Education

Making College as Close to Free as Possible

Loading...

Prominent Democrats have babbled away about their desire to make college “free.” That probably won’t happen, but they’ll come pretty close under Biden’s debt-cancellation program.

As Andrew Gillen of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains here, there is much more to it than just “forgiving” a lot of student debts. Biden’s proposal uses every lever available to reduce the amount that students will have to repay.

Specifically, according to Gillen, Biden’s plan would:

• Increase the income exemption (under which loan payments are $0) to 225% of the poverty line (under existing plans, this is typically 100% to 150%);

• Lower the percent of income owed to 5% (under existing plans, this ranges from 10%–25%);

• Forgive loans after 10 years of repayment for undergraduates borrowing less than $12,000; and

• Waive any unpaid interest.

Gillen concludes, “In sum, the Biden repayment plan is a misnomer, as only token repayment is required. This plan makes a mockery of student lending, and if it is enacted, the entire student loan system needs to be scrapped at the earliest opportunity.”

To that, I would only say that the student loan system needs to be scrapped whether Biden’s plan is enacted or not.

Culture

Why Courtship Culture Works

Loading...

Michal Leibowitz, an editorial assistant at the New York Times, has written a piece titled, “Dating Is Broken. Going Retro Could Fix It.” Leibowitz met her husband at her synagogue, “a meeting point that helped ensure we shared common values and whose members supported (and sometimes vouched for) each of us as we began dating.” Remarking on a trend in the “secular mainstream,” she notes that many people seem tired of dating-app culture. Instead, they have “latched — tentatively, faddishly — onto traditional dating practices.”

Through conversations with traditional and secular daters, I’ve come to see three practices as particularly promising for people who are looking for committed, long-term relationships: meeting partners through friends, family or matchmakers rather than online; early, upfront communication around long-term goals and values; and delaying sexual intimacy.

Leibowitz asks, “Is it time to court again?”

As discussed in Louise Perry’s book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, a courtship culture encourages men to compete for women’s long-term commitment in the form of marriage — marriage being the price of sex. Whereas, in our present setup, the hookup culture encourages women to compete for men’s short-term sexual interest. This is a terrible arrangement for women for obvious reasons. But it is also terrible for men as it locks them in a state of prolonged adolescence (what Perry describes as “cad” mode). And ultimately, this is bad for both sexes if their long-term goal is a happy marriage and a satisfying sex life.

Leibowitz notes:

A 2010 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology looked at the relationship between the amount of time a couple waits to have sex and the quality of their marriage. Researchers found that couples who waited until marriage reported not just less consideration of divorce but also higher relationship satisfaction, better communication and superior sex when compared with couples who began having sex within a month of their first date (or before they started dating). Couples who slept together between a month and two years after their first date — but didn’t wait until marriage — saw about half of the benefits.

National Review

Tell Us Why We’re Wrong

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

For only a couple of Hamiltons, you could subscribe to NR and gain commenting privileges. Then, from your favorite chair or chesterfield, you could inform us how and why we’re wrong every day for a year. 

For the price of twenty 75-grain HPBT 5.56 rounds, you could tell Charles C. W. Cooke why federalism is bogus.

For the price of a Red Sox cap, you could tell Rich Lowry why the Yankees are the worst franchise in baseball.

For the price of a Dune box set, you could tell Jack Butler that Caesarism is the best answer to encroaching Leftism.

For the price of a 24-pack of Spotted Cow, you could tell me, Luther Abel, that automotive hot takes are best left to people who drive anything other than a Toyota Prius.

What’s more, you could gain eternal glory as the top comment on an article about railway unions. Heck, we’ll even yank the ads and let you in on calls and meet-ups with writers and major political players. It’s a screaming deal, and we’d love to have you as a part of our NRPlus community.

Come join us. 

National Review

11 Cents

Loading...

On the home page, Rich makes a compelling case for why you should join NRPlus by taking advantage of this week’s pre-election subscription drive. But I just wanted to add a bit of extra perspective. If you were to join at the current discounted rate, it would bring the cost of NRPlus to just $0.11 per day.

That’s $0.11 so you can come here every day and read any article you choose without worrying about the paywall and while enjoying a limited ad experience without pop-ups. It’s $0.11 per day to have commenting privileges on articles, to be able to join regular calls with authors and newsmakers, and to get invited to meetups such as the one last week in Los Angeles. 

As Rich put it:

If you agree that we still need right reason, that we need to be engaged in the fight every day, but we should do it with facts and the best arguments, and that America is still the last best hope of Earth, then we have a publication just for you and that we believe deserves your support.

Subscribe here to take advantage of this limited-time offer.

Culture

A Lady at the (Destruction) Derby

Loading...
A driver waits for her heat at the Nation-Wide Demolition Derby in Augusta, N.J., August 5, 2013. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday about the “Demo Derby Queen of Tennessee,” and it is delightful. Driving a vividly pink hulk recently dragged from a farmer’s field, Ashley Barber has found success in both the all-female and the men’s divisions of the demolition derby . 

Steven Kurutz reports for the Times:

Ashley Barber didn’t know there was an all-female class when she drove in her first demolition derby at the Tennessee State Fair, seven years ago. She competed in the men’s category that night, and lost her helmet from all the hard knocks but placed seventh out of more than 60 cars. The adrenaline, the competition and the supportive cheers of her husband made her a convert. She was back slamming into the guys the next night.

