Politics & Policy

A Frank and Understandable Word

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See that picture down there? Not a very good picture, but that’s not the point. The point is only to show a sign near the Los Angeles airport.

I like the sign. “Why?” you ask. I like the free and unblushing use of “abortion.” All of my life, I have heard “choice,” “reproductive rights,” etc. I chafed at euphemisms starting when I was about ten. I’m not even crazy about “pro-life.” I think people should name the thing they’re talking about — e.g., abortion.

Over the years, I have most frequently called myself “anti-abortion,” liking the piquancy of the phrase. Its sharpness. “Pro-life” seems to me . . . a little fuzzy and evasive.

“Choice” is one of the great lexical triumphs of modern times. When abortion-rights advocates hit on “pro-choice,” they struck gold. “Choice” is such a good word, a good concept. And when people talk about “choice,” you know they’re not talking about schools or health-care plans. They’re talking about abortion.

“NARAL” stood for “National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.” That was pre-Roe. Post-Roe, “NARAL” stood for “National Abortion Rights Action League.” Later on — 2003 — the organization christened itself “NARAL Pro-Choice America.”

They can call themselves a ham sandwich, they’re still an abortion-rights group. And, post-Dobbs, will “NARAL” once more stand for “National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws”?

For many years, the leader of NARAL was Kate Michelman. I have a memory of her, on television. This was eons ago. Probably the show was Crossfire, which I watched religiously in the ’80s. I’m going from memory, but I will be pretty close to a transcript.

Michelman was debating a pro-lifer (!), who opened with a statement about the “mother” and her “baby.” When it was Michelman’s turn, she said, “First, let’s get the language straight. It’s not a ‘mother,’ it’s a ‘woman.’ It’s not a ‘baby,’ it’s a ‘fetus.’”

Yes, get the language straight. That is so important — so meaningful — in any number of arenas.

Politics & Policy

‘Coco Chow’ and the Spirit of Now

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Then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (left) and then-President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, March 26, 2019 (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

“He has a DEATH WISH,” wrote Donald Trump, on Truth Social, his version of Twitter. “Must immediately seek help and advise from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!”

The “he” is Senator Mitch McConnell. The “China loving wife, Coco Chow!” is Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, who was the transportation secretary in the Trump administration.

This is the kind of thing that most Republicans chuckle at, in my experience — Republicans in politics and in the media. “Well, that’s the way he talks,” they say. “He may not be as polished as a Buckley or as genial as a Reagan, but he believes the same things, and he fights, and” blah blah blah.

Someone ought to pull a Joseph N. Welch on Trump — some top GOP-er, in politics or the media. “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Who will do it? McConnell? Some cable host? One of the big podcasters?

I guess Lindsey Graham is out.

Liz Cheney has done it, of course — and the GOP is done with her (and I think she with it). There would be a cost to saying no to Trump’s nastiness, even at this late date. But when is there not a cost to courage? Otherwise it would not be courage.

I myself am an appreciator of sharp elbows. Mine are pretty sharp themselves. But what Trump manifests — and has always manifested — is something else. Peggy Noonan wrote a book about Ronald Reagan called “When Character Was King.” Character was cast out of the kingdom some years ago. But maybe it can come back?

Lately, I have been noting the comebacks of “America First” and “Christian nationalism.” If those things can come back — maybe other things can as well. Everything in its season, whether we like it or not.

I have had frequent occasion to quote Roger Scruton, in his appreciation of Kenneth Minogue (what gents! what minds! what excellent company!):

In many ways he was a model of the conservative activist. He was not in the business of destroying things or angering people. He was in the business of defending old-fashioned civility against ideological rage, and he believed this was the real meaning of the freedom that the English-speaking peoples have created and enjoyed.

Said Roger further, “For Ken Minogue, decency was not just a way of doing things, but also the point of doing them.”

That seems like a thousand years ago. “. . . his China loving wife, Coco Chow!” is now. I hope that now will be yesterday, before too many more years pass.

World

‘That War over There’

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Nina Shevchenko, 65, reacts after she received humanitarian aid in the recently liberated town of Izium, Kharkiv Region, Ukraine, September 27, 2022. (Zohra Bensemra / Reuters)

“10 torture sites in 1 town: Russia sowed pain, fear in Izium.” That is the heading over a report from the Associated Press. Those with the stomach, and the interest, can read it.

• On Saturday, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman, said, “The American people don’t care about that war over there.” Is that true? I imagine it’s true of the congresswoman’s supporters, who are legion. (She is a star on the GOP circuit.) But is it true of Americans at large? I’m not sure how you’d measure such a thing, even with careful polling.

Here is an article by Yaroslav Trofimov, the chief foreign-affairs correspondent of the Wall Street Journal: “Electric Shock, Extortion and Slave Labor: How Russia Ran a Detention Camp in Occupied Ukraine.” Important things to know.

• Another article, this one from the Kyiv Independent: “Wife of Izium mass grave victim learns of husband’s death from viral photo.” At the top is a warning: “This story contains graphic images and descriptions that some readers may find disturbing.

• Ostap Yarysh, of the Voice of America, posts a video from the city of Mykolaiv, which he captions, “A man mourning his wife after she was killed in a Russian strike. This is a daily reality in many Ukrainian cities.”

This was terribly interesting — a missive from Marc Bennetts, a foreign correspondent with the Times of London:

Spoke to a pro-Russian Ukrainian in Izium. He insisted that Russian soldiers were “kind” before admitting that they had thrown him into a pit to interrogate him, chopped off a friend’s finger and tortured another with electric shocks until he lost his mind.

• CPAC — whose initials stand for “Conservative Political Action Conference” — posted a tweet on Friday. It had a fluttering Russian flag. And it said,

Vladimir Putin announces the annexation of 4 Ukrainian-occupied territories.

Pause to consider the phrase “Ukrainian-occupied.”

CPAC went on,

Biden and the Dems continue to send Ukraine billions of taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, we are under attack at our southern border. When will Democrats put #AmericaFirst and end the gift-giving to Ukraine?

“America First” is a phrase that is going around. It was revived from the 1940s. Last year, alumni of the Trump administration set up an organization called the “America First Policy Institute.” Earlier this year, Heritage Action put out a press release that said, “Ukraine Aid Package Puts America Last.”

Is aid to Ukraine mere “gift-giving,” as CPAC said? Or is aid to Ukraine in the U.S. interest? That is an ongoing debate. What does our southern border have to do with it? Republicans often mention our border when speaking of Ukraine. They think — or say they think — that Russia’s assault on Ukraine is a mere “border dispute.”

Here is Congressman Dan Bishop (R., N.C.), tweeting last week:

$12 billion for Ukraine’s border, while our own border is wide open. The definition of America Last.

In any event, CPAC took down its tweet — its “Ukrainian-occupied territories” tweet — after many people expressed horror at it. Some of us will never quite get used to hearing organizations on the American right echo Kremlin propaganda.

• As Congressman Bishop tweeted last week, so did Donald Trump Jr.:

What tiny fraction (if any) of the almost $75,000,000,000.00 that’s been sent to the Ukraine in the last few months will go to help the hundreds of thousands of American taxpayers in Florida many of whom who lost everything over the last few days?

Our southwestern border. The natural disaster in Florida. These are subjects that come up when Republicans talk about Ukraine. It seems to me that these Republicans resent Ukraine more than they care about immigration or Florida.

• Have some more Marjorie Taylor Green: “Zelensky doesn’t run the United States government. He is not our president, but for some reason Joe Biden bends over every single time.”

You may say that Greene does not represent the Republican Party or the conservative movement. But consider: Who is more popular in that party and that movement? Greene or, say, Mitch McConnell? Greene or Mitt Romney or George W. Bush? Greene or Liz Cheney?

(Just kiddin’ about that last one.) (The others too, really.)

• Once more, an expansionist, imperial-minded dictator is redrawing European borders by force. Either people see the grave importance of this — for all of us — or they don’t. Ukraine is under assault by Russia and is struggling for its national survival. It needs the support of both parties in America. If Ukraine becomes a partisan issue — red versus blue, like everything else in our country — the consequences will be horrific.

• Andrew E. Busch is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. He is what you might call a conservative of the old school — a pre-Trump school. He also has extensive experience in Ukraine. Professor Busch has performed a real service in writing “Why We Are in Ukraine.” He lays out the basics, and we are in sore need of them, because the fog machine never stops belching — the machine that would obscure basic facts.

