Health Care

Affirmative Dissent

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I’d encourage everyone interested in the debate over gender transition for children to read this short essay by Leor Sapir. This part (among many others) had the ring of truth: “Over the past two decades in the United States, pediatric gender transition has evolved well beyond, and even against, the original intentions of the Dutch experts. American-style affirmative care has taken on all the trappings of our therapeutic-oriented, pharmaceutical-driven, individualistic culture.”

National Security & Defense

Biden Keeping Iranian Plot to Kill John Bolton under Wraps to Avoid Derailing Nuclear Deal: Report

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Then-White House national security adviser John Bolton in 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have been plotting to assassinate John Bolton, former national-security adviser in the Trump administration, says a Justice Department official with direct knowledge of the government’s investigation of the suspected plot. That is according to Tom Rogan, who reported the development in the Washington Examiner on Monday.

The DOJ source told Rogan that prosecutors have enough evidence to indict two Iranians attached to the IRGC’s Quds force, but that the Biden administration has resisted filing public charges for fear that it could derail their ongoing effort to strike a nuclear deal with Tehran.

When contacted by the Examiner, a DOJ official denied that charging decisions are driven by “these kinds of policy considerations.” Based on my own experience as a prosecutor handling matters that had foreign-relations implications, I am surprised to hear a Justice Department official say that.

Iran has also threatened former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as other former Trump officials who worked on issues related to Iran. As Rogan notes, Congress in late 2020 approved the stepping up of Pompeo’s security detail beyond his government tenure principally because of Iranian threats. There have also been reports of more robust Secret Service presence around Bolton since January. Rogan states that the suspected Iranian plot against Bolton is “believed to have precipitated [Biden] national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s Jan. 9 warning to Iran that the U.S. would protect officials ‘serving the United States now and those who formerly served.’”

For decades, as a government official in several Republican administrations and as a public commentator on foreign-policy and national-security issues, Bolton has been one of the nation’s staunchest critics of the Iranian regime, long the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-American terrorism. The IRGC is a formally designated terrorist organization under U.S. law.

When Bolton was national-security adviser, then-President Trump directed a military strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force. As Rogan observes, according to current and former U.S. government officials, “the Quds Force’s current commander, Esmail Qaani, is believed to have been tasked by [Iran’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] with avenging Soleimani with the high-profile assassination of a U.S. official.”

As I have detailed in recent days (see here, here, and here), in the nuclear deal the Biden administration contemplates striking with Iran — through the intercession of Russia, even as it executes its brutal, unprovoked war in Ukraine — the president’s chief envoy, Robert Malley, is reportedly negotiating the removal of the IRGC from the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations. (See David Harsanyi’s profile of Malley, posted on NR yesterday.) Biden’s new Russia-Iran nuclear deal would reportedly also lift sanctions on Iran and its components, such as the IRGC, for activities such as terrorism promotion, ballistic-missile development, regional aggression, and human-rights abuses that were not covered in the 2015 Obama/Biden administration’s Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – or JCPOA). Yet, Biden officials are poised to take the position that their new deal needn’t be presented to Congress because it merely revives the JCPOA, which Congress reviewed in 2015.

As the Trump State Department detailed in the government’s long overdue 2019 designation of the IRGC, the IRGC has coordinated jihadist attacks by Iranian proxies for over 40 years. Moreover, the federal courts have found that the IRGC was principally responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 members of the U.S. Air Force were killed.

Iran has been formally designated as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984. The Quds Force was listed by the Bush Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist in 2007, and the Trump Treasury Department similarly listed the IRGC in 2017. Sanctions were placed on the IRGC in 2007 for its support for Iran’s ballistic-missile and nuclear programs, and in 2011 and 2012 for its abetting of Iran’s human-rights abuses.

Now, we have a purported plot to kill a prominent American security official. So, why wouldn’t we want to help the Iranians with a program that will yield nuclear weapons in short order, and in the interim help them by lifting sanctions on their anti-American terrorism so they can subsidize more anti-American terrorism — all with the help of our other negotiating partner, Vladimir Putin?

The Economy

The White House Gaslights on Gas

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A Huffington Post headline from last night crows: “Jen Psaki Schools Fox News’ Peter Doocy With Facts: ‘I Know That Can Be Inconvenient.’ Doocy, the Post reported, had “trie[d] to blame rising gas prices on the Biden administration rather than Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.” But thankfully, “no-nonsense White House press secretary Jen Psaki” schooled him, using “‘facts’ to shoot down” the reporter’s “hectoring questions.” As the Huffington Post tells it, Doocy was simply no match for Psaki’s awesome power.

In response to Doocy’s dismissing “the widely held position that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered the recent leap in costs,” as the Huffington Post put it, Psaki maintained that “there’s no question that, as we have seen — and outside analysts have conveyed this as well — the increase and the continued increase . . . is a direct result of the invasion of Ukraine.” Doocy responded by asking why the White House was “asking other countries to think about maybe pumping more oil — why not just do it here?” To that, Psaki replied: “Well, just to be very clear, federal policies are not limiting the supplies of oil and gas.” When Doocy subsequently interjected by citing numerous examples in which the Biden administration had, in fact, limited oil and gas, Psaki fired back that she was going to “give you the facts here, and I know that can be inconvenient, but I think they’re important in this moment.”

No facts followed. What did follow, however, was the White House’s new line on skyrocketing gas prices: “The suggestion that we are not allowing companies to drill is inaccurate,” Psaki said. “The suggestion that that is what is hindering or preventing gas prices to come down is inaccurate.” That was echoed by the president himself at a press conference today: “Let me be clear,” Biden said. “It’s simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production. That’s simply not true.”

There’s just one small problem: It is, in fact, true. “Interior has been slow-rolling oil and gas permits since Mr. Biden took office,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote last week. Citing “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil-and-gas companies,” the White House told the Federal Trade Commission to “bring all of the Commission’s tools to bear if you uncover any wrongdoing” in November 2021. Biden’s flurry of executive orders during his first months in office included killing the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada to the U.S., and halting new oil and natural-gas drilling on public lands and waters. Last month, the administration indefinitely halted all new drilling permits altogether. 

The effect of all that has been exactly what you’d expect — American energy costs have been steadily climbing. This was already evident last December, as Deroy Murdock noted in the New York Post:

In October [2021], US oil drilling had plunged 38 percent versus October 2019, before COVID-19 derailed the booming Trump-GOP economy. With supply down and demand up (as COVID-related instability has eased), regular unleaded gasoline retailed on Oct. 25 for $3.38 per gallon compared with $2.59 on Oct. 28, 2019 — up 30.5 percent. On those dates, the New York Mercantile Exchange’s price for West Texas Intermediate crude was $83.94 per barrel, versus $56.65 — up 48.2 percent. Likewise, natural-gas drilling had slid 28.9 percent while prices were $5.90 per million BTUs vs. $2.45 — up 140.8 percent.

Now, I’m on the record as being a green. I actually do think climate change is a serious issue that we will have to contend with in my lifetime, and I think American leadership on clean-energy innovation and manufacturing is in the national interest. We used to lead the world on green technology: From the 1950s through the 1980s, for example, the U.S. controlled more than 90 percent of the solar market. But by the mid-2000s, we were producing a mere 9 percent of solar panels worldwide, having outsourced production of any number of clean-energy technologies to China. In the National Interest, Thomas Hochman (full disclosure: my younger brother) argues that, as the global economy becomes more organized around clean energy — and less dependent on fossil fuels — the United States would benefit from positioning itself as a leader in both green innovation and production. Particularly when it comes to energy, economic competition does not exist within a vacuum, and countries often leverage their natural resources as a foreign policy tool,” Hochman writes. “Energy security and independence are not abstract concerns; they have material consequences for American security and prosperity in both the short and the long term.”

With that being said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way would be to, say, halt Keystone XL — which does literally nothing to reduce carbon emissions, as I’ve written before — and then to gaslight the American people by blaming the Kremlin. The wrong way would be to shut down nuclear plants — the most viable source of clean energy available — in a fit of self-destructive mania, as Germany is in the process of doing.

There are a number of viable right ways to renew American leadership on clean energy and green technology. Unfortunately, the Biden administration doesn’t seem interested in any of them. Instead, it is catering to the eco-activist wing of the Democratic Party — and pinning its policy failures on a war that kicked off many months after American gas prices actually started to climb. That’s a shame.

Markets

Let’s Take a Look at Gas Prices

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(Larry Downing/Reuters)

In announcing the ban on Russian oil imports today, President Biden called the rapid increase in gas prices that Americans have seen “Putin’s price hike.”

Let’s just take a moment to look at the trend in gas prices recently.

You can use your cursor to hover over the line to see the exact date and price. That data is from the weekly time series on U.S. retail gas prices, which you can find here.

That dip in the middle of the graph is from the pandemic. You may recall in April 2020 when West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark price for U.S. oil, went negative. Stay-at-home orders meant the demand for gasoline plummeted as driving rapidly declined.

In other words, the price for gas was unusually low, and it should have been expected that it would rise as people began to drive again. That is indeed what we saw. Mid to late 2020 saw a new plateau, still well below the pre-pandemic price, still probably lower than normal since many people still weren’t traveling due to Covid.

So when Biden took office in January 2021, it was expected that the price of gasoline would rise under his watch. And it did, steadily increasing through the first part of 2021.

The price of gas on March 9, 2020, the last week before lockdowns started, was $2.375. It had returned to that level again on the week of January 18, 2021, right before Biden took office.

You can see that after a sharp increase in the first part of 2019, gas prices had been moving down gradually for a while before the pandemic began. The highest gas prices in 2019 were the week of May 6, when the price was $2.897. Gas prices reached that level again by the week of May 10, 2021.

Then, they kept going up. You’ll see that in late 2021, gas prices declined slightly. That’s not unusual in the winter months at the end of the year, when people normally drive less. You may remember Democrats trying to say that decline was a huge win for President Biden.

In January of this year, the upward trend resumed, culminating in this past week’s jump of nearly 50 cents, the largest single-week jump in this data set (which goes back to 1990).

That may be “Putin’s price hike.” But what were the rest of the price hikes?

Rising gas prices pre-existed Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil imports. And, as Kevin pointed out today, Russian oil imports account for a tiny fraction of U.S. oil consumption.

Putin’s war in Ukraine is certainly causing major problems on the global oil market. Even before this ban, most oil traders were shying away from Russian oil for fear of potential future sanctions and basic safety concerns. If you run an oil tanker company, you don’t want to send your ships into the Black Sea right now, sanctions or not.

But that’s what matters for gas prices: The global oil market. Not who occupies the Oval Office.

And not corporate greed. Biden today said in his announcement:

To the oil and gas companies and to the finance firms that back them: We understand Putin’s war against the people of Ukraine is causing prices to rise. We get that. That’s self-evident. But, but, but, but — it’s no excuse to exercise excessive price increases or padding profits or any kind of effort to exploit this situation or American consumers, exploit them. Russia’s aggression is costing us all. And it’s no time for profiteering or price gouging.

Invoking the “finance firms” here is an extra strange twist — it’s true: oil companies use money! But (but, but, but) oil companies are just as much subject to the global price of oil as American consumers are at the gas station. None of them has price-making power.

Neither the sharp increase in the first half of 2019 nor the steady decrease in the second half was due to President Trump. Neither the steady increase nor the tiny decrease in 2021 was due to President Biden. The problem for politicians is that they want to take credit when prices move down and blame everyone else when prices move up.

In keeping with that trend, Biden said today that the administration “can’t do much” about rising gas prices. He’s right! He just needs to stick to that story when prices move down, too — and stop with the economically illiterate talk about corporate greed setting prices.

Politics & Policy

If America Were Invaded . . .

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To paraphrase Charlie, the reason is: “Because we live here!

World

Refugees in Poland

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A child says goodbye to his father through the window of an evacuation train leaving Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 6, 2022. (Gleb Garanich / Reuters)

It’s estimated that in just a few short weeks, Poland has accepted over a million refugees from Ukraine. One might remember that in recent years, Poland was entirely opposed to accepting Syrian refugees, either directly traveling from the Middle East or as transfers from Italy.

