There Are A Few Strings Attached To This Deal

On Monday, The National Review reported that Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden. Nine years ago Edward Snowden fled to Russia after leaking information about secret wide-ranging information-gathering programs conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). I have no idea whether or not that leaking was good or bad–I simply don’t know enough about it, but in view of what we have learned about government spying in the recent past, I am not sure who the good guys are here.

The article reports:

“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our son. That’s why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we’re applying for dual US-Russian citizenship,” Snowden wrote on Twitter.

“Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love, including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited. Our greatest wish is that, wherever our son lives, he feels at home,” he added.

The former intelligence contractor leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing the extent of mass surveillance in the country. The Department of Justice charged him with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, and he fled to Russia to avoid the charges.

The article concludes:

Snowden’s approval comes as Putin has eased the citizenship process for Ukrainians and those who serve in the Russian military amid the war on Ukraine.

On Saturday, Putin signed a law granting Russian citizenship to foreigners who serve for one year in the Russian Armed Forces.

My understanding is that when Snowden becomes a Russian citizen, he is eligible to be drafted into the Russian army. This could get interesting.

Whose Debt Is It Anyway?

Today, The National Review reported that President Biden announced that he would be forgiving the student loans of many Americans.

The article reports:

President Joe Biden is set to “forgive” up to $10,000 in federal student debt for those making under $125,000 annually, and $20,000 for Pell grant recipients, transferring the cost of the loans to the American public, the White House announced Wednesday.

…Biden is also set to extend the federal student loan freeze for a final time until December 31.

Lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi, have argued that Biden’s executive order, is unconstitutional and goes outside the rights of the executive branch.

Congress, not the president, is the only body that can cancel student debt, Pelosi said in July of 2021, arguing that “the president can’t do it.”

“Not everybody realizes that, but the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive” student loans, she added.

The Department of Education came to the same decision, arguing that the executive branch “does not have the statutory authority to cancel, compromise, discharge, or forgive, on a blanket or mass basis, principal balances of student loans, and/or to materially modify the repayment amounts or terms thereof.”

The article concludes:

The total estimated cost for Biden’s one-time cancellation is $300 billion, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania. The cost would increase to $330 billion if the program continues over the standard ten-year window, the study showed.

Republican lawmakers have sounded the alarm over Biden’s decision, saying that it will lead to inflation.

Payments for most student loan borrowers have been stalled since March of 2020, when Congress, and then former president Donald Trump, paused the payments due to predicted financial hardships stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden has extended the pause four times, and the freeze was expected to expire on August 31.

For once I agree with Nancy Pelosi. The President does not have the power to forgive student loans.

In December 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported the following:

To help pay for ObamaCare, Democrats simultaneously federalized the student loan market and projected fictitious savings, all while adding more than $1.2 trillion to the federal balance sheet. The amount keeps increasing like the debt clock. Liberals then cited the government “savings” to peddle the fallacy that the feds make money off student loans—a pretext they then used to sweeten debt forgiveness plans that have helped keep default rates artificially low.

The Education Department claims the national student loan default rate is 11.3%, yet only half of all debt is in repayment. Borrowers can seek forbearance or deferment if they are unemployed, return to school or claim financial difficulties. Or they can enroll in income-based repayment plans that let them discharge the debt after making payments equal to 10% of their discretionary income for 20 years. Those who work in “public service”—government or a nonprofit—can wipe out their debt in 10 years without a tax penalty.

Initially, only students who borrowed in 2014 or later were eligible for these generous loan forgiveness plans. Then President Obama retroactively extended the benefits to buy millennial votes. Over the last three years the share of outstanding federal direct loan dollars in income-based repayment plans has doubled to 40%. Costs have exploded.

Students signed a contract to repay those laws. By switching the college loans from private lenders to the government, the government acquired the power to interfere in that contract. However, the House of Representatives has the ‘power of the purse’–not the President.

I wonder if the people whose loans are forgiven will see through this effort to buy votes or if they will simply vote for Democrats because their loans were forgiven.

When Your Power Grab Gets Slowed

Yesterday National Review posted an article about a recent ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that will put a crimp in the plans of Democrats to use the reconciliation process to pass their radical agenda without Republican support.

The article reports:

The Senate parliamentarian issued a new ruling that would effectively allow Democrats to use automatic budget reconciliation just one more time this year to bypass Republicans to advance President Biden’s progressive agenda. 

Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that a revision to the 2021 budget resolution cannot be automatically discharged from the Senate Budget Committee, according to The Hill. This means that Democrats would need at least one Republican on the 11-11 panel to vote with them if they want to use reconciliation on more than one occasion before the legislative session ends in October.

