Culture

Four Cheers for Incandescent Light Bulbs

(Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

It brought me much — indeed, too much — joy to hear of the Trump administration’s rollback of restrictions on incandescent light bulbs, even if the ban will remain in place. The LED bulbs are terrible. They give off a pitiable, dim, and altogether underwhelming “glow,” one that never matched the raw (if abrasive) brightness of their incandescent counterparts. The isolated light bulb that dangles from a chain above the interrogation table in every police procedural show? It’s incandescent, naturally — the bulb teeters and sweats right along with the accused. It’s poetic in that way.

And there is something charming — stop laughing, please, I’m mostly serious — about the gradual heat that builds within the incandescent bulb. It’s working hard. Far harder than the LED bulbs, anyway. And it’s less condescending — the state-sanctioned LED light, with its plain optical inferiority, stares you perpetually in the face screaming: “You didn’t build that!”

Shut up, LED bulb. I did build that.

The incandescent bulb, with its utter lack of pretense, is inefficient, sure. It’s inefficient in much the same way the English system of weights and measurements is. Smart People are always telling us just how burdensome the English system is — Most other countries use the metric system! It makes it easier for scientists! Are you anti-science? Well, the LED bulb is the metric system of household light bulbs — it’s utterly European. And as Joe Biden said to the senator from the People’s Republic of Vermont last night, “This is America.

Stop looking at me like that. You’re saying you don’t anthropomorphize your light fixtures? Well, you’re weird. Long live the incandescent bulb, and its inefficient, horribly bright, and plainly American light.

National Review

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Pluralism, Liberalism, and Christianity, Continued

Brian Mattson defended David French against a piece by Doug Wilson here at the Corner yesterday. The importance of the topic surrounding the compatibility of Christian engagement in the liberal order is growing by the day. Doug Wilson offers his reply here for those interested.

Immigration

Do the Candidates Know Anything About Immigration Policy?

From left: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro at the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Last night’s debate demonstrated, yet again, that the Democratic presidential hopefuls view themselves as qualified to hold forth on immigration policy despite have no blessed idea what our immigration policy is. Biden clearly didn’t know what went on in his own administration when he said “We didn’t lock people up in cages. We didn’t separate families.”

But what can you expect of Senator Billy Madison? More telling were Andrew Yang’s comments, not because of anything specific to him but as an example of most politicians’ (including Republicans’) frivolous and uninformed approach to immigration policy — arguably more frivolous and uninformed than the approach to any other policy.

Yang was the most likeable of the bunch on stage last night but, like so many people, he thinks that because his dad came from the old country, he knows all he needs to know about immigration. Following Elizabeth Warren’s call to “expand legal immigration” (without offering any numbers, of course), Yang said, “I would return the level of legal immigration to the point it was under the Obama-Biden administration.”

Unfortunately for Yang’s narrative, legal immigration is at the level it was under the Obama-Biden administration. The number of people granted lawful permanent residence (green cards), which is what we mean by “legal immigration,” averaged 1.06 million from Fiscal Year 2009 to 2016. The total for FY 2017 was 1.13 million, for 2018 was 1.1 million, and annualizing from the first quarter of FY 2019 yields a projected total of 1.03 million. Fluctuation within 100,000 is common (in 2013, the total was only 990,000), so the level is essentially unchanged. It could be that the green-card total will decline next year, because of the smaller number of refugees converting to green cards and, possibly, the new public charge rule leading to a reduction in the number of parents of adult U.S. citizens, but neither of these things has happened yet.

In fact, like Senator Warren, President Trump has repeatedly called for increased immigration. It’s been reported that the long-promised White House immigration bill will not increase green cards, but it nonetheless is likely to increase overall admissions. The proposal eliminates a variety of immigration categories (the chain migration categories and the visa lottery) and reallocates those numbers to the new merit-based system, thus supposedly leaving the overall level unchanged. But if the current measure bears any resemblance to the RAISE Act or the Goodlatte bill, both of which the White House supported, one of the “eliminated” green card categories, that for parents of adult U.S. citizens, would simply be converted to an indefinitely renewable “temporary” visa, meaning that the number of foreign-born moving here to live would go up – a lot (the number of elderly parents getting green cards has averaged 150,000 a year over the past four years).

