Jeff Bell, R.I.P.

by Quin Hillyer

Conservatives everywhere should mourn the passing Saturday night of Jeff Bell, a great policy man for Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp and twice an against-the-odds Republican Senate nominee in New Jersey, at times when conservatives really needed someone to raise our banner. While he was far from well known among the general public (outside of New Jersey, at least), Jeff deservedly enjoyed a high place among the pantheon of true heroes of the conservative movement, with a full half century of signal work in building both our base of ideas and our practical political movement. (I explained why in a 2014 NRO column.) He also was a wonderful man: sharply insightful, kind, with a quiet but delightful wit. If conservative worthies gathered for dinner, the meal was always better if Jeff was there.

Jeff is surely now in the eternal shining city — and he’s probably already proposing ways to welcome more people into its abundance.

The True North of the American Media’s Coverage of the Olympics

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The True North of the American Media’s Coverage of the Olympics

The ludicrous coverage of North Korea’s presence at the Winter Olympics suggests that for the metaphorical compass of many of the biggest institutions in America’s mainstream media, there is a new true north (no pun intended, but now that I think about it, I should have intended it): Whoever is in opposition to the Trump administration is the hero of the story – no matter the circumstances, no matter the stakes.

John McCain, Jeff Flake, Jim Comey, LaVar Ball, the intelligence community, corporate CEOs, kneeling NFL players, the North Korean regime – no matter what you’ve done in the past, no matter how much the media collectively previously hammered you, if you’re butting heads with the Trump administration, you will get the more sympathetic angle in the news coverage of that dispute.

No foreign leader has enjoyed coverage as good as North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong since Vogue profiled Asma al-Assad, first lady of Syria, back in 2011. (That was right before Assad’s regime killed tens of thousands of people and used chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.) A sampling:

Reuters: “North Korea has emerged as the early favorite to grab one of the Winter Olympics’ most important medals: the diplomatic gold.”

CNN: “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics!”

Business Insider: “From her “side-eye” of US Vice President Mike Pence to hints at Korean unification, Kim has stolen the spotlight at the Winter Olympics.”

Washington Post: “The ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’ captivates people in the South at the Olympics.”

In the name of Otto Warmbier, could we avoid variations of the term “captive” in praising North Korea’s leaders during the Olympics?

The New York Times wrote, “Her quietly friendly approach while in South Korea — photographers repeatedly captured her smiling — seemed to endear her to some observers.”

If all it takes to “endear” you to a regime as brutal as North Korea’s is a smile, you are an exceptionally cheap date. Could you lower the bar a little more? As I joked Sunday, I await the headline, “Kim Jong Un’s Sister Shocks, Delights World By Not Killing Anyone During Meeting.”

And why the heck has every reporter in South Korea suddenly developed a crush on those cheerleaders?

The Associated Press: “North Korean Cheerleaders Spark Fashion Envy”

The UK Metro newspaper gushed, “North Korea’s 200 cheerleaders could be the best thing about the Winter Olympics.”

ABC News: “Clad in coordinated outfits of red with white and blue accents, North Korea’s throng of more than 200 cheerleaders are stealing the spotlight at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in South Korea as they chant, sway and dance in unison.

Give USA Today some credit for remembering some history, deep in a story:

In 2006, 21 members of a North Korean cheering squad that had traveled to South Korea for an international athletic event were sent to a prison camp for talking about what they saw in the South, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

It was left to BuzzfeedBuzzfeed! – to bring some sanity and perspective back to the situation:

In 2015, a South Korean report said that between 2000 and 2013, almost 1,400 North Korean citizens were publicly executed, reportedly as a means to “keep the population in line. Thousands of North Koreans were required to witness firing squad executions in public stadiums in 2013, according to a South Korean newspaper.

Some of these reporters will no doubt insist they’re not touting the charm of Kim Yo Jong and the North Koreans; they’re merely reporting on the reaction of some portion of South Korean public. The South Koreans live their daily lives in the crosshairs and no doubt have a strong cultural appetite for dreams of a peaceful reunification. Last month I wrote, “Sometimes South Korea feels like our buddy who’s still convinced he can patch things up and get back together with the crazy ex-girlfriend who tried to run him over with her car.” I suppose that if you live next door to a crazy dangerous psychopath long enough, you welcome the days the neighbor smiles instead of threatening you.

Monday links

by debbywitt

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809.

The Strange Beauty of Soviet Bus Stops.

How Wild Animals Self-Medicate.

How to Prevent Drunkenness, per 1612. Spoiler – there are roasted goat lungs involved.

The House That Spied on Me.

The true story behind Burt Reynolds’ nude centerfold.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include an 1861 Victorian sex manual, dubious studies on how 1. alcohol cleans toxins from your brain and 2. McDonald’s fries cure baldness, and the classic 1970 exploding whale video from the early days of the internet (plus the Dave Barry column that made it famous).

