American Spectator

  • Scheming and Deception: A Recipe for Surprise Medical Bills
    When Americans pay good money for private health insurance, they expect their insurance company to pay their emergency medical bills. But insurers don’t always pay. So how do they get away with it? In the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal government wanted to make sure that the law included protecting patients against emergency out-of-network bills. And it should come as no surprise, since this is the very essence of why people have health “insurance,” that insurers were supposed to pay. But powerful insurance interests pressured federal regulators to let them pay an amount based on how their plans determined out-of-network payments. This gave insurers a massive loophole — an escape clause that, shamefully, these schemers exploit to the maximum extent. At that time, health insurers generally determined out-of-network fees based on a regional charge database. Once they enshrined their preferred regulation, however, they then started encouraging people to buy insurance plans with much poorer out-of-network benefits (e.g., benefits tied to the sharply discounted Medicare fee schedule). Quite simply, the health insurance industry pulled a classic “bait and switch”: when customers scheduled services with out-of-network doctors, they discovered (after it was too late) that their “coverage” would only “cover” a small percentage of the bill. This is quite the opposite of what insurance is meant to do. Worse, patients were doubly deceived by insurers. Health insurers never adequately explained to policyholders that switching to an essential out-of-network benefit meant the insurance company wasn’t obligated to pay for most of their emergency out-of-network bills. At the same time, these insurers were offering doctors lower reimbursement rates for services, driving them out of the network. More doctors leaving a network means fewer opportunities for customers to get services “in-network.” Fewer in-network opportunities sharply increases the risk of surprise bills from doctors who are out of the network. Meanwhile, since then, private health insurance companies have been generating tens of billions of dollars in record profits, and their CEOs are taking home compensation packages close to $20 million per year. This is money that they should be using to pay people’s emergency bills. Instead, it is lining corporate coffers, overpaying executives who are offering poorer services to customers, and funding a vast influence machine in Washington that is trying to create more loopholes and escape clauses in federal rules and regulations. The answer to surprise medical bills isn’t outlawing doctor and hospital bills — or creating price controls. The answer is insurance companies living up to their obligations — both in name and law. “Insurance” is supposed to mean something — it’s supposed to mean that a family isn’t hit with a nasty financial surprise when seeking necessary medical treatments. Either the regulatory loophole should be fixed or Congress should consider looking at reforms like those in New York State. New York requires insurers to pay bills that are consistent with other regional out-of-network charges and payments. It has worked extremely well in the last five years since its enactment. ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Wednesday, October 23, 2019By Andrew Langer
    23 hours ago
  • Chicago Teachers: Stop Holding the City Hostage
    The streets of downtown Chicago were packed last week with more than 30,000 teachers protesting for pay increases and other benefits like affordable housing, smaller class sizes and more nurses and social workers on campus. Talks continued over the weekend, and the strike has entered another week, leaving more than 360,000 students stranded with no place to go. To the teachers and union, I say shame on you for holding the city of Chicago hostage. It’s time to stop whining and get back to work. I have many friends and family who are educators, and I know it’s a difficult job. I have complete respect for teachers, and I believe that preparing our next generation of leaders is one of the most important jobs one can do. Chicago teachers, however, have it pretty good right now. The average salary for Chicago teachers is roughly $71,150 per year. Mayor Lightfoot is offering 16-percent raises for teachers over five years, meaning the average teacher will make about $100,000, according to the school system. The teachers are also asking for non-salary additions, such as increasing the number of nurses, social workers, and librarians, as well as reducing classroom sizes and shortening the school day by 30 minutes to give teachers more time to prepare. The teachers are also demanding to be paid for unused sick days. It makes you wonder what kind of a fantasy world these people live in. The bottom line is that all of these demands cost money, in this case, roughly $2.5 billion dollars annually. This is money Chicago doesn’t have, yet the teachers insist on sending the city deeper into debt. Personally, I believe many of Chicago’s teachers want to take the offer and run, because deep down they know that it’s a great deal. What’s holding them back? The union. Union workers have become spoiled based on every factor outside of job performance and results. There was a time when employers abused their power and unions leveled the playing field. They gave the little guy a voice, and it worked. Unfortunately, the problem today is that union leaders and members refuse to give up their stranglehold on industry and government. This is exactly what we are seeing happening in Chicago. The abuse of power is coming from the unions instead of employers. Instead of being able to think and act for themselves and take the generous offer that is on the table, the situation is out of control, and the teachers and union have taken the city hostage. Where are 360,000 kids who should be in class supposed to go? The poverty rate for kids in the district is a whopping 80 percent. Parents are going to be forced to miss work when money for these families is already extremely tight. The teachers and union should be ashamed! The teachers and the union also seem to have missed is that the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, the state’s biggest pension fund, is extremely underfunded. That nice cushy pension that many ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Wednesday, October 23, 2019By Steve Siebold
    23 hours ago
  • The Atheists v. Bill Barr
    Washington The insistence on the separation of church and state has taken a draconian leap. Not only is religion to be extirpated from all government activity, but even the public mention of religion is also to be frowned upon. Unless, of course, you are against religion. Certainly the mention of religion in a public setting is to be frowned upon if one is a government official. That is what we learned a couple of weeks ago when Attorney General William Barr spoke at the University of Notre Dame. He spoke on the place of religion in public life. Had he spoken out on the prevalence of concussions on the football field at Notre Dame, his remarks would have gone down better. He might then have gone on to remark on the value of redesigned football helmets in lowering the incidence of head injuries. But Mr. Barr addressed the state of religion in our lives and the forces that are arrayed against religion. For instance: the forces of the militant atheists, the nihilists, and the secularists who really do not give a damn. These secularists do know which way the wind is blowing, and they are with the wind. Mr. Barr believes the wind is blowing against religion, and he is speaking up against the drive to deemphasize religion still more from public life. He wants an open discussion of what the Founding Fathers thought about religion. George Washington believed our Christian values were supported by the Constitution and were essential to keep the Constitution strong. John Adams thought, “Our Constitution was made for only a moral and religious people.” Yet such thoughts ignited a prairie fire of hysteria from our cosmopolitan nonbelievers. William McGurn in a thoughtful column in last week’s Wall Street Journal gathered up a sampling of the hysteria. Paul Krugman of the New York Times accused Mr. Barr of “religious bigotry,” charging him with “pogrom type speech.” Richard Painter tweeted out that Mr. Barr’s speech sounded like an installment of the The Handmaid’s Tale and reminded Painter of “vintage Goebbels.” Painter must watch a lot of old-time documentaries on the Hitler Channel. Finally, a retired Army colonel, once chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Joy Reid at MSNBC that the attorney general is “Torquemada in a business suit.” Some people will say anything to get on television, even seldom-viewed television. Whatever did Mr. Barr say? Well, actually he said a lot. He said that “The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion” to back up our laws and fortify our Constitution. And he went on, “What we call ‘values’ today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.” Now that is a line worth savoring. To Mr. Barr, American government relies upon citizens with strong Judeo-Christian beliefs that would allow them to be self-governing. He went on, “This is really what was meant by ‘self-government.’ In short, in the Framers’ ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Wednesday, October 23, 2019By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