There are a couple reasons why Poland has stood out in this refugee situation. This New York Times article doesn’t quite capture why the change. The first reason is that the Syrian refugees were primarily working-age men, and many were not from Syria at all but instead came from Afghanistan and Eritrea. Because Ukraine has forbidden all men aged 18–60 (!) from leaving the country — so that they can be conscripted or serve other useful purposes in a war for their national government’s survival — the vast majority of Ukrainian refugees are women and children. This presents other dangers, namely to the refugees themselves. While the Poles have responded with unbelievable charity and generosity, women and children in distress like this are supremely vulnerable to bad actors.

Another reason is that Poland in recent years has made Ukrainians into a source of domestic service and lower-wage job holders. Millions of Ukrainians have cycled through the Polish workforce in the last decade, with an average of about 1.2 million Ukrainians living in Poland on temporary visas at any one moment.

Media

Don’t Say ‘Don’t Say Gay’

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., February 24, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Here is the Associated Press announcing the passage of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill:

Here are some other headlines:

Florida Just Passed The “Don’t Say Gay” Bill — Time
‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passes Florida Senate — BBC News
Florida lawmakers pass ‘Don’t Say Gay’ — ABC News
Florida House passes ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill — NBC News
Florida House passes controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill — CBS News (only Republican bills are “controversial”)
‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passes in the Florida House — NPR

To its credit, CNN ran the most accurate headline: “Florida House approves bill prohibiting schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in K–3 classrooms.”

“Don’t Say Gay” is the moniker partisan Democrats have given the Florida bill. It is intentionally misleading. The legislation, which never mentions the word “gay” anywhere, does, as CNN notes, prohibit public-school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” That’s a lot different from what “Don’t Say Gay” implies.

If Republicans had decided to call the Democrats’ recent abortion bill — on demand, until crowning, paid for by taxpayers — the “Let’s Kill Babies” bill (though pretty accurate, actually), no major news agency would have allowed those words to creep into their reporting, much less used it in a headline. If liberals want to engage in hyperbole, that’s their business, but how can we trust outlets that shamelessly regurgitate their propaganda? (That’s rhetorical.)

World

Knights of Columbus in Ukraine and Poland Aid Refugees

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Local residents escape from the town of Irpin after heavy shelling landed on the only escape route used by locals in Irpin, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On February 25, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Knights of Columbus committed $1 million to help afflicted Ukrainians and announced a fundraising effort to provide more. To date, $4.5 million has been raised, all of it going directly to relief efforts.

The Catholic fraternal organization has set up “mercy huts” in Poland, right across the border from Ukraine. When fleeing refugees enter Poland, they can immediately receive food, medical supplies, clothing, and relief from the Eastern European winter weather. The huts are based on the principle that guided the Knights’ humanitarian efforts in Europe during World War I: “Everybody welcome, everything free.”

The organization has also begun sending supplies into Ukraine, with the first shipment arriving in Lviv on March 1. Ukrainian Knights, under the direction of the Archdiocese of Lviv, have formed a group to coordinate relief efforts in Ukraine.

Knights of Columbus director Szymon Czyszek is an attorney by trade. He graduated from the same university in Poland that Pope John Paul II attended and joined the Catholic fraternal organization in 2009.

The legacy of John Paul II and the fight against communism looms large in the Knights’ present actions, Czyszek said in a media call with reporters today. He spoke of the Solidarity movement in Poland that culminated in the end of the communist government and said he feels a similar sense of solidarity today. “There is a beautiful sign of support from Polish people to welcome Ukrainian people,” he said. “I believe this will be a transformative moment for both societies.”

Czyszek also sees God’s providence in preparing the Knights for this crisis. The Knights were only established in Poland in 2006 and in Ukraine in 2012. Czyszek said, “We grew rapidly to prepare ourselves for this moment.” There are currently 6,840 members in Poland and 1,889 in Ukraine. Having an established organization on both sides of the border gives the Knights an advantage in getting relief to people who need it.

Czyszek pointed to the founding of the organization by Father Michael McGivney, a child of Irish immigrants, and the group’s many immigrant members. In view of that heritage, he sees a special obligation for Knights to care for immigrants and refugees. Czyszek spoke of a Ukrainian couple he encountered in Poland whose few possessions were nevertheless in two suitcases. “They told me, ‘We took two suitcases because we didn’t know if we’d be allowed to stay together or be separated,'” Czyszek said.

The need is great and is likely to grow. “I think everybody is preparing for a long-term process,” said Czyszek of the movement of refugees. Yet he remains hopeful. He said the Knights have not encountered any hostility against their efforts so far, and he believes the organization is well prepared to help meet the material needs of refugees. As for people’s spiritual health, Czyszek said, “This moment of solidarity has the power to change hearts and minds.”

The Failure of Strategic Ambiguity

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President Joe Biden walks after delivering remarks on the Delta variant and his administration’s efforts to increase vaccinations in the State Dining Room of the White House, September 9, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Primary responsibility for the war in Ukraine belongs, of course, to Russia and Vladimir Putin, who invaded a neighbor without a shred of justification — a neighbor that posed no real-world threat to Russia’s borders or its people. That said, it is entirely fair to look at the mistakes by other actors that led to this pass. On this much, there should be common agreement: Strategic ambiguity failed to deter Russian aggression. That should compel some hard thinking about our Taiwan policy.

There are two ways to try to deter hostile regimes from attacking their neighbors. One is to draw clear

Politics & Policy

Reaper, Heal Thyself

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Florida resident Daniel Uhlfelder dressed as the grim reaper (Screengrab via WMBB News 13/YouTube)

Daniel Uhlfelder, the clownish lawyer who spent much of 2020 running around Florida’s beaches telling people that they were going to die if they stayed outside in the fresh air, has decided that he wants to lose a statewide election. “Today,” Uhlfelder wrote on Twitter this morning, “I am announcing my candidacy for Attorney General in Florida. Ron DeSantis and his sidekicks in Tallahassee have been warned.”

“Warned” about what, one wonders? That there’s yet another ridiculous grifter within the Florida Democratic Party? That, in what looks near-guaranteed to be a bad year for Democrats, the party is going to find it even harder to direct cash at credible candidates? That the anti-DeSantis hysteria is going to get even sillier this year? George Orwell observed that “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” The Florida Democratic Party is developing a similar problem. It loses, so it attracts losers, so it loses, and so forth. Reaper, heal thyself.

Politics & Policy

‘Democrats’ Abortion Extremism Will Have Consequences’

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), along with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) arrive before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool via Reuters)

In an essay for the latest edition of the Washington Examiner magazine, I argue that, in the event Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overturned this summer, Democrats are taking a big political risk by going all-in on their abortion extremism. From the piece:

Not only is the Democratic position on abortion morally abhorrent, but it’s also deeply unpopular with the public and even with most Democrats. Public opinion, of course, doesn’t dictate morality; abortion is wrong no matter what Gallup might find. Nevertheless, it’s significant that Democratic politicians have settled themselves so far outside the mainstream. They haven’t yet paid a clear and significant political price for their abortion extremism, but that could swiftly change in a post-Roe country where Democrats immediately begin pushing for federally protected and funded abortion on demand — a position supported by few Democrats, let alone most people.

A 2022 Marist poll found that more than three-quarters of people favor laws far more protective of unborn children than are permitted under Roe. About a third of Democrats describe themselves as pro-life, and according to Gallup, only 18% of Democrats support abortion for any reason in the last three months of pregnancy, the official position of the party. Marist has found that a majority even of “pro-choice” respondents would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, the so-called hard cases of rape and incest, or when a mother’s life is at risk.

But left-wing politicians appear unwilling to admit that their extremism might have political consequences. During the 2020 primary, pro-life Democrats repeatedly asked candidates whether they were welcome in the party despite their opposition to abortion. The response they received was, essentially, “Take a hike.”

“I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat,” socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders offered. “By this time in history … when we talk about what a Democrat is, I think being pro-choice is an essential part of that.”

As I note in the piece, this extremism will become far more salient in the event that Roe and Casey are reversed or walked back this term, as is expected. In such an event, the stark divide between Democratic politicians and the public will intensify and become more obvious and more relevant. The average American might not favor total bans on abortion, but the average American also doesn’t like the Democratic Party line of abortion on demand, for any reason, funded by the taxpayer. And pro-lifers have a distinct advantage in the fight over abortion law: We are willing to accept incremental victories on the way to our goal of total abolition, as we work to convince our fellow Americans that total abolition is the only just and morally acceptable option. Democratic politicians have shown no comparable willingness to compromise on policy while defending their position — and that rigidity is going to cost them.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Taxes and Russian Economic Turmoil

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Daniel Pilla on President Biden’s claims about the U.S. tax code from the State of the Union:

These claims are made in so many different fora by so many leftist politicians that people no longer even challenge the merits of the statements. The media in general and the public at large merely accept the idea that our tax code is unfairly weighted in favor of high-income people to the point where the rich don’t pay while the load is carried by middle- and low-income citizens.

But that’s just not true. And the fact that it is not is so easily shown that it’s astonishing to me that so few in the legacy media even challenge the claim. . . .

Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute on how Russia affects the world economy:

A more immediate way in which Russia is causing liquidity for the emerging markets to dry up is by having led the West to impose crippling sanctions on the Russian financial system, including its central bank. As those sanctions have caused the Russian ruble to plummet, the stock market to be shut down, and bank runs to begin, emerging-market investors in Russian paper have sustained large losses as the specter of a Russian sovereign-debt default has reappeared. That in turn is causing emerging-market investors to become increasingly risk-averse to the rest of the emerging-market asset class.

In a more challenging global liquidity environment, we should brace ourselves for the wave of emerging-market debt defaults about which the World Bank has been warning. This would be especially the case in those highly indebted countries that are also large energy and food importers. Such a wave of defaults could have serious consequences for the world economy, which will no longer be able to count on the emerging-market economies to be its main engine of economic growth.

World

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Limited No-Fly Zone’

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A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber (higher), escorted by a Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 jet fighter, flies in Ukraine’s airspace, September 4, 2020. (Air Force Command of Ukraine's Armed Forces / Handout via Reuters)

Twenty-seven former ambassadors, Department of Defense officials, and other foreign-policy thinkers are calling upon President Biden and America’s NATO allies to enforce “a limited No-Fly Zone over Ukraine.” (I guess we could call it, a “some-fly zone.”)

At first glance, the proposal looks spectacularly unworkable, or at least extremely likely to lead to NATO forces and Russian forces firing at each other. The proposal would “start with protection for humanitarian corridors.” Of course, this presupposes that the Ukrainians, NATO, and Russia all agree about the boundaries of those humanitarian corridors. Human-rights groups accused Russia of firing upon civilians in humanitarian corridors in Syria, and they are accused of the same war crime in Crimea. It is far from clear whether Russia intends to keep its promises when it comes to ceasefires and humanitarian corridors, or whether every Russian troop gets timely orders to not fire into particular areas.

The “some-fly zone” also calls for NATO forces “to avert and deter Russian bombardment that would result in massive loss of Ukrainian lives.” This means shooting down Russian planes and likely targeting Russian artillery and long-range rockets.

The proposal also calls for NATO to provide “A-10 and MIG-29 aircraft to help Ukrainians defend themselves.” First, it is not clear that Ukrainian pilots trained on Soviet-made MiG-29s and three types of Sukhoi jets will be able to effectively fly A-10s. Or, those pilots may well be able to fly them, but not necessarily well enough to want to go on combat missions over contested airspace in them. Second, Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria are the only NATO members with MiG-29s, and they have indicated they don’t want to lend them (and likely lose them, eventually) without the U.S. providing replacements. Third, there’s the question of how Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria would get those jets to Ukraine. The moment they enter Ukrainian airspace, Russia would see them as legitimate targets.

(During World War II, because of the U.S. Neutrality Act, “planes going to Canada from the U.S.A. to help with the war effort could not be flown across the border. This prompted the planes to be flown to the Houlton Air Base on the Maine-Canadian border and then pulled across the border.”)

We can have a no-fly zone, or we can avoid having NATO forces and Russian forces shooting at each other. But we cannot have both. A “limited no-fly zone” is like being a little bit pregnant; either you are, or you aren’t.

Education

Bill to Federalize CRT Must Be Stopped

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Signs opposing Critical Race Theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board headquarters in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

You might think the national parents’ rebellion against critical race theory (CRT), along with the resounding gubernatorial victory of CRT opponent Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, would be enough to protect us from federal legislation designed to impose CRT on America’s schools. You would be wrong. It looks like a federal CRT bill is around the corner.