WI Assisted Suicide Bill to Force MD Complicity

by Wesley J. Smith

US assisted suicide advocates pretend a lot of things.

One is that no doctor will ever be forced to participate in an assisted suicide.

But once in awhile they reveal their actual intentions. Case in point: A new bill in Wisconsin would force every doctor asked for an assisted suicide by a legally eligible patient to either do the deed or find a doctor who will. From AB 216 (my emphasis):

(1) No health care facility or health care provider may be charged with a crime, held civilly liable, or charged with unprofessional conduct for any of the following:

(a) Failing to fulfill a request for medication, except that failure of an attending physician to fulfill a request for medication constitutes unprofessional conduct if the attending physician refuses or fails to make a good faith attempt to transfer the requester’s care and treatment to another physician who will act as attending physician under this chapter and fulfill the request for medication.

Forcing anyone to participate in a suicide–requiring a physician to procure the death doctor referral is that–constitutes tyranny.

The culture of death brooks no dissent. This is why we need strong medical conscience laws–federally and in every state–enforceable not just administratively, but through a personal cause of action in civil court. 

HT: Margaret Dore

A Formidable Lady

by Jay Nordlinger

I’m very glad to have crossed the path of Asma Jahangir.  Today, news came of her death, at 66.  (Go here.)  Malala Yousafzai issued a tweet:  “The best tribute to her is to continue her fight for human rights and democracy.”

Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, when she was 17.  At 15, she had been badly injured in an assassination attempt by the Taliban.  Today, she is 20 and a student at Oxford.  Just last week, she met with Asma Jahangir at Oxford.

Jahangir was an amazing presence.  I hope the below will give you a taste.  I wrote it from the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012.  This lady left a firm imprint on my mind.

Asma Jahangir is a formidable, formidable woman. She is a Pakistani lawyer who works for women’s rights, and human rights. She has been beaten and threatened with death too many times to count. Her father was a dissident, and political prisoner, and her mother was a similar free-thinker.

She talks about a particular case: She defended a 13-year-old boy, who was accused of blasphemy. A judge acquitted him. The judge was murdered. I can only think, “Bless that judge — a brave and good man.”

Jahangir says that Islamists “use the ladder of democracy to get to the top and then saw it off.”

And I wish — I wish – you could hear her mock Western governments. For several years, she was a rapporteur at the U.N. for freedom of religion. And the Westerners, she says, “were so afraid, so politically correct.” In imitation of them, she trembles in fear, and makes her voice quaver. Priceless.

One Journalist, Far Away

by Jay Nordlinger

Saleh al-Shehi is a prominent Saudi journalist with over a million Twitter followers. On December 8, he went on television and told a simple truth: People with connections to the royal court have an easier time buying certain land than do ordinary citizens. He has now been sentenced to five years in prison for “insulting the royal court.”

To read about this case, go here. Al-Shehi is one of many journalists newly behind bars.

There is a new sheriff in town, namely “MSB,” or Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince. He has cracked down harshly since he rose. Our president, Donald Trump, saluted him for it: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing. Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”

The more you learn about the world, the more you realize what a rare thing freedom of expression is. We journalists in our liberal democracies are incredibly lucky. What do we risk? Mean tweets? Nasty “comments”? Professional tensions? People such as Saleh al-Shehi risk a lot, more than anyone should ask, really.

UK Midwife Forced Out for Refusing Abortion Participation

by Wesley J. Smith

Religious and pro-life doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are under increasing threat of being forced to choose between their careers and not committing what they consider to be grievous sin or otherwise violating their consciences:

  • A Victoria, Australia MD was punished for refusing to perform or refer for a sex selection abortion in contravention of a law requiring all doctors to abort or refer on request.
  • A Swedish midwife was forced out of her career for refusing to participate in abortion.
  • An Ontario court has ruled that all MDs must either euthanize legally qualified patients who ask to be killed or refer to a doctor they know will do the deed–meaning forced complicity in homicide.
  • The usual suspects howled when the Trump HHS gave notice that it intends to reverse Obama priorities and emphasize protecting medical conscience in the enforcement of existing law.
  • The ACLU has sued several hospitals for refusing to violate the Church’s moral teachings at the institutions.
  • Some of the world’s foremost bioethicists writing in the most prestigious medical and bioethical journals advocate shattering medical conscience rights.

And now in the UK, an experienced midwife has gone public in support of conscience rights by discussing how she was forced out of her profession for refusing to violate her Catholic faith by supervising the performance of abortions. From the Daily Mail story:

It was in 2014, after a gruelling six-year battle that had taken Mary, now 63, and a fellow midwife, Connie Wood, all the way to the Supreme Court in London that they finally lost their case.

