America • Big Media • Donald Trump • Drugs • Economy • Immigration • Post

No Wall, No Peace

Our government’s failure to secure the border has precipitated a political, economic and moral crisis. The fact that we not only permit, but by our dereliction, actively encourage gangsters to traffic in human beings across our border is a disgrace. It must end.

If President Trump is planning to use executive authority to build the wall, he must continue to make the case the way he did in the State of the Union address. He must educate and persuade the American people, and that means he must continue to talk about it. If he does so, he will find that supporters of what the mathematician Eric Weinstein might call “xenophilic border security”—which is to say, well-disposed toward foreigners and foreign cultures, but wanting immigration laws enforced—will help him broaden and deepen the argument, but he must take the lead. The president would do well if he emphasized the degradation of human trafficking and the vast quantities of heroin, fentanyl and other drugs coming across the border that contribute to the more than 60,000 American deaths per year from opioid overdoses. The State of the Union speech was a good start, but he needs to continue the drumbeat . . .

Read the rest at the New York Times.

Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Drugs • Economy • Immigration • Post

Who Owns America?

Anywhere from 11 million to 22 million illegal aliens reside in the United States today. The most recent research suggests that the higher number is closest to the correct figure. In and of itself, that is a crisis.

New arrivals—legal and illegal—come to America all the time. Two-thirds of these, Steven W. Mosher writes, use food stamps and other forms of state-administered assistance, such as public housing, not long after they arrive in the country, leaving Americans with a $116 billion annual tab. Moreover, much of the savings these new arrivals manage to accumulate are sent out of the country as remittances, about $25 billion of which ends up in Mexico.

More people today speak a single non-English language—Spanish—than ever before in American history. For the first time, too, the middle class has registered as a minority in our country—an issue no doubt exacerbated by the importation of droves impoverished foreigners.

Media Fallacies
That word, “crisis,” however, has become such an overused bit of sophistry among the mindless chattering classes, that it is hard to take it either literally or seriously. When I say mindless, I mean that the chatterers are incapable of seeing the word in a context beyond the blinders of their one-world ideology.

CNN’s Jim Acosta, for example, observed that where there is a border wall, there is no crisis. No kidding—barriers work! But on the same day Acosta should have learned an important lesson about border security, a teen was stabbed in an attack by three MS-13 gang members from his high school in Long Island. All three gangbangers entered our country illegally—presumably at places where Acosta could not tap his little hand against a steel barrier.

Anjali Singhvi at the New York Times contends that the crisis is overblown because illegal immigration has fallen overall since the 1990s and, in any event, heroin, cocaine, and Chinese fentanyl is often intercepted at official ports of entry. We’re supposed to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Similarly, NPR’s Richard Gonzales writes that visa overstays account for the presence of more illegal aliens than illegal border crossings. Yet as Karl Notturno noted here the other day, people are still entering the country illegally. More than 300,000 were apprehended crossing the southern border in 2017, for example, and those are only the ones that we caught. How many more made it through to disappear into some sanctuary city or state? And if we were to separate those who overstay visas from those who enter the country illegally through our southern border, might we find a disparity in crime rates between the two?

The fact that fewer foreigners are entering our country illegally is not much basis for claiming no immigration crisis exists—not when thousands of foreigners are still entering the country illegally and millions more live among us.

Moreover, Gonzales’ argument provides justification for more, not less, immigration control. In particular, the federal government should have more effective means of identifying and deporting those who overstay their visas. Is Gonzales therefore advocating more aggressive ICE operations? Of course not. But NPR doesn’t hire for intellectual consistency if that means a departure from the correct ideology.

Crime Pays
Perhaps the worst among the immigration sophists is Alex Nowrasteh, whom Singhvi cites, for “comparing first-time criminal conviction rates among undocumented immigrants in Texas and native-born Americans in Texas.” Nowrasteh claims to have “found that undocumented immigrants still committed crimes at a rate “32 percent below that of native-born Americans.”

Nowrasteh came to this conclusion by ignoring data and details that would have challenged his findings. Nowrasteh, moreover, engages in some sleight of hand. If we consider that, in California, for example, the number of U.S.-born children of illegal aliens is twice the entire population of Wyoming, the question becomes, who are those “native-born” criminals?

Of course, Nowrasteh implicitly means white Americans, with whom he seems to have a bone to pick. In truth, he is half-right, native-born Latinos are institutionalized at a higher rate (higher than whites, lower than blacks) than their “undocumented” counterparts. It is, after all, easier to incarcerate people who don’t have the luxury of slipping back across the border to evade capture.

The inanity of all this raises the question: should we postpone discussion of a wall and more muscular immigration controls to some fictional time in the future when levels of immigration reach the entirely subjective “crisis” threshold set by the libertarians and open-borders liberals among us? By then, I’m sure, we could expect them to change the substance of the crisis. It will no longer be that illegal immigration has spiraled out of control—which it has—but that Americans are not more willing to give up their land, their wages, and their way of life to foreigners.

Still, even as Acosta, Gonzales, Singhvi, and Nowrasteh subject us to their incessant and unoriginal appeals to “reason,” we find that illegal aliens—specifically those “Dreamers” that Democrats and Republicans are so determined to protect—harvested thousands of ballots in one of the last Republican strongholds in California; now uniformly blue post-midterms. While much has been said about Russian meddling in our democracy, the same claque is noticeably much less opposed to trusting the integrity of our democratic processes, quite literally, in the hands of foreign nationals.

The Crisis and the Question
Does America belong to Americans? Consult much of the media, academia, clergy, and, yes, our government, and the answer you will likely hear is that America is the common property of all “peoplekind.” Indeed, although illegal aliens are behind the theft of more than 39 million Social Security numbers, the Internal Revenue Service has effectively admitted that it encourages this crime against citizens, by ignoring “notifications from the Social Security Administration that a name does not match a Social Security number.”

If the murderers of Ronald Da Silva and Mollie Tibbetts, to name just two victims, used stolen Social Security cards to avoid detection before claiming their victims, does that make our government complicit in, or at least indifferent to, the murder of its citizens by foreign nationals on American soil? Is not the purpose of government, at a minimum, to safeguard the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens? If not, then we may answer to the negative when Larry P. Arnn asks, “Do We Need Our Country Anymore?” Nowrasteh has already cast his answer, the answer of the globalists, declaring that America is “an economy with a country, not a country with an economy.”

The crisis at the heart of the immigration debate cannot be understood in terms of data and “reason,” which all too often, is manipulated to fit a foregone conclusion: immigration is always good, less is fine, but more is always better. Rather, this is a question of who owns America.

In the original Greek, the word καιρός (crisis) indicates a situation when a decision must be made, and it is derived from the verb that means to judge or decide. In English, crisis has come to mean something like καιρός, what professor Eric C. White defined as “a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.” The crisis, then, is whether Americans will decide, while there is still time do so, that they need their country to continue existing, and that their government needs to serve them as it was intended to do.

Look beyond the sea of misinformation, the moralizing, the cosmopolitan anti-patriotism, and you will find that immigration is merely an instrument in a larger conflict between those who would prefer to rule us without our consent. In the end, how we answer them will determine the answer that all-important question: Who owns America?

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Photo credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Drugs • Economy • KBO

A Market-Based Solution to Rising Drug Prices: More Competition

President Trump and high-ranking officials in his administration, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, are scheduled to meet tomorrow for a strategy session on how to moderate drug prices.

The president is frustrated over recent price increases that have occurred in spite of his publicly pressuring and shaming drug companies. “Drug makers and companies are not living up to their commitments on pricing. Not being fair to the consumer, or to our Country!” he tweeted on January 5th.

Until now, most of the administration’s suggested remedies primarily have consisted of sort of price controls, which seldom work and at best, have unintended consequences.  A far better solution would be congressional authorization of drug-approval reciprocity among select foreign counterparts, giving patients rapid access to drugs that have been already proven to work in countries whose testing and review regimens are similar to our own.

Reciprocal approval would benefit patients directly: The negative effects of FDA delays in approving certain new drugs already available in other industrialized countries are well documented. Meningitis B, for example, is a devastating infectious disease that can become debilitating so quickly that by the time it is recognized, the patient may be too sick for effective treatment. The European Union, Australia, and Canada approved the first MenB vaccine, Bexsero, in January 2013. The FDA did not follow suit until February 2015. Meningitis B outbreaks resulted in deaths and limb amputations during that interval, when federal agencies had to resort to a cumbersome process in order to approve limited usage of Bexsero. The Centers for Disease Control had to apply to the FDA for permission to acquire and distribute the European version of the vaccine.

Reciprocity would also alleviate shortages of critical drugs in the U.S.. Many of the drugs in short supply are generic injectable medications commonly used by EMTs and in hospitals: analgesics, cancer drugs, anesthetics, antipsychotics for psychiatric emergencies, and electrolytes needed for patients on IV supplementation. Hospitals are scrambling to assure adequate supplies of drugs that are in short supply, or to find substitutes for them. Patients sometimes get the second or third choice of medication.

The FDA is severely limited in what it can do to address shortages. The agency’s app to enable health care providers to keep current on shortages informs them about the problem but doesn’t actually remedy it. Reciprocity of approvals would make numerous needed alternative drugs available. It could have been in place decades ago if only the FDA had met its long-standing commitment to pursue it through the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH).

The ICH’s agenda (supposedly) includes reciprocity of drug approvals among certain governments, but generations of FDA officials have resisted any such “delegation” of their responsibilities. When a senior European regulator was asked about the extent of the FDA’s cooperation on this issue, she quipped, “It’s like discussing the Thanksgiving dinner menu with the turkeys.”

Though the FDA has improvised procedures for importing drugs approved and marketed abroad that have not been approved in the U.S., this “enforcement discretion” approach—a kind of ad hoc reciprocity—is legally questionable. In a recent court decision, the FDA was blocked from using enforcement discretion to permit the importation of an unapproved drug for capital punishment, because the law is clear that an unapproved drug cannot come through U.S. Customs. That’s why Congress must step in.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

America • Congress • Democrats • Drugs • Immigration • Law and Order • Post

The Ironies of Illegal Immigration

Estimates suggest that there are 11 million to 13 million Mexican citizens currently living in the United States illegally. Millions more emigrated previously and are now U.S. citizens.

A recent poll revealed that one-third of Mexicans (34 percent) would like to emigrate to the United States. With Mexico having a population of about 130 million, that amounts to some 44 million would-be immigrants.

Such massive potential emigration into the United States makes no sense.

First, Mexico is a naturally rich country. It ranks 19th in the world in proven oil reserves and is currently the 12th-largest oil producer. Mexico certainly has significantly more natural advantages than do far wealthier per capita Singapore, Taiwan or Chile.

