Thursday links

by debbywitt

How Baby Flamingos Become Pink. Kind of related: Don Featherstone, creator of the plastic pink flamingo, and his wife wore matching outfits every day for 37 years.

The Great Lengths Taken to Make Abraham Lincoln Look Good in Photos.

Fascinating photos: when Paris flooded, 1910.

It’s the anniversary of the 20th of July plot, the unsuccessful bomb attempt by his associates to kill Hitler in 1944.

The 1858 ’Great Stink’ of London.

Why Red M&M’s Disappeared for a Decade.

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include why ancient Roman concrete is better than modern mixes, a compilation of film of New York City circa 1900, the anniversary of the first nuclear test, and the history of condoms.

Krauthammer’s Take: It Would Be “Suicidal” to Proceed with the Health-Care Vote

by NR Staff

Republicans should abandon the process of health-care reform and move on to tax reform, said Charles Krauthammer. “It’s going to be suicidal to go ahead with the vote next week.”

Krauthammer explained why Republicans should move ahead with tax reform:

I think they have a good chance of working something out on tax reform. That’s their strength; that’s what I would have recommended they start with. I think the best thing to do now, ironically, is to walk away. I think it’s going to be suicidal to go ahead with the vote next week; it’s going to be a repudiation. It’s going to be a vote to proceed, meaning that the Republicans who vote against it — and there will be enough, I think, to shoot it down — are saying, “we’re done with this.” Well, you don’t have to have it officially on the record. Just walk away and go immediately to something perhaps even radical on tax reform.

Assisted Suicide IS the ‘Harmful Effect’

by Wesley J. Smith

Response To...

Assisted-Suicide Measure Takes Effect in ...

I know that Alexandra is not implying otherwise, but to say that she hopes that “harmful effects” of the Washigton D.C. law, such as increased suicides — I assume other than of the assisted variety — or coercion will not occur, is to lose sight of the problem that assisted suicide itself is the harmful effect.

Assisted-Suicide Measure Takes Effect in Washington, D.C.

by Alexandra DeSanctis

A new measure took effect on Monday in the nation’s capital, allowing doctors and pharmacies to provide terminally ill patients with life-ending medication. Washington, D.C.’s mayor signed the Death with Dignity Act last December, but the measure wasn’t implemented until this week.

City law now allows D.C. residents older than 18 to obtain a prescription for medications to end their lives, only if they are terminally ill and receive approval from a doctor. Participation is voluntary for doctors and pharmacies; not all medical professionals in the district are willing to prescribe and dispense lethal medications.

The law requires that patients make two requests to a doctor to end their life, 15 days apart. If their requests are granted, they must obtain the drugs and take their own life in a private place. With this law, D.C. joins the six states that already permit physician-assisted suicide: Oregon, Washington, Colorado, California, Montana, and Vermont.

But opponents of the law aren’t quite ready to give up: Just last week, the House Appropriations Committee advanced a measure to repeal it. The amendment in question was introduced by Andy Harris, a Maryland GOP congressman who is also a medical doctor.

While D.C.’s mayor insists that Congress shouldn’t be able to abolish the ordinance, Harris has pointed out correctly that the federal government has jurisdiction over the city. “We have the absolute ability to judge anything that the District of Columbia does that we think is bad, bad policy,” Harris said during debate. “This is really bad policy.”

In a statement last Friday, Harris summarized much of the opposition to assisted-suicide legislation. “New, stunning cures in medicine occur each and every day,” he said. “Encouraging patients to commit suicide deprives them of the opportunity to potentially be cured by new treatments that could ameliorate their condition and even add years to their lives, if not cure them completely.”

Harris’s statement also helps to partially explain why there are opponents of right-to-die laws on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s not as simple as “social conservatives” wishing to see their belief in the sanctity of life amplified by law, although that’s part of it.

Some believe that assisted-suicide laws will lead doctors to encourage patients to take advantage of lethal drugs rather than pursue new, experimental procedures that might succeed. Others argue that these laws make euthanasia more likely, as families might pressure relatives into choosing “death with dignity” rather than continuing to receive costly treatment. Many are concerned that individuals with depression or anxiety might turn to these drugs in a time of despair.

Given the lack of reporting on how many people have taken their own lives under these laws to this point, it has been difficult to conduct sound research on their effects. But at least one scholar has pieced together significant evidence that assisted-suicide laws tend to decrease the quality of palliative and end-of-life care, as well as increase overall suicide rates.

Hopefully none of these harmful effects will manifest themselves in D.C. as this new policy takes effect.

 

Engels Returns to Manchester (2)

by Andrew Stuttaford

I posted something last night about the decision to put up a Soviet era statue to Friedrich Engels in Manchester. The statue was first unveiled as part of a live film event called Ceremony.

