Update: Women’s March Removes Pro-Life Sponsor

by Alexandra DeSanctis

UPDATE 4:35 PMThe Women’s March on Washington has removed the pro-life group New Wave Feminists from its list of official event sponsors after backlash from feminists arguing that pro-life women are not welcome in the feminist movement. One of the most prominent of such responses:

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists told LifeSiteNews that the group will still attend the march. “It appears that the [Women's March on Washington] only wants to include a ‘diverse’ array of women who think exactly like them,” she said. “That’s unfortunate, but we will not be deterred.

According to Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, pro-life women should be excluded from the upcoming Women’s March on Washington — and the feminist movement, for that matter — because their opposition to abortion makes it impossible for them to be authentic feminists.

Valenti’s tweets came in response to a detailed piece by Emma Green in The Atlantic about pro-life women who will join in the women’s march this Saturday in the nation’s capital, billed as counter-programming to Friday’s inauguration ceremony for President-elect Donald Trump. Her tweets from this afternoon:

Some pro-life groups will be in downtown D.C. to protest the women’s march, due to the fact that it is co-sponsored by virulently pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. The march’s organizers also released a “guiding vision” statement that advocates “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people.”

Late last week, though, a Texas pro-life group — New Wave Feminists — joined the women’s march as a sponsor, representing just some of the many pro-life women across the country who oppose Trump’s election for other reasons. According to Green, one of the march’s co-chairs cited intersectionality as the basis for including the pro-life group: “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.”

But that reasoning isn’t enough for Valenti, who seems to suggest that women aren’t authentic women at all unless they support “justice” — which, in her view, means a woman’s legal and accessible right to the murder of her own child. Her belligerence follows on the heels of a recent comment by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who remarked on the GOP majority’s latest effort to defund Planned Parenthood saying, “That’s their manhood thing.”

Even aside from the absurdity of these arguments, such unconscionable attacks on pro-life women denigrate a large share of the nation’s female population: Recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that 40 percent of U.S. women believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

At the very least, self-proclaimed “feminists” such as Valenti and Pelosi should recognize that women of good faith can differ on questions of reproductive health and related policy. But, at best, authentic feminists should oppose abortion, as it permits a woman to reject her own motherhood by rejecting the life of her child.

Trump Touts a Replacement Plan that Will Insure Everyone

by Rich Lowry

Trump’s pronouncements on the Obamacare repeal-and-place effort are falling into a familiar pattern: They generally point the party in the right direction–toward repealing and replacing at the same time and covering as many people as possible–without offering enough specifics to be very helpful. Trump’s latest comments via the Washington Post definitely fall in this category:

President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid. …

As he has developed a replacement package, Trump said he has paid attention to critics who say that repealing Obamacare would put coverage at risk for more than 20 million Americans covered under the law’s insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

A couple of things: 1) Republicans should care whether people have health insurance or not; 2) Insuring everyone is not realistic; 3) If Trump is near completion of a replacement plan, it is news to Capitol Hill and everyone working on this issue on the outside.

In a CBS interview, Sean Spicer seemed to indicate that what is meant by insuring everyone is really giving access to insurance to everyone:

He was also asked to address Mr. Trump’s claim to The Washington Post that his plan to replace Obamacare will include “insurance for everybody.”

“His goal is to make sure that everybody’s got health care,” Spicer said, adding that the plan would provide greater accessibility to the marketplace, more competition and would drive costs down. “Not only are they going to have greater access, but they’re going to have greater choice.”

In response to Trump’s emphasis on repealing and replacing at the same time, congressional leaders have begun to talk the same way, even though their plan hasn’t changed — it remains partial repeal with only small steps toward replacement right away. I’m guessing this latest Trump statement will be absorbed the same way, with congressional Republicans focusing on the issue of access and arguing that they are on the same page as Trump on that. In other words, congressional Republicans will remain on their current path on the assumption that it is in accord with Trump’s guidance, which assumes (perhaps wrongly) that what Trump is saying shouldn’t be taken literally, or even too seriously. 

