Don’t Buy Democrats’ Spin on Supply Chains

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Workers rope a container ship at a port in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China, February 11, 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

Whom are you going to trust to tell you the truth on port congestion? With news that the Biden administration is coordinating with the media to spin coverage in a more positive direction, it’s important to take what they’re telling you with a grain of salt.

Industry sources seem more trustworthy. The logistics industry is one of the most thoroughly international industries in the world, so the political concerns of any one country will have little effect on the information that they report. Plus, those people all around the world have large amounts of money on the line if information is

Sorry, Omarova’s Soviet Birth Is Not What Sank Her Nomination

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Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, answers a question from a Senator during a hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 18, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Saule Omarova has withdrawn her nomination to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency due to opposition from five Democratic senators. Republicans could do absolutely nothing to stop Joe Biden’s nominee other than highlight her extremism and hope that public pressure would do the trick.

It did. Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were simply perusing the news this morning. NPR claimed in a tweet that Omarova withdrew her nomination “after facing personal attacks about being born in the former Soviet Union.” The New York Times says that “lobbyists and Republicans painted her as a communist

Music

In Defense of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’

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In response to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’: A Facile, Condescending Christmas Anthem

Maybe this is my Gen X pride talking, but I must defend the Band-Aid Ethiopian famine song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” from Jack and Mark. Sure, its politics are terrible, its geography is sketchy, its grasp of world religion is deficient, and its tone is condescending, but then, John Lennon’s “Happy XMas (War Is Over)” — which has its own cringey lines about the “yellow and red ones” — called for surrendering the people of South Vietnam to Communist tyranny and massacre. But I will forgive some mushy-headed remember-the-less-fortunate do-goodism in my Christmas playlists if the songs are strong. And both of those songs are strong, musically. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is a textbook ’80s pop anthem, powered forward by Phil Collins on drums. And frankly, it’s worth the price of admission just to hear Bono barge in like an Old Testament prophet in the buildup to the first chorus howling “well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of YOUUUUUU. . . .”

Media

Biden Doesn’t Have a Perception Problem, He Has a Reality Problem

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President Joe Biden looks on after delivering remarks on the November jobs report at the White House in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A lot of conservatives are up in arms about this revelation from CNN’s Oliver Darcy:

The White House, not happy with the news media’s coverage of the supply chain and economy, has been working behind the scenes trying to reshape coverage in its favor. Senior White House and admin officials — including NEC Deputy Directors David Kamin and Bharat Ramamurti, along with Ports Envoy John Porcari — have been briefing major newsrooms over the past week, a source tells me.

The officials have been discussing with newsrooms trends pertaining to job creation, economic growth, supply chains, and more. The basic argument that has been made: That the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year. I’m told the conversations have been productive, with anchors and reporters and producers getting to talk with the officials

The thing is, all kinds of institutions and organizations arrange off-the-record or on-background briefings and meetings for reporters. There’s nothing inherently unethical or manipulative about them. The sources from the institutions effectively say, “here’s how we see things,” and usually some variation of, “and we don’t think this has been covered enough.” The reporters usually get to ask questions – if there isn’t a chance to ask questions, it makes one wonder what the point of the briefing is.

How this meeting affects subsequent coverage is up to the reporter. Maybe the reporter thought the briefer had a fair complaint or made a good point. Or maybe the briefing shared new information that the reporter thought was newsworthy. Maybe the reporter thinks the briefing was unconvincing spin and a lot of whining. Or maybe the reporter wasn’t persuaded much one way or another. It only becomes unethical or manipulative when the official says, “you should be covering the story this way,” and the reporter effectively answers, “yes, sir.” That’s the only scenario where the complaints of “state-run media” have merit.

Perhaps the more significant aspect of this story is not just that the Biden administration thinks the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year — a pretty low bar, considering how one year ago, we were just about to get the first vaccinations — but they think that they have a perception problem, not a substance or reality problem. But the national average for a gallon of gasoline is still $3.43, inflation has skyrocketed this year, the country has 10.4 million unfilled jobs, and all kinds of small businesses have signs that say “please be patient, we’re understaffed,” and we’re enduring a supply chain crisis. (If you’re not reading Dominic Pino’s coverage here at NR, you should be.) Americans don’t think the economy is lousy because of bad media coverage. Americans think the economy is lousy because they feel the pain in the form of higher prices and stores not having the goods on the shelves that they usually have.

You cannot spin someone about their grocery bill, or how much they paid to fill up their tank of gas. Even if Biden administration officials can Jedi Mind Trick their way into getting reporters to give gushing coverage of their economic policies, Americans will not come around if they’re still paying more than $3 per gallon of gas, their grocery bills are significantly higher than last year, new cars aren’t on the lots, bottles and cans aren’t on the store shelves, service is slow, and local businesses are limiting hours or even contemplating shutting down because of limited supplies.

Law & the Courts

Smollett and Perjury

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If it turns out, as seems likely, that Jussie Smollett staged a fake crime and then lied about it under oath, then his perjury should be treated as a matter at least as serious as the original hoax.

As we have seen everywhere from college campuses to the centers of power in Washington, our institutions and our public life can endure many things, but they cannot survive a culture in which outright fabrication is both common and accepted.

If I am reading the law correctly, perjury — a felony in Illinois — could get Smollett five years in prison and $25,000 in fines. The $25,000 would be nothing to Smollett, but he should do every day of five years if convicted.

Impromptus

WFB Does Football, Etc.

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) makes a catch against Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (44) in the second half of the Monday Night Football game at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nev., September 13, 2021. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports)

Bernard-Henri Lévy is a leading “public intellectual” of our time. He is a French philosopher, writer, adventurer, and activist. He has written a new book: The Will to See: Dispatches from a World of Misery and Hope. I have talked with BHL and have written about him on the homepage today: here. A most interesting and unusual fellow, whether you’re for or against.

Why don’t we have some mail? In a column last week, I wrote about jury duty (because I had it). “Jury duty,” I said, “is a pain, a privilege, and a must — our system depends on it.” I received a letter from a lawyer, on various aspects of our jury system. Here’s a slice:

Best word of advice to avoid ending up on a jury (if that’s your goal) — talk. Talk your head off. Have an answer, an opinion, a thought about every single topic the lawyers cover during voir dire. That gives us, the lawyers, more reasons to use a strike or a challenge for cause against you to keep you out of the jury box. Inevitably, when I look up at the men and women who are seated in the box at the end of voir dire, I think to myself, “I don’t know a damn thing about any of them except for what’s on their questionnaires.”

In another column, I had a word about “moral equivalence,” as we said in Cold War days: The United States and the Soviet Union are equally bad. They are superpowers, throwing their weight around. The Russians interfere in other countries, we interfere in other countries. What’s the difference? Who are we to lecture them? And so on and so forth. Today, you hear similar things, regarding the Ukrainian situation and others.

A reader writes, “Your discussion made me recall WFB’s statement, which I have written down and used over and over again.” For the uninitiated, “WFB” is William F. Buckley Jr., who wrote,

To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.

In a Corner post, I had a word about fan behavior — specifically, bad behavior. A reader shares with me a passage about Tom Harmon, found on Harmon’s Heisman page. Tom Harmon, of the University of Michigan, won the Heisman Trophy in 1940.

In his final football game, against Ohio State, Harmon led the Wolverines to a 40–0 victory, scoring three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, four extra points, intercepting three passes, and punting three times for an average of 50 yards. In an unprecedented display of sportsmanship and appreciation, the Buckeye fans in Columbus gave Harmon a standing ovation at game’s end. No other Wolverine player has been so honored, before or since.

End with WFB? And football? Is that possible? Only in this way: Johnny Carson once did a skit, with the sports broadcaster Stu Nahan. In the skit, Nahan was announcing Monday Night Football, and WFB, played by Johnny, was doing the color commentary.

A reader writes,

Antenna TV had the episode on the other night. Originally, the show was aired on November 17, 1983. I can’t find a clip, unfortunately. But I found some quotes online.

Here is a sample:

Stu Nahan: “Jack Youngblood of the Rams is down on the field. Can you see what that injury might be, Bill?”

William F. Buckley Jr. (after looking through binoculars): “Well, it appears to me that Mr. Youngblood might find it . . . difficult to exercise his conjugal prerogatives.”

Nahan: “Uh, I don’t quite follow you.”

WFB: “He got kneed in the macadamias.”

As Bill himself might say or write: “Fun and games!”

Media

A Profession in Need of Redemption

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Journalism has fallen almost entirely into the hands of propagandists for the mega-state. Objectivity is sneered at. Most young journalists want to make their mark by writing whatever advances the “progressive” agenda and damages the case for traditional American values.

In today’s Martin Center article, Hillsdale College journalism professor Maria Servold writes about her field.

She begins, “There’s something rotten in American journalism schools. From a tendency toward bias to outright activism, journalism in higher education is not what it should be: a place to guide young writers through a liberal education that teaches them how to think, report, and write clearly.”

If you need any evidence of how bad things have gotten, reflect on the fact that the J-School at the University of North Carolina was eager to hire provocateur Nikole Hannah-Jones, a woman with no scholarly accomplishments but a resume loaded with leftist disinformation, to teach its students.

J-Schools certainly should not hire political activists. “Good educators,” Servold writes, “do not dole out information to students as if they are bestowing them with gifts. Rather, good educators guide students in discovering knowledge. It is important for educators to know their fields and be able to effectively relay key information in a way that helps the student rise to understanding.”

If our education leaders want to make journalism respectable again, they have a great deal of housecleaning to do.