Friedrich Engels — philosopher, writer, radical thinker — is coming back home. Turner Prize-nominated artist Phil Collins is returning Engels to the city where he made his name — in the form of a Soviet-era statue, driven across Europe and permanently installed in the centre of Manchester. Ceremony will be a singular moment in the city’s history. Performers, musicians and the people of Manchester will create an extraordinary live film to bring MIF17 to a close, mixing footage from the statue’s journey with live coverage of its inauguration.

Now there’s been a comment in the Guardian about the statue. It’s worth reading in full, but here’s an extract (my emphasis added):

My wife is third-generation British Ukrainian. Her grandparents were captured by the Germans and worked in forced labour in Germany during the second world war. After the war, they were sent to a displaced persons camp in England and they eventually settled in Cheetham Hill, north Manchester. The city has one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Britain. It has a social club, church, school, youth organisations, dance groups, choirs and museum. The members of this community epitomise everything that is great about Manchester – intelligent, hardworking, cynical, creative and good-humoured.

Communism was a very real thing for British Ukrainians from the 1950s to 1990s. Many had relatives on the wrong side of the iron curtain. Others had lost family in the Holodomor [the genocidal famine in Ukraine organized by the Stalin regime]. Millions of Ukrainians lost their lives to the Soviet regime. Anti-Soviet protests in Manchester or London were a common part of diaspora life. You could argue they are also part of the “Manchester radical” narrative. The aftermath of the Soviet era still affects Ukraine and its diaspora today.

I have grown to love the Manchester Ukrainian community. We were married in the Ukrainian church and our daughter was baptised there. I have visited Ukraine on two occasions. I respect the traditions and culture of the Manchester diaspora. Like any community, they are not always perfect, but they are proudly Mancunian and deserve to be listened to.

I understand that art should be challenging, but for me the statue and Ceremony glorify communism. I feel uncomfortable that the statue was part of the Soviet propaganda machine – even if it originates from the “softer” Brezhnev regime (the statue was created in 1970). The placards promoting communism that have been placed around the statue do not help….

When I saw the statue in person I was drawn to the faded blue-and-yellow paint of the Ukrainian flag on the legs. I assume that it was painted by Ukrainians following the fall of the Soviet regime in 1991. A part of me longed to repaint the statue in the Ukrainian colours.

Do I have a problem with a statue of Engels in Manchester? No. There is already a sculpture of his beard in Salford. He is an important figure in Manchester’s history. But I do have a problem with a statue created specifically to promote Soviet propaganda being placed in Manchester – if, as a result, it romanticises communism and totalitarianism.

The Manchester International Festival is brilliant for the region, but it is a shame neither the festival nor the artist engaged properly with the city’s Ukrainian community beforehand. I understand that members of the community were approached about providing a choir for Ceremony, but they turned it down when they discovered the context.

The last sentence says it all.

Update

Over the weekend, the Financial Times ran a piece by John Lloyd on the saga of this statue’s journey to Manchester.

Two extracts (my emphasis added):

More than most contemporary artists on the left, Collins shows a strong sympathy for the communist era: one of his films, Marxism Today, is composed of tender interviews with former teachers of Marxism-Leninism in East Germany who were rendered unemployable by its collapse. “When the wall fell, there was also a collapse of something which had been solidarity, co-operative working: individualism flourished,” he says.

Ah yes, individualism. East Germany was famous for that.

Lloyd concluded:

For all the mass murders committed in their name, Marx and Engels continue to loom large today, not just in the consciousness of lachrymose visitors from China — where they remain on their pedestals. Their ideas are being revived beyond the lecture room. They represent a way not taken, a revolution betrayed. And on Sunday evening, Manchester’s first communist will be unveiled on a capitalist pedestal at last.

“A way not taken, a revolution betrayed,” words that encapsulate one of the more persistent myths about the communist experience: Lenin betrayed Marx and Engels, Stalin betrayed Lenin. Not so much. Lenin certainly applied his own gloss to Marx (and by extension) Engels. There’s a reason people talk of Marxism-Leninism. And Stalin applied his gloss to Lenin. But they were all building on the same base, and headed in (more or less) the same direction. 

Marx:

There is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.

Engels:

We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.

Two Pianos (Three Keyboards)

by Jay Nordlinger

At The New Criterion, I have a post about a piano: specifically, a piano with two keyboards, the kind designed by Emánuel Moór, a Hungarian of yore. The piano was given to Gunnar Johansen, a Danish-born pianist who worked at the University of Wisconsin. Who gave it to him? Anna Clark, widow of William A. Clark, a copper baron and senator who was one of the more remarkable figures in our history.

What happened was this: Johansen gave a private recital in Mrs. Clark’s grand home on Fifth Avenue. Afterward, she told him about this peculiar piano she had. Would he like to see it? And play it? He would. And there on the spot, Mrs. Clark simply gave it to him.

So, off the piano went to Wisconsin — it and its two keyboards. Johansen would make many recordings on it.

I thought of a story — a much better story, a much more amazing story — told to me by David Pryce-Jones. It concerns his late friend H. C. Robbins Landon — “Robbie” Landon — an eminent musicologist. Like a detective, he was on the trail of a piano that once belonged to Beethoven. He thought it might be in a certain Austrian castle. So he arranged to go there.