And even thinking about “legal immigration” more broadly, as including such temporary (so-called “non-immigrant”) admissions, there’s no drop. On the one hand, H-1B visa denials rates (mostly for tech workers) are up a little because the law’s being enforced better; on the other, the administration expanded the H-2B program for non-farm seasonal workers. And the admission of “temporary” farmworkers has ballooned: “There is no limit to the number of farm jobs that can be certified to be filled by H-2A workers. The number of jobs certified rose from less than 50,000 jobs in FY05 to almost 243,000 in FY18.”

These are not arcane and irrelevant details. You don’t need to know the name of the Indonesian tourism minister, for instance, to offer serious opinions on foreign policy — but you should at least know where Indonesia is. By the same token, anyone who doesn’t even know the annual level of immigration within a couple hundred thousand, and whether it’s gone up or down, or stayed the same, shouldn’t have his views on immigration policy be taken seriously.

You expect Democrats not to know an AK-15 from an AR-47, because they consider guns to be an icky Republican thing. But immigration is supposed to be a Democratic thing, and yet these guys literally don’t know the most elementary facts.

Politics & Policy

‘You Don’t Care, You Don’t Understand . . .’

William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan in 1978

At Law & Liberty, Kai Weiss has written a piece called “National Conservatism’s Fatal Conceit.” You recognize the title: a phrase from Hayek, building on Adam Smith (who wrote that “the man of the system” is “apt to be very wise in his own conceit”). A few points come to mind — well, more than a few, but I will make a few. All of them controversial, possibly insulting.

(WFB, during a lull in a conversation, once turned to someone and said, “Say something controversial.”)

The nationalists, and populists, are pulling off a neat trick: They are calling their opponents “libertarians,” whether they are libertarian or not. Some of their opponents are libertarian, sure. Most are people who until two seconds ago were called “conservatives.” The nationalists — and, again, populists — reserve the word “conservative” for themselves.

At their recent conference in Washington, D.C. — held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (!) — the nationalists denounced the libertarians, or “libertarians.” Kai Weiss quotes a characterization of a “libertarian” attitude: “If people are choosing not to have children, if they’re choosing to spend their money on vacations, or nicer cars, or nicer apartments, then we should be okay with that.”

I wonder what the opposite of “okay” is. Forcing people to have children — or less nice apartments? A five-year plan to those ends? The Chinese Communist Party enacted a one-child policy. The Party, if it saw fit, could enact a multiple-child policy, I suppose.

(Back, for a minute, to the Ritz. I grin at the thought of the nationalists — horny-handed sons of toil, or tribunes of the woikin’ man — hammering out their industrial policy under the chandeliers of the Ritz-Carlton. We used to have fun with “champagne socialists.” “Ritz-Carlton nationalists”?)

Talk about a nationalist conference. Viktor Orbán and his people held one of their own in Budapest. A chief Orbánite, László Kövér, said that “having children is a public matter, not a private one.” (For a news report, go here.)

The demographic problem is a formidable one indeed. In Italy — once a byword for the large family — everyone’s tubes are tied, it seems. The big family dinner can be held at a small kitchen table. No cugini. But the conservative nose, as well as the libertarian nose, is sensitive to coercion. It can smell coercion from a mile off. And, on sensing statements such as Mr. Kövér’s, the conservative or libertarian nose should twitch.

Not many years ago — in the mid-1990s — we on the right went nuts when the First Lady of the United States published a book called “It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.” Bob Dole, accepting the Republican nomination, took a shot at it. We thought that Hillary and her crowd — Marian Wright Edelman et al. — were intruding on private territory.

Oh, take me back to that night in San Diego, in August 1996! Dole said, “With all due respect, I am here to tell you that it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.” The delegates exploded with “Dole-Kemp! Dole-Kemp!”

(I will confess what I have confessed before: I have always thought that the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” makes a certain sense. Every conservative knows it. Parents are crucial and paramount, obviously. But children are not islands, for better or worse. They are influenced by teachers, coaches, neighbors, shopkeepers, church leaders, television, music, movies, social media . . .)

Turn, now, to the charge of not caring. As a conservative, I have heard it all my life, from the Left: You don’t care, you don’t understand, you don’t have a heart, you want people to suffer and die under bridges. In the last few years, I have heard the very same from the nationalist-populist Right.

(Make no mistake, it is a lie either way.)