Talkin’ Abortion

by Jay Nordlinger

One of the whizzes around here is Alexandra DeSanctis, a William F. Buckley Jr. fellow of the National Review Institute. She is known as “Xan,” pronounced “Zan” (coming from somewhere in the middle of “Alexandra”). That spelling looks Chinese, I realize. As our readers know, Xan is particularly knowledgeable about the “life” issues: abortion, etc. And she has been doggedly on the beat of Planned Parenthood.

A nice organization, with Republican origins, intent on giving breast exams to women? Well, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Alexandra DeSanctis is my guest on Q&A (here). We talk about Planned Parenthood, yes, and abortion, yes, and more. Are these dinner-table subjects? I raise this question at the end of our ’cast. Is abortion a subject for polite company? For a podcast? It’s our subject, regardless. And one of supreme importance.

Fair warning: Xan and I are both pro-life — or anti-abortion or anti-choice, pick your label — and speak from that point of view. But others may be interested in our comments all the same.

Warning II: Owing to my technical incompetence, I think, I come off a lot louder in this podcast than Xan does. But what she may lack in volume — thanks to my engineering problems — she makes up for in expertise and judgment.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other: Trump, NATO, and the EU

by David French

Over the weekend, Trump went after NATO and the EU again:

European leaders grappled with the jolting reality of President-elect Donald Trump’s skepticism of the European Union on Monday, saying they might have to stand without the United States at their side during the Trump presidency.

The possibility of an unprecedented breach in transatlantic relations came after Trump – who embraced anti-E.U. insurgents during his campaign and following his victory — said in weekend remarks that the 28-nation European Union was bound for breakup and that he was indifferent to its fate. He also said NATO’s current configuration was “obsolete” even as he professed commitment to Europe’s defense.

First, in analyzing Trump’s remarks, don’t make the mistake of somehow equating NATO and the EU. NATO is a security arrangement that predates the EU by decades and is far, far more responsible for international peace and security than the failing effort to create a European superstate. Peace in Europe has been preserved through the sheer fact of American military hegemony superimposed over a previously-airtight mutual self-defense pact, not by the economic and political union that’s been forged under NATO’s military umbrella.

Second, Trump is right to call out treaty partners for failing to meet their defense obligations, but he’s wrong to call NATO “obsolete” for not “taking care of terror.” In fact, the alliance invoked Article 5 — which holds that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack against all — on September 12, 2001. Troops from NATO countries have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan alongside American troops ever since. 

Third, with the rise in Russian aggression, NATO is growing less obsolete, not more (and it is somewhat reassuring that Trump still says NATO is “very important” to him.) Shortly after the end of the Cold War, there were those who believed that perhaps the era of great power politics — and the threat of great power military aggression — was over. They were wrong, and unless we want to increase the risk of catastrophic great power conflict, we should double down on NATO’s proven deterrence and strength.

Finally, none of the above means that the EU is worth preserving in its present form. NATO prospered before the EU, and it can endure after the EU. All of the NATO security guarantees will still apply even if sovereign nations elect to retain their sovereignty. Supporting NATO while remaining skeptical of the EU’s worth and benefits is consistent with maintaining international peace and stability. I have yet to be convinced of the EU’s merit. NATO, by contrast, is indispensable. 

National Review Summer Internship

by NR Staff

National Review is accepting applications for its summer internship. The intern will work in our New York office, receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have some opportunities to write. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter, your résumé, and two of your best writing samples (no more, please) to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

What’s the Difference Between Praising a Company and Endorsing It?

by Jim Geraghty

In a move that is being interpreted as a rebuke of a Trump tweet about L. L. Bean, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub issued a “Refresher on Misuse of Position”:

the rule against misuse of position prohibits employees from:

Using public office for their own private gain for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom they are affiliated in a non-government capacity;

Endorsing any product, service, or company;

The previous day’s Tweet from Trump included the sentence, “Buy L.L. Bean!”

Trump’s “Buy L.L. Bean” — which incidentally linked to the wrong Twitter account — reflects a pretty obvious dynamic between Trump and his critics. If you tout or endorse Trump, as Linda L. Bean did, and get criticized or attacked for it, the president-elect will come out swinging and praise you and your company to the high heavens. You have to be particularly credulous to think of this as a personal endorsement of the company’s products; raise your hand if you think Trump has ever used some of L. L. Bean’s camping gear.