    23 hours ago
  • On Patent ‘Wrights’ and Wrongs
    When one spends any time criticizing the U.S. patent system or those who profit from it while offering dubious benefits to the consumer, one inevitably runs up against a particularly annoying rhetorical tactic employed by those same profiteers. “How can you complain about patents, or about our use of them?,” they shriek. “Why, do you think [insert famous inventor here] was a patent troll?!” A fine specimen of this thoroughly ridiculous trope was published recently at the diehard patent troll apologist website IP Watchdog, accusing the R Street Institute (full disclosure: a former employer of mine) of being anti-free market because they had the temerity to host a panel where one of the panelists criticized the Wright brothers. Now, R Street most emphatically does not need my help defending themselves. The IP Watchdog article already bears a stern editorial note at the bottom indicating that they have pointed out the most glaring flaws with the piece: namely, that it attributes a false position to R Street (wanting to abolish patents, which they do not support) and that it attributes the views of panelists to R Street itself, even though they only hosted the event, and think tanks often invite panelists with provocative points of view to speak without necessarily agreeing with those points of view. That being said, the main thrust of the article, which can be uncharitably but accurately described as “Wright brothers build airplane and Wright brothers have patent for airplane therefore Wright brothers good and patents good,” is emblematic of the complete inability of some patent defenders to hold more than one idea in their heads. The two ideas in question are firstly, that yes, the Wright brothers were iconic American inventors and were owed recognition and compensation for their breakthrough; and secondly, that the Wright brothers very nearly killed the American airplane industry in its crib with their desire to squeeze every dollar — and competitor — out of it using patent litigation; and thirdly, that whatever their merits as businesspeople, the Wright brothers might never have been able to get their airplanes off the ground if the policy preferences of patent trolls had been obeyed at the time. So, yes, the Wright brothers were iconic, to the point that “any fifth-grader can tell you that the Wright brothers invented the airplane,” as the IP Watchdog article puts it. But policymakers and historians are supposed to operate at a higher level than “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” So let’s be more specific: the Wright brothers invented the first airplane that could be steered. Inventors had been attempting to build flying machines for quite some time before the Wrights. Some of them could take off but only fly short distances, while others — like Clement Ader’s “Avion III” — were able to remain in the air but had primitive methods of directional control. It is worth noting, by the way, that at least some sources — such as the journal Science refer to Ader ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Wednesday, October 23, 2019By Mytheos Holt
    23 hours ago
  • Russian Asset Number One: Hillary, Not Tulsi
    Hillary recently injected herself, with her characteristic venom, into the 2020 presidential race — this time, at the expense of a Democrat. She called Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii’s four-term member of the House of Representatives, and a veteran who served in Iraq, “a Russian asset.” Gabbard, for her part, blasted Hillary (4:12) for doing so. Much was made after Trump won of Russian hacks into the Democratic Party’s political databases, and it was argued that therefore it is clear that the Kremlin feared a President Hillary but not a President Trump. As shown below, this is very counterintuitive, making all the more puzzling the near-universal belief inside the Beltway that this is so. There are strong reasons to conclude otherwise. They can summed up simply: Hillary’s actions speak louder than anyone’s words. During her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary was a reliable diplomatic doormat, genuflecting repeatedly to Moscow’s geostrategic wishes. She began her tenure by presenting (1:06) Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov with a large ersatz red button intended to symbolize a “reset” of relations between America and Russia — back to the Clinton years. The Obama administration began the “reset” by lifting sanctions imposed on Russia by George W. Bush after Russia annexed two provinces of Georgia, an ex-satellite of the former Soviet Union. The Tsarina of Russian Reset was just beginning. Exactly one month into her tenure, she landed in Beijing for an official visit. Looking back, in a September 2014 on-air interview, she revealed what Al Gore would call “an inconvenient truth” when she told radio host Hugh Hewitt, Every time we went to countries like China or Russia, I mean we couldn’t take our computers, we couldn’t take our personal devices, we couldn’t take anything off the plane because they’re so good. They would penetrate in a nanosecond. Add to that what James Comey said when testifying before Congress on the Hillary email mess. He called the level of security on Hillary’s Gmail account less than that on a regular Gmail account. Apologists for Hillary argue she did not recognize the global reach of the internet (see radio link above). This is clearly untrue. In a February 15, 2011, address on internet freedom, Hillary, speaking of the then-nascent Facebook revolution in Egypt, and noting that there were two billion people connected online worldwide, called the internet “the world’s town square.” She added that “transparency and confidentiality” were both critical. She said, “In addition to being a public space, the internet is also a channel for private communication, and there must be a way to protect confidential communications.” She cited Wikileaks’ publishing government communications as theft of confidential information. In her speech, she also referenced events in Iran 18 months earlier, when online access drove protests after a rigged election. Hillary cited the power of global interconnection in a January 21, 2010, address on how the internet can support human rights (emphasis added): The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet. When something ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Wednesday, October 23, 2019By John C. Wohlstetter
    23 hours ago
  • Trump and Syria: The Myth of Betrayal
    “Trump has betrayed the Syrian Kurds” — so goes a popular refrain regarding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the areas of northeast Syria held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The events that have followed — namely, a Turkish invasion of parts of SDF territory along the border and the deployment of Syrian government forces in some SDF areas — have been characterized as a strategic disaster for American interests, with some commentators even proclaiming the withdrawal as indicative of a U.S. imperial decline and U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. In fact, much of this is overblown. For one thing, the U.S. still maintains extensive troop deployments elsewhere in the Middle East, and those are not being drawn down anytime soon. Insofar as many of the pundits, analysts, and policymakers condemning Trump consider the recent developments in Syria to be a disaster, they primarily have themselves to blame, however popular bashing Trump might be. Indeed, these critics of Trump did not learn the relevant lessons from December 2018 when the president ordered preparations for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. They should have appreciated that Trump is ultimately the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces and that he had made his own preferences on Syria clear: namely, that after the military defeat of the Islamic State, U.S. forces should leave. As the president’s record on issues like climate change and the Iran nuclear deal illustrates, he has generally been forthright and sincere in trying to fulfill his policy promises. When he told his advisers that he wanted to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, he meant it. The message should have been clear: devise an orderly withdrawal plan. But that is not what happened. Instead, efforts and attention were geared towards U.S. forces remaining indefinitely in Syria. The advocates for this “stay indefinitely” approach argued that the deployment as it existed was supposedly an example of a successful projection of U.S. leverage and influence with a relatively small number of troops. They claimed that U.S. presence was vital for political negotiations on Syria’s future and important for limiting Iranian influence and blocking its “land route” to the Mediterranean. In reality, none of these assertions holds up but rather reflect dubious expansions of the original purpose of the U.S. mission in Syria: countering the Islamic State. At the same time, the “stay indefinitely” crowd tended to downplay the major problem regarding the U.S. partnership with the SDF: the issue of relations with Turkey, which considers (with some justification) the SDF to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for decades. Regardless of what one thinks of Turkey’s approach towards the PKK, it is not a problem that can be treated as a minor irritant. Facts of geography mean that Turkey is located along the northern borders of the SDF’s territory. As such, Turkey could be the SDF’s main gateway to the outside world, rather than the small and limited capacity ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Wednesday, October 23, 2019By Aymenn Al-Tamimi