For Ms. Barber, 33, who competes in six to eight shows a year in Tennessee, her home state, derbying is a shared passion. Her husband, Atlas Barber, 35, buys the cars and does the mechanical repairs and bodywork, while she handles the stripping and painting. He also competes, sometimes driving in the same events as his wife. His cars are green; hers are pink.

“It’s probably why we’re still together,” Ms. Barber said with a laugh.

There are so many things to love about the story. A wife and mother, working alongside her husband and daughter, smashing into other cars with pink paint and manicures. The pioneer woman swapped out horse reins for a four-speed transmission and proceeded to tear stuff up. 

American women are awesome. 

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Wildfires

Loading...

Shawn Regan and Tate Watkins of the Property and Environment Research Center write about how government regulation hinders wildfire-prevention efforts:

There is now broad agreement among ecologists and fire scientists that forest restoration — including the use of controlled burns and selective thinning — preempts devastation by clearing brush and other vegetative fuels before they go up in smoke. All too often, however, environmental-review and permitting processes prevent this important work from being completed in time — and the homes, wildlife habitat, and air quality it is meant to protect end up damaged or even destroyed.

A recent study by our colleagues at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) found that from the time environmental reviews are initiated for U.S. Forest Service projects, it takes an average of 3.6 years to begin mechanical-thinning treatments on the ground, while prescribed burns take 4.7 years to start on average. Mechanical-thinning and prescribed-burn treatments that require environmental-impact statements — the most stringent category of analysis — are even slower, taking an average of approximately five years and seven years, respectively.

Read the whole thing here.

Larry Krasner’s Lies

Loading...
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks at the National Action Network National Convention in New York, N.Y., April 7, 2022. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Larry Krasner, the “progressive prosecutor” of Philadelphia, which seems poised to set yet another homicide record this year, told an incredulous local television host last week that the violent-crime problem in America is being driven by “MAGA states.”

Just to recap, there were 561 murders in Philadelphia last year. It was a record high, but one that probably won’t last long: The City of Brotherly Love passed the 400-murder mark for 2022 last week, with a quarter of the year left to go. The 2021 record outpaced New York City by a wide margin (the Big Apple saw 485 murders

Elections

New Poll: Democrats Losing Ground with Latino Voters but Still Enjoy Comfortable Lead

Loading...
Voters at a polling location in New York City, November 2, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

New polling from NBC/Telemundo has Democrats still comfortably leading among Latino voters, but with a substantially reduced lead from just a few years ago:

The breakdown for party preference also varies significantly by issue:

This is an important wrinkle to the ongoing discussion about the potential for a “Hispanic realignment” toward the GOP: As the folks on the FiveThirtyEight podcast noted last month, recent polling shows that while the GOP hasn’t made major gains with the demographic yet, Democrats have lost ground. Latinos are less loyal to the Democratic Party than they once were, but they’re still not sure about Republicans. That means the rapidly growing voting bloc is increasingly up for grabs — but it’s also a warning to the GOP to not declare victory too soon. 

World

Brazil Finds Itself Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Loading...
Left: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a debate in Brasilia, August 30, 2022. Right: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a meeting with candidates running in Brazil’s general election in Rio de Janeiro, September 30, 2022. (Adriano Machado, Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

The 2022 Brazilian presidential election is starting to look like a Stealers Wheel song.

With no candidate reaching the 50-percent threshold, yesterday’s result produced a long-awaited runoff matchup between the incendiary incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, and former socialist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

There is no good option for Brazilian voters in this race. Bolsonaro is a demagogic figure who has cast aspersions on the legitimacy of Brazil’s electoral system. Many analysts believe he is attempting to sow doubt in the democratic process in an effort to execute a self-coup in the event he loses, similar to what President Trump tried to do in 2020. Lula, on the other hand, is a corrupt radical leftist who will unleash chaos and economic ruin on the Federative Republic.

“Lesser of two evils” narratives fall short when the choices are this bad. Brazilians are best off doing what National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru suggested in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and abstaining.

Sorry, Politico, but Taxpayer Money Is Not ‘the President’s Wallet’

Loading...
Left: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at CPAC in 2021. Right: President Joe Biden at the White House, January 19, 2022. (Joe Skipper, Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Charlie earlier pointed out how off-base it was for a Twitter user to portray Governor Ron DeSantis seeking federal hurricane-relief aid as “bending the knee” to President Biden. But Politico has woven this basic idea into a ridiculous story with a ridiculous premise:

The “president’s wallet”? What on earth are they talking about? The president may carry around a wallet for ice-cream purchases that provide fodder to a media that refuses to cover him critically, but taxpayer money that has been allocated to pay for federal disaster relief is not his personal piggybank. As Charlie put it, suggesting otherwise “is grotesque

Hey, Wasn’t Biden Supposed to Be the Democrats’ ‘Top Campaigner’ Right about Now?

Loading...
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Democratic National Committee rally in Rockville, Md., August 25, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In late August, we were told that a new and improved, reinvigorated, charged-up President Joe Biden was “embracing the role of the Democratic Party’s top campaigner” and “that the president’s advisers are betting that he can help Democratic candidates despite the drag on his popularity.” You could be forgiven for being skeptical, as Biden’s job-approval rating had increased a bit, but was still in the low 40s.