• Last week, the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged, causing great environmental damage and widespread fears. Charlie Kirk, the young Republican leader, said, “Is this a potential midterm-election operation?” He was talking about U.S. politics. He also said, “They’re guilty until proven innocent in this situation.” He was talking about the CIA. “They’re going to have to prove to us it wasn’t them.”

The first thing that occurred to me, probably given my age, and the political coloration of my hometown, was: That’s exactly how the Left talked when I was growing up.

• Speaking of the Left and Right, mingling: James Kirchick has written a clinical piece — a dissecting piece — showing that that “critics of U.S. foreign policy from both ends of the ideological spectrum have found common cause in supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” (I have quoted the subheading.)

• Let me paste the opening of an old piece of mine — a report from Tirana, Albania:

Years ago, the columnist Charles Krauthammer joked about what he called “the Tirana Index.” This was a way of measuring how unfree a country was. For example, election returns out of this capital would tell us that the Communist dictator, Hoxha, had received 98.6 percent of the vote. (You had to wonder about the other 1.4 percent.) The greater a dictator’s vote, the more unfree the country was. That was the Tirana Index. Of course, Saddam Hussein, in Iraq, improved on Hoxha by securing a full 100 percent of the vote.

I thought of Charles K. and the Tirana Index when reading the figures from Putin’s “referenda” in the Ukrainian territories he has seized. I will quote a report in the New York Times:

Tass, the Russian state news agency, said the ballot count showed 87 percent of voters supported joining Russia in Kherson region; 93 percent in Zaporizhzhia region; 99 percent in Donetsk region; and 98 percent in Luhansk region in the east.

Only 87 percent in Kherson? Hail, Donetsk! (Except for that one percent.) (It’s always the one percent. Gotta watch ’em.)

If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, the holding of sham referenda is the tribute that dictatorship pays to democracy. Same with the dictatorship’s “legislature,” etc.

U.S.

Scenes from the Anarchy in Portland

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Garbage surrounds a tent on a city sidewalk in Portland. (ADA Complaint)

This year’s elections in deep-blue Oregon bear watching. The most notable is the race for governor in which Republican Christine Drazan is running neck and neck in her bid to be the first Republican elected governor of Oregon since 1982 — a GOP gubernatorial drought second only to neighboring Washington, and joining Delaware as one of just three states not to elect a Republican governor in this century. The voters of Oregon are not being asked who should run their government, but whether they should have a government at all.

Consider just a few representative samples of the news from Portland. This is just from one news outlet (the local ABC News affiliate) over one weekend.

NE Portland residents wake up to dozens of tires slashed, police looking for suspect:

Neighbors are asking for answers this afternoon in Northeast Portland. Residents woke up to tires punctured on vehicles parked on the street and in driveways…Portland Police say they have confirmed at least 30 vehicles have been hit…”It’s been a really good neighborhood. So we hate to see that, hear that,” said Dennis Breslin, another neighbor. “Why would anyone go around town just slashing tires?” asked a kid named Luna. “It’s been crazy having to raise children and all the crime going on. Shootings, intersections getting shut down, now tire slashings. Like, it’s a bit much,” said Erin Jones, another neighbor.

Ongoing vandalism discourages business owners in downtown Portland:

After moving from Portland’s Old Town to downtown, Wyatt Savage was hopeful the level of crime wouldn’t be quite so severe. But the owner at Pallet Portland is now considering a move to escape the ongoing challenges. “In three months I’ve had four windows smashed, I’ve had somebody try and rip the front door of our gate off the hinges and it’s just been non-stop,” Savage said. Savage said he’s added tools in an effort to slow down break-ins, like wooden boards and gates, but the business owner said the financial implications are getting harder to ignore. “Even if we were all making tons of sales, with the amount of damages happening, you know, 40 thousand dollars in damages in four months is insane. Like, that’s a lot of money to just come up with,” Savage said. Kamelah Adams brought her business to Old Town in 2021. She decided to move all sales online after a robbery this summer and is now evaluating where to go next.

Portland community responds to four homicides in 24 hours:

Portland Police made three arrests after four homicides in a 24-hour time period over the weekend. This spanned from early Friday morning into Saturday, including two stabbings in Old Town, a shooting in Northeast, and a shooting in Southeast. Sergeant Kevin Allen said from investigative units to patrol officers, it was all hands on deck to address the spike in homicides…The Blanchet House works with the homeless community in Old Town. [Its executive director Scott] Kerman said violence is just another concern for those living on the street. “It just underscores, for us, the terror and the trauma that our unhoused community and our residents in Old Town are facing,” he said…”We all know that we have a limited number of officers, so we have to deploy them as best we can to the areas that are in most need, but we also know that the city of Portland has a gun violence problem, it has a violence problem, it has a traffic fatality problem,” [Allen] said.

To summarize: unsafe for homeowners, unsafe for business, unsafe for homeless people, and too much for the cops to manage.

Health Care

Why We Will Never Control Medical Costs

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(digicomphoto/Getty Images)

The purposes of medicine are expanding rapidly beyond treating actual illnesses/injuries and promoting wellness, to also facilitating life fulfillment and making personal dreams come true.

Latest case in point: A gay couple has filed a class-action complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the City of New York, suing for unlawful workplace discrimination because they were denied coverage for fertility services. If successful, health insurance nationally may eventually be required to pay for IVF/surrogacy services for male gay couples. From the Guardian story:

Corey Briskin and Nicholas Maggipinto met in law school in 2011, were engaged by 2014, and had their 2016 wedding announced in the New York Times. They moved to a waterfront apartment block in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with a bright playroom for families on the ground floor. “We got married and then we wanted all the trappings: house, children, 401K [retirement saving plan], etc,” Maggipinto, 37, tells me in their building’s shared meeting room, tapping the table in sequence with the progression of each idea.

Briskin, 30, grew up assuming he’d have children. He came out in college. “Once I had come out to myself and others, I don’t think my expectation of what my life would look like changed all that much.” With marriage equality won years ago, they expected to be able to have a conventional married life.

But the couple, both being male, cannot have children together. Hence, the litigation.

Briskin used to work for the City of New York as an assistant district attorney, earning about $60,000 a year. His employment benefits had included generous health insurance. But when they read the policy, they discovered they were the only class of people to be excluded from IVF coverage. Infertility was defined as an inability to have a child through heterosexual sex or intrauterine insemination. That meant straight people and lesbians working for the City of New York would have the costs of IVF covered, but gay male couples could never be eligible.

This isn’t an oversight, it’s discrimination, Briskin says. “The policy is the product of a time when there was a misconception, a stereotype, a prejudice against couples that were made up of two men – that they were not capable of raising children because there was no female figure in that relationship.”

Wait a minute. In the examples given, fertility services were covered because the patients experienced a pathology, i.e., an inability to conceive. Neither of the gentlemen suing, as far as we know, is infertile. They are gay. They cannot conceive together because both are male. That is not a pathology. It’s basic biology. Hence, refusing coverage is not discrimination.

But these days, saying such a truth is often called hateful as political pressure is brought to bear to ensure that insurance pays for services that are about attaining lifestyle desires, not overcoming actual health impairments. For example, California passed a law some time ago requiring group health insurance to cover gay couples as they do infertile heterosexual couples — which actually discriminates against heterosexual couples because they have to demonstrate a medical inability to conceive, while gay couples do not.

But what about this?

Briskin was working alongside colleagues who were happily availing themselves of the benefits he wasn’t entitled to. One of his co-workers – an older, single woman – became a mother using donor sperm, IVF and surrogacy.

The story doesn’t say, but if the woman in question was beyond normal childbearing years, it should not have been covered either because inability to conceive would be caused by biology, not a medical problem.

So, we grind our teeth about the gargantuan cost of health care in this country — as we continually expand the circumstances in which non-health-care services are required to be covered by health insurance. For example, arguments are already being made that transgender women should be eligible for uterus transplants so they can experience gestation.

We need to find the courage at some point to say no to the expansion of medicine’s jurisdiction, or there won’t be enough money in the pot to pay for it all.

EV Trucks Are Not Trucks

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Rivian R1T all-electric pickup truck (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Calling an electric truck a ‘truck’ is like calling my Kobalt battery-powered push mower a Gravely Pro-Turn. The subject purportedly wishes to be that thing it claims to be but is neither inclined nor capable of being so.