The bi-partisan talk during the presidential campaign was simply talk. There never was any plan to work with Republicans unless the Republicans agreed to everything the Democrats wanted. To Democrats the definition of unity is “when everyone agrees with me.”

The article notes:

The ruling makes it more likely that Democrats will pursue a fresh fiscal 2022 budget to bypass Republicans if infrastructure negotiations fail, according to Bloomberg.

The news comes as Biden said on Tuesday that June “should be a month of action on Capitol Hill” and that while pundits on TV may ask why he has not done more to pass his legislative priorities that it is because he “only has a majority of effectively four votes in the house and a tie in the Senate with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends,” likely referring to Senators Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.).

During a press briefing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to rewrite Biden’s remarks, claiming that the president was only commenting on TV punditry.

“I can tell you that sometimes these conversations can be oversimplified. TV isn’t always made for complex conversations about policymaking,” she said. “What the president was simply conveying was that his threshold, his litmus test is not to see eye-to-eye on every single detail of every issue and he doesn’t with Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin.”

“He believes there’s an opportunity to work together to make progress to find areas of common ground even if you have areas of disagreement,” Psaki said.

However, Republicans have criticized Biden and his party for doing little to work with the GOP to find common ground. Democrats used budget reconciliation earlier this year to pass the president’s COVID-19 response package with a simple majority and without Republican support.

“He knows well having served 36 years in the Senate that sometimes it’s not a straight line to victory or success, sometimes it takes more time and he’s open to many paths forward,” she said. “I don’t think he was intending to convey anything more than a little bit of commentary on TV punditry.” 

Keep your eye on the filibuster. If the filibuster survives, we may get through the Biden administration without bankrupting the country.

The Proposal To End Single-Family Housing In America

One of the great things about America is that many Americans are homeowners. As homeowners, they create individual homes that reflect their personalities. That is the reason driving through many of our cities can be a fascinating study of architecture and how it changed through our history. Well, if the Biden administration gets its way, single-family housing will be a thing of the past.

The National Review posted an article today detailing how the Biden administration is planning to eliminate single-family housing:

The article reports:

How, exactly, does Biden plan to end single-family zoning? According to the fact sheet released by the White House, “Biden is calling on Congress to enact an innovative new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate [‘exclusionary zoning’].” In other words, Biden wants to use a big pot of federal grant money as bait. If a county or municipality agrees to weaken or eliminate its single-family zoning, it gets the federal bucks.

The wildly overreaching Obama-Biden era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation — which Biden has pledged to revive — works in a similar fashion. The difference is that by adding another gigantic pot of federal money to the Community Development Block Grants that are the lure of AFFH, Biden makes it that much harder for suburbs to resist applying — and that much more punishing to jurisdictions that forgo a share of the federal taxes they’ve already paid so as to protect their right to self-rule.

Are federal carrots enough, however? Prosperous suburbs may forgo the grants in an effort to secure their independence. The success of Biden’s initiative depends in part on exactly how much money gets allocated to grants tied to zoning reform. The details of that ask haven’t yet been released, but the $213 billion allocated to Biden’s total affordable housing initiative leave room for an awfully big pot for the anti-zoning portion.

I don’t think our Founding Fathers envisioned a country where the government could tell you what kind of a house you could live in.

The article concludes:

Last summer, when California floated a measure to kill single-family zoning, there was powerful opposition from residents who objected to a law that would make their neighborhoods denser, noisier, and more filled with traffic. Predominantly minority residents in South Los Angeles saw the bill as an “affront to how hard Black Americans fought to join single-family neighborhoods, battling redlining, racist covenants and even targeted violence. And they worried that suddenly relaxing zoning rules would not only ruin the low density they enjoyed, but also unleash an investment flood that would accelerate displacement of the Black community as developers scooped up old homes and built new ones unaffordable to most in the community.”

The zoning issue is tough and complex. It balances principled libertarian objections to zoning and the interests of developers, on the one hand, against core principles of federalism and local control, on the other. Massive spending and taxation are fundamental to the federal effort to override local zoning laws. Neighborhood preservation vies with “creative destruction.” There are plenty of complex, conflicting, and legitimate considerations in the balance. But reducing the zoning issue to bogus charges of “racism” is the way Democrats play the game nowadays.

If Republicans find the courage to stand up to the usual nonsense and oppose this big-government attempt to kill off the federalist system itself, they will find not only the vast majority of Republicans, but a great many independents and Democrats in their corner.

This is something to watch. If the infrastructure bill passes the Senate, it will not only kill our wallets, it will also end a lot of our freedom to choose where and how we live.

Denying The Value Of All Human Life

Yesterday The National Review posted an article about a bill that just passed the House of Commons in Canada.