The Economy

Some Food for Thought on Our Unusual Labor Market

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A Brandon Motor Lodge displays a “Help Wanted” sign in Brandon, Fla., June 1, 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

The most important thing to remember about the labor market right now is that the problem is the opposite of what we’re used to after a recession. We don’t need more jobs; we need more workers. After the last recession, the name of the game was job creation. This time, it’s not.

How’d we get here? The Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track of job openings for the whole economy in December 2000. Since then, there have only been two periods when the number of job openings exceeded the number of unemployed persons: January 2018 through February 2020 and May 2021 through today.

At no point between the mild recession in 2001 and the Great Recession did the number of job openings exceed the number of unemployed persons. During the Great Recession, the number of job openings decreased, and the number of unemployed persons increased. Both happened steadily throughout the entire 18-month recession, with unemployed persons increasing faster than job openings were declining.

The gap between them reached its apex in October 2009, when there were nearly 13 million more unemployed persons than job openings. It gradually closed over the next eight years, finally disappearing in January 2018. (You may remember this talking point from the Trump administration: We had more jobs than people to fill them.) Things had seemed to stabilize at a little over 1 million more job openings than unemployed persons.

Then the pandemic recession hit. The number of unemployed persons jumped from about 6 million in February 2020 to 23 million in April 2020. The number of job openings fell from 7 million to 4.5 million over the same span. That was normal recession behavior, direction-wise: The number of unemployed persons goes up, and the number of job openings goes down.

But things have snapped back in a very unusual way. By May 2021, only twelve months after the end of the pandemic recession, there were already more job openings than unemployed persons. What took 103 months after the Great Recession only took twelve months after the COVID recession. And the gap is already much larger than it was before the pandemic: There are almost 3 million more job openings than unemployed persons.

Two economists wrote about our unusual job market today, and their thoughts are worth your time.

Here’s Brad DeLong:

Recent data show that 3% of US workers – 4.4 million people – quit their jobs in September. That monthly quit rate is not only remarkably high; it is unheard of, especially given that the US employment-to-population ratio is still only 59.2%, almost two points below its February 2020 peak.

What is going on in the US labor market? In normal times, the current figures would suggest that America is dealing with a great shortage of jobs. And yet, workers’ outsized willingness to quit their jobs and look for something better indicates that these are not normal times.

There is a standard list of explanations for this so-called Great Resignation. One obvious factor is fear of COVID-19, especially among those who live with elderly or immunocompromised relatives. Low-wage workers do not want to log long hours in service-industry settings that require them to come into close contact with other people, not least the sizable share of the population that remains unvaccinated. . . .

One notable effect of the pandemic is that it has fueled a transformation of work and the workplace that either would have taken decades in the absence of the virus, or would never have happened at all. Consider, for example, the widespread shift to remote white-collar work; the rapid automation of substantial components of service work; or the transformation of retail – requiring many more delivery drivers and many fewer in-store sales workers.

These changes have brought a great deal of convenience to many consumers and employees. Suddenly, online tools are good enough that one need not shop in person to get a sense of a product’s quality. (And if a delivery isn’t what was expected, one can always return it.) The sectors affected by these changes will not be returning to the pre-pandemic status quo.

Here’s Arnold Kling:

My own perspective on the labor market is that the economy is unusually far from equilibrium. Prices and wages are too low, so that we have “shortages.” Relative wages and prices are out of alignment, so that we have temporary over-supply in some sectors and under-supply in others.

Think of the employees who prefer to not go into the workplace every day and whose employers learned during the pandemic that remote work and work-from-home can be managed. This “laptop class” has received what amounts to a windfall of non-monetary compensation.

But other workers have gotten a cut in non-monetary compensation. Their workloads have increased. They have suffered a loss of autonomy (having to wear masks, perform cleansing rituals, get tested regularly, etc.)

The divergence in non-monetary compensation has left labor markets out of equilibrium. To move toward equilibrium, monetary compensation for remote and work-from-home employees must fall relative to that of workers forced to engage in germaphobe theater. This adjustment will probably take place in an inflationary environment in which everyone’s pay goes up, but the workplace-bound get higher raises than the laptop class.

To move toward equilibrium, the price of shipping goods by truck will be much higher. That is what I infer when someone claims that there is a “shortage” of a few hundred thousand truck drivers. Some of the higher shipping prices will be passed through to truck drivers as higher pay, and perhaps more people will choose to become truck drivers as a result. But not a few hundred thousand more, which is what it would take to keep shipping prices from rising. . . .

We are seeing “the Great Resignation” because markets are out of equilibrium. Once wages and prices have adjusted upward, and once we see more workers in sectors where they are most wanted and fewer workers in sectors were there is relatively less need, the high quit rates and other peculiarities of today’s economy will fade.

Regardless, Andrew Stuttaford’s post from a few days ago seems right: The current jobs situation is not something that should be overly concerning for monetary policy and there’s “no reason to reverse the acceleration of the taper now advocated by the Fed.”

National Security & Defense

A Conservative Victory against the Push to Draft Women

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The Pentagon logo in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., January 8, 2020 (Al Drago/Reuters)

The push to make women eligible for the draft in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act has likely failed, Politico reports:

Compromise defense policy legislation set to be filed Monday will not require women to register for a military draft, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations, a stunning turnaround after the proposal gained bipartisan support in both the House and Senate this year.

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees left the provision out of the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, despite the fact that both chambers’ bills would have expanded the Selective Service System beyond men.

Once considered an inevitable shoo-in, the initiative was killed at the last minute by conservatives like Senator Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), who sits on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who pushed for an amendment to remove the provision. New reports today suggest that the GOP may have traded a debt-ceiling hike to Democrats in exchange for killing the draft-women measure. All in all, that seems like a pretty good deal, given that the debt ceiling was likely going to be raised anyways.

Left-wing efforts to expand the draft to women — or to “expand the draft beyond men,” in the careful gender-inclusive wording of Politico — have gained momentum since the Pentagon made women eligible for all combat roles in 2015. The successful move to kill the measure is a victory for conservatives, and one worth celebrating. Republicans who supported — and continue to support — the idea that we should be drafting our mothers and daughters to war are misguided, as National Review’s editors have argued on multiple occasions. Not only would a conscription of women be imprudent, hurting our military readiness in the name of “social engineering” — it would be immoral. We should celebrate, rather than work to eliminate, the differences between men and women. A gender-inclusive draft would be one more step in the wrong direction in that regard. Kudos to the Republicans who recognized the importance of keeping the provision from becoming law.

Music

‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’: A Facile, Condescending Christmas Anthem

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In response to Yes, They Know It’s Christmas

Mark, you are totally right about the insufferability of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” the Band Aid “classic” that haunts the Christmas airwaves every year with a haughty dose of celebrity condescension. I wrote about my distaste for the admittedly catchy song last Christmas, in an article titled “‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ Yes — So Stop Singing“: 

To understand why “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is so terrible, you should listen to the lyrics, even though the song’s slick and catchy structure can make it hard to really pay attention to them. The gist of the song is a juxtaposition guilt trip, contrasting an indifferent world of “light,” “plenty,” and “joy” — presumably, the world of most Western record-buyers — with the supposedly helpless suffering of the song’s subjects. (“Well tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of you!” as Bono sarcastically thunders.) It’s one thing to use guilt as an inducement; as a Catholic, I am well familiar with the power of that particular force. It’s another thing to milk a condescending stereotype, denying a whole continent not merely agency but also differentiation and even key facts about the way many of its inhabitants live.

Start with the physical descriptors of the continent of Africa in the song. It paints with such a broad brush as to suggest the entire landmass is like Arrakis, the desert planet in Dune, where water is so precious that spitting is considered a sign of respect and crying for the deceased is so rare that those who do it are thought to be honoring them by “giving water” to them. In the Band Aid version of Africa, it’s a land “where the only water flowing / Is the bitter sting of tears.” Just to make sure you get the point, the song also claims that Africa is a land “where nothing ever grows / No rain nor rivers flow.” It’s true that there are deserts in Africa, notably the Sahara, and that water access can be threatened by droughts and other factors. But the song seems to forget the existence of the Nile River (the world’s longest) and Lake Victoria, to name just two water bodies, not to mention the coastlines of many countries, and the varied landscapes of jungles, savannahs, mountains, and more. Some of the greatest civilizations in human history have managed to thrive in Africa both despite and because of its diverse features.

Consider also the song’s implicit cultural assessments. Because Christmas in Africa differs so significantly from Christmas in a wealthy Western country, the song suggests, the holiday there essentially cannot be meaningful. After all, “there won’t be any snow in Africa.” Setting aside the single-biome-planet mentality of these lyrics yet again, we can say with confidence that, in many places throughout the world, it’s more than possible to celebrate Christmas without snow. The songwriters seem oddly locked in to a precisely preconceived picture of what Christmas is supposed to look like.

Perhaps if the performers on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were not all so fabulously successful, they’d have been better able to realize that Christmas is not defined by its weather, much less its material trappings, but rather by the immaterial goods the holiday reminds us of. Indeed, the question the song’s title poses is unintentionally funny, given that the powerful cultural presence of Christianity in Africa, particularly Ethiopia, is likely to make Africans even more capable of knowing it’s Christmas than many of the denizens of the materialist culture who contributed to the song.

This difference might explain what is by far the song’s biggest moral failing. Right in the middle of the stereotyped catalogue-of-miseries, hopeless-wasteland description of Africa (“And the Christmas bells that ring / There are the clanging chimes of doom”), some combination of celebrity voices intones the lyric, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.” Paying enough attention to the song to actually hear those words for the first time was what led me to view this catchy ’80s synthpop Christmas song as more insidious than I had ever thought. The idea that any person, anywhere on earth, would not consider the greatest gift he gets each year to be life is so vapid and materialistic that only a group of celebrity musicians would dare to advance its opposite as a call to action. “Look at these poor Africans,” the song seems to say, lumping hundreds of millions of people into an undifferentiated, suffering mass, all of them in desperate need of the help that apparently only the musicians who recorded a charity single in the midst of an alcohol-and-drug-fueled bacchanal could provide.