    23 hours ago
  • Got a College Debt Problem? Social Security Could Solve It
    Young Americans are currently struggling to repay an enormous amount of money to the federal government in the form of federal student loan debt. And the federal government will soon be struggling to pay an enormous amount of money to young Americans in the form of future Social Security benefits. Young Americans owe the federal government, which also owes them. And neither can easily meet their obligations. Sounds like the makings of a deal to me. Both the federal student loan problem and the looming insolvency of Social Security are “known knowns,” in the parlance of former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, who served under George W. Bush, the last politician to even feint toward addressing Social Security. At that time, the then-$100 billion in federal student loan debt was but a rounding error in the federal budget. But it has since exploded to $1.45 trillion and is growing by more than $30 billion each quarter. Meanwhile, over the next 75 years the Social Security Trust Fund has an unfunded liability of $13.2 trillion. These two crises pose a one-two gut punch to young Americans, who are not only starting life mired in significant debt but will also be the generation to suffer from Social Security’s insolvency. Absent a solution, their taxes will skyrocket and their Social Security benefits will be dramatically cut. A creative solution is needed, not only to solve the respective financing problems but perhaps even to prevent outright generational warfare. The federal government has neither the means nor any plans to meet Social Security’s liabilities a generation from now. And no one seems to have a workable solution for the student debt crisis either, other than to lecture students about their poor decisions or to make irresponsible, impossible promises to forgive all student debt. Now, clearly some bad decision-making has led to the student loan crisis, but it wasn’t only on the part of students. Yes, one should have known that borrowing $120,000 for a degree in gender studies or art history probably wasn’t a good investment. But most American high schoolers were told they needed to go to college, their parents were passive, their advisers sold them on these majors, the government profligately loaned them cheap and indiscriminate financing, and colleges happily mopped up the money. So there’s lots of blame to go around. The question is: Is there a solution that isn’t worse than the problem? Well, here’s a creative, even radical solution: Make those with student loan debt repay their loans, but let them repay them … to their future selves. The federal student loan portfolio is a receivable asset of the federal government. Transfer that asset to the Social Security Trust Fund (which could badly use some assets), create personal retirement accounts (PRAs), and let student loan debtors offset some portion or all of Social Security’s future obligations to them by making their loan payments to their own personal retirement accounts. As their loan payments reduce their student loan ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Tuesday, October 22, 2019By Tom Giovanetti
    2 days ago
  • Trump-Supported Vaping Bans Are Decoys for Crony Capitalism
    There’s a concept in business called the “decoy effect,” whereby crafty marketers present an unfavorable option to manipulate consumers toward a more profitable one. The classic business-school example is movie theaters providing three sizes of popcorn: the price of the medium size nudges people into getting the big bucket instead. They may not want the big bucket, but their brain is tricked into thinking it’s a better value. And it seems that vaping-tyrant Juul may be pulling a similar game of three-card monte with the strict bans by many politicians — including the White House — against their industry. A chorus of voices has been crying for outright bans on vapes, also called e-cigarettes, with a host of states coming down hard on it. New York’s Gov. Cuomo has issued a high-profile executive order to ban all flavors and was just as surprised as the rest of us when President Trump made a comparable threat the same week. These bans all include the noble goal of preventing youth vaping — especially following the impossible-to-avoid blitz of sensationalistic anti-vaping news stories this year. Juul has demonstrated an eagerness to comply with this noble goal — but the reality is more complicated than that. The company has supported the president’s ban on flavors, but announced last week that it would continue to sell menthol and mint products — because somehow those don’t count as flavors. Juul is supporting the ban on flavors — fruit, candy, cola — to try to win some good publicity points, showing that it is an upstanding company that doesn’t want kids to kill themselves with e-cigarettes. But this is actually a cynical ploy to carve out those “non-flavors,” which are its cash cows. As of February, Juul’s mint pods accounted for 70 percent of its sales — worth $2.3 billion annually — up from just 40 percent last year. While insisting they’re “non-flavors,” Juul’s own website describes its mint as a “crisp peppermint flavor” and menthol as having “a brisk finish.” A ban on all flavors except mint and menthol is actually in Juul’s best interest: Juul is the multi-billion-dollar market leader in that flavor and would suffer less under such a ban than its competitors. It’s throwing out support of a ban on flavors where it doesn’t have the biggest market share as a decoy to keep the one where it does. Indeed, if competitors who are beating them on candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes can no longer use them, they might switch to mint or menthol, increasing Juul’s revenue even more. Earlier this year, Altria invested in Juul, its closest competitor, in a strategic partnership that boosted Juul’s company value from $16 to $38 billion. Juul is now deploying its considerable resources in a lobbying offensive to seize a monopoly. It’s clear Juul has been negotiating with the FDA for the last year to keep the mint and menthol flavors classified under the same umbrella as tobacco. While Juul insists it’s just as concerned about “the children” as every politician and reporter, ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Tuesday, October 22, 2019By Jared Whitley
    2 days ago
  • Steak ’n Shake: The Hill’s Last Best Hope
    There is something romantic — at least to a certain kind of swamp rat — about the prospect of dining in the Rayburn cafeteria on Capitol Hill. It offers all the glitz of a C-SPAN 2 program: a collection of gray plastic table tops, faded photos of the national monuments, and a steady flow of House staffers shambling around the room until Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment gavel calls them away. The Rayburn cafeteria is one of the best in Washington, D.C. Among people who rank such things, it usually comes in third — right behind the Newseum and the Basilica of the National Shrine. But with the former’s institutional demise and the latter’s temporary inaccessibility to George Neumayr, Rayburn might just leapfrog to the top.  That’s because Rayburn just opened the city’s first Steak ’n Shake. It only took 85 years, but you can’t rush art. Since September, the crown jewel of Illinois, the chain “Famous for Steakburgers,” has been serving up the best fast-food lunch on Capitol Hill.   I recently made a pilgrimage to this Steak ’n Shake with a Senate staffer and two other friends. The line was out the door and down the hall. Everyone I passed in the building was talking about the place: the heavyset security guards at the entrance, the K Street bros cooling by the Sam Rayburn statue, the college interns glued to their iPhones — I imagine even the ghost of Paul Ryan was drifting through some air duct, murmuring its praises.    And not without reason. The Rayburn Steak ’n Shake solves one of the chain’s systemic problems, which has persisted since at least the 1950s, when the company began expanding outside its home in Normal, Illinois. A former Steak ’n Shake employee — now the mother of 10 children — once described it to me this way: the chain never decided if it’s a diner or a drive-thru. Because of this, the often short-staffed locations end up attempting to serve the people in the cars and the people in the booths at the same time. They invariably fail, and the result is a seemingly endless wait for everyone. I’ve endured this wait many times in my years of Steak ’n Shake patronage. Once, in Massaponax, Virginia, I sat in the drive-thru for nearly 45 minutes with my brother. We spent most of it looking longingly at the Waffle House up the street. Another time, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I suffered a similar delay in the dining room. Here, the man sitting next to me became so agitated that he chowed down on some KFC stashed in a ratty tote bag before his food showed up.  I had to walk out of a location in Columbus, Ohio with my fiancée because the service was so slow — a great embarrassment. Not in Rayburn. Here, Steak ’n Shake is sticking to it strengths. No drive-thru, no fancy menu options. Just hamburgers and “hand-dipped” milkshakes, whatever those are. Oh, and the Frisco Melt, which is ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Tuesday, October 22, 2019By Nic Rowan
