Clinton got how much?

Here’s the kind of story that inspires a mixture of rage and bewilderment. NBC reports that while Hillary Clinton has been lambasting “for-profit schools” including Trump University, “Over five years, former president Bill Clinton earned $17.6 million from the world’s largest for-profit education company, Laureate Education, Inc. In his role as “honorary chancellor,” Clinton has traveled the world on Laureate’s behalf, extolling the virtues of the school.” And doing very well indeed. We should be so, uh, lucky.

Now look. I know a lot of people like Bill Clinton, focusing more on the charming than the rogue in his makeup. I am not among them. But a lot of people do.

I also realize that Bill Clinton is a champion schmoozer and makes good connections. He pulls in huge sums for the Clinton Foundation and by no means all of them were people hoping for favours from one H. Clinton when she was Secretary of State. But $17.6 million over five years is over $3.5 million a year. That’s over $9,600 a day, even in a leap year. And it wasn’t the only thing he was doing nor, indeed, the only thing he was doing that brought in vast sums. (For instance The Washington Post says he made $104.9 million giving 542 speeches between 2001 and 2013, an average of $193,542.44 per. And that he was paid $3.13 million in “consulting fees” in 2009 and 2010 by an investment firm whose boss’s charity has given the Clinton Foundation millions more and who did at least try to contact Hillary Clinton for a favor when she was Secretary of State.)

What can anyone do for you on a part-time basis that’s worth nearly $10,000 a day? Per customer? And what has he got to say that’s worth 200 grand a pop, 45 times a year, for over a decade? I mean, we’re out there asking people to support our documentaries and commentaries and other work like the “Ask the Professor” feature with, say, $5 a month, which is about 17 cents a day. That’s less than one fifty-six-thousandth of Clinton’s haul from Laureate Education alone. I’d need 3,226 people to answer that call to make as much in a year as Clinton does for an average speech of the sort he was giving nearly once a week.

I’m not saying I’m in the wrong business. But I am saying if this news bugs you as much as it bugs me, and if you think it’s important to keep the voices that matter to you audible, please do try to find that 17 cents a day for us, and for other groups like Ezra Levant’s The Rebel, Dave Reesor’s Let’s Do It Ourselves, Danny Hozack’s Economic Education Association of Alberta (and yes, I’m professionally involved with two of them) and other similar outfits like the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Constitution Foundation and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (who helped us enormously with our Fix the Constitution documentary project).

Unlike the Clintons, we’re never going to get rich doing what we do. But that’s kind of the point.

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Operation Feeble

The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain is under American pressure to send an extra 100 troops to Afghanistan. How did it come to this?

I’m not judging the merits of the Afghan mission at this point. I’m just noting that this is a protracted, difficult discussion between the two leading powers in the Western alliance about a company of soldiers. One hundred troops. One company.

The Telegraph says the deployment would make a difference to the American ability to deploy troops elsewhere in the country and bolster U.S. commanders’ arguments with their own president about further reducing the American presence.

A hundred soldiers? I can see how the decision to send three regiments might signal serious allied commitment to a cause. But if it still matters, sending 100 soldiers should be a minor administrative decision not a major strategic issue.

Consider that in April 1940 in a failed attempt to rescue their Norwegian ally, the British put 3,500 men into a minor action at Namsos, despite having 200,000 in France and deployments worldwide, from the Caribbean to Burma and Hong Kong, in the midst of a major war. Yet such a deployment would strain the capacity of the far richer and more populous UK of 2016 in peacetime, with few other demands on its armed forces, and entirely exceed our own. How can we have let such a situation arise in a clearly turbulent world?

Look, the Afghan mission may have been misconceived from the beginning or badly executed. I don’t think so, except in the unrealistic expectations for transforming the country through military action rather than just removing a regime dangerous to us. But it may be time to withdraw. It may be impossible to prevent a Taliban resurgence. The major terrorist threat may be elsewhere now. Or showing weakness once committed might be perilous. All these things can be debated.