A plan to introduce a revised version of the Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA), a bill that would turn CRT and “action civics” (leftist protests for course credit) into Common Core 2.0, is well underway. The coalition of leftist “civics” groups behind the new CSDA is desperate to rake in the $6 billion windfall the bill would hand them. This is their last chance to tap into the federal gravy train before the Democrats likely lose control of Congress. If passed this year, the revised CSDA would also set these pro-CRT leftists up as the arbiters of a de facto national curriculum, regardless of what happens in the midterms.

The revised version of CSDA only seems to eliminate its radical political elements. Once you understand the latest educational lingo, it’s obvious that this bill will allow the Biden administration to nationalize CRT. The danger is that naïve Republicans, unfamiliar with leftist education theories and eager to associate themselves with anything labeled “civics,” will be duped into cosponsoring this disastrous bill.

A year ago, I warned against the original version of the Civics Secures Democracy Act and noted that several other federal bills with essentially the same intent were being proposed as well. Around the same time, the Civics Alliance convened by the National Association of Scholars issued an appeal to Texas Republican senator John Cornyn and Oklahoma Republican representative Tom Cole to withdraw their cosponsorship of the Civics Secures Democracy Act. Although Cornyn and Cole did not back off — and in fact Cornyn issued bogus excuses — the original version of the Civics Secures Democracy Act appears to have languished since then. Now, however, the leftist civics community has designed a stealth version of CSDA in hopes of hoodwinking naïve Republicans into becoming cosponsors. That would rebuild momentum for the bill.

I’ll explain the language trick behind the revised CSDA momentarily. Keep in mind, however, that even without this clever trick, CSDA would force CRT on the states. If the bill did nothing other than appropriate $6 billion over six years for the support of history and civics, leaving decisions on who gets the grants to the Biden administration, with no further direction, the result would still be massive federal support for CRT.

We know this because in myriad ways the Biden administration has already expressed its support for CRT. From the executive order issued on day one infusing so-called equity principles into all administration policies, to deputy secretary of education Cindy Martin’s support for CRT prior to her appointment, to the Education Department’s pro-CRT criteria for history and civics grants, to the Education Department’s promotion of the CRT-infused Abolitionist Teaching Network, to the Justice Department’s outrageous attempt to intimidate parents fighting CRT, the Biden administration has shown itself to be a persistent backer of critical race theory in our schools. Every leftist state education bureaucrat (even in red states, they trend left), every nonprofit, and every university that applies for federal history and civics grants under CSDA will know perfectly well what this administration’s education priorities are. Whether by openly issuing its own pro-CRT guidelines for the grants, or by controlling the selection of the readers who rate the proposals, the Biden administration can easily direct $6 billion dollars to pro-CRT proposals, without further legislative guidance. Exactly these sorts of administrative preferences enabled Obama to impose Common Core on virtually every state, using the carrot of federal money. This is what will surely happen with CSDA.

But let’s have a look at the language trick behind the revised CSDA. The bill’s seemingly anodyne terminology is designed to lull Republicans into support for “bipartisan” civics education, while in fact allowing the Biden administration to direct the bill’s massive funding toward pro-CRT proposals.

The most important bit of misdirection in the revised CSDA (there are several) revolves around the term “underserved.” The bill directs the secretary of education to prioritize grant proposals from states, nonprofit organizations, and universities that meet the needs of the “traditionally underserved,” especially students in “rural and inner-city urban areas,” or “underrepresented minorities.” Similarly, the bill instructs the secretary of education to prioritize grants that will “close gaps in civic knowledge and achievement among traditionally underserved students.” By itself, this sounds fine. To the untutored ear, the revised CSDA simply directs federal grants in civics and history toward districts that have historically been underfunded. If poor and minority students score less well on standardized tests for knowledge of civics and history, why not give them money to bolster their access to this sort of education? Undoubtedly, this is what potential Republican cosponsors think when they read the priority criteria written into the bill.

But this is not what the language around the “underserved” means to the leftist civics coalition pushing so intensely for passage of CSDA, nor to the Biden education bureaucrats who will disburse the $6 billion to those pro-CRT radicals. In the eyes of the leftist civics community (which now dominates the civics field), the “civic empowerment gap” between “traditionally underserved” students and others can only be redressed through a complete reinvention of American history and civics. According to the new orthodoxy, the only way to successfully teach civics and history to poor and minority students is to stress America’s “systemic racism,” rallying students to take part in protests on behalf of a leftist vision of “social justice.” In short, the dominant view among the civics education establishment is that “traditionally underserved” students will only engage with civics on one condition: that civics itself becomes CRT.

I have discussed the new, pro-CRT civics education establishment before. The Educating for American Democracy project and the overlapping CivXNow coalition, led by the group iCivics, are key parts of it. But to grasp the stunning radicalism of the new vision of civics and history — as redesigned for the “traditionally underserved” — we need to examine perhaps the most influential book on the new civics, Meira Levinson’s 2012 No Citizen Left Behind. Levinson is now a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She is also a co-author, along with other luminaries of the leftist civics community, of the controversial C3 framework of the National Council for the Social Studies. Levinson also serves, with Danielle Allen and Jane Kamensky, on the advisory board of Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project, a major force for action civics at the state and national levels. Although Levinson’s book is referenced by the Educating for American Democracy project and held up as exemplary by practitioners of the now-dominant leftist civics paradigm (like Danielle Allen and Peter Levine), conservatives know virtually nothing about it. That is a shame, since Levinson’s No Citizen Left Behind makes the true agenda of the new civics coalition (really an “anti-civics” coalition) frighteningly clear.

Levinson’s No Citizen Left Behind introduced the idea of a “civic empowerment gap” between poor, “ethnoracial minorities” and recent immigrants, on the one hand, and native-born, white, Asian, and middle-class Americans, on the other. The book’s title is a play on the George W. Bush administration’s No Child Left behind initiative, which featured efforts to overcome achievement gaps in reading and math between traditionally underserved students and others. Levinson argues that an equally significant gap in civic knowledge exists, and needs to be overcome. To this day, the now-dominant leftist education establishment considers Levinson the preeminent expert on the civic empowerment gap and how to overcome it. And importantly, the revised Civics Secures Democracy Act says that proposals directed toward overcoming this gap will have the inside track for federal grants.

No Citizen Left Behind is based on Levinson’s experience teaching poor and minority students. There she encountered deep mistrust of America’s political system, typified by the idea that 9/11 was actually planned and carried out by President Bush. At first, Levinson worked to instill greater trust in America’s constitutional system in her students. Eventually, however, she came to believe that, especially among African Americans, mistrust of the American system would actually help to spur “civic action” (i.e., protests). Drawing on critical race theory, Levinson became convinced that the way to overcome the civic-empowerment gap is to draw poor and minority students into a crusade against America’s (supposedly) institutionally racist society. In Levinson’s view, then, “old-school civics” can never truly reach the underserved.

To close the civic-empowerment gap, Levinson believes we must abandon the traditional view of American history. In this traditional view, while as a society we have struggled to overcome the tragedies of slavery and racism, America has steadily made progress in realizing its great founding values of liberty and equality, all the while holding them out as inspirations to the world. For Levinson, however, because traditionally underserved minorities reject this account as “White people’s history,” it must be abandoned.

To prove her point, and to show the need for a new kind of American history that can appeal to poor minorities, Levinson quotes at length from the infamous sermon in which Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright says, “’God Bless America?’ No, no, no! Not ‘God Bless America.’ God damn America!” In Levinson’s view, the Reverend Wright shows that the message that will motivate minorities into civic participation is not “what a great country—wouldn’t you like to get involved?” No, the lesson that will close the “civic empowerment gap,” says Levinson, is — wouldn’t you like to join the struggle against America’s “intrinsic racism and injustice,” against a country “founded in a state of ‘original sin,’ committed to slavery from the founding of the first surviving colony of Jamestown, through slavery’s enshrinement in the Constitution and beyond?” In effect, then, before it even existed, Levinson was advocating for something like the 1619 Project as the way to overcome the “civic empowerment gap.” And Jeremiah Wright was her guide.

But Levinson’s radicalism goes further. A founder of “action civics” (what I like to call “protest civics”), Levinson wants to substitute the idea of political struggle against America’s (alleged) oppression for the unifying power of a shared American identity. This is particularly so, she says, because many recent immigrants may not even want to identify with their new country:

Many transnational and migrant youth and adults . . . may not feel [a] strong sense of identification with the United States. They may have multiple national affiliations, harboring ambivalent feelings about a country that has oppressed as well as embraced them, or feel that their cultural, religious, or other identities are more significant in their identity as American citizens. [Embracing civics as political protest] is obviously also a benefit for other young people who may not consider U.S. citizenship as a salient or even desirable part of their identities.

Levinson explicitly rejects “I’m proud to be an American” as a route to civic engagement for the underserved. In its place she embraces a civics that can appeal to individuals who say, “I don’t think of myself as American.”

It’s tough to see what distinguishes Levinson’s understanding of civics from national suicide. Yet these are the views of today’s premier “expert” on the “civic empowerment gap,” a concept that may soon be written into federal law.

Levinson knows that legislators are unlikely to accept her program, at least if plainly expressed. Yet she is confident that lawmakers may be persuaded to support her approach after “some rhetorical tweaking.” Levinson and the now-dominant leftist civics movement she intellectually presides over have been engaged in that “rhetorical tweaking” for a decade.

A “study” from the action civics nonprofit, Generation Citizen, purports to show how to increase “civic engagement” among the “underserved.” The study draws heavily on Levinson’s work and closely follows her framing, while papering over her more controversial points. Generation Citizen — a leader of the coalition of leftist civics groups backing the revised Civics Secures Democracy Act — has been justly criticized for promoting “progressive activism masquerading as civics,” even in red states such as Oklahoma. Precisely this sort of leftist protest for schoolchildren is what will be funded nationwide by the revised CSDA.

The big money from CSDA (about $600 million a year) is earmarked for competitive grants to the states. That is how Common Core was imposed — through federal strings on competitive state grants. True, CSDA contains a “rule of construction” that forbids the secretary of education from “prescribing” a civics or history curriculum. But as with Common Core, official prescription won’t be necessary for the Biden administration to get around this fig leaf. The criteria for receiving the grants, in conjunction with the Biden administration’s preferences, will be enough to entice states and local school districts to conform their standards and curricula to federal demands.

Much of the rest of the money ($200 million a year) will go to leftist nonprofits such as Generation Citizen. These are the groups champing at the bit to get CSDA passed before the midterms. Along with that, $150 million a year is earmarked for institutions of higher education (i.e., woke schools of education that train their graduates in CRT) to design new civics curricula geared toward overcoming the “civic empowerment gap.” This means that states and local school districts hoping to receive federal money will be incentivized to collaborate with the leftist nonprofits pushing protest civics. Schools will equally be incentivized to adopt civics curricula developed by the very same ed schools that graduate the most passionate believers in CRT. The result will be a reworked American civics and history curriculum pervaded by the assumptions of CRT.

Of course, this precisely is what Biden’s controversial priority criteria for history and civics grants dictated when they appeared last year. That pro-CRT document was also framed as a way to meet the needs of the underserved. In fact, Biden’s CRT-friendly executive order issued on day one was called “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” So, between the Biden administration’s established view that CRT is the solution for the underserved, and the strong embrace of the same stance by today’s leftist civics establishment, it’s a certainty that the revised Civics Secures Democracy Act will turn the carrot of massive federal funding into a pro-CRT national curriculum.

This is to say nothing of how CSDA will use the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, “the nation’s report card”) to force a leftist national curriculum on the states. (I cover this point here.)

Needless to say, support for a CRT-infused, federally controlled curriculum would be political suicide for Republicans. Yet the education Left is hoping that Republican naïveté, combined with some clever “rhetorical tweaks,” will dupe at least a few GOP senators and representatives into cosponsoring the revised CSDA — the new federal CRT bill. Let us hope that Republicans on the Hill are savvy enough to avoid this disastrous error.

Politics & Policy

New York’s Pro-abortion Enthusiast Governor

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New York governor Kathy Hochul (Mike Segar/Reuters)

“This is absolutely reprehensible and dangerous.” Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine? Violence on the subways and streets of New York City? The extreme laws in New York State — worse than Roe itself — that pressure girls into having but one choice? No, Empire State governor Kathy Hochul was reacting to the news last week that Florida’s senate had passed legislation to protect unborn babies after the 15-week mark in a pregnancy. How dare they move to protect the innocent voiceless unborn!