Is it an ethically problematic area when a president or president-elect starts touting a particular company? Sure. But how different is “Buy L. L. Bean” from Obama heading to the factory of a soon-to-be-defunct solar-panel manufacturer and declaring, “It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” That’s not an endorsement?

When the federal government owned lots of GM stock, the leader of the free world also wore the hat of a car salesman. President Obama would occasionally joke about his role, declaring at the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, “GM will rise or fall on the quality of its products –like the taut, athletic design of the new Buick Enclave. Its French-seamed leather and warm wood tones make the Enclave more than transportation. It’s a modern driver’s retreat. Come on, work with me here. I’ve got cars to move, people!”

Obama visited the Saft America battery plant in Florida to tout it as a stimulus success story, praised Master Lock in the State of the Union, saluted Adidas for partnering with high schools that want to change from Native American mascots, and credited Gap for raising its minimum wage. The White House held a “demo day” for 32 start-up companies.

What differentiates “praising” a company from “endorsing” it? We need a standard that’s clearer than, “it’s bad when the presidents I don’t like do it but okay when the ones I do like do the same.”

From Versailles to Davos

by Andrew Stuttaford

Versailles

PBS:

The Petit Hameau (The Little Hamlet), or “Le Hameau de la Reine,” was situated in the English-style gardens of the Petit Trianon.   Created in 1783, the Petit Hameau was a mock farm area, complete with farmhouse, dairy, and poultry yard …

When visiting this ersatz farm, Marie Antoinette and her attendants would dress as shepherdesses, and play at milking the cows and tending other docile animals.   The farmhouse interior was more opulent, featuring all of the luxuries expected by the Queen and her ladies….

The Petit Hameau was part of the landscape of the “natural” English garden, but it was also a reflection of France’s cultural values on the eve of the Revolution.  This artificial nature retreat mirrored the moral values associated with natural simplicity and virtue. 

Novelists, playwrights, and moralists encouraged the aristocracy to act their part by giving a helping hand to the deserving poor in well-staged events that would reflect well on them….

The aristocracy, however, were known to turn all this simplicity into a pretty spectacle.

Davos

The New York Times:

Most of the events center on talking. But beyond lectures and panel discussions, the agenda also features more esoteric attractions. One notable event is a simulation of a refugee’s experience, where Davos attendees crawl on their hands and knees and pretend to flee from advancing armies.

If forced to choose between these two disgusting charades, I’d have to say that the one performed by Marie-Antoinette was somewhat less repulsive. To be sure, the queen and her courtiers were acting out a grotesquely idealized pastiche of rural life (supposedly made more authentic, incidentally, by the presence of, so to speak, ‘show peasants’ who did the real farm work) of remarkable insensitivity, but it was, fundamentally, a performance, a game with only a nod to “virtue”.

Contrast then, the spectacle at Davos, virtue-signaling at its most narcissistic. The participants in the farce, all of whom ought to be very well aware of the real horrors that refugees have to face, will make a great  show of  having learnt everything from an experience that will have taught them nothing, while being praised by fellow-participants, onlookers and, most importantly, themselves for having the courage and the empathy to submit to an ‘ordeal’ that is an insult to those who have had to suffer the real thing –  and a gesture of contempt towards the intelligence of everyone else.

Or, if you are Ban-Ki Moon, late of the UN, it is “a profound experience that reminds us of the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people.”

Full details of what the Crossroads Foundation (which has arranged ‘refugee simulations’ at Davos since 2009, not to forget ‘poverty simulations’ in 2013 and 2015) will be offering can be found here.

As they should, the organizers acknowledge that it “is always a challenge to portray a global issue in a sensitive way, particularly in a very short time frame.”

But, no worries…

We ask… questions of our refugee colleagues, those who have lived it first-hand. Secondly, we liaise with NGO representatives who serve refugees in the camps and other locations where they are seeking shelter. These two groups help determine the story line and its trueness to life, the props and set that best reflect reality and the points they consider of critical importance for participants to take away.