What it seems to me cannot be debated is that when the two most powerful nations in the Western alliance are having protracted high-level discussions over 100 soldiers, both our military establishments and our will are dangerously weak.

 

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Trumping the headbanging

Amid all the sound and fury in the American presidential election, with the latter being on the whole more justified than the former, a remarkable voice of sanity emerges in the form of an open letter (yes, a much overused format, but justified this time). It’s from two women, both mothers, about the central issue in the apparent unraveling of America: the unraveling of the family.

They ask Donald Trump what he might do about it, especially given his own example. And it’s an entirely appropriate question for the man who would be Republican nominee and apparently will be. But it could also be asked of almost anyone aspiring to office, as a reproach in some cases including Hillary Clinton’s and merely an urgent policy question in others.

Nothing matters more than intact families in making America “great” again. Nothing matters more in making it whole, in making it free, in preserving limited government, decentralization and vigorous citizens able to tackle problems both public and private instead of passively waiting for incompetent overbearing government to barge in and make things worse. And nothing matters more in people’s private lives.

So what has anyone to say about it? The problem is by no means unique to the United States. Whether you are American, Canadian, Australian or any other nationality, I strongly urge you to read the letter, to ponder it, to see what answer you might give as well as what answer any candidates do American or otherwise.

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The end of the world news

While politicians are gassing on, here’s the sort of thing that really matters: the Washington Post reports on a superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics, and liable to share its genes with other more sinister bacteria, that has reached the United States.

People tell me, oh, I wouldn’t want to live in the Middle Ages because they didn’t have antibiotics. Well, we did and we squandered them.

Three cheers for modernity.

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Where’s the compassion?

In today’s Mercatornet Newsletter, Editor Michael Cook cites a noteworthy observation by his colleague Carolyn Moynihan:

A great deal of ink has been spilt over the rather dreary topic of the state of public bathrooms in the United States. Transgenders, it is argued, clearly have a civil right to access the bathroom of their choice. This is an issue which affects, at most 0.3% of the population. For my money, Carolyn Moynihan, our deputy editor, has penned the most sensible contribution to this debate. She asks why Americans are working themselves into a frenzy over bathrooms when nearly 1 in 6 young men between 18 and 34 is either out of work or in jail.

In principle it’s possible, even logical, to be compassionate to everyone. But her observation underlines how selective, and ostentatious, some people’s concern seems to be.

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Raised hands and raised fists

Suppose you are a delegate at a political convention. And suppose a resolution is put forward that “No delegate shall vote for any candidate who threatens violence, or condones violence by his or her supporters, to influence the political process in this party or our nation.” Could you vote against it?

In fact the convention is a major one, being watched carefully by many of your compatriots and many people abroad. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s a question of who you are. Are you someone who could possibly fail to support a resolution that forbids thuggery and intimidation as tools for gaining a nomination or winning election?

Now you may see where this is going. But beware of what Soren Kierkegaard called “a covetous eye on the outcome”. Close your eyes and answer the question clearly and frankly in the privacy of your own conscience.

OK. Now do look at the outcome. Because I am indeed thinking about Donald Trump. And I’m thinking about him because of a post by Ilya Somin on The Washington Post’s excellent “The Volokh Conspiracy” blog, in which he suggests that the Republican Party can, and should, stop Trump by adopting precisely such a rule.

As Somin notes, “The Republican National Convention Rules Committee has almost unlimited power to change the rules by which the delegates vote.” And the committee will be selected from delegates to the convention. He says he is not optimistic about their finding a way to stop Trump. But they “certainly will have the power to do so, even if not the will.”

As Somin further notes, among many other observations and arguments worth reading, “Trump has threatened “riots” if he does not get his way at the convention and repeatedly condoned violence by his supporters against even nonviolent protestors. If there has not been a rule against such behavior in the past, it may be because, until this year, no one imagined that a candidate who condones violence in the political process could get so close to the nomination.”