You can read the whole thing here, to find, among other things, Morrissey’s pointed (and accurate) comments about the song.

Music

Yes, They Know It’s Christmas

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In response to The Very Worst Christmas Song

There’s a reason Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is played so frequently — it’s a great song. But my entry for the worst Christmas song is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” recorded by U.K. and Irish singers coming together as Band Aid to raise money to alleviate famine in Ethiopia. While the sentiment was noble, the tune is awful. The worst thing about it, though, is the condescension. “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” Ethiopia converted to Christianity in the year of our Lord 330, half a century before the Roman Empire, when the Britannic and Hibernian ancestors of the singers were running around naked covered in blue paint — so, yeah, they’re fully aware it’s Christmas time. What’s more, the Ethiopian Church celebrates Christmas according to the Julian calendar, on January 7, meaning the twelve days of Christmas in the West are over before Christmas time even begins in Ethiopia. And the Ethiopian famine of the early 1980s wasn’t a matter of “Where nothing ever grows / No rain nor rivers flow” — it was caused, like most famines of the past 100 years, but Communist tyranny.

The Economy

Attacking Innovation

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Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders during a Senate Budget Committee’s hearing to examine President Biden’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2022, June 8, 2021. (Shawn Thew/Pool via Reuters)

Bernie Sanders tweeting earlier this week:

This is obscene. Last week, 8 investors in Pfizer and Moderna became $10 billion richer as news about the Omicron variant spread. It’s time for these pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccines with the world and start controlling their greed. Enough is enough!

I checked to see what Sanders had tweeted in the early weeks of November, when the Moderna share price fell from roughly $345 on November 2 to some $229 on November 10. Oddly enough, he made no comment on the sell-off. Even today, the stock (at about $274) is still well below its highs of earlier in the year (some $413). The Pfizer stock has done rather better of late but fell by nearly 20 percent between mid August and mid September.

Markets are markets, and there’s a limit to how much of a conclusion can be drawn from the movement of a stock price on a short-term basis.

Besides, who is to judge what is “obscene”? Not, perhaps, someone who, in the past, has expressed at least some admiration for the USSR.

Pharmaceutical companies are certainly not angels, but it should be remembered that the super profits they make on some products also have to cover the cost of drugs on which they have spent a fortune but that fail to live up to the hope their development teams once had for them.

It should also be remembered that incentives work. I am unconvinced that Sanders is the right person to decide what represents “too much” of an incentive. Moreover, for all the profits that some companies have made from the vaccines, by limiting, however imperfectly, the damage caused by the virus, the financial value (and that includes jobs) they have preserved is far, far greater. There is also the small matter of all those lives saved . . .

Meanwhile, there’s this from Jonathan Bydlak, writing in Spectator World:

One aspect of the [Build Back Better] bill, however, has attracted far less fanfare than it should have: its impact on the cost of prescription drugs.

Provisions in the bill would, among other things, impose rebates on drug manufacturers if prices rise faster than inflation. It’s an idea that sounds great in the current moment of creeping inflation, but is ultimately little more than a market distortion likely to produce an array of adverse consequences.

A new University of Chicago study looked at the impact of the bill on “innovation and patient health” and found that BBB would reduce spending on drug research and development by “about 18.5 percent.” It concludes that such a reduction might limit research and development, potentially leading to 135 fewer new drugs.

Perhaps most damning, the study also concluded that the corresponding drop in drug production would result in a loss of 331.5 million life years — a number 31 times larger than the life years lost in the United States as a result of COVID-19. That’s presumably not the outcome that Democrats had in mind . . .

Bydlack also goes on to explain how the proposed price regime could mess up the supply of generic drugs. That’s a different topic, but one worth watching too. Be sure to follow the links that he includes in the article, such as to this piece in Stat:

Policymakers are also seeking to apply to brands, and misguidedly to generics, in the Medicare Part D program and commercial plans a penalty if their prices rise faster than the rate of inflation. The so-called inflation-based rebate disproportionately harms the low-cost generic drugs on which seniors rely because it applies a penalty based on the percentage that a price increase exceeds inflation; meaning that a 1 cent increase on a 20 cent pill could trigger a penalty for the generic manufacturer. And manufacturers could also be penalized because of changes in downstream purchaser behavior, even if the manufacturer does not increase the price.

The imposition of these penalties in Medicare Part D and the commercial market would further compound a mistake Congress made when it applied inflation penalties to generic drugs in Medicaid. This makes it more difficult for older generics with very low prices, which may be the only option available for patients, to stay on the market. It would thus increase the likelihood of drug shortages for seniors and the nation’s most vulnerable patients, a phenomenon recognized by FDA’s drug shortage task force and reports from outside experts. It represents another challenge to the long-term sustainability of an industry that consistently delivers lower costs and generates great value in health care…

Law & the Courts

Courts Divide, with Another Defeat Today, on Biden Mandates

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President Joe Biden receives his coronavirus booster vaccination at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

There have been a lot of court losses thus far for Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates, most of them grounded in the absence of statutory authority for rule by executive-agency orders. Today’s example comes from R. Stan Baker, a Trump-appointed district judge in the Southern District of Georgia, who joined the Eastern District of Kentucky in enjoining the mandate on federal contractors. Judge Baker found that the mandate would “have a major impact on the economy at large” and “appears to have vast economic and political significance,” and that under the administration’s “logic and reasoning, the Procurement Act would be construed to give the President the right to impose virtually any kind of requirement on businesses that wish to contract with the Government (and, thereby, on those businesses’ employees) so long as he determines it could lead to a healthier and thus more efficient workforce or it could reduce absenteeism.” Judge Baker’s injunction, in a case brought by the states of Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia, applies nationwide, raising again the contentious question of the standing of individual states to pursue, and the power of individual judges to order, nationwide injunctions.

Biden got better news yesterday, as a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit upheld the mandate for health-care workers in facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid against a challenge filed by the state of Florida. The court divided on lines of party appointment: two Obama appointees, Jill Pryor and Robin Rosenbaum, sided with Biden, while Barbara Lagoa dissented. Judge Lagoa, a Trump appointee previously made a judge by Jeb Bush and elevated to the Florida supreme court by Ron DeSantis, was sometimes discussed as a potential Supreme Court nominee in 2020. The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling conflicts with decisions on the Medicare/Medicaid mandate in Louisiana (which is in the Fifth Circuit) and Missouri (which is in the Eighth Circuit), thus ratcheting up the likelihood of a circuit split that would effectively compel the Supreme Court to hear the case. One ground the Eleventh Circuit majority cited for even hearing the case was that it believed that the court in Louisiana erred in entering a nationwide injunction:

The Louisiana order offers no reason why, as a constitutional, statutory, or practical matter, the interim rule cannot be in effect in some states but not others. Nor could we think of any good reason. Quite simply, this does not appear to be one of those “rare” situations where a nationwide injunction is warranted or even justifiable. For those reasons, it seemed to us an eminently “reasonable expectation” that, at the very least, the nationwide aspect of the Louisiana injunction would be eliminated, and Florida would be subject to the interim rule upon its taking effect on December 6.

The majority concluded — and it may have a better argument in this statutory context than those of some of the other mandates — that

the Secretary has express statutory authority to require facilities voluntarily participating in the Medicare or Medicaid programs to meet health and safety standards to protect patients. Based on this statutory authority, the Secretary was authorized to promulgate the interim rule. In both the Medicare and Medicaid statutes, Congress authorized the Secretary to set standards to protect the health and safety of patients. . . . The regulation reasonably, perhaps necessarily, covers all employees who work at these facilities as a health and safety measure because if any one of them has COVID19 and is present at the facility, she can spread it to the patients, whether directly or indirectly through other employees . . . when it comes to vaccination mandates, there was no reason for Congress to be more specific than authorizing the Secretary to make regulations for the “health and safety” of Medicare and Medicaid recipients. To suggest otherwise would mean that Congress had to have anticipated both the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented politicization of the disease to regulate vaccination against it.

Notably, however, the majority drew this conclusion from an analogy to Supreme Court precedent from 1905 upholding state vaccination mandates aimed at the general public:

The federal government’s authority to impose the interim rule’s vaccine requirement derives from the Spending Clause. . . . When a facility, even one operated by a State, voluntarily chooses to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and receives federal funding for services provided to beneficiaries, the facility must comply with the federal law. And, as we explained above, Congress unambiguously conditioned the payment of funds under the Medicare and Medicaid programs to facilities that comply with “health and safety standards” set by the Secretary.

Give me a place to stand, said Archimedes of his lever, and I will move the world. If only he had the federal spending power! Judge Lagoa, in dissent, noted the breadth of the mandate as a reason to question whether the statute really gave the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) such broad powers: “The mandate applies to a wide range of people including employees, trainees, students, volunteers, and contractors who provide any care, treatment, or other services for the facility.” She also focused on the bypassing of normal procedures without a good cause to invoke an emergency:

The mandate was announced two months before it was issued by CMS, and the mandate itself does not take effect until one month after the issuance date. Moreover, vaccines have been available to healthcare workers for nearly a year before the issuance of the mandate, and the Delta variant has been spreading in the United States for months, yet CMS took no action. Additionally, in the explanation of the mandate, CMS itself concedes that it could have acted earlier—almost a year earlier—but chose not to. . . . And what’s more, CMS has previously issued five interim final rules “to help contain the spread of [COVID-19]” since its onset—none of which included a vaccine mandate. . . . These facts alone cast significant doubt on the agency’s claim of an increased urgency justifying abandoning the notice and comment requirement. Indeed, CMS gave itself more time to issue the mandate after the President announced it was coming than it gave participating facilities to meet its terms. CMS’s own regulation establishes a lack of urgency on its part, either demonstrating that the situation is not so dire as it claims, or that it created the urgency by its own delay. Finally, as the agency concedes, “newly reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have begun to trend downward at a national level.”