OK then…

And for participants who might be a little anxious about what awaits them:

Simulations vary but some can be very powerful. For that reason, we warn those considering an experience that they may be placed in an intense situation. We also assure them that no actual harm will come to them. In addition, we tell them that if at any point during the experience, they feel they cannot manage, they may leave immediately and we will have staff ready to speak with them, as needed. Since we began offering simulations, we have almost never found people do this, but the offer is always there.

Message to participants: How courageous you are, and (whispered) how thrilling it will be. 

And there will always be time for a restorative cocktail at that nice little bar that will not, I am sure, be too far away.  

The farmhouse interior was more opulent, featuring all of the luxuries expected by the Queen and her ladies….

Monday links

by debbywitt

Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920: here’s some history, contemporaneous newsreels, the women who tried to telepathically influence the vote, Abraham Lincoln and Milton Friedman.

How to Become a Lawyer Without Going to Law School.

For 15 Years, New Orleans Was Divided Into Three Separate Cities.

Jan. 15, 1919: Boston’s 2.3 million gallon molasses flood kills 21 people.

No More than a Litre of Wine a Day, recommends a 1950s French Sobriety Poster.

Something new thing to worry about: sinus “fungus balls”.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky, the history of pickles, 1960 Russian ideas about life in 2017, how birds survive the winter, and the Feast of the Ass.

The Circus Is No Longer Coming to Town

by Jim Geraghty

Welcome to the last week of the Obama presidency. It’s Inauguration Week, a time turn the page and leave behind the mistakes of the past… and to look ahead with new confidence to the mistakes of the future.

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Circus Is No Longer Coming to Town

In an era of ever-larger raging public furies aiming to get more clicks and attention, take a moment to read and salute Jazz Shaw’s nuanced assessment of the news that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down.

In later years I came to dislike the circus animal acts… a subject which can’t be separated from the topic of Ringling Brothers closing, but also doesn’t account for the entire story. Much like zoos and SeaWorld style marine parks, I didn’t care to see the large, intelligent mammals like the elephants and big cats put on display and made to perform unnatural tasks while living in cramped quarters and being trucked around the continent. It wasn’t some sort of torture, however. The circus beat back the animal rights groups accusing them of cruelty a few years ago and even obtained a $25M judgment against them, but a significant portion of public sentiment had clearly shifted. Personally, looking at the animals just made me sad.

Is there something in between animal cruelty and treating an animal the way it should be treated? Life on the road is rough enough for human beings, I can only imagine what it’s like from the perspective of an animal. I suspect Jazz and most people don’t feel the same way about zoos that give the animals sufficient space to run and move around and live a life that somewhat resembles their life in the wild. He continues:

If the government had swooped in and shut down the show in some misguided mission of social justice it would have been an outrage (absent any proof of criminal behavior). But that’s not what happened. Ringling Brothers is going down because consumers voted with their wallets. Part of it centered on the animal shows to be sure. The owners admitted that some people stopped coming because of the elephants, but another large group stopped attending after the elephants were retired a few years ago.

…Ringling Brothers is going out of business because they failed to deliver a product which a sufficient number of consumers desire. In the end, that’s all there was to it.

Unmentioned in the coverage: Kristen Michelle Wilson just debuted as the first female ringmaster in the company’s 146-year history, a promotion she described as “living her dream.”

It is indeed the end of an era. Big Apple Circus declared bankruptcy back in November.

Then again, Cirque de Soleil has never been bigger: “The company has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries. Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 155 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over forty countries on six continents.”

Woodward: Trump’s Right To Be Upset About the ‘Garbage’ Dossier (VIDEO)

by NR Staff

Legendary reporter Bob Woodward had this to say about the recent Buzzfeed-reported dossier: 

Annals of Retail Food Arbitrage

by Fred Schwarz

From Butner (N.C.) Federal Correctional Complex comes news that Bernie Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme defrauded thousands of investors beginning in the 1980s, is still hustling for bucks. Recently he bought up the prison’s entire supply of Swiss Miss hot-chocolate packets at the canteen’s low price and made a tidy profit reselling them at the higher market rate. In other words, he has moved from straight-up theft to exploiting government subsidies. That may qualify as a tiny moral step forward.