I’ve wondered before and I wonder again: Is New York pro-choice or pro-abortion? Hochul’s consistent returning to the topic, when it is not under threat in the abortion capital of the country, suggests the latter.

If you check her personal Twitter account, you’ll see frequent mentions of her support for abortion.

She also took to Twitter to be cheerleader for Joe Biden’s State of the Union shoutout to abortion, retweeting this:

New York’s Cardinal Dolan has said on occasion that today’s abortion activists seems to prefer abortion. Hochul’s enthusiasm for it certainly suggests as much.

Andrew Cuomo was an extremist on abortion, but I kinda understand why. Men who behave badly toward women would likely find abortion useful. But for a mother to be so adamantly eager for you to know that under her watch New York is an abortion destination? That’s gruesome. Just days after the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attack, she went to a statue of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman to encourage pregnant women in Texas to come to NY for their abortions — Lady Liberty will embrace you.

The next month she went up to Seneca Falls with her daughter and said:

But for me this is personal. This is very personal because I’m also joined by a young woman. Come on up here, Katie. This is the young woman, my daughter Katie Hochul, who I will continue to fight for her rights as long as I can take a breath and then she will carry on the fight for her children and her grandchildren. That’s what we’re doing because we are sharing the torch today and someday I’ll be passing the torch to all the young women, the torch that is in my hands from the women of Seneca Falls.

. . .

So yes, get your damn hands off our bodies because we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, as Fannie Lou Hamer famously said a long time ago. She said, we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. And I know we’ve got the fighting spirit in us. We love to do this. We like a good fight. Let’s get that out there. But the fight that my mother had to fight when she was young, the fight that I fought when I was younger should not be a fight that Katie in her thirties fights today for reproductive health.

. . .

New Yorkers will continue to lead the way just like in 1917 we were three years ahead of the rest of the nation in earning the right to vote for women. In 1970 we were three years ahead of the nation in ensuring reproductive health rights right here in the State of New York. And in 2021 we are laying down the gauntlet once again – if you are in a state where oppression is the law of the land, you come to New York and just like we have Lady Liberty at our Harbor who stood there since 1886 saying, send me those who’ve been oppressed, you will find a safe harbor in our state. We offer a safe harbor now today in 2021 and forward to the women across this nation.

Fifty-eight percent of reproductive age women are living in states where their rights are under assault. You come to New York and you’ll be part of our family. We’ll take care of you, make sure you have the health care you deserve. You come right here. And I see a sign from someone from Texas right now. You’re from Texas? You are part of the New York family starting right here right now.

She’ll only meet her grandchildren if her daughter decides the time is right. Otherwise, to pretend that a child is not a child is what her mother has been saying is health care.

It’s clearly lost on her that the leading suffragettes were against abortion. Or that Harriet Tubman might be bothered that more black babies are aborted in New York City than born. Black lives matter, unless abortion activists consider them an inconvenience. But that’s, of course, a tradition that goes back to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

Kathy Hochul does seem to cherish being the first female governor of New York. And that could make all the difference if she wanted to be a different kind of leader. Women know better. They know what a gift motherhood is and should fight so that no girl or woman ever has to make that deadly choice — one that ends the life of her child and changes her forever. Women deserve better than abortion, and if women in politics would lead the way, what a more tender culture we would have. Abortion is the most intimate violence —severing the bond between a mother and her child — and poisons everything.

Hochul went to law school at The Catholic University of America. I suspect she never read this from a letter to women issued at the end of the Second Vatican Council — and reissued by Pope Benedict in 2012 — but it would mean a different kind of leadership from women when it comes to abortion, if taken seriously:

the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

. . .

Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.

We could use a motherly touch in politics and culture today. Instead, women like Hochul insist on politics that continue to give men the power to behave badly. If abortion is law and health care, why should he rise to the occasion of fatherhood?

International

Consequences of a War: The Coming Food Crisis

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A combine harvests wheat in a field near the village of Hrebeni in Kyiv Region, Ukraine, in 2020. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

In the most recent Capital Letter, I noted that the impact of potential interruptions in commodity flows does not stop with energy. And it doesn’t.

Take nickel for example, up over 60 percent today (yes you read that correctly, and it was already up nearly 19 percent last week), with other base metals also surging. The jump in the nickel price may have some panic baked in (Russia was about 10 percent of global production in 2019), but then pricing is determined at the margin, and inventories are low, so . . .

But in the Bloomberg report describing this run-up in prices, note how some of the explanations for the price increases (there are quite a few, including technical factors) lie not in existing sanctions, but in the fear of what may happen next, which may be scaring off bankers and shippers.

There may also be a more basic reason why shippers might be staying away:

BBC:

An Estonian cargo ship has sunk off the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa after an explosion, the ship’s owners say.

All six crew members of the Helt were able to abandon ship and Ukrainian officials said they were later rescued.

The vessel had been anchored off the coast after leaving port several days ago.

Ukrainian media say the Russian navy had been using the Helt as a shield to hide from Ukrainian weaponry as Russian forces advance towards Odesa.

The impact of potential interruptions in commodity flows from Russia and Ukraine doesn’t stop there. Take a look at what has been happening to the wheat price. Wheat futures had shot through $12 a bushel as of Friday’s close, well over double where they were before the pandemic, and are up again today.  Wheat prices had been rising for quite some time before the Ukrainian crisis, but this is yet another turn of the ratchet, and it seems reasonable to think that they will rise further.

And timing is about to get tricky.

Oleg Ustenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, writing in the Financial Times today:

Ukraine is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat, but farmers cannot now start what is called their spring sowing campaign. The regular window for starting field work is the first 10 days of March, and planting needs to be fully completed in the last week of April. We have highly productive soil, but also a climate that sets the rules. There is already no way that Ukrainians will be able to sow this year based on a normal schedule.

Those parts of Ukraine which are most productive in terms of agricultural production are now consistently under aerial attack and artillery bombardment. Working the fields in regions such as Chernihiv, Poltava, Kharkiv, Sumy, and Zhitomir has become practically impossible…

If this war is not stopped immediately, the world will experience a drop of global supply between 10 per cent to 50 per cent of major agrarian products including wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower oil. In recent decades, because of smart investments, increased productivity, and overall efficiency, Ukrainian agriculture provided a major buffer for the food security of billions of people around the world.

As you will see if you read the whole article, Ustenko has a broader message to deliver (not an unreasonable one, in my view), but the facts are the facts, however unwelcome they may be. It’s also worth noting that, while Russian farmers obviously do not face the problems now being endured by their Ukrainian counterparts, some of them may well be hit by the credit crunch brought on by a crumbling financial system.

The Daily Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

Smaller farmers in Russia have been shut out of the domestic credit market just before planting season. Emergency tightening by the central bank has lifted average loan cost to 27pc this week.

Throw in Russia, and you’re at somewhere between a quarter and  one-third of global wheat exports.

From the Financial Times yesterday:

Ukraine accounts for 90 per cent of Lebanon’s wheat imports and is a leading supplier for countries including Somalia, Syria and Libya. . . . Russia also provides its Black Sea neighbour Turkey with more than 70 per cent of its wheat imports, according to the International Trade Centre. Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation in Turkey had had hit a 20-year high of 54.4 per cent in February.

Between them, Ukraine and Russia also account for about 90 percent of Egypt’s wheat imports.

Given the experience of the Arab Spring (let alone centuries of evidence showing the turbulence that sharply rising food prices can bring), it’s not the boldest of predictions to think that widespread political trouble lies ahead.

Making matters even worse, there is the question of pressure in the fertilizer markets. Russia is a major exporter of potash and phosphates (a trade it may, for now, be wanting to halt) and then, of course, there are ammonia-based fertilizers.

In a report yesterday, the BBC’s Emma Simpson explained that “huge” amounts of natural gas are needed to produce ammonia, the key ingredient in nitrogen fertilizer. Simpson had been talking to the CEO of Yara International, a fertilizer giant headquartered in Norway. Yara, she wrote “relies on vast quantities of Russian gas for its European plants.”

And:

Last year, it was forced to temporarily suspend production of about 40% of its capacity in Europe because of the spike in the price of wholesale gas. Other producers also cut supplies.

And that was last year, before Putin sent the tanks in.

Trade

Bright Spots in the Heartland for Supply Chains

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Crude oil storage tanks at the Cushing oil hub in Oklahoma in 2016. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

“The U.S.’s industrial heartland is dotted with examples of how some links in the supply chain have been adapted to keep the wheels of commerce turning while others seized up,” writes Brendan Murray at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Cities such as Memphis (FedEx), Louisville (UPS), and Chicago and its suburbs (railroads) have long been vital parts of American supply chains. (The North American oil industry centers on the inauspicious city of Cushing, Okla., the Pipeline Crossroads of the World.) Despite the political narrative of the heartland being hollowed out by trade, these cities actually benefit greatly from the logistics industry.

Murray writes about how Columbus, Ohio, has asserted itself in new ways in the wake of the pandemic:

Rickenbacker International Airport was a bustling hub for air freight well before the pandemic—a day’s truck drive to half of the U.S. population, so the slogan goes. In the past two years, another role emerged: economic relief valve for auto parts, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals to flow around the more prominent but clogged arteries of U.S. trade.

The former wartime airbase handled a record 1,655 international cargo arrivals in 2021, a 73% jump from 2019, and overall tonnage rose 18%. Freighters and reconfigured passenger jets fly in from Asia and the Middle East, operated by the cargo units of Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and several other carriers. Nearby are distribution centers for companies ranging from Macy’s Inc. to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

New Orleans is benefiting as well:

Something happened during the crunch of 2021 that the Big Easy hadn’t seen since the 1990s: Importers started using carriers known as bulk and break-bulk ships to ferry goods that used to move in containers—and New Orleans is equipped to handle both modes. The result: Bulk and break-bulk volumes for New Orleans jumped 46% in 2021 from the previous year, a boost that helped cushion a 15% drop in container volume. . . .

So New Orleans is erecting the Louisiana International Terminal, an estimated $1.5 billion infrastructure project expected to open in 2027, and the Mississippi River is being dredged to a depth of 50 feet to accommodate the world’s biggest ships. Among the goals is to leverage the terminal’s access to nearby railroad lines and help New Orleans better compete with rival ports on the East, West, and Gulf coasts vying for shipments to and from customers in the center of the U.S.

Populists of all stripes who want to tell you that globalized trade is a cosmopolitan conspiracy against the middle of the country are peddling nonsense. Countless high-quality American jobs depend on globalization, and many of them are located in so-called flyover country. Those of us who live on the coasts would do well to remember the people in Memphis, Louisville, Columbus, New Orleans, and elsewhere who make it possible for Americans to buy and sell products across the globe.

Politics & Policy

Another Republican Drops Support for the Pro-Trans Fairness for All Act

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Representative Chris Jacobs (R., N.Y.) (US Congress/via Wikimedia)

The Fairness for All Act (FFAA), an all-Republican House bill that would write gender identity into U.S. civil-rights law, has lost another cosponsor. Chris Jacobs, who is serving in his first full term as a representative from New York’s 27th congressional district, quietly dropped off the bill in late February — a departure that has yet to be covered anywhere except for Twitter.

Jacobs is the fourth cosponsor to drop off FFAA in recent months. Jeff Van Drew (N.J.-2) pulled his support for the bill in late November. Claudia Tenney (N.Y.-22) dropped off on February 2. And on February 9, National Review broke the news that Elise Stefanik, the House GOP Conference chairwoman and FFAA’s most prominent cosponsor, withdrew her name.

These Republican defections come amid heavy censure for supporters of FFAA from many on the right. As NR wrote in its report on Stefanik’s withdrawal:

FFAA’s incorporation of SOGI into federal anti-discrimination law was criticized by influential social conservatives like Ryan T. Anderson and Robert George, and was opposed by conservative and religious groups from the Heritage Foundation to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. (Although some religious institutions — most notably, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — supported the legislation). It was also widely criticized in conservative media. In November, the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles slammed the bill’s Republican cosponsors as “tone-deaf and rudderless.”

More recently, the American Principles Project (APP), a social-conservative advocacy group that has been at the forefront of the transgenderism fight, went so far as to announce plans to back primary challenges to some of FFAA’s Republican sponsors in the upcoming election cycle. “We want to start collecting some scalps, particularly from within the Republican Party,” Terry Schilling, the president of APP, told NR last month. “We want to make [FFAA] a litmus test.”