In his article, Kai Weiss quotes another characterization of the “libertarian” attitude, from the Ritz-Carlton: “So what if working-class Americans can’t find jobs? So what if people are crossing the border illegally and endangering themselves — sometimes dying, in the process? So what if flyover countries are plagued by drugs, health problems, even a drop in life expectancy?”

I think of a moment on Firing Line, when Charlie Peters was a guest. In fact, I have searched it out on YouTube, here. The whole hour is magnificent — with Kinsley, as well as Bill — but this particular moment begins about 8:26.

Peters says, “There is one hopeful step with the Republicans. I can hardly believe it, but there is the provision in the president’s tax-reform proposal to be kind and give the poor a break. This is an incredible step for a Republican.”

Bill says that Reagan “must have been out to lunch when they put that in, right? . . . Because Reagan hates poor people.”

We have grave social, economic, and other problems (always have, actually). (You could pick a worse time and place in which to live than present-day America.) But conservatives have learned, through the hard, hard experience of the world, that government intervention and social engineering often make things much worse, quite aside from the limits on personal freedom.

On the stump, Reagan used to say, “The ten scariest words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.’” It was a big applause line. Is ol’ Reagan now to be read out of conservatism?

People on the right — those who regard themselves as “true conservatives” — reacted strongly when Candidate George W. Bush, in 2000, spoke of “compassionate conservatism.” We repeated the term with contempt, spitting it out. It was an insult to the previous conservatism: our conservatism. I love what Phil Gramm said: “Freedom is compassionate.”

Then, in 2003, President Bush said, “We have a responsibility that, when somebody hurts, government has got to move.” Oh, did we howl! Many of us quoted it contemptuously for years.

But now, W. is held out as a heartless, dog-eat-dog Friedmanite by the “true conservative” Right. (We used to love Milton Friedman — “Uncle Miltie” — and some of us still do.)

In fact, one of the weirdest things about the present political conversation is the contention by nationalists and populists that the country must wean itself from the free market and individual autonomy and embrace a more collectivist way. When were we addicted to the free market and individual autonomy? The government has gotten ever bigger and more “responsible” (or irresponsible). The Trump Right is always telling me, gleefully, “Your day is over!” I think, “I had a day? When? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

I myself am not a libertarian. I am a national-security hawk, a social conservative, a “drug warrior,” and other bad things (in the libertarian book). At my most peeved and bombastic, I said, “What, pray tell, is the libertarian plan for Iranian nukes? Disable them with marijuana smoke? Divert them — in more ways than one — by having sex with them?” And yet I have always valued libertarians and learned from them, and the current period makes me defensive of them, as they are defamed by various and sundry (including me, sometimes).

WFB once subtitled a collection of his “Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist.” He cared a lot about right and wrong. He did not want the whole country to be Vegas. Neither did Michael Novak — far from it! And remember something about Adam Smith: He was a moral philosopher. Classical liberals believe that their principles accord with the highest good — the most justice — obtainable here below.

I hope that Reagan conservatives, classical liberals, and others of that broad disposition will stand up for their beliefs and not be cowed by the usual, tiresome cries that they don’t understand, don’t care, blah blah blah. It is not true. Maybe we can meet sometime at the Ritz-Carlton and say so.

Elections

Political Partisans Enjoy Being Lied To: A Series

Frank Bruni on Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to tell the truth about the middle-class tax increases that would be needed to pay for her health-care scheme:

I was most struck by how she refused to say whether Medicare for All would require a middle-class tax increase. One of the debate’s moderators, George Stephanopoulos, asked her, and then Biden pressed her, but she never grew flustered and never succumbed, instead stressing over and over that in terms of people’s reduced health care costs, they’d be ahead of the game.

You could call that deceptive. But you could also call it disciplined. I shook my head as I watched it, but I also tipped my hat.

The elevation of the team-sports aspect of politics above other more substantive considerations leads, seemingly inexorably, to the admiration of skillful lying for mere technique’s sake. Those of you who were paying attention in the Nineties will remember how Bill Clinton’s sycophants absolutely celebrated his dishonesty and its effectiveness.

But if you admire Warren for being deceptive, then why condemn, say, Donald Trump for his bullying schoolyard antics? Because that works, too. And if effectiveness is your criterion, then tip your hat to that.