Mexico also is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and earns billions in foreign exchange from visitors. It enjoys a temperate climate, is rich in minerals, and has millions of acres of fertile farmland and a long coastline.

In addition to being strategically located as a bridge between North America and South America, Mexico has ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

It is not an overcrowded country: Mexico ranks in the lower half of the world in population density. Too many people and too little land are certainly not the reasons why millions of Mexicans either emigrate or wish to emigrate to the United States.

Second, popular progressive narratives in both Mexico and the United States cite America for all sorts of pathologies, past and present. The United States is often damned for prior colonialism and imperialism, as well as current racism and xenophobia.

Why, then, would millions of people south of the border leave their own homeland and potentially risk their lives to encounter a strange culture and language, to live in such a purportedly inhospitable place, and to adapt to an antithetical system based on supposedly toxic European and Protestant traditions?

The answers to these two paradoxes are as obvious as they are politically incorrect and therefore seldom voiced. Life in Mexico is relatively poor, dangerous, and often unfree. In contrast, the United States is rich, generous, and secure.

Mexico—unlike, say, Japan or Switzerland, which are far less naturally endowed and yet far wealthier—has never fully adopted Western paradigms of free-market economics, constitutionally protected free speech, due process, gender equity, private property rights, an autonomous press, government transparency, an independent judiciary, and religious diversity and tolerance.

To the degree that Mexico can make strides toward these goals, its population will stabilize and become more affluent—and also become less likely to emigrate.

More importantly, millions of Mexican citizens recognize (at least privately) that the United States is not the bogeyman of mostly elite critiques. Instead, it is one of the world’s rare multiracial, equal-opportunity societies. It is generous with its entitlements even to those who cross its border illegally, and far more meritocratic than most of the world’s highly tribal societies.

Maybe that is why millions of impoverished people from Mexico have left their homes in expectation that they will be treated far better as foreign, non-English speakers in a strange land than they will at home by their own government.

Indeed, if the United States treated immigrants in the fashion that Mexico does, then Mexican citizens would probably never come here.

In sum, illegal immigration is both logical and nonsensical.

After all, the Mexican government is quick to fault the United States, but it is rarely introspective. It does not explain publicly why its own citizens wish to flee the country where they were born—or why they are eager to enter a country that is so often ridiculed by the Mexican press and government.

Mexico apparently does not take care of its own citizens. But once they arrive inside the United States, Mexico suddenly becomes an advocate for their welfare. No wonder: Mexican expatriates send back an estimated $30 billion a year in remittances.

Real and would-be emigrants themselves also act ironically.

On both sides of the border, they often fault the United States and demand that U.S. immigration law be suspended—but only in their case.

Emigrating Mexican citizens wave Mexican flags at the border as they try to enter America, while their counterparts inside the United States do the same when they protest being sent back home.

Apparently, no one in Mexico or in the U.S. ever wishes to admit that Mexican citizens really like the United States—apparently far more than they do their own homeland.


Photo credit: Los Angeles Times via Tribune Content Agency

Administrative State • America • Congress • Donald Trump • Drugs • Government Reform • Healthcare • Post • taxes • Trump White House

The Federalist Capers: The Twilight of Obamacare

The absurd debacle known as Obamacare is not something about which I normally write. However, like a secret vice, I maintain a fascination with federalism and with the nature of the relationship between the feds and the states. Having done professional research into the subject for quite some time, including geeky 10th Amendment matters and all that. OK, it’s kind of dry. But if we don’t pay attention, some of us may have less money for vital necessities like cigars and bourbon. And those I know about. So, listen up.

Also, national economic well-being is a factor in national security. No cash—because it is being spent on awkwardly implemented health care “reform”—no guns.

That’s why it’s interesting that the Trump Administration is proposing a plan that would allow states to expand the use of short-term, limited duration health insurance. Currently, the plans last for up to three months before you can sign up for a longer-term plan through existing Obamacare exchanges. The new rule would permit the short-term plans to last for up to 12 months, and could potentially allow people to renew these plans. Sounds good, eh? Well, as always, the devil is in the details.

The plan has the advantage of introducing market-based reforms and greater federalism into the healthcare system. Proper stuff.

Nevertheless, states shouldn’t exercise their new authority by expanding the use of short-term plans. Because Congress failed to repeal Obamacare last year (thanks again, John McCain!) extending short-term insurance plans would actually increase costs on many in the states. The cost will also increase for the feds given that subsidies from the treasury would increase in kind to account for the rise in premiums on the insurance market. In reality, this means the elves at Fort Knox would have a lot more heavy lifting to do.

Here’s Why Costs Will Go Up
Why shouldn’t the government do what seems to make eminent sense by principle?

For starters, the middle class will see premium increases because they will not be eligible for subsidies if they have to buy Obamacare plans. Particularly in light of Congress’s vote to repeal individual penalties for not having coverage, the enrollment of healthy individuals in short-term policies will mean that coverage costs will increase for those with health conditions.

Okay, you’ve lasted this long with this piece. Now go to the fridge and get a beer, you deserve it.

Waiting . . . 

Now, dear comrades, back unto the breach.

Compared to just 27 percent on the standard Obamacare exchange, 60 percent of individuals purchasing short-term plans in 2017 were between the ages of 18 and 34. These numbers may become even more out of whack next year with the loss of the individual mandate penalty. Many will just opt out of coverage completely. If younger people who need healthcare as they get married (or in my case, divorced) opt out when soon they should be buying houses, having babies, and building their lives, then the burden potentially of paying out of pocket, or landing in a government program, during a health crisis will show in decreased disposable income, purchasing, and a possible economic slowdown.

Economists also predict an 18 percent increase in premiums next year if short-term plans are expanded. For 60-year-olds purchasing silver coverage, the AARP Public Policy Institute projects as much as a $4,000 increase in premiums. That’s a lot of early bird dinners.

And will it affect federal spending? Is the pope Argentinian?

Subsidies from the federal Treasury will increase for rising premiums in the insurance market. A study by Medicare’s chief actuary, that thrill-seeking wildman, found the plan would cost the government $1.2 billion next year and a total of $38.7 billion over 10 years due to subsidies for rising premiums. You can imagine the lovely effect on the federal deficit.

How Much Worse Could It Get? Well . . .
Given that they already lack coverage for essential health benefits such as maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health, expanding short-term plans could push more people, especially Millennials (as if they don’t whine enough already) into other government-run programs.

Not to mention, as the Kaiser Family Foundation notes, ”Policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly diagnosed condition could be considered pre-existing and so excluded from coverage.”

Case in point, from the unexpectantly lucid New York Times:

One case pending in federal court involves Kevin Conroy, who had a heart attack in 2014 and underwent triple bypass surgery, just two months after his wife, Linda, obtained a short-term policy over the telephone. Their insurer, HHC Life, refused to pay the bills.

“We freaked out,” Ms. Conroy said. “What were we going to do? It was $900,000.”

The insurer informed the Conroys the policy was “rescinded,” to use the industry jargon. After poring through his medical records, HCC claimed Mr. Conroy failed to disclose he suffered from alcoholism and degenerative disc disease, conditions he said were never diagnosed. “When one thing didn’t work, they went to another,” Mr. Conroy said.

Oh, joy. The happiness continues. According to the Commonwealth Fund:

The out-of-pocket maximum for each best-selling plan is higher than that allowed in individual or employer plans under the ACA, when adjusting for the shorter plan duration. When considering the deductible, the best-selling plans have out-of-pocket maximums ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 for just three months of coverage. In comparison, the ACA limits out of pocket maximums to $7,150 for the entire year.

So, yeah, a superficially interesting plan now, but it might trap you into a deal down the road when the cost could skyrocket even more than before. Sadly, as with many other things, early gratification can lead to long-term problems. No fun, but there it is.

This administration does a lot of things right. This bit of federalism is one of them. Just the other day, the president made the EU President crawl to Canossa. Good economic news continues to abound, much to the consternation of those who would prefer a return to a pre-industrial state if it would drop Trump’s poll numbers down 5 percent.

But this question requires some fine-tuning at the state level so it doesn’t continue to saddle us with the twilight of Obamacare.

Photo credit: Margaret Johnson/EyeEm via Getty Images

Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Drugs • Economy • Government Reform • Healthcare • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • Trump White House

Mr. President, End the Collusion . . . in the Healthcare Industry

Between December 31, 2008 and April 2018, the S&P 500 saw 177 percent growth. By any measure, a strong performance for that nearly 10 year stretch.

But the S&P 500’s performance pales in comparison to that of Aetna Insurance. The health insurance giant saw its stock value go up by 445 percent in that same time frame. However, Aetna was outshone by Humana, which saw its stock go up 608 percent. Not to be outdone, United Health saw its stock grow by 655 percent. But the real winner in that time frame was Cigna, whose stock value grew by a whopping 866 percent.

To put a fine point on it, insurance companies outperformed the S&P 500 by anywhere from 2.5 times up to five times over nearly a decade.

What a coincidence. Or not, actually.

Insurance companies have been making record profits, as have health providers in the United States, specifically non-profit hospitals (which a majority of our hospitals are) over the last 10 years; the largest 84 hospital systems in the United States generated $535 billion in revenue in 2017 alone. One might actually be forgiven for thinking that ObamaCare has caused massive windfalls for insurance companies and healthcare providers.

Because, in fact, it did.

Americans need to understand that healthcare providers and health insurance companies really have the same goal: to increase prices. Which is perfectly fine if we were discussing a true free market approach to healthcare, which we’re not.

While we’ve heard the term “collusion” bandied about incorrectly for over a year regarding the fairytale of Trump/Russia collusion in the 2016 election, the term actually applies to businesses. The term is defined as “a secret arrangement between two parties whose interest seemingly conflict to commit fraud upon another party.”

We need to realize that health care providers and insurance companies have created a mutually beneficial racket. While on the surface it would appear they’re competing, by the numbers, they’re actually not and have created a very beneficial system for themselves while sticking it to the American people.

They are, in the truest sense of the word, colluding against the American people.

All of this has created a real problem for Republicans. They’ve done nothing while the insurance companies and providers have colluded against the American people to increase costs. They failed miserably to repeal ObamaCare last year, and as the clock keeps ticking on this time bomb of the American people’s anger at rising costs, Democrats are going to offer up their solution: socialized medicine. Single payer has always been a Progressive dream, and thanks to the dithering GOP leadership in Congress, the stage is being set for that very thing to happen.

Yet not all is lost. In fact, in one swift move, President Trump could completely flip the tables on Democrats, insurance companies, and nonprofit hospital systems while also rescuing Republican leadership from their idiocy. How? By going around Congress and using the power of the executive branch.  