As I have noted before, the combination of foot-dragging in issuing these mandates with the use of emergency procedures is a self-inflicted wound that may continue to haunt the administration in these cases.

Business

Silver Linings on Supply Chains

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Container ship at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Calif., September 29, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

In a time when supply chains are in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, what are some silver linings?

In a webinar today sponsored by supply-chain tech company FourKites, panelists discussed that topic, and there is some cause for optimism.

The consensus: Supply chains are getting more attention than ever before, and with that attention comes a demand for improvement.

Audrey Ross, a logistics and customs specialist for Toronto-based cosmetics company Orchard Custom Beauty, said that the supply-chain crisis has accelerated improvements in her company’s supply-chain processes. “When you get into these tense and challenging situations, you can see, ‘This is not working,'” she said.

That phenomenon is not unusual, according to Chris Stauber, vice president of products at FourKites. “The good news is supply chain and logistics now has a seat at the table. The bad news is now you’re under the microscope,” he said. Inefficient processes that were skating by before the pandemic are now front-and-center, and it has become imperative that they be improved.

Peter Tirschwell, Journal of Commerce editor, had a similar assessment. “A shock of this magnitude and the kind of existential importance to organizations has brought all metrics to the attention of the C-suite,” he said.

The demand for what the industry calls “end-to-end visibility” has grown significantly. Much of the logistics industry is still run on legacy technology. Live updates of where shipments are located can often be hard to come by. There are many opportunities to digitize operations so that everyone involved in a shipment can be on the same page throughout the shipment’s journey.

Stauber said the question at the forefront of many executives’ minds is: “Can you deal with this level of complexity with manual processes?” He pointed out that shipping freight by sea is one of the oldest industries in the world, and many aspects of it have failed to keep up with new technology. Ocean shipments, for example, are still normally booked over the phone.

The downsides of manual processes were a lesson many businesses learned from the pandemic. “COVID taught us that because we couldn’t go into the office and exchange papers the way we did before,” Stauber said.

Ross said that for the first time in her career, customers have been consistently asking her where the boat carrying their products is. Often, she can’t give them a satisfactory answer because the information just isn’t there, she said.

“Demand for true visibility has never been higher,” Tirschwell said. “The market wants it, there’s no question about it.”

The question is whether it will happen. With the price of shipping containers skyrocketing this year, ocean lines (which are usually not very profitable) have reaped windfall profits. Reinvesting those profits into improving visibility would be beneficial to the entire industry. But challenges remain in collecting data and actually making the improvements. “I think it’s a wide open question right now whether that investment is going to happen and whether this true visibility will be achievable,” Tirschwell said.

Ross said companies are asking new questions that they hadn’t considered before. She said most supply-chain models are based on the just-in-time model pioneered by Toyota. It has proved successful, but businesses like hers might have different supply-chain needs than car companies. “I think people are realizing that the customization we’ve done to our products is now something we have to do internally to our supply chains,” she said.

Tirschwell said larger companies have been able to make changes and try new things, but it’s been harder on smaller companies. “For those organizations that were able to marshal the scale and creativity, there’s been really incredible entrepreneurialism. . . . For smaller shippers it has been much, much harder, even to the point that business models that depended on prior ocean freight economics over the past few decades are being called into question,” he said.

Those business models are going to come under increased scrutiny since supply-chain costs have begun to make up a larger proportion of a product’s total cost, said Stauber. “There’s an emphasis and a focus now that there’s never been before,” he said. With that emphasis comes strong incentives for improvement.

Stauber sees the most room for improvement in the area of metrics. Businesses are only as good as the metrics they have to work with, and there aren’t enough in the logistics industry right now. FourKites is trying to change that, Stauber said.

He pointed to a new metric called DOTIF as an example. OTIF means “on time and in full,” and it’s the most important metric to many shippers. But it doesn’t provide much specificity as to what parts of the shipping process are causing delays. DOTIF means “documentation on time and in full,” and it lets shippers know whether documentation is what’s holding up shipments (which it often can). Stauber sees the increase in data as a silver lining.

Tirschwell also sees lots of low-hanging fruit for reforms. He said, “Over the past year since the pandemic began, the amount of work that has been required to get freight through the system has gone up astronomically, and in most cases the amount of staff to do that work has not gone up.” In ordinary times, hindrances like inefficient communication are tolerable annoyances, but now things such as email and spreadsheets are urgent areas for improvement, Tirschwell said.

What’s the prognosis for shipping? Tirschwell said that “there are pockets of positive news,” but “the fact remains: The entire system has no give to it whatsoever.” He said that with so much capacity tied up in the extraordinary volume of containers, the “circulatory system required to move containerized cargo” is unable to function properly. On top of that, he said, “There is no significant reduction in the number of ships waiting to berth at LA/Long Beach.”

He said between the Chinese new year coming up in February, consumers still flush with cash, and no sign of a return to normal spending patterns, “the system only has a few months next year to right-size itself before another onslaught of holiday purchasing.” He sees problems persisting through the end of next year.

“The message we have is unfortunately that there is not a great deal of evidence out there that this supply-chain crisis is about to ease,” Tirschwell said.

While short-term forecasts don’t look rosy, there’s cause for long-term optimism. The pandemic has exposed how inefficient American supply chains have always been. Businesses are realizing the importance of supply chains and making record investments in new technology to get things back on track.

As Rich Lowry wrote in October, “It’s beyond the power of any one person to change this anytime soon, but trying to scrape off as many of these encumbrances as possible should be a national priority.” Private businesses have been scraping off those encumbrances right from the start, and insofar as this crisis has highlighted what those encumbrances are, it can have salutary effects in the long run.

Sports

Trans Swimmer Makes a Splash

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I have a piece on the homepage about the trans-identifying male swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who has been allowed to shatter records in female competition.

I never know what to make of it when I happen to agree with Piers Morgan on an issue — but, in any case, his piece discussing the swimmer controversy is a good read.

Film & TV

Was Alec Baldwin’s Interview a PR Mistake?

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Legal experts have suggested that Alec Baldwin’s decision to sit down with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News may have been a mistake. It may also have been a PR mistake. Since the interview, both he and his wife have deleted their Twitter accounts.

It’s understandable that Baldwin, who was holding the prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on the movie set of Rust last month, wanted to get his side of the story before the public. However, at points, his agitation came across as defensiveness. And despite his insistence that he is not the victim, his high emotions during the interview meant that a considerable amount of time was spent discussing his feelings.

Like Kyle Smith, I feel sorry for the guy. There can be few more gut-wrenching feelings than accidentally causing someone’s death. But by speaking to the press before being officially cleared, Baldwin may have only made matters worse for himself.

Law & the Courts

Poll: Americans Continue to Misunderstand Roe

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An anti-abortion demonstrator holds an issue of National Review, End Roe, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Anthony Bolognese, Capitol Hill Photo)

A new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey, released exclusively to The Hill, finds that most Americans disagree with the status quo on abortion policy created by Roe v. Wade. But, of course, The Hill is headlining its coverage of the poll by highlighting that a majority of Americans (54 percent) say they oppose overturning Roe.

The very same poll found that a majority of Americans supports moving the viability threshold to 15 weeks’ gestation. When told that Roe permits abortion until viability, marked at 24 weeks, 56 percent said they support either overturning the decision or limiting abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. These outcomes are impossible unless Roe is overturned.

What are we to make of such a polling outcome? I wrote an in-depth piece about public opinion and abortion for our recent special issue of the magazine and argued that, while many Americans tend to instinctively say they support Roe, a majority supports restricting abortion in ways that are impossible under Roe, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

This becomes glaringly obvious if you study even the smallest amount of opinion polling on abortion. A Fox News poll from September, for example, found that 65 percent of Americans oppose reversing Roe v. Wade, compared with 28 percent who want the decision overturned. Absurdly, the same survey found that Americans were perfectly split on whether abortion should be legal, tied at 49 percent.

Plenty of Americans, in other words, both want abortion to be illegal and want to preserve the ruling that makes it impossible to prohibit abortion. This is possible only if some sizable number of Americans simply doesn’t understand what Roe and Casey meant for abortion policy. Polling questions about Roe, in other words, have long outlived their usefulness, if they were ever useful at all.

Judging from these odd discrepancies in survey responses, it’s fair to say that many Americans, when asked whether they want Roe overturned, seem to hear something more like, “Do you want women to be able to obtain abortions at least in some limited set of circumstances and early in pregnancy?” It is interesting, though, that this recent poll found a far slimmer majority in favor of Roe than polling usually finds — 54 percent to 46 percent who want to see Roe overturned.

Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its initial publication.

Health Care

So Is the North Now a Death Cult?

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A man signs up to take a COVID-19 test at a mobile testing van at Herald Square in New York City, March 16, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

I’m a little puzzled by the lack of coordinated outrage at the North for allowing the coronavirus to wreak havoc. The worst ten states for cases today are, per the New York Times:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Michigan
  3. Minnesota
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Vermont
  6. New Mexico
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Indiana
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Ohio

Deaths lag cases, of course, so those aren’t the top ten states for deaths yet, but . . . what gives? Clearly, the Northern states are running a “death cult” because they “don’t take the virus seriously” and “are allowing unchecked spread” that will kill us all, if we don’t engage in an organized campaign to sanction and ostracize these dangerous disease-spreading hicks via barrages of furious op-eds. Although it’s probably all Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan’s fault for spreading disinformation. Isn’t that how this works?