Law & the Courts

Cruz vs. Ozerden

The Texas senator is opposing one of President Trump’s appellate-court nominees, Halil Suleyman “Sul” Ozerden. His office provided a statement to Politico:

For a lifetime appointment on the court of appeals, I believe we should be looking for someone with a strong, demonstrated record as a constitutionalist. I have significant concerns that Judge Ozerden’s judicial record does not indicate that he meets that standard. For that reason, I do not believe he should be on the court of appeals, and I will oppose his nomination.

Ozerden is up for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas. He seems to have gotten the nomination because a) Don McGahn, who had blocked him when he was White House counsel, left the administration; b) Mick Mulvaney, a friend of Ozerden, became acting White House chief of staff; and c) he had the support of his home-state senator Roger Wicker.

Josh Hammer has detailed some of the concerns conservatives have raised about Ozerden’s nomination, especially with respect to religious liberty.

National Review

Inside the September 30, 2019, Issue

Yep, it’s the special, now-annual NR gun issue, and this year your favorite conservative magazine features five exceptional pieces that, alone or en masse, will have your unfriendly neighborhood progressive in a lather over yet another principled defense of a fundamental Constitutional right. Here’s a sampling of what’s in the special section: Robert VerBruggen scores the lead piece with an analysis of how many times (yeah, it’s many!) Americans resort to guns to defends themselves. That’s followed by Kevin Williamson’s piece scrutinizing the habit of suing gun manufacturers when their products are used in crimes and David Kopel’s essay on how courts are failing to follow the SCOTUS Heller precedent to uphold Second Amendment rights.

Elsewhere in the issue, John J. Miller profiles the GOP’s likely wicked-good U.S. Senate candidate in New Hampshire, retired brigadier general Don Bolduc; and Timothy Sandefur clarifies that from the time quill met parchment, the Constitution has been seen as a threat to slavery. And for something completely different, “Athwart” columnist James Lileks recounts tooling around Fargo, N.D., burning gas and observing content people. Damn!

An appeal: If you are not an NRPLUS member, you can read a few of these pieces, kept behind a paywall, gratis. But once you hit the limit, well – no mas. You don’t want to be no mas-ed. You want to be muy mas-ed! Toto mas-ed! To do that, become an NRPLUS subscriber. Do that here.

Culture

Friday Links

September 13–14 is the the anniversary of the 1814 battle of Baltimore, inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner.

The code breakers of Renaissance Venice. The History of Tater Tots.

September 14, 1861 was the Night of the Flaming Ballerinas.

How Did the Ancient Romans Manage to Build Perfectly Straight, Ultra Durable Roads?

Mud Maker: The Man Behind MLB’s Essential Secret Sauce — the third generation of a family that collects the mud that is used to treat every single regulation major league baseball, roughly 240,000 per season.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include strategies for fighting multiple assailants, the accidental invention of the Slinky, glamorous 1920s beach parties, and the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino (on which War and Peace and the 1812 Overture are based).

Culture

Magdalen Berns, ‘Shero,’ Dies at 36

Magdalen Berns — “a shero among woman” — died at 5:20 a.m. ET this morning.

Her close friend Marion Calder called me at 5:28 a.m. from Scotland to break the news.

Before she passed, Marion told me that they had read my National Review tribute aloud to Magdalen on her deathbed. This is an honor I can’t describe.

If you pray, please pray for Magdalen’s friends and family. If you pray for the dead, please pray for her soul. And if you do neither — please read my tribute, follow her work, and yell thanks at the great nothing for this Someone so bright.

Editor’s Note: This post originally misidentified Berns’s age. She was 36, not 35.

World

Helms (Not Jesse) on My Mind

Richard Helms, director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973 (Wikimedia)

This morning, I am thinking of Richard Helms — on account of this news story:

The U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

(Full article here.) Israel has strenuously denied this. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fine.

Richard Helms was a CIA man, appointed director by Johnson and held over by Nixon. I have a vivid memory of him on the David Brinkley show at the time of the Pollard affair. This was many years after his retirement from the CIA. Fortunately, there is a transcript, here. The year was 1985.

George Will says, “Mr. Helms, how exercised should Americans be over the fact that Israel, which unquestionably is a friend, is doing something that doesn’t look very friendly? That is, does everyone do it? Are we doing it to France and Britain and Germany and Italy?”

Helms says, “Espionage is not played by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. And the only sin in espionage is getting caught. And that friends spy on the United States surprises me not at all.”

Will says, “In other words, we are indeed spying on, say, our NATO allies.”

Helms says (with wonderful matter-of-factness), “I hope so.”

