Is Everywhere to Be Protested Now?

by Paul Crookston

Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation’s Capitol Hill headquarters was overrun by anti-Trump protesters from the group People’s Action. Heritage made the most of the free publicity by livestreaming the event and having their Daily Signal reporters cover a story that had just entered their lobby. (And the organization likely welcomed the extra attention on their budget document “Blueprint for Balance,” from which the Trump administration has drawn.)

In taking their stand People’s Action practically eliminated the bar for what merits a protest. Busing demonstrators to Heritage over a budget document reflects a drive to protest that can employ practically anything as its impetus.

People’s Action refrained from informing its conference attendees about the protest beforehand, provided them with premade and pre-approved signs, and instructed them not to speak to the media. Organizers even prevented the Daily Signal’s Melissa Quinn from having a conversation with any of the people waving signs in opposition to Heritage’s ideas.

Such a meticulously controlled horde constitutes the exact opposite of “grassroots” organizing. Is this going to be the new normal?

Audit: University of California President Hid $175 Million

by Austin Yack

In an interview last January with UCLA’s campus newspaper The Daily Bruin, University of California president Janet Napolitano was clear that there would be a 2.5 percent tuition hike this fall across the ten UC campuses. It is “a last resort,” she said, but it’s necessary to “maintain quality” across the statewide public-university system.

But according to an audit released on Tuesday by California’s state auditor Elaine Howle, the UC Office of the President has plenty of money to “maintain quality” across UC campuses; it just wants more. Howle found that Napolitano and her colleagues accumulated $175 million in reserve funds, all of which were concealed from the public, the California state legislature, and even the UC’s governing board, the UC Board of Regents.

“Why did we need to increase tuition if the Office of the President has $175 million in reserve that nobody knew about?” Howle asked.

Even California’s Democratic lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, who is also a member of the the UC Board of Regents, decried Napolitano’s opaqueness. “It’s outrageous and unjust,” he said, “to force tuition hikes on students while the UC hides secret funds.” Newsom called on the UC Board of Regents to reconsider the tuition hike.

The UC Office of the President collected a surplus of $175 million quite easily, and it did so while paying its staff extravagant salaries. In fiscal year 2014-2015, Howle discovered that ten of Napolitano’s colleagues were paid a total of $3.7 million — “over $700,000 more than the combined salaries of their highest paid state employee counterparts.” The UC chief financial officer makes $412,000, for example, while the California State University’s chief financial officer — its counterpart — makes $341,000.

The Sacramento Bee nicely summarized Napolitano’s method behind the lucrative fund:

The Office of the President amassed $175 million in reserves by June 2016 by annually requesting approval from the university’s governing Board of Regents for budgets that significantly exceeded how much it was likely to spend. Those surpluses were carried over into funds that the president’s office subsequently spent on projects of its choice, without including them in the annual budgets it disclosed to the public and the regents.

Napolitano contends that Howle’s numbers are inflated and that she did no wrongdoing. Her office certainly had a surplus of funds, but it was only $38 million – “a prudent and reasonable amount,” she said, “for unexpected expenses such as cybersecurity threat response and emerging issues like increased support for undocumented students and efforts to prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment.”

If Napolitano had truly sought to use the surplus of funds to help students, it would have only made sense to halt the UC Office of the President’s annual charge to every UC campus — $32 million in total — that could have directly benefited students on campus. And she certainly wouldn’t have had to increase tuition.

No money will ever be enough for government bureaucrats, even when they are taking other people’s money faster than they can spend it.

A 15 Percent Corporate Tax Rate Would Be Great

by Veronique de Rugy

The Trump administration has released its guidelines for major tax reform. My quick sound-bite opinion of the plan may go something like this: The president’s tax reform is more supply-side and less protectionist than I thought it would be. Also, the president is serious about his commitment to grow the economy but oh so silent on spending cuts.

Jason Fichtner, Adam Michel, and I have recently published a short paper about getting to true tax reform in 2017. With that in the background, here are a few thoughts on the few details we have:

Cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent is a good move, which was long over due. While the rest of the world has been cutting its corporate tax rate, the U.S. has fallen asleep at the switch and is now widely out of sync with international competition at the detriment of economic growth and jobs.

The move to corporate territorial tax system is great. Japan and the United Kingdom have done the same thing successfully and recently — as have most of our competitors in the past. It is about time we do the same. It will reduce the incentives for corporate inversions and many other forms of tax avoidance. In addition, companies will have an incentive to bring their outside income back to the U.S. if they wish to.