When Representative Chris Stewart (Utah-2) introduced FFAA, the congressman — whose district went for Donald Trump by 14 points in 2016, and 16 in 2020 — pitched the bill as a “compromise” between LGBT rights and religious liberty, adding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to the list of protected classes under anti-discrimination law while including modest “right to discriminate” carve-outs for religious institutions. “This legislation aims to protect everyone’s dignity in public spaces,” Stewart wrote in a statement on FFAA. “It harmonizes religious freedom and LGBT rights by amending the Civil Rights Act, protecting religious freedom in the workplace, protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, and preserving 1st amendment rights.”

But from the perspective of social conservatives, the bill was a bad deal. Its “logical conclusion,” EPPC president Ryan Anderson told NR in November, “is the full abolition of sex-specific facilities.” And even as its proponents spoke of striking a balance between religious liberty and LGBT rights, FFAA’s expansion of anti-discrimination law would amount to a significant constriction of the expression of socially conservative views on gender and sexuality in the public square. As NR’s November piece on the legislation noted:

FFAA protects the conscience rights of defined religious institutions — churches, religious charities, and so on. It does not protect most individuals, even if those individuals object to something like gender ideology on an authentically religious basis…[and the bill’s] threats to the American constitutional order go above and beyond the rights of religious individuals and business owners. So-called “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” who reject gender ideology on the grounds that it erases women, physicians who do not want to mutilate children’s bodies by prescribing puberty blockers or performing irreversible sex-change surgeries, coaches who want to protect their female athletes from biologically male competitors, and any number of other secular dissenters from gender ideology are not afforded rights under FFAA’s framework. Rather, acting on the belief that men and women exist as distinct biological categories — let alone the belief that men and women exist for one another, both in terms of sexual ethics and the definition of marriage — would be viewed as legitimate only on religious grounds, and relatively narrow ones at that.

Representative Jacobs’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment. But many social conservatives hope that the shift in momentum surrounding FFAA signals a broader change in the way that Republicans think about social issues such as transgenderism. “Republican politicians are increasingly recognizing that this is a litmus-test issue to their voters,” APP policy director Jon Schweppe told NR. “You can’t be a Republican and support the Left’s radical views on gender and sexuality. This is likely to be a major issue for the bill’s cosponsors during primary season. It’s smart politics for Republicans to run as far away from this bill as possible.”

The Economy

The Republican Senator Supporting Wasteful Amtrak Expansion

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Senator Roger Wicker (R., Miss.,) listens to Governor Gina Raimondo during a hearing on her nomination to be Commerce secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 26, 2021. (Tom Williams/Pool via Reuters)

Today I wrote about Amtrak’s plan to use its windfall of federal funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law to add new lines that will hardly see any use. One such line is between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. A 2015 Amtrak report estimated that twice-daily round-trip service on that route would be used by 38,400 passengers per year, which comes out to 26 passengers per trip.

President Biden’s affinity for Amtrak is well known, and he has appointed DOT officials who share his views. But one of the driving forces behind restoring this Gulf Coast service is Mississippi Republican senator Roger Wicker.

At first, that might seem strange. In the past, Republicans have done quite well politically by opposing wasteful rail projects. Think of Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Scott all opposing federal funding for high-speed rail projects in their states during the Obama administration, for example. Some of that money went to California instead, which promptly wasted it on an over-budget and behind-schedule high-speed train that still isn’t close to being operational.

Wicker, on the other hand, has been calling for restoration of the Gulf Coast Amtrak service for years. A 2016 statement from his office called the service “essential to the national passenger rail network.” In 2019, he trumpeted a $33 million award from the Federal Railroad Administration to fund the project. And on February 15, he told the Surface Transportation Board, “For the Mississippians who lost a transportation option along with so much else to Hurricane Katrina, this case is not an abstract policy question. It’s about continuing and completing the recovery.”

Again, that’s for a service that, according to a ridership estimate from Amtrak, would carry 26 passengers per trip on average.

If there’s one congressional principle that trumps ideology, it’s bringing home the bacon, and Wicker comes from a long tradition of Mississippi politicians who are experts at funneling federal dollars back to their state. Wicker supported Congress’s 2011 ban on earmarks, but when the practice was still around, he was one of its top users. After then-Representative Wicker got a $6 million earmark in 2007 for a defense firm that contributed to his campaign, Robert Novak called him “a poster child for an earmark moratorium.” According to Open Secrets, Wicker got more earmarks than any other senator for fiscal year 2008 and was third-most for fiscal year 2010.

Just because earmarks aren’t allowed anymore doesn’t mean members of Congress don’t have ways to steer federal money to their constituents. Wicker was one of the 19 Republican senators who voted for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, which is built around grant-based programs through which states apply for federal dollars. The Gulf Coast rail project that Amtrak envisions would send plenty of those federal dollars to Mississippi. The service would run across the entire southern part of the state, much more than each of the relatively short portions in Alabama and Louisiana. Amtrak says $44.9 million of the $57.7 million in federal money for infrastructure improvements, or 78 percent of the total, would be spent in Mississippi. It also cites a University of Southern Mississippi estimate that claims Mississippi will see $486 million in economic impact from tourism spending as a result of the project, more than Alabama and Louisiana.

In short, Mississippi benefits more than Alabama and Louisiana from the federal funding in this proposal, which is probably one of the reasons that Wicker supports it. But he should be careful. Ports in low-regulation, low-tax states (such as Mississippi) have a major opportunity to capitalize on California’s failures to run its major ports efficiently. The Port of Mobile has expanded and plans to continue doing so, with great benefit to Alabama’s economy and to the country’s economy as a whole. Other ports across the Southeast are making similar investments. Mississippi would be wise to focus its attention and money on expanding its port capacity instead of blowing it on passenger trains that hardly anyone will ride.

World

Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Religious Freedom in Ukraine, Chief Justice Roberts & Roe & More

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Saint Andrew’s Church in Kiev, Ukraine, November 15, 2018 (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

1. Archbishop Borys Gudziak: “Pray for peace and justice in Ukraine”

Really, there is unity in Ukraine. There’s toleration. Ukraine today has a Jewish president, and in the summer and fall of 2019, both the president and the prime minister were Jewish — the only country besides Israel where the head of state and head of government were Jewish was Ukraine. Ukraine has Russian schools, the Russian Orthodox Church has thousands of parishes there. By comparison, there are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Russia, and they do not have a single legally registered parish. Ukrainians in Russia, who number between four and six million, do not have a single Ukrainian language school.

At a time in human history where responsible world powers are revisiting their policies of colonialism and repenting for the sins committed by empires — when they’re trying to heal the wounds caused by enslavement — that the Russian Orthodox Church walks arm in arm with an aggressive military assault on a democratic country and society is really astounding.

2. Ruth Wisse: Why Does Ukraine Have a Jewish President? Ask Isaac Babel

Our guide to an answer is a native of Odessa, Isaac Babel, one of the boldest writers who ever lived. In 1920, during the first war waged by the newly formed Soviet Union, against Poland over territory that is now Ukraine, Babel served as the embedded correspondent in the First Cavalry army, made up of Zaporizhian Cossacks. His account of that war in the stories of “Red Cavalry” shows why Jews and Ukrainians may be the two peoples readiest to live and die for their freedom —and how their fused spirit lives in Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

3.  U.S. religious freedom chair: Russia poses ‘imminent risk’ to Ukrainian religions that are not ‘traditional’

4. Nathanial Hurd: Count Religious Freedom Among the Policy Responses to Putin’s eInvasion of Ukraine

Continue reading “Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Religious Freedom in Ukraine, Chief Justice Roberts & Roe & More”

World

Sanction Russia’s Oil Exports

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Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call in Moscow, June 30, 2020. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters)

The Russian economy is being hammered. Economic sanctions will cause Russia’s GDP to contract by well over 10 percent. The value of its currency is plummeting. At the time of this writing, the ruble is down 47 percent against the dollar relative to one month ago. Interest rates are soaring as the Russian central bank attempts to defend its currency. Those efforts are being thwarted by unprecedented steps taken by Western nations to freeze Russia’s access to its foreign-exchange reserves. Defaults will occur. Counterparty risk has soared. Supply chains will be upended in Russia as importers won’t be able to purchase goods from other countries.

This is the economic equivalent of a shock-and-awe campaign. The display of economic force brought to bear against Russia has been swift and stunning in its effect.

The United States and European nations need to take another step: Sanction Russian oil.

Banning imports of Russian oil — as is being widely discussed in Washington — would cause gas prices in the United States to increase. But the U.S. imports a relatively small share of its oil from Russia, and the effect on domestic gas prices and the Russian economy of an import ban would be small.

The promise of a U.S. import ban is that it could inspire Europe to do the same. Russia would feel a European import ban more acutely, because Europe buys more Russian oil than the U.S. does. European consumers, whose countries import around one-quarter of their oil from Russia, would feel it as well.

But oil is a global commodity, and import bans in the U.S. and Europe would still leave Russia with other customers. Russia would attempt to cut deals with friendly nations to keep its oil revenues flowing.

Sanctioning Russia’s oil exports would be much more effective. Existing SWIFT sanctions prohibit some Russian banks from using the global messaging system used by financial institutions to facilitate transactions. But Russian energy is largely exempt from existing sanctions. Applying SWIFT sanctions to oil transactions would limit Russia’s ability to export the commodity. In addition, the United States should impose sanctions on banks that finance the Russian oil trade, crippling its supply chains and exacerbating logistical challenges.

Russia supplies 11 percent of global oil consumption and 17 percent of global natural-gas consumption. The U.S. and Europe should target oil exports first, and keep sanctions on natural-gas exports in reserve. Russia is responsible for 40 percent of Western Europe’s natural gas consumption — it will be hard enough for those nations to deal with higher fuel prices, let alone the shock from natural-gas sanctions.

A ban on Russian oil exports would substantially increase the global price of oil. U.S. economic growth would take a hit. Economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that a sustained $20 per barrel increase in oil prices would lower U.S. GDP by 0.3 percent and Euro-area GDP by 0.6 percent. It’s unclear how high the price of oil would go. Higher prices would benefit U.S. producers. Whether it would increase longer-term U.S. capacity is an open question.

Consumer prices are currently growing at an annual rate above 7 percent. So-called core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — is running above 5 percent. If the U.S. sanctions Russian oil exports, higher gas prices would exacerbate the U.S.’s already troubling inflation outlook. This has four implications.

First, Republicans should support President Biden in this effort and avoid criticizing him for higher gas prices. When consumers have to pay more at the pump, Mr. Putin would be to blame, not Mr. Biden — and Republican politicians would have a special responsibility to make that point clear to the public.

If this week Republicans signaled a willingness not to politicize the higher gas prices that would accompany export sanctions, then that would give the White House political space to do what needs to be done.

Second, the President should work with Republicans to pass legislation and change regulations to facilitate greater domestic energy production. The balance Democrats try to strike between climate-risk mitigation and domestic-energy production is out of whack, and the war in Ukraine should give the president political space to correct it.

Third, the president and congressional Democrats would need to follow a simple rule when it comes to inflation: Do no harm. If economic sanctions are put in place, then higher gas prices are another reason that now is not the time for Democrats to pass expensive, deficit-financed social legislation that would contribute to inflationary pressure.

Fourth, the American people need to be asked directly to sacrifice in opposition to Putin, in support of Ukraine, and in support of the ideals that underpin liberalism, including individual liberty, self-government, and national sovereignty.

Oil revenue makes up a large share of Moscow’s budget. It is a key funding source for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Slashing Russia’s oil revenue could hasten an end to the conflict. The economic pain facing the West from an export ban could be short-lived.

The sanctions would create a carrot to offer Russia: End the war, and get the oil sector back. Cash for economic stability. Cash for peace.

Politics & Policy

‘Great Lakes Bill of Rights’ Legislation Introduced in New York

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(ehrlif/Getty Images)

The “nature rights” movement continues to advance — as most people still think the proposal too ridiculous to take seriously. That’s a mistake, because the radicals who are pushing this agenda are determined to see it become the law — as it already is in three nations and more than 30 U.S. municipalities.

Now, a bill has been introduced in New York that would create a “Great Lakes Bill of Rights.” From AB 3604 (my emphasis):

The Great Lakes, and the watersheds that drain into the Great Lakes and their connecting channels, shall possess the unalienable and fundamental rights to exist, persist, flourish, naturally evolve, regenerate and be restored by culpable parties, free from human violations of these rights and unencumbered by legal privileges vested in property, including corporate property.

