The World We Now Live In

I am not going to post a lot about Afghanistan today. I will say I am heartbroken because of what is happening there. Innocent people are being slaughtered because of their faith, because of their political beliefs, or just because. I don’t entirely blame President Biden–it took us almost twenty years to mess this up so badly. He is only the last link on the chain. I believe an orderly withdrawal was possible, but there had to be some serious carrots and some serious sticks. Unfortunately President Biden’s track record on foreign policy has never been that good.

Yesterday The New York Sun posted its obituary for Afghanistan. Please follow the link to read the entire article. I will post a few highlights here.

The article notes that there actually is a strategic interest in dealing with the Taliban:

The first thing we did when the news came in that the capital of Afghanistan had fallen to our enemies was reach for our dog-eared copy of Peter Kann’s “Obituary for South Vietnam.” It was issued in the Wall Street Journal on May 2, 1975, the morrow of the communist conquest. We later personally heard the Journal’s legendary editor, Robert Bartley, call it the finest op-ed piece he’d ever published.

What distinguished it from the cataract gushing from the editorial pages of the day was a sympathy for our defeated allies, a fidelity to the ideals for which our GIs went to war, and a visceral distaste for the totalitarianism that drove the Soviet Union and its puppets in Hanoi to victory. He acknowledged that there were many Americans who “breathed a sigh of relief” when Vietnam fell, but he was with the mourners.

That is where our own sentiments lie today in respect of Afghanistan. They lie with the GIs who gave their hearts — and all too often their lives — to a fight that was launched against our country, out of the blue, by al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. They lie with the Afghan soldiers, warlords, and leaders who sided with America. And the millions of Afghan women and men who dreamed of an end of oppression.

To hear an American president talk as Mr. Biden does about a war-time ally is shocking. Mr. Biden has tried to palm off on his countrymen the idea that he was bound by an agreement President Trump made for a May deadline. Mr. Biden has made it his business to tear up every commitment Mr. Trump made on anything. That Mr. Biden couldn’t find it within himself to break with Mr. Trump on Afghanistan reeks of hypocrisy.

What a contrast to the way our presidents conducted themselves during Vietnam. When our Free Vietnamese allies had their backs to the wall, President Nixon and then President Ford pleaded with Congress to help Vietnam stay in the fight. Henry Kissinger literally prowled the halls of Congress. In contrast, when Afghanistan had its back to the wall against the Taliban blitzkrieg, Mr. Biden and his aides have resorted to blame-shifting the consequences of his actions.

There has been no talk of the strategic importance of Afghanistan and our bases there, though it is well understood by our military leaders (and GIs). Iran lies to the West, Pakistan to the South, China to the East. Afghanistan has long been known as the Asian roundabout. Without a presence there, we lose all access to Central Asia. Mr. Biden might come to miss that feature of the Afghan drama soon enough.

This event is a sad chapter for America and for freedom. We made many mistakes along the way. I think it is time to re-establish the idea that we cannot ever again enter a war without a plan to win it. Somehow since WWII we have lost the knowledge or the desire to actually win a war. It should also be noted that we cannot install freedom in a country that does not have the leadership to fight for it. It is no coincidence that the day before September 11, 2001, the Taliban killed the leader of the Northern Alliance. Tyrants have a history of removing anyone who may be a current or future threat to them.

Doing Something To Keep America America

Yesterday The New York Sun posted an editorial about the efforts of law professor Philip Hamburger of Columbia University to rein in the runaway administrative state. Professor Hamburger has formed the group the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that states its cause as fighting to “protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State.”The article notes that the NCLA has filed amicus briefs in six cases before the Supreme Court this term and helped win all six of them.

The editorial lists the cases:

In Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, NCLA says, the Alliance filed three separate amicus briefs at various stages against a California law that would have forced not-for-profits to disclose their key donors. The Supreme Court stopped California colder than a mackerel, vindicating not only NCLA’s points but also the NAACP, which six decades ago won at the Supreme Court an early donor protection case against Alabama.