    2 days ago
  • The Young, the Restless, and Bernie
    A New York Times opinion column acquaints humanity with the injustice of forbidding the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds — who, nevertheless, would gain the franchise once a budding movement to that end came to fruition — and then would impose the superior wisdom of the young by handing the presidency, so we are entitled to infer, to Bernie Sanders. The well-ripened alliance of various young folks and snowy-haired Sen. Sanders — a 78-year-old heart attack victim going on age 5, to judge by his simplistic politics — is hard to sort out. The truth seems to be, old-time political alignments — e.g., Democratic populists against Republican country club types — no longer hold. Nobody seems happy: not even the young, once famous for generally ignoring politics in behalf of more sensible activities, such as homecomings and the new car styles. That would explain the Republican split over Trump as well as the defection of working-class Democrats to the Republican ticket. It would help explain — though nothing can completely explain, amid breathtaking prosperity — the progressive passion for robbing selected Peter to pay collective Paul. Americans know what they want, politically speaking, whether or not they know why they want it, or whether getting it would make them happier. Well, it’s odd. It used not to be that way. Bernie and I both recall, as Joe Biden must also, the four-sided 1948 presidential election, Truman versus Dewey versus Thurmond versus Wallace; but mostly that stuff was our parents’ affair. The Capitol and the White House, not to mention the Supreme Court building, seemed, and were, far distant from us. The media, I think — ever more numerous, ever more talkative — changed our minds, as did the growing number of initiatives overseen by those vested with power. The ordinary man or woman of politics, it becomes increasingly clear, is going to solve all your problems. You have only to identify which problems you want solved. Faith in all these goings-on doubled or tripled. Now it’s life itself. Which is why Astra Taylor, social activist and author of the above-referenced New York Times opinion piece, argues, “Everything, it seems, is up for grabs.… A hoary establishment” — thank you, ma’am, I would say, speaking as one of the hoars — “hoards influence, curtailing young people’s ability to effect change.” It makes you want to go on living, so as to continue outnumbering for as long as possible and, let’s hope, outvoting the Sanders contingent, determined as it seems to turn life inside out through taxing billionaires out of existence. Sen. Sanders is flesh-and-blood proof that to have lived long is not necessarily to understand the rationale for age-related voting restrictions. Living long should entail the gift of looking around and weighing which ideas, which policies, make sense in the real world and which don’t. Bernie, at 78, isn’t on to it, but he seems hardly to notice. That’s no argument for increasing the electoral heft of “the kids,” as we used ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Tuesday, October 22, 2019By William Murchison
    2 days ago
  • President Trump Understands What Congress Does Not: Syria Is Not America’s War
    Congress wouldn’t declare war or even approve presidential troop deployments in Syria. But sanctimonious legislators now are preening for the cameras, demanding that U.S. military force remain entangled in that tragic nation, seemingly forever. They show greater concern for foreign fighters acting in their own interest than for American soldiers, as well as civilians who have suffered from blowback to Washington’s succession of Middle Eastern wars. It needs to be said bluntly: Syria doesn’t matter for U.S. security. The Assad family has ruled Syria since 1971. The regime was allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War but never attacked America. After steady losses, the Assads even abandoned war with Israel. Rule by father and son has been brutal — like those of assorted American friends: Mubarak, el-Sisi, the Saudi royal family, Bahrain’s al-Khalifas, Iran’s Shah Pahlavi, and even Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, when he was fighting Tehran. Syria’s implosion in 2011 only added to the humanitarian tragedy. The Obama administration’s determination to oust President Bashar al-Assad discouraged both sides from negotiating. Yet Syrians, especially among minority Christians and Alawites, warned, à la Louis XV, “après moi, le déluge.” On a visit to Syria last year an Alawite told me that supposedly democratic protesters were chanting “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave.” Religious minorities saw the horrors unleashed when the U.S. ousted a secular dictator next door in Iraq and understandably feared a repeat. The administration’s efforts were hopelessly ineffective, incompetent, confused, and contradictory. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to train a handful of supposedly moderate insurgents who were promptly killed or captured. The U.S. simultaneously sought to destroy ISIS and its main enemy, the Syrian state. Washington assumed that it could dictate events from thousands of miles away, somehow ousting Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia, which all were invited in by Damascus to defend interests far more pressing to them than those claimed by U.S. officials. Even worse, both the Obama and Trump administrations believed they could pacify the Turks with friendly words while arming the Kurds against the Islamic State. And use an illegal deployment of a couple thousand troops  —  what legal warrant does America have to invade, occupy, and divide the territory of another sovereign state?  —  to oust Assad, force democratic reform, push out the Iranians, limit Russia’s activities, force Ankara to accept an autonomous state for its mortal enemies, and prevent an Islamic State revival. Washington’s couldn’t achieve this ambitious agenda even during the height of Syria’s civil war. And the only goal worth much effort is the last one. The others aren’t likely achievable, wouldn’t do much for American security even if they were, and aren’t worth the cost of more bloody attempts at international social engineering. Constraining ISIS today is a task for those most directly threatened: Iraq, Jordan, the Gulf States, Syria, Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the Kurds. The Islamic State has arrayed itself against every other state and group. They allowed the U.S. to do their dirty work ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Tuesday, October 22, 2019By Doug Bandow
    2 days ago
  • Mitt Romney Implodes After Outing of Secret Twitter Persona
    So. Mitt Romney is out of the closet. Comes the news from the left-leaning Slate (which gleaned its initial information from an Atlantic story) that Romney has been caught with a secret Twitter account in the name of “Pierre Delecto.” In which “Pierre Delecto” snarks and mocks everyone from the president to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others. It is a remarkable — and damaging — self-inflicted wound. Romney comes across as bitter, insecure, and utterly without principle — and not for the first time. Recall this Romney line from 2002? I’m not a partisan Republican. I’m someone who is moderate, and … my views are progressive. Thus spoke now-Utah Sen. Romney when he was running for office in Massachusetts in 2002. But when he ran for president in 2012? Then he described himself quite differently to the audience of CPAC conservatives. Romney then claimed he was “severely conservative.” Which is to say, depending on his audience and just whose votes he is seeking, Romney will say whatever he feels he has to say. Meaning: this is a man with no principles. The latest example is his attack on President Trump. Back in 2012 Romney was thrilled to get Trump’s endorsement. “It means a great deal to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump,” said Romney. “There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.” Romney was also pleased to get Trump’s endorsement in 2018 when Romney was running for his Utah Senate seat. Said Romney then: Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah. And not to be forgotten is that Romney was only too happy to be considered for Trump’s secretary of state. But now? In January, no sooner had he arrived in Washington to take his Senate seat than the anti-Trump Washington Post was running this headline over a Romney op-ed: Mitt Romney: The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short. Romney now says this: The places where I would be most critical of the president would be in matters that were divisive, that appeared to be appealing to racism or misogyny, and those are the kinds of things I think that have been most, most harmful long term to the foundation of America’s virtuous character. Romney also says he wrote in his wife Ann’s name for president in 2016. So what do we have here? What we have is yet another glimpse of just how unprincipled Mitt Romney is. He believes Trump appeals to racism and misogyny — but he was thrilled to have his endorsement in 2012. He told liberal Massachusetts voters in 2002 he was “not a partisan Republican” but a “moderate” whose “views are progressive.” But in 2012, running for the GOP presidential nomination, he told his conservative audience he was a “severe conservative.” And not ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Tuesday, October 22, 2019By Jeffrey Lord