The resident count, Herberstein, said, “Have a look around.” There were so many rooms, wings, and towers. Who knew what was about? And lo, there was Beethoven’s piano, in some far-off and forgotten attic.

The count said to Landon, “Look, we had no idea the piano was here. We knew nothing about it. You found it, you did the work. You have it. Take it.”

That must be one of the most noble things a noble ever did.

Mailbag

by Ramesh Ponnuru

1. In response to yesterday’s post about what Republicans should do about health care now: “15 million people leaving health insurance ‘voluntarily’ is not something to celebrate. What it means for the vast majority of them is that they don’t have good options.”

As I said in that post, I strongly suspect that the CBO’s estimate that 15 million people would drop insurance if not threatened with fines for doing it vastly overstates the power of those fines. Just ending the fines is not my ideal policy: I’d also like the government to cut regulations that raise the price of insurance and thus make it less attractive. But yes, I do think it is preferable that people be allowed to go without insurance than be fined into buying insurance they don’t want.

2. In response to my Bloomberg column about neuroscience and free speech on campus: “You just know they’re just getting revved up to say that Trump stresses people out and it’s LITERALLY VIOLENCE.”

3. Another response: “Oh man. My children have a lot to answer for. Can I have a safe space from them?”

4. A response to my article on why Republicans in power are accomplishing so little:

The reason “Republicans can’t get anything done” is that a lot of Republicans are uninterested in anything but complete philosophical purity. They’d rather go hungry than eat half a loaf. It’s gotten way worse since the tea party started primarying anyone willing to actually legislate.

This emailer was not alone in making this argument. It seems to me both exaggerated and incomplete.

First, a lot of people on the right edge of the party were willing to compromise. Members of the House Freedom Caucus were willing to live with tax credits to help people buy health insurance even though that wasn’t their ideal approach; and a lot of them switched from no to yes on the House version of the bill after winning a policy concession. And while I don’t agree with Senator Mike Lee about the Senate bill — I thought it took enough positive steps to be worth supporting — I don’t think his opposition was premised on getting everything he wants.

Second, the tea-party explanation doesn’t account for the party moderates who said they were against Obamacare but never explained (or appear to have thought through) what they wanted in its place and pulled up short as soon as they were asked to legislate about the matter. It’s a mistake, in other words, to see the party’s problems legislating as mainly the fault of one particular faction or another.

What Happens When a Joke Creates a ‘Hostile Learning Environment’?

by George Leef

Leftists are notorious for their lack of a sense of humor. Any joke might set one of them off because “progressivism” keeps them constantly on edge, looking for any way to attack a perceived enemy.

One faculty member who recently discovered that is Professor Trent Bertrand of Johns Hopkins. Make that formerly of Johns Hopkins. A joke he told in his international-economics course earlier this year led to complaints by three students that he had created a “hostile learning environment” for them. That’s bad enough, but the university’s overreaction was mind-boggling. Bertrand tells his tale in today’s Martin Center article.

Educators need to walk on eggshells when teaching today’s SJW students. Even fully committed liberals have to worry, since the slightest slip can land them in deep trouble with administrators who are usually as humorless as the kids.

Bertrand concludes, “Our universities have gone badly astray when professors can be yanked out of their classes and denied rudimentary academic due process simply because a student couldn’t take a joke or administrators cannot tolerate criticism of actions that threaten to undermine the idea of a university.”

You Can’t Save a Party From Itself.

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

They Fear Responsibility for Change More Than They Fear the Status Quo

You can’t save a party from itself.

I like Ohio Senator Rob Portman quite a bit. But there’s no getting around the fact that his campaign web site in 2016 said this…

Senator Rob Portman believes that Obamacare must be repealed and replaced with reforms that will actually lower costs and improve the quality of our health care. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care law the Democrats shoved through Congress in 2009 will slow economic growth over the next decade, cost 2.5 million jobs, and contribute a trillion dollars to the deficit.

There are alternatives to Obamacare that would actually reduce the costs in health care. Senator Rob Portman believes that we should allow companies to sell insurance across state lines, pass tort reform to reduce the extra costs due to frivolous lawsuits, and allow smaller businesses to band together and get the same tax benefits that larger businesses have when providing health care to their employees.

Other proposals include establishing well-funded high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions and providing tax credits for people to purchase insurance on the individual market.

Together, we can repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense reforms to lower costs and improve our health care system.

The Senate version of the Obamacare replacement bill was far from perfect, but it was a giant step in the direction that Portman claimed that he wanted back in 2016. There wasn’t much wiggle room in his rhetoric on the trail; Obamacare “must be repealed and replaced.” Now the senator prefers the status quo to the GOP alternative.

Back in 2015, when Obama was president and sure to veto it, Portman voted for a repeal-only proposal. His tune this week:

 “If it is a bill that simply repeals (Obamacare), I believe that will add to more uncertainty and the potential for Ohioans to pay even higher premiums, higher deductibles,” the Ohio Republican told MSNBC on Tuesday.