The Great Lakes ecosystem shall include all natural water features, communities of organisms, soil as well as terrestrial and aquatic sub ecosystems that are part of the Great Lakes and their watersheds and connecting channels.

Indeed, it could also restrict fishing, recreation, sewage treatment, farming, and flood control, among an almost unquantifiable number of human uses that would be affected. For that matter, granting rights to “all natural water features” would disallow electricity-generating dams and the creation of harbors.

Other purported “rights” for the Great Lakes would include the right “to be free from toxic trespass.” And it would preclude ownership or monetization of these resources:

The Great Lakes ecosystem shall possess the unalienable and fundamental rights not to be owned, privatized or monetized. These rights shall include emancipation from all claims of vested property rights to the extent that such rights purport to allow the violation of the rights of the Great Lakes ecosystem or the people of the state of New York.

Penalties for violating the “rights” of the Great Lakes would include a $500 fine per violation — per day — and the cost of restoring affected systems, the rights of which were violated, to their natural state. Talk about bringing enterprise to a standstill!

Before readers say it will never pass, be aware that proposals like this have already. A few years ago, Toledo voters granted “rights” to Lake Erie. Orange County, Fla., voters granted “rights” to “water.” Both laws had to be overturned by hastily passed state laws. But if New York passes the bill, what then?

The time is now for the Congress and every state legislature to pass laws and constitutional amendments stating that only human beings and our juridical entities and associations have “rights,” and that only human beings and our associations and entities have legal standing in any court of law.

Or we can chuckle at the crazies and pretend “it will never happen here” — until it does. The Florida Democratic Party has included nature rights in its platform. How long before the national party does too?

For those interested in the reasoning — if you can call it that — behind these kinds of proposals, here’s a video of a debate I had with Tom Linzey, the creator of the nature-rights concept. Based on the chat-room comments, I was viewed by the college students who watched as the skunk at the party for defending human exceptionalism.

Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris, Abortion-Rights Activist

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., February 2, 2022. (Cheriss May/Reuters)

Last week, the Florida Senate passed a law protecting unborn children from abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation — and our vice president is less than thrilled.

As I noted here at NRO a few weeks back, the Florida House passed the bill in a nearly party-line vote in mid February. Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who had said in the past that a 15-week abortion ban “makes a lot of sense,” has now formally announced that he’ll sign the measure into law. “I think the protections are warranted, and I think that we’ll be able to sign that in short order,” DeSantis said last Friday.

But Harris is having none of it. In a formal statement released by the Office of the Vice President, Harris decried the Florida legislation as “extreme by any standard” and insisted that “the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies is non-negotiable.”

Harris also said that the law “would violate the constitutional right to abortion” and “will block access to crucial reproductive health care for Floridians, with a particular impact on low-income communities, communities of color, and rural communities.”

She concluded her statement by promising that the administration “will continue to do everything in our power to protect access to healthcare and defend a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and determine her future.”

None of this is particularly surprising coming from a politician who, as a senator from California, served as the lead sponsor for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would not only enshrine a fundamental right to abortion but would also nullify state pro-life laws across the country. Talk about “extreme by any standard.”

Harris is such an absolutist when it comes to unlimited abortion that, during her failed run for president, she pledged to institute a preclearance regime for state abortion laws, meaning that state governments would have to obtain approval from the executive branch before enforcing pro-life laws.

Thankfully, Florida’s ability to protect unborn children after 15 weeks of pregnancy does not depend on the twisted views of Kamala Harris. It will depend, rather, on whether the Supreme Court this term is willing to admit that the past 50 years of judicially mandated abortion on demand have been an anti-constitutional travesty.

Education

Florida Senate Democrats Parade Their Ignorance

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For evidence of the vast unseriousness of those criticizing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, one need not look any further than the Florida Senate Democrats.

Here’s the bill, for those interested in what it actually does.

Here’s my analysis of it for NR.

And here is a great additional piece by Ginny Gentles for RealClearEducation.

Politics & Policy

Utah Governor Betrays Female Athletes

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Then-Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox speaks at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, January 20, 2017. (Chad Hurst/Getty Images)

Utah’s Republican governor Spencer Cox says he will veto the bill protecting female-only sports that the state legislature passed Friday. The bill prevents “biological males” — determined by “an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth” — from girls’ leagues.

On Friday, Cox wrote on Twitter that “we care deeply about Utah’s female athletes and our LGBTQ+ community.”

We can now confidently strike female athletes from that statement since there is no better way to ruin female sports than to allow males to dominate female leagues.

It may be that Cox thinks he’s found a clever compromise. The Associated Press reports:

After throwing his support behind a proposal to create a first-of-its-kind commission of experts in Utah to make decisions on individual transgender student-athletes aiming to participate, Cox said he was stunned on Friday night as lawmakers advanced and ultimately passed an amended proposal that included an outright ban on transgender student-athletes competing in girls leagues.

The last governor to veto such a bill, South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, also claimed to have found some brilliant way to split the baby. She hadn’t, of course — and paid a heavy political price for selling out. Noem later reversed her decision and signed legislation preserving female-only sports. Let’s hope Cox, too, will come to his senses.

To Avoid Global Chaos, We Had Better Start Producing Lots More Energy and Food

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Pump jacks operate in front of a drilling rig in an oil field in Midland, Texas, 2018 (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

According to the International Energy Agency, Russia is “the third-largest producer of oil behind the United States and Saudi Arabia, the world’s second-largest exporter of crude oil behind Saudi Arabia, and the largest overall exporter once products are included.” Russia “exports about 5 million barrels a day of crude, or about 12 percent of global trade, and around 2.85 mb/d of products, or about 15 percent of global trade.”

In 2019, Russia and Ukraine together exported more than a quarter (25.4 percent) of the world’s wheat, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. The U.S. exported 15.7 percent.

Right now, the aim

Politics & Policy

Don’t Abandon Preschoolers on Removing Masks

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Students listen to their teacher during their first day of transitional kindergarten at Tustin Ranch Elementary School in Tustin, CA on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. ( Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

As the trend of removing mask mandates sweeps through even the parts of the country that have pursued the most draconian Covid policies, one group is being left behind: two- to four-year-olds. This is as cruel as it is inexplicable.

For all the headlines about New York City mayor Eric Adams removing the school mask mandate, reading the fine print reveals that preschoolers will be left out. This is an approach that has been consistent in many blue areas, where officials argue — contrary to new CDC guidance — that this age group must mask up because they are not yet eligible for vaccination.

The most puzzling aspect of insisting on masking toddlers and preschoolers is that this is the group least likely to benefit from masking and the one that has the most to lose.

Even those who believe that mask mandates work for the general population would be forced to acknowledge that toddlers are the least likely to be able to wear masks properly for eight hours a day. Also, according to CDC data, out of 914,259 Covid deaths in the U.S. for the entire pandemic, just 56 of them were in the two-to-four age group — or less than one-hundredth of 1 percent. And those numbers do not control for children who had other health issues and then happened to test positive once in the hospital.

On top of this, all of the downsides of masking that experts have warned about — hampering development of social-emotional learning, language, and speech — are more acute for preschool-aged children.

There is no science behind this decision, which even the CDC now acknowledges. As many of us are relieved to see mask mandates go for most people, we cannot take the pressure off until toddlers are liberated everywhere.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to offer more precise numbers on Covid deaths for the population group affected by preschool/daycare masking requirements. An earlier version of this post had included all deaths of those four-and-under.

National Security & Defense

Re: We Can’t Afford a $1 Trillion Defense Budget

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A U.S. military vehicle behind the Syrian-Turkish border wall during a joint U.S.-Turkey patrol in northern Syria, September 8, 2019. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

In response to We Can’t Afford a $1 Trillion Defense Budget

I agree 100 percent with Phil’s post that we can’t afford a $1 trillion defense budget (his post was in response to this piece by Rich Lowry). In fact, I would add that if those who want to see the defense budget grow were serious about it, they should be the biggest advocates for entitlement reform. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, the conservative side has become very quiet about reforming the drivers of our future debt (and all things budget-cut related), starting when presidential candidate Donald Trump announced that he wouldn’t touch Social Security and Medicare.

But I will also go where Phil didn’t go when he wrote, “Without getting into the debate on the merits of significantly increasing our military expenditures (or the national-security case for and against doing so) . . .”  I think there are reasons to be skeptical about the call for significantly increasing defense spending.

First, while it is a legitimate role of the government to defend the country (defend being the operative word here), it is also legitimate to ask how much money is enough, especially given the diminishing marginal returns in the quixotic quest for 100 percent security. I don’t have the answer to this question, but I know that we are spending an enormous amount on both national security and the Pentagon already. According to the Office of Management and Budget’s Historical Tables, in FY2022, we will spend $770 billion on national defense, and outlays for the Department of Defense — military operations — will be $729 billion.

That’s enormous in absolute terms, and I am tempted to ask why on earth do we think that this isn’t enough to protect ourselves. John Cochrane gives us an idea here:

Germany and France spend $53 [billion] each, and the U.K. $59 [billion]. NATO spends about $1.2 trillion a year on defense, almost twenty times what Russia spends.

I think his data come from here. China, if we can trust its number, spends $252 billion on defense. So I ask again, how much of a spending gap between us and the rest of the world will make us feel better about our safety?

In addition, not every increase in Pentagon spending results in an increase in national security or even military power. For one thing, when you have been in Washington long enough and you understand how spending decisions are made, you should be skeptical that this money will be well- spent. After all, there is nothing special about military spending that would explain why it would be exempt from the laws of public-choice economics. Indeed, members of Congress are subjected to more special-interest pressures — from defense contractors in particular — when it comes to defense spending than for any other spending.

Indeed, members of Congress are subjected to more special-interest pressures — from defense contractors in particular — when it comes to defense spending than for any other spending. As Jack Butler argued last week, there is no guarantee, given the current nature of the Pentagon bureaucracy, that increased spending would actually yield better outcomes.

It seems to me that there are two ways to address this problem: First, you can add more money to fund all the goals we’ve asked the military to perform. But once again, it takes great faith to believe that the same legislators and political dynamics that have led us to this current moment will suddenly change and all that extra spending will be allocated properly. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new injection of cash led to additional tasks for the military. Second, legislators could refocus on doing fewer tasks and doing them better. I doubt the second option is realistic considering the political reality and forces behind political decisions.

Finally, for those who may have the naïve notion that there is nothing to lose because military spending employs people and grows the economy, I would point to this report I wrote a few years ago with Harvard University economist Robert Barro. In it, we conclude that a dollar increase in federal defense spending results in less ​than a ​dollar increase in GDP when the spending increase is deficit-financed, which, going back to what Phil was saying in his piece, it will be. In addition, if you add the taxes that will be needed down the road, that return could be negative. (Check out this study by economist Ben Zycher, too.)

The bottom line is that no matter how terrible what is happening in Ukraine is, we should be careful before rushing to use it as an excuse to increase our defense budget.

World

The Ukraine Airlift

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This sounds like a pretty impressive effort, as reported in the New York Times:

In less than a week, the United States and NATO have pushed more than 17,000 antitank weapons, including Javelin missiles, over the borders of Poland and Romania, unloading them from giant military cargo planes so they can make the trip by land to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and other major cities. So far, Russian forces have been so preoccupied in other parts of the country that they have not targeted the arms supply lines, but few think that can last. . . .

To understand the warp-speed nature of the arms transfers underway now, consider this: A $60 million arms package to Ukraine that the U.S. announced last August was not completed until November, the Pentagon said.

But when the president approved $350 million in military aid on Feb. 26 — nearly six times larger — 70 percent of it was delivered in five days. The speed was considered essential, officials said, because the equipment — including anti-tank weapons — had to make it through western Ukraine before Russian air and ground forces started attacking the shipments. As Russia takes more territory inside the country, it is expected to become more and more difficult to distribute weapons to Ukrainian troops.

Within 48 hours of Mr. Biden approving the transfer of weapons from U.S. military stockpiles on Feb. 26, the first shipments, largely from Germany, were arriving at airfields near Ukraine’s border, officials said.

As the story relates, this is going to get harder to keep doing as Russia takes more of Ukraine. And you’ve got to believe that there will be more direct Russian threats against the conduits in the region for these weapons.