In U.S. v. Arthrex, NCLA helped win a decision suggesting that something like 200 Administrative Patent Judges were improperly appointed and subjecting them to more supervision by the executive branch. In Carr v. Saul, NCLA helped six persons win the right to have their appeals for disabilities benefits heard by a properly benched federal judge rather than an administrative law judge.

In Collins v. Yellen, NCLA helped restore the President’s power to fire — meaning make accountable — the head of the Federal Housing Financial Agency. In AMG Capital Management v. FTC it helped hold the Federal Trade Commission to due process. In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Justice Alito cited Mr. Hamburger’s work eight times in his concurrence in protecting the religious free exercise rights of a Catholic foster care agency.

The editorial concludes:

“Most Americans do not realize,” the New Civil Liberties Alliance notes on its Web site, “that Congress today enacts fewer than one hundred statutes per year, handing over the task of legislating to federal administrative agencies.” It reckons that the Administrative State “now creates, enforces and adjudicates hundreds of thousands of regulations governing daily activities in our lives.” It’s nice to see that the long march back to the Constitution has begun.

It’s nice to know that someone in the legal profession is fighting hard for America.

 

The Lady Needs A New Speechwriter

The New York Sun posted an editorial today about the speech Vice-President Kamala Harris gave to the midshipmen at Annapolis.

The editorial notes:

…Ms. Harris talked to our midshipmen trained for naval warfare of the perils of climate change and the niftiness of solar panels. Not a peep about how Russia, Iran, and Red China are maneuvering for conquest.

What a wan note on which to begin the Memorial Day weekend at which we remember our fallen. It’s similar to the blunder that President Obama made when, as we were at the height of the global war on terror, he went to West Point and tried to inspire the cadets by lecturing them on how not every problem has a military solution. The New York Post headline called it “The Long Gray Whine.”

The remarks of Ms. Harris, like those of Mr. Obama, fit the strategy of retreat and appeasement that seems to have been favored by the Democratic Party in recent decades. It started, in our view, with Vietnam and since has marked the party’s policies in one theater after another — right now in the Middle East and Afghanistan. And it’s not that our liberal traditions don’t offer a prism through which to understand our military academies.

The article concludes:

…The “threats” Ms. Harris spoke of were climate change, infectious disease, and “criminal hackers.” In her politically correct condescension she failed to mention even once the threat from, say, Communist China. What an oversight, particularly at Annapolis. It is to the Pacific that so many of our newest ensigns are headed, and it is China who will meet them there.

This is not a moment to offer platitudes about the weather and joking references to gender. It was and is a moment, even if it’s not usually done, to talk about, say, serious strategy and to pledge support — for, say, the Navy’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative that is now coming before the Senate over which Ms. Harris presides. She could have pledged to give the middies the materiel they need and sought to summon their martial spirit.

I can only pray that America will survive the Biden administration.

Is This Part Of Our Future?

Reparations has been discussed in political circles for a while now. So far no one has explained how to make reparations to families of slaves, but not to the families whose loved ones died freeing the slaves. Do people who weren’t here before 1860 have to pay reparations? Do people whose ancestors were indentured servants get reparations too? There are an awful lot of unanswered questions.

On April 5th, The New York Sun posted a very interesting article on reparations.

The article poses an interesting question:

Could a racial priority for getting a Covid-19 vaccine turn out to be just the first stop on the way to race-based tax rates?

A tax bill that varies depending on the taxpayer’s race might strike readers as some law professor’s remote fantasy, far from anything that might become reality.

Things are developing more quickly on this front, though, than is widely recognized.

Just this month, the governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, a Republican, attracted attention when he announced, “If you or anyone in your household identifies as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC), including anyone with Abenaki or other First Nations heritage, all household members who are 16 years or older can sign up to get a vaccine!”

A Reason article notes that in December 2020, while Republican Donald Trump was still president, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would prioritize Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian veterans in vaccine distribution. Reason cites the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson as describing these schemes as unconstitutional, a violation of the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment.