Meanwhile, down Mexico way, in a blatant act of cultural appropriation, an entrepreneur is making a pretty peso by arbitraging Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Sonia Garcia buys four dozen boxes (mostly glazed) in West Texas town of El Paso and takes them across the border to Juarez, where she sells them at a 60 percent markup. Mexicans, like everyone else, crave that sweet, yeasty Krispy Kreme taste, but due to drug-cartel violence, the chain has no outlet in Juarez. So, as in any flourishing market economy, an intrepid entrepreneur is filling the gap (she has a Facebook page and a hotline for party orders). When there’s money to be made, profit seekers brave dangers that the government won’t. So instead of making Mexicans pay for a wall, why not let them pay for doughnuts?

Then there’s this New York Times article about how SNAP (food stamps) recipients buy a lot of soda. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funds are supposed to be spent only on actual food, but the sugar lobby got an exception included for soft drinks, and defends it tenaciously. As this article shows, non-SNAP households buy a lot of soft drinks too, but SNAP households buy even more, and in an attempt to account for this difference, the Times piece quotes its usual assortment of bureaucrats and think-tankers.

The article’s author could have saved himself some trouble by actually talking to a few SNAP recipients – or reading this piece by NR’s indefatigable roving correspondent, Kevin D. Williamson. Kevin roved on down to Owsley County, Ky., and learned that the locals routinely use their SNAP debit cards to buy cases of soft drinks — which they then resell to other merchants for a lower price. Crazy? No — because the money they receive is cash, which can be used to buy anything, and is thus much more economically useful than SNAP dollars, particularly if you’re a drug addict. “The local economy runs on black-market soda the way Baghdad ran on contraband crude during the days of sanctions,” Kevin writes. It just goes to show that even in America’s poorest county, you’re never too poor to take advantage of arbitrage.

Zeppo Marx, Technological Visionary

by Fred Schwarz

A friend of mine has written a poem about 2016 election that includes this passage:

Libertarians cried: “What we need is Ron Swanson!”
Instead they got dim, nondescript Gary Johnson
Who bored within seconds and blanked on Aleppo
If he were a Marx Brother, he would be Zeppo.

Perhaps Gary Johnson deserves more respect than this gives him, but so too does Zeppo. Like fellow Hollywood figure Hedy Lamarr, Zeppo Marx was an inventor who turned out to be ahead of his time. Lamarr’s “frequency-hopping” scheme, originally devised for use in guiding naval torpedoes, has become a fundamental technology for today’s cell phones, and now Zeppo is turning out to be a prophet in the field of high-tech medicine.

When he left the Marx Brothers after Duck Soup (1933), Zeppo, who had long been interested in engineering, started a machine-parts firm called the Marman Company that developed many mechanical innovations. In 1967 he patented a wristwatch that tracked the wearer’s heartbeat and compared it with a pre-set pulse rate. If the wearer’s heartbeat varied too much from the pre-set rate, the watch would set off an alarm. The device does not seem to have been commercialized, but today medical technology may be ready to support something similar.

Medical researchers have shown that wearable devices that monitor the user’s heart rate, along with skin temperature, blood oxygen levels, and other data — now used mostly by fitness buffs — can provide invaluable clues that a health problem is beginning, even before the user notices anything is wrong. The linked paper envisions having the wearer track and interpret the data, or possibly a physician using a remote link, but devices that make a diagnosis and warn the user themselves cannot be far away. Fifty years after he patented his device, Zeppo Marx’s vision of a doctor-on-your-wrist may finally be coming true.

Davos and ‘Responsible’ Leadership

by Andrew Stuttaford

It’s time once again for that annual orgy of self-congratulation and de haut en bas preaching better known as the Davos ‘World Economic Forum’. Donald Trump will not be sending any official representatives (as symbolic gestures go, not the worst), but, even in absentia, he will be a ghost at the feast.