“The circumstances have changed altogether for Ohio,” Portman said. “We’ve gone from a situation in Ohio where had a lot of competition (and) multiple insurance companies” offering plans to a situation where 19 counties in the state have no insurer offering coverage on the individual market for the next enrollment period.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski also voted to repeal in 2015, and she, too, says repeal-only is now unacceptable.

So yes, blame the senators for changing their tune as soon as there was a Republican president who might actually sign their ideas into law. But don’t let the president off the hook; his interest in using the bully pulpit to get this bill passed was intermittent at best.

Imagine a world where Trump tweeted to his Alaskan supporters to call Murkowski’s office and urge her to support the bill. He won the state by 15 points. Imagine a world where Trump held a rally in West Virginia, telling all of his supporters who attend that they need to call Senator Capito. He won that state in a landslide.

Instead, he’s tweeting, “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”

Stay tuned? What is this, a cliffhanger for next week’s episode of The Apprentice?

Yesterday Ramesh wrote, “The proposition that the tweets are undermining congressional work does not really hold up.” I disagree slightly. They’re not the primary cause of the troubles of the Congressional GOP, but trump’s tweets are a reflection of his interests, and every tweet about Mika Brzezinski’s alleged facelift or who will replace Greta Van Susteren on MSNBC is one that isn’t being used to build public support for legislative priorities. One reason these Republican senators felt comfortable opposing the GOP reform bill is because there wasn’t much pressure from the public at large or the GOP grassroots. If Trump had said to his significant number of supporters in places like Ohio, Alaska, Maine, Nevada, Kentucky, West Virginia, Kansas, and Utah, “I need you to call your senators!” would any of those senators have at least felt a little more pressure to get on board?

Scalia Speaks, Forthcoming Book of Scalia Speeches

by Ed Whelan

As I mentioned in late April, at the invitation of the Scalia family, Christopher J. Scalia (son of Justice and Mrs. Scalia) and I have been reviewing and selecting Justice Scalia’s best speeches for publication in a single-volume collection. I am very pleased to pass along that, as announced earlier today on the Corner, Crown Forum has arranged with the Scalia family to publish Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived. Even better, Scalia Speaks will be available very soon — on October 3, the Tuesday after the next Supreme Court term opens.

Scalia Speaks is designed for a general audience and is replete with Justice Scalia’s characteristic wisdom, clarity, and humor. There are a lot of great speeches on legal topics, all readily accessible to the non-lawyer. As the subtitle suggests, we’ve included many speeches on other topics: for example, faith, character, tradition, ethnicity, education, turkey hunting, and even the games and sports that a young Nino Scalia played on the streets of Queens in the 1940s. The book also features several of the Justice’s moving, and often funny, tributes to friends.

Only a small handful of the dozens of speeches in the book have ever been published before.

My hopeful expectation is that a very broad swath of readers will find the book a delight — a joy to read and a great gift for family, friends, and colleagues. Here’s a take from one non-lawyer who reviewed the manuscript:

Skimming through the speeches is like being bathed in a world of goodness, truth, and beauty. The humor, generosity, friendship, and love that shines from them is a balm in what is too often an ugly world.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — dear friend to Justice and Mrs. Scalia and subject of one of the Justice’s tributes — has generously volunteered a wonderful foreword, and Chris Scalia has written a poignant introduction.

Pre-order the book now. You’ll be very glad you did.

Announcing Scalia Speaks: Pre-Order a New Collection of Speeches by Antonin Scalia

by NR Staff

National Review Online is pleased to reveal the cover of Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived, the upcoming collection of speeches from the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, edited by Christopher J. Scalia and Ed Whelan:

Courtesy of Crown Forum:

Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived, by Antonin Scalia, with a foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and edited by Christopher J. Scalia and Edward Whelan, will be on sale nationwide on October 3, 2017, from Crown Forum, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. The title and publication date were announced today by Tina Constable, Senior Vice President and Publisher, Crown Forum. The book was acquired by Crown Forum Executive Editor Mary Reynics from Robert Barnett of Williams & Connolly, LLP, and will be issued simultaneously in hardcover, digital, and audio formats.

Scalia Speaks collects dozens of Justice Scalia’s best speeches, including some deeply personal talks, on topics as varied as the law, faith, virtue, pastimes, and heroes and friends. Only a small handful of these speeches have ever been published before. The volume is edited by Christopher J. Scalia, his youngest son, and Edward Whelan, one of the Justice’s former law clerks.

In his intimate introduction, Christopher Scalia writes, “Working on this collection has been a moving experience. It has been an honor to help family, friends, and colleagues re‐experience a man they admired, and to allow others to encounter for the first time someone whose influence they have heard about and whom they want to understand for themselves. . . . We know that these speeches will help his great American legacy endure.”