And Biden has indeed done a lot of Democratic National Committee dinners and fundraisers. Unsurprisingly, wealthy Democratic donors are still willing to pay up to sit in a house or banquet hall and hear

Sports

Why 62 Is Hard

Loading...
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) watches hits his 50th home run of the season against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., August 29, 2022. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

In response to 62 Ain’t Easy

Rich notes the difficulty that Aaron Judge has had at getting over the hump with his pursuit of 62 home runs. But it isn’t merely that hitting that many home runs is hard, or that the closer a player gets to that record, the more pressure there is on every at bat. There’s also the fact that pitchers, who don’t want to be remembered as the answer to a trivia question about giving up a historic home run, no longer are willing to give you any pitches to hit.

Consider this, from before yesterday’s game:

With so few hittable pitches, Judge has been left with a choice — either be patient and don’t swing at pitches out of the zone, or start chasing pitches. It’s no wonder he’s been alternating between walks and strikeouts as of late.

Law & the Courts

Jonathan Turley: Judge Ho’s Boycott Will Not Change Yale Law

Loading...
Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 4, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Last week, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Ho announced that he would no longer look to recruit clerks from Yale Law School (YLS) and encouraged others in the judiciary to do the same because of the university’s “closed and intolerant environment.” The nation’s top-ranked law school has undoubtedly been reduced to an intolerant cesspool hostile to anyone with heterodox views, as evidenced by last year’s infamous “Trap House” imbroglio.

But some prominent voices are casting doubt on the potential efficacy of Judge Ho’s decision. One of those skeptics is George Washington University Law School legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who claims this move will only exacerbate the plight of the besieged conservative students at YLS without inducing any difference in behavior. 

While believing that Judge Ho is “right on the merits” concerning problems at YLS, Turley disputes his means. In addition to rejecting the notion that Yale students “should be the subject of a boycott for the failure of the faculty,” he explains how the judge’s boycott will do little to fix the culture or administration in New Haven:

Even if the boycott were successful in dramatically reducing the prestigious clerkship for the school, it would likely not produce a change of behavior by the faculty. The sad reality is that many professors long ago jettisoned the interests of their students and their institution in favor of pursuing their own agendas.

Turley hits the nail on the head. Conservatives have tried this before in other areas. Elite woke-captured institutions resist incentives to change their illiberal ways not only because their unrivaled reputation has immunized them. They don’t respond to conservative public-pressure campaigns because the individual actors within them feel they don’t have to. Most professors at YLS lack institutional fealty. Their allegiance lies with the dogma to which they’ve wedded themselves.

Insofar as academics are willing to sacrifice institutional desiderata at the altar of intersectionality, conservatives are best off maintaining some skin in the game and rejecting the academic equivalent of the “Benedict Option.” Attempts to establish sanctuaries of normalcy like the Univerity of Austin are helpful but not a panacea. It’s better to play the game than to be an onlooker from the sidelines.

Sports

62 Ain’t Easy

Loading...

I’m still bullish on Aaron Judge breaking the single-season home-run record in the handful of regular-season games left, but his (relative) struggles since hitting 60 go to how hard this is and what an achievement it is to get up there with Ruth and Maris without flagrant cheating.

Politics & Policy

Re: ‘Mean Tweets’

Loading...

In response to ‘Mean Tweets’

I agree with everything that’s been said regarding Trump’s blast at McConnell and his wife: (1) It’s profoundly unworthy; (2) it’s intra-Republican fratricide of the crudest and dumbest sort on the cusp of an important election; (3) it’s part of the reason why Trump lost a winnable election in 2020; and (4) it’s one of the reasons he’d be more likely than any other Republican to lose a winnable election in 2024.

OPEC to Biden: Joe Who?

Loading...
President Joe Biden announces the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

I have written before about the way that President Biden’s mission to persuade OPEC (and its associates) to boost production has not proved to be much of a success.

Here’s more, via the Financial Times:

The Opec+ oil alliance is planning a substantial cut in production to prop up falling prices, according to people close to the discussions, as the group prepares to meet in person for the first time since March 2020.

The oil group, which is led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, is expected to discuss a production cut that could total more than 1mn barrels a day at the meeting

Politics & Policy

Does Hurricane Relief Need DEI?

Loading...

One notable thing about Kamala Harris’s remarks last week concerning pursuing “equity” through hurricane relief is that she said them at all. A better politician with some experience appealing to genuine swing voters would have had a flashing “stop” sign go off in his or her head before getting anywhere close to saying what she did. And, remarkably, she got applause at the event (the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum). Harris largely exists in a progressive bubble, and it shows.

Culture

For Republicans, Transgenderism Is a Winning Issue

Loading...

I wrote a piece about how Republicans are winning the transgender culture war — and why this matters for the midterms.

Fiscal Policy

On the Necessity — or Not — of Income Taxes

Loading...
Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee (Aneese/Getty Images)

It’s conventional wisdom that individual income taxes are vital ways for governments to raise revenue. But as Chris Edwards points out in a Cato Institute blog post, nine of the 50 states don’t have an individual income tax. That’s enough of a sample for a simple comparison, and it allows us to see how state governments can manage without taxing individual income.