Trump should inform Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin that the tax regulation regarding nonprofits offering services, should it be hospitals or even higher education, should be compelled to post prices once $20 million in revenue for services is reached.

It should be clear that this reform would only deal with nonprofits that offer services. Entities like the United Way or the Salvation Army would be excluded. And even the nonprofits that offer services would be allowed to keep their non-profit status if they post prices after a certain amount of revenue.

Trump can do this do this because it’s not tax code; it’s a regulation. Congress is not needed. All that needs to be done is to change the wording in regulation 1.501(c)(3)-1(A)(2)(I), (II) & (III) under IRC 501(c)(3) to say this:

An exempt purpose shall not include revenue from services exceeding $20,000,000, unless pricing for those services are readily available to the general public in the same manner as which they appear on an invoice for those services. Pricing shall include the list price, the average discount or grant, median price paid and average price paid. Readily available is defined as availability on public facing websites or on demand phone access.

That simple paragraph would revolutionize healthcare as we know it. It would turn the industry upside down.

By forcing pricing transparency, it would open up the industry to true free market forces: imagine hospitals forced into competitive pricing for procedures. Imagine insurance companies, because the costs are being driven down by competitive forces, not being able to gouge the American people with higher premiums and deductibles.

It’s not that hard to imagine. All Donald Trump has to do is decide he’s done seeing the American people abused by the health industry, he’s done watching GOP leadership dither away their majorities and then strike a bold and decisive move on behalf of everyday Americans.

Photo credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Big Media • Congress • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Drugs • Foreign Policy • GOPe • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Healthcare • Law and Order • Post • The Media • Trump White House

Primary Trump is Making a Comeback

When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy during the infamous escalator ride of June 16, 2015, his speech was unconventional, to say the least. In fact, as the primary went on, “unconventional” practically became Trump’s calling card when it came to campaigning. The ways that Trump managed this at the level of communication have been endlessly analyzed, and there is no need to rehearse them here.

What people seem to forget in the flood of analysis and agonizing over Trump’s unrehearsed Twitter-fied style is that candidate Trump was also unconventional when it came to ideas. Despite his much-advertised skills as a builder, it would be more accurate to say that Trump took a wrecking ball to the epistemic closure that had permeated the Republican Party since the election of Barack Obama.

Pre-Trump candidates stood unilaterally in favor of a dogmatic sort of free trade, for example. Trump openly and loudly proclaimed his support for tariffs. Pre-Trump candidates refused to say anything in favor of legalizing drugs. Trump favored medical marijuana. Pre-Trump candidates favored slashing entitlements. Trump quite fiercely did not. Pre-Trump candidates attacked any attempt to use government power to check abuses by major actors in the healthcare sector as pleas for socialized medicine. Trump charged those companies with “getting away with murder” and suggested he might negotiate with them using Medicare as a cudgel. Pre-Trump candidates were uniformly in favor of foreign policy adventurism to “spread democracy” and court war even with major superpowers like Russia. Trump was just the opposite.

For much of his first year after taking office, to the disappointment of his supporters, Trump abandoned most of these differing views. His penchant for trade protectionism was the one arguable exception, but even there, Trump was more frustrated by his staff than talked out of his opinion. Those of us who hoped for a new Republican party resigned ourselves to being happy that at least Trump was changing the GOP’s tone-deaf style of communication, but this was cold comfort.

Until this year.

Although the media remains largely fixated on the most superficial drama in the Trump White House, the past few weeks have seen President Trump take serious steps to shift away from his GOP establishment handlers, and back toward the things on which he campaigned. The press’s only response has been to hyperventilate about Trump being “unleashed,” but really, the better term for what looks to be happening in the White House is “realignment,” with Trump’s political instincts leading the way.

As a starter, Trump has apparently decided to stop outsourcing his drug policy to the extremely anti-drug Jeff Sessions, and seems to be returning to his original position. As Reason reported last week, Trump has overruled Sessions’ decision to prosecute those who distribute drugs in states that have chosen to legalize drug use and resale, and now favors a “states’ rights” bill that would codify this as the law of the land.

True, Trump is still promising to execute drug dealers, but the people he seems to have in mind for that are more the sorts who sell illegal opioids, rather than potheads who run medical marijuana shops. And, to be fair, the former are far more dangerous.

Speaking of dangerous groups who sell drugs to vulnerable people in unscrupulous ways, that’s another area where the Trump Administration has shifted gears. A recent story in the New York Times reveals that President Trump’s Food and Drug Administration head, Scott Gottlieb, has begun aggressively pushing back on pharmaceutical companies’ attempts to strangle competition by shutting out generic drug manufacturers from creating competing products under increasingly dodgy pretexts.

Further, the Trump White House now appears fully to support the CREATES Act, a bill that would permit generic drug companies more effectively to hold their brand name competitors’ feet to the fire over anticompetitive behavior and guarantee their right to acquire drug samples for clinical trials, once the FDA approves those trials. It’s a common-sense bill that has managed the incredible task of uniting the likes of Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). Naturally, the anticompetitive giants in Pharma hate it.

Where this kind of about-facing can lead, we can only guess. Perhaps Trump will force his Health and Human Services Department to stop seeking to cripple the 340B drug pricing program, which uses a voluntary version of his negotiation-through-Medicare strategy to obtain lower prices for the very people who mostly live in Trump country? Perhaps his apparent one-off missile strike against Syria will turn out to be a pretext to withdraw from the country now that Assad has been reminded of the United States’  resolve to combat the use of chemical weapons? Perhaps Trump will even make good on his promise to go in imposing tariffs until America’s most crooked competitors reform themselves, as Xi Jinping’s China seems inclined to do as of late?

Who knows? But whatever else happens, these pivots are good news. Count me on the side of letting Trump be Trump—or, in this case, let primary Trump be President Trump.

Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Congress • Donald Trump • Drugs • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Jeff Sessions • Law and Order • Post • Republicans • The Courts • The Culture • Trump White House

Will Jared Soften Trump on Crime?

Singapore and China don’t have a drug problem, President Trump likes to tell people. “They have the death penalty.” White House insiders say that Trump wishes the U.S. had a law that authorized executing all drug dealers, although he admits it would be impossible to pass such a law. But he consistently takes a hard line on drug crimes, making no bones about his desire to purge the country of drug pushers. And just two weeks ago, in a speech on the drug crisis in New Hampshire, the president said the federal government is “wasting our time” if it isn’t willing to put some traffickers to death.

Good material to stir up the voters. But we do know that the president supports requiring five year mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers who sell as little as five grams of fentanyl, the substance now responsible for high numbers of drug-related deaths.

Strong supporters of the president’s position includes most of the law enforcement community. His biggest obstacle may be his son-in-law.

In the meantime, both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, with the backing of both Republicans and Democrats, have passed bills which would reform sentencing laws to release multiple federal prisoners before their sentences are completed. The bills also eliminate many of the harsh sentencing provisions passed in the 1980s and 90s mandating stiff sentences for multi-offenders. In addition to reforming sentencing laws, the bills have provisions to reform the penal system. Those bills await debate in both houses and, like most such legislation, have both ardent supporters and opponents. Opponents include much of the law-enforcement community and the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions.

Although Trump has paid lip service to the legislation, the results of enactment would certainly fly in the face of his harsh lock-em-up rhetoric.

The Senate bill was opposed in the Judiciary Committee by five Republicans, including Texas Senator John Cornyn (R, TX), a member of the Senate leadership. Cornyn, for one, does not oppose the less-controversial prison reform section, which includes provisions which would increase opportunities for education, drug rehabilitation and job training for prisoners, all of which could aid in prisoner “reentry” and cut recidivism rates. But Cornyn believes that the time is not right to reduce sentences, particularly for drug dealers who profit by spreading death and destruction. Republican opposition, together with the opposition of the Administration, probably means the bill is dead, as Majority Leader McConnell will be loath to bring anything to the Senate floor that pits Republicans against each other.

Back to son-in-law Jared Kushner, a top advisor to the president on a variety of issues, who has a different idea. He supports broad-based criminal justice reform, including reducing or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and releasing offenders who have served much of their time. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Kushner and Sessions have reached a compromise: Kushner continues to push for prison reform, while the Justice Department would lead administration opposition to a broader overhaul of the criminal justice system, particularly sentencing loopholes by which fairly convicted felons can avoid serving the intended duration of their terms.

Sessions, in a recent letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said the bill “would reduce sentences for a highly dangerous cohort of criminals, including repeat dangerous drug traffickers and those who use firearms.” Grassley, a strong supporter of many of the Trump Administration’s legislative efforts, was furious, and is, according to Senate staffers, anxious to try to proceed with at least part of the legislation. Grassley has supported much of the Trump agenda in the Senate, and is a crucial link in the chain of confirming federal judges, so his differences on criminal justice reform do pose a problem for the administration.

So as a compromise with Grassley, the White House is backing Kushner’s efforts for prison overhaul but are ambivalent about criminal justice reform, despite Trump’s outspoken position on drug dealers—and despite other opponents to criminal justice reform, including much of the law enforcement community, who believe that most people who would be let out of federal prison before their sentences run would be just those drug dealers that President Trump believes should rot in prison.

Justice Department insiders tell me that they are concerned that if just the prison reform provisions reach the floor of both houses of Congress and if they pass and get to a conference to resolve differences, that many of the provisions for sentencing reform now opposed by the attorney general and the law enforcement community, may get slipped back in. If that were to happen and a bill which includes much of what the President opposes, were to land in the Oval Office for signature, pressure from his son-in-law might just be enough to get it signed.

On the other hand, given the president’s strong belief that the opioid crisis is a major contributor to the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, such a bill would be a prime candidate for a veto. Again, sources within the Justice Department would like to avoid such a scenario, and will, I am told, exert maximum pressure to see that the bills remain dormant for another year.

Let’s hope Jared doesn’t change his father-in-law’s mind.

Photo credit:  SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

America • Big Media • Cities • Donald Trump • Drugs • Economy • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left • The Media

The Left’s Small-Minded View of Small-Town America

In her recent New York Times story, “Suicides, Drug Addiction, and High School Football,” reporter Juliet Macur investigates the problems of Madison, Indiana, a small town on the Ohio River. Macur starts off by limning the picturesque location and the wonderful things the place has to offer, describing it as “the prettiest little town.” Having graduated from nearby Hanover College a couple of years ago, I can attest to the beauty and charm of Madison. It is pretty, all right, and the people there are a good cross-section of the American Heartland: some are impressively hard-working, good-hearted, and devoted to God, country, and family, and others are less so.

