The Feds Should Revoke D.C. Home Rule

The Feds Should Revoke D.C. Home Rule

The city is managing to kick against national trends as its violent crime rate continues to rise.

Credit: mark reinstein

Washington, D.C. has a crime problem. 

On Monday, a man as yet unnamed by the police went on an auto theft rampage for the record books. He started the spree by shooting a lawyer getting out of his car in the luxe Mt. Vernon neighborhood of K Street, a brisk 10-minute walk from The American Conservative’s offices. The assailant apparently thought better of that vehicle—a standard transmission, perhaps?—and fled the scene on foot. He attempted and failed to seize another car in Northwest, and then in NoMa shot another driver, who later died of his wounds at the hospital. The killer took the victim’s car and fled over the line into Maryland. He then abandoned the car, stole another car, abandoned that car, ordered a rideshare, and carjacked it. After this energetic showing, the criminal decided to wind down—it was by now 3am Tuesday—by cruising around D.C. and its Maryland suburbs while taking potshots at police cars. Eventually, our enterprising felon was chased down and shot dead by New Carrollton municipal police around 4:30am.

This lurid episode attracted the attention of the conservative press because the K Street shooting victim (who remains in critical condition), Mike Gill, is a Republican D.C. election board member and had served as a minor appointee in the Trump administration. Lest it be thought that the District’s crime is partisan or in some way a respecter of persons, we must note that Gill is not the highest-ranking politico to face the realities of our imperial capital’s streets: Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, was carjacked last October.

Because Washington is a federal district, law enforcement falls under the Department of Justice. Merrick Garland has decided he’s seen enough, and announced that DoJ will be routing additional resources to cracking down on carjackings and homicides.

The nation’s capital is moving in the wrong direction for sure; it is also moving in the opposite direction from most of the rest of the country. National crime levels declined sharply in 2023, although still not returning to their pre-2020 levels; murder in particular was down 15.6 percent. D.C.’s dysfunction doesn’t seem to arise from particular local conditions. Forty miles north, Baltimore—a much less high-rent city than Washington, which has a median household income of about $101,000 per year—has seen a 21 percent decrease in homicides year over year for 2023, even despite an ongoing consent decree over alleged police malfeasance. (Of course, this still makes Baltimore one of the most dangerous cities in the Western hemisphere, but we’ll take what we can get.) What gives? 

Well, Baltimore hired as deputy mayor a man who thinks that behaviors like dealing drugs around burn barrels on public sidewalks should be stopped, and understands that this program may involve putting police officers in places where they’ll arrest criminals. These bare concessions to common sense have prevailed, often in embarrassed quietness, in the biggest cities in America. Washington, unfortunately, is the city of dreams; its political class is stocked with crooks and, worse, ideological bobos with master’s degrees. It is still firmly in the throes of the post-Floyd mania for keeping the cops from doing anything. 

In D.C., a fabulous merry-go-round of buck-passing prevents anything in particular from being done to stop the carnage and chaos. City council passes bills systematically down-scheduling misdemeanors and felonies; Muriel Bowser, the mayor, vetoes them; the council overrides the veto. Herroner proposes bills to increase enforcement; the city council declines to move them, saying Herroner already has the power to deploy the Metropolitan Police Department’s personnel as she wishes or pointing to the U.S. attorney’s refusal to prosecute. Herroner proposes reinstating the drug-free zones she voted to remove as a council member; the council refuses to sign off. It is a municipal Rube Goldberg machine preventing anyone being on the hook for sending constituents and constituents’ relatives to jail. The result? Carjackings in the district almost doubled between 2022 and 2023. 

Herroner, who went to private school and is a Catholic, seems to be more or less genuinely in favor of law and order—she has repeatedly blocked the release of D.C.’s stop-and-frisk data—she lacks the clout, the will, or both to make it happen. The city government’s apathy for actually stopping crime may play into the fact that, per the police chief, the force is short 500 or so officers—which hardly helps the cause. Meanwhile, the council prefers giving out vast sums to the types of NGO and private contractors that have been so very effective in other blue cities.

We have written before about the anarcho-tyranny in Washington; things have clearly not improved since our last dispatch. The sad truth is that the only recourse at the moment is the crude and primitive instrument of correction in every democracy, voting the bums out. Some Washingtonians are trying that; a recall effort is afoot against the Ward 6 council member, Charles Allen, whose proposed revision of the city’s criminal code provoked federal intervention. Yet the catch is evident in the solution; the bums are in office for a reason. People voted for them. (Allen himself pointed out that he won his last election with a North Korea–level margin, north of 90 percent.) 

In any other city, you’d say “let ‘em rot,” but Washington is the entire American people’s district, and where the nation carries out its shared public life. You can’t have congressmen getting carjacked or worse. It may be time for the federal government to consider more radical remedies—for example, revoking Washington’s home rule.

The post The Feds Should Revoke D.C. Home Rule appeared first on The American Conservative.

In Defense of Broad Private Property Ownership

In Defense of Broad Private Property Ownership

Somewhere along the line, we lost our way. We have become apathetic about the type of society we inhabit, and what is required to sustain it.