Americans have long been inspired by Justice Scalia’s ideas, delighted by his wit, and instructed by his intelligence. Scalia Speaks will give readers the opportunity to encounter the legendary man more fully, helping them better understand the jurisprudence that made him one of the most important justices in the Supreme Court’s history and introducing them to his broader insights on faith and life.

Few people in American history have made the lasting impact that Justice Antonin Scalia did in his lifetime. A Supreme Court justice for three decades, married to his beloved wife, Maureen, for more than fifty years, a father to nine children, a grandfather to dozens, and a friend to people of all political stripes, Justice Scalia lived a life that was remarkable in its significance and reach. Known for his wisdom, wit, and warmth, Justice Scalia was a sought‐after speaker at commencements, convocations, and events across the country.

Scalia Speaks will be published October 3, 2017. Pre-order the book here.

Robots, Again

by Andrew Stuttaford

 Kay Hymowitz has written a piece in City Journal that is well worth your time. Some extracts:

People have feared artificial intelligence since Mary Shelley introduced the world to Dr. Frankenstein’s hideous creature. The Luddites, who battled against the automated loom in the early nineteenth century, are now regarded as so wrongheaded that they have an economic error named after them. The Luddite fallacy refers to the fact that in the long run, disruptive technologies create more jobs—not to mention reduce drudgery, save lives, expand leisure, and enrich us all.

Well, the Luddites were not quite as wrong as we like to think. Yes, in the long term the disruptive technologies of the industrial revolution created jobs and increased real wages, but it took over half a century — the so-called Engels (yes, that Engels) pause — for the standard of living of most British industrial workers to start increasing, too late for those who had taken the hammer to the looms.

Hymowitz:

The pace of AI discoveries and implementation is accelerating. Robots are now doing things that seemed like science fiction just a short time ago. Was anyone talking about a retail-sector meltdown, driven in good measure by AI-facilitated e-commerce, last year? Second, fasten your seatbelts. Whether you call it “the second machine age”—as MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee do, in a 2014 book by that name—or the fourth industrial revolution, this will be big. Most Silicon Valley honchos, scientists, and economists think that this time is different. Exactly how many jobs will be lost, which kinds of jobs and when, and what to do to prepare for these losses may be matters of dispute. No longer questioned is that a massive disruption in the way we earn a living is coming and that it will transform communities, education—and perhaps even our notion of an America defined by industriousness and upward mobility.

And if there’s an Engels Pause 2.0?

The piece is not all pessimism, far from it: Hymowitz gives plenty of examples of what she terms “technology’s counterintuitive influence on the labor market”:

James Bessen, an economist at Boston University School of Law and what you might call a lukewarm optimist, has studied the ATM’s impact on bank jobs. On first thought, it seems obvious: ATMs would mean fewer jobs for bank tellers, right? No, Bessen says. The number of bank tellers rose in the three decades after the ATM was introduced. The reason: along with deregulation, the ATM helped banks open more branches. Tellers were “up-skilled” to do more customer service and sales.

But what are those bank tellers paid?

Here’s the Washington Post from 2013:

Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.

Among the vulnerable jobs listed by Hymowitz are truck drivers, train drivers, cabbies, fast food workers, and those with jobs in retail:

According to the New York Times, 89,000 workers in general-merchandise stores have lost their jobs in the past five months alone—more jobs than in the entire coal industry.

And those retail workers aren’t going to be able to take refuge in Amazon’s warehouses for long:

The many companies specializing in warehouse robots are already making ones that can lift cases off shelves. The machines need less space to get around than humans, so warehouses will no longer need to be stadium-size. The robots move faster than humans, too, and they can work 24/7. In 2012, Amazon purchased Kiva, a Boston-based robotics firm, for $775 million. Last December, the Seattle Times reported that Amazon had expanded its army of robots to 45,000—a 50 percent increase from the year before. The writing is on the warehouse wall.

The list of those at risk goes on:

Coal miners, steel, oil and gas, and construction workers… accountants, insurance-claims adjusters, travel agents, bookkeepers, translators….pharmacists, and even radiologists, journalists, lawyers, and Wall Street traders.

And let’s not forget paralegals.

Engels Pause 2.0 is looking more and more likely. And it may last even longer than last time round, taking a bite far higher up the food chain as it does so, something that is very likely to increase the political dangers of what lies ahead.

Hymowitz:

Moreover, most of the tech community and economists believe that income and wealth disparity will be as prominent a feature of an AI economy as it has been in a digital one. Will the prosperity they predict from the AI revolution be even more concentrated among a select few? What will be the social and political reaction to growing and seemingly intransigent inequality? Will the pressure mount for more redistribution? If, as seems likely, the answer to that last question is yes, conservative policymakers in particular will find themselves with few appealing responses.

And on that cheery note….