I am glad that the administration has decided not to adopt the destructive border-adjustment tax provision included in the House Republican Blueprint. The proposal was divisive and was getting in the way of tax reform in the name of revenue neutrality. The best way to address concerns about the debt and the deficit is through economic growth, the end of special-interest deductions, and spending cuts. That being said, we should stay vigilant because bad ideas never die.

I don’t like the repatriation tax because that income earned abroad has already been taxed but I understand the political value of such a move. It won’t, however, go very far in addressing deficit-neutrality concerns.

Good for the president that he wants to get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Death Tax. 

I like the idea of simplifying the individual tax code by moving away from seven tax brackets. The president would like to have three: Thirty-five percent, 25 percent, and 10 percent.

I am wary of kicking more people off the tax rolls by doubling the standard deduction even if it makes filing taxes easier for a lot of people.

The end of the Obamacare’s 3.8 percent investment tax is a good move and so is the call for getting rid of deductions like the state and local tax deduction.

I am not fan of carving the tax code with family giveaways. They create distortions and do not grow the economy.

I wished the president would also move to a territorial tax system for individuals. Cross-border taxation is the source of many bad tax rules like the idiotic FATCA.

Finally, I am not concerned about the loss of revenue from the corporate tax cuts (Chris Edwards has written about this). However, I am concerned about the fact that the president has given repeated signs that he is not serious about reducing spending — entitlement spending in particular. In addition, President Trump has a long list of stuff he would like to spend money on such as a border wall, infrastructure, and defense. That’s too bad.

The Editors: The First 100 Days

by NR Staff

Check out the latest episode of The Editors, in which Rich Lowry, Charles Cooke, Reihan Salam, and Ian Tuttle discuss Trump’s first one hundred days, the ousting of Bill O’Reilly, and more!  

Baltimore’s Dwindling Police Force

by Peter Kirsanow

In a previous post, I noted that the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights issued a statement (Gail Heriot and Kirsanow dissenting) expressing alarm over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s directive that the Justice Department review its investigations of, and consent decrees with, various police departments to ensure such investigations and decrees appropriately support local law enforcement. The Commission majority maintains that such decrees result in “better policing.”

It’s unlikely the Commission intended “better policing” to mean “fewer police,” but that’s precisely the result in Baltimore, where cops came under fire from both the Obama DOJ and local officials after the Freddie Gray incident. The local CBS affiliate now reports that there’s a dramatic shortage of cops in the city. Whereas since 2000, the number of Baltimore police officers has never fallen below 2,900, now there are only 2,500. The force is beset by turnover and an inability to recruit new officers. It’s estimated that it may cost the city $5-10 million a year to comply with the terms of the consent decree. This, on top of $1 million more in additional overtime costs incurred as a result of manpower shortages. Murders have increased 30 percent over last year, shootings are up 80 percent.

Not all of this may be attributable to the consequences of the investigations and consent decree, but it’s consistent with the Ferguson effect — a withdrawal of robust police presence due to constraints placed on the force by officials who conflate racial bean counting with public safety.

Keep reviewing those decrees General Sessions.

Radiant Kate

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

It was with some resignation that I handed off today’s symposium in tribute to the life of my beloved friend Kate O’Beirne for copy-editing. It’s 17,000 words. It could be ten times that length. I had to stop asking people or we could have filled a museum with tributes. There are many other people who loved Kate, many I could have asked, but we had to get posting! To family and friends and co-workers and other acquaintances, please do not feel bad or deprived of a chance. All, please understand this is but a taste for the gratitude in the world for Kate O’Beirne.

Read what we have from Raymond Arroyo, Fred Barnes, Leonard Leo, Dana Perino, Rick Santorum, and so many more here. That’s in addition to what Ramesh and John O’Sullivan and others have written.

I add my own additional thoughts here, to reach another audience with gratitude.

Remembering Kate O’Beirne

by NR Staff

Details for her wake, funeral, and donations in memory of a remarkable woman:

Conservatives Rally to Support New House AHCA Amendment

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As Capitol Hill faces the looming threat of government shutdown this Friday, House leadership continues to wrangle over changes to the American Health Care Act in an attempt to develop a compromise to unite the opposing factions of the Republican party. As of later this morning, top Republicans seem to have settled on something that will please at least the more conservative wing in the House: the Meadows-MacArthur Amendment.