The article reports:

“Prediction: By tax year 2024, Americans will be asked to indicate their race on the Form 1040,” tweeted Scott Greenberg, a former analyst at the Tax Foundation who now writes about tax policy in a Substack newsletter called “No Withholding.”

Greenberg was reacting to a tax-policy reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Richard Rubin, who had flagged the news that the Biden administration had put the Treasury department’s top tax-policy official on an “equitable data working group.”

According to the Biden executive order, “Many Federal datasets are not disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, or other key demographic variables. This lack of data has cascading effects and impedes efforts to measure and advance equity. A first step to promoting equity in Government action is to gather the data necessary to inform that effort.”

The Census provides plenty of race-based income and poverty data, but the IRS has not done so. That surprises even some savvy observers. Kai Ryssdal, of the public radio show “Marketplace,” devoted a recent segment to an interview with Dorothy Brown. A law professor at Emory, Ms. Brown is the author of “The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It.”

Isn’t it interesting that the same Democrat party that fought so hard against civil rights legislation is still working hard to divide Americans by race. \

The article concludes:

The tax code already rewards or punishes all sorts of behaviors — home-ownership, say, or marriage and child-rearing, retirement saving, even electric-vehicle purchasing. In that context, a reparations credit seems less exceptional than it otherwise might.

There are plenty of potential downsides other than the constitutional obstacles. Yet those taxpayers who think Form 1040 is already complex enough, thank you, without adding race to the mix might want to get their arguments in order lest they find themselves, in some future tax season, in the IRS equivalent of the back of the vaccine line.

Let’s hope that if reparations through the IRS ever takes place, the Supreme Court shoots it down immediately.

Courting Iran

The New York Sun posted an article today about the recent efforts of the Biden administration to improve its record on human rights (after the President’s statements about China, Hong Kong, etc.) by going after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. First of all it needs to be mentioned that Khashoggi had some fairly close connections to the Muslim Brotherhood (see article here). Secondly, it needs to be mentioned that any criticism of the Saudis and their government would be welcomed by Iran.

The article reports:

In releasing a three-year-old American intelligence report that blames the Crown Prince for the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, and then immediately saying he won’t penalize the Crown Prince, Mr. Biden has opened himself to relentless pressure from democrats on the left of his party to do something more to punish the Saudi Crown Prince.

The President’s petty insistence that he will speak only with King Salman, 85, and not his 35-year-old son, the primary power in the kingdom, can’t hold. So complete has Price Mohammed already taken control of the levers of power that Saudis call him “Mr. Everything.” The ailing King could die during the Biden presidency, making his son king.

Meantime, Mr. Biden has humiliated the Crown Prince, but at a price. The Crown Prince has demonstrated repeatedly in recent years that he believes the best defense is an aggressive offense. As a result, he sometimes acts and then confronts the often unpleasant consequences of his actions — whether the death of Khashoggi or the war in Yemen.

…For one thing, the Biden team is exposing its own hypocrisy. The President says his number one foreign policy goal is to talk to Iranian leaders to secure a new nuclear deal. The blood on the hands of Iranian leaders who imprison and execute critics doesn’t seem to bother the president. At least he hasn’t called them out.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia, is undergoing a “reassessment” of its relations with the United States. Already the president has blocked our arms sales for the war in Yemen. Ironically, he supported the Yemen war when it began during the Obama administration though he now calls it a human rights disaster.

Riyadh would love to get out of the war, which has cost it an estimated $100 billion already. The Houthis and their Iranian backers, though, want to bleed Saudi Arabia with an eye to destabilizing the kingdom. So President Biden’s envoy likely won’t succeed at ending the war.

President Biden is continuing his unbroken streak of being wrong on every foreign policy issue he has weighed in on since he joined Congress.

The Five Questions That Will Determine The Presidential Election In November

The New York Sun posted an article yesterday by Conrad Black. The article lists the five things that will determine who wins the presidential election in November.

These are the five things listed in the article:

    • Can the President override the Democratic press’s thunderous campaign to terrorize the country over the coronavirus?