The judgment effectively decreed that while midwives can opt out of ‘frontline’ abortion work, those in senior positions — like Mary (pictured at home) and Connie — still have to supervise

The ruling overturned an earlier decision, in an Edinburgh court, which supported the women’s claim that they were ‘conscientious objectors’. 

As the law now stood, they could be disciplined for refusing to take part. So, having delivered some 5,000 babies over three decades in a job she adored, Mary felt she had no choice but to take early retirement.

So, an experienced professional who has delivered thousands of babies can deliver them no more, nor mentor younger colleagues, because she refuses to help kill the unborn. I call this phenomenon “medical martyrdom.” It is so wrong.

Here’s the thing: Very powerful forces want to drive people who refuse to violate their religious faith, Hippocratic Oath beliefs, and/or pro-life principles out of medicine–but note, not those who for reasons of conscience, refuse to maintain wanted life-extending treatment.

We can’t let them. 

Marriage, Fertility, and Blue-Collar Male Employment

by Reihan Salam

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. What could be more romantic than contemplating why the institution of marriage, a bedrock of our civilization, is in catastrophic decline?

In a new study, MIT’s David Autor, University of Zurich’s David Dorn, and UC–San Diego’s Gordon Hanson show that a decrease in blue-collar employment can lead to “a decline in marriage and fertility, an increase in the fraction of mothers who are unmarried and who are heads of single, non-cohabiting households, and a growth in the fraction of children raised in poverty.”

The basic premise that economic shocks can lead to changes in marriage patterns isn’t much in dispute; in a response to Autor, Dorn, and Hanson’s study for the Institute for Family Studies, the sociologists June Carbone and Naomi Cahn survey the literature and even “cheer” a recent Business Insider article on the matter. The question, however, is why it happens.

For their part, Autor, Dorn, and Hanson conclude that decreasing employment reduces both the availability and the desirability of young men. Male mortality rises, in particular thanks to drug- and alcohol-related deaths. In their study, a trade shock was estimated to result in 74.3 surplus male deaths relative to female deaths per 100,000 adults of each gender per decade. Throw in some incarceration and migration, and over time, there are fewer and fewer young men to go around.

Meanwhile, the men who are left are less attractive as marriage partners. The lack of work “reduces the economic stature of men relative to women,” which in turn erodes the benefits of what the economist Gary Becker called “household specialization” — women manage the home; men work outside jobs — and puts downward pressure on marriage and fertility rates. Indeed, Autor, Dorn, and Hanson find that a shock to male-heavy industries can decrease the fraction of young women who were ever married by a whole 4.2 points and can decrease fertility by two births per 1,000 women.

And those children who are born are more likely to face tough circumstances: Although trade shocks reduce the fraction of women with children, Autor, Dorn, and Hanson, write, they also “raise the share of mothers who are unmarried by 3.3 points and the share of children living in poverty by 2.1 points.”

The good news is that unemployment is low, labor-force participation is inching up, monetary policy is still pretty loose, and the steady depreciation of the dollar is giving import-competing manufacturing firms a shot in the arm. So perhaps we’ll remember this Valentine’s Day as the moment when marriage started to make a comeback.

Uncommon Knowledge: Shelby Steele on ‘How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country’

by Peter Robinson

Shelby Steele, a Hoover Institution senior fellow and author of Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, joins me to discuss race relations in the United States. Steele tells stories about growing up in segregated Chicago and the fights he and his family went through to end segregation in their neighborhood schools. He draws upon his own experiences facing racism while growing up in order to inform his opinions on current events. We then go on to discuss more recent African-American movements, including Steele’s thoughts on the NFL protests, Black Lives Matter, and recent rumors about Oprah Winfrey running for office.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s Constitutionality Upheld on Appeal

by George Leef

Nearly five years ago, Harry Reid wanted to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with lefties who would approve of all kinds of expansive and expensive government. He got his way, and a recently decided case shows how that has worked out.

The case involved the infamous Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), established in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. CFPB (Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild) was meant to be politically independent. It wouldn’t get its money from congressional appropriations, but instead through a demand presented to the Federal Reserve system. And its director would not serve at the pleasure of the president like other agency heads. CFPB was set up to be a law unto itself — but that is not what the Founders had in mind. They wanted and the Constitution demands, accountability.

In a case filed by a company that CFPB had trashed, the constitutionality of the agency was at issue. A three-judge panel of the DC Circuit initially held it to be unconstitutional, but on appeal, the court sitting en banc said, “No problem.”

I write about this disturbing development in this Forbes essay.

Harry Reid may be laughing now, but I think there’s a good chance the Supreme Court will take the case on appeal and wipe the smile off his face. Federal lawlessness has to be stopped.

History Doesn’t Take Sides

by Andrew Stuttaford

The “wrong side of history” is a phrase, wrote Robert Conquest, the great historian of the Soviet Union (and much, much more besides), with a “Marxist twang” about it. Put less politely, it is nonsense. History doesn’t take sides. 