    2 days ago
  • Trump Will Win in 2020 Because of Impeachment
    Trump will win reelection in 2020 for three reasons: First, the voters are always reluctant to replace a president in a time of peace and prosperity, regardless of his perceived flaws. Second, a transparently partisan impeachment vote in the House followed by a fair trial and acquittal in the Senate, will seriously damage the Democratic brand while sparking an internal civil war between its moderate and leftwing factions. Finally, this ideological conflict within the opposition party will result in the nomination of a weak compromise candidate to face a vindicated and politically stronger incumbent President awash in cash and supported by highly motivated voters. Anyone doubting this last point should peruse this article from the BBC about Trump’s recent Minnesota rally, “The centre of the city is a bobbing sea of red and white. The slogan is on t-shirts: Women for Trump, Pilots for Trump, Cops for Trump.” This was in Minneapolis, mind you, just after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the Democrats would launch an “impeachment inquiry” into the President’s purported misdeeds. They weren’t impressed by Pelosi’s decree: “If anything, it has galvanized the thousands of supporters some of whom queued for days to be at the front of the Target Center crowd.” USA Today reports a very similar phenomenon: While Trump has faced intense criticism in Washington … he has reveled in the rock-star reception he has received at rallies thousands of miles away in Minneapolis and Dallas.… Supporters echo the president’s attacks on impeachment, House Democrats and what Trump calls the “swamp” of Washington, D.C. Like the president, they view impeachment as an illegitimate effort to take him dow.… Impeachment, many said, will wind up re-electing Trump in 2020. Imagine what these rallies will be like after House Democrats impeach him and he is acquitted in the Senate. Trump will repeatedly remind his supporters that, after two partisan witch hunts perpetrated by unscrupulous antagonists with little regard for evidence and less for ethics, he is still standing and ready to take on any challenger the Democrats nominate. Moreover, he will hang the embarrassingly inept Mueller investigation and the inevitable implosion of impeachment around the neck of that unfortunate candidate. Trump will force him to explain why the Democrats wasted two years in the House and accomplished nothing but failed attempts to oust him. The 2020 Democratic nominee will be Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders. All of these people have called for Trump’s impeachment. Two of the three are, inconveniently, members of the upper chamber of Congress that will eventually acquit him. If Biden is the nominee, the President will remind voters that the former VP is on video bragging about doing exactly what he calls an impeachable offense in Trump’s case — threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine in a quid pro quo arrangement. Ironically, impeachment is actually a blessing in disguise for the Trump campaign. Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration, writes in the Guardian: Impeachment is sucking huge amounts ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Monday, October 21, 2019By David Catron
    3 days ago
  • Endless War in Syria via Iraq
    In a campaign rally in Minneapolis about ten days ago, President Trump talked about his sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. He said, “We don’t have any soldiers there because we left, we won, we left, take a victory United States,” he said. “Bring our troops back home.” Yesterday, he repeated that theme on Twitter: “Mark Esperanto (sic), Secretary of Defense, ‘The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with the Kurds.’ USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!” We need to parse that out a bit because Trump’s good intentions aren’t causing good results. It’s Sunday, three days into the ceasefire with Turkey. As the president tweeted, the ceasefire is generally holding up. But under the agreement, the Kurds are required to retreat from the twenty-mile deep “safe zone” Turkey is occupying in Syria. The Kurds are accusing the Turks of preventing them from leaving the zone as an excuse to resume fighting. Either the Turks, the Russians, or Russia’s Syrian puppets will quickly secure the Syrian oil region, from which the Kurds are withdrawing. Turkish President Recep Erdogan said that if the Kurds don’t withdraw from the “safe zone” by Tuesday evening, when the ceasefire is scheduled to end, “…we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists’ heads.” Defense Secretary Esper announced that the one thousand U.S. troops who had been serving in Syria in the war against ISIS weren’t going home. All of them are being redeployed to Iraq and, from there, they will presumably continue the campaign against ISIS from longer distance. At the same time, Trump has sent another fifteen hundred U.S. troops, and another Patriot missile battery, to Saudi Arabia. They will stand in defense of further Iranian attacks against the Saudi oil infrastructure like the September 14 cruise missile and drone attack that temporarily knocked out a major Saudi oil processing facility. The future of the endless war in the Middle East can’t be forecast completely, but much of it can be. The American retreat from Syria and betrayal of our Kurdish allies didn’t bring our troops home, didn’t end the “endless wars” in the Middle East, and — most importantly — didn’t reduce the threats to our national security. Turkey, as I have written repeatedly, is our adversary, not an ally. It will, at Russia’s sufferance, occupy a twenty-mile broad section of Syria. That’s not the only place Erdogan is conducting military aggression. Erdogan has been emboldened by Trump’s exit from Syria. While Russia has said that Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria is “unacceptable” and has moved Russian and Syrian forces close to where Turkish forces are located, Russia is — as usual — playing both sides. Russia values the huge presence it — and Iran — have in Syria more than it values Turkey’s alliance with it and Iran in their 2016 ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Monday, October 21, 2019By Jed Babbin
    3 days ago
  • ‘God Is a Nats Fan’: A Kid From New York Remembers
    Yankee Stadium, 1958 When Washington was in town, the drill was always the same: Play hooky; 15¢ for a bus to the Staten Island Ferry; a nickel ferry ride and 15¢ more for the BMT to Woodlawn and Jerome Avenues. As the subway erupted into sunlight from the bowels of the Bronx, this 12-year-old kid wearing his navy blue hat with its white “W” would confront the Citadel of Baseball, proud and austere, its eagle logos, bristling with pennants. The House that Ruth built was home to the team I rooted against. Through the turnstiles, down dark alleyways smelling of beer and cigars, and suddenly you’d burst upon this hallowed expanse of green. In the outfield were memorials to The Babe, Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins. Billy Crystal once quipped, “I thought they were buried there!” All us kids thought that. Ninety cents got you into the bleachers, but general admission cost only $1.30. From there, after a couple innings, you could sneak into an empty $2.50 reserved seat or, if attendance was light, a $3.50 box. Now and then the visiting Senators would get ahead, and scary Bronx voices would holler: “Hey kid — the Washington section’s in the bleachers!” Why the Nats? Don’t get me wrong. All us New York kids backed a home team, but in those days we had three choices, and I chose the Giants. The sure-winner Yankees were too easy to root for. When I discovered baseball, they were all-dominant, winning five straight pennants and World Series from 1949 to 1953. The Evil Empire, even then! I preferred underdogs. I looked around for an American League rival, and my eye fell upon the Washington Senators. (Officially they were the Nationals until 1956, but everybody called them the Nats.) I liked their uniform, with the big navy blue “W.” Why not? In the early 1950s the Nats were good, if not great. Decent pitching, light hitting. Once, in July 1952, we found ourselves only five games behind the Yanks. Manager Bucky Harris was interviewed: “Could you guys actually win the pennant?” Bucky laughed, but I was euphoric. Maybe! Alas we finished fifth at 78-76 — the original Senators’ last winning season. After 1960 they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. An expansion team took their place, and when I lived in central Pennsylvania I drove down to a few games. They had only one winning season, and after 1971 they hied to Texas to become the Rangers. Bummer. Better Than Everybody Thinks Long before then, this kid with his “W” hat had memorized Washington baseball’s great days — and there were many. In the decade 1924-1933, the Senators, Yankees, and Philadelphia Athletics owned the American League. They won every pennant — three, four, and three respectively. In 1924 the Nats won a seven-game World Series — improbably. Trailing 3-1 in the eighth, player-manager Bucky Harris smashed a grounder to third that hit a pebble, deflecting over the Giants’ Fred Lindstrom, scoring two and tying ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Monday, October 21, 2019By Richard Langworth