At this point some people will be saying hold on, this is just a trick to keep Trump from getting the nomination. And it certainly would have that effect. But that doesn’t make it a trick. Rather, it would be a principled decision. If it excludes Trump, it’s because Trump is unfit to be given the nomination.

Some Trump backers, including Canadians, might be inclined to dispute that claim. But before doing so, I ask them please to close their eyes, forget that Trump is involved, imagine if it helps that it’s some radical leftist firebrand who’s actually said the kinds of things he has, and then picture themselves confronted with the resolution above as a voting delegate. And never mind “democracy”.

I’m not asking what you think of other people’s decision to back Trump. I’m asking whether you personally could vote against a resolution blocking the nomination of people who openly advocate and threaten violence not against the nation’s enemies, but to gain political advantage in a political system based on liberty under law.

Could you really?

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The Invictus

There he goes again, you may be tempted to say. Our PM posed with the Canadian Invictus Games team and did their pushup-then-lock-one-arm-and-extend-other-hand gesture while issuing a thinly veiled challenge to Prince Harry and President Obama to do the same or something similar for the British and American teams for the upcoming games in Orlando. NBC headlined it “Watch Justin Trudeau’s Macho Challenge to Obama, Prince Harry” and indeed my first thought was “Showing off again, huh?” But on reflection I’m going to praise him instead.

First, the Invictus Games created by Prince Harry “for wounded, injured and sick Service personnel” are an excellent cause. Second, fitness is an excellent cause. Third, and crucially, the two leaders he implicitly challenges are both themselves healthy and physically active. It would be unfair and in bad taste to call out a political leader who through age or misfortune couldn’t do such a thing. But in this case I appreciate his doing the… well, it sure is a clumsy thing to describe.

So I was thinking of dubbing it “the Trudeau” so we can do it at the dojo without spending five minutes naming it. But I decided “the Invictus” was a better name. Because this time I don’t think he was calling attention to himself but to two worthy causes: rehabilitating wounded members of our Armed Forces and those of our allies, and staying fit.

Yes, it’s a challenge, to other leaders and to the rest of us. But it’s a worthy challenge because most of us should be able to do at least one “Invictus”. If Trudeau happens to look good doing it, it’s because he keeps himself in shape. And that’s a good thing.

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Trump chump

It seems that Donald Trump will indeed win the Republican nomination for president. For months I have been predicting, at first blithely and more recently grimly, that it would not happen. And now I am eating crow. I got it badly wrong and I apologize.

I have no excuse. I don’t even have an explanation. I have great faith in Americans and a great deal more faith in Republicans than most commentators around the world and even, I often feel, in the United States. And perhaps I allowed wishful thinking to distort my sense of what was likely to happen.

The GOP has nominated candidates I did not approve of in the past. So have the Democrats. But normally I could find some sort of explanation, even for Hillary Clinton, who I think would make a pretty bad president. For Trump I just can’t. It makes no sense to want this man as your leader or your representative. You can’t admire his grasp of the issues, his consistent adherence to a philosophy, his suavity, his gravitas.

Sure, he annoys the right people. But so did Ted Cruz and any number of other potential nominees. Ronald Reagan drove them berserk, as did George W. Bush. You didn’t need Trump for that, and I have no idea what anyone does think they need him for. And annoying people may bring a certain sour private satisfaction. But it cannot drive political conduct anywhere you want to go.

I’m not abandoning my faith in the United States or in American conservatives. But I am saying this outcome, and with Ted Cruz suspending his campaign after his crushing defeat in Indiana it seems inevitable that Trump will be their nominee, reflects badly on both the nation and the movement.

It’s too early to risk a prediction about what will happen in the general election especially given how wrong I was about this nomination race. But I am certain that those who backed Trump will eventually be very sorry they did.

As for me, I’m already sorry. In both senses.

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