In the course of a piece written (broadly speaking) from the left, in Prospect, Darran Anderson echoes Conquest’s comment and provides additional context:

The essence of the idea [in this case, of a “right” side of history] is a religious one, coming from and rooted in the teleological Judeo-Christian tradition. The universe is not chaotic nor is it cyclical. We are moving towards something that might be said to be God’s kingdom. Even secular Marxism emerged from this train of thought, with its historical materialism, dustbins of history and so on. In all the numerous variations of this outlook, with all the disputed messiahs and expectant end times, it has always been a matter of faith.

And faith can deceive. Two recent articles, one focused on the US, the other on the EU, provide examples of where a belief in the right side of history can lead.  

In a striking piece for New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan reminds us how identity politics are eroding the Enlightenment principles that, however flawed in execution (not infrequently, horrifyingly so), are seen as an integral, natural part of the American order.

[T]he whole concept of an individual who exists apart from group identity is slipping from the discourse. The idea of individual merit — as opposed to various forms of unearned “privilege” — is increasingly suspect. The Enlightenment principles that formed the bedrock of the American experiment — untrammeled free speech, due process, individual (rather than group) rights — are now routinely understood as mere masks for “white male” power, code words for the oppression of women and nonwhites. Any differences in outcome for various groups must always be a function of “hate,” rather than a function of nature or choice or freedom or individual agency. And anyone who questions these assertions is obviously a white supremacist himself.

Why this is happening is a discussion for another day, but that it has been allowed to happen to the degree that it has is partly a function of complacency generated by the conviction that those Enlightenment principles are irreversible, complacency reinforced at one level by the legal protections guaranteed by the Constitution, but, more profoundly, by the idea that those principles are somehow hard-wired into history.

They are not.

Meanwhile in The American Interest, Damir Marusic demonstrates how historical determinism may now be creating divisions between Europe’s east and west, a division, incidentally, that is also the subject of a fascinating article by our own John O’Sullivan in a recent edition of the (London) Spectator.  I would not agree with some of the ideas Marusic endorses. For example, it is not right to describe (and, to be fair, he explains that this is an oversimplification) the project of European unification as having been something that was later imposed “on a set of trade treaties”: In reality it was always there, sometimes hiding in plain sight, sometimes hidden, and always post-democratic.

Nevertheless, Marusic’s broader point is spot-on (and the whole piece is well worth reading): Those steering the EU believe that the arc of history naturally bends their way. That strikes me as a belief that showcases both historical illiteracy and the ability of faith to ignore fact, but it is indeed the belief that they hold. It’s a belief that comes with blinders:  It left them unwilling or unable to (take your pick) understand or accept the true nature of Eastern Europe’s break with the Soviets and, in particular, how much it was driven by a desire to restore national self-determination. That desire was difficult to reconcile with the ruling ideology in Brussels, an ideology according to which not only nationalism, but also the nation-state itself, were notions that history was leaving behind. Their ending was central to the European version of what Marusic labels “democratic determinism”, something he describes as “a vulgarized version of Frank Fukuyama’s more nuanced “End of History” thesis”.

Citing both historian Stephen Kotkin’s Uncivil Society and, in much more detail, a recent essay by Branko Milanovic, a former lead economist at the World Bank, Marusic writes:

Average “Eastern” citizens… were mostly glad to be rid of the threat of Soviet tanks rolling in to prop up a rotten, thieving nomenklatura, and were looking forward to prosperity which they believed would come as a result of adopting Western ways of doing things. This entailed embracing markets and competitive elections, but not, as Milanovic points out, ethnic heterogeneity within their borders. “For Westerners this may be an obvious implication of democracy and liberalism,” he argues. Not so for the Easterners, who had no intention of sacrificing their key accomplishment—national consolidation—“in order to satisfy some abstract principles” they never endorsed in the first place.

That word ‘average’ has to carry a lot of weight. ‘Eastern Europe’ is not a monolith.  Estonia is not Poland. Nevertheless, the debate over ‘ethnic heterogeneity’ and, more precisely, whether the EU should have the ability to force its eastern members to accept some of the migrants so carelessly ‘welcomed’ by Angela Merkel, is real enough.

Back to Marusic:

[I]nsofar as Milanovic’s model is correct, an “Easterner” listens to the incessant complaining coming from democratic determinists in Brussels and bemusedly scratches his head. His legitimately elected leaders are merely protecting values dear to him and his country from a bunch of messianic foreigners preaching an idealistic universalism he’s never signed up for, and that he doubts exists. He just doesn’t see what the big deal is.

And he also might wonder just how democratic ‘democratic determinists’ really are.

