Patterico's Pontifications


Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:36 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

Behind the baby formula shortage:

The current situation with infant formula, on the other hand, really does seem quite serious. In particular, a February/March 2022 FDA recall of Abbott Nutrition formula products made at a problematic Michigan facility has pushed an already-stressed U.S. market into full-on panic mode. Not only are supplies desperately short in numerous states, but prices have (as they do when supplies are low) spiked, leaving families—especially ones with low incomes or babies that need special products—in desperate shape.

Unfortunately, the infant formula crisis isn’t simply another case of a one-off event causing pandemic-related supply chain pressures to boil over. Instead, U.S. policy has exacerbated the nation’s infant formula problem by depressing potential supply. First, as my Cato colleague Gabby Beaumont-Smith just documented, the United States maintains high tariff barriers to imports of formula from other nations—all part of our government’s longstanding subsidization and protection of the politically powerful U.S. dairy industry. Imports of formula from most places, such as the European Union, are subject to a complex system of “tariff rate quotas,” under which already-high tariffs (usually 17.5 percent, but it depends on the product) increase even further once a certain quantity threshold is hit.

We even restrict imports of formula from most “free trade” (scare quotes intended!) agreement partners, including major dairy producing nations like Canada. In fact, a key provision of the renegotiated NAFTA—the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)—actually tightened restrictions on Canadian baby formula to ensure that new investments in Ontario production capacity by Chinese company Feihe would never threaten the U.S. market:

Also, this by Elizabeth Nolan Brown is an eye-opening must-read too.

Second news item

Russia now threatens to retaliate if Finland joins NATO:

Russia has said it will be forced to take “retaliatory steps” over its neighbour Finland’s move to join Nato.

A foreign ministry statement said the move would seriously damage bilateral relations, as well as security and stability in northern Europe.

Earlier, Finland’s president and PM called for the country to apply for Nato membership “without delay”.

Russia had previously warned both Sweden and Finland if they joined NATO. Both countries are expected to announce their decisions regarding Nato this weekend. Turkey’s Erdogan doesn’t support either country joining NATO.

Third news item

Pence continues to cut the cord with Trump:

Former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a get-out-the-vote rally with Gov. Brian Kemp on the eve of Georgia’s May 24 primary, marking a new split with Donald Trump as each maneuver for a possible 2024 White House run.

Pence called Kemp “one of the most successful conservative governors in America” in a statement announcing the May 23 rally to help the incumbent stave off a Trump-backed challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue…

The former vice president’s visit is part of Kemp’s take-no-prisoners approach to the primary. The governor’s advisers don’t want to simply defeat Perdue and avoid an unpredictable June runoff; they want to rout him.

Fourth news item

Yeah, we all knew “safe, legal, and rare” was meaningless manipulation:

Fifth news item

Yet more blood on Putin’s hands:

More than 1,000 bodies of civilians have been recovered in areas around Kyiv that were previously occupied by Russian forces, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

What they’re saying: “Some of these people were killed in hostilities, others appear to have been summarily executed,” Bachelet added while speaking before a session of the UN Human Rights Council. “Others still have died because of stress to their health caused by hostilities and the lack of medical aid.”

The scale of unlawful killings, including summary executions, has been “shocking,” she said.


Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that there were “credible” claims Russian forces have committed sexual violence against children in Ukraine, as U.N. agencies said Vladimir Putin’s invasion had driven more than 6 million people to flee the country. The U.N. refugee agency reported the grim statistic, which, combined with the roughly 8 million Ukrainians who have been displaced within their country, means a third of Ukraine’s people have been forced from their homes.

British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, citing the U.N. humanitarian agency, said at least 238 children were believed to be among the thousands of civilians killed since Russia launched its war, with 347 more injured.

Sixth news item

But of course they can’t agree:

Lawmakers in both parties agree on the need to boost security protections for Supreme Court justices…But there’s an intensifying debate between the House and Senate over just how to get there.

…Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is blasting the House for pursuing legislation that would extend protections to the families of both justices and judicial clerks. He prefers his Senate’s bipartisan version, which passed unanimously on Monday, that only focuses on expanding security to the immediate families of justices…

Side note: A 2019 law had already authorized protections for judicial clerks, according to [Rep. Greg] Stanton’s office.