The amendment, described in more detail last week at NRO, offers states limited waivers to opt out of parts of the AHCA, including essential health benefits and some community-rating rules. This compromise is the outgrowth of the efforts of representatives Tom MacArthur, co-chairman of the moderate House Tuesday Group, and Mark Meadows, chairman of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus (HFC) to reconcile the two halves of the party on health-care reform.

So far, a number of right-wing groups, including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, have hailed the amendment as a step in the right direction toward lowering premiums and allowing for greater choice in the health-care market.

More importantly, the amendment has gained enough support from members of the HFC to garner the caucus’s official support, meaning that at least 80 percent of its members will vote for the AHCA if this amendment is attached. This is a key step in the negotiation process, as the HFC holds votes crucial to passing any party-line bill in the House, and most of its members were unhappy with the first draft of the AHCA because it left intact much of Obamacare’s regulatory structure.

It remains unclear, though, how moderates will come down on this new amendment. Though the Tuesday Group co-chair was essential in crafting this compromise, some moderate members of the House have expressed concerns that limited waivers allow states to take steps that will lead to a greater number of uninsured people or cause those insured under Obamacare to lose coverage.

NGOs and Europe’s Migration Crisis

by David Pryce-Jones

Europeans are shutting their eyes to the mass-migration now occurring in the Mediterranean. Able-bodied men and some women from all over Africa and now even Asia reach Tunisia or Libya, pay people traffickers a thousand or more dollars and then sail in boats and dinghies that may or may not be sea-worthy. Last year Italy alone received 181,000 by these routes, and 4,600 are estimated to have drowned on the way. The country could not survive another year with numbers in that order, said the then-prime minister, Matteo Renzi. This year 37,000 have already landed in Italy and about 1,000 have drowned.

An Italian prosecutor by the name of Carmelo Zuccaro has been investigating this process of shipping human cargo regardless of the fact that manslaughter if not murder is a by-product. In his opinion, charities and NGOs are hand in glove with the traffickers. The more migrants the traffickers cram into a boat, the more money they take. It appears that they contact the NGO rescuers, arrange a rendezvous outside Libyan waters and so become accomplices in a business that is not only shameful but dangerously destabilizing. NGOs such as Save the Children, Amnesty International, the Spanish Proactiva, and the Maltese-based Moas reject Zuccaro’s findings and claim that they are only saving lives — but they would say that, wouldn’t they?

ESPN Layoffs Should Be a Wake-Up Call about Politicizing Sports

by Dan McLaughlin

Today’s big media news is cable sports “Worldwide Leader” ESPN laying off 100 people, many of them on-air talent and sportswriters. Early indications are that the layoffs come across the sports the network covers, but will fall hardest on the network’s hockey coverage, which may be all but eliminated. There’s both a business lesson and a political lesson here.

Clay Travis at Outkick the Coverage has been all over this story for years, explaining the business problem — ESPN’s business model is disproportionately based on subscriber fees, and as more cable subscribers get the option to unbundle channels they don’t want, ESPN takes direct hits to its bottom line from its plummeting number of subscribers. Because ESPN’s broadcasting contracts are themselves the source of a huge amount of revenue for the sports leagues (especially the NBA), that means that sooner or later the economic losses to the channel will affect the bottom line of the athletes and team owners, too. We are probably a long way away from seeing the end of the implications of this for the business of sports.

Travis today notes the political lesson that ties into this:

The people being fired at ESPN today aren’t being fired because they are bad at their jobs, they’re being fired because ESPN’s business is collapsing. That collapse has been aided by ESPN’s absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network, but that’s more a symptom of the collapse than it is a cause of the collapse. ESPN’s business is collapsing and the network is desperately trying to find a way to stay above water. You know how a drowning person flails in the water before slipping under? ESPN’s left wing shift is that flailing. They think going left wing will save them. The reality is the opposite, ESPN going left wing was like giving a drowning person a big rock to hold and thinking it would keep them from drowning. Instead, it just made them sink even faster.

That’s why ratings are down 16% this year compared to last year and viewers are abandoning the network in droves.

Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.