Catching Up with Great Books

by John J. Miller

Check out the Great Books Podcast: 30-minute conversations with scholars and experts about the books they love. Episodes in 2018 so far include The Aeneid, by Virgil, with Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University; The Federalist Papers, by Publius, with Charles Kesler of Claremont McKenna College; My Antonia, by Willa Cather, with Dedra Birzer of Hillsdale College; The Merchant of Venice, by Shakespeare, with Benedict Whalen of Hillsdale College; and Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, with Lorraine Murphy of Hillsdale College.

New episodes release on Tuesdays. Coming next: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, with Kelly Scott Franklin of Hillsdale College. Coming soon: The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov; Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke; and more.

Remember, politics is downstream of culture. Get cultured with the Great Books Podcast. Subscribe for free today!

Drug War Update: Aspirin an ally, Imodium Not So Much

by Andrew Stuttaford

Drug warrior Jeff Sessions has come up with a suggestion to help combat opioid abuse:

“I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids,” Sessions said Wednesday as he touted the Trump administration’s efforts to combat drug abuse and trafficking. “People need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little.”

Okey dokey.

Meanwhile, CBS reported a few days ago on the possible opening of a  possible new front in the drug wars:

As part of its efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is asking manufacturers of over-the-counter anti-diarrhea treatments to change the way they package their products. The FDA says the voluntary measures are needed to curb the growing abuse of loperamide – sold under the brand name Imodium A-D, as well as store brands and generics – which is used by some suffering from opioid addiction as a potential way to manage withdrawal or maintain a high.

“Voluntary measures are needed…”

Loperamide is safe at approved doses, up to a maximum of four 2-milligram tablets per day without a prescription. “But when higher than recommended doses are taken we’ve received reports of serious heart problems and deaths with loperamide, particularly among people who are intentionally misusing or abusing high doses,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement.

“We’ve received reports”

Experts say it takes an enormous dose of anti-diarrhea medication to get high. Addicts have been found to be popping anywhere from 50 to 300 pills per day.

According to a 2016 study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, Imodium A-D, in massive doses, works in the body the same way as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. However, Imodium A-D is a cheaper alternative since some big box stores sell 400 tablets for less than $10.

“Folks that are desperately addicted, folks that are looking to stave off withdrawal symptoms will do whatever it takes sometimes, really extreme things,” Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, of the Family and Children’s Association, told CBS New York at the time that study was published. “So in the scheme of things, taking 300 pills is not unheard of.”

“Not unheard of”

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says he has encountered patients who abuse loperamide either to get high or to self-treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

“Has encountered patients”

[Last] week, the FDA sent letters to manufacturers asking that they take additional steps, including limiting the amount of loperamide per package for short-term use. For example, a retail package could contain eight 2-milligram capsules – enough for two days.

“Asking”

The end-game is probably to subject Imodium to the same  nannying regime as Sudafed and its equivalents, now exiled behind the pharmacy counter and only available on production of i/d and in limited quantities – all in the name  of the war against meth.

As I’ve tried to emphasize, the FDA’s comments on the loperamide, uh, crisis seem a little vague.

Reason’s Mike Riggs has been on the case:

Since the FDA isn’t being forthcoming, how might we determine how many people are abusing loperamide? A good start would be to look at toxicology and mortality data. Here’s the research I found on loperamide abuse published in the last two years:

According to a 2016 study of loperamide-related deaths in North Carolina, published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner found above-therapeutic levels of loperamide in 21 deceased persons between 2012 and 2016; the drug is said to have played some role in 19 of those cases. In only one case—that of a 21-year-old male who had a history of overdoses—was loperamide the only drug present.

A review of New York Poison Control data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services uncovers 22 cases of intentional loperamide abuse between 2008 and 2016; 15 of the patients had a history of opioid abuse. The average daily dose was 358 mg, and the full range was 34 mg (twice the daily recommended maximum) to 1,200 mg (75 times the maximum). The report does not disclose any fatal overdoses. The same study looked at the National Poison Database System and found 179 cases of intentional loperamide abuse from 2008 to 2016. The average loperamide dose across those cases was 196 mg, ranging from 2 mg to 1,200 mg. The paper includes clinical outcomes for 132 of those cases: 66 patients suffered “life-threatening symptoms or residual disability”; four of them died.

A 2017 review published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found a much larger number of loperamide misuse/abuse cases between 2009 and 2015. The researchers found 1,925 poison control reports of loperamide being mixed with another drug and 947 reports of loperamide taken in isolation. Of all those, 381 were classified as intentional drug abuse and 15 were classified as attempts to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. Across five years, only four cases of loperamide used in isolation and 19 cases of loperamide used with another drug resulted in death.

Let’s assume that the last report is the most comprehensive. So from 2009 and 2015, 2,872 Americans over the age of 12 intentionally misused or abused loperamide—for reasons ranging from attempted suicide to opioid withdrawal—by taking a dosage of at least twice the daily recommended amount, and 17 people died as a result.