    • Can the president successfully connect Vice President Biden’s campaign to the hooligans, anti-white racists, and urban guerrillas who effectively are being encouraged by the corrupt Democratic mayors of many of the nation’s largest cities?

    • Will the economic recovery and the decline in the unemployment generated by the COVID-19 shutdown continue at its recent pace and strengthen the economy as a pro-Trump electoral argument?

    • Will the Republicans make adequately clear to the country the authoritarian and Marxist implications of the Biden-Sanders unity document?

    • Will special counsel John Durham indict senior members of the Obama Administration over their handling of the spurious allegation of collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government in the 2016 election and Justice Department violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and how will Mr. Biden himself come through it?

The coronavirus has given us some insight into what unbridled government authority can do. Some of the regulations put in place by governors and mayors were based on common sense–things your mother told you when you were young like wash you hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t hang around with sick people. Other regulations were simply power grabs to prevent Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights–churches in Nevada restricted to a lower percentage of occupancy than casinos, protests to open businesses criticized and shut down while other protests (that included looting and riots) were allowed to continue. We have had a taste of out-of-control government in recent months. A vote for Joe Biden and whoever he chooses as his running mate will give us more of the same. Joe Biden has already stated that he wants to reassemble the Obama team–the group that gave us anemic economic growth, Benghazi where our ambassador was murdered followed by lying about it on television, ISIS, politicization of the Justice Department, and too many other scandals to mention.

The voters will choose. We need to pray for wisdom in voting and an honest election.

Hoisted On Your Own Petard

I love it when karma shows up. The New York Sun posted an editorial yesterday about a religious freedom case argued before the Second United States Circuit Court or Appeals. I have absolutely no background in law, so I am going to rely heavily on what was stated in the editorial.

The editorial states:

When a case called New Hope Family Services showed up on the docket of the Second United States Circuit Court or Appeals, we perked up. It’s not just that we keep a weather eye for religious freedom cases (this one involves New York state’s attempt to force a Christian ministry to choose between its doctrine and its ability to place children in foster homes). We also perked up because of the three judges on the appeals panel.

They included two Democrats and a Republican — Edward Korman, a senior district judge sitting on the circuit bench; the legendary José Cabranes, probably the most senior active judge in the Circuit; and Reena Raggi, about whom we last wrote when we suggested she’d be an ideal candidate for the Supreme Court. It would be, we suspected, like watching a judicial version of “Field of Dreams.”

The New Hope Family Services was warned that if it did not state a willingness to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried couples, it would have to go out of business. The New Hope Family Services is a Christian group that believes in the teachings of the Bible, so obviously to agree to this would have been against their Biblical beliefs.

The editorial continues:

It was, at least to us, a shocking threat. It put New Hope, which is not government funded and has been in business for decades, in an impossible position. The pettifogging was too sophisticated for us and we started nodding off — until we heard the lawyer for New York state say, “It’s not a question of a Jewish family coming to the agency and being turned away because they’re Jewish.”

“But,” Judge Cabranes pointed out, “there’s no question that you’re preventing consideration of whether the adoptive parents are a same-sex couple as a result of the religious views of the agency.” Replied New York’s lawyer: “Yes.” Which prompted Judge Cabranes to ask: “You don’t think that there’s a suggestion here that the regulation is targeting religious groups?” New York state’s lawyer proceeded to reply: “No.”

“Because,” the state’s lawyer, Laura Etlinger, continued, the Second Circuit itself had said “the fact that there may be a disparate impact on religious organizations because of factual matters, they are the ones more likely to be affected, is not evidence of discrimination.” This is when Judge Raggi pointed out that the entities in that earlier case were not mainly religious.

In contrast, she noted, New Hope was contending that discovery in its case would disclose that the “vast majority, if not all” of the foster care and adoption agencies that “have had to go out of existence” are religious organizations.

“Do you dispute that?” Judge Raggi demanded.

“Well, in — it’s not in the record,” Ms. Etlinger replied, seeming to sense, suddenly, that she had been drawn into a trap.