This is why “stick to sports” is not just good manners for sports journalism, it’s good business advice. (A March poll of sports media consumers found that 60 percent of respondents thought ESPN leaned left politically, as opposed to 3 percent who thought it leaned right.) Yes, there are times when you can’t avoid the political implications of what happens on the field, or the sports implications of what happens in politics. Jackie Robinson really did change the country, not just baseball, by playing Major League Baseball. And yes, if you drill down deep enough, there are embedded political assumptions in everything. Some of those embedded assumptions are broadly shared by all but a small fringe, like respect for the American flag, the national anthem, and other symbols of shared American identity and values, to the point where a statement against them really is more visibly partisan and ideological than a general affirmation of them. But political assumptions that are barely even visible to people who don’t spend 24/7 politically “woke” do not feel, to the average viewer, like political content, and should not be used as a lever to launch coverage of divisive hot-button issues into sports coverage. As Peggy Noonan noted about the CBS News culture she worked in many years ago, Edward R. Murrow once said of the Holocaust that some issues just don’t have two sides — but not every issue is the Holocaust, and acting like they are is a sign that you’ve lost so much perspective, you just can’t even speak your audience’s language anymore.

Fundamentally, people watch sports as an escape from less entertaining aspects of life, from politics to business. Sports isn’t a university, whose job is to instruct and open minds, and it isn’t a church, whose job is to save souls. It was Earl Warren, a man whose life was nothing if not consumed with hot-button political issues, who once said, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.” For my own part, back when I was writing a baseball blog, I tried hard to keep the sports and politics content separate, so people who came for the former could bypass the latter (admittedly, nobody does this on Twitter, and my writing is mostly politics these days anyway). The more you import politics into the spaces people reserve to crack open a beer at the end of the day and enjoy a ballgame, the more apt they are to look for something else to watch that is not full of man’s failures.

ESPN’s layoffs demonstrate that the network understands it has a business problem. It’s too soon to tell if it also understands it has a politics problem (certainly eliminating hockey coverage, maybe the least political area of the 21st-century sports world despite the international origins of its players, won’t fix that). But its business model allows subscribers to vote with their feet in a way that has an immediate bottom-line impact. Maybe it should start listening.

Charter and Magnet Schools Dominate List of Nationwide Best

by Paul Crookston

Nine out of the top ten public high schools in the country are charter or magnet schools, according to the latest figures from U.S. News and World Report. In addition, charters and magnets account for 60 of the top 100 high schools. These statistics are even impressive when one considers that such schools constitute a relatively small percentage of the public schools around the country.

To determine its rankings, U.S. News used a step-by-step system in which schools were ranked by their ability to meet increasingly advanced criteria. To win a medal, schools had to outperform others in their states, excel in helping the least-advantaged students, and achieve high graduation rates. College readiness, as determined by performance on Advanced Placement (AP) exams, was the fourth and final step.

Charters and magnets are unlike traditional public schools in that they must work to attract students, while traditional public schools do not have to. Charters also rely on greater accountability to parents rather than to regulatory regimes, which has spurred innovation. Magnets fall under the same regulatory structure as traditional public schools, but they benefit from the ability to draw in all sorts of students.

Despite this evidence, opponents of school choice show no sign of changing their minds. Education-reform expert Michael Petrilli told U.S. News, “It’s not like the opponents of charter schools are letting up or changing their minds and saying, ‘Wow these results are really impressive, I guess we’ll support them after all.’ Teachers unions continue to see them as a threat, especially in cities, and are acting accordingly.”

These new rankings buttress school reformers’ case that genuine improvement comes when families have options. Every magnet or charter does not rise to the level of BASIS schools in Arizona or KIPP Academy in New York City, but their outsized representation among the nation’s best suggests that their models work.

No, Politicians Are Not ‘Exactly Like ISIS’

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Gubernatorial primaries are coming up here in Virginia on June 13. On the Republican side, Ed Gillespie’s the favorite over Corey Stewart and State Sen. Frank Wagner.

With less than two months remaining, Stewart is… well, this looks like a “Hail Mary” pass, declaring on Twitter that “Politicians who are for destroying the statues, monuments and other artifacts of history are exactly like ISIS.”

“Exactly like ISIS”? Exactly like ISIS? Wouldn’t we all agree that if you’re not killing anyone, you’re doing a poor imitation of ISIS?

This is the kind of hyperbolic attack on a lawmaker over terrorism that might even get Rep. Peter King to say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa.’ Even Alex Jones might say that’s going too far.

This stems from a decision down in New Orleans…

New Orleans on Monday began removing four monuments dedicated to the era of the Confederacy and its aftermath, capping a prolonged battle about the future of the memorials, which critics deemed symbols of racism and intolerance and which supporters viewed as historically important.

Workers dismantled an obelisk, which was erected in 1891 to honor members of the Crescent City White League who in 1874 fought in the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place against the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.

The monument, which was sometimes used as a rallying point by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, has stirred debate for decades. Local leaders unsuccessfully tried to remove it in 1981 and 1993.