Previewing the event, the Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman writes:

The chosen theme for this year’s forum is “Responsive and responsible leadership”. But the political context for the annual meeting will be set by the inauguration of Mr Trump — which also takes place this week. And Mr Trump is not the average Davos delegate’s idea of a “responsible leader”.

Nope (and it’s not just Davos ‘delegates’ who feel that way).

That said, it is interesting to read this:

In the absence of Mr Trump, the big star of this year’s forum is certain to be Xi Jinping, the president of China. The Chinese leader’s decision to make his first appearance at Davos is intriguing. In the physical and spiritual absence of the new US president, Mr Xi may have decided to audition for the part of a “responsive and responsible leader” of the international economic system.

Mr Xi, who will be the first Chinese president ever to speak at Davos, can probably be counted upon to make reassuring statements about the concerns that are dear to the hearts of the delegates, in particular globalisation and climate change.

When it comes to the (possibly) ‘responsible’ Mr. Xi, other concerns seem not to matter quite so much, such as the Chinese leader’s, well, responsibility for the perpetuation of one-party rule, the regime’s imprisonment of dissenters, the continued clampdowns on free expression, the decades-long occupation of Tibet, the refusal to accept Taiwan’s right of self-determination and, of course, Peking’s dangerous adventurism in the South China Sea.  

But so long as he says the right things about climate change…

Lewis Baits and Trumps Trump

by Peter Augustine Lawler

John Lewis’s declaration that Trump’s presidency would be illegitimate was irresponsible. The proper response, after all, to such a usurpation is revolution, meaning overthrow by all means necessary. Lewis  was saying something like that Trump is not really our constitutional leader, and even that his holding of power will be an offense against the Law of Nature and Nature’s God.

The truth is Donald Trump was elected by president according to the forms established by our Constitution. He will deserve the respect accorded to anyone who holds that office. 

That said, there’s no denying Lewis outwitted Trump by deploying Trumpian means. He knew Trump’s response to his outrageous comment would be so predictable.

Trump also might have at least googled the Fifth District of Georgia which Lewis represents. It is, in fact, socioeconomically diverse. But it is also, overall, a pretty darn family-friendly place for prosperous young voters black and white (and others). It includes some of my favorite places in the world — such as the Decatur home of my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. 

Many Lewis voters were also Sanders voters. And they sometimes should be faulted for regarding Lewis as immune from criticism because of his heroic status. He is sometimes guilty of self-indulgent exaggeration, and maybe he is ineffective these days. But he was a hero, after all.

President Obama is now repeatedly criticizing Trump for his disrespect for established institutions and traditions. And Trump might have responded, well, that’s what Lewis was doing, showing the hypocrisy of all those who want to wage guerilla war against him after he’s inaugurated. 

Trump might have added a bit of praise for the heroes of the civil-rights movement in this weekend before Martin Luther King Day.

Overall: Trump missed the opportunity to be more of a gentleman than one of his critics. Instead, he showed Lewis could own his behavior — causing a response that could so easily be construed as ignorant racism.

My most controversial point? Trump is hopelessly naïve if he really believes he can govern without the assistance of the forms and formalities of constitutional liberty. Government by impulsive tweet isn’t going to work. He’ll be deposed if words are too transparently nothing but weapons in the state of (virtual) nature. He needs to show his opponents that the Constitution is now on his side.

In any case, Happy MLK Day!

Up Next: Scott Pruitt

by Rich Lowry

Scott Pruitt’s hearings are this week and, on cue, the New York Times has a hostile story leading the paper this morning. 

 

Donald Trump v. John Lewis

by Rich Lowry

I wouldn’t have hit back in the way Trump did, but, please, lets put aside the notion that John Lewis is above reproach. It’s possible for two things to be true: Lewis is an American hero and he is a hyper-partisan Democrat whose pronouncements can and should be contested. As people have noted on Twitter, Lewis compared the John McCain campaign in 2008–the McCain campaign!–to George Wallace

The End of ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’

by Reihan Salam

This week, President Obama brought “wet foot, dry foot” — the policy whereby Cuban migrants who make it to U.S. soil are granted automatic parole and immediate access to safety-net benefits — to an end. Critics of the Castro regime, including Florida senator Marco Rubio, have taken exception to the decision, on the grounds that it might threaten the well-being of Cubans who legitimately fear political persecution back home. Though my sympathies are normally with Cuba hawks, and though I believe President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba without extracting meaningful concessions was a grave mistake, the Obama administration is in this case doing the right thing.

