URLs du Jour

2021-12-05

  • Evergreen headline… … at National Review, from Kyle Smith (NRPlus): Biden and Democrats Waste Massive Amounts of Money.

    Quick thought experiment for our friends on the left who spent November crowing about an infrastructure bill: Suppose you took a nap and woke up in ten or 15 years. Is Amtrak going to be run any better than it is today?

    Thanks to the new law, Amtrak has another $66 billion to spend. In an age when trillions of dollars get slung around this way and that, your eyes glaze over. Is $66 billion a lot? No, it’s more than a lot. It is a colossal, gigantic, Brobdingnagian sum for a service that has previously burned through (only!) about $2 billion a year in federal subsidies. (Reminder that Amtrak is a for-profit corporation. Let’s hear it for the government pumping more money into private industry!) Amtrak has just been given the equivalent of a third of a century’s worth of funding on top of its usual budget.

    And what will we get out of this? Amtrak is guaranteed to waste most of that money, given that it is promising to do so. It plans to extend rail lines out West to places where nobody needs or wants them (we have this other ingenious, safe, cheap method of traversing large distances called flying that is vastly preferable, and for manageable distances, people enjoy using these things they already have called cars). Amtrak is also going to spend money to “fight climate change,” whatever that means, and (oh yeah, if it gets around to it) generally improve the shoddy service of the train lines people actually use. In 2026, do you think Americans are going to be wowed by the quality of Amtrak, or still grumbling about it as we always have? Is it management or funding that’s the problem here?

    `

    New Hampshire Democratic Congresscritters all voted in favor for this waste. And our local GOP pols are mostly griping that New Hampshire didn't get enough of the money to waste.


  • But we're not just wasting money on choo-choo trains. Robby Soave notes where else some of that printing-press cash is going: School Districts Using COVID Relief on Vape Detectors, Tennis Courts.

    Earlier this year, schools around the country received more than a hundred billion dollars from the federal government—American taxpayers, in truth—in order to recover from the pandemic and finally get back to the task of teaching kids.

    The feds stipulated that 20 percent of that money be put toward addressing learning losses during the pandemic, but the bulk of it can be spent at schools' discretion. Which means, of course, that many schools are using this sudden injection of cash to make improvements that have nothing to do with keeping COVID-19 at bay.

    "Some districts are investing big money in initiatives that don't appear at first glance strictly COVID-related," notes Education Week. "Miami-Dade schools plan to spend $30 million, or $86 per student, on cybersecurity. Raleigh County schools in West Virginia lists a $9 million effort—more than $800 per student—to expand an elementary school, adding nine classrooms, upgrading the library, expanding the kitchen, and separating the cafeteria and the gym. The Newport News school district in Virginia is spending $840,000 for a new student information system to help teachers catalog students' academic progress."

    An unnamed school district will use some of its COVID-19 relief funds to install vape detection devices, purchase new student ID cards, and build a tennis court.

    Alert parents should take a break from asking about Critical Race Theory, and ask (1) how much money their school got from the Feds; (2) what was it spent on?

    (It could be a twofer: "We used the money to buy copies of Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped (For Kids)!")


  • Good advice. David French alternates between "outstanding" and "dreadful" these days, but here's an example of "outstanding": Don’t Denigrate Adoption to Defend Roe.

    From the moment I listened to the oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, I had a sinking feeling that we were about to have a cultural argument about adoption. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who’s an adoptive mother herself, asked Julie Rikelman, the attorney for Jackson Women’s Health, about so-called “safe haven laws”—state laws that permit women to safely surrender custody of their newborn child to the state without fear of punishment or prosecution.

    French looks at the context of Barrett's queries, and the unhinged, context-ignoring response from people who should know better.


  • I threaten my own legitimacy, thank you very much. Kevin D. Williamson looks at Democrats’ Legitimacy Gambit.

    Democratic partisans ranging from Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) have proclaimed that if the Supreme Court does not take the Planned Parenthood line in the Dobbs abortion case, then the Court will have forfeited its legitimacy. (I have kept an off-and-on record of this here at National Review under the header “Supreme Court Legitimacy Watch,” though I am afraid my effort is woefully incomplete.) This happens all the time: If the Supreme Court doesn’t impose ACLU preferences on Florida school policy, then its legitimacy is at stake, at least according to Democratic partisans and (not that I expect this is in fact a distinction) Adam Richardson of Slate. South Carolina’s courts fail to take the butchers’ line on when to permit an abortion? Risking its legitimacy, according to Mary Zeigler of the Florida State law school and the New York Times. You can find dozens of examples of the same thing yourselves.

    Representative Ocasio-Cortez, as if trying to live up to her reputation for dopiness, argues that Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh should be excluded from the case because he has been, in her words, “credibly accused of sexual assault” (the word credibly there is a positive lie), which, hocus-pocus, necessitates that he cannot rule on constitutional questions related to — dreadful marketing, this terminology — “forced birth.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez does not use the word legitimacy in this particular attack — it is, after all, five syllables — but her project is as much one of delegitimization as anything Donald Trump or Steve Bannon ever cooked up.

    An NRPlus article again, sorry. You really should subscribe. And National Review should really be paying me for all these NRPlus article plugs.


  • As usual, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Reason's Ronald Bailey looks at (yet another) bad GOP candidate for high office, and asks: Is Dr. Oz Fit To Join the U.S. Senate?

    Oz's "Why I'm Running" statement leans heavily on the disarray and discord provoked by COVID-19. "The urgency of my decision crystalized during the pandemic," it says. "At least half a million American people have died from the virus, a devastating toll for families and communities. What also hurts is that many of those deaths were preventable." He adds, "In this emergency, we needed capable leaders ready to act—and we didn't get that. The entire situation angered me."

    Oz specifically inveighs against "elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication" and the "arrogant, close-minded people" who "closed our schools, shut down our businesses and took away our freedom." He adds: "America should have been the world leader on how to beat the pandemic. Instead, we were not."

    A lot of "elite thinkers" in the media are responding by calling Oz a quack. "Just What the Quack Ordered: Dr. Oz Expected to Announce Pennsylvania Senate Run," proclaims Vanity Fair. "Quack TV Doctor Thinks He Deserves to Be a Senator, Because That's Where We Are Now," headlines Rolling Stone. "Dr. Oz Quacks the Code of Republican Party," quips The Bulwark. MSNBC piles on with "Dr. Oz is the TV quack candidate Republicans deserve."

    Well, all that's just mean. I put a lot of trust in Bailey's take, though. And his bottom line, in measured, non-snarky language: "His extensive history of credulously promoting dubious nostrums makes me question his fitness for office."