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Mad Dogs and Englishmen Podcast in the Midday Sun



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Some of you may be aware that Kevin Williamson and I do a daily podcast, Mad Dogs and Englishmen. It runs between 10 and 30 minutes each day (more usually 30), and we cover a wide range of topics, usually from a conservative/libertarian perspective. It’s proving quite popular, but I’m aware that I’ve never told the Corner that it existed. So here it is: It exists.

Today, we had a long argument about the merits of Cliven Bundy’s revolt, picking up themes that we’d expressed over on the homepage here (pro), here (pro), and here (anti). We also talked about my trip to the Smith and Wesson factory yesterday.

If you enjoy it, you can listen daily at NRO, or subscribe for automatic downloads through iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, the Windows Store, Blackberry Podcasts – or whatever you want using the RSS feed. There’s also a website.

Obama and Biden’s Awkward 2016 Conversation



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With Joe Biden standing right next to him, President Obama was awfully coy in discussing his thoughts on 2016. While he expected Biden to “go down as one of the finest vice presidents in history,” the president went out of his way to make sure to praise Hillary Clinton as well.

“I suspect there may be other potential candidates for 2016 who have been great friends and allies,” he told CBS’s Major Garrett. “I know we’ve got an extraordinary secretary of state who did great service for us.”

Ultimately, whoever the Democratic candidate is, President Obama said he is “very much interested in making sure some of the stuff we got started continues,” but expects some will take a different route on various issues.

“I’m sure that there are going to be some things that, whoever the next president is, want to continue,” he explained. “There are going to be some things that they’re going to want to do differently, but the trajectory is, hopefully, going to be one in which we’re broadening opportunity for every American.”

Meanwhile, Biden assured Garrett that his decision to run will not impact how closely he works with the president in the remaining two years.

“If I decide to run — believe me — this will be the first guy I talk to,” he said.

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Tim Murphy’s Mental-Health Reform Bill Gets the Endorsement of the Washington Post



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Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who’s Congress’s only psychologist (they could really use more) has a bill that tackles a few of the many problems with the way that the federal government handles mental health and the mentally ill. It would refocus existing federal efforts on addressing serious mental illness rather than diagnosing huge portions of the population with mental-health disorders, and emphasize evidence-based treatment for those with such illnesses. It’s appalling how badly our government deals with mental illness, and Representative Murphy deserves a great deal of credit for trying to tackle policies that cause an incredible amount of needless suffering.

NR endorsed the bill when it was introduced back in December, and now the Washington Post backs it, too:

The bill would reorganize the billions the federal government pours into mental health services, prioritizing initiatives backed by solid evidence and tracking their success . It would change the way Medicaid pays — or, in this case, underpays — for certain mental health treatments. It would fund mental health clinics that meet certain medical standards. And it would push states to adopt policies that allow judges to order some severely mentally ill people to undergo treatment.

Not everyone is satisfied. Some patients’ advocates have condemned Mr. Murphy’s approach as coercive and harmful to those who need help. The government should not be expanding the system’s capability to hospitalize or impose treatment on those going through severe episodes, they say. It should instead be investing in community care that heads off the need for more serious treatment.

We do not see those aims as mutually exclusive, and neither do the bill’s backers. It makes obvious sense for the government to back community-based clinics that promise to prevent individuals’ mental illnesses from spiraling out of control, when possible. But some people with very severe disorders do not know or do not admit that they are sick. For a small class who will not accept treatment between hospital visits or repeat arrests, states have good reason to require them to accept care, under judicial supervision.

For a more detailed explanation of what the bill would do, see D. J. Jaffe’s NRO piece on it.

This isn’t a topic on the fore of most people’s minds — who’s ever even heard of SAMHSA, the federal mental-health bureaucracy Murphy wants to fix? — but it really deserves much more attention than it gets. It might seem like conservatives point to mental illness after mass shootings as a way to distract from misguided calls to restrict gun ownership, but the issue is deserving of attention on its own. The suffering our broken bureaucracy causes on a regular basis is just as serious as the individual horrific events that you see on CNN.

If you don’t believe it, consider that prisons, as a recent report from the Treatment Advocacy Center found, the number of Americans in mental hospitals has fallen from 558,000 in 1955 to 35,000 now. This isn’t only about deinstitutionalization — some outpatient treatment does work, and Representative Murphy’s bill promotes those methods. But the seriously mentally ill aren’t getting treatment outside of hospitals. They’re going to prison, where they’re not getting treatment at all. There are 350,000 people with serious mental illness in our prison system, TAC reports; as Vox’s Sarah Kliff points out, that’s ten times as the number of mental-illness patients in public hospitals.

This isn’t really a liberal versus conservative issue, and it’s not about shrinking or expanding government. The federal government and the states have taken responsibility for the mentally ill for about 150 years now, they’re just failing very badly at that responsibility today. Tim Murphy wants to fix that, and so should you.