Doris Meissner, one of the architects of wet-foot, dry-foot, has summarized the implications of the new policy for the left-of-center Migration Policy Institute. Elsewhere, David North of the right-of-center Center for Immigration Studies, meanwhile, has endorsed the new policy, for reasons I suspect are similar to mine.

There are a number of factors that set the stage for President Obama’s decision. For decades, the Castro regime imposed travel restrictions on Cuban citizens. Those restrictions were lifted in 2013, and large numbers of Cubans have since traveled to Latin American countries with lax visa requirements with the intention of making their way to the U.S. via Mexico. Since 2009, the U.S. government has gradually eliminated its limits on the remittances Cubans living and working in the U.S. can send their families back home. Once the U.S. government made its intention to normalize relations with Cuba clear, would-be Cuban migrants had good reason to believe that they would no longer enjoy preferential treatment on arriving in the U.S. The result is that the flow of Cuban migrants has greatly increased in recent years and a growing share of Cuban migrants are best understood not as victims of political persecution but rather as economic migrants seeking a better life.

To get a sense of how the Cuban diaspora in the U.S. has evolved in recent years, I recommend reading Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s recent New York Times dispatch on the growing Cuban community in Louisville, Ky. (which happens to be one of my favorite cities). Stolberg recounts harrowing stories from recent Cuban migrants about the cruelty of Cuba’s government, yet her reporting makes it clear that many of the “Kentubanos” are not particularly exercised about politics. Many are less worried about the fight for liberty in Cuba than they are about being granted visas to return home.

One can hardly fault Cubans for leaving behind their country’s poverty, and for wanting to send hard-earned dollars to their loved ones still on the island. It’s easy to see why hundreds of thousands of desperately poor people living in poor countries endeavor to migrate to rich countries every year, lawfully or otherwise. But Cuba is not unique in being a desperately poor country, nor is it unique in being a desperately poor country with a repressive government. It’s not clear why the U.S. should treat Cuban migrants differently from, say, Venezuelan migrants, or Iranian or Chinese migrants.

Until recently, we treated Cuba as a pariah, and for good reason. We maintained an embargo, to do what we could to avoid strengthening the Castro regime’s grip. Now we’ve opened up trade with Cuba, and we no longer have any qualms about Cuban migrants sending money back home — bettering the lives of their families, certainly, but also helping to keep the Castro regime afloat by providing it with much-needed hard currency. Frankly, we’ve found ourselves in an incoherent place. President Obama’s decision has helped clarify matters.

EU, Robot

by Andrew Stuttaford

Asimov’s three laws are not, apparently, enough.

The Guardian:

The European parliament has urged the drafting of a set of regulations to govern the use and creation of robots and artificial intelligence, including a form of “electronic personhood” to ensure rights and responsibilities for the most capable AI.

In a 17-2 vote, with two abstentions, the parliament’s legal affairs committee passed the report, which outlines one possible framework for regulation.

“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics,” said the report’s author, Luxembourgish MEP Mady Delvaux. “In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework”.

Because robust regulation is always urgently needed, and because it must, of course, be “European”. This is not something that nation-states can be left to decide upon for themselves.

Some of the proposals, such as a make-work scheme for bureaucrats (“the creation of a European agency for robotics and AI”) and the imposition of more paperwork (“a legal definition of “smart autonomous robots”, with a system of registration of the most advanced of them”) are pretty much what would be expected from the legislative annex (it cannot initiate legislation) of the EU’s command-and-control regime. Others, somewhat presumptuously, seem to contemplate a spot of moralizing: “An advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots”.

More interesting, though, is this (my emphasis added):

A new reporting structure for companies requiring them to report the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions.

This builds on earlier work from the same committee that (as CNN put it last year) was arguing that, “if robots are going to steal human jobs and otherwise disrupt society, they should at the very least pay taxes.”