    3 days ago
  • Wifey, My Empress of Forgiveness
    Sunday I am suffering terribly from (1) My osteoarthritis in my right knee, which hurts like the dickens every time I move my leg, especially going up stairs, (2) An insect bite on my back. I think it must be a spider bite. It REALLY hurts. I keep putting hydrocortisone cream on it (maybe the word is “creme” — after all, it’s not a dairy product). Plus, I am suffering from MSM coverage of Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from helping protect the Kurds. Long ago, when I worked at the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, one of my colleagues was a young, super smart guy named James Ring Adams (if memory serves, which it often doesn’t now). He was a fount of knowledge and love about and for the Kurds. I have been sympathetic to them ever since. They fought on our side against ISIS and Syria. Why would we desert them now? I cannot imagine how many Kurdish girls will be raped nor how many young men will have their throats slit just because they trusted us. Why? Mr. Trump, why? Those of us who love you and pray for you wonder what the hell you were doing or thought you were doing. Now, I know the MSM is telling lie after lie about them, but it still does not look good for us fans of Trump. Why did he have to do this now? BTW, wonderful Fox News is showing video of “a colossal rocket and artillery bombardment of some pitiful Kurdish town in Syria.” It is supposedly of the Syrians killing Kurdish children. It turns out that it was actually some exercises of U.S. shooters in KENTUCKY!!! None of the MSM outlets will admit their “mistake.” Nevertheless, it was more than a mistake to withdraw the U.S. from protecting the Kurds. As some famous statesman said, “It was more than a mistake. It was a blunder.” Anyway, I still have to vote for Trump but I will understand if others don’t. This Kurdish thing was a catastrophe. However, I have a bigger point. The physical pain I have been suffering has really knocked me flat. I wake up dreading the pain that lurks for me. But then a thought comes to me that saves the day: Wifey, her royal majesty of humans, is at the end of the hall. I have the absolutely most forgiving, kindest, most lovable, most loyal woman on the planet just a few feet away. Most stellar human. Any usual wife would have long since murdered me for my major flaws. But Alex just forgives and forgives me and becomes more saintly with each passing day. She’s so much more than I deserve it’s positively insane. Most beautiful, too. I spend a large part of every day lying next to her just looking at her perfect profile. She was the most beautiful girl at Vassar and then at Yale and now she’s the most beautiful girl on earth. I ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Monday, October 21, 2019By Ben Stein
    3 days ago
  • A Deal With China Is a Loss for America
    At a recent dinner for a group of high-ranking military officers at an undisclosed location in the bucolic American countryside, I cautioned the generals to prepare for the president to make a deal with China on trade. Many nodded but were skeptical. Why would the president unilaterally end a trade war that has been so successful against a country which he, and many of his most ardent supporters, believe is America’s number one geopolitical rival? I explained that the president is a transactional leader who favors short-term solutions over longer-term strategic considerations. This in itself is not bad. In fact, it was one of the reasons why I not only voted for the Trump in 2016 (and will vote for him again in 2020), but it is also why I so loudly defended this president to fellow Republicans who despised him. Yet, foreign and trade policy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. And, with China, if the United States cedes an inch of ground on trade, China’s leaders will turn that inch into a mile — ensuring that Beijing will yet again keep pace with (and possibly ultimately defeat) America in the great strategic competition between Beijing and Washington. It now appears that such a trade deal with China is at hand. I am, unfortunately, reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous quote that you “cannot make a deal with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” For years, America’s head has been in China’s mouth. All we can do is resist China’s bite. The president, however, appears poised to surrender to China. Short-Termism Rears Its Ugly Head Again The problem is that the president’s need for short-term deals will not have the intended effect on the long-term Sino-American strategic competition. Rather than ameliorating the rising tide of hostility between the two economic and military juggernauts, a deal, such as the tentative one that the Trump Administration is crafting with Beijing, will weaken the United States in the long term and will allow for Beijing to continue its long march to world preeminence. After all, Trump’s tariffs and overall pressure campaign against China has been working. We can see how it has fundamentally weakened China’s economy (and therefore its autarkic political system). Whether speaking about the obvious Hong Kong protests that threaten to fundamentally destabilize China’s tenuous political system, or the severe crackdown on Muslim Uighurs and Evangelical Christianpopulations, Beijing is worried about American-induced political disharmony. The disharmony is being exacerbated by the Trade War. Meanwhile, China’s economy continues its rapid slowdown. Some of this is simply because China is transitioning from an old world-type manufacturing economy with a high-savings rate into a post-industrial, consumption economy with a higher debt load. Yet, Trump’s Trade War is intensifying the decline — and putting the proverbial squeeze on those Communist leaders in Beijing, who have spent decades in an unremitting economic war against the United States. The proposed trade talks are set to create a multi-phase trade deal that will not only settle ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Sunday, October 20, 2019By Brandon J. Weichert
    4 days ago
  • From the Pact of the Catacombs to the Amazon Synod
    Around the time of Vatican II, a group of socialist bishops signed a secret manifesto called the Pact of the Catacombs. It received its name from having been signed at a church near the historic catacombs in Rome. In my book The Political Pope, I argue that the Pact of the Catacombs foreshadowed the pontificate of Jorge Bergoglio. Consequently, I wasn’t surprised to learn that a collection of bishops and cardinals participating in the Pan-Amazon Synod met to “renew” and commemorate the Pact of the Catacombs this past week. These clerics had been planning the Pan-Amazon Synod for years. Indeed, most of the forty signatories of the Pact of the Catacombs were their predecessors from Latin America. According to the text of the Pact of the Catacombs, the bishops pledged to politicize the Church for the sake of ushering in the “advent of another social order.” The pact read like something that a club of adolescent socialists might have cobbled together: We will do our utmost so that those responsible for our government and for our public services make, and put into practice, laws, structures and social institutions required by justice and charity, equality and the harmonic and holistic development of all men and women, and by this means bring about the advent of another social order, worthy of the sons and daughters of mankind and of God. “It had the odor of communism,” Brother Uwe Heisterhoff has explained to reporter David Gibson. It also had the odor, now ubiquitous at the synod, of UN-style, Brave New World totalitarianism. For how else could such an order be created without international government bodies squelching freedom? It is no coincidence that the German bishops, who are largely running and financing the synod (their “relief” agencies have spent millions of dollars on travel for Indian activists, observers, and propaganda), have over the years been the loudest proponents of the Pact of the Catacombs’ call to turn the Church into a socialist arm of the United Nations. After the election of Pope Francis, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, among other figures, immediately drew attention to the pact. Kasper described the election of Francis as its vindication — the Church, he gushed, had finally embraced a pope who embodied its socialist spirit. “It was forgotten,” Kasper said to reporter David Gibson. “But now [Francis] brings it back.… His program is to a high degree what the Catacomb Pact was.” That “program” from the start included the Pan-Amazon Synod, which is nothing more than a pretext to unite the Church and the United Nations in a power grab against Brazil and other Latin American countries where the Amazonians reside. Rome, as I can attest from my visit to it, is crawling with UN officials, such as Jeffrey Sachs, who seek to use the Church to turn the Amazonian regions into NGO-ville, as it were, so that they can push their radical environmentalist and socialist projects. It was the three-quarters German Latin-American Cardinal Claudio Hummes who whispered in ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Sunday, October 20, 2019By George Neumayr