A truck is a tool intended to pull your boat, shoulder welding equipment, or haul two cubic yards of mulch to one’s front yard for your kids to spread around the roses while you get a beer. Trucks like the Ford F-150, the most popular vehicle in America, are employed by every trade and industry to be the fleet workhorse, paying for themselves

U.S.

Human Composting in California

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This feels like metaphor overload:

California will soon offer a new option to be laid to rest — in a steel vessel, surrounded by wood chips and destined to become compost that could fertilize new life. California Gov. Gavin Newsom this month signed a bill that requires state regulators to create a program allowing “natural organic reduction” by 2027. It will become the fifth state to pass legislation permitting what providers often call “human composting” or “terramation.”…State Rep. Cristina Garcia, the California Democrat who sponsored the legislation, extolled those benefits, but also said the legislation was born out of her reflections over mortality as she cared for her sick parents and also her desire to be returned to the Earth when she dies. “I’ve always wanted to be a tree,” Garcia said. “The idea of having my family sitting under my shade one day — that brings a lot of joy.”

Music

Sunday Morning with Buckley

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

Happy Sunday morning!

I hope the day finds you as it does me, with a coffee nearby and a psalm on one’s mind — Psalm 5, in particular.

Written by David to enjoy a flute (or pipe) accompaniment, the psalm reads:

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
    in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
 You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    in the fear of you.
 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies;
    make your way straight before me.

 For there is no truth in their mouth;
    their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
    they flatter with their tongue.
 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
    let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
    for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.

— Psalm 5 (ESV)

A dazzling and instructive piece. Also, “their throat is an open grave” has to be one of the most heavy metal sentences ever afforded a flautist’s flourish.

The cylindrical woodwind was in the news this past week, James Madison’s crystal flute wielded by Lizzo for a sensational media firestorm. The greatest tragedy of the entire episode was the reminder that our culture celebrates profanity and abhors beauty. The videos of Lizzo dressed in black and playing gorgeously on other flutes in the Library of Congress’s collection were overshadowed by her concert performance — yelling b****, twerking, and “stunting.”

That a young woman would find more value in debasing herself as a debauched ignorant when she is as talented and capable as the practice session shows her to be, I’m ashamed. Many of our pop stars are classically trained, but the market demands trash and there are some willing to provide. That the Library of Congress would abet such performances with our nation’s heirlooms is perverse, but I understand the incentives of controversy and what the Library stands to gain. One needn’t like it, but also, I’m not overly bothered. Madison’s flute is not diminished, nor is our country by how generous we are with our possessions.

This column’s title promises Buckley, and here he is, writing a response to William F. Rickenbacker’s (the son of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker) dismissal of Beethoven’s early works through Opus 52, and, further, the necessary eradication of all Ludwig’s operas. Citing the early efforts’ “manipulative bangbang” and formulaic nature, Bill Rickenbacker reckons anything replicable by another isn’t worth much of anything. Buckley’s rejoinder is classic WFB charm and cheek:

You cannot keep music students from permanently ruining the reputation of, say, the “Minuet in G”: though when it is played by, say, Myra Hess, one is reminded of the simple beauty of it, like on of the pastoral poems of Wordsworth. The third movement of the “Moonlight” is a little junky, so what? It is perfectly agreeable, and in any case it is a foundation for some of the exploits so perfectly consummated in the later sonatas.

The very first sonata, in F minor, is wonderfully pleasant; really, what a bore it is to say that having tasted the great vintages, you can never enjoy table wine. Can Mr. Rickenbacker seriously maintain that the adagio movement of the C major sonata (number 3) is less than sublime? The “Pathétique Sonata” is grand and exciting, though to be sure one can skip the last movement, even though music boxes are also worth listening to every now and then.

I tell you what. here is my propitiation to Beethoven. There is a splendid artist whose name is Alfred Brendel, a Viennese who teaches in Mexico and performs everywhere. He has recorded all of Beethoven’s piano music, in stereo, for Vox. And a wonderfully enterprising company, The Dollar Record Plan, Inc., at P.O. Box 86, Pearl River, N.Y. 10965, has brought out these records at the astonishing price of one dollar ($1) apiece. You can buy all the sonatas for $12. If you have caught the Richenbacker virus, you can buy all the later sonatas) volumes 2 and 3) for $6.

Now, my offer is this: Buy the lot. If you don’t like the first half, send them to me and I’ll reimburse you your $6, and transship the records to a hospital, as the anonymous gift of someone who went deaf. And when next I ask Bill Rickenbacker to write for National Review, I shall ask him please to refrain from using the early letters of the alphabet.

— November 3, 1970, “Beethoven’s Two-Hundredth”

What I take from Buckley here is that good things stay good no matter their mistreatment. Beethoven transcends a student’s poor recital or a compressed recording. Our nation’s treasures are not besmirched by misuse. We embarrass ourselves by doing so, but that’s on us. The flute, the psalm, and the Founding remain good, no matter the day’s foolishness.

Elections

Men at War in Manawa

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I recently covered the Dairy State’s election trail for the magazine, interviewing Senator Ron Johnson and gubernatorial hopeful Tim Michels on a rainy afternoon. If you like reading about mounted deer heads, the Jones Act, and a young writer’s iffy mimicry of Robert Novak’s clear-eyed reporting, please enjoy the article here (or wait until it unfurls in your mailbox).

National Review

Thank You, Marina del Rey!

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While some of us were still out in L.A. the day after the Buckley dinner, we had a little NRPlus gathering Friday night at a watering hole in Marina del Rey called Killer Shrimp. It was a lot of fun and confirmed, once again, that NR readers are the absolute best. We stopped doing these sort of events during the pandemic, but are picking them up again now, so if you’re an NRPlus member, keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation if we are coming some place near you.

Film & TV

Rings of Power Rebounds Big-Time with an Explosive Episode

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Scene from Episode 6 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Amazon Studios)

I was unimpressed with last week’s episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. So little happened that I was forced to consider bigger-picture questions about the show, such as my confidence in its ultimate direction. And things were not looking good. About what we were going to see this week, I predicted that “the plight of the men in the Southlands seems a haphazardly constructed pathway toward the sort of orc siege of a redoubt of men that we have seen before.”

Boy was I wrong about that. The obvious story of an orc siege of a redoubt of men was literally destroyed in just the opening minutes. What we got instead was an unconventional, gripping, and brutal series of fight scenes, cleverly done and with lots and lots of blood. My expectations were thoroughly defied. It helped that, at last, we got the convergence of two of the major storylines of the show so far, as the Númenoreans rescued the Southlanders in classic eucatastrophic fashion. They did not come in time to prevent all of the carnage and loss, however. Nor was Númenorean heroism presented as purely triumphant; one young fighter said the effort was, for him, enough fighting for a lifetime. Moreover, what at first seemed like a kind of season finale, with a major threat being apparently vanquished, was seriously undercut by the forced eruption of a certain volcano, placing many of the show’s main characters in serious peril.

This week’s events also added complexity to several of the show’s main players. The way Galadriel’s quest for vengeance may be corrupting her, alluded to in last week’s episode (one of its few interesting elements), became more evident this week. A striking, wordless sequence, as she watched helplessly while realizing that her actions had placed so many in direct danger, drove this home. As did a fascinating (and lore-rich) conversation with the mysterious Adar (Joseph Mawle). Revealed as one of the first orcs, a race corrupted by Melkor himself, Adar nonetheless accused Galadriel of having been corrupted herself by her obsession with revenge. Adar’s mix of plausible contentions with outright lies (that he nonetheless seems genuinely to believe) made him a truly unsettling and threatening antagonist in a way he hadn’t quite yet proven to be; we haven’t seen the last of him. Halbrand also seems to have some kind of bitterness toward him, a bitterness that forced out of Halbrand yet again a darker side whose true nature is still a mystery.

On the whole, this episode seemed almost designed to reassure wavering skeptics like me. But it should also rebuff other criticisms. Galadriel may have her heroic moments and has driven much of the story, but she is no Mary Sue; she is clearly flawed and has made many mistakes. References to such deep-lore concepts as the Secret Fire were welcome; even the way Adar tried to advance orcs (“uruks,” as he prefers) as creatures worthy of respect takes interesting advantage of ambiguity in Tolkien’s own thought about the nature of orcs as a race.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Rings of Power can stick the landing this season. Only two episodes remain for both the gigantic implications of this week’s events to be explored and for this season’s other stories (involving harfoots and intrigue between elves and dwarves) to be concluded satisfactorily; these were entirely absent this week. But after this episode, my confidence in the show’s ability to do these things has been considerably restored.