The reason it wasn’t in the record, after all, was that the district court had dismissed New Hope’s complaint out of hand. Ms. Etlinger suggested that “to the extent there is an impact, because religious organizations are the ones that have a view about placement with same-sex couples does not mean that the agency was targeting those —” Her words hung in the air.

“Well,” Judge Raggi said, “isn’t that what discovery might reveal?”

The principle in question here is disparate impact as proof of bias. It is a legal principle often used by the political left to twist the law to get what they want. Please follow the link to read the entire editorial. It is wonderful to see the tactics of the political left used against them.

The editorial concludes:

Disparate impact is by no means the only angle the Second Circuit considered in New Hope. Nor is it our intention here to suggest that same-sex or unmarried couples are unsuitable for adoption. It is our intention to savor the irony that such a liberal concept as disparate impact might yet illuminate the First Amendment violations of a state trying to force a religious ministry to choose between, on the one hand, its beliefs and, on the other, its religious mission in respect of foster parenting and adoption.

 

The Need To Pay Attention

In a speech in Dublin, Ireland, on July 10, 1790, John Philpot Curran stated, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” The quote has been changed slightly and attributed to other people, but that is the original quote. That quote is particularly applicable right now as there are those (some in our government) who are blatantly attacking one of the pillars of our representative republic.

On July 6th, I posted an article about the Supreme Court decision regarding the requirement that electors in the Electoral College vote for their state’s popular vote winner. That decision was a win for the Constitution. However, that decision is not the last we will hear on the subject.

Yesterday The New York Sun posted an editorial noting the next attack on the Electoral College. Understand that the Electoral College is what stands between the representative republic we now have and mob rule. If you believe that New York, California, and a few other populous states are well run, then abolishing the Electoral College would allow those states to run the entire country. That is a scary thought.

The editorial notes:

Now that the Supreme Court has vouchsafed the power of a state to require its presidential electors to vote in line with their state’s popular vote, a new question glimmers in the constitutional mist: Could a state require its electors to vote against the wishes of the state’s own voters? That might seem a ridiculous question. Feature, though, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

It’s a workaround designed to commit the states to use the Electoral College to deliver the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote. It’s the first thing that came to mind when the Supreme Court today unanimously concluded that states have the power to punish faithless electors. Most justices credited the language in Article 2, which grants states the power to appoint electors.

The key phrase is that each state shall appoint its electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” The court, in an opinion by Justice Kagan, reckons this gives the states the power to attach conditions to the electors it appoints, such as the requirement that they vote for the candidate their home-state voters prefer. It can punish them if they don’t.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, though, is a scheme under which states agree to instruct their electors to ignore what their own state’s voters want and, instead, vote for the winner of the national popular vote. The compact goes into effect when it has been ratified by states whose combined electoral vote count is 270, i.e., enough to choose a president.

The editorial concludes:

The Search For Significance

This article has two sources–a New York Sun editorial posted today and an article by Scott Johnson posted at Power Line Blog today. Both articles deal with the ‘surprise’ overwhelming victory of Boris Johnson in the British election yesterday.

The New York Sun notes:

It’s hard to overstate how wonderful is the news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has won a mandate to, after all these years of struggle, lead a restoration of British sovereignty and independence. We may have been in that fight from the early days, but we don’t mind saying that we’ve had moments of doubt, particularly during the past year, that Britain would prevail. All the sweeter the results being tallied this evening.

This is only partly in respect of Brexit. It was, certainly, the overriding issue in the election. It is the very reason why the election was called when it was. Once again, the polls got it wrong. On the eve of the vote, the gods of polling were predicting that the race had become too close to call. A hung parliament couldn’t be ruled out. Some hazarded that Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn might end up at 10 Downing Street.

In the event, the British people delivered a resounding “no” to all that Mr. Corbyn stood for — the resentment of Jews and Israel, the embrace of socialism, and another Brexit referendum. The result is that Labor’s drubbing stands as its worst since 1935. No less than Jonathan Chait rushed out a column to mark that American leftists thought Corbyn’s inevitable victory would be their model against Trumpism.