Credit: EYE DJ

Do democracy and capitalism go together? We would be wrong to think that the tensions between the two are unique to our own time. Anxieties about the viability of a capitalist economy within a democratic political order were present in 1920s Britain with the introduction of universal suffrage, as they were present in the American founding. Would capitalism’s inequalities undermine the sense of shared solidarity required in a self-governing society? Would democracy’s tendency towards equality undermine the incentives for enterprise and industry that a vibrant and free capitalist economy depends upon? Most fundamentally, would capitalism spread the proceeds of economic growth sufficiently to stabilize democratic society, or would it concentrate wealth in such a way as to expose it to division and rupture?

These tensions seem particularly pronounced today, though. In the U.K., according to a 2017 poll, as many people think capitalism is actively harmful and that an alternative economic model is required as believed that it is working well. Just 13 percent of those under the age of 49 thought capitalism was operating effectively. Four years ago, 30 percent of the public were so disillusioned with the way society is economically structured that they voted for a self-professed socialist to become prime minister. Support for capitalism might generally be higher in the United States, but the view that capitalism is the source of socio-economic problems rather than the best vehicle for solving them is creeping in among younger American cohorts too. 

These attitudes towards capitalism spill over into people’s views about democracy. Recent polling in Britain found that the least economically secure fifth of voters are twice as likely to say democracy is a fairly bad or very bad system of governing the country. Contemporary capitalism might be creating too many ‘losers’ who are questioning whether democracy really has their interests at heart. Once again, capitalism and democracy are having to compete in the battle of ideas, and right now, they are losing. 

The institution in which these tensions are most obviously crystallized is that of property ownership. Ownership is a foundational idea in both capitalism and democracy. It enables people to capture the benefits of their enterprise and industry, and thus constitutes the core of the incentive structure that makes capitalism such a powerful way of organizing the economy. Yet the importance of ownership transcends mere economic incentives. Capitalism’s legitimacy partly hinges on the idea that acquiring property is an opportunity open to all. Ownership, as has been long recognized, breeds the sort of moral psychology that undergirds a responsible, participatory politics. Whilst long ago this was thought to mean that only those with property should participate in the political process, in the context of democracy, the imperative is instead that as many people as possible ought to be property owners.

Once, property ownership was a unifying aspirational value. Today, it is a marker of privilege, unfairness, and division. Nowhere is this more manifest than in the housing market. In the U.K., property ownership in general is falling slightly, and it is on the rise for older demographics. For those under the age of 34, it is utterly collapsing. Amongst 25–34-year-olds, homeownership has fallen by 26 percentage points since 1991. Britain is increasingly bifurcating into an older, wealthier, propertied class, and a younger propertyless substratum. Only those in the latter group with inherited forms of wealth can join the former group and get onto the property ladder. And as house prices continue to rise, younger generations are required to transfer more of their limited wealth to those who already own residential property, both because of the price tag of a home and because of the increased amount of time younger workers will have to remain in rented accommodation as they save up for a deposit.

We instinctively associate property with real estate, but property comes in all sorts of forms. Across the economy, the ownership of businesses, assets, infrastructure and so on appears to be narrowing. In 1963, 54 percent of U.K. listed shares were owned by individuals; now just 12 percent are. Only 4 percent of household wealth is invested in listed equities. Upwards of 56 percent U.K. shares are now owned overseas. Of course, many individuals and households are “technically” owners, as Merryn Somerset Webb has put it, through pension funds. But even then, the proportion of U.K. listed shares owned by U.K. pension funds has shrunk to 4 percent. What’s more, the relationship that the pension policy holder has with their invested wealth is an extremely thin form of ownership. Fund managers effectively take on the rights and responsibilities that are usually assumed by an asset owner. Popular capitalism is being supplanted by managerial capitalism.

Property is becoming more concentrated, and, for those who do own property, their relationship with their assets is frequently becoming less direct and more distant.

This is certainly bad for capitalism. If the vital incentive provided by the ability to acquire property and wealth (and to pass it on to subsequent generations) is dampened, we risk losing one of the most elemental drivers of economic growth and prosperity. 

But this decline of ownership is also bad for democracy. Property ownership gives people independence and self-sufficiency, and a practical medium for self-expression. It also gives responsibility and a sense of stake, and it is a sense of stake which encourages someone to make decisions in the interest of a community. Taking these things away risks sapping the ethical reserves that a democratic society depends upon: Fewer property owners means fewer people with independence, and thus more people dependent on the state. At the same time, increasingly concentrated ownership produces jealousies and resentments that undermine solidarity and a feeling of mutual obligation amongst citizens. 

We are not short of big public policy dilemmas to unknot, from climate change and energy independence to the housing crisis and low investment rates. But the core problem that sits behind all these challenges is the imbalance that has opened up between those who own property and those who do not. The question of ownership relates to who feels responsible for the maintenance of the natural environment. It relates to investment patterns and the need to get capital to the places where it is needed the most. It relates to the preparedness of people to make the trade-offs required for economic growth. Finally, it relates to people’s sense of mutual obligation as a society.

How do we redress this situation? Two putative solutions are frequently offered, both skeptical of the benefits of diffuse property ownership. The first, call it the Marxist standpoint, sees property as the problem to be addressed. In this perspective, it is the institution of private ownership that is making society less balanced, less cohesive, and less fair. Private property, argue Adrienne Buller and Mathew Lawrence, is “inherently” exclusionary and productive of dynamics of “dispossession, concentration [and] dependency.” Capitalism, they go on, is a “contract for legalized economic exploitation,” at the heart of which is private ownership.   