Immigration

Go Figure: A Secure Border Increases Support for Legal Immigration!

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A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks out over Tijuana, Mexico from the U.S.-Mexico border wall in San Diego, Calif., February 2, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

William Saletan spotlights a research paper which concludes that:

Allocating more government resources to border security increases desired levels of immigration. This effect is likely driven by a sense of control over immigration, induced by border security measures even when the number or characteristics of immigrants remain unchanged. Our findings suggest that border controls, which are widely considered as symbols of closure and isolation, can promote openness to immigration.

To quote the old Vulcan proverb, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

The first governors to push criminal-justice reforms through were Republicans such as Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal — and they likely succeeded because no one thought of them as “soft on crime.” Welfare reform only became law at the federal level when Bill Clinton, a Democrat, admitted it was needed.

If you want a particular policy goal — “change policy X” — the need for change is most compelling when it comes from a person who is traditionally a defender of policy X. And that defender of policy X will be trusted to implement changes in a way that a traditional critic of policy X will not.

If Democrats want a country that wholeheartedly welcomes and embraces legal immigrants, they should embrace border security in as many effective forms as possible. And if Republicans want a secure border, they should rebuke any public expressions of xenophobia or suggestions that legal immigrants are somehow not “real” Americans.

History

Infamy at 80

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Sailors stand amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base as the destroyer USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. (U.S. Navy/National Archives/Handout via Reuters )

Eighty years ago today, out of the clear blue sky of an Oahu Sunday morning, the navy of the Empire of Japan launched a pre-emptive surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in what was then the territory of Hawaii. The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. local time, which was mid-day on the East Coast. Before Pearl Harbor’s defenses could be roused — there had been a party the night before, as nobody expected trouble — Japanese planes descended raining bombs; 2,335 Americans were killed in a war in which they thought their country was still neutral. The dead were mostly sailors, half of them on the USS Arizona, one of four battleships sunk that morning. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost 64 men. It was, as Franklin D. Roosevelt branded it, “a day that will live in infamy.” The infamy lives on.

Pearl Harbor has, like many such pivotal turning points, attracted its share of controversies:

  • Japan attacked without advance notice, and only delivered its notification of breaking off diplomatic talks after the battle had started. That notice was lengthy and delayed in translation and transmission. Was the delay just a foul-up, or did elements of the Japanese government purposely seek to catch Americans entirely by surprise?
  • FDR was tightening the screws on Japan, including an oil embargo imposed in the summer of 1941. He was increasingly pushing the United States towards more involvement in the war in Europe. Did the U.S. government know more about the looming Japanese threat than it let on from the fragmentary intelligence it had available? Did it share some responsibility for the onset of war, or was it at least negligent in not having Pearl Harbor on higher alert?
  • Was Japan’s war with the United States, which proved ruinous, avoidable, such that Pearl Harbor should be seen as a catastrophic mistake? Or was a confrontation inevitable — and if so, was the military advantage of a surprise attack outweighed by the cost of convincing the world that Japan was wholly in the wrong?
  • Was Nazi Germany foolhardy in declaring war on the U.S. immediately in solidarity with its Japanese ally, or would FDR have been able to get Congress to add a declaration of war against Hitler as well?
  • Was it necessary for the Japanese Navy to retreat from the scene so quickly, having failed to destroy the American carrier fleet or the fuel tanks at Pearl Harbor?

The historical what-ifs and who-knew-what-and-whens, however, are beside the point to the instant, world-changing impact of the battle. Japan’s war in Asia, already four years old, suddenly took on a dramatic new character. American public opinion was galvanized, with recruiting stations mobbed the next day and dissent from the decision to join the war having all but evaporated in a day. American thirst for retribution against Japan was not satisfied until the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Few of the victors at Pearl Harbor lived to see the end of the war. Four of the six Japanese aircraft carriers involved in the attack were sunk or permanently disabled at the Battle of Midway seven months later. The attack’s architect, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, was shot down by American planes in April 1943. The fifth carrier, the Shōkaku, was torpedoed and sunk in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944. The sixth carrier, the Zuikaku, was sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. The bulk of the Japanese pilots were lost with their carriers or shot down in combat.

With Bob Dole’s death at age 98 on Sunday, the generation that fought the Second World War has almost entirely left us. Dole was the most prominent combat veteran of the war still living; a few others remain, such as Henry Kissinger, Mel Brooks, and James Buckley. Col. Edward Shames, the last of the “Band of Brothers” of the 101st Airborne immortalized by Stephen Ambrose and the HBO series, died Friday at 99. The number of living Pearl Harbor veterans is dwindling. Even the people with living memories of the war from their childhoods have been departing in their eighties and nineties. Before long, the war will have entirely departed living memory. But the infamy will remain.

VIEW GALLERY: Pearl Harbor Attack

Music

The Very Worst Christmas Song

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In response to ‘All I Want for Christmas’

Kevin and Kyle have offered their thoughts on the worst Christmas songs. (The most overrated Christmas pop song is the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” but then, even the angelic Kirsty McColl can’t save Shane McGowan’s voice.) Of course, almost anything can become cloying, or at least lose its zing, after enough repetition.  I suspect that is what grates at people with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” It truly is one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written, even if it is a knockoff of the greatest such song, Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Repetition is especially a problem for a song that is already extremely repetitive – Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” would be a lovely piece of Paul pop if it was a minute long, but 3:46 of that same thing over and over is excessive; if you hear that song more than once in a month, it is an assault.

The worst Christmas standard, in my view, is “Santa Baby,” which in the hands of any number of singers is customarily performed as a sort of cooing sexual come-on to…Santa Claus, a posture that is in equal parts cringeworthy and degrading to the singer. The Madonna version, predictably, may be the nadir of this genre.

But until this year, I had not known the dreadful manipulative horror that is “The Christmas Shoes.” I am a big fan of sad songs generally, but the fact that this song succeeds in jerking your tears is an indictment of its grave, heavy-handed derailment of whatever Christmas joy you may have been experiencing:

The Economy

Green Jobs (or Not): Update

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Charging station for Buick’s electric vehicles at the Shanghai Auto Show in Shanghai, China, in 2019. (Aly Song/Reuters)

I’ve never been — how to put this — entirely convinced that the “sustainable” economy is going to be quite the jobs machine that its proponents like to claim. It’ll be good for regulators, and it will be a bonanza for the consultants who will be hired to guide companies through the maze that the regulators will create. But other than that, the case for job creation is . . . unclear. To take a key example, as currently envisaged, the transition away from fossil fuels is almost certain to increase the cost of energy (and, in all likelihood, decrease its reliability). That is not an obvious recipe for job creation.

Nor, for that matter, is severely constraining (or even phasing out) entire industries. Of course, some — maybe even many — new jobs will be required in replacement technologies, but will there be enough of them to replace the jobs that are going to be lost, and how well will they pay?

I’ve written before about this topic here and here in not the most optimistic way, and now from Joe Miller, in the Financial Times, there’s this:

Half a million jobs would be at risk under EU plans to effectively ban combustion-engine cars by 2035, according to European auto suppliers, the latest in a series of stark warnings about the costs of a rapid transition to emissions-free technology.

More than two-thirds of those 501,000 roles would disappear in the five years before that date, according to a poll of almost 100 companies for the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, Clepa, making it difficult to mitigate the “social and economic impacts” caused by mass unemployment.

Of course, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers may be assumed to be somewhat biased when it comes to this topic. Nevertheless, they ought to know what they are talking about. To be sure, not all the entries on the ledger are negative. PwC (as it happens, a company investing heavily in sustainability-related consultancy) has, according to the FT, estimated that 226,000 new jobs will be created in electric-parts manufacturing, thus reducing the net toll, but even so . . .

Part of the problem with the Paris-model transition is the speed, at least in the EU (and, elsewhere), at which it is being pushed through — and not just in the auto sector — without any regard to markets or economic reality. In this, it is not so different from other strikingly ambitious exercises in central planning, exercises which have a way of ending very badly.

Meanwhile, via Reuters (December 1):

Stellantis NV Chief Executive Carlos Tavares said external pressure on automakers to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles potentially threatens jobs and vehicle quality as producers struggle to manage the higher costs of building EVs.

Governments and investors want car manufacturers to speed up the transition to electric vehicles, but the costs are “beyond the limits” of what the auto industry can sustain, Tavares said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference released Wednesday.

“What has been decided is to impose on the automotive industry electrification that brings 50% additional costs against a conventional vehicle,” he said.

“There is no way we can transfer 50% of additional costs to the final consumer because most parts of the middle class will not be able to pay.”

Automakers could charge higher prices and sell fewer cars, or accept lower profit margins, Tavares said. Those paths both lead to cutbacks. Union leaders in Europe and North America have warned tens of thousands of jobs could be lost.

Automakers need time for testing and ensuring that new technology will work, Tavares said. Pushing to speed that process up “is just going to be counter productive. It will lead to quality problems. It will lead to all sorts of problems,” . . .

As a reminder, Stellantis is the company formed by the merger of Peugeot and Fiat-Chrysler. Mr. Tavares too may be biased, but he also undoubtedly knows what he is talking about.

The FT’s Miller notes that Tavares’s warning

followed a similar claim from Germany’s largest listed car parts supplier, Continental, which cautioned that “social harmony would be jeopardised” if climate policies were not accompanied by programmes to create new employment opportunities for those working in fossil fuel-reliant industries.