Politics & Policy

The New York Times Misleads on Texas Abortion Trends

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Texas police separated pro-life protestors from pro-choice protestors during a Women’s March in Austin, Texas, October 2, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article on The Upshot claiming that the Texas Heartbeat Act has had only a marginal effect on the number of abortions that Texas women have obtained. According to the most recent data, Texas reported a large decline in the in-state abortion rate after the law took effect in September.

The authors of the Times article analyze data from two separate studies and argue that the decline was largely offset by more Texas women obtaining chemical-abortion pills through the mail and more Texas women traveling to obtain an abortion in nearby states.

But a closer look at the Times article indicates there is much less to their claims than they suggest. First, even taking the data at face value, the increases in mail-order abortions and out-of-state abortions fail to totally offset the overall decline in the abortion rate. Even the Times admits that the heartbeat law is preventing hundreds of abortions every month and has saved thousands of lives since it took effect.

Meanwhile, both studies cited by the Times authors have methodological shortcomings. The authors obtained data on the increase in mail-order abortions from a research letter that appeared in JAMA Network Open in February. The research letter obtained its data from Aid Access, a nonprofit that sends chemical-abortion pills through the mail and allows women to obtain chemical abortions through online telemedicine. The data very well could be skewed by the fact that there was a steep short-term increase in requests for chemical-abortion pills immediately after the heartbeat law took effect. Requests for abortion pills significantly declined in subsequent weeks.

More important, the research letter reports data on the number of abortion pills requested through Aid Access. It does not provide data on the number of Texas women who obtained chemical abortions through Aid Access. Some women who requested abortion pills might have had second thoughts. Other women might have simply wanted to have abortion pills available in the event of a future unplanned pregnancy.

Similarly, the Times obtained data on out-of-state abortions from a Texas Policy Evaluation Project analysis released on Sunday. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project obtained this data by contacting 34 abortion facilities in seven nearby states: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Overall, they estimate that since the heartbeat law took effect, the number of out-of-state abortions obtained by Texas women increased by about 1,250 per month.

However, the out-of-state abortion data is self-reported and has not been verified or released by a government agency. It hasn’t even gone through an outside peer-review process. And even taking the numbers at face value, the reported out-of-state monthly increase of 1,250 abortions is only a fraction of the in-state decline of 3,200 abortions reported by the Texas State Health and Human Services Commission for September 2021. As a result, the purported out-of-state increase fails to explain the large abortion decline that has taken place in the Lone Star State.

This Times article is the latest in a long line of attempts by supporters of legal abortion and allies in the media to portray pro-life efforts as ineffective. Indeed, nearly all of the coverage of the Texas Heartbeat Act has focused on Texas women obtaining abortions in other states. Meanwhile, most outlets have ignored the good work done by pro-life pregnancy-help centers in Texas since the law took effect. Data on the Texas birthrate in March and April of this year are likely to provide more accurate information about the effects of the law. Until then, media outlets are sure to continue promoting the misleading narrative that the law has failed to protect preborn children and has simply resulted in increases in mail-order abortions and out-of-state abortions.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Inflation

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Edwin T. Burton of the University of Virginia argues that many are misunderstanding inflation:

Imagine you were driving your car and it ran out of gas. Would you call for a new set of tires or a new battery and expect that to get you back on your way?

If you don’t understand why your car is no longer running, you will likely be unable to get it going again. Bizarrely, American policy-makers seem to have no idea why inflation is raging out of control and look for fixes that have nothing to do with the causes of inflation.

So, let’s get back to basics. . . .

Read the whole thing here.

World

Forgoing Russian Oil and Gas

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This option has been discussed a lot around here and seems to be where the U.S. is headed. Fareed Zakaria made a good case for it the other day:

There is one path to changing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus: sanctioning Russia’s oil and gas industry. This is Putin’s golden goose, the source of the state’s wealth and the reason he might believe that he can weather any storm. So far, not only have these been left untouched, but the financial sanctions have been carefully designed to allow Russia room to continue to sell energy to the world.

The conventional wisdom is that the West cannot sanction Russian energy because it would trigger an energy crisis along the lines of the 1970s episode, which would cause deep discontent at home. But the situation is not analogous to the 1970s predicament at all. Today, the United States is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. It can ramp up production and exports and help open the spigots in other countries. President Biden is worried that he is going to look like former president Jimmy Carter, when his power position is actually more like that of the king of Saudi Arabia.

Biden should announce that he is going to respond to this massive challenge to the international order by expediting as much production and export of U.S. petroleum as possible to replace Russian energy. With natural gas, he should urge his regulators to facilitate production and he should help more with the financing of liquefied natural gas, so that it can be sent to Europe. He should also encourage countries such as Japan and South Korea to divert more of their liquefied natural gas to Europe. (They have alternative energy sources.) Some of this will take time, but markets will react to the signals and new supplies — and prices will fall.

World

So Much for Biden’s Promise to Make Saudi Arabia a ‘Pariah’

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gives a speech from his office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 23, 2021. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters )

Then-candidate Joe Biden, November 21, 2019:

MITCHELL: Mr. Vice President, the CIA has concluded that the leader of Saudi Arabia directed the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department also says the Saudi government is responsible for executing nonviolent offenders and for torture. President Trump has not punished senior Saudi leaders. Would you?

BIDEN: Yes, and I said it at the time. Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There’s very little social redeeming value of the — in the present government in Saudi Arabia.

And I would also, as pointed out, I would end — end subsidies that we have, end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children, and they’re murdering innocent people. And so they have to be held accountable.

The news, now: “President Biden’s advisers are discussing a possible visit to Saudi Arabia this spring to help repair relations and convince the Kingdom to pump more oil, Axios has learned. A hat-in-hand trip would illustrate the gravity of the global energy crisis driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

So much for “making Saudi Arabia a pariah”! There’s “very little social redeeming value the present government in Saudi Arabia”. . . but Biden’s going to go them, “hat in hand.” (Recall that the U.S. was a net energy exporter in 2019 and 2020.) Then again, one of Biden’s first foreign-policy decisions was to severely water down his promised punishment of Saudi Arabia, limiting, but not eliminating, arms sales to the kingdom.

That’s our president. Tough talk on the campaign trail, a pushover in the Oval Office.

Education

A Typical Media Scare Story on Higher Education

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We can depend on the leftist media to pump out stories meant to frighten voters into opposing politicians (mainly Republicans) who favor even the slightest bit of economizing in government. Recently, the Raleigh News & Observer ran such a piece, claiming that the tightwad Republicans in the General Assembly had harmed the state’s public higher-education system.

In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson and Paige Terryberry look at the evidence and conclude that the story is much ado about nothing.

For example, what the paper decries as a budget “cut” is just a reduction in the UNC system’s wish list. Another claim is that students are having to pay more in tuition. That happens to be true, but North Carolina remains one of the states with the lowest tuition for state residents. And how does it “harm” the universities to ask the students who attend to pay somewhat more for something they supposedly benefit from?

The authors conclude: “The UNC System, like any large public institution, faces many challenges—some of them financial. The Martin Center has often pointed to wasteful spending and inefficient practices at our colleges and universities. But the state of North Carolina, its citizens, taxpayers, and legislature have continued to provide generous support for the university system and all its institutions. By this measure, North Carolina is a leader in higher education.”

World

A World-Shaking War

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky makes a statement in Kyiv, February 25, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / Handout via Reuters)

By video hookup, the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, addressed throngs of supporters in Prague. He said, “If we win — and I’m sure we will win — this will be a victory of the whole democratic world.”

Zelensky has a certain understanding of the struggle he and his country are in. You may think it wrong. But you will probably agree that Zelensky has earned the right to a hearing.

• According to reports, Zelensky has dodged at least three assassination attempts. I don’t know what the rules of succession are, under the Ukrainian constitution. But his successor — if he has one — will have big shoes to fill. Zelensky has been remarkably brave, embodying the national resistance. Many in the West regard Putin as manly. In reality, he is mainly a bully and thief. Anyone looking for manliness can look to Putin’s adversary in Kyiv.

• In a previous set of notes, I cited Mitt Romney. Romney is uncomfortable calling Putin’s assault on Ukraine a “war.” So am I. What is happening in Ukraine is a war, of course. But it’s a peculiar kind of war. No Ukrainian, so far as I’m aware, threatens any Russian civilian. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are getting wantonly killed. The war is a case of a people trying to defend itself against a murderous, unprovoked, nation-destroying assault.

Rarely is a conflict so black-and-white, in my judgment. There are no two sides.

• A report from the Associated Press ends this way:

Kyiv’s central train station remained crowded with people desperate to flee. “People just want to live,” one woman, Ksenia, said.

Yes. People just want to live. It can’t be put in a more elementary fashion than that.

• Over and over, Ukrainians are yelling at Russian troops, “Go home!” This is significant. For years, people have said that Ukraine is not a real country. That Ukrainians are basically Russians with a funny accent. That “the Ukrainian region” was born to live under rule by Moscow.

These people have been peddling bunk, either knowingly or unknowingly.

• When I was in fourth grade, our teacher was an émigré from Ukraine. This was in Ann Arbor, Mich., at Pattengill Elementary School. Mid ’70s. Not being able to pronounce his last name, we called him “Mr. K.” Most of the kids, I’m afraid, treated him poorly. Snotty little SOBs, everywhere you looked.

One day, we went to an assembly at which Mr. K. and his family performed Ukrainian national songs and dances. They did so in traditional dress.

Anyway, I have thought of Mr. K. in recent weeks. I asked him once about what he had seen in the Old Country. I don’t remember his words. I remember the look on his face, the tone of his voice, and the emotions he expressed. I got the feeling: Nightmarish, barely speakable things had occurred.

• Edward Wong, a correspondent for the New York Times, tweeted a photo — very hard to look at. Wong commented,

Pure horror: Russian soldiers are deliberately killing Ukrainian civilians trying to flee. A mother & 2 children were killed and father wounded by a mortar shell as hundreds of civilians sought safety.

At what point do soldiers have a responsibility for what they’re doing, along with those giving them orders? How was this question worked out at Nuremberg?

• Ukrainians are badly outmatched, militarily. But their hearts are clearly in the fight. What about Russian hearts? What Russian soldier could possibly want to be there? How much does the question of spirit matter, versus the question of matériel, etc.?

• My God, Russians are brave — Russians protesting at home, and getting violently arrested for it. Here is one photo. Look at that face: a face of Russian honor, as I see it.

• In recent days, I have thought of a famous statement by José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence. I will paraphrase: “When many lack honor, there are always others who have enough honor for many.”

• Russian journalists — independent ones — are among the bravest people on earth. Long have been. Here is a headline: “Last Vestiges of Russia’s Free Press Fall under Kremlin Pressure.” (Article here.)

• Mary Louise Kelly, of National Public Radio, reported,

Taped a remarkable interview with Yulia Zhivtsova, one of the 8,000 Russians who have been detained for anti-war protests. When we reached her near Moscow, she said she will keep speaking up, despite the crackdown. And she insisted that we identify her by her full name.

Have some more:

She wants future generations to know that Russians stood up, that “I was out there, I was protesting, I was against this.” And, “If I keep silent, I’m still not safe.”

Yulia Zhivtsova, what a woman.

• Mary Louise Kelly is the one who was berated by Mike Pompeo, then secretary of state, in January 2020. I wrote about the matter here. Kelly had questioned the secretary about Ukraine, and in particular about Marie Yovanovitch, our ousted — and defamed — ambassador. A shabby episode, and interesting, too.

Here is an impressive sight: German citizens at the train station in Berlin, waiting for Ukrainian refugees, offering them a place to stay. Here is another sight: baby strollers, left by Poles, for Ukrainian mothers who had to flee with their children in their arms.

Here is Clarissa Ward, of CNN, doing her work in Ukraine, as she did it in Kabul last summer. Such an impressive woman, an impressive journalist. We owe a lot to the “MSM,” whether we admit it or not. I value anyone who sticks out his neck to bring us the news. And such a person is not very often thanked.

• This is big. It may not seem so, but it is. Reports the Washington Post, “Japan announced it would accept refugees from Ukraine and send bulletproof vests to Kyiv — extraordinary measures taken by one of the countries least welcoming to refugees,” and one that also has “a self-imposed arms-exports ban.”

In 2017, I wrote about Japan and its military for today — here. I wrote about Germany, too — here. These are big questions, and not necessarily cut-and-dried.

• How about this? “Denmark to boost defence spending and phase out Russian gas.” (For that Reuters report, go here.) It seems that Putin has at last awakened the West. But how soon will the West fall back asleep?