I once had a correspondence with Helms — brief but very gratifying. Later, I saw him at an event in Washington. He was in a wheelchair by that point. Charles Krauthammer said to me, “You must talk to Richard Helms. He interviewed Hitler, you know.”

He did indeed, in 1936, when Helms was 23. He was a European correspondent for UPI. During the war, he joined the OSS. At the end, he sneaked into the Chancellery and swiped some of Hitler’s stationery — swastika and all.

He wrote a letter to his three-year-old son, Dennis. It was addressed to “Master Dennis J. Helms,” care of Mrs. Richard Helms in Orange, N.J.

Dear Dennis,

The man who might have written on this card once controlled Europe — three short years ago when you were born. Today he is dead, his memory despised, his country in ruins. He had a thirst for power, a low opinion of man as an individual, and a fear of intellectual honesty. He was a force for evil in the world. His passing, his defeat — a boon to mankind. But thousands died that it might be so. The price for ridding society of bad is always high.

Love,
Daddy

Helms wrote this same Dennis 46 years later, on Christmas Day 1991:

My life has spanned an historic period, and I am rather awed by that fact. As I recalled other events, I realized that . . . Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and how many others bit the dust during this century. Now I am afraid that we are entering a troubled time, but of a different kind. . . . So-called “terrorism” may get a new lease on life. . . . But why be pessimistic?

I have Helms and his like on my mind for more than one reason. In the new issue of National Review, I have a piece about espionage, and in particular the new International Spy Museum in Washington. I will expand this piece online at some point. At any rate, I am grateful for men such as Richard Helms, and I hope and trust that our country and other democracies will keep producing them.

Politics & Policy

How Federal Money Has Messed Up Higher Education

Under the Constitution, the federal government’s responsibility for and authority to fund higher education is non-existent. Unfortunately, politicians long ago decided that putting the government into higher ed would be a good idea. It’s so lovely to be able to say, “I am pro-education. Just look how I have voted for bills that help students.”

But as always, government meddling has had unintended consequences. In today’s Martin Center article, Duke professor John Staddon writes about them. “The effects of this increased reliance on federal funds,” he writes, “are loss of autonomy, altered priorities, tuition fees that increase faster than inflation, and a monstrous growth in employees who are neither teachers nor researchers.”

In short, the gusher of federal money has had bad effects on higher education and for the nation.

Federal meddling began with a small and apparently innocuous loan program in the 1958 National Defense Education Act — Perkins loans. That was right after Sputnik and American politicians were playing on national fears that we were behind the Russians and needed more young people in college studying things to enable us to catch up. Perkins loans even included the sensible requirement that if students defaulted, the institution was on the hook.

Once the effusively pro-education LBJ got into the White House, however, things changed dramatically. With the passage of the 1965 Higher Education Act, the camel got its head and shoulders inside the tent. Enormous changes ensued.

Among those changes was a manic, costly pursuit of federal dollars for research: “All this extra money for institutions of higher ed,” Staddon writes, “has been accompanied by entrepreneurial expansion beyond the traditional core. In addition to a Biology Department, there must be a School of Environmental Science; in addition to departments of Economics, Political Economy and Sociology, a Business School and a School of Government; not to mention programs, schools, and institutes of media and communication ‘science.'”

Worse, though, was the impact on the relationship between students and the colleges they attended.

Staddon explains: “In a destructive turnabout, undergraduate students are now almost universally regarded as “customers” who, notoriously, are always right. They, in turn, no longer regard the university as a place to be respected with themselves as fortunate guests. Instead, as the hysterical Yale “co-ed of color” screamed at sociology professor Nicholas Christakis a couple of years ago: ‘This is my home and you came in here.’”

American colleges and universities sold their souls for a mess of federal pottage. We need to get the government out of higher ed, but that won’t happen soon.

Elections

The Debate Moderators Fail

Journalists watch the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

I thought the Democratic debate last night was a something of debacle. I didn’t think there were any clear winners, while Harris hurt herself substantially.

