Patterico's Pontifications


Weekend Open Thread: Craziness in Bidenland and Elsewhere

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:10 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Dana remains on special assignment for Patterico’s Pontifications working on convincing the [REDACTED] people of [REDACTED] to [REDACTED] the evil [REDACTED] leadership and [REDACTED] the [REDACTED] parts of the [REDACTED] region by providing them with [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and [REDACTED]. Let’s all wish her great success. And now, yet another installment of Junior Varsity Writing.

Item One:
Our President and his team of reliable Washington hands, the adults back in charge, spent the better part of the week vacillating on whether or not we would permit a deal in which Poland was to transfer MiG fighters to Ukraine for use in its heroic defense, only to pull away the football Lucy Van Pelt style at the last possible second:

On Saturday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke via Zoom to 280 members of Congress and begged them to help him, either by creating and enforcing a no-fly zone above Ukrainian airspace, or by transferring jets to what’s left of the Ukrainian air force. Because the Ukrainian pilots are trained on Russian-designed MiGs, it would not be a good idea to send or lend them American jets such as F-15s or F-22s — there simply isn’t time to train them on a new kind of warplane. But NATO members Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria fly MiG-29s and could sell or lend theirs to Ukraine.

Most of Congress seemed persuaded.

[. . .]

As of Sunday, the position of the U.S. government, at least as articulated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was that we wanted the planes to get transferred and would do our part to ensure that the planes got there.

[. . .]

On Monday, the Pentagon seemed open to the plan.

[. . .]

Then on Tuesday afternoon, the Polish government announced they had a deal.

[. . .]

Then a little later on Tuesday afternoon, the Pentagon suddenly effectively canceled the deal.

[. . .]

What the heck changed between Monday and Tuesday afternoon?

One possibility is that the Biden administration is just utterly erratic, disorganized, and doesn’t really know what it wants to do — a scenario that is difficult to rule out after what we witnessed in Afghanistan.

But another possibility is that the Russians, through one channel or another, indicated that they would treat those planes as legitimate targets to destroy — even if they were sitting parked at Ramstein Air Base getting checked and ready to deploy. After all, even if they were sitting on a U.S. base in German territory, they’d be about to become Ukrainian Air Force jets.

Russian jets or missiles attacking Ramstein Air Base sounds like a really easy way to start World War III.

But this also means that the Russian government can tell NATO not to do something, and NATO will obey. Moscow deterred a U.S. government decision, and then turned around and bombed a children’s hospital. Vladimir Putin effectively demonstrated a veto over our actions.

Sounds like a job for the guy who stood up to Corn Pop all those summers ago. Elsewhere, Jim Geraghty suggests that the President is developing a particular habit of overruling his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. Just in case you’re wondering who the first cabinet member to bail on the administration might be.

Item Two:
Well color me shocked! The Biden HHS under the execrable Xavier Becerra, thinks pronouns are important enough to justify an internal policy memo to his department. Recalling a Senate Finance Committee hearing last year on the 2022 budget at which Sec. Becerra testified, we have this:

Toward the end of the hearing, Oklahoma GOP senator James Lankford confronted Becerra on an odd shift in the White House budget proposal’s language. “I noticed you changed a term in your budget work,” Lankford said. “You shifted, in places, from using the term ‘mother’ to ‘birthing people.’ Can you help me get a good definition of ‘birthing people’?”

Becerra demurred. “Well, I’ll check on the language there, but I think if we’re talking about those who give birth, I think we’re talking about, uh . . . I don’t know how else to explain it to you.” The removal of the term “mother,” the HHS secretary maintained, “simply reflects the work that’s being done.”

Becerra neglected to discuss the specific nature of that work. But internal documents obtained by National Review confirm that the administration’s gender-neutral language coincides with a coordinated effort at HHS to implement a new set of rules and standards regarding “equity” and “gender-inclusive correspondence.” The guidance, issued last year, does not specifically cover “birthing people” but does prescribe the use of a number of other gender-neutral terms, often valuing pronoun sensitivity over clarity in official correspondence.

If this whole HHS thing doesn’t work out, Sec. Becerra would likely make a fine administrator at Duke Law School.

Item Three:
Vice-President Kamala Harris is, quite regrettably, a special kind of vacuously annoying. For some reason the brain trust of the administration in which she serves saw fit to send her to Poland just as the MiG deal was collapsing. Our VP quite naturally embarrassed herself and our country by displaying her singular combination of dingbattary and frivolity. One week after being ridiculed for giving a child-like explanation of the situation in Ukraine when asked for a “layman’s” explanation, she kicked off her remarks with a typically puzzling stream-of-consciousness word salad, when asked about Russian war crimes. The official White House transcript endeavors to clean it up, but here is the video and here is a rough transcript by me:

We all watched (pause) the television coverage (pause) of just yesterday. That’s on top of everything else that we know and don’t know yet based upon just what we’ve been able to see and because we’ve seen it or not doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. But just limited to what we have seen. (pause) Pregnant women going for healthcare (pause) being injured by — I don’t know — a missile? A bomb? In an unprovoked, unjustified war? (pause) Where a powerful country is trying to take over (pause) another country violated sovereignty its territorial integrity for the sake of, what?, nothing that is justified or provoked?

And then she follows that up by responding to a earnest question about the status of refugees feeling Ukraine with one of her jarring and loony fits of crazed giggling:

Yeah, I understand that the first chuckle, in which she was joined by Polish President Andrzej Duda, was due to the awkwardness of determining who among the two should be first to respond. But, as is her wont, the VP dialed up the discomfort level through her crazy cackling, like she were confronting a ruby red-shooed girl from Kansas and her little dog too. Her team of advisors likely drink very heavily.