Update (via the Wall Street Journal this morning) 

Nearly 16 million people, or 11% of nonfarm U.S. jobs, are in the retail industry, mostly as cashiers or salespeople. The industry eclipsed the shrinking manufacturing sector as the biggest employer 15 years ago…

“The decline of retail jobs, should it occur on a large scale—as seems likely long-term—will make the labor market even less hospitable for a group of workers who already face limited opportunities for stable, well-paid employment,” said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Engels Returns to Manchester

by Andrew Stuttaford

A statue of Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx’s accomplice and benefactor, has gone up in Manchester. Engels was also the author of The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), a book based on what he’d seen — little of it pretty — in the course of his time in the city, then a major center of Britain’s industrial revolution.

Manchester Evening News:

Iconic socialist thinker, Friedrich Engels has returned to Manchester . . . 150 years after he left. As part of the Manchester International Festival, a statue will be officially unveiled of the German writer, in Tony Wilson Place, this Sunday . . . 

The Guardian:

This month, the Berlin-based, British-born artist Phil Collins transported a 3.5 metre statue of Friedrich Engels from a village in eastern Ukraine, through Europe, to Britain on a flat-bed truck. Next month, during the Manchester international festival, the sculpture, a 1970s concrete image of the bearded revolutionary, will be erected in the city where he researched The Condition of the Working Class in England, its new permanent home.

…Engels is not an uncomplicated figure. If he is discredited in Ukraine, associated with a cruel and inhuman regime, then one might ask what business Collins has in commemorating him in Manchester. The artist, however, like a number of his biographers (including V&A director and former Labour MP Tristram Hunt, author of The Frock-coated Communist), forbears to hold him responsible for the atrocities committed under communist regimes in the mid-20th century, and points out that “millions of lives have also been squandered via the interpretation of the words of other figures” – not least Christ.

It’s worth remembering that this particular statue was erected by one of those Communist regimes. It was a monument celebrating Soviet power and an ideology that had already been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions.

Giles Udy is the author of  a new book, Labour and the Gulag. Here’s part of what his publishers have to say about it:

In 1929, Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to work in labour camps. Subjected to appalling treatment, thousands died. When news of the camps leaked out in Britain, there were protests demanding the government ban imports of timber cut by slave labourers.

The Labour government of the day dismissed mistreatment claims as Tory propaganda and blocked appeals for an inquiry. Despite the Cabinet privately acknowledging the harsh realities of the work camps, Soviet denials were publicly repeated as fact. One Labour minister even defended them as part of ‘a remarkable economic experiment’.

Labour and the Gulag explains how Britain’s Labour Party was seduced by the promise of a socialist utopia and enamoured of a Russian Communist system it sought to emulate. It reveals the moral compromises Labour made, and how it turned its back on the people in order to further its own political agenda.

I will look forward to reading it. With admirers of butchers past and present now in charge of the Labour party, it looks very timely indeed.

On Twitter today, Mr. Udy tweeted a series of quotes by Engels. The thread begins here.

Here are a few:

[S]uch offensive, vulgar, democratic arguments! To denigrate violence as something to be rejected, when we all know that in the end nothing can be achieved without violence!”

This is our calling, that we shall become the templars of this Grail, gird the sword round our loins for its sake and stake our lives joyfully in the last, holy war which will be followed by the thousand-year reign of freedom.

The second quotation is a remarkably literal (“the thousand-year reign of freedom”) reminder that the early Marxists (and many of their successors) were just the latest in a long series of dangerous millenarian cranks.

And:

We discovered that in connection with these figures the German national simpletons and money-grubbers of the Frankfurt parliamentary swamp always counted as Germans the Polish Jews as well, although this dirtiest of all races, neither by its jargon nor by its descent, but at most only through its lust for profit, could have any relation of kinship with Frankfurt.

Wait, there’s more:

We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.

And there was the quote about smaller, “trash nations,” a description contained in an article published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions of those peoples of the Habsburg Empire who had not, in Engels’ view, played their part. The Germans, the Poles and the Magyars had proved to be “standard-bearers of progress,” but, as for the rest:

[General war will] wipe out all these trash nations [a harsh, but reasonably accurate translation of Völkerabfälle, the term Engels used] down to their very names. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.”

Iconic!

Krauthammer’s Take: Repeal and Replace was an ‘Epic Fail’

by NR Staff

The Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare has been an “epic fail,” said Charles Krauthammer. “This is seven years of argument gone down the drain.”

Krauthammer explained why the Republicans failed so abysmally:

There are three reasons why this went down. The first is that once you give an entitlement, which is what ObamaCare did, you almost never can retrieve it and abandon it. The second is there was no presidential leadership. You want to do something of this scale, you have to do — and here we were critical of Obama, but he gave at least 32 national addresses, you and I lost count after that, I mean, it was higher than that, on his healthcare bill, and he made the case. Did anybody make the case for what was in this bill in the Senate, other than it was a promise? And the last is that it shows the divide between the moderates and the conservatives in the Republican caucus, in both houses, is almost unbridgeable and there is no one to adjudicate the split. The moderates were afraid of the curtailment of Medicaid, and the conservatives are the ones who wanted the curtailment of Medicaid as an entitlement out of control.

You put all of those together and you get an epic fail.