The workers were dressed in flak jackets, helmets and scarves to conceal their identities because of concerns about their safety. Police officers watched from a nearby hotel.

Before you start saying, “wait, this is part of history, it ought to be preserved, even if it offends people,” note that the Battle of Liberty Place Memorial has the inscription:

“United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

Yeah, I can’t begrudge citizens of any color for wanting to remove a public memorial declaring the importance of recognizing “white supremacy.”

Think of all the great Louisiana citizens who don’t have a comparable public monument, who have great accomplishments in history or played a role in the city’s comeback from Hurricane Katrina: Fats Domino. Tennessee Williams. Doug Williams. Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. (Heck, you need a monument just to the various famous Williamses from Louisiana.) Paul Brudhomme. Anne Rice. Drew Brees. Harry Connick Jr. Bobby Jindal.

There’s no shortage of Confederate monuments in Virginia, but none have garnered quite as much controversy as the ones down in New Orleans. (Richmond added famous African-American tennis star Arthur Ashe to Monument Avenue.) In Alexandria, they renamed their portion of “Jefferson Davis Highway.” (I suggested renaming the highway after two famous Virginians, Thomas Jefferson and former local Congressman Tom Davis. Then the city could save a lot of money by just adding hyphens and making the signs say “Jefferson-Davis Highway.”)

Denouncing the removal of Confederate monuments seems like an odd move; it’s hard to imagine this is front and center in the minds of Virginia Republicans right now. As Liam Donovan pointed out, Virginia is a state of transplants; just under half of all voters in the state are native Virginians.

A Whitman’s Sampler

by Jay Nordlinger

I gave a talk the other day, and a man came up afterward and said, in essence, “I have a beef with Impromptus.” I was all ears. “It’s supposed to be a bunch of different subjects, addressed quickly. And recently you’ve been doing one or two subjects, stretched out.”

Fair enough. Today’s Impromptus is “old-fashioned,” if you will. It addresses about 20 subjects, quick-like. If you don’t like one (can’t imagine), skip to the next, and to the next. A real Whitman’s Sampler.

What’s the modern equivalent to a Whitman’s Sampler? Not sure. Readers will know.

Dana Perino likes to say that Impromptus was the original tweeting. Probably, that nod goes to fortune-cookie slips.

Start your “Confucius say” jokes now . . .

On the DOJ’s Review of Obama-Era Consent Decrees

by Peter Kirsanow

Public discourse on race is frequently, and increasingly, detached from facts. Exhibit No. 3,714 is the statement issued by the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights (from which my colleague Gail Heriot and I dissented) expressing concern about a memorandum issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions directing the Justice Department to immediately review all consent decrees and compliance reviews affecting police departments to ensure that they appropriately support state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

The Commission majority “is troubled that this action sends a message to communities across the country that reform agreements, urgently needed and in some instances already agreed to by the respective police departments and municipalities involved, may be in jeopardy.”

Setting aside for a moment the question of how a mere directive to review investigations and consent decrees necessarily jeopardizes such investigations and decrees, the Commission majority asserts, unequivocally, that these investigations and decrees “have made for better policing in communities served by law enforcement.”

Perhaps. But it depends on the definition of “better.”

As Heather Mac Donald has shown time and again, there’s copious evidence that the intrusive, politically correct Obama-era decrees have contributed to the “Ferguson effect,” i.e., steep increases in crime due to the restraints and disincentives contained in such decrees. In Baltimore, where both city officials and the Obama administration came down on the city’s cops after the Freddie Gray incident, violent crime has soared to record levels. Shootings are up nearly 80 percent over last year. The number of shootings in parts of Chicago resemble those in failed states.

Most of the investigations and decrees are due to alleged patterns of civil-rights abuses by police departments. Of course, abuses exist. But the Obama administration began with the assumption that racial disparities in arrests and police interactions with the community were necessarily the result of racial discrimination and without a rational basis.

That assumption is, in a word, idiotic. In almost every instance racial disparities in law enforcement are due to higher crime rates among blacks. In fact, in some areas arrest rates for blacks are actually lower than would be predicted by black crime rates.

It would be charitable to suggest these decrees are solely or even mainly a product of mathematical incompetence. Narrative maintenance and power arrogation also have roles. And facts must never be allowed to get in the way of a useful narrative.