Macur’s article, however, soon takes a turn toward the sinister, describing an epidemic of drug abuse and suicide plaguing the town.

As anyone paying attention to the news these days can attest, however, this epidemic is by no means confined to small-town Indiana. Rather, it has become sadly commonplace throughout the depressed towns and rural landscapes of middle America. Although the use of one town as an example of a social situation is a valid journalistic technique, nearby Austin, Indiana, would have been more apt, given that it has the state’s highest rates of heroin abuse and AIDS. Austin, however, is not nearly as picturesque as Madison, and hence its decline might seem to Macur and the Times rather less tragic because less steep.

Madison, Macur writes, “is at the center of a drug-trafficking triangle connecting Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. It is battling life-and-death problems.” Yes, Madison is battling serious ills, but it is by no means at the center of drug trafficking. The place is 25 miles from the nearest interstate, tucked along a bend of the Ohio River, far from being a natural crossroads. That may be why Macur writes as if data were the plural of anecdote, telling us of a waitress whose son committed suicide, a dishwasher whose daughter died of complications from drug abuse and left behind a drug-addicted infant child, a suicide of a recent high school graduate, and a suicide in Indianapolis of another Madison native.

Madison by the Numbers
Macur concedes that the unemployment rate in the county where Madison resides is around the national average and the median household income and poverty rate are unexceptional, but “beneath all that are the crises that threaten to drag this town under: suicide, depression, child neglect, abuse and addiction to drugs.” The suicide rate in the surrounding county is 3.2 times the national rate, she notes.

She does not, however, identify the suicide rate specifically in Madison. “At least three students in the [Madison High School] class of 2015 and one from 2014 have committed suicide,” Macur writes instead.

Those are awful, tragic incidents, and they certainly suggest that Madison is no longer an idyllic small town for every one of its residents. The data, however, contradict Macur’s characterization of Madison as being in the throes of a catastrophe. The number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches is below the state average. Graduation rates, while declining, remain above the state average. The average SAT at the high school is above the Indiana average.

Disciplinary problems are where Madison falls short, with higher rates of both in-school and out-of-school suspensions and student absenteeism almost three times that of Indiana and twice the national average. Macur suggests that the over-prescribing of opioid drugs is at the heart of the town’s problems, saying that Madison has been “hit especially hard by the opioid crisis,” yet she offers no data on opioid use in the town. In fact, Macur mentions in passing, “Madison won a national award for being a ‘stellar community.’”

More “Redneck Porn”
After painting her overly bleak picture of the town, Macur proceeds to dangle one seeming glimmer of hope: Madison Consolidated High School’s football team, the Cubs, and head coach Patric Morrison. Morrison is definitely a good guy. He understands that his job as head coach affects much more than just football, and he makes a personal commitment to the well-being of his players, similar to what Coach Ken Carter did at Richmond High School in Richmond, California, an area also affected by drugs and violence. Macur devotes much of the article to Morrison.

Small towns are clearly on the decline in the United States, but instead of making a convincing case that Madison is truly representative of the problems and identifying the factors behind the alleged pathologies, Macur creates a sentimental drama in which a dedicated football coach rescues his players from incipient self-degradation while the world crumbles around them. The apparent rise of suicide and drug addiction in a formerly thriving town is a dramatic backdrop, but the failure to explain the causes makes her implied solution—individuals such as Morrison deploying compassion—a dubious proposition.

Without such information and lacking insights into causality, Macur’s story is just another instance of “redneck porn,” in which coastal elites hold their noses long enough to observe the inmates of small-town America for a few days and predictably find them greatly wanting. One motivation for such articles is evident and natural to the human condition: the great satisfaction of pontificating about people beneath one’s social station.

Another observable motivation, however, is political: the need to find some great evil to blame for the election of the coastal elites’ personal Satan: President Trump.

Poor, mostly white, Christian conservatives in red states are an easy target. They have no outlets through which to speak up for themselves, and the mainstream media never speak for them, just about them. Macur’s sympathy for the residents of Madison is evident, but her refusal to identify any cause of their woes other than pharmaceutical corporations renders her article a stealthy dose of coastal superiority. Ruth Mayer, who wrote “I detest Trump, but a ‘Redneck’ Fixed My Prius With Zip Ties” perfectly exemplified this attitude, explaining, “I have been so angry about Donald Trump this past year. I have been angry at my country for electing this man, angry at my neighbors who support him, angry at the wealthy who sacrificed our country and its goodness for tax breaks, angry at the coal miners who believed his promises.”

This undying anger seems to blind coastal elite types to the fact that the decline of small-town America long preceded Donald Trump’s election, and that Trump’s strongly and repeatedly stated sympathy for ordinary Americans, backed up by policies intended to remedy the fundamental causes of their problems by giving them a chance to repair their local economies, is exactly what moved so many people in these communities to vote for him.

Half-Century Struggle over Government’s Role
As in the 1960s, our federal government’s policies increasingly favor coastal elites and their satraps while making things difficult for strivers in the nation’s heartland.

The Left has been doing everything it can to prevent the United States from securing its borders, which has increased job competition at the low end of the scale and driven people into protracted unemployment. The Left has fought furiously against work requirements and drug testing for government welfare recipients, thus trapping people in the squalor of the welfare system instead of moving them toward self-reliance. They have fought school choice every step of the way, denying parents the chance to make the best decisions for their children, trapping kids in inferior schools based solely on their ZIP codes and creating dependency on government by making generations of good people unemployable.

All of these policies and countless others place an undue burden on small towns and rural Americans as well as those trapped in the inner cities.

Such favoritism toward the powerful is the inevitable outcome of big government: the most aggressive and self-centered people will use government force to turn things to their advantage. It should surprise no one, then, that government policies that destroy local economies and create dependency, plus the constant rebukes by leftists of poor and working-class people in the “flyover” states, have led to widespread despair.

The targets of this rhetoric, however, were smart enough to see how fabulously the decades-long habit of voting for Democrats has worked out for Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and countless other such places. In 2016, Hillary Clinton deepened this impression by refusing to take the time to remind voters in America’s depressed areas that she knew of their existence, let alone their problems. She then had the gall to go to India, of all places, and chastise middle America for not voting for more of the same in the last presidential election.

What Madison—and Middle America—Needs
However good Macur’s intentions might have been, her story ultimately contributes to the self-aggrandizement of liberals on the coasts, providing another brick in the wall upon which they are perched and looking down their noses at the plight of ordinary Americans. If they were truly interested in helping these Americans, the power brokers on the coasts would stop promoting policies that do them such tremendous harm. Instead, they would work to empower the American public and allow people to make their own choices in life.

Madison doesn’t need pity: it needs freedom.

Photo credit: via Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Drugs • History • Post • The Left • The Media

The Dwining of the Age of Aquarius

I was two years old in 1967 when the “Summer of Love” skipped Detroit.

Alas, while in San Francisco all you needed was love, in Detroit we needed the National Guard. Even so, as hippies were taking the brown acid and I was crawling for another jar of Gerber’s strained bananas, the Left’s infantile antics and ironies were then beyond my musings (the foremost of which, at that time, probably had to do with who would change my diaper—ASAP!).

Only post-Pampers did I learn, somewhere along the assembly line of force-fed, ubiquitous, and interminable spasms of Baby Boomer romantic nostalgia, that the Left had coined the latter stages of the 1960s “the Age of Aquarius.”

And my Gen X slacker intellect wondered, “Why?”

Plucked from a song in the musical “Hair,” the lyrics captured all the “New Left”— well, the hippies basically—claimed it would achieve:

Peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation

How this would be achieved is left to one’s imagination—though, in fairness, many ’60s radicals did cite LSD. When this would be achieved was less nebulous, per the song:

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars

Unfortunately, per Wikipedia (forgive me) and astrologer Neil Spencer (ditto), the lyrics are “‘astrological gibberish’, [because] Jupiter aligns with Mars several times a year and the moon is in the 7th House for two hours every day.”

I have no idea what the hell that means, but I do know the sun is setting on the New Left’s Baby Boomers, and by no means are they going gently into that good night or anywhere else on God’s green earth. Just ask the next generation of Democratic Party leadership—if you can find where their Baby Boomer brethren have buried them.

No, in the time remaining to them, the New Left’s Baby Boomers are still bent on achieving their ends “by any means necessary”; and, though possessing the aforementioned penchant for self-aggrandizing retrospection, the New Left lacks a similar desire for self-assessment. Thus, if for no other reason than to predict what manner of things they’ll do next, with the help of their slogan-song’s lyrics, it falls to us to chart their progress to date.

“Peace will guide the planets”: Communist China’s put a man in space.

“Love will steer the stars”: ISIS begs to differ.

“Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding”: Not in the Swamp.

“No more falsehoods or derisions”: The Russia-gate myth.

“Golden living dreams of visions”: Pot is legal.

“Mystic crystal revelation”: Unless it contradicts Leftist groupthink.

“And the mind’s true liberation”: The PC police are arresting free speech.

Even when graded on a curve with bonus points for persistent attendance (New Left Baby Boomers are always on hand and punctual, especially when uninvited), the above warrants a failing grade.

Ah, but the New Left’s Baby Boomers are the first to admit this—and blame everybody else.

What the New Left’s Baby Boomers have never understood is that their aims, while seemingly laudable in the abstract, are impossible in practice: millennia of history reveals the intractable imperfection of humanity. Thus, unwilling to accept the limits of our human condition and toil for what can be, the New Left’s Baby Boomers persist in demanding that what “can’t be,” “must be.” Inevitably frustrated in their delusory dream of recreating flawed humanity in the image of a terrestrial Eden, the “Age of Aquarius” has become a march through the institutions with the aid of coercion, be it through the organized power of the state or the anarchic power of the street.

Ergo, the fatal intrinsic contradiction of the New Left Baby Boomers. With “Love” and “Hate” tattooed on each hand, peace and violence are equivalent means situationally justified to wrest about their arbitrarily defined “greater good.” The “Sunshine Superman” and “Street Fighting Man” are strange bedfellows heralded in the struggle for “social justice”; the San Francisco and Detroit of 1967 are commemorated as milestones on the serpentine path to Progressivism’s dead end; and, in brutal sum, why the New Left ideology has degenerated from fantasy to hypocrisy.

Their taste for power whetted and unabated, characteristically the New Left’s Baby Boomers will cling to power the way a soiled diaper clings to one’s backside, an image that probably “sticks” a little too close for comfort for much of their anile leadership. Hence, sane Americans must remain ever vigilant as the last gasps of this dying idiocy as its aging acolytes desperately bid for their last chance at remaking America into a Ukrainian paradise, circa 1921.