National Review

Meeting NRPlus Members in Los Angeles — It Could Be You Next Time

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Photo from the meet-up in Los Angeles (National Review)

On Friday night, I joined Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, Andrew Stuttaford, and Dan McLaughlin for a meet-up with subscribers to National Review from the Los Angeles area who are also NRPlus members. (Thanks to Garrett Bewkes for making it happen.) NRPlus is meant to be more of an intimate community, where there are virtual and phone and in-person exclusive encounters between NR writers and readers. By design, the meet-ups are not the grand affairs like National Review Institute’s annual gala at the Reagan Library the night before – where I barely managed to say hello to my colleagues (Jim Geraghty, I know we were in the same room!), because there were so many friends and family of NR in attendance. Friday night, I was able to have in-depth and moving conversations with some of you — a few who are fairly new to NR, many more who have been reading for years, if not decades. I was personally touched by the people who were bursting with gratitude for some of our regular features (and who are the opposite of annoyed by my insistence on trying to keep an eternal perspective in the midst of the chaos of politics and seemingly everything else).

Before NRPlus, we tried to do these kinds of meet-ups now and again. With NRPlus, I’m hopeful we do more of them, and cover some territory with them. It’s a big country, and our readers span it. (Beyond, too. I aspire for a Rome NR reader meet-up myself.) I know I am not alone among my colleagues in wanting to meet more of you face-to-face.

(And hopefully next time Charlie Cooke won’t be trapped in Florida by a hurricane, with another colleague recovering from Covid.)

Information on becoming a member of NRPlus is here. I should mention it allows for a National Review Online reading experience that involves fewer ads, and access to all the paywalled stuff. Maybe I’ll become a member. 🙂

Hope to see you soon in a city near you!

The Absurd Freak-Out over the Tories’ Tax Plans

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British Prime Minister Liz Truss holds her first cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, England, September 7, 2022. (Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via Reuters)

In just about any news story covering the Truss government’s new tax plans, you’ll be dutifully informed that they are “controversial.” Much of the British commentariat has settled on “reckless.” President Biden criticized it as “trickle-down economics.” What’s behind the freak-out?

The mini-budget announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng includes the following tax changes:

  • Cutting the basic income-tax rate from 20 percent to 19 percent
  • Eliminating the top income-tax bracket, which effectively reduces the top marginal tax rate from 45 percent to 40 percent
  • Canceling a scheduled corporate-tax-rate increase, thereby keeping the corporate-tax rate at 19 percent
  • Cutting the

Sorry Slate, the ERA Revival Is a ‘Brazenly Unconstitutional Joke’

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Activists calling for Virginia’s adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment gather outside the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond, January 8, 2020. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Susan Matthews and Mark Joseph Stern write in Slate that “there are obvious reasons to be frustrated by conservative efforts to scorn ERA revival as a brazenly unconstitutional joke.” But that’s exactly what the revival is.

The key problem: Congress proposed the amendment in 1972, stipulating that the constitutionally required 38 states would have to ratify it within seven years. Only 35 did. ERA proponents used a constitutionally dubious gambit to extend the deadline for three more years, but they didn’t get any more states. Until 2017-2020, when they got three more states to ratify it — decades too late. Some activists are trying

Law & the Courts

What FDR’s Example Really Shows about the Courts

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Jeff Shesol writes that President Biden should follow FDR’s example in fighting the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Absent a vacancy to fill, presidents have little ability to change the direction of the court. That is as it should be. But as Roosevelt showed, they can change the conversation — and with it, over time, public opinion. In a similar spirit, Mr. Biden should view adverse rulings as opportunities to deliver his own dissents — to expose the designs of majority opinions, demystify them, debunk them, show whose interests they serve and whose they do not, and provide a countervailing view of the Constitution.

I am not sure that Biden is up to the job Shesol is assigning him. But it’s in any case the wrong lesson to learn from FDR’s success with the courts. The right lesson is that Biden would get the judiciary he wants if he first wins a landslide and a Senate supermajority, and then uses the normal nomination-and-confirmation process to name a supermajority of the Supreme Court.

Politics & Policy

‘This Is a Constitutional Crisis’

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President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Today on The Editors podcast, Charlie takes it to the next level with his vehement protestations against Biden’s student-loan-forgiveness plan. 

“I consider this to be a constitutional crisis,” he said. “I think that from start to finish, we are witnessing a president test the established legal order of the United States. . . . His broader party know that he’s not allowed to. But he went ahead and willfully did it anyway.”

Charlie has made his stance on this issue very clear in recent weeks, but he’s quick to point out that Biden is continuing to make the matter even worse. Legal challenges, albeit not many, have been arising, but Charlie reminds us that the administration is simply responding to them “by changing the law on the fly,” and this “is astonishing.” 

These vast, sweeping changes are deeply out of line with our Founding documents. “To go back to first principles,” he says, “this is why we have a Congress. This is why we don’t have a dictatorship. Nothing we have seen from the Biden admin in the last two months related to this executive order would’ve been different in a dictatorship. Every decision’s been executive.” 

He goes on to lay out the three main reasons we have a Congress, and how it is for the protection of our rights that this system was put into place. Now, Biden’s initial action and subsequent changes are causing mass chaos, and Charlie says, “It is what James Madison would’ve considered to be tyranny.”

Echoing the emphatic exclamations of Mrs. Thatcher, he finishes with a warning to listeners: “No, no, no. This is a constitutional crisis, and I really fear for the future of our system if it’s not remedied.”

To hear this thought-provoking rant in all its accented glory, along with Michael’s take on a Russia–Ukraine escalation, and a weather report from west Florida, tune in below.

Is What’s Good for General Motors Good for America?

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A General Motors employee inspects an SUV on the assembly line at the GM assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, in 2008. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

In response to Protectionist Reagan

Michael finds “The American Camry,” a piece in the latest print issue of National Review, to be an interesting case study. I find it to be one as well, although for different reasons.

Wells King and Dan Vaughn Jr., both of American Compass, argue in that piece that the Reagan administration’s pursuit of import limitations on Japanese cars was an example of “a simple lesson in political economy: Blunt constraints that set market boundaries, while encouraging competition within them, can help ensure that capitalism serves the national interest.” The administration capped the number of Japanese imports at the 1979 level and

Law & the Courts

The Crime Explosion and Bail Reform

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NYPD detectives respond to a deadly assault scene in Queens, New York, July 2, 2022. (Lloyd Mitchell/Reuters)

Earlier this year the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report on bail reform consistent with the progressive drive to reduce or eliminate bail. I abstained and wrote a statement disagreeing with most of the report.

Much of the progressive rationale for eliminating or reducing bail is based on alleged racial disparities in pretrial detention. These disparities are utterly predictable and have little or nothing to do with invidious racial discrimination (if only progressives were equally concerned about racial disparities related to the victims of individuals out on bail or pretrial intimidation of witnesses by individuals out on bail).

Blacks commit crimes at dramatically higher rates than their percentage of the population and at higher rates than other ethnic groups. Blacks, therefore, will be more likely to be arrested and detained pretrial. It’s not because a racist system keeps them in jail.

The disparities are not small. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2019 ( the most recent report available at the time of the commission’s hearing on the matter), law-enforcement agencies that contribute to the UCR made 6,816,975 total arrests for the covered crimes. Approximately 69.4 percent of arrests were of non-Hispanic whites and Hispanic individuals and 26.6 percent of arrests were of black individuals.

The racial difference is even more stark when one examines arrest statistics for individuals under 18. In 2019 the contributing jurisdictions made 475,371 arrests of individuals under 18 for the covered crimes. Of those, 296,881 were white (again, including most Hispanics) and 161,149 were black–i.e., 62.5 percent were white/Hispanic and 33.9 percent were black. This suggests black offenders begin their criminal involvement at a younger age than whites. Therefore, at any given time when blacks are arrested they’re likely to have a lengthier criminal background than whites of the same age and be considered (by algorithms, judges, and the average citizen) at greater risk of failing to appear and recidivate if released.

Nor are black arrests concentrated among less serious offenses, which might lead to greater similarities in rates of pretrial detention. Blacks are overrepresented in every crime category except for “drunkenness” and “driving under the influence.” (Interestingly, whites constitute a huge majority of those arrested on “suspicion,” which likely would be an easy catch-all charge if police were truly intent on invidious racial discrimination.)