Quite how these new employment opportunities will be “created” is not immediately clear.

World

Olympic Boycott Highlights Corporate Capitulation to Beijing

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A man walks past a board with logos for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games at a souvenir shop under renovation in Beijing, China, January 29, 2021. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

Washington’s diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics is now official. There’s ample reason to question whether the Biden administration has gone far enough to push back against what’s sure to be a Chinese Communist Party propaganda event and to ensure that U.S. athletes and journalists are not subjected to Beijing’s hostage-diplomacy tactics. This is a debate that’ll play out for the next three months, but what’s most immediately obvious is where this leaves corporate sponsors of the 2022 games.

Intel, Visa, Airbnb, Coca-Cola, P&G, and others are bankrolling an event that party officials are using to bolster their international legitimacy and deflect from the ongoing mass atrocities they’re perpetrating in China.

Now, these Beijing 2022 sponsors are also sponsoring an event that’s being boycotted by the U.S. government over “the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki put it earlier today.

These firms have already taken some very public hits, such as when executives testified before a congressional panel in July, making themselves the public faces of corporate America’s apologetics for the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide. As I wrote at the time:

[Coke’s Paul] Lalli and his counterparts from other prominent U.S. companies — Airbnb’s David Holyoke, Intel’s Steven Rodgers, Procter & Gamble’s Sean Mulvaney, and Visa’s Andrea Fairchild — became overnight the living embodiments of one of the most disturbing new trends in American capitalism.

If you Google “Beijing Olympics sponsors,” the vast majority of the top results feature some scrutiny of the decision to stick with sponsorship despite the overwhelming evidence of systematic crimes against humanity carried out per orders from general secretary Xi Jinping.

The executives atop these companies are going out of their way to deflect criticism of the party’s atrocities, whether they do so explicitly or not. They’re sticking with the games, even though the U.S. government is staying home.

There’s been a lot of energy behind congressional efforts to make companies answer for their sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics. The sponsors endured a public-relations crisis during the Congressional Executive Commission on China hearing this summer, and there’s more oversight activity in the works. But if Congress and the administration get serious about building a regulatory regime to deal with this sort of malfeasance, these companies might have more to worry about than bruising headlines.

History

How Common Was Abortion in the Past?

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A pro-life demonstrator holds up a mock human fetus, as groups chant over one another outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Gretchen Sisson has contributed to the recent genre of op-eds about how outrageous it was for Justice Amy Coney Barrett to refer positively to adoption during last week’s oral argument. A lot of pro-lifers have commented on this argument already, so here I’ll just note that Sisson’s history is at least overconfident.

She writes:

Though it’s difficult to ascertain exact figures from the time, my colleague Carole Joffe, who has studied the history of providing abortion pre-Roe, has identified annual abortion estimates developed throughout the 1950s and 60s that range from 200,000 to 1.3 million . . . . Abortion is, and always has been, a common experience.”

“Always has been” is a strong claim, and there is reason to doubt it, ranging from the extreme danger of methods of abortion to mothers before modern scientific developments to the widespread practice of infanticide and child abandonment in many societies.

Joffe, meanwhile, is repeating a tentative claim advanced in a committee report based on a 1955 Planned Parenthood conference. That report said that “a plausible estimate of the frequency of induced abortion in the United States could be as low as 200,000 and as high as 1,200,000 per year,” and also that “there is no objective basis for the selection of a particular figure between these two estimates.” (Sisson’s “1.3 million” appears to be a typo; Joffe quotes the report accurately.)

Researchers in the 1950s cannot reasonably be faulted for their inability to generate better numbers. But this range, and especially the high end of it, is not plausible. Numbers from the 1970s are more reliable. The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimated 745,000 abortions in 1973, 899,000 abortions in 1974, and continually rising numbers through 1990. If there had been 1.2 million abortions in the mid 1950s, it would have meant that the number of abortions fell substantially during a period in which sexual mores were rapidly liberalizing, the population was expanding, abortion was becoming safer for mothers because of antibiotics, and activists were campaigning to legalize abortion — and got their way nationwide. Much more plausible is that the number of abortions had increased in the years before Roe, especially as some states liberalized the law, and then rose more afterward. It is well past time to throw out the 1955 numbers, which look more like wild guesses than estimates.

Religion

If You Don’t Know about Fr. Alfred Delp, You’ll Want to Encounter Him This Advent

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(Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., is joining me for an Advent conversation Tuesday at 2 p.m. via Zoom. We are both reading Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings, 1941-1977, from Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., who was preacher and leader of the resistance before he was martyred by the Nazis. Even while imprisoned, he managed to write powerful mediations on joy among other things — specifically during the Advent season. The book includes these writings and sermons from his time as rector at Georg Church in Munich.

If you are not familiar with him, I know you are far from alone, which is why we want to talk about him. Here’s a taste of what was on his heart while in Tegel Prison in December 1944:

In order to be capable of true life, man must live according to a specific order and relationship to God. The capability of true joy and of living joyfully is itself dependent upon specific conditions of human life, upon particular attitudes regarding God. Where life does not perceive itself as taking place in community with God, it will be gray and gloomy and drab and calculating.

How should we live so that we are capable—or can become capable—of true joy? This question should occupy us more today than it has in the past. Man should take joy as seriously as he takes himself. And he should believe in himself, believe in his heart and in his Lord God, even through darkness and distress—that he is created for joy. This really means that we are created for a life that knows itself to be blessed, sent and touched at its deepest center by God Himself.

He goes on to write about five conditions for true joy and the capability of joy. This is what is on his mind as he faced possible torture and certain death and the possibility, too, that the Nazis could win.

I know Fr. Cameron has been using some Delp in some of his Advent homilies — and has for years — and I have little doubt you will appreciate the conversation, especially if you are looking for a little inspiration for your Advent.

RSVP to join us live here.

Law & the Courts

Will Dobbs End Roe?

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(NRI)

I noted today and over the weekend that many people who don’t work in commentary or law or public policy haven’t had a chance to really take a look at what happened at the Supreme Court last week in the Mississippi abortion case. So National Review Institute is teaming up with the Ethics and Public Policy Center on Tuesday (tomorrow) at 2 p.m. Eastern to talk about what we saw and heard last week at the Court. National Review’s and EPPC’s Alexandra DeSanctis, Carrie Severino from the Judicial Crisis Network, and Ryan T. Anderson from EPPC will join me in conversation. You can join live and ask questions via Zoom if you RSVP here. It will also be available after on National Review Institute’s YouTube page.

World

Why Did It Take So Long to Announce the U.S. Diplomatic Boycott of the Olympics?

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., December 6, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing that the Biden administration announced today has lost some of its already meager impact because it took so long for the Biden team to make it official.

On November 16, the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin broke the story that neither President Biden nor any other U.S. government officials will attend the Beijing Games back on November 16. Two days later, Biden said a diplomatic boycott “was something we’re considering.”

And then not much happened on the U.S. side for more than a week, giving the Chinese Foreign Ministry and state-run media time to announce that U.S. political leaders were not welcome at the Olympic Games. On November 29, the state-run Global Times reported, “China never plans to invite US and Western politicians who hype the boycott topic to attend the Games.” Earlier today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian argued that “the protagonists of the Beijing Winter Olympics are athletes from various countries, not individual politicians… No one cares if they come or not.”

(I am reminded of this Clickhole headline.)

So today, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Biden officials would not attend an event… that they had been effectively disinvited from attending.

That will show Xi Jinping!

Music

What’s the Worst Christmas Song?

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People dressed as Santa Claus sing Christmas songs during the annual meeting of the Rent-a-Santa Claus service in Berlin, Germany, November 28, 2021. (Christian Mang/Reuters)

In response to ‘All I Want for Christmas’

Kevin weighs in with his picks. I used to say “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” but they don’t play it that much anymore, at least not within my listening radius. The last couple of years, the one that has really set my teeth on edge is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” by 13-year-old Brenda Lee. I maintain that “Wonderful Christmastime,” by Paul McCartney, is not that bad. I do not stan for it, but it’s perfectly pleasant and does not cause me to want to change the station immediately. It’s . . . okay.

Tip for the season: Go on Spotify and check out their selection of “Sad Christmas” and “Lonely Christmas” playlists. This tends greatly to reduce the flow of treacle. But I do like “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” mainly because it was so great in the Christmas rom-com of all rom-coms.

Energy & Environment

So Much for That ‘Immediate’ Relief on Gasoline Prices

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Gas prices at an Exxon gas station in Brooklyn, N.Y., November 23, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

On November 24, one day after President Biden announced the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.39.

Biden characterized the the release from the reserve  as “a tool matched to today’s specific economic environment, where markets expect future oil prices to be lower than they are today, and helps provide relief to Americans immediately and bridge to that period of expected lower oil prices.”

It has been almost two weeks, and as of this morning, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.358 – a decline of a bit more than three cents.

Someone call up the DCCC, so they can make another chart!

Politics & Policy

Let’s Play: Kamala Harris or Donald Trump?