• As I mentioned previously, Orbán in Hungary has decided not to block EU sanctions on Russia. Which is good. But . . . “With the help of the Hungarian government, the Kremlin is trying to make people believe fake news about the Russian–Ukrainian war.” (For that article, go here.) Same old, same old.

• In 2014, Seth Mandel wrote an article for Commentary: “The Vladimir Putin Fan Club.” He cited a column by Patrick J. Buchanan — which began, “Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative? In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?” Later in the column, PJB wrote, “While his stance as a defender of traditional values has drawn the mockery of Western media and cultural elites, Putin is not wrong in saying that he can speak for much of mankind.”

• Let me commend another article in Commentary — written two days ago, by Noah Rothman. “Take a Good Look at Who Is Fighting for Post-Liberalism,” it’s called. I wish to quote a single line: “Liberty is an idea in bad odor among a narrow but influential set of thinkers whose livelihoods are enabled by liberty itself.” Yes. True now, true always, I suppose.

• You can forgive Ukrainians for being desperate. The foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted a photo and said,

This horrific 500-kg Russian bomb fell on a residential building in Chernihiv and didn’t explode. Many others did, killing innocent men, women and children. Help us protect our people from Russian barbarians! Help us close the sky. Provide us with combat aircraft. Do something!

You may think it unwise to do something — you may be right. But you can also understand a Ukrainian, I bet.

• Here is something to ponder: If a country arms your enemy, in the midst of a war, and imposes an economic blockade on you, isn’t that country also your enemy? This is more than theoretical, obviously. The United States is in pretty deep (rightly, I believe). We are at a very, very tense juncture.

• “America can’t be the world’s policeman!” So true. But, as Jeane Kirkpatrick said, what if there’s a world criminal? Who will stop him? Anyone? Can he act with impunity? “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job,” someone said. If Ukrainians can’t finish the job — if they can’t save themselves, their country — they should at least be able to try, and go down fighting, if go down they must.

What a brave stand they are making. I hope that Ukraine retains its independence and freedom, and that Russians will one day, soon, enjoy freedom, as well as independence.

Deal with a Different Devil? Oil Markets Are Sending U.S. Leaders to Maduro

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro addresses the media from the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, August 16, 2021. (Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters)

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that senior White House and State Department officials were in Caracas engaging in conversations with the Maduro regime. The U.S. has not recognized the regime since dissolving diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019 under Donald Trump. The Biden administration, meanwhile, has been distant with the U.S.-recognized Venezuelan opposition and hands-off when it comes to Nicolás Maduro. 

But with oil at over $115 a barrel and the Biden administration considering sanctions on Russian oil imports, the White House is scrambling to find alternative oil sources. The Times also wrote that in the wake of escalatory rhetoric coming

World

A Question of Survival

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Myroslava Gongadze (Dmitri Savchuk)

I’ve been thinking about Ukrainians I have known and learned from. I went to Ukraine to report near the end of 2019. I wanted to ask a question (among others): How does it feel to be swept up in an American political drama? President Trump was on the verge of his first impeachment, for his dealings with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his statements on the matter. Most of the Ukrainians I talked with had one response: Frankly, we have problems of our own — trying to fend off Putin’s Russia, which is making war against us in the east. About 13,000 people have been killed so far. We need help. Our country is in danger, and so is the region, more broadly.

(For the report I wrote — “Ukraine and Us” — go here.)

In recent weeks, I have talked with Myroslava Luzina, a political analyst and consultant in Kyiv. I have also talked with Kateryna Yushchenko (and written a profile of her, too). She is a former first lady of Ukraine, and an alumna of the Reagan White House. Her husband, Viktor Yushchenko, survived a murder attempt by Russian agents.

I would now like to go back to 2016, however — when I talked with Myroslava Gongadze. At the time, she was head of the Ukrainian service of the Voice of America. Today she is VOA’s Eastern Europe chief.

“Mrs. Gongadze,” I wrote, “was born Myroslava Petryshyn in 1972. Her birthplace was Berezhany, in western Ukraine.” Let me quote some more.

In due course, she met Georgiy Gongadze, a muckraking journalist and filmmaker. As his name suggests, his father was Georgian. His mother was Ukrainian. He and Myroslava worked together, and they married in 1995. They were a beautiful, admirable couple. In 1997, twin girls came along.

Some more:

Georgiy investigated the corrupt regime of Ukraine’s president, Leonid Kuchma. Kuchma did not like this very much. Georgiy was being hounded by the secret police.

Eventually, they murdered him.

In the course of my conversation with Myroslava Gongadze, I asked her, “What do you think of Putin?”

At this, she gives me her quizzical look. And then laughs a little. “He’s a criminal. He’s an international criminal. It’s not even my opinion. It’s a fact.” She then gives a brief history of Putin since 2000 or so.

Moreover, she says that America and the West are deluding themselves — deluding themselves if they think that Putin will ever be a partner for them.

“Should Ukraine be in NATO?” I ask. “Absolutely,” Myroslava answers, immediately. “It should be in NATO yesterday.”

In the European Union too, she said.

I had another question — a terrible one: “Will Ukraine survive as an independent country?” Myroslava answered, “I cannot even think about its not surviving. I cannot even let myself question that.”

Today, Ukrainians at large are fighting for the survival of their nation, on the frontlines — as they have been since 2014 — of a more general, mainly cold, war. It is not a war that anyone in the West chose. It’s a war that Vladimir Putin and his allies chose.

World

A Prayer for Ukraine

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The Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, D.C., describes itself as “the visible presence of our Ukrainian Catholic Church in our Nation’s capital.” It is “dedicated to the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and serves as a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelization and reconciliation.” The Shrine has passed along to me a prayer for Ukraine, posted below (also available here, in English and Ukrainian):

Heavenly Father, Your Son taught us “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called Children of God. ” In this time of great worry, we fervently pray that Your Holy Spirit sustain all the people of Ukraine to be vigilant and dedicated to peace and justice. Grant their leaders wisdom and prudence. Yet, may they also have the strength and perseverance to defend their land from all adversity and foreign attacks. Help us all to live according to your Divine Will. O God, our Father, in the days to come, we beseech you to comfort the suffering, heal the wounded, and accept the souls of the faithful departed into Your Heavenly Kingdom. We ask also that the Most Holy Mother of God extend her blessed mantle of protection over our Ukraine. Amen.

Politics & Policy

Maryland Bill Effectively Decriminalizes Neglecting Newborns to Death

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(Wikimedia Commons)

Remember when former Virginia governor Ralph Northam blessed the right of a mother and her doctor to “have a conversation” and decide to neglect a newborn survivor of abortion to death? Well, now, a Maryland bill would effectively decriminalize Northam’s immoral proposal without regard to abortion.

First, it reiterates current law that deprives fetuses of all rights, meaning they could be the subjects of live experimentation when that is technologically feasible. From SB 669:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer personhood or any rights on the fetus.

Next, the bill would prevent investigations and legal penalties for abortion at any point in the pregnancy and “perinatal” deaths caused by “failure to act” — which extend from the 22nd week of gestation through to the first 28 days after birth (my emphasis):

This section may not be construed to authorize any form of investigation or penalty for a person:

(1) Terminating or attempting to terminate the person’s own pregnancy; or

(2) Experiencing a miscarriage, perinatal death related to a failure to act, or stillbirth

This means that a baby who survived an abortion can be allowed to die without care, and no investigation could be pursued nor legal penalty applied.

But it also effectively decriminalizes death by neglect for the first 28 days of life without regard to abortion. If no investigation can be conducted, what else can it be called? For example, a baby born with a disability could be allowed to die by refusing ordinary methods of care or medical treatment. Heck, for that matter, so could any baby the mother does not want in the first 28 days after birth.

To further ensure that such deaths can take place without consequence, the bill would authorize those illegally investigated for causing babies to die by neglect to bring civil lawsuits!

A person may bring a cause of action for damages if the person was subject to unlawful arrest or criminal investigation for a violation of section as a result of . . .

2) Experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or perinatal death

The pro-abortion left clearly is slouching toward not only authorizing late term abortions for any reason, but also, post-birth deaths of unwanted born babies.

Based on the current advocacy trajectory, such proposals will eventually extend to permitting active infanticide, which is already promoted as legitimate morally by many in mainstream bioethics, and which currently is permitted in the Netherlands upon terminally ill babies and those born with serious disabilities. After all, once the law permits death by neglect, allowing lethal injections would be seen as more “humane” than the extended suffering that would otherwise be caused.

Tell me again: Who are the radicals? Who are the ones who don’t care about babies after they are born?

National Security & Defense

Russia and Iran Taunt Biden in Humiliating Revival of Nuclear Deal

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President Joe Biden speaks during his visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., December 2, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Last week, I posited that the Biden administration was soft-pedaling SWIFT sanctions because it does not want to discuss why the United States is not in a position to boot Russia from the telecommunication system that facilitates global commerce and finance: The United States government has willfully entangled itself in dependence on Putin’s regime. This is particularly so in the realms of energy and foreign relations.

It hasn’t taken long for a textbook example of this idiocy to leap to the fore.

As NR’s editors have noted this week (and this is Biden idiocy to the nth degree), the administration is desperate to forge a new and “improved” version of Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal. There is no good reason for this; it is yet another case of “because Trump reversed something that Obama did, Biden must reinstate it.” It doesn’t matter how apparent it is that Trump reversed the deal because it was both reckless and unpopular or even that the recklessness of reinstating it will make Biden more unpopular.

Tehran understands this well, and in its “Death to America” contempt for our feckless government, humiliates Biden by refusing to meet directly with his envoy, appeasement aficionado Rob Malley. The Biden administration is thus forced to grovel and plead for the intercession of Vladimir Putin’s regime, which (along with China) is Iran’s patron. This is especially delicious for the mullahs now: They know that, on the world stage, Biden is trying to play hard-ass against Putin regarding Ukraine, echoing Biden’s legend-in-his-own-mind routine on the 2020 campaign trail; yet, in reality, Biden is a five-alarm phony who, behind the scenes, is actively colluding with Moscow to get a new Iran nuke deal done.

The Kremlin, of course, knows this, too. Indeed, the Kremlin knows that while Biden is desperate for a new Iran deal, he can’t afford to acknowledge that it is a new Iran deal. Under U.S. law — the inconvenient though largely toothless Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 — Biden would have to present a new Iran deal to Congress. Consequently, the president must pretend that all he is really doing is reinstating the already INARA-approved JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as Obama’s Iran nuclear deal was called).

This is a lie: The Biden deal has brand new terms, such as sanctions relief for terrorists who have mass-murdered hundreds of Americans, that make it even more of a catastrophic capitulation than was the JCPOA. But Biden does not want to call attention to the terms of his sellout by asking Congress to bless them, so he is pretending that his deal merely reinstates the JCPOA and therefore needs no sign-off from lawmakers.

Putin is now delighting in Biden’s self-made predicament: Incredibly, the U.S. president has put himself in the position of needing not one but three banes of U.S. security — Russia, Iran, and the JCPOA. And for Putin it gets even better.

See, the JCPOA’s terms call for extensive Russian participation and commerce. As the Wall Street Journal points out today, this includes “receiving enriched uranium from Iran and exchanging it for yellowcake, work to turn Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility into a research center and other nuclear-specific deliveries to Tehran’s facilities.”

Yes, as I related this week, even as Putin is murdering civilians in his unprovoked Ukraine invasion, Biden is cutting a deal that would have Iran park its enriched uranium in Russia — with the proviso that Iran gets the uranium back if Putin and the mullahs decide the U.S. has not held up its end of Biden’s boneheaded bargain.

But let’s put that mind-bender aside if we can for a moment. For immediate purposes, the point is that Biden is trying to convince our country and the world that his administration is serious about sanctions that will strangle Putin into abandoning his aggression in Ukraine. Yet, if harsh sanctions are really in place, then Biden cannot have his pretend JCPOA reinstatement because Russia would not be permitted to conduct the commerce the JCPOA prescribes.

So, as you’d expect, today, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei (This-is-even-more-fun-than-picking-Hillary’s-pocket) Lavrov demanded written guarantees from the Biden administration that its Ukraine-related sanctions will not interfere with the Russian commerce with Iran and other nations that is central to the operation of the JCPOA.

What a perfect storm of American amateur hour and embarrassment. And what an inexcusable blow to American national security.