Or, we can use the North Carolina number of 21 deaths in which loperamide may have played a role, multiply that number by 50, and divide by the number of years (four) the study covered. That would give us an annual loperamide death toll of 262.5. I think that number is laughably wrong, but if we’re going to say that it demands a policy response of either changing the packaging of antidiarrheal drugs or making them available only at the discretion of a pharmacist, then we should probably also do something about Tylenol and other products containing acetaminophen: America’s most common pain reliever kills somewhere between 150 and 500 people each year, and annually sends 55,000 to 80,000 people to emergency rooms across the country.

What’s that? You don’t want to pay $10 for a 10-count of blister-packaged Tylenol? Well, you must not care about the acetominophen crisis.

This is not to say that intentional loperamide misuse/abuse is not a trend. Due to the unavailability of drugs that treat opioid withdrawal, coupled with the reduced availability of prescription opioids, it’s almost certainly true that opioid addicts have turned to over-the-counter diarrhea medicine either to get high or to avoid the physical and psychological pain of withdrawal. But the data we have says there is no loperamide crisis, and the sheer amount of loperamide necessary to mimic the effects of even a small amount of heroin suggests that even if we do nothing, there likely never will be.

Drug war theater, or just more evidence that the drug warriors have lost their minds?

Take your pick.

Conservatives Should Consider Community Colleges

by George Leef

Community colleges are stereotyped as pathetic excuses for “real college” where the loser kids go. Enroll in one, and you’ll suffer the embarrassment forever, and you’ll get little or none of that legendary “college earnings premium.”

If that’s your opinion, you should think again, writes Professor Rob Jenkins in today’s Martin Center article.

Any parents (but especially those with a conservative bent) should consider the benefits of a community college, he argues. As for the politics, your son or daughter is far less likely to encounter the kind of irritating, time-wasting, zealous advocacy for leftism they’re apt to encounter at many four-year schools. And students won’t get drawn into devastating lifestyle mistakes (drugs, binge drinking, hookup culture) that have ruined many students at “real” colleges.

What about academics? The rap on community colleges is that they must be bad because their graduation rates are usually low. Jenkins responds to pointing out that whether a student graduates (and learns much) depends on him as an individual. Forget about averages — its individual action that matters in any college. Jenkins writes, “Students who enter a community college with high-school grades and standardized test scores commensurate with success at a university will almost certainly succeed at the community college level — and then again at the university level, once they transfer.”

And there is also the matter of money. Spending two years at a community college will save the family many thousands of dollars in tuition and other expenses.

Professor Jenkins concludes, “conservative state legislators should ensure that community colleges remain adequately funded and accessible, not only for the financially needy and academically underprepared students they have traditionally served, but also for middle-class students looking to get a good education without having to mortgage their futures — or sell their souls.”

To Jenkins’s case, I’ll add one more point: Community colleges have not gone in for the idiotic curricular mandates you find at most four-year colleges, such as “diversity” courses.

A Few Thoughts on Rob Porter

by Jonah Goldberg

If you were expecting a forceful condemnation, or forceful statement of any kind, from the president about Rob Porter, you’re out of luck. From USA Today:

“We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump said. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House.”

And:

“He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said in an told reporters in the Oval Office in an unscheduled photo-op. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House.”

A few thoughts.

As a legal and journalistic matter, I understand the need to note that Porter denies these charges. But the legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is not an absolute moral or prudential imperative in real life. Roy Moore was never going to be tried for child molestation, but that didn’t mean the rest of us were obliged to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Already on Twitter, I keep hearing people say that this is “fake news” because it’s merely an allegation and Porter denies it. But if you actually believe he’s innocent or if you take this murky principle of withholding judgment seriously, you should be outraged that Porter was forced out of his job or that the White House caved to a “witch hunt.”

Moreover, whether you think Porter innocent or not, that doesn’t change the fact that the guy handling the information flow to the president didn’t have adequate security clearance and that the FBI considered him vulnerable to blackmail.

Then there’s the question of actual innocence. If you think he’s entirely innocent, you have to believe that two separate women colluded to lie about him — or that they independently decided to do so with remarkably similar lies. You also have to believe at least one of them defrauded the court to get a restraining order on him and that both lied to the FBI, which is a crime. Such things do happen in divorce cases, but there’s zero evidence that’s happened here — twice. Plus, there’s a third woman, an ex-girlfriend, who has made similar charges.

Finally, there’s the president’s comments. President Trump has relied on far flimsier and even non-existent evidence to condemn people, from college students accused of shoplifting in China to Ted Cruz’s father to, well, a long list of people. But when presented with fairly clear evidence about a guy on his team, he opts to “wish him well” and essentially credit his denials.

Loyalty is a deeply misunderstood virtue. Loyalty to bad causes or bad people is not always or necessarily honorable. This seems like one of those times, even if loyalty is what really explains Trump’s response.

