The U.S. government has found a way to lose money even while making money. Specifically, it costs the Treasury 2.4 cents to make a penny (the metal content, mostly zinc, accounts for about half a cent of this). And why does it bother? For most people, pennies are not worth the hassle of carrying them around; if you drop one, the only reason to pick it up is to avoid littering. Beggars angrily toss them away, and with “a penny for your thoughts” tantamount to an insult and “pennies from heaven” sounding like a Biblical plague, is there any reason to keep minting them? The Canadians have decided that there isn’t, so they will cease production of pennies next year. This is one worthwhile Canadian initiative.
News quickly spread that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker had repealed the state’s “equal pay law.” What Walker had actually repealed was the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a 2009 law that allowed sex-discrimination victims to file their cases in Wisconsin circuit courts — after they’d already won before an administrative-law judge. The circuit courts were directed to award compensatory and punitive damages of up to $300,000, whereas administrative-law judges simply make accusers “whole.” Of course, even before 2009, accusers seeking punitive damages could sue in federal court, or they could file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which negotiates with employers, and sometimes files lawsuits). What’s more, the statistics that the 2009 law’s defenders bandied about — such as that women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men do, and that Wisconsin rose in the “gender parity” rankings in the year following the law’s passage — do not hold up to scrutiny: The 77-cent number fails to take account of differences between men and women, such as that women are more likely to leave the work force after the birth of a child, and states’ “gender parity” numbers (which are calculated basically the same way) are incredibly volatile. The Equal Pay Enforcement Act was unnecessary and deserved to be repealed.
Marion Barry has spent his adult life in District of Columbia politics: as mayor (four terms) and as a city councilman. The Democratic party never tires of nominating him. After his latest victory in a city-council election, he celebrated by saying, “We got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up business — these little dirty shops. And they ought to go, understand that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places too.” What’s dirty, and ought to go, is Barry’s corrupt and racialist politics.
What is Israel going to do about the Iranian nuclear program, and how, and when? Foreign Policy, a serious journal, has published an article confidently professing to have insider knowledge on this subject. A senior and of course anonymous official in Washington is quoted as saying, “The Israelis have bought an airfield and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.” Diplomats and military-intelligence officers, also unnamed, are said to concur. It’s plausible. Iran suppresses the nationalism of its Azeri minority while Azerbaijan stokes it up, and the resentment between these neighbors is mutual. Azerbaijan is the one Muslim country with which Israel has had lengthy and consistently friendly ties. Israeli planes taking off from Azerbaijani airfields would be hundreds of miles closer to their targets. Is the Obama administration so determined to avert an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that it even prepared to leak potential operational options? Having Israel’s back, then, has a distinctly ambiguous meaning.
The Cuban dictatorship did pretty well out of Pope Benedict’s visit to that tortured island. Cuba’s democrats and human-rights activists — most of them Catholic, of course — are heartbroken, befuddled, and angry. The pope met with no members of the opposition. The Vatican explained that the dictatorship made this impossible. Democrats said, rightly, that the pope could have insisted. He saw not only the Castro who is nominally in charge, Raúl, but the Castro who is still supremely in charge, Fidel. This meeting was “very cordial,” said the Vatican. The pope made no mention of the many victims of the Castros. People strained to see, and longed to see, criticism of the regime in what the pope said. (A sentence in a Reuters report began, “In a possible dig at Marxism . . .”) The pope very clearly, however, denounced U.S. policy toward Cuba. Before his visit, the dictatorship rounded up hundreds of democrats, to limit their troublemaking. During the visit, state security sent a text message: “As soon as the pope leaves, we are going to disappear you all.” After the visit, the state made good, as old women were beaten up and parents were dragged off to dungeons while their children screamed. Many such episodes are documented. In short, the pope’s visit sent a message to the dictatorship, however unintended: “You can get away with it.” They have gotten away with it for more than 60 years now, ever since young Catholics, being murdered by the Communists, shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!”