Here’s a sample of black percentages of other crimes (blacks constitute approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population):

Murder: 26.7 percent

Robbery: 52.7 percent

Aggravated assault: 33.2 percent

Burglary: 28.8 percent

Larceny-theft: 30.2 percent

Motor vehicle theft: 28.6 percent

Fraud: 30.5 percent

Embezzlement: 36.5 percent

Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.: 41.8 percent

Prostitution: 42.2 percent

Drug-abuse violations: 26.1 percent

Offenses against family and children: 28.3 percent

Speaking of disparities, blacks are disproportionately victims of crime. And most of those crimes are committed by other blacks. At the commission’s bail-reform hearing, witness Rafael Mangual noted that Chicago’s bail reform led to — you guessed it — more crime. Researchers at the University of Utah found that Chicago’s more generous release procedures led to a 45 percent increase in the number of pretrial defendants being charged with new crimes, including a 33 percent increase in violent-crime charges.

So, progressive “bail reform” produces more overall crime, more violent crime, more black victims of crime, and does nothing to address alleged racial disparities. What a great deal.

Health Care

The Real Gender Experiment

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“Stop worrying about what happens if we let kids transition. Worry about what happens if we don’t,” writes Emily St. James at Vox.

Parents have been receiving an onslaught of messages about what could go wrong if their child was to transition; they’ve rarely been asked to consider what could go wrong if they weren’t able to. We are running, in real time, an experiment on what happens when you don’t accept trans kids.

Before the transgender medical craze took off, most gender-distressed children desisted (i.e., grew out of such feelings) by the end of adolescence. As James Cantor, a Canadian psychologist and sexologist, explained: “Despite the differences in country, culture, decade, and follow-up length and method, all the studies have come to a remarkably similar conclusion: Only very few trans-kids still want to transition by the time they are adults.”

Puberty is a natural and spontaneously occurring process that billions of humans have experienced over thousands of years. The only “experiment” is disrupting it with drugs and surgeries in pursuit of the impossible.

U.S.

Marvelous Mike Brown

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Mike Brown in front of the office in Rockdale, Texas, June 2019 (Jay Nordlinger)

Mike Brown was one of my favorite correspondents, one of my favorite writers, and one of my favorite people. For many years, he was the editor of the Rockdale Reporter, in Rockdale, Texas. One day in the summer of 2019, Kevin Williamson and I road-tripped from Dallas to see Mike in Rockdale. It was a wonderful day. I wrote about Mike under the heading “Newspaperman.”

Let me quote something:

Mike Brown’s wife, Sue, works at the library. When I tell her I’m a fan of Mike’s, she has to concede, “Yeah, he’s awesome.” (He thinks the same of her, clearly.)

I’ll quote some more, for “background”:

He was born in 1950 — not in Rockdale but in Alvin, a town south of Houston. Its other claim to fame is Nolan Ryan, the pitcher (born three years before Mike). The Browns moved to Rockdale when Mike was two. His father was a minister and his mother a music teacher.

As a kid, Mike loved to read the newspaper: the Reporter and also the Houston Press, “a scandal sheet,” he says. He also loved astronomy (and still does). When he was a sophomore in high school, he and his dad built a telescope.

A little about college:

He entered the University of Texas in 1968, that radical year — the year of the barricades. His parents drove him over to Austin, and he checked into Brackenridge Hall. He worked at the undergraduate library, shelving periodicals, and one day he came across a magazine with a blue border. “I looked inside and thought two things,” he says. “First, these people think like I do. And second, that’s really good writing.”

He subscribed to the magazine — National Review . . .

Then, of course, there was Bill Buckley:

One afternoon, when Mike was a senior, WFB came to the university to speak. “The talk was in the old Gregory Gym,” Mike remembers, “and it was packed. Standing-room only.” How did WFB do? “He was every bit as impressive in person as he was on the page. He showed that you could be both conservative and cool. And that was a big thing.”

It was, for so many of us.

By the way, Mike Brown was my kind of conservative. I told him that earlier this week. The way I put it was, “I’m a Mike Brown conservative,” which I think kind of tickled him. (That’s what we say in the Midwest, where I’m from: “tickle,” “please.”)

Mike had an understanding of the American project, of American ideals. He loved freedom and democracy and human rights. He believed unabashedly in the American Dream, and loved to see people pursue it, wherever they came from. He was both canny and kind.

I could go on.

Incidentally, he was a proper newspaperman, a proper editor and reporter — quite apart from his political views. He wrote both news articles and opinion columns. He respected the difference between the two.

Man, did he love our language.

Mike loved astronomy, but he majored in that other love, English. His favorite poet is Yeats. Mike is smitten with words, as writers tend to be. He is also naturally humorous — and does not disdain puns.

Nope.

Some years ago, Truman Lamb was succeeded by Joel Pigg in a key agricultural position. A number of headlines suggest themselves. Mike Brown chose “Pigg Replaces Lamb as County Agent, No Kidding.”

Something else:

He tells me a story, related to humor. One night, he was very low and doing some laundry. The Carol Burnett Show came on. And he laughed and laughed. “I would like to meet Carol Burnett someday to tell her what she already knows: what a gift she has, and how important it is to people. It’s important to laugh.”

More of Mike Brown’s humor? Here’s another slice of my piece on him:

When you start out at a community newspaper, you do everything — including those fundamentals, birth notices and obituaries. The former used to be called “stork reports,” Mike notes. “That was so long ago, the people who had the babies were married.”

Another sample:

I ask Mike, “How many people work at the Reporter?” “About half of us,” he quips.

The following will tell you something — something more — about Mike:

He is very patriotic, but not in a jingo way. Far from it. Indeed, he says it’s not for him to call himself a patriot. He gives me a story. “When my dad and I built that telescope, during my sophomore year, I told a friend of mine, ‘I’m an astronomer.’ My friend said, ‘It takes more than that.’”

For some 20 years, Mike gave a Fourth of July speech at a large picnic. One time, he got a compliment from a lady he had known for years — the mother of friends of his. Beaming, she grasped his hand and said, “Mike Brown, until tonight, I never knew you had any sense.”

On occasion, I would refer to Mike as “the last of the Mohicans.” I did this admiringly but also somewhat gloomily. In my piece, I wrote,

Let us hope that Mike Brown is not the last of the Mohicans. Let us hope that there will be many more like him, whatever our newspapers are in the future. But if he is the last — he’s a hell of a Mohican.

Maybe a week and a half ago, I had a long phone call with Mike, when he was in the hospital, undergoing chemotherapy. He was his delightful self. He said he was doing some reading and learning new things — things he had always been curious about. He also said what an angel Sue, his wife, had been.

Then he was in hospice care. Sue held the phone up to his ear. Mike said he was thinking of writing a piece on what it’s like to die. “Maybe I’ll send it to you,” he said. He would not get around to the piece.

I thanked him for being my friend. We need friends, in this life. We agreed we’d be friends forever. I look forward to seeing him again, by and by.

There will be more Mohicans, but, man, what a great one this one was, is.

NRI

Buckley, Reagan, and Trump

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Larry Kudlow, former Director of the White House National Economic Council, speaks during the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, D.C., December 10, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Simi Valley, Calif. —  It was fascinating being at the Reagan Library for the National Review Institute dinner last night. Larry Kudlow, who has worked for NR and also for Donald Trump, was honored. As was Ron Robinson and Scott Walker of the Young America’s Foundation. My words first appeared in National Review, as it happens, long before I worked at NR — in a Young America’s Foundation ad. Before YAF had a high-school program, I participated in their college program as a high-school student. I confess that now I tell kids to make sure they have a hobby that isn’t politics, but I think I said the opening prayer or offered the introduction for Congressman Bob Dornan back then, and was quite geekily grateful.

I say all this because, for a moment, with Air Force One for a backdrop, it felt like we’d all gone back in time for a bit, talking about Bill Buckley. If only he would take the stage and say something wise about our rootedness in eternity.

But before he finished his remarks, Larry Kudlow talked about the most recent president he served, Donald J. Trump. He presented him as a different vessel of the same principles Buckley and Reagan treasured.

He wasn’t saying Trump was Buckley or Reagan. But even putting them in the same category left me weary. Except if he was acknowledging something I’m not ready to: that our politics has changed. That we will never be a people who respect one another again, who see the image of God in that person we disagree with. I know Larry doesn’t want that to be the case — he said as much. Maybe that’s where conservatives can meet again? We don’t want bullies. Right? We don’t want presidents who overuse executive orders. We want presidents whose character young people can look up to, drawing them to public service for noble, not spiteful or otherwise angry reasons. Right?