The article reports:

…A bill just passed the House of Commons that — barring shockingly unforeseen resistance in the Senate, which already voted to loosen the rules — will radically expand eligibility for euthanasia in Canada, including the following provisions:

    • Reasonably foreseeable death will no longer be required. That opens the door to euthanizing people with disabilities, patients diagnosed with dementia but still competent, as well as the mentally ill.
    • After a further time for studying the issue of creating protective guidelines (!!), people whose sole medical problem is mental illness will explicitly qualify for euthanasia.
    • There will be no waiting period required between request for death and termination for people whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable — a very lax term. This means a patient with, say, two years of life expectancy could theoretically be killed immediately upon request.

The expansion will eventually continue to allowing people diagnosed with dementia to order themselves killed in an advance directive when they become mentally incompetent and to pediatric euthanasia of “mature minors” — both among the subjects likely to be “studied” by a committee of “experts” over the next two years, meaning they are coming next.

Disability-rights activists fought back furiously and backed a filibuster over the bill that succeeded for a time. But it was eventually broken by the ruling minority Liberals and Bloc Québécois.

The despair of people with disabilities on Twitter after the vote was visceral, with some noting that Canada does not guarantee life with dignity — with say, independent living services — but will guarantee “death with dignity” when the paucity of services leads to a suicidal desire. They feel, rationally, like targets rather than beneficiaries.

It is also worth noting that only 15 percent of Canadians have access to quality palliative care. Not to worry, the panel of experts will “study” that too. Good grief.

This is frightening. It should also be taken as a warning to America–if healthcare is ever run by the government, not only will the quality of care decrease, the availability of care will also decrease. There will come a time when disabled or elderly Americans will not be able to obtain even the minimal care that they need, and there will be attempts made to persuade them to take advantage of assisted suicide. That has been happening for years in the Netherlands. We don’t need to bring it here.

Does The Truth Matter?

The death of Breonna Taylor is tragic. The fact that there is rioting by people who either don’t know the truth or don’t care about the truth is even more tragic.

Andrew McCarthy posted an article at The National Review today that illustrates some of the facts of the Breonna Taylor case.

The article notes:

The criminal law is not designed to address every human tragedy. That is the lesson of the tragic death of Breonna Taylor. It was also the theme repeatedly struck by Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron on Wednesday, in announcing the indictment of one of the three officers involved in the raid that lead to her death.

The article provides some background of the incident:

Much of what we’ve been told about the case turns out not to be true — another “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” urban legend of police brutality. Most prominently, Attorney General Cameron explained that the police did not execute a “no knock” warrant before entering Ms. Taylor’s apartment. They knocked and announced themselves as police before forcing entry shortly after midnight.

How they came to be at Ms. Taylor’s home, with a search warrant based on probable cause that evidence of narcotics crimes would be found, is the part of the story the social-justice warriors would have us omit. It needs telling.

When she was killed, Breonna Taylor was 26, a hospital emergency-room technician who hoped to become a nurse. But over the years, she had gotten involved with Glover, a 30-year-old twice-convicted drug dealer. Though she was never a targeted suspect, the New York Times reports that Ms. Taylor was entangled in the frequent police investigations of Glover. Taylor remained romantically involved with him though he had spent years in prison.

The article concludes:

Meantime, Hankison [Brett Hankison, then a detective (since fired)], who was in the parking lot outside the apartment, began firing when the commotion he could not have seen began. He sprayed the patio and a window with ten bullets — irresponsibly, to be sure, but fortunately without harming anyone. Hankison, who had a spotty disciplinary record in almost 20 years as a cop, was terminated when police officials judged that his conduct during the raid shocked the conscience.

And now he has been charged, which seems appropriate. What the mob wants, though, is murder charges against the two cops who shot Ms. Taylor. There is no conceivable legal justification for that. The police were properly executing a lawful warrant. There appears to have been more than adequate probable cause for the search in light of Glover’s ties to the apartment. Even if there were any doubt about that, the warrant had been duly authorized and therefore police were entitled to rely on it. And they were fired upon before reasonably responding with lethal force.

What happened to Breonna Taylor was a calamity. That is why the city of Louisville just paid $12 million dollars to settle the wrongful death lawsuit her family filed, rather than trying to fight it. Obviously, the money cannot bring her back to life, and will never be adequate compensation for her loved ones’ loss. But that could also have been said for the politicized filing of unprovable homicide charges. The legal system can only do the best it can; it cannot fully compensate for tragic loss, and its criminal processes are not equipped to address catastrophes that are not crimes.

The state of Kentucky was right not to opt for mob justice. Unfortunately, the mob has a different conception of “justice,” and it is ripping the country apart.

The shooting of this young woman is a tragedy. So are the lies and violence currently surrounding her death.