The nine states that don’t have an individual income tax are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Edwards notes that Alaska and Wyoming are unusual because they have small populations and generate so much revenue from taxes on the energy industry. “That leaves seven states without individual income taxes that others may seek to emulate,” he writes. Those seven states are of varying sizes, spread out around the country, and have different political cultures, from red Tennessee to purple New Hampshire to blue Washington.

Is it the case that not having an individual income tax means only that all the other taxes are higher to compensate? Edwards writes that the states without an income tax do have higher property taxes and sales taxes, but the overall tax burden remains lower. The total tax burden is 8.1 percent of personal income in the seven states, compared to 9.6 percent in the states with income taxes.

Edwards makes some specific comparisons between New York and Florida that are illuminating. “New York has the highest state‐​local tax burden in the nation at 13.9 percent, which is almost twice Florida’s burden of 7.2 percent,” he writes. Also, “New York’s bureaucracy is 34 percent larger than Florida’s, even though Florida has more residents.” In a sort of perverse way, New Yorkers are getting what they pay for.

Proposals to completely abolish a tax are commonly considered foolish or irresponsible, but it’s clear from experience that not having a state income tax is entirely manageable, and it may even contribute to smaller government overall. As Russ Latino wrote for Capital Matters earlier this year, Mississippi has been a leader on state tax reform, and politicians there are considering full repeal of the income tax as a next step. State leaders across the country should be encouraged by the examples of the seven states that Edwards highlights, and eliminating the individual income tax should be on the table.

Sports

For Female High-School Athletes, Injustice Continues

Loading...

One of the protections that Title IX was supposed to guarantee was that girls and young women would not face retaliatory punishment for reporting discrimination based on sex. Nevertheless, most members of a high-school volleyball team in Vermont have been barred from their own locker room and are even being investigated for harassment after expressing discomfort with sharing their locker room with a male trans-identifying student.

Blake Allen, a member of Randolph High School’s girls’ volleyball team, told WCAX that she “should not have harassment charges or bullying charges” made against her merely for “stating my opinion — that I don’t want a biological man changing with me.” According to Allen, the dispute began when the trans-identifying male made an inappropriate comment as the girls were getting changed.

Once again, the message to young female athletes is clear — shut up, step to the side, and accept that some young man’s feelings are more important than your right to privacy and safety.

The Supreme Court Joins the Section 230 Fight — Halfway

Loading...
A visiting school group walks along the plaza at the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2022. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The past two decades have witnessed an enormous growth in social-media platforms, including platforms for discussion (Twitter and Facebook), search engines (Google), video (YouTube and TikTok), web hosting (Amazon), and fundraising and payment (GoFundMe, PayPal, Venmo). There has been an accompanying consolidation on a handful of platforms of political discussion, including journalism, debate, activism, fundraising, and advertising. Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, enacted in 1996 at the dawn of the Internet age, has become a lightning rod for a larger public debate over free speech on the Internet in general and social-media platforms in particular. That debate centers

Politics & Policy

‘Mean Tweets’

Loading...
(Steve Marcus/Reuters)

As Jay notes, Donald Trump wrote this on his failing TruthSocial platform last week:

People who complain about this sort of behavior are often met with a retort that is supposedly self-evident in its meaning and importance: “mean tweets!” The idea behind this line is that Trump’s presidency was fine, except for the “mean tweets,” which, when compared to the ills we’re suffering under President Biden, ought to fade into obscurity.

But this is silly. For a start, “mean tweets” were not the only problem with the way Donald Trump behaved as president, and they’re not the only reason he lost the 2020 election. In effect, “mean tweets” is similar to “tan suit!” — which is what progressives tend reflexively to say whenever President Obama’s scandals are brought up. Obama had many scandals, and his wearing a tan suit was not among them. Trump had many terrible moments, and they cannot be usefully reduced to “mean tweets.” His “mean tweets” were certainly a symptom, but they were not the disease.

But, beyond that, “mean tweets!” isn’t actually a defense of anything, is it? What, exactly, is Trump achieving by tweeting — well, “truthing” — in that manner? He’s lying: McConnell has not been “approving all of these Trillions of Dollars worth of Democrat sponsored Bills,” and nor does McConnell support the Green New Deal. These are claims that have lost all contact with reality. He’s attacking a guy on his own side — a guy without whom almost all of Trump’s achievements as president would have been impossible. And he’s not only attacking a woman based on her race, he’s attacking a woman who served in his own cabinet. We’re told that Trump “fights.” But what is he “fighting” here? What does this do for Republican voters? Forget, for a moment, that it’s grotesque. What, in a purely amoral sense, is the point?

And why would anyone choose to go through it all again? I comprehend the argument that, once Trump has been chosen as the nominee, voters have a binary choice. I also comprehend the argument that, for example, saving unborn children is more important than what Donald Trump says on the Internet. I do not understand why, when one doesn’t have to, one would ever choose to elevate Trump above his current station. At the moment, he really does just have “mean tweets” to offer up. Let’s keep it that way.