Reporter Loses Job after Exposing Chicago Dyke March’s Anti-Semitism

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The journalist who first reported the fact that three Jewish women were thrown out of the Chicago Dyke March several weeks ago has been moved from her reporting role to a job at her paper’s sales desk. As of yesterday, Gretchen Rachel Hammond — who works for a Chicago LGBT paper called the Windy City Times — no longer serves as a reporter at the paper, but she has declined to say officially whether her coverage of the march was the reason for the sudden shift.

Her work drew national attention after she reported that three women had been removed from the LGBT pride parade for carrying rainbow flags that included the Star of David. The event’s organizers said the flags offended many people at the march because the stars were reminiscent of the Israeli flag, as seen at anti-Zionist events.

Hammond told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday that she is seeking other employment and cannot comment further on her situation at the Windy City Times. But she issued the following tweets yesterday morning in response to the Chicago Dyke March’s Twitter account:

“One of them said, ‘I’m going to get your bitch ass fired,’” Hammond told the JTA of calls and text messages she received. “It was vicious. It wasn’t even a request for dialogue. It was, ‘You f**ked with us. We’re going to f**k with you.’ They pretty much blamed me for the whole thing blowing up at them.”

This incident is just another example of a trend that Elliot Kaufman articulated on NRO late last month: LGBT Pride parades have become a vehicle for a wide swath of big-ticket items on the progressive agenda. Strict adherence to all of these views, as a whole, is mandatory — so much so that the Chicago march was willing to evict sympathetic individuals from their event merely for expressing their Jewish identity.

And now a reporter has lost her job, likely because she dared to expose the menacing nature of this event’s organizers. Where will this dangerous phenomenon end?

The Least Senate Republicans Should Do on Health Care

by Ramesh Ponnuru

NR’s editors argue against the repeal-and-delay plan that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is once again advocating. Instead, they urge Republicans to pass a scaled-down version of their bill that includes only those items on which they are already nearly unified.

I agree with that, and am writing here just to underline one implication. The Senate Republican bill abolished Obamacare’s fines for people who go without insurance: the “individual mandate” that has been one of the law’s least popular features. Since the bill did not abolish Obamacare’s regulation requiring insurers to treat sick and healthy people identically, the bill had to do something to keep people from gaming the system by waiting until they got sick to buy insurance. (If enough people acted on that logic, insurance markets would unravel.) What the bill did was impose a waiting period before people coming back to the insurance rolls could get a tax credit to help with their purchase. It also made insurance more attractive to young people by allowing insurers to give them larger discounts than Obamacare does.

The Congressional Budget Office has throughout the debate over Obamacare been a strong believer in the power of the fines. It found that abolishing them would within a year cause 15 million people to stop getting insurance (even insurance that would be nearly free to them). But the CBO also found that the Senate bill would leave the individual insurance market stable. Republicans were willing to accept that trade-off. A few Senate Republicans balked at Medicaid reform, but nobody said they could not accept these changes.

At the very least, Republicans ought to abolish the fines this year. That might also involve allowing more price variation by age, imposing the waiting period for the tax credit, and making stabilization payments–that last item being possible to move in separate legislation, as the editorial suggests. If the CBO is right, getting rid of the mandate would mean that 15 million people would, by their own lights, come out ahead.

On Life and Death in China

by Jay Nordlinger

Perry Link is one of the great China scholars of our time. There have been two main sides to his career, I think: He is a scholar of literature and language; and he has been an ally of dissidents. I wrote about him in a 2012 piece, “Scholars with Spine.” Today, Professor Link and I recorded a Q&A podcast, here.

He of course knew Liu Xiaobo, the literary scholar and political prisoner (and Nobel peace laureate). Liu died last week. Or was killed? I’m not quite sure how to phrase it. In any case, he died in police custody, as he had lived for so many years.

Professor Link and I talk about Liu Xiaobo, and other dissidents, and Mao, and organ harvesting, and the posture of the West toward China, and other issues. I always feel improved, somehow, when I talk with Perry Link. Again, our podcast is here.

How Would Ronald Reagan Have Replaced Obamacare?

by Avik Roy

At the end of the day, the reason why Republicans are struggling to replace Obamacare is because there are deep divisions about what conservatives’ goals should be on health care.

The events of the past 24 hours are a good occasion to reflect on what those goals should be. One source to consider might be Ronald Reagan.

As I note in a review of Henry Olsen’s new Reagan biography, The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue Collar Conservatism, Reagan’s views on health-care reform might surprise those who think of him as a libertarian absolutist:

Most readers of Olsen’s book will be surprised to learn that Reagan embraced universal coverage. In “A Time for Choosing” — Reagan’s celebrated conservative manifesto delivered at Goldwater’s 1964 Republican National Convention — Reagan declared, “No one in this country should be denied medical care for lack of funds.” In a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce — in Goldwater’s backyard — Reagan said, “Any person in the United States who requires medical attention and cannot provide for himself should have it provided for him.”