Web Briefing: April 17, 2014

Wondrous Strange



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The other day, I heard something amazing — discovered it right here on the Corner. First, a little background. Ever since Obamacare was Clintoncare, or Hillarycare — we spelled it with a capital C in the middle: “ClintonCare,” “HillaryCare” — conservatives have been talking about the folly of reordering one-sixth of the national economy. That was our mantra, back in ’93: “one-sixth.” (Sometimes people said “one-seventh.” I’m not sure how you measure.) Of course, we had occasion to revive our mantra after the advent of Obama. The incumbent president has been able to fulfill some of the Clintons’ dreams. The idea that the Clintons are more moderate than he is absurd.

Anyway, I had never heard anyone left of center — any non-conservative — say “one-sixth.” Not in this context. Ever. Until the aforementioned and wondrous other day: when Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said, “We were reordering one-sixth of the American economy — you don’t do that without some bumps along the road.”

First comes acknowledgement, then repentance?

P.S. Early this morning in Central Park, there was a young woman picking daffodils. Making a nice bouquet. I wanted to yell out, “Hey, those are taxpayer flowers!” Kind of ticked me off, actually. This may be an occasion for political-philosophical musings “in future,” as the British say.

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Watch Live: Pope Francis Washes Feet of the Disabled



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Putin and Snowden Bromance, Live on Russian TV



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Vladimir Putin took call-in questions on Russian television Thursday morning, and he received a “surprise” celebrity call from Edward Snowden

Snowden asked: “Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” And he asked if increasing “the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations” is justification for placing societies under surveillance.

After noting their mutual background in intelligence services, Putin replied, “Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law.” He said Russian special forces can use special equipment to intercept phone calls or follow someone online, but that Russian law requires court permission to “stalk” a particular person. “We don’t have mass system of such interception. And according to our law it cannot exist,” said Putin.

Putin said his special services use “technical means” to track terrorists, but that Russia does “not have a mass scale uncontrollable effort like that.”

“Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by the society and the law, and are regulated by the law,” Putin said.

Reid Buckley, R.I.P.



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Reid told great stories, and relished the great stories of others. (The two talents are related — when we come across someone else’s good story, we make it ours by repeating it.) One of his very best concerned the time he took Norman Mailer to lunch with his mother and aunt. These two ladies, both born and raised in New Orleans, kept the novelists in their place with girlish/grande-dame chatter about the old days. Finally, one of them (the aunt?) goaded her sister to tell how waste was removed back in the day. A man with a cart came by to pick up each household’s leavings — I guess pre–World War I New Orleans did not have municipal plumbing. He was known as the presidente de la merde, and was so hailed by all the children of the neighborhood as he made his rounds: Voici le presidente de la merde!

Their old-lady naughtiness stopped Mailer, who wrote a lot about merde, in his tracks. “​Damn you, Buckley,”​ he said afterwards, “​you always have something up your sleeve.”​

A great story, with four performers — the ladies, Mailer, and Reid, the onlie begetter of it all. R.I.P.

USA Today: Ukrainian City ‘Registering’ Jews



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Per USA Today, Jews are being asked to register in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine:

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia.

Ah, the all-purpose terrorism-prevention excuse that History has taught us to know and love.

The details sound eerily familiar:

The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.

There’s no word yet on whether armbands will also be required.

Obamacare and the Fisc



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Charles Blahous makes the case “that the ACA is rapidly becoming a colossal fiscal disaster as enrollment proceeds heedless of the concurrent collapse of the law’s financing structure.”

History Lessons



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Those trying to learn more about the extraordinarily complex history of Ukraine, could do much, much worse than read this fine piece in Eurozine by historian Tim Snyder, author of the definitive Bloodlands. There is so much here worth excerpting that it is hard to know what to choose, but here are a few passages (my emphasis added):

Later, Soviet propaganda maintained that anyone who mentioned the [Ukrainian] famine must be an agent of Nazi Germany. Thus began the politics of fascism and anti-fascism, where Moscow was the defender of all that was good, and its critics were fascists. This very effective rhetorical pose did not preclude an actual Soviet alliance with the actual Nazis in 1939. Given today’s return of Russian propaganda to anti-fascism, this is an important point to remember: the whole grand moral Manichaeism was meant to serve the state, and as such did not limit it in any way. The embrace of anti-fascism as a strategy is quite different from opposing actual fascists.

….A revolutionary situation always favours extremists, and watchfulness is certainly in order. It is quite striking, however, that Kyiv and Ukraine returned to order immediately after the revolution and that the new government has taken an almost unbelievably calm stance in the face of Russian invasion. The only scenario in which Ukrainian extremists actually come to the fore is one in which Russia actually tries to invade the rest of the country. If presidential elections proceed as planned in May, then the unpopularity and weakness of the Ukrainian far Right will be revealed. This is why Moscow opposes those elections….

…The current government is unselfconsciously multiethnic and multilingual. Ukraine is a cosmopolitan place where considerations of language and ethnicity count for less then we think. In fact, Ukraine is now the site of the largest and most important free media in the Russian language, since all important media in Ukraine appear in Russian, and since freedom of speech prevails….the authoritarian far Right in Russia is infinitely more dangerous than the authoritarian far Right in Ukraine. It is in power, for one thing. It has no meaningful rivals, for another. It does not have to accommodate itself to international expectations, for a third. And it is now pursuing a foreign policy that is based openly upon the ethnicization of the world [of the world, perhaps not, but of Russia’s ‘near abroad’ certainly]. It does not matter who an individual is according to law or his own preferences: the fact that he speaks Russian makes him a Volksgenosse requiring Russian protection, which is to say invasion.