Politics & Policy

Adam Kinzinger Is a Dishonest Clown

Loading...
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) questions witnesses during a hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., September 16, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters)

Over the weekend, in the sort of Twitter episode we typically associate with a blood-alcohol-level that disqualifies a person from operating heavy machinery, Representative Adam Kinzinger decided that our own Dan McLaughlin was a stooge for Vladimir Putin.

Why? Well, that’s not really clear. “Here is what’s amazing,” Kinzinger wrote on Twitter. “In Ukraine they appreciate life, in Russia Putin gives you a car (lada) for your son. But he won’t spend time appreciating your sacrifice. Keep this in mind pro-lifers.”

So far, so incomprehensible. Then, somehow, it got worse. When Dan asked, “WTF does any of this have to do with pro-lifers?” Kinzinger responded: “I’m pro-life. But you all defend Putin for some reason.”

To make matters still worse, Kinzinger added:

Really? Dan McLaughlin “defends Putin”? Dan McLaughlin has been silent on Putin and his invasion of Ukraine? The Dan McLaughlin whose judgments of Putin have been — without exception — that he’s “a James Bond villain . . . who has invaded his neighbors before”; that he’s a “dictator” and a “strongman”; that he’s “the bad guy” who runs a “repressive state” on “brute force and bluster”; that he heads up a “revanchist Russia” that “seeks the extermination of the Ukrainian state”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has written that “Putin is the bad actor here; he’s what drives the war. If you’re morally indifferent to that, you’ve elevated neutrality above virtue or order”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has complained that, while most Republicans back Ukraine, a “fair number of Trump partisans in the media to see Putin as a friend in domestic American political squabbles”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has said of Zelensky that he “is everything you could ask from a man whose country is against the wall: emotional, determined, and specifically evocative rather than windy and general”? The same Dan McLaughlin who wrote: “Godspeed to Zelensky and his nation in this hour of need”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has observed of Ukraine: “Ukraine today is the face of how democracy, liberty, & national self-determination look in much of the world in 2022: fitful & flawed, but deserving of more chances to survive & improve. Russia is the face of the ancient enemy of all those things, bent on extinguishing them”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has proposed that “if your sympathies are visibly not with Ukraine against Russia in this war, expect people to lose respect for you”? The same Dan McLaughlin who has contended that “Putin’s regime is malicious and a malignant influence on the politics of the U.S. and other democratic nations”? That one?

Maybe Kinzinger mistook Dan for the editors of National Review? That seems unlikely, given that their stated views have been that: (1) Joe Biden erred by “inadvertently encouraging a Russian invasion of Ukraine”; that Putin’s case for the invasion was “delusional” and based upon “a fanciful version of history and a litany of grievances that only an ideological fanatic could consider legitimate,” and that they have opened “a new, more dangerous chapter in the history of the West, one that the U.S. and its allies will have to meet with urgency and resolve”; (2) that the “Senate was right” to spend $40 billion on aid to Ukraine, because “Vladimir Putin is waging a war of aggression that we should want to fail,” because “Putin is in a de facto alliance with China and Iran to end the global preeminence of the U.S.-led Western world,” and because “Ukraine deserves all the assistance we can reasonably supply it”; (3) that “we should continue to strongly back the Ukrainians,” that “it is Russia, of course, that bears the responsibility for all this,” and that “if there were justice in the world, every last Russian tank and rocket launcher would be ground to dust and Vladimir Putin chased from power”; and, most recently, (4) that it is a disgrace that the “Kremlin was planning to hold sham referenda in the occupied regions in order to claim a patina of legitimacy and legality for its brutal occupation.”

As for me: My clearly stated view of Putin is that he is “evil”; that his rule has been one of “perversion”; that he is a “tyrant who calls himself . . . president”; and that, while I worried about the likelihood of such an outcome, what I would like to have happened in Ukraine was that:

Outraged by Russia’s aggression, armed Ukrainians in both the country’s military and its spontaneously formed civilian militias are able to fight hard enough in all regions that the demoralized and confused Russian army retreats with its tail between its legs. Appalled by the spectacle, and vowing “never again,” the international community comes together to turn Russia into a pariah state — limiting its access to international institutions, weakening its economy, draining the country of talent, and making Vladimir Putin’s position untenable even within his own circle.

Alarmed by their vulnerability, previously unreliable nations such as Germany commit to increasing defense spending and to taking NATO more seriously. In the West, the tales of Ukrainian bravery become the stuff of legend, and in Ukraine, President Zelensky cruises to reelection as the new symbol of national resolve. In casual conversation, “Zelensky” and “Putin” become avatars of Good and Evil, while “invading Ukraine” becomes colloquial shorthand for “doing something stupid.” Putin is forced out of office, and Russia reforms itself. The experiment is universally deemed to have been a failure, and we learn that, despite all odds, the world has changed substantially since the mid 20th century.

But, of course, there was no mistaken identity here. There was just an incoherent statement, a desperate attempt to rescue it, and then the sort of weak, petty, characterless, monomaniacal refusal to admit error that Kinzinger seems to believe that he is above, but which, increasingly, he personifies all too well.

Law & the Courts

Where Does Georgia Go to Get Its Reputation Back?

Loading...

We have an editorial up on the ruling made by a federal judge last week shredding the Stacey Abrams case against Georgia.

 

 

Politics & Policy

‘Bend the Knee’?