    4 days ago
  • Taking Pride in Down Syndrome Children
    My family just visited Chocolate World at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania — the so-called “sweetest place on earth.” We hit it every two or three years when traveling through. For those unfamiliar, Chocolate World is the heart of the Hershey experience. It’s a giant candy-land. The primary attraction is a tour where visitors ride in self-guided vehicles through a flashy exhibit learning about the history of Hershey’s chocolate. At the end of the tour stands a Hershey’s employee who hands everyone a complimentary chocolate bar. For kids, it’s the highlight. The last several times we’ve done the tour, the boy handing out chocolate has been a kid with Down Syndrome — a job he does without a hitch. It’s an added sweet thing that makes you smile. In fact, everyone smiles. I observe a mom who looks him in the eye and says very deliberately, “Thank you very much.” I generally say something like, “Thank you, sir!” What strikes me about the moment, however, is something much less happy. In fact, it’s dark, sad; nonetheless, I think it should be expressed, especially at this time of year, October, when America quietly marks Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and when many religious believers also just happen to mark Respect Life Month. While probably 80-90% of the people passing through that line at Hershey happily accept a chocolate bar from that Down Syndrome child (actually, the number is probably more like 100%), it’s tragic that upwards of 80-90% of women in America who receive a prenatal identification of a Down Syndrome child choose to abort. (The exact percentages vary and are debatable, but extremely high nonetheless.) In Denmark, the rate is 98%. And that’s not the highest. Recall recent reports from Iceland, where officials assert that they have almost completely “eliminated” Down Syndrome. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down Syndrome from our society,” says Kari Stefansson, a geneticist in Iceland, “that there is hardly ever a child with Down Syndrome in Iceland anymore.” How so? A magic pill? Surgery in the womb? Chromosomal engineering? No, they’ve done so by so thoroughly identifying Down Syndrome in utero, and creating a culture that embraces abortion, that Down Syndrome children are not born to begin with. With a population of around 330,000, only one or two Down Syndrome children are born per year in Iceland. And oftentimes those one or two result from parents having received inaccurate pre-screenings; otherwise, even those tiny few might not have escaped with their lives. “Babies with Down Syndrome are still being born in Iceland,” concedes the head of the nation’s leading Prenatal Diagnosis Unit. “We didn’t find them in our screening.” They were the lucky ones. The others are aborted. “We don’t look at abortion as a murder,” shrugs another “health” official in Iceland. “We look at it as a thing we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication … preventing suffering for the child and the family.” Some solution ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Sunday, October 20, 2019By Paul Kengor
    4 days ago
  • The Danger in Trump’s Syria Policy
    I think it was last Thanksgiving that a bright young family member told me about his fear that President Donald Trump would start World War III. He had watched Trump, the infamous counterpuncher, retaliate during political debates and tiffs with celebrities who had the cheek to challenge him, and he saw a man who always gave harder than he got. So this young man was afraid Trump would rain nukes on some scrappy little country that didn’t salute when Trump took the stage. I told him he was wrong to see Trump as a warmonger. Trump campaigned on getting U.S. troops out of “endless wars.” He was an early critic of President George W. Bush’s push to plant U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq. Having evaded military service in Vietnam, Trump does not want to preside over a modern Vietnam. Yes, Trump loves military men — or at least he did last year, before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit rather than command the removal of U.S. troops from Syria and John Kelly, an upright onetime Marine general, tried to assert some discipline in the anything-goes Trump White House. But Trump does not love war. Sure, he enjoyed bombing Syria because Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people — as he did once in 2017 and once in 2018, with no boots on the ground. Trump saw bonus points when he got to tell Chinese President Xi Jinping about the attack over chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago. But sending young Americans to die in a foreign land fighting in a war with no clear path to victory … to Trump, that is the definition of folly. That was part of his appeal. In the past few weeks, as Trump talked about the burden of notifying military families that they have lost a beloved child, it was clear that Trump gets no joy from such moments. But that doesn’t mean Trump can do no harm. What you should fear, I told my esteemed relative, is that Trump could do lasting damage to U.S. national security by doing too little, as the world is seeing with Turkey’s incursion in Syria. Trump is too smitten with strongmen such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. They know how to play the insecure Trump, a president who oddly craves their approval. Every time the tough-guy president coos over the letters Kim has sent him, national security solons shudder. That’s what happened earlier this month when Trump effectively gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a green light to invade northeast Syria. Trump maintained that Erdoğan was going to send Turkish forces across the border whether or not Trump moved fewer than 50 U.S. troops out of harm’s way. Trump sees his decision as saving U.S. lives. But it’s hard to believe Erdoğan would have allowed his military to engage with — never mind fight and kill — a NATO ally that happens to be the most formidable superpower on Earth. For now, that is. I ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Sunday, October 20, 2019By Debra J. Saunders
    4 days ago
  • Trump’s Biggest Threat to Reelection: The Motherly Instinct to ‘Stop the Ruckus’ at Any Cost
    This may seem to be a sexist column, but necessarily so. It’s my first essay without allusions to Watergate, which may come as a relief to some. It also contains a sports analogy. See what you think. My only sibling is a brother who is one year older. As boys will do, we fought a lot when growing up. Being younger, smaller, and somewhat timid, I was invariably the loser of these frequent battles. Who started them didn’t matter because punishment was meted out equally: losing “privileges,” spending time in the corner, being dispatched to one’s room, and (if Dad got involved) occasional spankings. The important thing was stopping the squabbling. I longed for “justice” (which may be why I became a lawyer) and distinctly remember promising myself that when my turn came to raise a family, I’d ascertain just who was at fault for starting a particular ruckus — and punish accordingly. You can guess the rest. My wife of 46 years and I have two sons. As boys will do, they roughhoused a whole lot when growing up. In the beginning, I really tried to figure out just who started it, but I quickly learned that it was an impossible task. It’s not like there were witnesses testifying under oath and rules of evidence, as in a court of law! Each son would blame the other, with their stories getting worse in each retelling. I ended up, just as my parents had, putting an immediate end to the ruckus and then punishing equally, without regard to relative fault. A somewhat similar situation can occur in sports, particularly football. Some player throws a punch after the play, but the referees don’t see it. What they do see is the opposing player’s reaction to the punch, and the second player gets the penalty. This parental inclination to “punish equally for a ruckus, regardless of fault” and the referee tendency to assume a fight started when they first noticed it pose a substantial risk to President Trump’s reelection. Here’s why: we have had nonstop political chaos since Trump’s surprise election victory. It seems like every week brings a new political crisis, dominating newspaper headlines and leading the evening news. Political websites are forced to change their leads three and four times a day, just to keep up with developments. It’s all very unsettling. I happen to blame the Democrats, who remain extraordinarily bitter about their 2016 loss. From demanding recounts, lobbying electors to violate their oaths, and arguing to end the Electoral College to allegations of Logan Act and emolument clause violations, there has been an unending string of all-out efforts to invalidate or delegitimize Trump’s 2016 election. Now, after disastrously losing a two-year bet on Mueller finding any evidence Russian collusion, the current focus is on Ukraine — and the stakes have been upped to impeachment. What I find most telling is that, almost inevitably, these are Democrat-launched initiatives. Trump himself almost never seems to have started a particular fight; ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Saturday, October 19, 2019By Geoff Shepard
