The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Well, We Know CPAC Won’t Be Boring This Year. . .

Happy Presidents Day. Kevin Williamson made the case that we shouldn’t honor all presidents, but the country refused to listen, so in that spirit. . .

Happy Presidents Day, Charles Logan.

Well, We Know CPAC Won’t Be Boring This Year. . .

Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak at CPAC this week.

(Ahem. Much more importantly, I’m speaking at CPAC 2 p.m. Friday, on a panel about whether America’s elites are out of touch.)

Jay Nordlinger asks what, if anything, about Yiannopoulos fits the definition of “conservative.” Patterico points to some disturbing comments from Yiannopoulos that appear to endorse relationships between adults and those under the age of 18. American Conservative Union board member Ned Ryun responds, “There’s nothing about this that’s amusing. This isn’t about free speech. This is about basic decency.”

My pop-culture podcast co-host notices:

Yiannopoulos has a chameleon feel to him… This doesn’t make him less dangerous, in the field of politics this actually could make him the most dangerous. He seems willing to adapt and adjust his look or persona to whatever is more palatable.

One caveat: Is that he adapts to whatever is more palatable, or whatever is most likely to get him the most attention?

His underlying messages remain the same. They have less to do with politics and more to do with promoting the Milo brand. He insinuates that he is “perceived” as a conservative, because he writes for Breitbart. He doesn’t clarify in this interview just what his political convictions are. Something he always seems to have a laser like focus on however is building his fan base.

An observation for everyone bothered or worse at the thought of Yiannopoulos addressing CPAC: Fighting Yiannopoulos with protests and boycotts is like fighting a fire with gasoline. The most salient point Yiannopoulos makes in his shtick is that the Left is intolerant, filled with rage, and incapable of respecting any dissenting view. . . and campus Leftists live down to his portrait, time after time. He has become a big show because he more or less is a walking, talking perpetual threat of a riot, and a big part of this is that he keeps going to places like Berkeley, the places most inclined to respond to provocations through violent outbursts.

It would be an enormous blunder for the Right to make the same mistake. And thankfully, the CPAC crowd is not a rioting crowd.

Perhaps the right measuring stick of Yiannopoulos is, what does he really have to offer an audience of conservative activists when he isn’t being shouted down, attacked, or besieged by riotous Leftists? We on the Right will rightfully instinctively defend anyone threatened by the pincers of a politically correct speech code and the radical mob. Once that threat to free speech is removed. . . then what?

Are there things Yiannopoulos can teach us to advance the conservative cause, conservative ideas, or conservative policies? Can the methods that get him what he wants be used by others, or are they non-replicable? Does the toolbox of the provocateur really have the kinds of tools useful to those of us who want to build something more lasting and create structural changes – i.e., tax reform, a stronger military, a solution to the opioid addiction crisis, a thriving economy full of innovation and consumer choice, support networks of community and family, etcetera? I’m skeptical, but willing to listen. Let’s hear it.

Yiannopoulos triggers rage in Leftists like no one else in the world today other than Donald Trump, and a lot of folks on the right will cheer that. But let’s face it, triggering rage in a leftist is not a terribly hard thing to do.

How You Helped Pay for America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis

A stunning detail from Nicholas Eberstadt’s opus in Commentary, revealing how the national opioid addiction crisis was largely fueled by Medicaid:

How did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program. Here is how it works (we are with Quinones in Portsmouth, Ohio):

[The Medicaid card] pays for medicine—whatever pills a doctor deems that the insured patient needs. Among those who receive Medicaid cards are people on state welfare or on a federal disability program known as SSI. . . . If you could get a prescription from a willing doctor—and Portsmouth had plenty of them—Medicaid health-insurance cards paid for that prescription every month. For a three-dollar Medicaid co-pay, therefore, addicts got pills priced at thousands of dollars, with the difference paid for by U.S. and state taxpayers. A user could turn around and sell those pills, obtained for that three-dollar co-pay, for as much as ten thousand dollars on the street.

In 21st-century America, “dependence on government” has thus come to take on an entirely new meaning.

You may now wish to ask: What share of prime-working-age men these days are enrolled in Medicaid? According to the Census Bureau’s SIPP survey (Survey of Income and Program Participation), as of 2013, over one-fifth (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent). And for un-working Anglos (non-Hispanic white men not in the labor force) of prime working age, the share enrolled in Medicaid was 48 percent.