Such a perspective might not always be held in such a strident form. But the sentiment underlying it is expressed in numerous ways, from those suggesting that we should move away from a homeownership society and towards one in which there are high levels of social renting, to those that want more state ownership of British companies. By taking property from those who already have it and placing it in the hands of the state, so the thinking goes, more people can participate in “collective” ownership.

A second potential solution—which we might term the social democratic standpoint—is to compensate for the gulf between the propertied and the propertyless through the tax system. Here, increasingly progressive taxation is advocated to redistribute wealth. Edmund Fawcett has written that welfarism and redistribution represents a compromise that has been struck between democracy and capitalism in modern politics. And since wealth disparities have grown, we ought to increase the taxation of wealth and redistribute the proceeds to wage earners. Given the painfully high marginal tax rates on young people, such a course of action is alluring.

These two “solutions,” however, are fundamentally flawed because they fail to address the core problem set out above. The Marxist perspective rails against the concentration of capital and power yet proposes to concentrate ownership even more by placing it in the hands of the state. The social democratic alternative suggests we try to equalize the relationship between owners and earners by taxing wealth more and more progressively. But as the great American economist, Louis Kelso, who pioneered the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), argued, the productive potential of capital vastly outweighs that of labor, such that the burden of taxation would have to rise continuously to mitigate a growing gulf between the propertied and propertyless. Higher and higher levels of taxation would be self-defeating; they would undermine incentives for enterprise and empower the state at the expense of the citizen.

Most importantly, neither of these putative solutions would widen the ownership of property. The idea that state ownership is a meaningful form of ownership for the many is a chimera; what is owned by everyone is really owned by no one. An ever-increasing tax burden on capital would erode and attenuate the value of property without producing any more property owners. The problem is that the opportunities for ownership are being denied to a growing proportion of the population. Far from making that aspiration and ideal more accessible, the Marxist and social democratic approaches would render it increasingly unattainable.

These two perspectives display a detachment from the desires, hopes and impulses of real people. They are based on a political economy that begins not with the individual, the household, or the local community, but with the aggregate. The basis of a successful economy and a strong democracy is that the institutions, systems, and structures of a society make sense at an intimate, human level. Economic growth does not occur because the state set’s optimal levels of consumption, savings, and investment by fiat. Growth occurs because the incentives for a particular worker or a particular family to be enterprising or thrifty or industrious are sufficiently compelling. Likewise, democracies make effective collective decisions not because the answers to questions of burden sharing are already intuitive and obvious; rather, they depend on a sufficient number of people possessing a genuine stake in the local and broader national community and a sense of personal responsibility for their health. 

People feel distant from the material of economic life in this country, and disconnected from the political decisions made on their behalf. They are playing the role of passive observers, rather than of active participants. The current economic moment requires us to renew a sense of responsibility. Surely such a feeling will emerge only if we diffuse property and genuine ownership more widely throughout society.

Property is too concentrated, and this is threatening to sunder Western societies. But to give up on the very idea of private property is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The great challenge of our time is to widen and strengthen property ownership, not to deny it to people. But how? 

We must start with the housing market. Homeownership is plummeting amongst younger people, but that isn’t because they are choosing not to own. It is because we have as a society systematically privileged the interests and concerns of existing owners over those of aspirant ones. We have an obligation to extend the opportunities and responsibilities of home ownership as widely as possible, and today, that can only be achieved by making housing more abundant.

Yet spreading property ownership is not just about housing. Indeed, the privileging of residential real estate investment over other forms has had detrimental effects for the U.K. economy more broadly. British investment at the aggregate level is analogous to an overleveraged and insufficiently diversified portfolio, and critically, most investment in the housing market is not going towards building new homes, but to extending credit to those trying to accommodate ever rising house prices. Capital is pouring into the housing market and fueling house price inflation, whilst other, productive parts of the economy go capital hungry.

We must help more people become owners of different forms of capital, then. That means helping people to save, yes, particularly those on the bottom of the income distribution, but it also means translating those savings into investment. We should embark on a crusade to incentivize retail investment in the stock market through a proactive advertising campaign modeled on the highly successful “Tell Sid” commercials of 1980s Britain. 

We must also restore a sense of ownership at the level of the community. Regional policy is politically and morally hollow if it simply equates to the pork-barrel politics of government subsidies. Such an approach merely inculcates further dependency on the state. If we truly want to tackle the inequalities between regions, we need to support local communities in becoming owners again of their local economies and infrastructure. 

Finally, we need to greatly expand the number of people with a direct equity stake in the firms that they work for. Data suggests that those companies with employee share ownership schemes vastly outperform those without, but take up of plans like CSOPs, SIPs and Sharesave remain low. So we should incentivize employee share ownership schemes with a tax super deduction for the value of shares offered to workers.

Of course, all of these things are designed before anything else to promote ownership and the values that being an owner inculcates. But advancing this cause is also tied to the quest to revitalize the economy. It will improve the quality and quantity of investment; it will focus incentives for enterprise and industry; and by enabling more people to share in its proceeds, it will help to generate support for the trade-offs and compromises that will be required to achieve meaningful economic growth.

