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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Biden Lifts US Semiconductors Over Republicans (And China's Lobbyists)

Should Washington push an "industrial policy"? That is, should the U.S. government get involved in promoting certain domestic industries?

Darn straight it should. And that goes double when it comes to semiconductors. Computer chips are the little brains that run appliances, airplanes, mobile phones and cars. You can't have a modern economy without them.

We saw what happens when key manufacturing activities go offshore. During the COVID-induced supply chain crisis, Western manufacturers couldn't get their hands on the chips they needed to meet demand for their products. Some had to close or slowed production.

American automakers were especially handcuffed. General Motors, for one, blamed the chip shortage for a 15% drop in its U.S. deliveries of new vehicles in the second quarter from a year earlier.

And so it's hard to overstate how bringing chip-making to this country is good for this country. It would not only create many thousands of American jobs; it would ensure that other U.S. manufacturers don't have to beg Asians for semiconductors.

Toward that end we should hail the Chips and Science Act, championed by the Biden administration. It was astounding that 187 Republican House members voted against the bill, though gratifying that 24 did.

The GOP leadership had joined Chinese lobbyists in opposing it. Never mind that chip independence had the full-throated support of several former Trump officials, notably former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. To partisan robots, the national interest rarely overrides the joys of political warfare.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo rightly called the $52 billion in new semiconductor money "rocket fuel for our global competitiveness."

Asia dominates the production of semiconductors. Taiwan makes 65% of the world's semiconductors and accounts for nearly 90% of the advanced chips. And if China attacked and took over Taiwan, an adversary would have a stranglehold on America's — and the world's — manufacturing.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into its own semiconductor industry. So, by the way, have the Europeans.

This is part of a bigger picture in which the U.S. has been reversing decades of "off-shoring" factory jobs to lower wage countries. Almost 350,000 jobs will be "reshored" this year — on top of about 265,000 added in 2021. The chips act and the Inflation Reduction Act are fueling many of the moves with tax breaks and other economic incentives.

"Globalization is in retreat," economists at Barclays told their clients.

Supply chains have become an economic battlefield of the 21st century. In a jarring example, Europe faces an energy crisis for having become dependent on Russia for gas and oil.

Raimondo, a former venture capitalist, has been wonderfully aggressive on this front. When Taiwan's GlobalWafers abandoned a plan to spend $5 billion on a plant in Germany, she called the CEO and nabbed the factory for Texas. Here come 1,500 jobs.

Citing the chips bill, U.S. semiconductor companies say they plan billions in new investment, and their jobs pay very well.

President Joe Biden preened at the recent groundbreaking for a new $20 billion plant Intel is building near Columbus, Ohio. Beside him stood two good Ohio Republicans, Gov. Mike DeWine and Sen. Rob Portman.

The Chinese government has been pouring money into other hot tech fields, such as artificial intelligence and robotics. These are areas in which the United States used to have a safe lead.

"We need America to dominate in certain areas of technology," Raimondo said. "Critical minerals, electric vehicle batteries, semiconductors, artificial intelligence." This obviously goes beyond jobs. It's about national security.

Well, is America going to compete or not? Washington just put its chips on chips. That would seem a smart wager.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why Republicans — Not Biden — Are Mostly To Blame For Border Chaos

Let's have a conversation about immigration. An honest one.

In sending migrants to liberal states, the Republican governors of Florida, Texas and Arizona engaged in what even The Wall Street Journal slammed as "political stunts" that turn human beings into "political props."

Its purpose was to blame Democrats for the current chaos at the border. The truth is that Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have stymied serious efforts, even conservative ones, to curb the flow of undocumented immigrants. Florida is every bit as much a "sanctuary state" as New York. DeSantis just doesn't call it that.

One can argue that President Joe Biden has made the situation worse with his talk about a kinder, more open approach to immigration. His fine expressions of humanity set off a stampede of people trying their luck at the border. The vast majority of illegal entrants come here for jobs. Many simply claim asylum knowing that the clogged immigration courts won't get them a first hearing for an average 810 days, during which time they can set roots in America.

And so how is the Republican Party at fault? Strip away its hollering about illegal immigration, and you have a party that has stopped nearly every effort to get at the root of the problem.

The only solution is to remove the job magnet, and there's already a system in place to do that. E-Verify lets employers quickly check a database to determine whether a new hire may legally work in this country. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security runs it.

A few states mandate that all employers use E-Verify. Not Florida. DeSantis and his Republican legislature passed a law requiring only companies doing business with the state and some big private employers to use E-Verify. Left out are most restaurants, tourist operations, maintenance services, construction companies — the very businesses that employ large numbers of undocumented workers.