So, “Gimme Shelter”; liberty or death; and a jar of strained bananas. “It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall” during the dwining of the Age of Aquarius.

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America • California • civic culture/friendship • Drugs • Hollywood • Post • The Culture • The Media

Hollywood, Drugs, and Heroin’s War Against Heroes

When it comes to heist movies, Hollywood has an inverse form of “Occam’s Razor.” The more complex and outlandish the security—from multiple checkpoints and a multitude of safeguards to cameras at every corner and monitors for every camera, from armed patrols and packs of patrol dogs to beams of infrared light that crisscross and cover the floor in an invisible layer of light—only with all of these things in place may the caper begin.

My heist formula is simpler, as the prize is worth more than cash, gold, or diamonds, and the security is almost nonexistent. Forget the guns and masks—we will not need them—when all we want is a doctor’s prescription pad. That is the real gold that every addict wants, covets, and craves. That scrip is the script behind the real-life crisis of drug addiction in America.

One sheet of that paper is more valuable than any box of rolling paper; more valuable than the contents in that case—the one next to the supermarket safe—where unlocking that panel, minus the code cards and target coordinates, is like the rules for using a nuclear missile key.

That case should attract the attention of any thief casing the joint, suggesting that the shelves hold something more valuable than what is behind the counter at the other end of the store, where a druggist dispenses pills without an ounce (or a milligram) of security. Thus is it harder to buy a pack of cigarettes than it is to rob a drug store.

Pity the smoker, then, a pariah among outcasts, while stereotypes persist about more lethal forms of addiction. For Hollywood ranks drugs by a system as medically false as it is morally wrong.

At one extreme is marijuana. From reefer to grass, from the stuff of beatniks to the blunts smoked by stoners, marijuana is material for comedians and manna for a new class of healers. It may make us mistake idiocy for genius, and cause us to believe we hold the seeds to cure cancer, but its status is benign and beside the point.

Then there is acid, which Hollywood consigns to San Francisco and the mythos of the 1960s. The drug unlocks the doors of perception, introducing us to the psychedelia of white rabbits and blue caterpillars, of grinning cats and mad hatters. In this reality distortion field, in this endless summer of love, absent the truth about the Summer of Love, there is no hate at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury; there is nary a pimp, prostitute, or pusher in sight, not even a dwarfish preacher of pap, whose rap sheet is a prelude to murder; there is nothing but love––all of it safe and free.

In this Brigadoon by the Bay, the fog does more than cover the city’s problems. It turns the California dream into an American nightmare, courtesy of cocaine and heroin.

Do not look to Hollywood to condemn either substance, not when the former is a symbol of financial success and celebrity excess, not when the latter is a form of fashion and the fashion of all that is dark and mysterious.

This is where the movie stops and my story begins, because I know too much about addiction—I know how close it is to be too close to death—to ignore how many people die from drug addiction each year.

I know that addiction does not discriminate. It neither spares the rich nor saves the poor; it neither avoids the working class nor acquits the middle class. It does not avoid Malibu, California, so it can attack the squatters and street urchins of Detroit, Michigan, instead. Nor does it exempt military veterans—including veterans of combat and combatants of valor—as if they an exception among the few, the proud, because no Marine would ever need a prescription painkiller.

I also know that Hollywood discriminates between the addict in black and the dead man who wears plaid. One is, according to the arbiters of taste, an artist; the other is your neighbor, if you live in the Rust Belt, or your neighbor’s neighbor, if you live in the Farm Belt; if you live, period, in violation of easy categorization, which means you are no hillbilly because of your addiction to a common—and legal—brand of heroin.

Where you are, where we are is less the result of individual misbehavior or collective guilt, because the evidence does more to exonerate addicts, myself included, while it incriminates those institutions we deem prestigious and beyond reproach.

We have, on the one hand, a culture and a commentariat at war with each other about the War on Drugs, with conflicting but equally erroneous claims of outrage; while, on the other, we have an opioid epidemic that beggars belief, constituting a betrayal that should force us to question what, if anything, remains of our bond with the very people some of us—too many of us—revere as priests because of our faith in that religion-by-another-name known as reason.

These priests wear white coats instead of white collars, misrepresenting the best of science by representing themselves as doctors with a devotion to science. They alone have the right, after all, to write their own commandments; to command us to accept whatever they say and do, because of their power of the pen—and their power to pen prescriptions to end our pain and ease our suffering.

And so, those who could did. They sold their souls for a feast of wealth, where the cows and calves were fattened and butchered, and the banquet was ready. The junkets were many, luxurious, and free. As for the science, few bothered to see what they suspected; that it was junk, like the junk—like the garbage or smack—they prescribed with abandon, until all that was left were abandoned towns and factories until those who were left behind were left to die.

Meanwhile, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.
  • As many as 1-in-4 people who receive prescription opioids for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.
  • Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.

The more these statistics grow, the less meaningful they will be; the more likely the apocryphal will become actual, turning a tragedy into nothing more than a statistic.

It is this question of statistics, to borrow a phrase from the late Jan Karski, that separates what we know from what we must see.

Karski was a Pole who saw his homeland divided. He saw her people destroyed. He saw how 4.9 million of his compatriots, 3 million of them Jewish, were murdered.

I mention Karski not to compare the opioid crisis with the most incomparable catastrophe in the history of the Jewish people. That would be absurd—it is absurd.

I mention him because though he was not the first to see the evil that men do, he was one of the first to try to stop the criminals responsible for the evil he had seen.

So, when I see a conservative columnist tell opioid addicts to move or die, when I see him write these things in a magazine whose founder was a proud Catholic (and a critic of the War on Drugs), I cannot help but question if this man knows what it means to be a Christian. If he is an atheist, I question if he knows what it means to be a decent human being.

I am not, however, unaware of my own failings. I call myself an addict because that is what I am: Someone who fights a daily battle to maintain my remission from this disease.

What I am not, and refuse to be, is collateral damage in a typist’s morality play or some filmmaker’s playground.

I am somebody—and so are you.

Image copyright: ossile / 123RF Stock Photo


America • Black Lives Matter • Cities • Drugs • Government Reform • Identity Politics • race • self-government • The Culture

Crime, Race, and the Thin Blue Line


Four decades ago, I worked in oil and gas exploration. I was laying a seismic survey line through a community outside of Dallas when an old man came out of his home to see what I was up to. Before long, he was telling me his problems.

He couldn’t own anything, he said, because boys in the neighborhood helped themselves to everything he had. He caught one in the act once, and the judge made the thief pay $40.

“Forty dollars! And he had stolen $400 of my stuff!” the man complained.

I agreed that the law was crazy, but said maybe it would get right again soon.

“I’ll tell you what they should do,” he said. “They should do like they did in the cowboy days, and that’s look for the nearest tree.”

Let me tell you some more about this man and the community he lived in. It wasn’t a scattering of fine brick houses such as you see today in rural areas all over the Southeastern states. Nor was the community a trailer park, though those are a common sight in the South. And the man wasn’t sitting in a wicker chair on the porch of one of those fine homes, sipping a mint julep, or enjoying his white privilege. Neither was the man some gap-toothed redneck with a KKK robe hanging from the clothesline.

Indeed, a trailer park would have been palatial next to this place. His community was just a collection of shacks and camper trailers separated by varmint-wire fences and dirt streets, tracks as rutted and uneven as you would expect unpaved and unimproved roads to be. And the man who wanted to look for the nearest tree—he was black.

Here was a black man in the South, old enough to have felt the weight of segregation, old enough perhaps even to have seen a Klan terrorist in action—and he wanted to lynch burglars! He wanted to do that because his life was being made miserable by the absence of law and order where he lived.

I have spent the past 40 years hoping for the law to get right again soon—to get right not by lynching burglars, but by hanging murderers. Hanging them with due process, but hanging them inexorably, as certainly as their victims lie cold in the ground, and as swiftly as the wheels of justice will allow.

I turned from surveying to journalism largely with a view toward that end. Writing for newspapers in Texas and Tennessee, I argued the case for law and order, and especially against the idea that there is something contemptible about people who are angry about crime.

Take that guy in the shantytown outside Dallas. Suppose we put on our Social Justice Warrior hats and write him off as a mean old man who cared more for his chickens and tools and transistor radios than he did for the lives of his young neighbors. What, then, can the SJWs say against my friend, Tracy Beard?

Tracy was a co-worker of mine in those days, a fellow surveyor who had been recruited under our company’s affirmative action program. I knew him well enough to know there was nothing mean about him.

On Aug. 18, 1979, The Dallas Morning News carried a front-page story about how a murderer invaded a Houston family’s home, killed four children and set fire to the house. The story was illustrated with a picture of one of the survivors, who watched as emergency workers removed his dead grandchildren from the ruins.

Coincidentally, the grandfather’s family name was also Beard, so I asked Tracy if he had any relatives in Houston. When he said no, I showed him the paper.

Tracy sat for several minutes, reading about the murderer’s evil deeds. Then he looked at me and said, “That guy should be stood against a wall and shot.”

Tracy was not alone in saying such things. When Bill Simpson (a black man who had drawn media attention when he was harassed by white racists in Vidor, Texas) was murdered by black street thugs in nearby Beaumont, the local neighborhood weekly asked people if there was any way to stop gang violence. Five replies appeared in the Sept. 8, 1993, Orange County News.

One respondent, a white man, said, “I wish there were, but I don’t know how.”

A white woman recommended “stronger family values and mandatory parenting classes in our schools.” Another white woman called for “stiffer penalties,” and a black woman requested “more cops.”

Toughest of all was a black man.

“Yes,” he said. “When they commit a serious crime, like the Simpson murder, put them in front of a firing squad and kill them. It works in other countries.”

The reporter was agog at this. Relating the experience to me at the Beaumont newspaper where we both worked, she said she asked the man again if that’s what he meant to say. She was another liberal getting mugged by reality.

So, the three strongest statements against crime I ever heard all came from black people. Where does that leave the progressives’ mantra, “‘Law and Order’ are code words for racism?” That mantra is belied not only by my personal experience but also by recent scholarship:

In his new book, Locking Up Our Own, Yale University Law School Professor James Forman, Jr. points out that in national surveys conducted over the past 40 years, African Americans have consistently described the criminal justice system as too lenient. Even in the 2000s, after a large and sustained drop in the crime rate and hundreds of thousands of African Americans being imprisoned, almost two-thirds of African Americans maintained that courts were “not harsh enough” with criminals.

Where does that leave today’s complaints about “mass incarceration?” Perhaps, like me, the people in those surveys would like to see the prison population reduced, not by setting murderers free to kill again, but by marching murderers to the gallows, whose stark example might restrain everyone’s homicidal impulses and make for less violence both in the communities where murder abounds and in the prisons where murderers are confined.