CBO: Federal Employees Are Still Overcompensated

by Jason Richwine

In a report released yesterday, the CBO concludes that federal employees receive total wages and benefits that average 17 percent above what comparably skilled workers earn in large private-sector firms. The federal premium comes from slightly higher salaries — about 3 percent higher than the private sector, on average — coupled with massively higher benefits, which average 47 percent above private-sector levels. The new report is an update of the CBO’s 2012 analysis, which found close to the same thing.

Federal pay was a hot issue back in 2012, when Republicans pointed out that federal employees receive higher average compensation than private-sector workers. The Obama White House insisted, reasonably, that the only fair comparison would adjust for the greater education and experience possessed by federal employees. Several studies (including one by Andrew Biggs and myself for the American Enterprise Institute) took the White House seriously on that point, showing that federal employees enjoyed a compensation premium over comparably skilled private workers. In its 2012 report, the CBO concurred.

The CBO is not the final word on any issue, but its methodology in this case was generally sound, and the results were consistent with the prevailing literature. Unfortunately, public-employee unions did their best to obfuscate the findings, and reporters went along with the “no one can be sure about this” line. Congress did refrain from granting cost-of-living increases between 2011 and 2013, and new workers now must pay more into the defined-benefit (annuity) portion of the federal retirement plan. Nevertheless, significant steps such as phasing out the annuity altogether, loosening tenure restrictions, and allowing more merit-based pay were never enacted.

Will this time be different?

Uncommon Knowledge: How JetBlue Does It

by Peter Robinson

CEO Robin Hayes and Hoover Institution board member Joel Peterson talk to Peter Robinson about how JetBlue has remained successful, despite all the regulations, competition, and pitfalls of running an airline.

Peterson and Hayes argue that consolidation and the limited number of airlines in the United States have allowed for sustainable operating margins. JetBlue continues to have double-digit operating margins and great customer loyalty by focusing on safety, culture, and delighting customers. JetBlue has been voted best airline for customer satisfaction by JD Power for twelve years in a row.

They discuss how JetBlue has become synonymous with innovation and its decision to bring JetBlue’s investment arm to the Silicon Valley to further integrate disruptive technology into their airline. JetBlue, which wants to use technology to improve customer relations and track equipment, has invested in FLYR to study how the pricing method can be disruptive and thus improve ticketing.

JetBlue’s keys to success and longevity are a great culture, innovation, great products, and maintaining cost advantages. JetBlue seeks to create a culture in which all employees are empowered to improve customers’ experiences, from the time they check-in to the time they pick up their bags.

Recorded on February 14, 2017

Krauthammer’s Take: Trade War with Canada Is Unlikely and Would Be Gratuitous

by NR Staff

Arguing that a trade war with Canada is unlikely, Charles Krauthammer said that feuding with our neighbor to the north would be “gratuitous,” and Trump is most likely trying to get them to loosen their own tariffs:

That is the problem with protectionism. If we were to prevail upon the Chinese to stop dumping steel, and we were to raise tariffs on steel — this has happened in the past — that’s great for steelworkers, but it’s not so good if you are making autos or other stuff out of steel. The costs are passed on and they become less competitive. So Juan is right. If you put a tariff on the lumber, homes are going to be a little more expensive.

I think after having insulted Australia, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, and just about every one of our friends, it is about time we hit Canada. I still haven’t gotten over the War of 1812, so I have a personal animus here.

Look, I think this is Trump proclaiming a principle that we are going to be really tough on trade because the tariffs on our dairy products are something like 200-300 percent, it’s really outrageous. And what he is doing, he is bargaining. This is a real-estate guy saying, “Here is my opening bid. I threaten you with tariffs on lumber, you show us some give on dairy.” I think they will likely get this done. I can’t imagine that we are going to start this administration with a trade war with Canada. I could understand China, could understand other people, but this is our closest ally in the world, and in a way, it is gratuitous.

A Federal Judge Issues a Mostly Meaningless Ruling Against a Mostly Meaningless Executive Order

by David French

This afternoon a federal judge did not much at all to stop an executive order that didn’t do much at all. Don’t pay attention to the breathless headlines. Here is what you need to know, in five easy steps.

First, Donald Trump signed an executive order in the first days of his presidency that was 90 percent hype and 10 percent substance. Here’s the key language:

Sec. 9. Sanctuary Jurisdictions. It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.

(a) In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary. The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction. The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of federal law. (Emphasis added.)

Note the bolded portion. The executive order was not changing the law. It did not strip federal funds from sanctuary cities. It directed federal officials to enforce existing law and then larded up that directive with meaningless legalese that made the order look far more dramatic to the untrained eye. 