    5 days ago
  • When a Scholar Meets China’s Red Guards
    When a scholar meets soldiers, he should not argue with them, for he surely will lose.— Chinese proverb Recently I was invited by the “China Goes Global” conference in Winter Park, Florida, to give a keynote speech on the U.S.–China trade war and its implications for management research. In my speech I briefly reviewed the trade war and the reasons behind it, and I pointed out that the control over business firms by the Chinese Communist Party (which is also the Chinese government) has changed the boundary and behavior of Chinese firms. This change has challenged the traditional assumptions about firms, such as that they prize autonomy or are purely profit-seeking, and thus requires new investigation. A group of young scholars from China were very angry with my speech and accused me of lying. Frankly, I was quite shocked by their accusation. The moderator of the meeting asked them to explain how I lied. While I was not happy about being called a liar, I also very much hoped that they would identify mistakes in my speech. Who better to collect feedback from than those who disagree with me? So I encouraged them to criticize my talk. Two of them stood up, and the whole room was quiet with anticipation. But, to the audience’s and my disappointment, they could not deliver any more specific criticisms about my alleged lying. Finally, one of the young scholars gave her definition of lying as “not true,” which drew a few claps from her group. The moderator then asked me to reply their accusations. I honestly felt quite dumbfounded. This type of accusation was common from the Red Guards during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, but to experience it over a half century later in an international academic conference was surprising, to say the least. These young participants are the future of China, in academics, politics, and business, but they don’t seem to know how to conduct meaningful discussions. Facing views that differ from theirs, their only tactic was to attack not my work but my character. At that moment, my daughter’s experience came to mind. When she was a doctoral student in California, she went to a local kindergarten to talk to children about the ocean and encouraged them to ask questions. The kindergarten teacher quickly reminded the children, “Let’s review what questions are. Questions start with the words who, where, what, why, when or how.” I am sure that as they get older, these budding inquirers also learned how to debate. The young scholars from China may have had a different education. The Chinese Communist Party superimposes their ideology on all aspects of Chinese society, including education. According to the party, communist ideology is an absolute truth that cannot be challenged. If anyone questions it, he or she must and will be denounced and silenced. In recent years, several outspoken professors in China (upon being reported by students) were silenced by the party. Usually the denouncement is done by labeling the deviant ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Saturday, October 19, 2019By Shaomin Li
    5 days ago
  • I, Rose Sayer: Going Downriver With Donald Trump
    I’m not a huge fan of the film The African Queen. I’ve actually only seen it twice. But I know it well enough to know that, much as I’d like to tell you I identify with Charlie Allnut, Humphrey Bogart’s character in the film, I’m actually closer to Rose Sayer, as portrayed by Katharine Hepburn. I’m aging and unmarried, straitlaced, religious, and set in my ways. In the last few years I’ve discovered another personal resemblance to Rose. I feel as if I’m riding a boat down a river, in hostile territory, tied up with, and dependent on, someone I’m dubious about. President Donald Trump is Charlie Allnut to me. I didn’t want him for a candidate, though I voted for him in something like despair. His behavior often appalls me. And yet … Although I live in the Minneapolis area, I didn’t attend the big rally last week. Can you imagine Rose Sayer at a Trump rally? Neither can I. But I heard a lot about it. Especially, thanks to a particular radio talk show host, one memorable line. It’s line I’m not going to repeat here, because Rose wouldn’t approve. It had to do with a certain politician kissing another politician in a particular way. The talk show host I mentioned, whom I generally admire, was so delighted with that statement that he played it over and over on the air. I had to turn it off. Rose and I were not amused. I can remember a time, not that long ago, when no American politician would have said that in public. Even inveterate pottymouths like Lyndon Johnson knew how to button it up when the microphones were on. I’m not blaming President Trump for lowering the tone of political discourse. That started long ago, in my college years, when the Left decided that common courtesy was hypocrisy and integrity meant using a lot of obscenities. Those campus radicals grew up to run the country and enshrined those ideas in the culture (see R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s recent column on this site). President Trump is only throwing their trash back over the fence where it came from. There’s some justice in that. But still I sit here, under my metaphorical wide hat and parasol, thinking, “Here we are. We’ve descended to this level as a culture.” My Never Trump friends will now jump in to say, “At last you’ve seen the light! Join us in standing for righteousness. God will never bless our country while a reprobate like that is our leader!” Ah, but that seems unjust to me. Charlie Allnut is uncouth, and he drinks (which President Trump, I’m told, does not), but he’s done what no one else has done for me. He’s getting me through the rapids and the marshes and the crocodiles and the Germans. He isn’t the man I’d choose, but he’s the man on the job. Was Rose a hypocrite for not going ashore and trying to make her way alone overland? Should ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Saturday, October 19, 2019By Lars Walker
    5 days ago
  • The DeadWire: Harley Davidson’s Failed Electric Motorcycle
    People aren’t getting much of a charge out of Harley’s first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire — literally. Owners — and there aren’t many — have been advised by Harley Davidson not to plug their bikes in at home or anywhere else except a Harley Davidson dealership, where “special equipment” is available. This means the LiveWire’s already limited radius of action — due to its being electric — is now limited to no more than about 70 miles away from a Harley dealership. The there-and-back trip amounts to the LiveWire’s maximum best-case range of about 140 miles — italics to emphasize the fact that best case assumes low-speed, “urban” use. On the highway the bike’s actual range will be considerably less. Once you’ve made it to there, you’ll wait for about an hour while your bike recharges on the dealership’s “special equipment.” But what if you’re not within range of a Harley store? What if you haven’t got an hour to kill? So much for the freedom of the open road — which is what Harleys used to be all about.  Now HD is about something else.  Apparently, that something else is selling something other than a motorcycle — to people who don’t like motorcycles.  And something that isn’t a Harley. Harleys make noise, first of all. The LiveWire — being electric — is silent. Motorcycle people and HD people especially like to hear their bikes. And to feel them. An electric bike doesn’t vibrate.  Which — for Harley people — is like a sundae without the ice cream.  But Harley seems to think Harley people are yesterday’s people; that Generation Soy wants a silent bike that doesn’t go very far — like an electric car.  But people can be forced to buy electric cars because most people have to have a car — to get to work, to live. Almost no one has to have a motorcycle. It is a want. And what person who likes motorcycles would want one of these overpriced, underperfoming gimps? Generation Soy might want — but can’t afford.  $30,000 is a lot of money … for a car.  Harley has halted production and won’t deliver any more LiveWires until the recharging problem has been sorted out. But the company has a a bigger problem — and it’s essentially the same problem that is belly-flopping electric cars, only it’s worse because we’re dealing with bikes. Which almost by definition are indulgences rather than necessities. People buy them for fun primarily and for transportation secondarily. Almost everyone who owns a motorcycle also has a car — because it rains and it gets cold and sometimes it’s too hot to ride or you just don’t feel like it. Most people haven’t got $30k extra laying around to spend on a bike that costs more than a car.  There are a few people who spend $30k on bikes, but most of those are the age 50-plus people who are Harley’s traditional and aging-out demographic. They are also exactly the people least likely to be interested in an electric sport bike with short legs, no storage, ... read more
    Source: American SpectatorPublished on Saturday, October 19, 2019By Eric Peters
    5 days ago