But almost no essay, however brilliant, is perfect and Snyder, having wobbled a bit (in my view) when discussing how Putin’s Eurasian project may be changing, goes off the rails when it comes to the western half of the continent.

“European integration,” writes Snyder, “presumes liberal democracy,” That “presumes” carries within it a great deal of presumption.

Keep reading this post . . .

More Gender-Gap Number Crunching



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Andrew Biggs on whether there’s a gender gap in pay among new college grads. Short answer: probably not.

NR Seeks Part-Time Fact-Checker



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NR is looking for someone who can work three or four days every two weeks, helping fact-check the magazine. Experience is preferable. Please send a cover letter and resume to mpeace (at) nationalreview.com. 

Goldberg: Obama’s ‘I’m Awesome’ Foreign Policy Is Failing



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Williamson: ‘I’m Glad’ Bundys Are Breaking the Law, ‘and I Hope They Keep Doing It’



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Check out Kevin’s article, “The Case for a Little Sedition.”

Obama: Immigration Will ‘Haunt’ Congress



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President Obama warned Congress that failure to move on immigration reform would come back to “haunt” certain members.

“I think it is very important for Congress to recognize that this is going to be an issue that haunts them until it gets solved,” he said.

He also accused Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) of refusing to spend political capital to move legislation through the house. 

“And I’m hoping that once we get through some of the Republican primary season, maybe, you know, as we are still far enough away from November, that people see a chance to do the right thing,” Obama said.

 

Devil in the Details



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The College Fix:

SAN DIEGO – A two-hour drag show hosted recently at the Catholic University of San Diego ended with a devilish finale – its transvestite host came onstage in a long black robe and horned headdress and sung about how evil should triumph over good.

The Modern Age



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Good talk at UC Boulder on Abraham Lincoln and his fathers. 

One man in the audience posted the festivities on Facebook, and got a response from a friend urging him to read my Alexander Hamilton bio. which he showed me after I finished. 

The most prescient comment about social media was made by an anonymous journalist soon after the invention of the telegraph. (Its first feats included chess games between players in different cities, and instant reports of the Democratic and Whig conventions of 1844.) The journo wrote: “There is no elsewhere; everything is here.”

Springtime Thoughts



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From my most recent NRO article, about some inspiring springtime visitors: “While casting about to find something to write about apart from another lamentation over the weakness of most Western political leadership, the collapse of fiscal integrity in all but a few countries, the charade of Iranian nuclear discussions, and the decline and fall of practically everybody, my thoughts alit on Herbert the Raccoon, as my wife christened him, who has largely been living in a little half-moon balcony adjacent to my wife’s third-floor dressing room.

Your comments are, as always, most welcome.

TurboTax Maker Says They’re Lobbying for Taxpayers, Not Against Them



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The left-leaning nonprofit journalism outfit ProPublica recently linked tax-preparation company Intuit to a grassroots campaign against return-free tax filing, but the company, which makes the popular TurboTax software, says it’s just looking out for taxpayers’ interests. If tax filing is essentially taken over by the IRS, taxpayers’ voices would be marginalized, Intuit says.

A series of similarly worded letters written by community leaders were sent to Congress over the last year in opposition to the idea of return-free tax filing, which essentially means the IRS would fill out most taxpayers’ forms for them and inform them of their tax liability. And Emily Pflaster, who works for PR and lobbying firm JCI Worldwide, asked Rabbi Elliot Dorff, for instance, to write an op-ed in the Jewish Journal on the topic.

Intuit, the market for whose software would shrink significantly if return-free tax filing passed, calls ProPublica’s stories ”advocacy pieces” and “not objective reporting on an important public policy issue.” 

“The strategy of return-free proponents is to make this about a company, rather than debating the merits of the issue,” Diane Carlini, of Intuit corporate communications​, told National Review Online.

Intuit thinks the IRS Free-File Program is a better alternative for taxpayers than the return-free system, which they describe as a “tax bill-presentment system” that minimizes the taxpayers’ voice and maximizes revenue collection for government.

Federal lawmakers pushing the idea say it would allow millions of Americans to file their taxes in a few minutes and at no cost. Taxpayers would have to opt-in to return-free filing, they say.

“We work with many industry associations, community service organizations, public policy forums, and taxpayer advocacy and consumer groups to support common-sense tax simplification reform and taxpayer empowerment for the average American,” Carlini said.

Intuit also does open work with D.C. lobbyists on their initiatives.

Selfie Ends with a Boot to the Face



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A teenager identified on a YouTube account as Jared Michael tried to take a selfie at what he thought was ”a safe distance” from a passing train. As he went to snap the picture, he was kicked by the train’s driver.

Clearly, “a safe distance” would be farther than the distance it takes for the conductor to plant a boot in your face from a moving vehicle, and Michael’s estimate was off.

Enjoy:

 

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