Loading...
President Joe Biden participates in a briefing alongside Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, in Miami, Fla., July 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

This is doing the rounds:

As it turns out, this isn’t a recent photograph of Governor DeSantis and President Biden; it’s from their meeting last year, after the collapse of the condo down in Surfside. But forget that for a moment, and ask yourself, “What, exactly, is Tom Watson saying here?”

President Biden is the temporary head of the executive branch of the American federal government. He is not an emperor. His job, as defined in the Constitution, is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The idea that a state governor who wishes to use emergency funds that Congress has explicitly allocated for that purpose would have to “bend the knee” in order to obtain them is grotesque and fascistic. The laws of the United States do not create a federal slush fund that the president can condescend to dole out if he happens to like the governor who has requested help, and nor do they require those governors to like, agree with, or be polite to the incumbent president. There is nothing hypocritical — or even interesting — about Governor DeSantis’s working with the federal government in the area of disaster relief, and there is nothing hypocritical — or even interesting — about Joe Biden’s working with Governor DeSantis. Both men are doing their jobs.

The term “banana republic” is thrown around far too much in our politics, but, if this were the way it all worked, then we would, indeed, live in one. Evidently, Tom Watson believes that we do. Thankfully, President Biden and Governor DeSantis — both of whom have done a good job here — do not.

What If the Unthinkable Isn’t Quite So Unthinkable Anymore?

Loading...
Mushroom cloud of the first nuclear explosion, July 16, 1945, southeast of Socorro, New Mexico. (Wikipedia/Public Domain)

Some foreign-policy voices who follow the war in Ukraine closely seem genuinely unnerved about how Russians are now casually discussing, or even encouraging, the use of nuclear weapons.

The partial mobilization in Russia, the still-anonymous attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, Putin’s comment that Hiroshima established a precedent for using nuclear weapons in war: It definitely feels as if we’re dealing with a different Russia now — angrier, more desperate, more erratic.

“Where we are now after this Ukraine success in the north is not that point [of using nuclear weapons],” former national-security adviser John Bolton said on WABC, “but it is

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Cities

Loading...

Joel Kotkin goes in-depth on the future of cities and the trends that are changing the way they might look:

We seem to be at the beginning of a new epoch, much as occurred during the rise of mercantile cities after the Middle Ages and the emergence of industrial cities in the 19th century. Now we are seeing the fading of what Jean Gottman described four decades ago as the “transactional city,” an economy based on finance, high-end business services, and information. In this city, urban grandeur has been defined not by great cathedrals or palaces but soaring office towers. That made sense at the time, but now these ultra-tall buildings are becoming as anachronistic as the old factories that once drove urban economies. For one thing, notes one analyst, firms that once needed a whole floor just to tap their computing power can now perform most of their technical tasks remotely.

Read the whole thing here.

Education

Slavery and Prosperity

Loading...

To what extent is the current prosperity we enjoy due to slavery that ended a century and a half ago? It’s an article of faith among American leftists that the results of slavery are still very much with us. Students are often taught that in high school and go on believing so — unless they happen to mention it to one of the few college professors who can and will respond intelligently.

In this AIER article, GMU economics professor Don Boudreaux relates a conversation with a student who has been led to believe that American prosperity isn’t due to market competition and free enterprise, but is instead rooted in and tainted by slavery.

Read it to get a good sense of how high schoolers are being indoctrinated by clueless teachers who spout economic and historic disinformation.

Also, ponder what other beliefs this student probably holds on account of her “education.” I’d suggest that she believes that the country should pay reparations for slavery, that capitalism is an unfair, racist system, and that the Great Reset to replace the free market with a completely government-controlled economic system is imperative.

Is it any wonder that so many “highly educated” Americans now automatically support the Democrats?

Law & the Courts

Laurence Silberman, 1935–2022

Loading...
Judge Laurence Silberman (R) and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb (L) of Virginia answer questions in Washington, D.C., March 31, 2005. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sad to learn this weekend that Judge Laurence Silberman has died at the age of 86. The term public servant was made for Americans such as Silberman, but it barely begins to describe his significance.

He entered government service in 1969, in Richard Nixon’s Department of Labor, became Deputy Attorney General in 1974, and the American ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1975. He then worked in the private sector for a time (including as a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, alongside Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork, and others busy laying the intellectual groundwork for judicial originalism). In 1985, Ronald Reagan nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, often thought of as the second-highest court in the land. He was a full-time judge on that court for the next 15 years, and served as a judge in senior status for another two decades, right through this summer.

Silberman was among the most important judges never appointed to the Supreme Court, authoring influential opinions regarding gun control, the independent counsel statutes, the Patriot Act, the Commerce Clause, and other crucial legal and constitutional questions. His opinions were models of how to put the meaning of the Constitution and the laws above the wishes of the judge. And it was in that mold that he also shaped generations of originalist scholars, lawyers, and judges who served as his clerks — including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Silberman never lost a step as a sharp and thoughtful legal thinker: A wonderful speech he delivered as a Constitution Day lecture at Dartmouth last month was just published in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with him at a conference in August, where not only his intellect but also his charm, wit, and energy were impossible to miss. But above all, on that occasion and in general, it was his decency, humanity, and good humor that stood out. He loved his country and its people, and they were terribly lucky to have him. R.I.P.