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Left: Then Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) speaks to reporters during a break at the impeachment trial of then President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. Right: Former president Donald Trump speaks at CPAC in Orlando, Fla., February 28, 2021. (Joshua Roberts, Octavio Jones/Reuters)

In response to A Brutal Washington Post Story on Kamala Harris

John — reading through the Washington Post’s story on Kamala Harris, I wondered if Hasbro ought to mass-produce a board game in time for Christmas called, Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 

Some sample questions:

  1. This person’s management style would lend itself to a TV show called “The Apprentice.” Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  2. This person’s defenders argue that the criticism they endure is particularly harsh because they are different from the sorts of people who usually occupy high office. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  3. This person refuses to wade into briefing materials prepared by staff members, then berates employees when they appear unprepared. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  4. With this person, staff have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism, leading them to ask why they are constantly propping up a bully. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  5. Critics scattered over two decades point to an inconsistent and at times degrading person who burns through seasoned staff members who have succeeded in other demanding, high-profile positions. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  6. One of the things staff agree upon is that the common denominator throughout the dysfunction is this person. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  7. Many worry that this person’s inability to keep and retain staff will hobble their ambitions. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  8. Explaining the exodus, White House officials argue it’s not unusual that this person’s staff would depart at the one-year mark. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 

And those are just the questions that flow from the Post’s report. We could add:

  1. Informed that they could not restrict the Bill of Rights via executive order, this person laughed and responded, “Yes, we can.” Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  2. This person showed no interest in overturning wrongful convictions, even when they had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump? 
  3. This person has fantasized about taking guns away from American citizens who have not been convicted of a crime. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump?
  4. This person has insinuated that they are in possession of devastating information about a matter of great public import, only to go quiet when the time came to reveal it. Kamala Harris or Donald Trump?

It’ll be a smash. I’m sure of it.

Politics & Policy

Politico Poll: 40 Percent of Hispanics Find ‘Latinx’ Offensive

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Latino leaders and immigration reform supporters gather at the University of Colorado to launch “My Country, My Vote,” a 12-month voter registration campaign to mobilize Colorado’s Latino, immigrant and allied voters, October 28, 2015. (Evan Semon/Reuters)

A new Politico poll shows that just 2 percent of Latinos refer to themselves as “Latinx,” the gender-neutral replacement for “Latino/Latina” that has taken root in many elite progressive circles over the course of the past few years. By contrast, 68 percent use “Hispanic,” and 21 percent use the gendered “Latino/Latina” to describe their ethnic identity. 

This is not the first poll to show that “Latinx” is remarkably unpopular with actual Hispanics. A November 2019 poll from the progressive ThinkNow Research showed just 2 percent of the demographic preferred the term. An August 2020 Pew poll showed that number hovering around 3 percent. The most favorable sample size in an August 2021 Gallup survey topped out at a whopping 5 percent. 

None of that has stopped progressive tastemakers and Democratic politicians from embracing the term, however. On the campaign trail, Elizabeth Warren declared that “when I become president, Latinx families will have a champion in the White House.” In a discussion of racial disparities in coronavirus death rates, Anthony Fauci expressed hope that the coronavirus pandemic could be “an enduring lesson for the Latinx community.” Joe Biden himself was widely mocked back in June, for musing that “it’s awful hard, as well, to get Latinx vaccinated as well. Why? They’re worried that they’ll be vaccinated and deported.” As Joseph Laughon wrote in National Review back in September, “Latinx” is a distinctly elite phenomenon: 

The question of how to describe Spanish-language speakers in America has been a thorny one since Nixon’s time, usually ranging between terms including “Hispanic” and “Latino,” though most prefer to refer to their actual national origin rather than the pan-ethnic term “Latino.” By the late 1990s, Latino progressives were batting around the terms “Latino/a” and “Latin@” in an attempt to move away what they saw as patriarchal or “heteronormative” terms. Predictably, these neologisms went nowhere; however, by 2004 the term “Latinx” started to become more popular among American and Puerto Rican progressives seeking to “challenge the gender binaries encoded in the Spanish language.”

As Politico notes in its write-up of the poll, this points to “a fault line in the party between moderate traditionalists and the more activist progressive base.” As the term pervades the language of the elite Left, it has “drawn pushback from those opposed to its usage as an alternative that doesn’t follow the gender binary in the Spanish language.” The kicker in the Politico survey is that pollsters went beyond just asking if Hispanic respondents preferred “Latinx,” proceeding to ask how many found it actively offensive. A full 40 percent of respondents found the term at least somewhat offensive.

Worse still for Democrats, 30 percent of Latinos told Politico that the “would be less likely to support a politician or organization that uses the term.” And interestingly enough, young Hispanics — a group one would generally presume to be more progressive — are not more liberal on this question than their older counterparts. Forty-one percent of Latino respondents in the 18–29 age group said they were bothered or offended either “a lot,” “somewhat,” or a “little” by the term, and 30 percent said they would be less likely to support politician or political organization that uses the word.

Joaquin Blaya, one of the founders of the Spanish-language Univision and a registered Democrat, seems to have more self-awareness than many others in her coalition. “Democrats are helping Republicans make them look out of touch,” she told Politico. “We built a network around our Spanish language and we have a shared culture around it. Why are we trying to change this? It’s offensive to a lot of people.”

World

Swiss Approve Use of Suicide Pod

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A EU flag flies beside Switzerland’s national flag near the German-Swiss border in Rheinfelden, Germany, March 11, 2019. (Arnd WIegmann/Reuters)

Some time ago, the Australian ghoul and suicide promoter Philip Nitschke, invented a machine for use in making oneself dead. He calls it the “Sarco Suicide Pod,” a futuristic gizmo the suicidal person enters. Once the lid is closed, the despairing person answers a few questions and then pushes a button to be killed by nitrogen overdose in about 30 seconds. Efficient death that supposedly feels good.

Yes, I know it sounds too bizarrely nihilistic to be real — but then, these days there is no such thing as too extreme. And indeed, the Swiss government — which permits for-pay suicide clinics — has now approved the SSP for those who want to die. From the Yahoo News story:

Switzerland has just legalized a new way to die by assisted suicide. The country’s medical review board has just given authorization for use of the Sarco Suicide Pod, which is a 3-D-printed portable coffin-like capsule with windows that can be transported to a tranquil place for a person’s final moments of life.

Conventional assisted-suicide methods have generally involved a chemical substance. Inventor Philip Nitschke of Exit International told the website SwissInfo.ch that his “death pod” offers a different approach. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” he said. “Our aim is to develop an artificial-intelligence screening system to establish the person’s mental capacity. Naturally there is a lot of skepticism, especially on the part of psychiatrists.”

The pod can be activated from inside and can give the person intending to die various options for where they want to be for their final moments. “The machine can be towed anywhere for the death,” he said. “It can be in an idyllic outdoor setting or in the premises of an assisted-suicide organization, for example.”

Of course there is no requirement for suicide prevention!

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

Culture

‘All I Want for Christmas’

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In response to Mariah Carey and Me

Kyle, I don’t have very strong feelings about Mariah Carey’s inescapable Christmas anthem, but I will confess that “Santa, Baby” and “Little Saint Nick” both kind of make me want to join al-Qaeda.

Economy & Business

‘Go Build Your Own’

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(Illustration/Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

“If you don’t like Twitter,” goes the popular refrain, “don’t try to control it with the government, go and build your own.”

I agree with this. That’s exactly what disgruntled consumers should do. But it is too much to ask that, if and when they do, they aren’t mocked for it?

Axios has a short piece this morning casting the growth in conservative tech outlets as something sinister. The headline is “Right wing builds its own echo chamber,” and the central complaint is that “conservatives are aggressively building their own apps, phones, cryptocurrencies and publishing houses in an attempt to circumvent what they see as an increasingly liberal internet and media ecosystem.” Some of the piece is just silly. There’s nothing unusual or novel about news outlets having their own apps. MSNBC has one; why wouldn’t The Daily Wire? The rest is an attempt to have it both ways. “Conservative media has been a powerhouse for a long time,” it explains, “but this phase of its expansion isn’t just about more or louder conservative voices — it’s about building an entire conservative ecosystem.” (The authors even put “censorship” and “cancel culture” in scare quotes.)

Okay, but what’s the alternative? If conservatives are outnumbered on the existing services, and if they can’t use the government to force those services to be neutral, the only choice remaining is for them to create their own. One gets the impression from the piece that, for some at least, “if you don’t like what’s out there, build a new one” was more of a taunt than an earnest suggestion, and that now that it’s been taken literally, those who promulgated the advice so liberally aren’t quite sure what to do next.

Impromptus

Legends and Legacies

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Archie Griffin at the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., December 07, 2019 (Justin Casterline / Getty Images)

Today’s Impromptus has China, Israel, Bob Dole, and more. It even has an ode to Rite Aid. (Seriously.) (Not a good one, maybe, but an ode.) The column begins, however, with football: “I, a Michigan Wolverine, have come to praise Nick Saban, the Alabama football coach. He is a hero in my eyes. Why?” Well, I proceed to explain.

Here in the Corner, I’d like to stick with football for a minute — and the behavior of fans. I have been harping on this issue for some time now. In this Impromptus of October 1, for example. Last Saturday night, Archie Griffin was present at the Big Ten Championship game, to hand out the MVP trophy. Michigan beat Iowa. Griffin, as you know, is the only player ever to win the Heisman twice. He was a running back at Ohio State. He is now 67 years old.

The Michigan fans — whose star defensive end was about to receive the MVP trophy — roundly booed Griffin. Why? Because Ohio State is a Michigan rival.

This is pure . . . horse manure, I’ll say. A lot of people think it’s cool, obviously — including the booers. I think it’s . . . well, I’ll stick with my previous description. (To read about the booing on Saturday night, go here.)

Let’s have some mail:

Jay:

. . . I’m always thinking I should write you about this or that, but you cover so much ground I don’t know where to begin. The opportunity passes, you’re on to your next piece, and the cycle repeats.

But I know that, while I don’t write, I do talk about your work all the time. How do I know this? Here’s how: A couple weeks ago, my wife and I went to Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame vs. UM hockey game. After each Irish player was introduced, the Michigan students shouted something from behind the newspapers they were “reading” to show their lack of interest in our squad. I couldn’t catch the first half of the chant, so I asked my son what they were saying. He told me: “Who cares? You suck!” Then he laughed and said, “What would Nordlinger say?”