The Stimulus That Isn’t

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jim Tankersley reports in the New York Times:

Republicans are pouring government stimulus into a steadily strengthening economy, adding economic fuel at a moment when unemployment is at a 16-year low and wages are beginning to rise, a combination that is stoking fears of higher inflation and ballooning budget deficits.

The $1.5 trillion tax cut that President Trump signed into law late last year, combined with a looming agreement to increase federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, would deliver a larger short-term fiscal boost than President Barack Obama and Democrats packed into their $835 billion stimulus package in the Great Recession.

Tax cuts can expand the economy by increasing incentives to work, save, and invest, and infrastructure spending can expand it by adding to our productive capacity. The extent to which higher deficits themselves stimulate the economy, though, depends on how monetary policy reacts to it. If higher deficits bring inflation forecasts above the Fed’s target and it tightens money in response, then nominal spending and inflation should go right back to right around where they would have been without those higher deficits. The only reason you’d expect significantly higher inflation or economic output is if you think that the Fed will let fiscal-policy changes alter its target. It follows that the increased deficits will provide significant stimulus only to the extent that they change what the Fed considers acceptable–and that you’d get basically the same amount of stimulus if the Fed just changed its mind, without any increase in federal debt. 

Skies Are Looking Fair

by Jack Fowler

A little more anyway. Last year, I wrote about a battle between U.S. airlines and three aggressive Middle East competitors: The charge from this hemisphere was that the state-owned airlines — Etihad Airways, Emirates, and Qatar Airways — were violating and exploiting the “Open Skies” agreement by spending a whopping $50 billion to undercut the U.S. carriers and unfairly compete via expanded routes and services in the U.S.

Unchecked, the trio’s efforts were projected to result in a major loss of U.S. aviation-related jobs. Well, there seems to be a little good news to share: The association for the embattled U.S. carriers, Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, announced last week that, courtesy of State Department intervention, Qatar would start to end it wicked ways. Years late and a few billion bucks short, sure. But still, things just got a little more fair. So, that makes it one airline down, two to go. Chop chop Rex!

IPAB “Death Panel” Euthanized

by Wesley J. Smith

When Sarah Palin branded parts of Obamacare a “death panel,” she inflicted a deep political wound from which the program has never recovered.

In truth, there was no death panel in the existing law–but powerful voices wrote hopefully that the law could eventually include a specific mandate to impose healthcare rationing.

The most likely vehicle for rationing was the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a super-commission empowered to impose cuts in Medicare payments to doctors–even over a presidential veto–if projected cost increases passed a certain point.

That time was drawing nigh, and under different political leadership, IPAB’s commissioners would surely have been appointed and its unconstitutional (in my view) machinations commenced. Indeed, had Hillary Clinton become POTUS with Democrats in firm control of Congress, it is possible that the board would have been empowered to commence rationing as many in the technocratic class wanted.

Instead, the recent two-year budget bill killed it dead. That’s a welcome blow against the emerging technocracy–a bipartisan success for which all involved deserve applause. 

Where does that leave Obamacare? The law is dying the death of a thousand cuts with the individual mandate repealed, the HHS moving to protect religious freedom in the healthcare context instead of attacking it, and now, a stake through IPAB’s cold heart.

Somewhere in Alaska, Sarah Palin is smiling.

Elon Musk’s Audacious Project

by Kevin D. Williamson

Response To...

Falcon Heavy Is Making America ...

I immensely enjoyed David’s piece on Falcon Heavy this morning. Putting a red convertible in a rocket and blasting it into space just because he can is indeed one of the most American things ever done.

But as the Cadillac guy knows (I can’t look at him and not see Robert Quarles) that’s not the first electric car blasted into space. We left a couple behind on the moon.

(I am surprised how little attention has been given to the fact that this great achievement in February, a month dedicated to celebrating the achievements of African Americans, was overseen by one of the most consequential African Americans of our time.)

I share David’s admiration for the sheer audacity and enthusiasm of the early days of flight and space exploration, and I am reminded of our friend Tom Wolfe’s account in The Right Stuff of the original astronauts lobbying for a window and manual controls — and a hatch that opened from the inside — to transform the first capsule into a spacecraft, so that the men aboard it would feel differentiated from the dogs and monkeys and whatnot that were sent up before them.

Wolfe offers great insight into what made those men tick.

“The highest national priority”. . . “hazardous undertaking” . . . “strictly volunteer.” So hazardous that “if you don’t volunteer, it won’t be held against you.” And they had all gotten the signal, subliminally, in the solar plexus. They were being presented with the Cold War version of the dangerous mission. One of the maxims that was drilled into all career officers went: Never refuse a combat assignment. Moreover, there was the business of “the first men to go into space.” . . . But within the souls of the rest of the fighter jocks who came to the Pentagon was triggered a motivation that overrode all strictly logical career considerations: I must not get . . . left behind. 