I love Larry Kudlow and especially his conversion story and constant desire for goodness and being good to others. We love the United States of America. We pray that God guide us to our better angels. And I prayed at Ronald Reagan’s tomb last evening as if we have in him — and WFB — an intercessor in Heaven to help us with the task of recovering some sanity and goodness in our politics.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Explained

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(Cover image: Angelico Press via Amazon. Background: scyther5/iStock/Getty Images)

I would like to respond to Michael’s defense of European conservatism at greater length at a later time. For now, I want to focus on his treatment of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (try spelling that without looking it up):

Buckley ran Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn — an Austrian monarchist — in NR’s pages. This was a man who (like many on the continent and a few in the States) saw liberalism not as the clear vision of the Scottish Enlightenment, but as the bloody revolt against God launched with guillotines in Paris.

Michael cites EKL as proof that the American conservative movement has always

World

Taiwan’s Top Diplomat ‘Very Glad’ for Likely Meloni–Led Italian Government’s Support

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Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, speaks during a rally in Duomo square in Milan, Italy, September 11, 2022. (Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

Taipei, Taiwan — Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu said that he’s “very glad” that the new Italian government, likely to be led by Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, seems supportive of his country.

Speaking to a group of foreign journalists on a Taiwanese government-sponsored trip at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Wu responded to an Italian journalist’s question by first congratulating her on her country’s recent elections and then expressing his satisfaction with the potential new government’s apparently Taiwan-friendly stance.

“Congratulations for having a new government,” he said, adding, “We are very glad that the new government seems to be more friendly to Taiwan than before.” Wu then proceeded to answer the journalist’s question, which was on a different subject.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party earned 26 percent of the vote in Italy’s elections, the most of any individual party, and is widely expected to lead a right-wing governing coalition.

Her support of a tougher stance toward Beijing — and greater support of Taiwan — seems to have earned her plaudits from those on the frontlines of Chinese expansionism.

In an interview with the Central News Agency (CNA) newswire this month, Meloni said that “if there is a center-right government, it is sure that Taiwan will be an essential concern for Italy. She also told the Taiwanese government-backed outlet that Italy and Taiwan share a “sincere friendship” and that “all the democracies of the free world” must condemn Chinese aggression against the island democracy. A previous Italian government has signed on to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative development project in 2019, which Meloni called “a big mistake.”

Despite these statements, which indicate that a future government led by her might be in greater alignment with Washington with regard to China, President Biden seemed to express concern about the Italian election result, saying on Wednesday that it shows “you can’t be sanguine about what’s happening here either.”

National Review is reporting from Taiwan on a trip organized and sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

World

How Will It End?

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Firefighters and Ukrainian army soldiers search for bodies of people killed during a Russian attack among the remains of a building beside a TV tower in the recently liberated town of Izium, Kharkiv Region, Ukraine, September 28, 2022. (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

Keith Gessen at the New Yorker interviews a number of scholars who study how wars end. The article is lengthy and provides lots of interesting frames for analyzing the war in Ukraine. I thought this was interesting:

The other factor that had been ignored in the literature, according to [Hein] Goemans, was domestic politics. States were considered unitary actors with set interests, but this left out the internal pressures placed on the government of a modern nation-state. Goemans created a data set of every leader of every war-fighting country between 1816 and 1995, and coded each according to a tripartite system. Some leaders were democrats; some were dictators; and some were in between. According to Goemans, democrats tended to respond to the information delivered by the war and act accordingly; at the very worst, if they lost the war but their country still existed, they would get turned out of office and go on a book tour. Dictators, because they had total control of their domestic audience, could also end wars when they needed to. After the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was such a leader; he simply killed anyone who criticized him. The trouble, Goemans found, lay with the leaders who were neither democrats nor dictators: because they were repressive, they often met with bad ends, but because they were not repressive enough, they had to think about public opinion and whether it was turning on them. These leaders, Goemans found, would be tempted to “gamble for resurrection,” to continue prosecuting the war, often at greater and greater intensity, because anything short of victory could mean their own exile or death. He reminded me that on November 17, 1914—four months after the First World War began—Kaiser Wilhelm II met with his war cabinet and concluded that the war was unwinnable. “Still, they fought on for another four years,” Goemans said. “And the reason was that they knew that if they lost they would be overthrown, there would be a revolution.” And they were right. Leaders like these were very dangerous. According to Goemans, they were the reason that the First World War, and many others, had dragged on much longer than they should have.

Unfortunately, Putin fits into this dangerous category of someone who lacks democratic legitimacy but cannot simply control public opinion in his nation. I would guess that Zelensky falls into another category, where he has democratic legitimacy in Ukraine but lacks a monopoly of force in the state; certain militias can do as they please.

But the disquieting part of this article is that, much like me, an amateur watcher, the scholars have trouble seeing how the war will end at all. They see clearly how it could escalate, how even Ukrainian advances could trap Putin into a corner where a nuclear strike may appear to be his best gamble. Both nations and their governments have extremely compelling reasons to stick to their aims, and compelling reasons not to back down. For Ukraine, of course, it is the survival of their nation-state as they know it. And for Russia it may be the survival of their government, and the avoidance of another period of intense chaos, and declining standards of living, as many remember from the 1990s.

Health Care

Are Transplant Doctors Causing Brain Death?

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(Martin Barraud/iStock/Getty Images)

A new and highly problematic means of obtaining organs is pushing the boundaries of the “dead donor rule,” which requires a vital organ donor to be truly dead before organs are retrieved. It also requires that no patient be killed for their organs.

Dead is dead, but there are two approaches to declaring death. “Death by neurological criteria” — commonly known as “brain death” — and death by cardiopulmonary criteria, sometimes called “heart death.” The key point for both is that they each require “irreversibility,” that is, either the brain has ceased irreversibly to function as a brain both as a whole and in each constituent part, or there has been an irreversible cardiac arrest.

In brain death, organs can be procured even though the heart is beating. In heart death, organs can be procured after a few minutes of no heartbeat.

But now, some doctors are restarting donors’ hearts after a planned cardiac arrest when life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn — meaning that the cardiac arrest wasn’t necessarily irreversible — and then causing brain death so that beating hearts can be harvested. From the MedPage Today story:

With little attention or debate, transplant surgeons across the country are experimenting with a kind of partial resurrection: They’re allowing terminal patients to die, then restarting their hearts while clamping off blood flow to their brains. The procedure allows the surgeons to inspect and remove organs from warm bodies with heartbeats.

Transplant surgeons and several bioethicists argue that the procedure is appropriate and crucial to boosting the number of organs that are available for transplant. But critics — including other bioethicists and the nation’s second-largest physician organization — warn that surgeons are trampling the line between life and death…

The American College of Physicians (ACP), which represents primary care doctors, is also a critic. It warned in a 2021 statement that the procedure raises “profound ethical questions regarding determination of death, respect for patients, and the ethical obligation to do what is best.”

Proponents, however, are eagerly moving ahead with the procedures, known as normothermic regional perfusion with controlled donation after circulatory death (NRP-cDCD). Three hospitals in NebraskaArizona, and New York are currently investigating the procedure in clinical trials. Several others have adopted it too, Amy Fiedler, MD, a cardiac and transplant surgeon at the University of California San Francisco, told MedPage Today.

“It’s expanding rapidly,” said Fiedler, who has performed several of the procedures. “Every time I talk to colleagues, they want to talk about how to build an NRP program and get it started.”

Count me firmly in the “Do not do this!” camp. If a patient is resuscitated after cardiac arrest — even if the heart could not restart on its own — the person is not dead! Cutting off blood flow to the brain to cause brain death thereafter seems to me awfully close to active killing.

Not only is the method — normothermic regional perfusion with controlled donation after circulatory death (NRP-cDCD) — highly problematic from a moral perspective, but it also could undermine people’s trust in organ-transplant medicine generally. Good grief, many people already doubt the reality of brain death as being dead. (I believe it is  if accurately determined, although the Jahi McMath case gives me great pause.) Intentionally causing brain death after resuscitating patients will only add to the public’s unease.

This should stop, for the sheer morality of the issue, but also to maintain people’s confidence in transplant medicine overall. Because the next step may be to unequivocally kill for organs — already proposed by some prominent bioethicists. And that would turn catastrophically ill or disabled patients into so many organ farms.