In an Impromptus last Thursday, I had this little item:

Several weeks ago, a story caught my eye: “Amherst College Ends Legacy Admissions Favoring Children of Alumni.” I believe there is a consensus against legacy admissions. I myself have a soft spot for them.

I think there is something nice about an association between a family and a college: members of a family going to the same college, generation after generation (as long as those members are roughly qualified). Wearing the same colors, rooting for the same team. Maybe having the same professors, for a couple of generations. Making financial contributions to the college. Having a loyalty.

This is a happy and benign kind of tribalism, I think.

I would not favor legacy admissions in Japan, say, or France: countries with a few elite universities and institutes, determining the fates of millions. That’s different. But America, with its jillion colleges and universities, dotting the land? From sea to shining sea?

Anyway, a topic to mull over and debate.

I received several letters on this topic, of which I’ll share just one (because I know your time is short!):

I also read about the Amherst change in admission policy. My alma mater, MIT, states unequivocally that they do not consider legacy in admissions. My father-in-law went there for both undergrad and Ph.D. Now my daughter is a junior in high school and has MIT as her first choice. Assuming she is similarly qualified to other applicants, what is the rationale for not giving her some kind of preference? You make the obvious case in Impromptus.

In one of our many discussions about choosing a college, regarding MIT she simply said, “It would be cool being third-generation MIT.”

Of course, “cool” and “MIT” might not be synonymous, and there are other and better reasons she wants to go there. Still, it would be cool!

End on a money issue? In another column last week, I had this:

About three weeks ago, I was in a store. The price of my (few) groceries came to $14.92. I said to the cashier, “The Columbus year! When he ‘sailed the ocean blue.’” She smiled.

Shortly after that little experience, I was amazed to see the following, from the Women’s March:

We apologize deeply for the email that was sent today. $14.92 was our average donation amount this week. It was an oversight on our part to not make the connection to a year of colonization, conquest, and genocide for Indigenous people, especially before Thanksgiving.

I commented in my column,

That’s a real thing, a real apology, ladies and gentlemen. You can’t parody anything anymore. People are just — cracked.

I’d like to share two letters:

Sometime in the 1990s, my wife and I went out to breakfast on the Fourth of July. When the check came, the total was $17.76. I loved it!

And how do you like this?

Jay,

I see we share a quirk. (I guess it qualifies as a quirk, anyway.) A
number of years ago, I was in the checkout line at my supermarket and
the cashier read my total aloud: “That’s 19.18.” I said, “The year the
war ended.” The cashier looked like he was in his late teens or early
twenties and answered, without skipping a beat, “Yeah. The war to end
all wars. They sure got that wrong, didn’t they?” I was stunned.

Thank you to one and all. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.

Culture

Mariah Carey and Me

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Singer Mariah Carey poses as she attends Variety’s 2019 Power of Women: Los Angeles, in Beverly Hills, Calif., October 11, 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

I was in Dallas on October 21 for National Review Institute’s eighth annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize dinner, and the next day I and a friend repaired to the much-loved old bar, the Stoneleigh P, for refreshment. Little did I know my visit would make pop-culture history after I took a look at the jukebox and posted this tweet:

After a fan retweeted the image, Carey herself got in on the action with this tweet:

When Mariah Carey notices you, suddenly it’s international news. CNN sent out a Twitter alert on this and published a story. USA Today did too. The Washington Post weighed in and called me a “reporter,” which shows that their writer couldn’t even accurately relate what’s in my Twitter bio. NPR covered the story on Morning Edition. The Today show did a piece. People magazine did one (plus several mentions) and failed to mention that I worked there for eight years! (Where’s the love, guys?)

NBC New York got in on it. HuffPost leapt into the fray. Dallas’s hometown glossy D Magazine didn’t seem too upset to get scooped by a tourist. Nor did the Dallas Observer. And so on, and so on.

Mr. Google tells me there are 82,000 results for Mariah Carey paired with Dallas jukebox. But that really is all there is to the story. Mariah Carey tweeted about my tweet about a jukebox at a bar in Dallas. There aren’t any more details. There’s no narrative. There’s no intrigue. There’s no cultural resonance. There’s . . . nothing . . . here.

The takeaways from this story are as follows: The Stoneleigh P is a good bar and you should go there when you’re in Dallas; there are a lot of entertainment reporters eager to write stories about absolutely nothing if there’s a celebrity involved. Anyway, as of last Wednesday, even at the Stoneleigh P, it’s Mariah Carey season, so buckle up. But that means we only have to hear the song for 20 more days.

Politics & Policy

Today in History

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Today is December 6, the anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.

Did Thaddeus Stevens actually say of the amendment and Abraham Lincoln: “The greatest measure of the 19th century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”? Maybe not, but it is a good and true observation.

There are many things to think about and remember on this day. One thing worth meditating on is the fact that there was a time when the Republican Party knew what power was for and what to do with it.

Law & the Courts

We Love Both the Mother and Her Baby

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Christina Bennett talks outside the Supreme Court during the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization oral arguments, December 1, 2021. (Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Representative Conor Lamb (D., Pa.), says he was outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday and “never saw one sign about mothers once they give birth.” I’m not sure where he was looking, but the Attorney General of Mississippi organized a near six-hour rally with signs that said “Empower Women. Embrace Life.” I still have the button they gave speakers on my coat. (Here were my two cents.) A young girl on Amtrak cheered it on Thursday night as we approached New York, and I’m not even sure she’s pro-life. Unless you are a hardened abortion activist, you can rally around this. We led with the woman, because people of good will want to know that women have the help they need. And I am still pretty sure they would recoil at the right to a dead baby.

During the course of the rally, we celebrated moms who did some incredible things to provide for their babies. Multiple speakers talked about paid family leave and other resources we need to discuss to make sure moms have a fighting chance. We talked about some of the ministries that exist that welcome women and their babies and stick with them for the long haul. You can read a little about what some of that looks like in my contribution to National Review’s “End Roe” issue.

I’m sorry you didn’t come to see us up front at the bottom of the steps of the Court, Mr. Lamb, we would have had plenty to talk about.

You can watch the rally here:

Law & the Courts

On the Extremism of Abortion Activism Today

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Abortion activists block and disturb a pro-life prayer vigil outside Planned Parenthood in Manhattan, N.Y., December 4, 2021. (Kathryn Jean Lopez)

On Saturday, I was confronted by two abortion activists who appear to be readers of my work. (Kathryn Jean Lopez, what are you going to blame abortion on next? I’ll own that. Abortion has devastatingly grave consequences on our souls and the soul of our nation, so to speak.) One who stuck with me until the Witness for Life prayer vigil outside Planned Parenthood returned to Old St. Patrick’s for Benediction, kept announcing what a good day she was having because no one was forcing her to give birth that day.

Again, this harkens back to the Amy Coney Barrett questioning last week during the Dobbs oral arguments. They want the right to a dead baby if there is a pregnancy. The callousness toward the unborn baby is so cruel. And even more alarming is the number of people who are willing to say, “My mother should have aborted me.” I had that conversation with an Uber driver going back to my hotel after the Supreme Court oral arguments and rally. He said his mother would have been better off aborting him because it kept her with an abusive husband. Any suggestion that his life was a consolation to her didn’t trump his contention that she had every right to decide to have a dead baby — him. I’ll live up to the accusation I met on the streets Saturday: This is the result of a half century of Roe. Regular people — not just the abortion activists — have no sense of the beautiful, unrepeatable value of their own human life. They can talk about the importance of climate change and saving the planet, but they can’t see the value of the creation that is themselves. This is why we treat one another so badly, and even if not with poor intentions, it is transactional at best. Abortion is a deep wound on our hearts, minds, and souls. The end of Roe will be only a first step in healing.

Law & the Courts

The Anti-Dobbs, Pro-Roe War on Adoption

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It was a chilling, disgraceful weekend for anyone watching the interwebs and the discussion of adoption. Advocates of abortion are going after adoption because of Amy Coney Barrett’s questions about safe-haven laws during the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization oral arguments. She was getting to the point that these laws, in all 50 states, do alleviate the burden of parenting. She wasn’t saying it’s easy to leave a baby with authorities, no questions asked, never to be seen again. But the response from the lawyer for the Mississippi abortion clinic opposed to the state law made it clear, as I note in my syndicated column today, that advocates for abortion are fighting for a right to a dead baby. That’s ugly to have to confront, but it’s the truth. And I don’t think most Americans are behind that. They want to know that a woman in a tough situation has options. But the right to a dead baby? While women often say they couldn’t live with themselves knowing someone else was raising their baby, if we educated people more about the options birth mothers have and that there are people more than willing to open their homes to a baby, there wouldn’t be this confusion. Women deserve better than a culture that encourages and even pressures her to abort her baby.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, by the way, opens her new book, No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster-Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives, with the cruel attack from the Left on Amy Coney Barrett’s two adoptions. This is consistent with a child-welfare culture that is hostile to interracial adoption. Better to remain in foster care than wind up in a white forever family is the view.

We need a culture that celebrates birth mothers and supports foster and adoptive families. Yes, absolutely adoption is a loss. We don’t want to rip families apart. But if a baby is born addicted to meth, that baby is going to be better off in the home of someone who isn’t enslaved to such a potent drug that keeps her from parenting. I know a young boy who was near dead last year around this time because of similar circumstances. Adoption can be a lifesaving option. It is going to be for him. We need to be realistic, but the denigration is abhorrent.

Adoption is better than abortion. To say otherwise is to make it clear you are fighting for the right to a dead baby.