By the way: Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. Disability checks and means-tested benefits cannot support a lavish lifestyle. But they can offer a permanent alternative to paid employment, and for growing numbers of American men, they do. The rise of these programs has coincided with the death of work for larger and larger numbers of American men not yet of retirement age. We cannot say that these programs caused the death of work for millions upon millions of younger men: What is incontrovertible, however, is that they have financed it—just as Medicaid inadvertently helped finance America’s immense and increasing appetite for opioids in our new century.

We did this to ourselves — or more specifically, generous federal health care spending programs, who had the best intentions about helping the poor and disabled, worked with reckless doctors to finance life-destroying addictions from coast to coast. No terrorist group could have hit Americans this hard.

The good news is that states are belatedly taking steps to address this:

States such as New York, Rhode Island, and Maine West Virginia will, starting next year, require prior authorization from the state’s Medicaid program for opioid painkiller prescriptions. In the 2016 fiscal year, 22 states either adopted or toughened their prescription size limits, and 18 did so with prior authorization.

As mentioned in my profile of West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey last week, the WV AG office has targeted pharmaceutical companies, contending they provided massive quantities of painkillers to small-town pharmacies and doctors, and obtained $47 million in settlements that will go to drug-abuse prevention and treatment programs.

In January, Morrisey’s office won a fight to sue McKesson Corp., the nation’s largest wholesale drug distributor, in state court, contending the company failed to develop an adequate system to identify suspicious drug orders. The company shipped more than 100 million doses of painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia —a state with fewer than 2 million people — in a five-year period.

His office isn’t just pursuing high-dollar settlements from the biggest fish, either. In December, he filed suit against Larry’s Drive-In Pharmacy in Madison, W.Va., alleging the pharmacy failed to identify suspicious prescriptions. The pharmacy dispensed nearly 10 million doses of prescription painkillers over eleven years — in a county of fewer than 25,000 people.

There aren’t a lot of cases where conservatives will instinctively root for lawyers against pharmaceutical companies, who are often unfairly demonized and rarely given enough credit for developing life-saving drugs. But if a company has profited from the jaw-dropping explosion of painkiller use and abuse, it seems fair to ask them to kick in for solving a problem they helped create, even if it wasn’t deliberate.

A Clear-Eyed Final Look at the Blind Sheikh

Omar Abdel Rahman, the notorious “Blind Sheikh” who led the plotters of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, died on Friday night while serving his life sentence in federal prison. The man who put him in prison, NR’s own Andy McCarthy, offers a fascinating and chilling portrait of Rahman:

The Blind Sheikh completed his master’s degree in Cairo in 1967, in the aftermath of Qutb’s execution and what Muslims still see as the humiliation of the Six-Day War. By the time he earned his doctorate in 1971, he already had a following of young budding jihadists. By 1973, the firebrand “cleric” (he is better thought of as a sharia jurist) was the emir of a jihadist organization, Gama’at al-Islamia (the Islamic Group). Essentially, it was a spinoff of the Brotherhood, comprised of young Muslims who had been lured into the Brotherhood’s sharia-supremacist ideology but were impatient with the Brotherhood’s methodical pace, which — in their view — too often failed to live up to the militant violence of its rhetoric, and too often played a double game of collusion with the secular regime Muslims were obliged to overthrow.

Abdel Rahman became most notorious for issuing the fatwa relied upon by the jihadists who murdered Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat at a military parade in 1981 — for the unforgivable offense of making peace with Israel. The Blind Sheikh was acquitted at his Egyptian trial when he defended himself with a stirring recitation of Islamic-law principles, exceedingly effective before a hypocritical authoritarian regime that nominally claims fidelity to sharia but does not actually enforce it. As he argued to the court, Allah’s commands hold that society must be governed by sharia; if it is not, it becomes the individual duty of every Muslim to perform jihad against the regime until it either is overthrown or enforces God’s law. This self-evident truth, he elaborated, required no scholarly fatwa. Thus, Sadat’s slayers were performing a sacred duty, and it was pointless to quibble over whether it had been authorized by him or by any man; it was dictated by the Koran.

It was the same defense the Blind Sheikh would later attempt to posit at his American trial. Suffice it to say that it did not have the same traction with a jury of New Yorkers sitting in a courthouse six blocks from the World Trade Center.

ADDENDA: If you’re attending CPAC, I hope to see you there. At 2 p.m. Thursday, Kurt Schlichter and I will take over Cam’s show on NRATV. I’m also scheduled to make an appearance on Facebook Live around 3:30 Friday.

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