…House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer voiced support for the Stanton bill, arguing “we believe that it is critical to safeguard the families of those who choose to serve their country and their communities as judicial clerks and staff as well.” He said House Democrats would continue negotiating with Republicans on the legislation.

Seventh news item


A Republican lawmaker in Louisiana on Thursday pulled a bill that would have allowed prosecutors to charge a person with homicide if they get an abortion — effectively ending the chance it would become law this legislative session.

Eighth news item

Toad venom, you say? Well, okay then:

Alexander Subbotin is at least the seventh Russian oligarch to die under strange circumstances this year.

Subbotin, the billionaire former top manager of Russian oil producer Lukoil, was found dead on Sunday in a shaman’s home in Mytishchi, a city just northeast of Moscow, Russian news agency TASS reported.

The billionaire’s death is the latest in a grim trend of Russian businessmen being found dead in unusual circumstances amid Russia’s ongoing assault on neighboring Ukraine.

Bill Browder, a financier who was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia, previously told Newsweek that people should assume the worst “any time you see a wealthy Russian dying in suspicious circumstances.”

He added: “There has been enough empirical evidence of assassinations organized by the Kremlin or business rivals in Russia, to make it likely that these were murders and not suicides and other explanations that have been bandied about by the Russian authorities.”

Good and necessary:

In an unprecedented move, the House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has issued subpoenas for five House Republicans, including GOP leader Kevin McCarthy.

All five had previously been asked to appear voluntarily and quickly refused. Now, their testimony is being compelled by month’s end, a move most of them quickly slammed on Thursday.

In addition to McCarthy, the panel also subpoenaed GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama.

None have said yet if they’ll comply with the subpoenas.

Ninth news item


President Biden’s approval rating remains underwater and more than 80% of registered voters say the U.S. is on the wrong track, according to a Thursday poll from Monmouth University.

The Thursday poll found that Biden’s approval rating is sitting at 38%, with 57% disapproval. Those numbers are down from March when Biden had a 39% approval and 54% disapproval. Monmouth also found that just 18% of Americans say the country is on the right track.

Biden’s White House making false claims like this doesn’t help the situation:

After all, the guy in charge already told us he had taken the vaccine before he took office:


Have a great weekend!


As Alito Addresses the Home Protests (But Not Really), Governors Ask DoJ to Do Something About Them

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:28 am

Justice Alito spoke to an audience remotely from the Supreme Court and was asked, basically, so how y’all doin’?

“I think it would just be really helpful for all of us to hear, personally, are you all doing okay in these very challenging times?” the questioner asked.

. . . .

“This is a subject I told myself I wasn’t going to talk about today regarding, you know — given all the circumstances,” Alito replied.

After a pause, he added: “The court right now, we had our conference this morning, we’re doing our work. We’re taking new cases, we’re headed toward the end of the term, which is always a frenetic time as we get our opinions out.”

The court gathered Thursday for the first time since the draft opinion was disclosed to Politico and the court’s chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., opened a leak investigation.

After detailing the schedule for getting the court’s work done by the end of June or early July, Alito skipped the usual boilerplate that justices tend to employ about disagreeing about the law but remaining respectful and friendly.

Instead, he concluded: “So that’s where we are.”

The assumption in the Court has always been, I assume, that Dobbs will be the last opinion issued on the last day of the Court’s operations this year, likely at the end of June (possibly at the beginning of July). I doubt they’re going to rush it out, giving the dissent a chance to say that its arguments weren’t even considered.

This creates a fraught time in the interim. Glenn Youngkin and Larry Hogan have both asked the Justice Department to enforce a law that prevents people from picketing outside the justices’ homes:

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin revealed on “Your World” Wednesday that he and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to prosecute those demonstrating outside the homes of Supreme Court justices over an anticipated ruling that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by Fox News, Youngkin and Hogan called on Garland to “provide appropriate resources to safeguard the justices and enforce the law as it is written.” Both Republican governors offered their respective states’ assistance to secure the justices’ homes, but said they need Garland and the Department of Justice to “to take the lead.”

“There is simply too much at stake,” the last line of the two-page letter reads.

There sure is. I remain very worried about the volatile situation these home protests are causing, and the potential for deadly violence. The Justice Department needs to act.

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