What of the police shootings that are such a flashpoint of crime today? That at least is a point upon which black people seem to be of two minds about law and order. They may want harsh punishment for gang-banging hoodlums, but they demand it also for trigger-happy cops and vigilantes.

In fact, the absence of capital punishment has aggravated the problem of such shootings. When Michael Brown slugged Officer Darren Wilson; when he tried to grab Wilson’s gun; when, in the face of Wilson’s drawn weapon and peremptory commands, he charged the officer headlong—he didn’t see the gallows looming behind his intended victim. The same goes for Trayvon Martin, pounding neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman’s head against the pavement. Neither one of these young men feared execution as the inevitable consequence of their reckless actions, and we’ve all suffered as a result.

And in cases such as the Philandro Castile shooting, where jumpy officers have pulled the trigger on people who turn out to have posed no threat at all—they all were painfully aware that the gallows aren’t there to back them up. Without its deterrent effect, and lacking a superhero’s skill and discernment in handling the life-and-death situations their job forces on them, the police will make tragic mistakes, rarely but inevitably. How much of the ensuing tumult could have been avoided if the death penalty were not a dead letter?

Proactive policing played a huge role in bringing crime down from the heights of the early 1990s, but it hasn’t solved the crime problem, and today’s anti-cop agitation shows that overreliance on the police to correct it creates its own difficulties. The Thin Blue Line can’t protect people from criminal violence all by itself. It’s high time the courts shouldered their responsibility to ensure that, where the shield of the law has failed to protect, the sword of justice is there to avenge.



America • Drugs • Education • Great Reads • The Culture

How To Be Great: An Annual Commencement Address

This time of year, commencement season, brings with it a number of speeches having to do with culture and politics. Some of the most important messages adults communicate to high school and college seniors are in these commencement ceremonies; but too often those are some of the messages where the political and non-political messages get confused. Too many who are political try to communicate life messages and advice in ways that are political or in ways where the political point of view of the speaker confuses any generally helpful non-political or life, commencement, advice. Politics and political views, after all, can change depending on circumstances—life messages, reliable time-tested verities, should not.

And yet, one of the reasons I think commencement addresses are so important is because I think our young adults need help today in ways they never before have—in truth, we all do. To that end, as many of you know, I do an annual on-air commencement speech on “The Seth and Chris Show” (AM 960, KKNT). Here is 2017’s.

Graduates, here are some life lessons I hope you’ll take: some from journalists, some from philosophers, some from political leaders, some from religious sources and leaders, some from scholars, some from movies, some from lyricists, and some from just ordinary, wise people.

And before I begin any of it, let me first wish you congratulations on your achievement. A lot of people wish they could be where you are right now. Well done. Enjoy. First and foremost, enjoy. There will be plenty of times in life where things are not happy or joyful—this is not one of them, savor your moment. You have earned it.

1. The best line I ever heard in a commencement speech was Ted Koppel’s. He told a Stanford class: “Apply a strong standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail—as you surely will—adjust your lives, and not the standards.”

2.  I have never, ever, met a perfect person. Indeed, to many, the only perfect person died 2,000 years ago. Do not put people on pedestals, do not engage in hero-worship. People will disappoint you. This includes parents, teachers, friends, spouses, politicians, favorite authors, and religious leaders—the person you admire most. Dennis Prager said something like this once: If you are not prepared to be disappointed in your friends, you are not prepared to have friends. There’s a lot of wisdom there—don’t forget it; people will disappoint, and that’s life because:

3. Life can be hard from time to time and the only person who makes no errors is the person who does not exist. The famous psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote this:

When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked and finds

   himself unable to swim about freely, he begins a fight

   which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes

   an escape…. In the same way, the human struggles …

   with the hooks that catch him. Sometime he masters his

   difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. The

   struggles are all that the world sees, and it usually

   misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to

understand what is happening to a hooked one…[until he is on the hook one day himself.]

4.  So, try to be understanding of others’ struggles. We will all have them. That’s a guarantee. We will all have successes, but we will all have struggles and failures, too—and often, by the way, those failures will lead to great successes. If you doubt this, read the biographies of any great inventor or leader, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs; from Abraham Lincoln to Margaret Thatcher or Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump. But know this: Failure is temporary, it will happen. And usually it is simply the world’s way, life’s way, of clearing a path to a success you never dreamed of. This takes me to…

….5. Take it easy on yourself. Today you are flying high, tomorrow you may also be. Or you may not be. You may not have gotten the job you wanted. Or you may have messed up the first task you were given in the new job you did get and wanted. It’s OK. It happens. To everyone.

I promise. A failure is not, is never, the end of a story or your story…and in time, I guarantee, you will forget it…and so, too, will others.

If you are concerned about what others think of you, live and comport your life in a way that is a living, walking, breathing disproof of negative comments or disparaging remarks. Live so that nobody will believe them. It is more important to see a sermon than hear one.

6.  Don’t worry too much about what others think of you. Worry about what you think of you. Ann Landers got something very important and very right about this. If you worry too much about what others think or say about you, you will never move forward, you will be frozen, paralyzed. She put it this way: “Pay no attention to disparaging remarks. Remember, the person who carried the message may not be the most accurate reporter in the world, and things become twisted in the retelling. Live so that nobody will believe them.” That last part bears repeating: If you are concerned about what others think of you, live and comport your life in a way that is a living, walking, breathing disproof of negative comments or disparaging remarks. Live so that nobody will believe them. It is more important to see a sermon than hear one.

7.  Two things are very important: patience and authenticity. On authenticity, a famous Hassidic rabbi said the only question we will be asked when we die is not why didn’t we become this or that, or why were we not more like so-and-so. Instead, we will be asked: “Why didn’t you become you?” Think about that the next time you’re tempted to worship someone else as I mentioned earlier—don’t be someone else, be you.

On patience, I can only relay something I’ve heard a lot of leaders and successful people tell me over and over again: The greatest decisions they ever made were not decisions they thought were especially important at the time because the greatest things that ever happened to them could not have been planned or, sometimes, even dreamed. I know this to be true in my life, too.

8.  To that point, almost everything you do matters, at almost all times. A U.S. Senator I know of once put it this way: “The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane.” Think on that—if you can’t do the small things right, you will never get the big things right, or the opportunity to do them. Small things matter, how you handle them matters. Almost always and almost always at all times. So be patient, life has a way of working out if your internal compass is pointed true north, and, often when you least expect it.

9.  Be forgiving. To yourself, and to others. Remember the Lord’s prayer. We ask God’s forgiveness—a lot. And we hope for it. We depend on it. How much more so should we be forgiving of others? I know how much I appreciate it when I’m forgiven for something. So the shoe should be on the other foot, too. Be forgiving to others.

10.  Francis of Assisi said a lot of beautiful things, here’s a sentence from him that is worth remembering: “Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted.” Here’s why:

11.  The best way to get out of your own head, to ease your own mind, to solve your own troubles is to help another with his or her troubles. When you are in what you perceive to be dire straights, try to help someone else, try to comfort someone else. You’ll find a magical solution to your own troubles that way. You truly will. Again: It is more important to comfort rather than be comforted. And, it’s a good thing to do anyway as…

….12. The Dalai Lama—maybe the happiest, most joyful man on earth—put it this way: “Our chief purpose in life is to help other people…and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” This from a man who is entitled to have a lot of resentments, watching his country be taken over and destroyed. And yet his philosophy in life is not about revenge, but about helping others…or at the very minimum, not hurting them.

13.  Be decent. At all times. If there’s a question as to what to do in a certain situation, difficult or not, ask yourself, “what’s the decent thing to do?” It’s a great word, “decent,” and it’s too often forgotten, but when you think about how to implement that word, how to act on it, it’s a word that almost always tells you what to do and how to do it. I know of few better, self-defining words.

14.  I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said when there’s a difficult or maddening or tense situation where you think you need to say something, put yourself through this three-part test. Ask yourself: “Does something need to be said? Does something need to be said now? And does it need to be said by me?”

15.  Another piece of advice for difficult or maddening situations, it’s from Mark Twain: “Calm is a language the blind can read and the deaf can hear.” Be as calm as you can as often as you can.

16.  Jimmy Buffett has a song called “That’s What Living is to Me.” He has a line in there I have seen come true again and again and again: “Live a lie and you will live to regret it.” I can’t convey how true that is. A lie will come out someday, and usually not in a way or time of your choosing. Live a lie and you will live to regret it.

17.  Keep in mind this: People, especially young people, most often damage themselves with drugs or alcohol in order to change the way they feel, to feel “normal,” or to change their normal if you will. Give them reasons not to need or perceive the need to change their normal. You do this by putting them at ease over whatever their situation is. We all have crosses to carry, let them know theirs can be carried too, and it does not require a quick and damaging fix, that fix can be life altering. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of this. Too often, easy temporary fixes can have lifelong repercussions. There may be three strikes in baseball, or in law, but as Phoenix Suns Coach Earl Watson put it in the context of drug experimentation: you don’t get six fouls or three strikes in real life—you can be one and done.

The best way to get out of your own head, to ease your own mind, to solve your own troubles is to help another with his or her troubles. When you are in what you perceive to be dire straights, try to help someone else, try to comfort someone else.

18.  When in doubt about how to deal with a difficult person, try and find a way to love that person, or at least see the child in them, or some redeeming quality. Most people have something redeeming about them…something worthy of love. I recently read a great line by Helen Keller on this: “It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks from boredom.”

19.  She had a lot of wonderful things to say and teach. And some of the smartest people come back to the same lesson these two quotes embody: Helen Keller, once more: “Life is either a great adventure or it is nothing.” A great writer, Norman Cousins, put it this way: “The tragedy of life is not death, but, rather, that which dies inside us while we are still living.” You are at the beginnings of your lives, enjoy this time. It’s been a gift given to you for just that.

20.  The last thing I’ll say is perhaps my favorite line ever. It’s from the late education professor, Leo Buscaglia, whose specialty was those with special needs. It’s something I’ve always loved, and I close with it: “It is only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.”

Now, one final and important note as I close: Maybe something I’ve said today will resonate with you. Maybe not. But it’s advice I love. And, I fail each piece of advice here daily. To come back to where I started: People simply are not perfect.

Class of 2017—Congratulations and welcome to your adventure.


America • Democrats • Drugs • Featured Article • The Culture

Politicizing and Misunderstanding the Opioid Crisis

The nation’s opioid crisis is real and it is serious. As Christopher Caldwell recently pointed out, “those who call the word ‘carnage’ an irresponsible exaggeration are wrong.” And so, too, are those playing politics with the crisis. Even beyond the politicization—or, perhaps, because of it—there is still a great deal of misunderstanding as to what is driving this crisis.