That’s an argument with implications that would be bad news for the EU’s economic competitiveness, but it hints at growing political unease over the implications of the current automation wave, implications too easily ignored in societies that have forgotten the birth pangs of the nineteenth century technological revolutions. It took longer than is generally understood to prove Ned Ludd wrong, and what happened in the interval—and what flowed from it—wasn’t pretty (I touched on this topic during the course of an article for NRODT last year).   

 The Guardian adds:

[The report] also addresses the risk that overly competitive robots could result in large-scale unemployment, and calls for the “serious” examination of a general basic income as one possible solution.

The use of that “overly” is telling….

This debate isn’t going away. 

Euthanasia With Organ Harvesting Coming to Canada?

by Wesley J. Smith

My very first column warning against legalizing assisted suicide was published in Newsweek in 1993. It dealt with the suicide of my friend Frances under the influence of Hemlock Society (now Compassion and Choices) suicide-proselytizing literature.

I ran the logic of the agenda and warned that someday organ harvesting would be tossed into the deadly mix.

Of greater concern to me is the moral trickledown effect that could result should society ever come to agree with Frances. Life is action and reaction, the proverbial pebble thrown into the pond. We don’t get to the Brave New World in one giant leap. Rather, the descent to depravity is reached by small steps.

First, suicide is promoted as a virtue. Vulnerable people like Frances become early casualties. Then follows mercy killing of the terminally ill. From there, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to killing people who don’t have a good “quality” of life, perhaps with the prospect of organ harvesting thrown in as a plum to society.

“Alarmist!” my critics yelled. “Paranoid!” others said.

As the old saying goes, just because you are paranoid, that doesn’t mean they are not really after you.

Belgium already conjoins voluntary euthanasia of the mentally ill and disabled with organ harvesting. So does the Netherlands.

And now, Canada may be next as an advisory panel in Quebec has called for conjoining killing with organ donation. From the Bioedge story:

[Published] position statements from Transplant Quebec (no link available) and an ethics committee of the Quebec government [support organ donation after euthanasia]. The latter stated on May 11 that:

“Considering that a request for medical help in dying is a right, that organ donation is socially acceptable and it is an express request of the patient, and considering that the Commission [Commission de l'éthique en science et en technologie] has always praised organ donation in preceding position statements, the Commission recommends that all the institutions responsible set in place the necessary conditions for making these two requirements compatible.”

That an organ transplant organization apparently supports pursuing such a course is particularly alarming.

I can think of nothing more dangerous than convincing a suffering man or woman struggling to make it through the night that their deaths have greater value than their lives.

Oh, maybe one thing: Convincing society that their deaths do indeed have greater value than their lives.

Krauthammer’s Take: What Else Are the Democrats Going to Do, Besides Call the Election Rigged?

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer said that Democrats will continue to harp on James Comey and try to diminish Trump because they have been decimated electorally:

I don’t know whether it’s actually orchestrated, that this is all scripted or one at a time, with John Lewis being sort of the conscience of the Democratic party, speaking and being the one to kick off the idea. But this is a lot of coincidences at once. Look, the Democrats had this period of about a month and a half where they were so stunned by their loss, probably the most surprising in our lifetime, that they were literally speechless. Now they seem to have found a way to deal with it, which is to say it was a stolen election. They start with Putin, and that’s the idea of having this entire probe, Obama demanding a report before he leaves office, obviously to put it on the table, and now all of a sudden the IG [Inspector General] wants to look into what Comey did. Comey clearly is anathema to both sides. Whether he has a political agenda or not, he made one mistake after another.

The Democrats want to have at least two reasons outside of themselves to say why it was a rigged election, which, of course, is highly ironic, as that was the Trump charge during the campaign. And this is a part of it: That IG story, that there will be hearings on Comey — we will rehash all this again and again. And for the Democrats, that’s their way of diminishing Trump from the beginning. I’m not sure it’s going to work. I don’t think it’s going to work. I think people have a sense that you win the election — the Electoral College was a pretty wide margin — you get sworn in, and that’s it. But what else are the Democrats going to do? They have been decimated.