Somewhere along the line, we lost our way. We have become apathetic about the type of society we inhabit, and what is required to sustain it. Most fundamentally of all, we appear to have lost sight of the basic truth that the viability of a political community depends on it having broad foundations. We need a new political economy configured around a profound moral mission: to give more people a proper stake in their local community, in the national economy, and in British society more generally. And we need politicians with the courage and conviction to deliver it.

This article is part of the “American System series edited by David A. Cowan and supported by the Common Good Economics Grant Program. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors.

The post In Defense of Broad Private Property Ownership appeared first on The American Conservative.

Seizing Russian Assets: Ruble Wise but Dollar Foolish

Seizing Russian Assets: Ruble Wise but Dollar Foolish

Grabbing Russian wealth would set a dangerous precedent and, worse, prolong the war in Ukraine.

The second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is approaching and the Biden administration increasingly fears that its policy is failing. Although in public President Joe Biden remains confident about Ukraine’s future, the Pentagon reportedly is pushing new military plans for Kiev to go on the defensive. “Unnamed officials” in his administration increasingly talk of the need for a negotiated settlement. They justify further American aid as a way to increase Kiev’s negotiating leverage, not to defeat Moscow’s forces. Ukraine’s glory days last year in turning back Russian armored columns are long gone.

Money is also increasingly scarce. Political elites in the U.S. and Europe continue to support the Zelensky government, but popular opposition is rising, so they are looking for other sources of revenue—including hundreds of billions of dollars in frozen Russian assets.

It seems so simple. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and European nations imposed economic sanctions on Moscow—the government and its people. The allies froze sundry assets of targeted individuals, mostly wealthy “oligarchs” viewed as regime supporters, and, in an unprecedented move, some $300 billion in financial reserves of the central government. Why not give it to Kiev? First the idea was to support Ukraine’s reconstruction after Russia was defeated and humiliated. Now the proposal is to aid the former’s faltering war effort.

Support for widespread confiscation is growing on both sides of the Atlantic. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed the idea at the recent Davos gathering. Per Fortune, he called 

for a “strong” decision this year for the frozen assets in Western banks to “be directed towards defense against the Russian war and for reconstruction” of Ukraine. “Putin loves money above all,” he said. “The more billions he and his oligarchs, friends and accomplices lose, the more likely he will regret starting this war.”

Belgium holds the largest amount of frozen Russian assets and suggested that the funds could “be used to buy military equipment, humanitarian aid and help with the rebuilding of the war-torn country.” Perhaps the most enthusiastic European proponent is the United Kingdom. 

Some Western officials don’t want to stop with aid to Kiev. The Washington heavyweight Robert Zoellick suggested “setting aside some of the Russian reserves to assist developing countries that have been demonstrably hurt by higher food and energy prices. In addition, some amount could be allocated for claims by companies that suffered Russian retaliation.” Why not also use the money to solve the international debt crisis, reimburse governments for the cost of Covid, create universal global health care, and send a manned mission to Mars?

The Biden administration long was skeptical of grabbing Russian property, but has been moving to support the initiative with legislation. The New York Times reported that the administration is “pressing Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan to come up with a strategy by Feb. 24, the second anniversary of the invasion.” At the Davos meeting, Penny Pritzker, a former commerce secretary who currently serves as Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery, said that the U.S. and the G7 are working out the instruments for the seizures. Again in Fortune: “‘Get all the lawyers and all the various governments and all the parties really to come together to sort that through,’ she said. ‘It’s hard, it’s complicated, it’s difficult, and we need to work.’” As Ukraine’s battlefield prospects flag, support for grabbing whatever Russian wealth is at hand is likely to grow.

Nevertheless, doing so is a bad idea, despite the superficial appeal. 

Western leaders talk often about the “rules-based international order;” of course, they write the rules but ignore them whenever inconvenient. Grabbing the assets of foreign nations and nationals without convincing justification would further expose their hypocrisy. European critics point out that “The U.S. and its allies aren’t at war with Russia, and Russia didn’t amass its wealth through illicit means but largely by selling oil and gas, much of which went to the West.”

Of course, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin wrongly loosed the dogs of war on Ukraine. For that his government bears responsibility. Nevertheless, if national governments were empowered to unilaterally grab assets, both state and private property when governments had engaged in illegal and immoral wars, then Americans would have been stripped bare after Iraq. Washington long has benefited from a global double standard because of America’s military power and political influence.

With the international power balance changing, the U.S. might not be immune in the future. Even the Europeans have tired of what they see as obstructionism involving their priorities, such as climate change, technology regulation, and more. If other governments remain chary about challenging the US government, they might become more willing to seize the property of Americans, both of individuals and companies. Future US officials might rue a precedent that governments can seize whatever they want from whoever they want without recompense.

The allied case for grabbing Russian assets is poor. The American and European governments present themselves as innocent bystanders in l’affaire Ukraine. However, they misled both Moscow and Kiev, violating multiple assurances of not expanding NATO while promising to induct Ukraine but failing to act on their commitment. Russia was angered and Ukraine was emboldened; both were betrayed. Invader and invaded alike have a claim to compensation from Washington and Brussels.

Although the emphasis has been on taking government property, some policymakers also would seize private assets. Indeed, last year the Justice Department confiscated $5.4 million from Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev and transferred the money to a State Department fund to rebuild Ukraine. No doubt, many such “oligarchs” are morally dubious characters, having manipulated the system and misused influence to gain their wealth. That is an issue for the Russian people, not Western governments. Nor are allied societies free of unjust state-created privileges, called “rent-seeking” by economists. Grabbing people’s assets because of their personal reputations makes a mockery of the rule of law and property rights. 