Hans Mark, who was secretary of the Air Force and No. 2 at NASA before he was chancellor of the University of Texas, tells a very funny story about how the famous Pioneer plaque — the aluminum plate engraved with a map showing the Pioneer 10 space probe’s route as well as a male and female human figure — came to be. Mark had been a professor at Berkeley and had begun a friendship with Carl Sagan, a postdoctoral fellow at the time. Mark invited Sagan to come and do a television special on the launch of Pioneer 10, which was going to be flown past Jupiter. Sagan suggested the plaque, saying: “You know, somebody is going to find this thing out there.” Mark thought it was crazy. “Yeah,” Sagan answered, “but it’s cheap.”

Space exploration isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than it once was. Or, rather, our resources are radically larger than they were in the 1960s, to the extent that a private company and its investors can put together something that once would have represented a major national effort. Elon Musk’s project is reminiscent of the way in which Craig Venter’s work spurred on the Human Genome Project. Venter, who had been an NIH scientist, developed a new way to map genes, driving the price of sequencing down to 12 cents per base — a radical improvement over what had come before. Unhappy with the slow pace of the public effort, he started a company to do things his own way. In the end, the first complete human genome sequence arrived — rarest of phrases — ahead of schedule and under budget. You may remember the dramatic announcement: Bill Clinton, Craig Venter, Francis Collins of the National Human Genome Research Institution, Tony Blair via satellite, ambassadors from the countries whose scientists were involved in the Human Genome Project. President Clinton gave a pretty good speech:

Nearly two centuries ago, in this room, on this floor, Thomas Jefferson and a trusted aide spread out a magnificent map — a map Jefferson had long prayed he would get to see in his lifetime. The aide was Meriwether Lewis and the map was the product of his courageous expedition across the American frontier, all the way to the Pacific. It was a map that defined the contours and forever expanded the frontiers of our continent and our imagination. Today, the world is joining us here in the East Room to behold a map of even greater significance. 

Space exploration is romantic, and resource scarcity is not. Ask any advocate of a manned mission to Mars to explain to you why a manned mission is preferable to sending robots, and the answer you get will sound a lot like John Glenn’s case for a window and manual controls. We feel the need to go, but going isn’t enough: We also feel the need to act and to do. Meriwether Lewis would have understood.

Don’t Blame Rand Paul for Last Night’s Shutdown

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Congress had weeks to pass another budget deal to keep the federal government open. Last night, Kentucky’s junior senator, Republican Rand Paul, prolonged that process another few hours, filibustering the last-minute compromise over his complaints about increasing the federal deficit.

But Paul doesn’t deserve the lion’s share of the responsibility for the eventual shutdown, which lasted for a short time overnight before the final two-year budget resolution passed both House and Senate in the early morning.

It wasn’t Paul, after all, who brought the government to the brink of shutdown by stalling for weeks and waiting until the final hours before coming up with a potential compromise. And, as Paul pointed out, that compromise came in the form of a 652-page document that lawmakers would never have a chance to read.

That hasn’t stopped his GOP colleagues from trying to heap blame on his shoulders, however. On the Senate floor, North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis tried to convince Paul to stop his filibuster. “You haven’t convinced 60 senators or 51 senators that your idea is good enough for them to support,” Tillis said. “Go to work. Build a coalition. Make a difference. You can make a point all you want. But points are forgotten. There’s not a whole lot of history books about the great points of the American Senate.”

“It’s a colossal waste of time. He never gets a result,” John Thune (R., S.D.) said of Paul’s effort.

“I wonder about the endgame of people who keep us here till 1:00 and achieve nothing,” said Richard Shelby (R., Ala.).

Texas senator John Cornyn, the GOP’s second highest ranking senator, called Paul’s filibuster, “grossly irresponsible,” adding, “Why reward bad behavior?”

“He wanted attention and he got attention. That’s it,” said James Inhofe (R., Okla.) said of Paul.

These Republican senators are trying, of course, to distract from the substance of Paul’s complaints, which were not without merit. Regardless of the wisdom of his methods, the Kentucky senator was exactly right that, with this deal, the majority of the GOP has proved itself willing to forfeit the party’s supposed commitment to fiscal responsibility in order to obtain increased military spending.

Aside from deriding the GOP’s disregard for ballooning the federal debt, Paul said on the floor that the goal of his filibuster was to get a vote on an amendment to preserve the budget caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011 rather than expand them under the new legislation.

The GOP leadership denied him that vote, but — in exchange for a healthy serving of blame from both his colleagues and commentators – the junior senator got a chance to expose his party’s hypocrisy. Under President Obama, GOP leaders touted fiscal restraint and deficit reduction, promising to right the fiscal ship when they regained control of the government. Now that they have the control they wanted, they appear to have tossed those goals overboard.

Paul deserves to be praised for his willingness to expose them for it.