Second, Trump did Trump things, and by that I mean he and his administration hyped the order beyond its plain meaning. Here’s Trump’s comment to Bill O’Reilly: “I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.” To be clear, Trump can’t do that by himself. He’s bound by the language of statutes, and he can’t change the language of statutes through executive order. 

Third, Santa Clara and San Francisco sued, using the brand-new standing rule applicable to the age of Trump. The new standing rule is this: courts shall torch, stretch, and contort ordinary standing jurisprudence and hear lawsuits they wouldn’t ordinarily hear because Donald Trump is super-scary and super-mean. So the court allowed the case to go forward.

Fourth, DOJ lawyers tried to introduce sanity to the proceedings by noting that neither Santa Clara nor San Francisco face enforcement action under the order and explaining that the Trump administration had no intention to go beyond existing law to implement the order. Instead, it mainly represented a use of the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement.”

Fifth, the court responded with a ruling that was, much like the executive order itself, 90 percent hype and 10 percent substance. Here’s the key section of the judge’s ruling:

That said, this injunction does nothing more than implement the effect of the Government’s flawed interpretation of the Order. It does not affect the ability of the Attorney General or the Secretary to enforce existing conditions of federal grants or 8 U.S.C. 1373, nor does it impact the Secretary’s ability to develop regulations or other guidance defining what a sanctuary jurisdiction is or designating a jurisdiction as such. It does prohibit the Government from exercising 9(a) in a way that violates the Constitution.

Allow me to translate. The Court is telling the Trump administration that it can still enforce existing law, it just can’t do what its lawyers promised not to do anyway — strip funding without appropriate Constitutional authority. The rest of the opinion is basically nothing more than interesting fluff, outlining a basic civics lesson in federal spending power. In other words, the court larded up its ruling with legalese that made the opinion look far more dramatic to the untrained eye.

The bottom line? Trump isn’t blocked from enforcing existing law. He’s only blocked from engaging in illegal acts that the DOJ promised the court that it wasn’t considering. In other words, move along. There’s not much to see here. 

The French Election and the Normalization of Extremes

by Veronique de Rugy

Response To...

Fillon Endorses Macron for the ...

Andrew’s post about the French election is spot on. While I thought François Fillon was impressive in his stated commitment to reforming the country and I am pretty disappointed by the poor support he gathered, I can’t help being relieved that the next round will not be Le Pen vs. Mélenchon. Andrew is also correct about Emmanuel Macron. He isn’t a socialist and he is more free-market than he has led on during his campaign but he may not be able or willing to do anything with his presidency to improve the country.

But I would like to spend a little time on the most striking thing in my opinion. With Fillon only getting 19.5 percent of the votes and Macron only getting 23.5 percent, 55 percent of the French vote went to extreme-something candidates. Fifty-five percent!

Enough has been said about Marine Le Pen, who although she is described as “far-right” actually has a very left-wing agenda. But it is worth noting that in spite of her awful rhetoric and bad policies, Le Pen has managed to make being a statist-protectionist with some strong fascist tendencies relatively more acceptable in France.

But what blows my mind even more is the French people’s continued embrace of a Communist (Mélenchon) and their impermeability to the fact that the ideology has been used to kill millions around the world. I know French Communists were quite remarkable and even heroic during the Second World War in opposing and trying to derail the Nazi regime. But that was over 70 years ago, and since then Communist regimes have been synonymous with executions, famines, and repressions much more than the welfare of the working man.

Yet, Jean-Luc Mélenchon got close to 20 percent of the vote. That’s as many votes as Fillon got. As if this alone isn’t bad enough, I suspect that if he — and not Le Pen — had been the one running against Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff, many fewer people would have crossed party lines to avoid externalism and the calls to cross these lines would have been limited to Fillion and a few others.

It’s crazy. Obviously, Mélenchon’s supporters like his crazy, backward, and oppressive positions (such as introducing a 100 percent tax on income above $425,000, a four-day work week, more vacation days for workers, no new free-trade agreements, etc.) and they are obviously as ignorant as he is about the already dramatic consequences of France’s punishing tax system, inflexible labor markets, and overly generous government policies even in the face of high unemployment numbers, slow growth, and large waves of millionaires moving out of the country (10,000 in 2015).

But what’s even crazier is Mélenchon’s unchallenged support for Hugo Chávez and other Communist dictators. And the worst is that in France he isn’t alone — as we saw when Fidel Castro finally died. What are people thinking? As long as I live, I will never understand how there is so little stigma attached to Communism in France (and elsewhere) and how in 2017 the ideology is on the rise. Poor France.