More broadly, allowing politicians to seize sundry property and funds from politically unpopular owners would place all property and funds at risk. As Sergey Aleksashenko, a Russian dissident and former central bank official, observed: “I do not believe that there is any way to confiscate assets of the Russian Central Bank without a court deciding on the matter. Because if there is no legal basis to confiscate Russian assets, and if it is done by the decision of the administration, that means that there is no rule of law in the U.S. and there is no protection of private property.”

Advocates for stealing Russian cash have floated various theories, such as treating property seizure as being a unique countermeasure to aggression. Nevertheless, “as a justification for confiscating Russian state assets, the reprisals argument has three problems: It lacks compellent effect, it is being invoked by the wrong parties, and it undermines the rules-based order western governments claim to defend.” The author Simon Hinrichsen argued that the circumstances are unique. Once the West sets such an exception, however, there is no logical limit. One could imagine taking someone else’s money as compensation for human rights violations, unfair trade practices, or climate mismanagement, all of which could be termed “unique.”

Dispensing with basic legal principles for a few billion dollars in booty brings to mind the famous Sir Thomas More quote in A Man for All Seasons

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Washington’s use of financial weapons already has caused many foreign governments, including in Europe, to look for means to insulate their economies from U.S. sanctions. Admittedly, alternatives are limited, and governments retain dollar-denominated investments. Yet the allied seizure of Russian assets would likely concentrate minds in governments at odds with Washington and Brussels and speed their searches for other financial storehouses. No country could feel safe in such circumstances.

Taking Moscow’s money also would be arbitrary. After all, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in Yemen. Why not take the royals’ cash, effectively stolen from their populations? Israel has been hauled before the International Court of Justice for its promiscuous killing of civilians in Gaza amid much rhetoric promoting ethnic or religious cleansing. Shouldn’t overseas Israeli assets be seized? Then there is China. Consider its manifold human rights abuses and its military threats against Taiwan. Don’t they count? Why tag only Russian wealth for seizure? 

 In practice, Moscow undoubtedly would retaliate by seizing American and European assets. At the end of 2022, Western investments in Russia were valued at $288 billion. Moscow would probably confiscate them. The greatest burden would fall on private enterprises that could offer little defense. Although Russia would be worse off by the exit of Western firms, for many Russians cheap foreign assets would be a substantial windfall. Indeed, the Putin government might view the expulsion of foreign firms as a benefit, reducing subversive foreign influences and rewarding government loyalists.

As for Washington, its high-profile attempt to steal other nations’ assets would reinforce the impact of sanctions, which is spurring other nations to reduce their reliance on U.S. financial instruments and institutions. A $300 billion money grab almost certainly would accelerate this process.

Perhaps the most harmful impact of seizing Russian assets would be making it harder to end the war. So long as Moscow’s money is frozen, it could be restored as part of a peace settlement. Western governments could use the prospect to encourage negotiations between angry, distrustful antagonists. Indeed, with Russia increasingly believing that it has a military advantage, returning frozen assets, especially of the Russian state, and reopening markets to Russian firms might be necessary inducements for a peace agreement.

Confiscating financial reserves while retreating on the battlefield would encourage Russia to press forward to retrieve its losses and more. Despite outrage at Moscow’s unjustified (though not unprovoked) invasion, the issue of war and peace should be treated as one of prudence rather than morality. Ukraine is itself the battlefield and has paid most heavily for the conflict. It is essential to end the war, and to do so as soon as possible. Slowing that process to grab Russian monies would be counterproductive in the extreme.

The Putin government invited the Biden administration to negotiate before its February 2022 invasion. Washington refused, apparently assuming that Moscow’s threats were not serious. Now the allies, frustrated at the failure of their plans, are moving toward lawlessly seizing Russian property and reserves. Doing so would be ruble wise but dollar foolish. The so-called “rules-based order” means something only if its advocates obey the same standards they propound for everyone else.

The post Seizing Russian Assets: Ruble Wise but Dollar Foolish appeared first on The American Conservative.

Military Escalation Against Iran Is Foolish and Unjustified

Military Escalation Against Iran Is Foolish and Unjustified

Attacking Iran would be not only dangerous, but also unsupported by any U.S. intelligence assessments to date.

Credit: KPG-Ivary

The greatest danger for a widening war in the Middle East is unintended actions that take a path to Iran. That danger became more real on January 28 when a one-way attack drone launched by groups President Joe Biden immediately identified as “radical Iran-backed militant groups” smashed into Tower 22, a housing unit on a U.S. military facility in Jordan near the Syrian border. Three U.S. servicemembers were killed, and more than forty were injured. 

The inflammatory nature of the attack lies in two things: After at least 165 attacks by Iran-backed militias on U.S. forces in the region since October 17, it is the first to kill U.S. troops; and the Biden administration has warned that if an Iran-backed militia attack kills U.S. troops, the U.S. could respond with strikes inside Iran.

“Hit Iran now. Hit them hard,” South Carolina’s Senator Lindsay Graham demanded. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said that Biden would be “a coward unworthy of being commander-in-chief” if he didn’t. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the imposition of “crippling costs…not only on front-line terrorist proxies, but on their Iranian sponsors.”