Which is one way to mark a phenomenon that has been glimpsed throughout this battle since 2016. The phenomenon can be put this way: “As goes Brexit, so goes Trump.” In a way, the Brexit referendum turned out to be a predictor, or even a precursor, of Mr. Trump’s triumph in the election. The victory by Mr. Johnson and the Conservative Party today could well be a precursor of Mr. Trump in 2020. On verra.

Scott Johnson at Power Line Blog notes:

The election has already produced a ruling cliche to describe the results: Labour’s “red wall” crumbled. (In the UK, the colors are reversed: blue represents the Tories, red Labour.) Among the many seats in its “red wall” that has now crumbled, for example, is Tony Blair’s Sedgefield constituency. The Tories picked up a shocking number of seats that historically belonged to Labour in the industrial and rural north. It overstates the results to observe that Labour is contracting to a metropolitan party, but the tendency seems to be implicit in the outcome.

From a distance, at least, Boris proved himself an ebullient and optimistic campaigner, and not just by contrast with the dour and deceitful Corbyn. Boris staked the election campaign on the theme of getting Brexit done. His performance made me think of Steve Hayward’s observation in Churchill on Leadership: “[F]rom time to time, and especially in a crisis, the genuine leader must simply exert his personal force and summon up his willfulness.” Boris seems to me to have met the moment with some part of this quality in leading his party to its remarkable victory yesterday.

The British people voted for Brexit years ago. The ruling elite chose to ignore that vote. The people removed the blockage. I suspect we are going to see similar things in America next year–those who have blocked the immigration and economic policies of President Trump might find themselves on the unemployment line.

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off

Have you ever been on a roller coaster and as it climbs to the top for its descent, you wonder if this is really where you want to be. I suspect that is how Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is feeling right now.

Yesterday The New York Sun posted an editorial about a recent remark by Speaker Pelosi.

The editorial notes:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that President Trump emulate President Nixon and resign is, in our opinion, a shocking démarche unworthy of her office. And a glimpse into the predicament of the Democrats, who, though they began beating the drums for impeachment more than three years ago, still don’t seem to know what charges to lay against the president.

Mrs. Pelosi hauled out Nixon in her interview on the Columbia Broadcasting System, where Margaret Brennan asked the speaker whether the President would get, “as he says,” to “confront his accuser.” The question was met with a slippery evasion that began with Mrs. Pelosi snapping, “What do you mean confront his accuser? Confront the whistleblower?”

“Presumably, that’s what he means,” Ms. Brennan said.

“Well,” Mrs. Pelosi huffed, “I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower.”

Then again, too, Mr. Trump wasn’t asking to intimidate the whistleblower. He has been pointing out that he’s being brought up for impeachment on a complaint by a person he has been, in the resulting proceedings, unable to confront. That, it seems to the President and to millions of other Americans, ourselves included, to be crosswise with the spirit of the Rights Bill.

The editorial concludes:

In the case of President Trump, though, no committee of the House, let alone the House itself, has voted out a single charge. When Ms. Brennan asked the Speaker whether “bribery” would be one of the charges, Mrs. Pelosi retorted, “I have no idea.” Then she said: “Well, there’s not even a decision made to impeach the president. This is a finding of fact, unfolding of the truth. And then a decision will be made.”

So the Speaker of the House goes on national television to suggest that President Trump resign without disclosing whether the President is likely to be impeached or what the charges would be. It’s just Democratic Party demagoguery pure and simple, and soon people are going to start asking why Mrs. Pelosi is such an all-fired hurry to run the president out of office without a trial in the Senate at all.

Speaker Pelosi wants President Trump to resign so that she and her cohorts don’t have to prove that the President did anything wrong. This statement is totally inappropriate in a representative republic. It also goes totally against the rights guaranteed to American citizens in the Bill of Rights. This kind of political railroading by politicians in power is probably part of the reason the Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution. After reading her comments, I truly believe that Speaker Pelosi is in the position of a person on a roller coaster climbing to the top and wondering if she has made the right decision. Like that person, she knows that it is too late to get off now!