After the Escalation, NATO Speaks

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium September 30, 2022. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

This has been a week of escalation in the Ukraine war. Russia’s phony referendums led this morning to the announcement of its annexing more Ukrainian territory, some not even occupied by its own military. This makes the war harder to end for obvious reasons. No self-respecting government in Kyiv could agree to this land grab. And it would require a large, visible humiliation for the Russian government to agree to give it back. The territory has no obviously defensible geographic border.

On the other side of the ledger, Ukraine applied for expedited membership in NATO. It’s perfectly understandable from Ukraine’s perspective …

Politics & Policy

Food Stamps and Work Disincentives

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Shoppers waits in line in a Fry’s grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., April 4, 2020. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

When the food-stamp program, known as SNAP, was first expanded nationally in the 1970s, just one in 50 Americans participated. Today that number has reached one in eight Americans. Unsurprisingly, the number of people benefiting from the program has increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic from 38 million to 41.5 million in FY2021.

Most of the increase in the number of people on food stamps over time has nothing to do with fraud, as some like to claim, but it has everything to do to with changes in eligibility rules and increases in payments per eligible person.

Recently, a reporter sent me this study out of Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2021, 14 percent of the state’s population receives food stamps, slightly higher than the national average. Also, 46 percent of beneficiaries are in working families, 61 percent are in families with children, and 46 percent are in families with members who are older adults or are disabled.

During the pandemic, some changes were made to up the benefit amounts for recipients. (AEI’s Angela Rachidi had a piece on this here.) In addition, new eligibility standards that raise income limits have just been announced. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that “174,000 new households will qualify for SNAP due to the higher income limit, and under the ongoing [federal public health emergency] PHE, they would qualify for the maximum benefit.”

The question the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office study is asking is whether this will create disincentives to work. The conclusion is that it likely will:

Research finds that a key feature of successful safety net programs is an income phase-out because it avoids an “all or nothing” benefits cliff for recipients. A vertical cliff provides a strong disincentive for household members to seek employment, work more hours or accept promotions due to the potential loss of benefits. The graph displays the cliff for households under the federal PHE and higher income thresholds. A household loses all benefits if income exceeds the threshold by one dollar. Due to this design, emergency allotments give the largest benefit increase to households with highest incomes just below the threshold. For a household of 4, the monthly SNAP benefit ($939) is largely equal to income earned by a member who works 20 hours per week at $15 per hour ($1,200 per month, $1,052 after state-local income and employee payroll taxes). Households could gain significant benefits if members work less to move below the threshold. While emergency allotments provide relief, they will also likely reduce the supply of labor, which is reinforced by expansion of the income thresholds.

Of course, putting cash in people’s pockets and reducing food insecurity are important. But it matters how you do that. And should the government be involved, we shouldn’t ignore the potential tradeoffs of such policies. The changes in food-stamp eligibility combined with other relief programs that were expanded during the pandemic could reduce the incentives to work for most of the non-elderly population. The changes could also reduce income mobility, with all the known consequences for children. Increased employment among low-income parents, for instance, has driven much of the long-term declines in child poverty.

Elections

Will Joe Manchin Seek Reelection in 2024?

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CNN’s Manu Raju reports:

Sen. Joe Manchin has wielded his power more than any other senator in the 50–50 Senate — but whether he wants to do it for six more years is still a question.

The moderate West Virginia Democrat told CNN Thursday he is undecided on whether he wants to run for another term in 2024 when he undoubtedly would be the biggest GOP target given the sharply conservative tilt of his state.

“I haven’t made any decisions on that,” said Manchin, 75. “I’m looking for 2022. I’ll look and see how this election comes out and where we stand and what we can do, what we can get done.”

Manchin narrowly survived his last reelection bid by 3.3 points in 2018, an impressive feat in a state that Trump carried by about 40 points in 2016 and 2020. But it’ll be much more difficult for Manchin to pull off that same feat in a presidential-election year. West Virginia’s sitting GOP governor Jim Justice recently expressed interest in the possibility of running for Senate in 2024. 

Politics & Policy

A Better Answer to the Campus-Climate Problem

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Campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

In response to If Judge Ho’s Answer to Illiberalism at Yale Is Misguided, What’s a Better Solution?

Nate is unpersuaded by my argument against Judge James C. Ho’s decision not to hire law clerks from Yale Law School and his plea for other federal judges to join him in that boycott. It would appear that he believes this is the fundamental flaw of my critique:

If you’re criticizing another man’s proposed solution to an issue that you both believe is a problem, it seems necessary to offer a viable alternative.

But that doesn’t follow. If I were to come down with strep throat and a doctor recommended bloodletting, I would be eternally grateful to the physician who provided a second opinion advising against the bloodletting, even if he were to fail to suggest an antibiotic instead. The do something instinct is one that conservatives rightly object to in other contexts.

Nate also notes that:

Schorr is doubtful that the move, in and of itself, will be effective enough in that endeavor — “the only consequence we know Judge Ho’s declaration will have is that Yale graduates’ applications will be thrown out, and that’s a shame,” he writes. “Maybe only a few, or just one, or no Yale graduates will suffer as a result.” But he also argues that it would be bad if it were effective — “if Ho gets his wish, it’ll be a lot more.”

I did write both of those things. Nate frames them as contradictory, but I don’t see how he’s reached that conclusion. Indeed, I both am doubtful that Ho’s means will result in his desired end and have concerns about the unintended consequences even if they eventually would. Those are concerns for the affirmative in this debate to address.

Returning to the issue at hand, though, I am happy to provide an alternative. To oppose the do something instinct is not to oppose doing anything. I just think that as long as we’re taking action, we should want that action to be an effective, well-tailored solution to the problem.

Tying federal dollars to a mandate that college campuses protect and promote free speech on campus is just such a solution.

It is absolutely the case that the federal government should concern itself with ensuring a culture of healthy and diverse discourse at American universities. Within the judicial branch, that consists of protecting free speech as cases touching on it come up. The more active role, however, should be played by the political branches.

In 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing his administration to make research-grant money conditional on universities’ compliance with the First Amendment and their own rules.

“In America, the very heart of the university’s mission is preparing students for life as citizens in a free society. But even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and to the First Amendment,” remarked the president at the signing ceremony.

“Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti–First Amendment institutions. And that’s exactly what they are: anti–First Amendment. Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech, not silence free speech,” he argued. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

But there’s scant evidence that the order was ever enforced broadly. The next Republican president should sign a similar order aimed at curbing universities’ adoption of draconian speech codes, de facto endorsement of the heckler’s veto, and other forms of viewpoint discrimination. Then that president should devote considerable energy to enforcing it.

This approach would target universities directly, and where it matters. The typical American university — as anyone who has attended one might have noticed — cares a great deal about money. Directly denying research-grant dollars for the institution to which a law school is attached seems like a much simpler, fairer approach than pursuing a convoluted effort to drag Yale Law School down in third-party rankings (good luck!) by punishing graduates of the originalist persuasion.

Critics might submit that this would adversely affect professors and graduate students whose research projects might as a result go unfunded, thus creating the same bystander problem I object to in Ho’s approach. That’s a fair point, but faculty members have much more power to effect change than recent graduates do, and if federal grant money were to stop pouring in, I suspect that they would band together, demanding change much more quickly and with much more success than the conservative students who would lose out under Ho’s framework.

Hostility toward the “wrong” views on college campuses is a problem that talented conservatives are determined to solve, and that’s a good thing. My suggestion is imperfect, but I’m quite certain that it’s preferable to an ad hoc strategy (Ho believes Yale to be the worst offender, but the records of other campuses, such as Georgetown, are hardly spotless) that, were it to be even minimally effective, would disqualify possible future Clarence Thomases, Samuel Alitos, and Brett Kavanaughs from working as law clerks in the federal judiciary.

Biden Administration Admits CBO Was Basically Right about Cost of Student-Debt Decree

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Graduates at commencement ceremonies at Boston College in 2014. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

For all its consternation about how the Congressional Budget Office was overstating the costs of its student-loan plan, the Biden administration has now put out its own cost estimate, and it says roughly the same thing.

On Monday, the CBO estimated that the illegal student-debt decree would cost $400 billion. The Washington Post reported that administration officials were downplaying that estimate. They argued the CBO should look at it over a different time span, and that the CBO overestimated the number of people who will take advantage of the program. They said the true cost would be below $300 billion, according

Culture

Can Men Get Pregnant?