Yet expanding the war in the region to a wider war with Iran serves nobody’s interests. The utility of the residual 900 U.S. troops in Syria and 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq has outlasted its best before date. Now that the Islamic State is no longer the danger it was, that objective is outweighed by the provocativeness of the troops’ presence and the easy target they present. 

Expanding the war to Iran would be hard to contain. Iran has developed much stronger ties to China and Russia. Even if war with Iran didn’t risk drawing the U.S. into the war with Russia and China that has so far been avoided in Ukraine, it does risk breaking the dams in the region and drawing in countries from Lebanon and Yemen to Iraq, Syria, and beyond. 

What’s worse is that the fatal strike on the U.S. base has not even altered the assessment of U.S. intelligence that Iran does not intend to start a wider war with the attack in Jordan. 

The New York Times reported the day after the attack that Iran “may not have known in advance about the attack in Jordan” because “while Iran provides weapons, funding and sometimes intelligence to its proxy groups, there is no evidence that it calls the shots.”

On the day following the attack, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said at a press conference that “In terms of attribution for the attack, we know this is an IRGC-backed militia.” 

It does not follow, however, that because the group that carried out the attack is one that is supported by Iran that it is Iran that ordered the attack. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has recently said that the U.S. and its partners misunderstand the relationship between Iran and the militias, insisting that the “Axis of Resistance is joined by masters who take their decisions independently, not servants who obey regulations blindly.”

Singh said “we know that Iran is behind it,” but when pressed by a journalist whether that meant that she  “know[s] that Iran and/or Iranian leaders were actually behind this attack, as in planned, coordinated, or directed it,” she could only reply,

We know that Iran certainly plays a role with these groups, they arm and equip and fund these groups. I don’t have more to share on—terms of an intelligence assessment on if leaders in Iran were directing this attack, but what I can tell you is that we know these groups are supported by Iran and therefore they do have their fingerprints on this, but I can’t tell you more in terms of who directed the attack.

When asked to clarify whether Iranian responsibility went beyond general support for these groups and took the form of specifically supporting this attack, Singh could say only “Beyond that, we’re—we’re doing an—intelligence assessments. We don’t have—don’t—I can’t give you today that.”

When Biden revealed on January 30 that he had decided what form the promised U.S. retaliation would take, his choice of words hinted that the U.S. was acting on an assessment that had not yet gone beyond the one presented in the Pentagon press conference: namely, they have confidence Iran generally supported the attackers but not yet that Iran specifically directed or supported the attackers. “I do hold them responsible,” Biden said, “in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.” 

Biden further hinted that the retaliation he had selected might be calibrated to that assessment and that, although it would surely be a significant strike on Iran-backed groups in the region or on Iranian interests, it might not strike at targets inside Iran: “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for.”

As for the most recent attack being escalatory, Singh said that “there was nothing different or new about this attack” except that, unlike earlier attacks, “this attack was successful.” Most importantly, she said that “we don’t see Iran wanting to seek a war with the United States.”

For its part, Iran’s representative to the U.N. said that “Iran had no connection and had nothing to do with the attack on the US base.” 

Kataib Hezbollah, the group whom the Pentagon says “has its footprints” on the attack, claims not only that Iran does “not know the specifics of our jihadist work,” but that Iran has “repeatedly declared opposition to our escalation against the U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.” Although Kataib Hezbollah’s word is suspect—would the group say anything different if they were an Iranian sock-puppet?—it is not without precedent. In 2014, when the Houthis were advancing on the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, Iran specifically urged them not to capture the city. The Houthi rebuffed the Iranian urging and captured the capital.

Although Iran says that they are not afraid of war and that they would “decisively respond” to a U.S. retaliation “on the country, its interests and nationals,” General Hossein Salami, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said on January 31 that Iran is “not looking for war.”

In addition to Iran not wanting to start a war with the U.S. and the intelligence assessment that Iran does not intend to start a wider war with this attack, Iran has also said that if Israel “does not…attack Iran, its interests, and nationals” then “Iran’s armed forces will not engage” in the current war with Gaza. 

“The resistance front,” Iran maintains, “can defend itself.” That front has said that its fatal attack in Jordan was a “continuation of our approach to resisting the American occupation forces in Iraq and the region.”

Similar points have been made about other Iran-backed militias. Stacey Philbrick Yadav, the chair of international relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a specialist on Yemen, told Time in December 2023 that the Houthis “do have a relationship with and support from Iran, but are not a straightforward proxy of Iranian interests. They have their own locally defined interests.”

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco, commented to The American Conservative that “If Iran didn’t like what they’re doing, they could probably stop it.” But, he added, it is also probable that the Houthi “initiated the attacks themselves.”

With calls from Congress members to retaliate with strikes in Iran and risk a wider war in the region, it is important to hear what U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon are saying. Iran may not have been behind the attack and may not even have known about it in advance. There is not yet any assessment that Iran directed the attack. Although Iran generally supports the militias in Iraq and Syria, there is not yet any evidence that they supported this specific attack. Most importantly, the Intelligence community and the Pentagon do not believe Iran wants war with the U.S.

Hopefully, the U.S. does not want war with Iran. The Pentagon says they don’t: “We don’t seek a wider conflict with Iran…. We don’t want a war with Iran.”