As for the first problem, the politics: Senator Claire McCaskill (D., MO) has announced that she is initiating an investigation of several opioid manufacturers, and is requesting “reams of information” from them. But note the one manufacturer she did not target and from which she did not request information—Mallinckrodt. Mallinckrodt, after all, is headquartered in Missouri, her own state. Odd, that. And it’s not as if Mallinckrodt is a bit player in the manufacture and sales of opioid drugs. Indeed, “it is one of the nation’s largest” producers, responsible for nearly 20 percent of the market share of opioid prescriptions. The companies McCaskill has targeted are responsible for a total market share of 5.25 percent combined. Odd, that. If she were serious about investigating pharmaceutical companies, she most certainly would be investigating the one based in her own home state which also happens to be the one responsible for most opioid sales in America.

But all of this is not even the beginning of the beginning in addressing America’s opioid crisis. For when political leaders like Senator McCaskill are not playing politics with the issue, they are too often misunderstanding it. Some of that is not their fault.

Part of the problem in addressing the opioid crisis is that the terminology can be confusing or misleading. People hear “opioid” or “prescription opioid” or “fentanyl” and begin to lump the problems all together as a crisis driven by legitimately prescribed drugs. No doubt, that is a part of the problem, but it is nowhere near the biggest part of it. Take a look at the best statistics available (taken from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the CDC):

  • In 2015, there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths.
  • Heroin deaths constituted 12,990 of those deaths.
  • Synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) constitute another 9,580 deaths.

Because opioid deaths usually involve the use of more than one drug, percentages and raw numbers will not neatly add up to 100% or the 33,091 deaths. As the White House Website puts it: “A portion of the overdose deaths involved both illicit opioids and prescription opioids.” But what we can see from the above is that over 68 percent of the problem is from the use of illegal drugs.  Or, as the CDC put it in December of 2016: “[T]he increase in opioid overdose death rates is driven in large part by illicit opioids, like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.”

As for the prescribed opioids, the majority of overdose deaths from those come from the diversion and illegal distribution of them. As the CDC notes: “Most people who abuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or relative.” The people “at highest risk of overdose” “get opioids using their own prescriptions (27 percent), from friends or relatives for free (26 percent), buying from friends or relatives (23 percent), or buying from a drug dealer (15 percent).” Thus, for the population that overdoses from opioid prescriptions, 64 percent abuse them from a diverted or illegal source. In other words, the abuse of opioid prescriptions that leads to overdose deaths involving a patient acquiring a legal prescription and misusing that prescription on himself is less than 30 percent of the prescription problem and constitutes about 15 percent of the overall opioid overdose problem.

This is backed up, as well, by the most recent testimony of the Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, Dr. Debra Houry. Just last month, she testified to Congress stating,

Although prescription opioids were driving the increase in overdose deaths for many years, more recently, the large increase in overdose deaths has been due mainly to increases in heroin and synthetic opioid (other than methadone) overdose deaths, not prescription opioids. Importantly, the available data indicate these increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Again, the main driver of our current crisis is the use and abuse of illegal drugs, not legally prescribed drugs. Indeed, there is some common sense to this. Almost anyone who has had a surgical procedure was likely given a legal opioid like fentanyl. As one prominent anesthesiologist recently wrote: “To an anesthesiologist, fentanyl is as familiar as a Philips screwdriver is to a carpenter; it is an indispensable tool in my toolbox. It is the most commonly used painkiller during surgery. If you’ve had surgery, it is more likely than not that you have had fentanyl.” And yet the vast majority of people who have had surgical procedures do not have substance abuse or opioid abuse problems.

Yes, there is a popular reverse gateway theory regarding heroin abuse—i.e., that high percentages of heroin users started by abusing prescription opioid drugs. But that is misleading and, indeed, looks at the problem from the wrong direction.

As Dr. Robert DuPont from the Institute for Behavior and Health has put it:

[W]hile 80% of heroin users used a prescription opioid before they first used heroin, the vast majority, over 96%, of people who have used a prescription opioid non-medically [i.e., illegally] have not transitioned to using heroin.  Five years after the initial nonmedical use of a prescription opioid, only 3.6% ever used any heroin.  Among prescription opiate users, the people most vulnerable to switching to heroin are those who are also abusers of other drugs including alcohol.

In other words, the vast majority of prescription opioid patients do not transition to the use of an illegal drug like heroin.

Other data bear this out, as well. For example, according to an important article in the January 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that “[A]lthough the majority of current heroin users report having used prescription opioids non-medically before they initiated heroin use, heroin use among people who use prescription opioids for non-medical reasons is rare, and the transition to heroin use appears to occur at a low rate.”

The numbers and factors detailed here are not meant to diminish or emphasize any serious or particular effort to address the variety of opioid issues contributing to the present crisis but, rather, to detail the full picture of the problem in sharp relief. Playing politics with this crisis will get us nowhere and waste a lot of time, energy, and resources. Public confusion about what is leading the epidemic and behind the majority of cases driving the crisis is another problem altogether, made worse by playing politics with it. It is time, past time, to get serious about this issue and take it on in a serious manner.

There are a great many efforts aimed at dealing with pill mills and irresponsible and rogue sales of prescription opioids. That is all to the good. But those efforts will not solve the problem or even get to the roots of the largest parts of it. A responsible and successful prevention campaign is needed and must be combined with serious drug education policies and messages along with a greater border and law enforcement effort. For concerned Americans, first and foremost, it is our duty to become educated about the issue.

Donald Trump • Drugs • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Trade • Trump White House

Making Mexico Pay For the Wall

Mexico needs to import our natural gas more than we need to export it to them.

During the late presidential election, Donald Trump vowed that he would build a wall along the U.S. and Mexican border. And, in typical Trump fashion, he insisted Mexico would pay for it. The establishment intelligentsia balked at the very idea. Mexican leaders laughed at the mere mention of a border wall (conveniently overlooking the Mexican policy that relies on a wall along its own border with Guatemala).

And yet, Trump has become the 45th President of the United States. Naturally, one of Trump’s first moves was to sign an executive order authorizing the creation of a border wall.

The Mexican response to this action was swift: President Enrique Peña Nieto opted to cancel his first meeting with Trump. A war of tweets erupted between the Mexican and American leaders. As the controversy wore on, elements of the Trump Administration floated the idea of imposing a 20 percent tariff on incoming Mexican goods, all in order to make Mexico “pay” for the wall. After much criticism from their political opponents, the Trump Administration indicated that it had walked this suggestion back (at least in public).

Indeed, Nieto and Trump have agreed to cease public commentary on their disagreement about the wall. Thus, the (first) great Twitter War between America and Mexico has ended in a dubious truce. Despite this, however, the need for greater border security—mainly a wall—remains. Trump’s recent executive order regarding the creation of the wall also remains in place.

So, with Mexico refusing to pay for the wall, and with the United States committed to building the wall, who will pay for it? This question is especially important, considering that the Trump Administration denied itself an obvious course of action when they refuted the plan of imposing a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods. Another suggestion was to simply tax remittances to Mexico. Unfortunately, however, this is not a viable option. The tax would have a limited impact on money moving from the U.S. down to Mexico given the various informal ways to move the money across the border.

Here’s a simpler question:. Why doesn’t the Trump Administration simply impose regulations on America’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies currently flowing from the American Midwest into Mexico?

Mexico’s economy depends on the steady flow of U.S.-supplied natural gas. Should the spigot be shut off (or, rather, should Trump merely threaten the energy flow), then the Mexican government would likely comply with U.S. wishes.

The dirty little secret in recent U.S.-Mexican relations is that Mexico has benefited “bigly” from America’s oil shale boom. At the start of the boom, there were already nine natural gas pipelines into Mexico from the United States. These pipelines supplied Mexico with almost one-quarter of its natural gas needs. According to a December 2016 Energy Information Agency (EIA) report, within three years, U.S. pipeline capacity into Mexico will double.

Until the last few years, Mexican power production has been so unreliable that rolling blackouts were a way of life for decades. This contributed to the economic instability of Mexico. Ever since the start of the oil shale boom in the United States, however, the steady flow of affordable LNG into Mexico has cut down on these problems in drastic ways. Indeed, if trends persist, Mexico’s rolling blackout problem could be a distant memory in just a few years. Believe it or not (current conditions notwithstanding), if Mexico can stabilize its economy, it will become become a great power.

Mexico needs America’s cheap LNG to have a chance at prospering or becoming a great power.. Should the Mexican government remain obstinate, then the Trump Administration should increase the regulatory burden on LNG exports into Mexico.

Increasing the regulatory burden on LNG exports to Mexico would remove the problem of imposing tariffs. Since the United States is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the U.S. government is treaty-bound to avoid erecting protectionist trade barriers. If it does not respect WTO rules, then America’s fellow WTO members will penalize the U.S. This is likely one of the reasons why the Trump Administration has pulled back from its threat to impose tariffs on Mexico.

Now, President Trump has undone much of the Obama Administration’s burdensome environmental regulations with his executive orders. But at least some of those regulations can be re-imposed by another executive order. The Trump regulations (unlike Obama’s) will be temporary, and their scope would be limited. Once Mexico consented to our wishes, the regulations would be lifted and the LNG could flow freely.

Unfortunately, any proposed increase in regulations will not only harm the Mexican economy, but will also have a negative impact on the American domestic energy sector. This is to say nothing of the potential for economic retaliation from Mexico.

Undoubtedly, increasing regulations on U.S. LNG exporters to Mexico will have a profoundly negative impact on the domestic energy sector of our economy. In all fairness, though, the U.S. domestic energy market has not yet fully yielded the promises that many they sold when the oil shale boom began in 2010. Regrettably, global competition in the energy market is so stiff right now, that there is a limit for how much the U.S. can benefit from this trade (though that will likely change for the better over time).

But, this stiff competition from abroad does not mean that Mexico will get a better deal from another supplier. The affordability of U.S. LNG exports is the result of geographic proximity. In just 3 years, 50% of Mexico’s energy will be supplied by the U.S. They cannot just turn back from this reality. Essentially, it’s a seller’s market: we just don’t need to sell to Mexico as badly as they need to buy LNG supplies from us. And, while a specific industry may be temporarily harmed, President Trump will have resolved a long-term problem that has threatened the entire country.

Now, I realize that what I am advocating will likely send cultish free-traders into uncontrolled spasms. However, I am asking you to keep an open mind. After all, since FDR, the U.S. government has increasingly involved itself in the private sector by picking winners-and-losers, all to benefit a handful of elites. I am asking that Trump use this system to protect a majority of Americans. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s common sense (unless you’re one of the coastal elites).