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Bhavik Kumar, a medical doctor for Planned Parenthood. (@Breaking911/ Screenshot via Twitter)

During a House Oversight and Reform Committee on abortion, Representative Andrew Clyde (R., Ga) asked the witness Bhavik Kumar, a medical doctor for Planned Parenthood, “Can biological men get pregnant and give birth?”

“Men can have pregnancies, especially trans men,” Kumar said. “Somebody with a uterus has the ability to become pregnant, whether they’re a woman or a man.”

Imagine how much more money Planned Parenthood could make if this were true! It isn’t though, obviously, and “expert testimony” from any person so detached from reality as to utter it can be immediately dismissed:

Surviving Hurricane Ian with Our ‘Little Platoon’

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Ryan’s neighbors helping clean trees, branches, and debris from his yard. (Ryan Mills)

The winds were unrelenting, pounding into our Fort Myers–area home and slashing our roof and trees for hours upon hours Wednesday. My wife, our two sons, and I tried to distract ourselves with games, books, music — I tried to get most of a work day in — but I was fidgety. What Hurricane Ian was doing outside was simply impossible to ignore.

The sliding glass doors on the back of our house bowed under the pressure of winds that reached over 100 mph at times. We worried one of them might break, but they held. I stepped outside a few

Politics & Policy

‘Biden’s Not Going Anywhere before 2024’ — a Caveat

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There was an important omission from my post yesterday. It didn’t properly take into consideration Barack Obama’s injunction, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f *** things up.”

If President Biden continues to exhibit cognitive decline in the manner of the last two years, the 25th Amendment won’t be invoked. After all, he’s already f***ed up a heckuva lot. He’s probably doing so at this very moment, even though the media will likely describe his actions as Churchillian.

But I concede that the pace of Biden’s deterioration, plus his long-standing propensity to f*** things up, doesn’t preclude a catastrophic act or omission that could render invocation of the 25th Amendment plausible.

National Review

Introducing The Charles C. W. Cooke Podcast

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(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Well, it’s up. We’re still waiting on Google Podcasts (as ever), but it’s available everywhere else: Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, Stitcher, Overcast, via RSS, and, of course, here on National Review. In my post bidding farewell to Mad Dogs and Englishmen, I suggested that we could redirect the old feed to my new show. Doing so, it turns out, would have caused all sorts of complications — including duplicate entries in the Apple Podcasts library. So we didn’t do it. Instead, you’ll have to subscribe manually using any of the links above. When Google joins the list of distributors, I’ll post an update with the link.

Here’s the artwork:

In the first episode, “Hello Grover Cleveland!,” I introduce the new show; I talk a little about my plans for it going forward; I reflect on how peculiar it is that, a year or so ago, it was apparently so imperative that Joe Rogan be removed from the airwaves, where now nobody seems to care; I interview Troy Senik about his new book, Man of Iron: The Turbulent Life and Improbable Presidency of Grover Cleveland, and I talk briefly to Dan McLaughlin about Aaron Judge’s quest for the American League home-run record.

The Washington Post’s Faulty Fact-Check on Late-Term Abortion

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An anti-abortion activist holds a replica of a human fetus as demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A week ago, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler published a faulty fact-check on late-term abortion.

In the course of the article, Kessler quoted a spokeswoman from the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights who observed that European countries with gestational limits on abortion have “very broad exceptions to these limits — such as socioeconomic concerns, or to preserve the person’s mental health.” That’s true of some but not all European abortion laws. 

Kessler himself correctly observed that, “on paper,” Germany has a twelve-week limit on abortion, but “in reality” Germany “permits abortions as late as 22 weeks after conception” because the law

Law & the Courts

Antisemitism Once Again Rears Its Ugly Head on Campus

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Sather Tower rises above the University of California at Berkeley. (Noah Berger/Reuters)

Last week, I wrote about how the conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is real and troubling, but that there are times, such as at the University of Vermont, when the delineation between valid critiques and genuine bigotry is laid bare.

Another example of this phenomenon has occurred at the University of California at Berkeley, one of the usual suspects, where nine groups in the law school have amended their bylaws, in coordination with Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine (BLSJP), to ensure that no pro-Israel speaker will ever be allowed to address their respective groups.

Under the new guidelines, “90 percent or more” of Jewish students, as well as law-school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a notable critic of Israeli policy, would be barred from addressing these organizations. Kenneth Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and a Berkeley Law alumnus, has stated that this is “not just a political stunt. It is tinged with antisemitism and anti-Israel national origin discrimination.”

Marcus is spot-on. Left-wing hypocrisy abounds. If progressives are serious about upholding civil-rights law, they wouldn’t be engaging in these blatant acts of discrimination. Everyone is free to denounce the Jewish State for any of its supposed sins. But once a public university permits student organizations to bar speakers of certain ethnicities and national origin, the threshold of illegality has been crossed.

What’s most ironic is that, even though pro-Palestine groups claim that their capacity to express their views has historically been suppressed, they now seem intent on giving the Zionists a “taste of their own medicine.” Apparently, self-awareness is not a prerequisite for joining organizations toeing the BLSJP line. There is no logic to illiberalism of this sort — only prejudice and intimidation.

World

At Korean DMZ, Kamala Harris Highlights ‘Very Important’ U.S. Alliance with . . . North Korea

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Vice President Kamala Harris gives a statement to the media as she visits the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas in Panmunjom, South Korea, September 29, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Biden administration has often been accused of mistaking the United States’ friends for her foes. Recently, Vice President Kamala Harris unwittingly vindicated those detractors.

On Thursday, while visiting the demilitarized zone bisecting the Korean Peninsula, Harris confused our steadfast ally to the south of the 38th parallel with our totalitarian foe to the north of the line.

“The United States shares a very important relationship, which is an alliance with the Republic of North Korea,” Harris said, not only naming the wrong country but failing to get its official name right. As a parting gift, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea carried out another banned missile test, firing two short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan just hours after she left.

Kamala’s Korea conundrum is just the latest in the series of rhetorical blunders. Earlier this year, the bumbling VP was ridiculed for her word- salad take on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Harris’s gaffes on the world stage are starting to become a liability. As her slip-ups mount, one has to wonder why we keep sending the maladroit veep overseas only to bugger up American foreign policy. Maybe her portfolio ought to be slimmed down? Her knack for working together is probably best put to use stateside.

Politics & Policy

Mandela Barnes Won’t Apologize for Mocking GOP Congressman Who Was Shot and Almost Killed

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In 2017, a progressive activist tried to assassinate Republican members of Congress when he opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Va. Steve Scalise, the House GOP whip, was shot and nearly died. Mandela Barnes, the Democrats’ 2022 U.S. Senate candidate in Wisconsin, tweeted at the time that Scalise was “taking one for the team” by continuing to support the Second Amendment after the shooting. 

Scalise tells Punchbowl News that Barnes’s tweet was disgraceful: 

“That’s disgraceful. It says a lot more about his lack of character to be in essence condoning political violence. All of us should be standing up against political violence.

“To say something like that, [Barnes] really needs to look in the mirror and reevaluate his lack of character.”

Barnes’s statement responding to Scalise includes no apology: 

“This is a very personal topic for me as someone who has experienced the pain of losing friends and loved ones to gun violence. My comments came from a place of frustration with politicians like Ron Johnson who see gun violence happen everyday and turn their backs on solutions that would keep people safe.”

Imagine the reaction in the media if Barnes were a GOP Senate candidate who had mocked Democratic representative Gabby Giffords after she was shot and almost died.

Elections

Another Poll Shows Tightening Pennsylvania Senate Race

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Emerson finds Republican Mehmet Oz two points behind Democrat John Fetterman, with 8 percent of voters still undecided: 

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Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Abandoning ESG

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Dan Katz writes that overall bans on ESG won’t be effective policy:

As we parse out those definitions, the core public-policy challenge is to address ESG’s overbearing influence in our capital markets. This is caused not by mere consideration of ESG factors, but by excessive focus on ESG relative to other important risks like supply chain and energy security that have also traditionally been considered non-pecuniary. Rather than banning ESG flat out, policy-makers might consider how to restore proper balance to the consideration of all traditionally non-pecuniary factors, including ESG.

Publicly pronouncing that consideration of ESG factors should be ended or seeking to prohibit ESG under the dead end of restating existing fiduciary standards is not likely to achieve this end. Instead, states should instead seek to accelerate evolution of market practices by emphasizing that the proper exercise of fiduciary duties involves consideration of a broad range of potential factors that may have pecuniary impacts, recognizing that ESG factors are just a piece of the puzzle.

Read the whole thing here.