But the real failure was that of the moderators in the obvious and important questions and follow-ups they didn’t ask. Here’s just a partial list:

  • “Do you support or oppose the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act? It merely requires a living baby to be treated like a living baby and wouldn’t prevent abortion. What basis is there to oppose it?”
  • In the discussion on “Medicare for All”: “Would the plan require healthcare rationing?”
  • “African-Americans are enjoying the highest levels of employment in U.S. history. Shouldn’t that count when deciding who African-Americans support for president?”
  • In the discussion on guns: “Do you agree with San Francisco that the NRA is a terrorist organization?”
  • In the discussion on letting everyone and their cousins out of jail: “Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani prosecuted minor lifestyle violations because he believed the perpetrators also commit major crimes. He turned the city around. San Francisco now refuses to prosecute minor crimes and consequently, it ranks number one in the country for property crimes. Under your policies, why wouldn’t the same thing happen nationally as has happened in San Francisco?”
  • In the discussion on immigration: “Sanctuary policies have prevented police agencies from holding violent illegal alien criminals under detainer holds from ICE who later committed other violent crimes. What would you tell the victims of those crimes about the virtue of sanctuary policies?”
  • Under the discussion of leaving Afghanistan: “If we leave Afghanistan undefended it is likely that women will be returned to slavery status and the people who helped us who will be killed. What will you do to prevent such an awful outcome?”
  • In the discussion of removing all carbon from energy production: “Do you support nuclear power?”

Given the probable political leanings of the moderators, I am not surprised they failed to explore the important depths of the issues presented. I think it was simply a matter of their knowing what they didn’t want us to know.

Elections

Beto Is a Disaster for the Gun-Control Movement

Beto O’Rourke (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

​​​He almost certainly doesn’t realize it, but Beto O’Rourke is likely to be the worst thing to happen to the gun-control movement in decades — and, if he continues in this mode, he may turn out to be the worst thing to happen to the Democratic party in a long time, too. In Houston last night, O’Rourke abandoned his cloying euphemisms (“mandatory buybacks”) and delivered a deliberate, carefully scripted endorsement of gun confiscation, which, within minutes, his campaign began to sell on t-shirts. “Hell yes,” Beto said, “we’re going to take your AR-15.”
​​
​​Thus, upon the instant, did two decades’ worth of Democratic rhetoric go up in a puff of smoke.
​​
​​Beto’s increasingly unhinged rhetoric is not only at odds with political reality — is he unaware that that the Democratic House failed this week to marshall enough votes for ban on the sale of “assault weapons,” let alone for confiscation? — it also chronically undermines the assurances on which the Democratic party’s more modest gun-control proposals have been built. For years, Democrats have insisted that “nobody is coming for your guns,” and they have used that line to explain why their coveted registry and desired licensing systems do not pose a threat to anyone but criminals. The current push for an expansion of the background check system rests heavily upon this assurance: “Don’t worry about the de facto registry,” advocates like to argue, “it won’t affect you at all.” With reckless abandon, O’Rourke just blew straight through that, screaming, “yes, it will!”
​​
​​And in the worst possible way, too. When O’Rourke first decided that he was in favor of confiscation, he was at pains to promise that enforcement would be unnecessary because Americans would comply, and that the punishment would be a fine and nothing worse. With his “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” language, O’Rourke has abandoned even that. And for what? So that he might increase a few percentage points in a poll that he is never, ever going to win, and then disappear from electoral politics forever?
​​
​​A year from now, when O’Rourke is a contributor on MSNBC, the people who stayed in the arena are going to look back on this period and curse his name. “Did that guy help us?” they will ask. “Hell, no.”
​​

Elections

Joe Biden’s Billy Madison-Style Filibuster

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The good news for Joe Biden last night? He was a lot more energetic, forceful and coherent than he usually is. The bad news for Joe Biden? He’s still Joe Biden. He’s still 76. His mind is a sloppy bowl of oatmeal with crust spilling out over the edges. It would have been entirely appropriate if George Stephanopoulos had replied to his late-evening stemwinder by saying, “Mr. Biden, what you’ve just said was one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Linsey Davis of ABC News posed the following question: “What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” Biden’s answer looks even more demented in the transcript than it sounded last night:

Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers in to homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It’s not want they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

Davis cut him off with a “Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” for which Biden should have been grateful. But the chatter about him giving abbreviated answers in previous debates had gotten to him. So he decided to blather on. And then things got even crazier.

There’s so much we — no, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over, okay?

Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. And by the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro.

Number two, you talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million to see to it those three countries, in fact, changed their system so people don’t have to chance to leave. You’re all acting like we just discovered this yesterday. Thank you very much.

Joe Biden is a Botoxed babbling brook. He is not fit to be president.

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