Once the Trump Administration forces Mexico to play fairly in its dealings with us; once Mexico is forced to respect our national sovereignty by paying for a border wall, the United States and Mexico can resume normal, healthy relations. The U.S. wants a strong southern neighbor. A stable and peaceful Mexico means a secure and prosperous border with the U.S. American LNG plays a vital role in helping Mexico become more stable and prosperous. But, America must take a harder line in order to get Mexico to see reason. It will not be easy, though.

Temporarily increasing regulations on LNG exports into Mexico is a sensible solution for making Mexico pay for the wall. It avoids raising tariffs; it puts the U.S. in the driver seat; and it places almost all of the onus on the Mexican government. The Mexicans need to trade with America more than we need to trade with them. U.S. policymakers should remember that when negotiating with Mexico over paying for the wall. Ultimately, if and when the wall is built, the Mexicans will pay for it. The question is: how badly do the Mexicans want it to hurt before they have no choice but to concede to American wishes?

America • Drugs • Greatness Agenda

This is How Coaches Should Talk


As they engage in their daily duties, most heroes to our youth operate quietly, without recognition—parents and teachers, first among them. This, because almost everyone has absorbed the lesson from the ancient Greeks that the best way to teach character and virtue is to put our youth in the presence of adults of great character and virtue, known colloquially as the “power of example.”

Occasionally and blessedly, the larger society is gifted with the example of an extraordinary newsmaking hero in an extraordinary circumstance in extremis, a Rick Rescorla, a Sully Sullenberger, a Liviu Librescu, an Alan Horujko. But in a great country like America, we find them daily if we look hard enough, where Ronald Reagan told us: “We find them where we’ve always found them, in our villages and towns, on our city streets, in our shops, and on our farms.”


Where else do our youth look?  For decades, youth surveys have told us our youth, especially our young boys and men, have looked and still look to professional athletes. Those are the adults they have wanted to grow up to be, and thus, to emulate.

Think of the “Be Like Mike” commercials of the past several decades. For better or worse, professional athletes have spoken to and instructed our youth, in both word and deed. For these reasons, many were stunned with NBA star Charles Barkley’s statement some years ago when he proclaimed “I am not a role model.” Karl Malone had the right response to him:  “Charles, you can deny being a role model all you want, but I don’t think it’s your decision to make. We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”

Today’s athletes need to remember this, especially Karl Malone’s rebuke to Sir Charles. Especially given the challenges of the day where the power of example, role models, and heroes are just as needed—just as important—as ever. The rise of disconnected youth, drug use, smart phone abuse (sexting, shaming, bullying), and the Internet have all brought forward an urgent need for more daily powerful character counter-examples. Because our children are watching and listening. They are always watching and listening.

In my role with a youth prevention organization, I cannot count how many times I have heard different but similar versions of parents telling me how much harder it is today, how much greater the cultural challenges to raising healthy children have become. Take the challenge of substance abuse and initiation of use. The old drugs are still there, some are becoming more potent, new drugs are coming online, and the methods of delivery and concealment (from fake key fobs, soda cans, flash drives and other vaping apparatuses meant to conceal their true purpose) are proliferating.

Not helping and making it worse is the growing list of professional athletes touting the benefits of drugs like marijuana, drugs especially harmful to the adolescent and teen brain. Almost monthly, we now read of professional athletes touting both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana—and, too often, confusing the already-blurry distinction.

Taking a strong stand against this is not the popular or culturally hip thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. And Phoenix Suns Coach Earl Watson just did it—beautifully, succinctly, professionally, and, most importantly, clearly:

I think our rhetoric on it has to be very careful because you have a lot of kids where I’m from that’s reading this, and they think [marijuana use is] cool.  It’s not cool. Where I’m from, you don’t get six fouls to foul out. You get three strikes. One strike leads to another. I’m just being honest with you, so you have to be very careful with your rhetoric.

He didn’t stop there:

I’ve lived in that other life [of crime and drugs]. I’m from that area, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that experience of using it and doing other things with that were both illegal. And a lot of those times, those guys never make it to the NBA, they never make it to college, and somehow it leads to something else, and they never make it past 18.  So when we really talk about it and we open up that, I call it that slippery slope. We have to be very careful on the rhetoric and how we speak on it and how we express it and explain it to the youth.

He continued:

So for the kids who are reading this and they might take the headlines and run with it, don’t run anywhere with it. Understand that if you’re from an environment or social area where a lot of luck and a lot of blessings is your only way out, you cannot risk that opportunity ever. Ever. It’s just the way it is. It’s not the same everywhere. I don’t know as far as the pain [and how marijuana could help], but I think we have to be careful how we present that to the public.

This is how coaches and professional athletes should talk, especially knowing who some of their prime audience is, knowing that children are listening, watching, and emulating. One of the greatest challenges in youth substance abuse prevention is the challenge of reduced perception of harm. As we apparently have to learn again and again: as the perception of harm goes down, use goes up.

All credit to Coach Watson. William J. Bennett has written that heroes possess “a certain nobility, a largeness of soul, a hitching up of one’s own purposes to larger purposes, to purposes beyond the self, to something that demands endurance or sacrifice or courage or resolution or compassion…nurturing something because one has a sense of what deserves to be loved and preserved.”

In one interview, Coach Watson illustrated all of this. We thank him, and wish his voice and example only grow louder and more popular.

America • Drugs

Pot Holes: California’s Marijuana Legalization Measure Would Be a Road Safety Nightmare


For Californians contemplating a “yes” vote on Proposition 64—the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)—it’s not too late for a thoughtful re-evaluation the measure. While many in the press have urged a “no” vote on Prop. 64, too many others have shrugged their shoulders calling it “no big deal,”casually dismissing the many documented hazards associated with making cannabis legal for recreational use, and suggesting that it is time to remove the stigma that accompanies the use of pot. I beg to differ.

The University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) prepared an exhaustive analysis of AUMA which demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the negative consequences of the measure would far outweigh any perceived benefits. And the most troublesome negative? That AUMA would create a huge new business fraught with health hazards yet provide the barest “minimal public health protections that are unlikely to prevent public health harms.”

The report warns that “a wealthy and powerful marijuana industry will use its political clout to manipulate regulatory frameworks” all of which means their interests will be protected over and against the public interest. By the marijuana industry’s own estimates, sales in California currently top $2.8 billion, and they intend to push that figure to $6.5 billion by 2020 if Prop. 64 passes, giving UCSF’s warning undeniable credibility. A $6.5 billion industry would create a powerful interest lobby and one that works at cross purposes with the health and welfare of Californians.

A full reading of the UCSF report offers compelling reasons to vote “no” on Prop. 64. But although the study addresses several public health issues generally, it brings almost no scrutiny to the area of focus where the effects of increased drug use will be the most troubling to me, highway safety. The potential traffic safety consequences are deeply alarming as we begin to accumulate evidence as a result of Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012. During the ensuing three years (2013-15) marijuana-related traffic deaths erupted 48 percent over the previous three years, when the drug was illegal. Ten percent of drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for marijuana in 2009; the figure jumped to 21 percent in 2015. Considering that California’s population of almost 40 million is more than seven times that of Colorado, the impact on the Centennial State will pale in comparison to what will happen in the Golden State if Prop. 64 becomes law.

California’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) already identifies a growing drugged driver problem in California, unquestionably fueled by our existing medical marijuana law. In 2012, 30.3 percent of California drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for drugs; 28 percent were under the influence of alcohol. Two years later, 38.4 percent of fatal drivers tested positive for drugs, while alcohol involvement moved up a percentage point to 29 percent. And there’s ample evidence that marijuana is the major contributor to the problem since usage of alcohol does not decrease with the availability of recreational marijuana; indeed the usage of both substances increases.

Roadside surveys conducted in California during 2010 and 2012 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and California OTS clearly identify cannabis as the predominant drug of choice by those who use drugs and drive. NHTSA figures showed 59 percent of drugged drivers tested positive for marijuana, while the OTS study found 54 percent testing positive. Further, the NHTSA study found that—depending where one lives—the chances of encountering a driver testing positive for THC (the mind altering ingredient in marijuana) on a weekend night range from 1-in-5 to 1-in-10; a frightening reality.

The problem of widespread marijuana use by California drivers is amplified by another disturbing finding highlighted in both the NHTSA and OTS studies: Overwhelmingly, those who use marijuana do not believe it affects their ability to operate a vehicle. That myth has been nurtured in great part by the marijuana industry, which marginalizes the issue by claiming there is no empirical data showing the use of marijuana affects the ability to drive, nor is there a scientific standard for determining marijuana intoxication, based upon the level of THC in the blood, as there is with alcohol.

Numerous studies convincingly demonstrate marijuana’s negative impact on driving ability, based on scientific findings that show THC “affects areas of the brain that control the body’s movement, balance, coordination, sensations, and judgment.” (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2010). NHTSA studies leave little doubt that “the presence of THC in the blood is associated with an increased risk for crash compared to drug-free controls.” Studies aside, common sense dictates that the growing presence of drugs, especially marijuana, requires unrelenting action to rein in marijuana use by drivers, not approval of an act that will in fact feed and significantly enlarge the problem. If Proposition 64’s passage were to more than double marijuana use, as projected by the marijuana industry, there can be no doubt the resulting highway carnage will be unconscionable.

The marijuana industry correctly states that no standard exists defining a particular THC blood level as a determinant for impaired driving. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is an outspoken opponent of Proposition 64, with this particular issue being but one aspect of her opposition. She has emphasized that the legalization of marijuana would be detrimental to public health and safety, but should not even be considered until a THC blood-level standard is in place.

THC’s influence upon individuals can vary greatly, depending on any number of factors, and the drug can remain in one’s system for weeks after intake. That fact only amplifies the danger, however, because absent the evidentiary value of an established intoxicating level of THC, marijuana’s detrimental effect on driving ability can be subverted in the judicial process. The result: THC-impaired drivers often escape criminal responsibility for their actions, and perhaps even evade the consequences of civil filings.

As an aside, the driving force behind Prop. 64 is an alliance of business people whose goal is a wide-open market that can be exploited at will. Regardless of their self-designated respectability, their business is pushing illicit drugs, so one must ask: How will these enterprises differ from the drug cartels operating in South America and Mexico? They feign concern about the consequences, be it access by youth or traffic fatalities, but their only real interest is their profits. Proposition 64’s passage would give them virtual carte blanche, through wealth and political influence, leaving the public’s welfare in their wake.

You thought things couldn’t get any worse? If Prop. 64 passes, be assured things will get a lot worse; especially on California’s highways.