The post Military Escalation Against Iran Is Foolish and Unjustified appeared first on The American Conservative.

Trump Responds to Rumors About Red Marks on His Hand

President Trump responded to speculation about the red marks seen on his hand earlier this month as he was headed to a Manhattan court.

Earlier this month Trump was photographed while he was on his way to a Manhattan court to attend a trial where the jury will decide how much he has to pay E. Jean Carroll for his so-called ‘defamatory’ statements about her.

The left-wing media freaked out over red marks on President Trump’s right hand.

It could have been red marker or blisters from playing golf, but miserable leftists like James Carville immediately claimed Trump has syphilis.

So this photo of lesions on Trump’s hand is real and from today

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 18, 2024

“They look like syphilis,” James Carville said of the red marks on Trump’s hands.

Carville claimed he asked several doctors (who never examined Trump) what the red marks could be and the answer was “immediate: secondary syphilis.”

Trump said maybe it was AI.

“Asked what had happened to the hand the former president said: ‘Nothing. Maybe it was AI.’” Trump said according to The Daily Mail.

The post Trump Responds to Rumors About Red Marks on His Hand appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

Billionaire Donor Explains Why He is No Longer Supporting Harvard, Calls the Students ‘Whiny Snowflakes’ (VIDEO)

Harvard has been bleeding financial support since October, when Ivy League students began campus demonstrations in support of Hamas.

One of their billionaire donors recently explained why he is no longer supporting the institution, calling out the school for its embrace of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) policies.

Adding insult to injury, he called the students whiny snowflakes.

CNN actually covered this:

$500 million Harvard megadonor halts donations, says elite schools produce ‘whiny snowflakes’

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who has donated more than $500 million to Harvard University over the years, has halted contributions to his alma mater and claimed elite schools produce “whiny snowflakes.”

Griffin, one of the richest people in the world, joins a growing list of donors to Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and other top schools who have decided to close their checkbooks.

At a conference in Miami on Tuesday, Griffin expressed deep frustration with the state of American universities, including the disastrous testimony before Congress by the presidents of Harvard, MIT and UPenn.

Griffin, the founder of hedge fund Citadel, said he is no longer supporting Harvard financially but would like that to change.

“Until Harvard makes it very clear that they’re going to resume their role as [educators of] young American men and women to be leaders, to be problem solvers, to take on difficult issues, I am not interested in supporting the institution,” Griffin told CNBC’s Leslie Picker during the MFA Network Miami conference.

Watch the video below:

Billionaire Ken Griffin, who gave Harvard $300 million last year:

“I’m not interested in supporting the institution.”

He asks if Harvard will return to educating young people to be leaders or remain “lost in the wilderness” of DEI.

— Steve McGuire (@sfmcguire79) January 30, 2024

It really seems like the public has finally caught on to what a con and joke that higher education has become in recent years and it’s hitting schools where it hurts most. Right in the wallet.

The post Billionaire Donor Explains Why He is No Longer Supporting Harvard, Calls the Students ‘Whiny Snowflakes’ (VIDEO) appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

Yet Another Poll Shows Trump Beating Biden in Multiple Swing States

A new Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll shows Donald Trump beating Joe Biden in the crucial swing states.

Is there any wonder why Biden is suddenly interested in the crisis at the border or why he is talking about visiting East Palestine, Ohio?

It’s likely because the 2024 election is less than a year away and Trump keeps beating him in the polls.

RedState reports:

No Wonder Biden Is Finally Talking ‘Border Crisis’ – Check Out How Trump Is Crushing Him in the Polls

Have you wondered why Joe Biden took an Orwellian flip and was suddenly talking about the “border crisis” — something he and his administration have denied was a crisis for the past three years? And why he’s suddenly trying to blame the Republicans, who have been calling for action on the crisis all of that time?

Yes, it’s because of the election, but it’s also because the polls in the swing states show him getting crushed by former President Donald Trump — and specifically show him being crushed on that particular issue.

Check out this polling; it’s got to be shaking the Biden people up.

Not only is he now up in all seven swing states, he’s up by some big numbers in some of those states. Trump is up by eight in Nevada and 10 in North Carolina. Even stunningly up five in Michigan and eight in Georgia.

See the tweets below for the numbers:

2024 GE: Bloomberg/Morning Consult

Trump 49% (+5)
Biden 44%
Trump 48% (+3)
Biden 45%
Trump 48% (+8)
Biden 40%
Trump 49% (+8)
Biden 41%
Trump 47% (+5)
Biden 42%
Trump 49% (+10)
Biden 39%

— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) January 31, 2024

More charts.

Here’s the polling trend in each state since October

— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) January 31, 2024

So much of the 2024 election is going to come down to states in the rust belt like Michigan and Wisconsin. Same with Pennsylvania.

Trump is now leading in all of them, according to this poll.

The post Yet Another Poll Shows Trump Beating Biden in Multiple Swing States appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

GOOD QUESTION: Reporter Asks KJP if Biden Will Drink the Water in East Palestine When He Finally Visits (VIDEO)

A reporter actually asked Karine Jean-Pierre a touch question during the White House press briefing on Wednesday.

Phillip Wegmann of Real Clear News asked KJP if Biden is planning to drink the water in East Palestine, Ohio when he finally visits there in February. The question left KJP stammering for a moment before she launched into a typical word-salad answer.