Nothing expresses my feelings better than this Reason video from 2008 called “Killer Chic” about the sick love affair of Hollywood with Che Guevara and the world with Communist leaders like Mao.

We Need More Ships!

by Jim Talent

New presidents begin to appreciate America’s armed forces at their first National Security Council meeting during their first foreign-policy crisis, when the first question asked is usually: “Where is the nearest aircraft carrier?”

President Trump has decided where two of the carriers will be. The United States is extending the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to join the USS Ronald Reagan in the waters near the Korean peninsula. The Nimitz is scheduled to relieve the Vinson in the Pacific later this year.

General McMaster, the national-security adviser, has said that the United States does not anticipate using military force against North Korea. Yet the carriers are still vital to our policy there. The carrier strike group is the tip of the iceberg of American power; its presence is a powerful signal the United States is serious about protecting its people and its interests in a crisis.

In fact, the most common use of hard power generally is to reinforce the soft power that all American presidents prefer to use when exerting national influence. George Kennan put it concisely in a lecture to the National War College in 1946: “You have no idea how much it contributes to the general politeness and pleasantness of diplomacy when you have a little quiet armed force in the background.”

There should be two aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater at all times. Only one is deployed there consistently. There should also be a two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf, yet only one is typically there. There should be a continuous carrier presence in the Mediterranean, but typically there is no carrier there at all. This is because the United States only has eleven aircraft carriers and at any given time only about a third of them can be deployed at sea. Carriers have to steam to and from deployments, and they must be maintained in home port. This “two for one” rule is true for the entire Navy (and in fact, for most of the armed forces) but it’s especially true for carriers, because they require so much maintenance.

Numbers matter, both in actual combat and because forward presence, which requires numbers to sustain, is as important a mission for the Navy as combat. At 275 ships, the Navy is at least 75 ships too small — no matter what PolitiFact or the Washington Post says.

In the early 1990s, when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, he proposed a plan for the armed forces in the new post-Cold War world. He thought that the Navy would need twelve carriers and almost 200 more ships in total than it has today. That was before the rise of Chinese power, before global Islamic terrorism, before Iran’s nuclear program, before Russia became hostile, and before North Korea acquired nuclear weapons. It was a relatively peaceful world then; the world today, as Madeleine Albright put it a few years ago, is “a mess.”

Aircraft carriers cost $12-13 billion. That’s a little more than 1/15th of one percent of America’s GDP, and a little less than one third of 1 percent of the federal budget. (It’s also about one eighth of Bill Gates’ personal fortune; maybe the Navy should apply to Bill and Melinda for a grant.)

America can afford more carriers, more ships of other kinds, and a larger military generally. The problem isn’t money. It’s time. You can’t throw a switch and get an aircraft carrier; it takes five years or more to build one. Other classes of ships can be built much quicker, if they are already designed and ready for production, and if the industrial base is robust enough to absorb the extra work. That’s another problem for the Navy; the United States has lost half its public shipyards in the last 20 years.

Foreign policy is the product of capability and intention. One of the ironclad rules is that intention can change quickly — we have seen that in the last two weeks of the Trump administration — but it takes a lot longer to change capability, which is why it was such a consequential mistake to allow American strength to sink so low over the last 20 years.

I’ve always believed that Donald Trump grasped all this intuitively, that in this area his instincts were much sounder than those of his predecessors. When Mr. Trump says that his policy is “peace through strength,” he means it. He knows that negotiating from strength is better than negotiating from weakness. His defense plan calls for a 350-ship Navy. My guess is that as time goes on, he will conclude he needs a bigger Navy than that.

He can have it, and he can have the military he wants; in the process he can revitalize American manufacturing and American innovation, and get the high-end job creation he wants as well. Many of those jobs will be in the heartland, in Trump country. The defense plan alone, if pursued with vigor and purpose, can by itself go a long way toward fulfilling his pledge to make America great, and safe, again.

All his administration — or the top level of it anyway — needs to do is focus like a laser on two things: a) getting more money for defense, and b) spending the money with reasonable efficiency, so that Congress will give him even more money. Money is not the solution to most of the problems in Washington. But for all intents and purposes, it’s the solution to this one.

The industrial base has become so fragile that Mr. Trump won’t be able to complete a rebuild of the military in his administration, even if he serves two terms. But he can get us most of the way there, and there is nothing he could do that would help his country more, or secure his place in history better.