International

Natural Gas: Russia Puts the Pressure on Italy’s (Likely) New Government

Loading...
The pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy, owned by Gazprom, which Russia may use to complete construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, in a bay near the Baltic Sea port of Baltiysk, Kaliningrad Region, Russia, May 3, 2020. (Vitaly Nevar/Reuters)

More, uh, “technical” problems for Gazprom.

The Wall Street Journal:

Russian gas giant Gazprom PJSC said it suspended its natural-gas deliveries to Italy over the weekend after it didn’t receive authorization for the pipeline flows via Austria.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the interruption was a temporary bureaucratic glitch, or whether Italy has now joined the growing list of European Union countries that have been cut off from Russian gas.

Austrian authorities said Gazprom had not signed up to changes in supply contracts required by regulatory adjustments that are made every year, and which Gazprom had known about for months. Gazprom, Austria’s government and Italian energy company Eni SpA said they were working to find a solution.

This may be only a coincidence, but the new Italian government looks as if it will be led by Giorgia Meloni of the “post-fascist” (a misleading description: Their post-fascism is more a matter of political genealogy than ideology) Brothers of Italy in a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. While Meloni has thrown some bouquets Putin’s way in the past, she has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Reuters:

Meloni has been one of the few Italian political leaders to wholeheartedly endorse outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s decision to ship weapons to Ukraine, even though she was in opposition to his government.

And via CEPA:

Giorgia Meloni describes herself as an ardent Atlanticist. Together with the vast majority of traditional parties, including the League and Go Italy, she has indicated that the new right-wing government will continue to support Ukraine, maintain sanctions against Russia, and fulfill Italy’s international commitments. One prominent member of Brothers of Italy, Senator Adolfo Urso, visited Ukraine and the US earlier in September to reassure both countries about his party’s unwavering Atlanticism. A fifth package of weapons will likely be among the priorities of the new executive as confirmed by the recent visit of former Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini, when he promised Italy’s support for as long as necessary.

But (via Reuters):

By contrast, Meloni’s two political allies, the League and Forza Italia, which were both in Draghi’s coalition, have been much more ambivalent, reflecting their historically close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Underscoring the depth of those ties, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi said last week that Putin had been “pushed” into invading Ukraine and had wanted to put “decent people” in charge of Kyiv.

It’s not too difficult to see the game that the Kremlin is playing.

Back to the Journal:

For Italy, the loss of remaining Russian gas deliveries would no longer be a major blow. Russian gas accounts for a single-digit percentage of Italy’s gas supply, following moves by Eni and the Rome government to secure increased gas imports from other suppliers, including Algeria, Norway, Egypt, Qatar and Azerbaijan.

Italy’s gas inflows exceed demand from Italian households and businesses, helping the country to fill its gas reservoirs to 90% ahead of winter and export surplus gas to other European nations. However, the high price of gas amid a pan-European scramble to fill reservoirs and replace Russian gas is imposing a heavy economic burden on Italy and other EU countries.

Analysts said it wasn’t yet clear if the gas would be able to arrive in Italy via another route through Switzerland. Though the gas doesn’t represent a huge loss to the Italian market, if it stops flowing to Europe altogether the cut could further complicate efforts by the EU to make it through winter without rationing fuel, they said.

Then again, there is the winter of 2023/24 to think of. In all likelihood, there won’t be any Russian gas to refill those reservoirs. And, in the meantime, Italy’s finances are a looking a little shaky. . . .

Law & the Courts

Judge Laurence Silberman, Iconic Jurist, Dead at 86

Loading...
Then-President George W. Bush (R) presents a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Laurence H. Silberman (L) during an East Room ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2008. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

One of the true titans of the federal judiciary, Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has passed away at 86.

As it should be, reflections are pouring in. I recommend those of Josh Blackman at Volokh (which includes a great story about Judge Silberman’s views on keeping the judiciary out of politics) and Paul Clement in the Wall Street Journal. Clement, like Justice Amy Coney Barrett and our friend Professor John Yoo, is just one of the country’s brilliant and legal lights who was mentored by Judge Silberman before clerking on the Supreme Court. The Journal also has a great editorial on the judge’s life and, as Blackman observes, made a point Friday of publishing as an op-ed Silberman’s stirring talk last month during a Constitution Day event at his undergraduate alma mater, Dartmouth, on the vital place of free speech in American democracy.

One of the themes of Silberman’s speech was an opinion he wrote not so long ago — I’d say a notable and insightful opinion, but that would describe too many of his opinions to be very helpful — urging that the Supreme Court’s libel ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan be overturned. I wrote about the dissent shortly after Silberman issued it last year. Characteristically, it is rooted in the Constitution and a deeply principled grasp of the judicial role, which is more than can be said about the high court’s 1964 decision, so beloved by the media and by progressives who look to the judiciary to drive their policy preferences through the Constitution’s strictures.

Could Sullivan ever be overturned? Judge Silberman had a way of making the unlikely seem possible. That is attested by his opinions that laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court’s articulation of Second Amendment safeguards in Heller and for Justice Scalia’s great dissent in Morrison v. Olson, which dismantled the concept of prosecutors independent from the executive branch — wisdom that led Congress to let the statutory experiment lapse (after presidents of both parties had been burned by it).