People in East Palestine made viral videos of what appeared to be chemicals in the water after the disaster, despite officials declaring that the water was safe.

Real Clear Politics provides a transcript:

PHIL WEGMANN, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Has the White Houe coordinated or discussed with DOJ any type of damage settlement or compensation for folks there who were affected by the derailment?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any specifics there, I would have to refer you to the Department of Justice on that piece. Obviously, we want to make sure that Norfolk [Southern] is held to account, we’re going to make sure that happens. We are determined to get that done. I think you’ve heard that from the Department of Transportation and Secretary Buttigieg, you’ve heard that from us many times, we want to make sure that they pay for the derailment that they caused. Obviously, that is a priority.

WEGMANN: And then next month, when the president is in East Palestine, will he drink the water there?

JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, what I can tell you is the president’s focus has been to do everything he can to support this community from day one. We get what’s going on on the ground, we understand what’s going on, that’s why we had the EPA and DOT and HHS and FEMA on the ground, you know, this is not about some sort of political stunt here. This is not about this president being a president for everyone and showing up, showing up for this community. That’s what this is about.

I’m not going to get into some sort of political stunts about drinking water. We’re going to focus on making sure they have what they need. The president was invited by the mayor nd community leaders, he’s going to show up. He always said he’d be there when it was most helpful.

Here’s the video:

.@PhilipWegmann: “And then, next month, when the President is in East Palestine, will he drink the water there?”

KJP: “I mean, look, what I can tell you is the President’s focus has been to do everything that he can to support this community from day one. We get what’s going on…

— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 31, 2024

Critics have pointed out that the only reason Biden is finally going there is because it’s an election year.

The post GOOD QUESTION: Reporter Asks KJP if Biden Will Drink the Water in East Palestine When He Finally Visits (VIDEO) appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

BOOM! BMG Record Label Fires Roger Waters Over Anti-Semitic Remarks about Israel

Photo: Reproduction/Martin Bonneto

By Fernando de Castro in Brazil

Former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters has been terminated by the German record label BMG. The collaboration between the musician and the company began in 2016 with the release of a new version of the classic 1973 album “Dark Side of the Moon,” but the initiative was abandoned after a change in the company’s leadership.

The news of the split between BMG and Waters was confirmed on Tuesday, 30, by the British newspaper “The Guardian.” The company is set to sever all ties with Waters completely, relinquishing one of the most lucrative music catalogs.

The Pink Floyd catalog is estimated to be worth around $500 million. The decision comes in response to Roger Waters’ anti-Semitic remarks, propagating speeches of prejudiced and xenophobic aversion against Jews.

The Guardian reported information from sources within BMG about the separation from the former Pink Floyd member:

“While Waters’ work with Pink Floyd is arguably one of the most significant and profitable catalogs of the rock era, his controversial political statements in recent years have likely shifted from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.”

In recent years, as he advocated for the Palestinian cause and supported a boycott of Israel, Roger Waters has faced accusations of anti-Semitism. Due to this, the artist’s shows in Germany were canceled.

As reported by TGP, well-known hotel chains in South America recently refused to host Waters in response to his anti-Semitic comments. At that time, the musician accused the Israeli government of committing “genocide” against the Palestinian people.

In addition to his extremist stance against Jews and the State of Israel, Waters has also supported Russia’s war. The musician sided with Russia and accused Ukraine of being responsible for the war.

Waters claimed that the invasion of the country in 2022 “was not provoked” and suggested that Ukraine had “given reasons” to be invaded.

The post BOOM! BMG Record Label Fires Roger Waters Over Anti-Semitic Remarks about Israel appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Says She is ‘Traumatized’ by Rulings From Conservative Wing of the Court

Sonia Sotomayor, a liberal Supreme Court justice who was nominated to the court by Obama, said recently that the conservative wing of the court traumatizes her with their rulings.

Do you think Justice Clarence Thomas is traumatized when Democrats and the media accuse him of being a corrupt criminal? How about Justice Kavanaugh? Do you suppose he was traumatized when Democrats and the media accused him of being a rapist?

Does Justice Sotomayor even hear herself?

The Hill reported:

Sotomayor says she feels ‘frustration’ daily as conservative justices move US to right

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Monday she feels daily “frustration” as conservative justices move the country to the ideological right.

In an appearance at the University of California, Berkely School of Law, Sotomayor was asked how she copes with the consistently conservative rulings from the court.

“Every loss truly traumatizes me,” but “I get up the next morning,” she said in response to the question, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The crowd — about 1,300 students — applauded.

In her remarks, she criticized her “originalist colleagues” whom she said have come up with “new ways to interpret the Constitution,” changing rulings “that some of us believed were well established,” the Chronicle reported.

The 6-3 conservative court has had an eventful couple of terms, making its mark on some of the most consequential aspects of everyday life — from overturning the federal right to an abortion to ruling affirmative action in colleges unconstitutional.

If she wants to make policy, she’s in the wrong profession.

This is not what SCOTUS is supposed to do. If Sotomayor wanted to move the arc of the universe toward justice she should have run for office.

— Holden (@Holden114) January 30, 2024

She should resign and run for office if she wants to be a politician. That’s a different role than being a judge.

The post Liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Says She is ‘Traumatized’ by Rulings From Conservative Wing of the Court appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.