While Reagan opposed “compulsory health insurance through a government bureau for people who don’t need it or who have . . . even a few million dollars tucked away,” he championed the Kerr-Mills Act of 1960, a law introduced by two Democrats that gave federal money to states with which to provide medical care for the elderly in need. Reagan said that he was “in favor of this bill — and if the money isn’t enough, I think we should put up more.”

In the 1960s, Reagan opposed Medicare for two principal reasons: participation was mandatory, and because Medicare spent scarce taxpayer funds to subsidize coverage for wealthy people — even millionaires — who didn’t need the help. But Reagan explicitly supported the role of government in subsidizing care for every American who could not otherwise afford it.

The Reagan approach to health-care reform is worth revisiting. It could involve repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, and repealing a similar mandate that forces people to participate in Medicare. It could involve a robust system of tax credits and health savings accounts to help the poor afford the coverage and care that they need, instead of forcing them to depend on single-payer programs like Medicaid. And it could roll back federal subsidies — whether through Medicare or the tax code — for those who don’t need them.

A coherent Reagan-style reform could dramatically reduce federal spending and taxes, especially over the long term, by focusing our expenditures on those who are truly in need. It might require an expansion of conservatives’ health reform ambitions, from solely focusing on Obamacare to addressing the larger set of ways in which the federal government has distorted health care, of which Obamacare is merely the most recent part.

Most importantly, reform would require a Reaganesque commitment to the principle that helping the needy afford health care is a legitimate and desirable policy goal. It’s a goal that most Americans share, and one that is entirely compatible with conservatives’ allegiance to limited government and free markets.

Indeed, the only way conservatives will ever be successful at gaining public support for rolling back government involvement in the health-care system is if we do so in a way that improves coverage and care for the poor and the vulnerable. Either we believe free enterprise can achieve that outcome, or we’re not true believers in free enterprise. It’s time to choose.

Playing by the Media’s Rules on the Democrats’ Court

by Peter Kirsanow

The Republican agenda is stuck in neutral in part because of the tendency by Beltway Republicans and some conservatives to play by the rules established by the media and progressives, the flouting of which were a contributing factor in Donald Trump’s electoral victories.

The health-care fiasco, though not foreordained, was eminently predictable once Republicans essentially adopted the premise of the media and Democrats that government should control health-insurance markets and ensure that everyone is covered. And once that premise was internalized, single-payer became a more likely outcome than repeal.

Then there’s Russia. Despite considerable hyperventilation, to this point there remains no evidence of “collusion,” a term that is as conveniently malleable as it is nebulous. Some allegedly sentient beings have even suggested that Trump’s conduct is treasonous. But until Robert Mueller uncovers something considerably more substantive, proponents of the “nothingburger” argument will have the advantage over the hyperventilators.

Nonetheless, the media and much of official Washington have worked themselves into a frenzy over “Russia.” This includes much of the Republican establishment that has reacted in a way they did not and would not over matters at least as troubling and for which there is far more evidence.

These Republicans appear more “troubled” by Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians than with Bill Clinton receiving $500,000 from a firm with demonstrable ties to the Kremlin — all while Hillary Clinton was still secretary of state; they’ve wrung their hands more strenuously over the e-mail chain released by Trump Jr. than over the 33,000 e-mails deleted by Hillary Clinton; they’ve expressed “concern” about the optics of the meeting but apparently were fine with the visual of the Clinton Foundation raking in millions of dollars from Russians while the Clinton State Department approved a transaction giving Russia control of 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves. (In contrast, there’s no evidence that in the Trump Jr. meeting the Russians even got anything as consequential as the location of Moose and Squirrel. And Obama’s IRS had more impact on American elections than Natalia Veselnitskaya did.)

But the media spends up to 90 percent of their news programs on Russia, the Democrats go from zero to treason in 3.2 seconds, and Republicans are swept along, losing all sense of perspective and scale and permitting themselves to get mired in playing perpetual defense.

It’s alleged Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House. Can’t anyone here play this game?

Sorry, Profs — Your Worries about Guns on Campus Don’t Make the Law Invalid

by George Leef

Snowflake students? Yes, but we also have snowflake professors.

Last year, a law duly enacted in Texas made it legal for people who have concealed-carry permits to bring their weapons on the state’s college campuses. Naturally, a great deal of wailing accompanied that, driven by the usual “Guns are too scary!” crowd. Three professors at UT–Austin filed suit in an effort at blocking the law, claiming that it would interfere with their rights under the First Amendment. How so? Well, because if professors know that some student might have a gun in his backpack and start shooting if he gets upset over some discussion in class, they will self-censor and avoid potentially dangerous topics, thus interfering with their free-speech rights.

Fortunately, the case was assigned to one of the federal judges in the state who isn’t interested in far-fetched theories of constitutional harm and he recently dismissed the suit. I write about the case in my latest Forbes article.

The really silly thing about this case is that people can bring guns on college campuses all the time and those who do so illegally are at least as (and probably far more) likely to use a gun as is someone who has a concealed carry permit.