, the state is never beyond hope. California’s intrinsic creative dynamism remains…But that is going to take reasonableness and common sense. In the current radicalized California, both virtues seem as exhausted as the gold nuggets once mined to such good fortune from California’s foothill streams.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love California. But sad to say, I am glad to be a new Virginian.

Following Up On The Foreign Emoluments Clause and Gerrymandering

by Dan McLaughlin

I hope you all subscribe to National Review; alongside a ton of great content by other writers, in the past two issues, I’ve covered why it’s a myth that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is mostly the work of partisan gerrymandering, and why the Trump Organization’s business creates ethical conflict problems – but not ones that should violate the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, so long as its business is confined to ordinary arms-length commerce. 

Writing on a deadline, however, means you sometimes get additional support for your thesis after you’ve gone to print. That’s the case now for both pieces.

In the gerrymander article, I cited, among others. the work of University of Michigan political scientist Jowei Chen with computer-simulated district-drawing exercises that test how much of the Republican advantage in legislative districts is gerrymandering and how much is simply the broader geographic distribution of Republican voters compared to highly concentrated urbanized Democrats. Well, Chen is at it again, in a recent article with Dartmouth quantitative social scientist David Cottrell that applies a similar methodology with more recent data:

We find that among states controlled by Republicans, about five Republican seats are gained through gerrymandering. And among states controlled by Democrats, about three Republican seats are lost by Gerrymandering. Moreover, Democrats gain about 1.75 seats from states subject to preclearance [under the Voting Rights Act]. This suggests that the Republican seat gain from Republican controlled states is counterbalanced by the seat loss in Democratic controlled and preclearance states…in states where gerrymandering does have a significant effect on congressional elections, the effect is relatively small. For example, other than in California [where it benefits Democrats], the partisan gain from gerrymandering amounts to no more than a fraction of a seat in any given state. While the total number of seats gained by Republicans is greater than the total number of seats gained by Democrats, the net effect of gerrymandering in Congress is only marginal. In fact, we find that Republicans are expected to net no more than one additional seat as result of it.

One interesting finding: while Chen and Cottrell find that the overall effect is minimal, they do find that preclearance under the Voting Rights Act creates seats for Democrats that would not exist under a race-neutral district-drawing process (different from the conventional wisdom that race-conscious gerrymandering actually benefits Republicans by clustering African-American voters in racial-enclave districts):

The preclearance states act to bolster Democratic representation, swapping Republican seats for Democrats. Without these pre-clearance states, Republicans would experience a slightly larger bias in aggregate seat share in Congress.

On the Foreign Emoluments Clause, I noted two competing views of what “emoluments” a federal officer (arguably including President Trump) may not receive from foreign government sources.  Norm Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe advocate a broad view of “emoluments” to cover any sort of commerce between any foreign sovereign entity and the Trump Organization, a view so broad that it would hold President Obama to have violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause every time a foreign public library bought a copy of Dreams of My Father. That view is being currently pushed in litigation by CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), the organization headed by Eisen and Painter. By contrast, University of Iowa Law Professor Andy Grewal marshalled historical evidence (mainly from the 19th century) showing that the traditional understanding of “emoluments” was limited to salary and other financial benefits attached to the holding of an office, and did not cover outside private business interests.

Grewal’s view receives significant additional support from a new originalist analysis by retired University of Montana Law Professor Robert Natelson, author of The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant. Prof. Natelson focuses entirely on historical evidence preceding the ratification of the Constitution by the last of the original thirteen states in 1790, including (1) the linguistic prorgress of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the other two emoluments clauses through the Constitutional Convention, (2) the background language of the Maryland Constitution of 1776, which also contained an antecedent to the Clause, and (3) a historical overview of the Anglo-American reform movement from which the three emoluments clauses arose – a movement that emphasized reducing the cost of government, yet also advocated the recruitment into government of men with significant outside business interests. Among other things, Prof. Natelson examines how the Eisen/Painter/Tribe reading of “emoluments” in the Compensation Clause (which bars the president from receiving emoluments besides his salary from the states or the federal government) would have eliminated Virginia tobacco planters like Thomas Jefferson or James Madison from ever being considered for the presidency, given the nature of state involvement in the tobacco business at the time. He concludes:

Consider the consequences of barring any U.S. employee from receiving the benefits of business dealings with a foreign government without congressional consent. Doing so would have rendered it unconstitutional for almost any government employee to purchase the debt securities of foreign governments. It would have barred anyone from selling goods abroad where they might be purchased by a foreign government. It would have prevented an official from purchasing land from an Indian tribe if that tribe were recognized as a foreign nation. It would have discouraged public service by imposing crippling burdens on people involved in foreign commerce (and who necessarily engaged in transactions with foreign governments), such as the Confederation Secretary of Finance, Robert Morris. Such an interpretation would have repelled some of the very people the Constitution-makers wanted to attract to government service.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once pointed out that a page of history can be worth a volume of logic, so let us move away from legal logic-chopping and counter-factuals to some actual history. The Constitution’s emoluments provisions arose out of a reform movement that addressed benefits payable by reason of government employment. Measures enacted during that reform movement, including the Constitution’s emolument provisions, were the products of careful balancing of competing values. The foreign emoluments clause of the Articles had been construed narrowly. Known cases of real abuse had included (1) Charles II’s secret acceptance of cash from Louis XIV in transactions related to the Treaty of Dover (a “present”), (2) the practice of customs officials extracting fees from foreign governments for harbor services (“Emoluments”), and (3) the practice of governments granting “Offices” or “Titles” to show appreciation to foreign officials. All these abuses involved items received by reason of office. I know of no historical incidents that would have induced the founders to apply a construction that included honest business transactions…

Who Are We?

by Victor Davis Hanson

The entire notion of identity politics — of appearance and tribe being essential rather than incidental to our characters — is coming under new reexamination in the post-Obama era. In this regard, there is a fascinating new documentary on race, identity, and the state by the filmmaker Eli Steele (son of Shelby Steele) on the paradoxes and contradictions of the Kafkaesque race industry. What started with his son’s being denied enrollment at the local school for dad Eli’s unwillingness to check off the proper ethnic boxes (for the tribally obsessed, his son is African-American, Native American, Mexican American and Jewish) culminated in a wonderful documentary, I Am, or How Jack Became Black. It is a fascinating (and disturbing) exploration of the contemporary subordination of the individual to careerist bureaucracies and anti-humanist orthodoxies.