Judge Silberman’s contributions to our nation transcend his stellar service as a judge. Silberman’s Dartmouth speech fondly recalled his time as American ambassador to Yugoslavia. As Charlie recently pointed out, it was Silberman who, as deputy attorney general in 1974, was assigned to review J. Edgar Hoover’s secret files, and was horrified by the extent to which the FBI’s founding director had exploited the bureau’s awesome powers for nakedly political and extortionate purposes.

The Journal’s editorial recounts Silberman’s service, in conjunction with former Senator Chuck Robb, on the commission that reviewed intelligence failures in connection with the Iraq War and refuted the partisan claims that the Bush 43 administration had deliberately misrepresented intelligence to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion. Blackman recounts how Silberman suspended his judicial work to serve on the commission, which — as the Journal’s editorial notes — the judge considered his most important act of public service.

The country has lost a great American patriot and a model jurist. Requiescat in pace.

Film & TV

Rodney and Other Marvels

Loading...
Rodney Dangerfield in March 2004 (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

In the title of a piece today, I call Harvey Mansfield “our professor.” What do I mean by that? I give the answer in the piece itself: “He is a conservative, one of the few at Harvard, if not the only one. We conservatives — wherever we live, wherever we have gone to college — value him highly.”

Mansfield has started his new school year, at Harvard, as he has been doing for quite a while. He matriculated as a freshman in 1949; he joined the faculty in 1962.

With him, I have discussed some key questions: “What is a ‘liberal,’ what is a ‘conservative’? Do ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ still have meaning? What is college for?”

There is also the question of manliness — about which Mansfield wrote a book, about 15 years ago. The question of manliness has been in the air lately: What constitutes a “real man”?

Let me publish a note from a colleague of mine, Nick Frankovich:

Mansfield gave a talk at Columbia shortly after Manliness was published. A theatrical left-wing student and then a theatrical right-wing student went at it and made some pitch for the audience’s attention. I forget what their pretexts were. I remember that Mansfield kept his composure, sense of humor, and grace.

I can picture it. Easy to picture.

In a column last week, I mentioned Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and, in particular, George F. Will’s opinion of it. Writing in June 1986, when it was playing in theaters, George called Ferris “the greatest movie of all time.”

He elaborated, “By ‘greatest movie’ I mean the moviest movie, the one most true to the general spirit of movies, the spirit of effortless escapism.”

A note from a reader:

Hi, Jay,

. . . I am writing to argue with George Will about Ferris Bueller. Ferris is awesome, but the best movie that year was Back to School, with good old Rodney Dangerfield. Thirty-six years later and I can still quote lines from it and almost laugh like a 13-year-old again. Here’s to the Triple Lindy and have a great day.

In May of this year, I published a picture by Hans Goeckner, a physics prof in Chicago. It was of a northern flicker. He has sent me a different picture — of the newly restored dome in the Chicago Cultural Center. An article about the restoration says,

Installed in 1897 as a feature of the Chicago Public Library, the 40-foot diameter Tiffany-designed stained-glass dome had become covered in grime and paint, and cut off from the natural light that brought out the brilliant colors of the glass.

Writes Professor Goeckner,

I was walking past the center last Friday and decided I’d never seen the dome in person. I had to put my phone (I didn’t have my proper camera with me) on the floor with the lens zoomed out to the widest angle to get the whole glass dome.

Just great. Thanks to one and all.

Education

A Professor’s Lament

Loading...

Are American college students getting better, or worse?

We often hear from the higher-ed establishment that they’re getting better. Grades are rising, so they must be learning more. So, let’s get even more people into college and thereby lift up the whole nation.

Not so fast. In today’s Martin Center article, economics professor Clark Ross of Davidson rains on that parade with a host of observations about how his students have changed over the decades.

He writes, “This past spring, with 31 student grades administered, I had a GPA of 2.4, essentially a flat ‘C.’ My course is a 14-week, one-semester class that covers both introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics. Of my 31 students this spring semester, I had about 12 who showed strong interest in economic theory and performed well. Others appeared baffled by the theory, in both microeconomics and macroeconomics; nine students received a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F.’ This performance was perhaps the worst by a group that I have had in 50 years of teaching introductory economics, going back to my first such offering in 1972.”

What’s the problem? Ross points to a number of factors, including declining mathematical ability and more class-cutting. Students often miss key concepts and then fail to get caught up on them. Many are reluctant to seek extra help from the professor. Today’s students are definitely learning less about economics than did Professor Ross’s students 20 and more years ago.

What to do? Ross offers some good advice for both faculty and students — but will they take any of it?

Politics & Policy

A Frank and Understandable Word

Loading...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

‘Coco Chow’ and the Spirit of Now

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

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

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

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

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

I guess Lindsey Graham is out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World

‘That War over There’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause to consider the phrase “Ukrainian-occupied.”

CPAC went on,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S.

Scenes from the Anarchy in Portland

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

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

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

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

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

Ongoing vandalism discourages business owners in downtown Portland:

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

Portland community responds to four homicides in 24 hours:

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

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

Health Care

Why We Will Never Control Medical Costs

Loading...
(digicomphoto/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about this?

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

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

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

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

EV Trucks Are Not Trucks

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

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

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

U.S.

Human Composting in California

Loading...

This feels like metaphor overload:

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