Item Four:
Lookout Illinois, Connecticut, California, and other high pension states with scant or even negative population growth in recent years: Here comes New Jersey to vie for the title of most fiscally irresponsible state with a looming train wreck:

New Jersey’s public-pension plans need fixing. As a report authored by one of us for the Garden State Initiative describes, increased benefits, subpar investment performance, and the state government’s failure to fund the plans fully have resulted in a system in worse shape than previously thought. Twenty years of mismanagement and changing demographics have fueled a problem so severe that the legislature can no longer afford to ignore it.

State lawmakers clearly have their work cut out for them. Restoring the pension plans to sound financial health will first require an acknowledgement that they can no longer invest their way out of the state’s fiscal hole. Indeed, much of the funding deficit is the result of actual investment returns falling far short of the plans’ projections. The state’s three main retirement programs—the New Jersey Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), the New Jersey Teachers and Annuity Fund, and the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System—assumed in 2001 an annual return of 8.75 percent for the coming years. In the 19 years since, those plans generated annual returns of just 5.4 percent. Roughly speaking, a one-percentage-point drop in investment returns reduces the funded ratio for a public plan by about 20 percentage points.

The first state which declares bankruptcy is going to be screwed (unless of course we are in one of those situations where Democrats control the White House and Congress and agree to full bail-outs with almost no conditions attached), but then hopefully the rest of them will get religion and set aside all of these stupid rules which prevent public pensions from ever being negotiated downward. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot of retirees who learn that they were sold a bill of goods by their unions and the politicians that they own.

Item Five:
Dan McLaughlin wonders if Mike Pence might not be preparing a kamikaze Presidential campaign in 2024 with no objective other than to wreck the possibility of the restoration of the House of Trump:

Biden, of course, still has one big card to play: The thing that unified his party between 2017 and 2021, and drew independents to his banner, was opposition to Donald Trump. Even today, Trump is nearly as unpopular as Biden. If Trump is not the Republican candidate, 2024 will be primarily about the Democrats’ record in power and, if Biden is running again, Biden’s capacity to do the job into his mid-80s. But if Trump is the nominee, the campaign will be mainly about Trump, because Trump is always the main character of any story he enters.

[. . .]

Of all the disgruntled senior members of the Trump administration who have fallen out with Trump — which is nearly the lot of them at this point — Pence is the most senior and the most credible. He’s the man who ran twice on a ticket with Trump and was there through the whole thing. He’s also the man who originally helped get skittish social conservatives on board with Trump in the 2016 general-election campaign. Until January 6, Pence had never, in four years, broken publicly with Trump, not even when staying on the team required him to talk as if he lived in an alternate reality where none of Trump’s antics were happening. The true Trump diehards will never forgive Pence for standing on principle and refusing to take unconstitutional action against certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory, but Trump needs more than a core of fanatics to win the nomination; he needs to maintain broad support within the party.

There is more interesting conjecture on Pence, Trump, traditional conservatives, and the MAGA crowd over at McLaughlin’s piece. Do read it all.

Item Six:
Disney, which was slow to extricate itself from business operations in Russia even after the invasion of Ukraine and still to this very day happily does business in China, even to the degree of self-censoring so as not to offend the Chinese Communist Party, is very — very, I tells ya! — concerned about Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education bill, uncritically adopting the left-wing narrative that it is reflexively anti-gay though in reality it merely places strict limits on classroom discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity for children younger than fourth grade. Disney CEO Bob Chapek called Sunshine State Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday to express his concern and later claimed that the governor had agreed to a follow-up conversation, though DeSantis has assured supporters that he won’t alter his beliefs based upon “the musings of woke corporations.”

I hope that Gov. DeSantis and Mr. Chapek do meet. As Mr. Chapek airs his concerns and those of his apparently hyper-woke workforce, perhaps the governor might remind the CEO of Disney’s entanglements with repressive dictatorships, and — speaking of repressive dictatorships — ask if company shareholders would prefer Disney to move more of its operations to California, a state which capriciously shut-down Disney’s theme parks for over a year during the height of the pandemic while Disney’s Florida theme park were mostly back up and running nine months earlier. It’s understandable that Disney would be sympathetic to the LBGTQ agenda — other than girls aged 3-12 there’s probably no more loyal market demographic for their product than gay men — but Mr. Chapek needs to understand that there are going to be definite limits to the efficacy of his company’s obnoxious virtue signaling.

Item Seven:
Noted populist, Ted Cruz (Princeton ’92, Harvard Law ’95), has joined the smaller-budget U.S. remake of last month’s Canadian “Freedom Convoy” which served as a protest to the high-handed regulatory regime of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This appropriation of a powerful protest by a smaller English-speaking cousin of ours is probably intended to be successful in the same way that the U.S. version of The Office proved to be in comparison to its U.K. antecedent, but it might instead end up being more akin to a Rush tribute band which plays in beer gardens at street festivals. In any case, Senator Cruz, a very intelligent and capable guy, would do well to dial-down the grandstanding and turn his attention more towards mastery of legislation and Senate procedure. Cocaine Mitch McConnell, our generation’s Henry Clay, could probably use the help.

OK, that’s all I have the stomach for this week. As always, please feel free to suggest your own topics. Enjoy the onset of spring.


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