In his campaign, former President Donald Trump made a promise to make E-Verify mandatory nationwide. Once in office, he dropped it. His "plan" for an immigration fix made no mention of E-Verify. As Trump explained to Fox News, "E-Verify is so tough that in some cases, like farmers, they're not — they're not equipped for E-Verify." In other words, it made hiring illegal labor too hard.

In 2013, the Senate passed, in a bipartisan vote, an immigration reform bill that would have required all employers to electronically verify a right to work in the U.S. As a compromise, it would have legalized the status of most undocumented immigrants already in the country.

But when the bill got to the House, then-Speaker John Boehner refused to put it up for a vote. Although it would have easily passed, the measure did not have the support of a majority of Republican members. They railed against another amnesty for "lawbreakers," ignoring that E-Verify would have made it the last amnesty. But there was also their hush-hush campaign to keep cheap labor flowing to their business supporters. The Wall Street Journal even called for a constitutional amendment saying, "There shall be open borders."

Look where we are almost 10 years later. If America needs more workers — and it appears it does — then it should admit more immigrants through the front door.

In the meantime, municipalities should stop declaring themselves "sanctuary cities." And Republicans running their mouths about stopping the tide of illegal entrants should own up to their hypocrisy and actually make the hard choices.

You want to find illegal workers? Check out the kitchens in Miami, Orlando and West Palm Beach. DeSantis has made sure that opportunity to evade our immigration laws continues to knock, papers not required. And that's the truth.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

It's Too Late For Republicans To Escape Their Abortion Blunder

Nice try, Lindsey Graham. The senator from South Carolina has been reading the polls, clearly. After decades of railing against abortion and populating the U.S. Supreme Court with justices eager to ditch a right to an abortion, Republicans like him are discovering that the broader public never signed up for losing that option.

On the contrary, many voters are hopping mad they've lost a right they took for granted. People who might not have participated in the midterms are registering and circling Nov.8 on their calendars.

The belief that women are the force that may scuttle Republican dreams come the midterms is widespread. But, actually, a Pew survey shows a majority of men, 58 percent, favor abortion rights in all or most cases.

A man of elastic beliefs, Graham has a "solution" that spins the head in light of what's transpired. He's proposed a new national law permitting abortion in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. Who does that please? Not the many states that oppose added restrictions. Not the 12 or so states that had virtually banned the procedure.

Gosh, haven't Republicans been telling us for 50 years that decisions on abortion should be left to the states? And repeated with added force after the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision struck down Roe v. Wade? And, of course, Graham himself over how many decades?

His bill would add exceptions for rape and incest, which sounds reasonable to many but constitutes an insult to a true "pro-life position." If the embryo or fetus is an innocent human being, as abortion foes hold, then it should not matter whether that being was conceived in love or through a violent crime.

What Roe did was give women the option of ending a pregnancy before fetal viability for any reason. What influenced their decisions was no business of politicians.

In any case, rape and incest account for a tiny fraction of unwanted pregnancies. Out in the real world, the desire for access to abortion centers on other, more common scenarios.

It's about parents dealing with an 11th grader impregnated by a 12th grader. It covers the single woman who became pregnant by a guy she wants out of her life. It involves couples burdened with debt and job loss who feel unable to start a family at the moment — or are struggling to support the children they have.

The most restrictive bans on abortion tend to make an exception for saving the life of the mother. But then, who decides whether a mother's life was truly endangered? Ordinarily, that person would be a doctor.

But politically inspired restrictions on the procedure have empowered politicians and other outsiders to threaten doctors making complicated decisions. And that has struck fear among maternal medicine professionals.

Ohio's near ban on abortion has created tension at the Cleveland Clinic, nationally known for its expertise in high-risk pregnancies. There are cases, for example, in which a non-viable twin must be removed to prevent irreparable harm to the mother and the other twin.

One in 10 pregnancies end in miscarriages. Doctors treating them to preserve the woman's health routinely use common abortion drugs. Are they now open in many states to all kinds of crazy accusations?

The Cleveland Clinic also worries that doctors may avoid Ohio altogether rather than expose themselves to oversight by people not at all qualified to practice medicine.

With many Republicans pretending they never really opposed abortion, Graham apparently wants to help with his compromise. The post-Dobbs stance that states should decide these matters lasted about 15 minutes.

"I thought it'd be nice to introduce a bill to define who we are," he said. Mission accomplished.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Maybe America Should Let MAGA Fanatics Secede-- And Fail

With one out of five "strong Republicans" saying a civil war is very likely — and part of the Trump base casually throwing around the word "secession" — one suspects that many residents of MAGAland don't want to live under their elected national government. They want their own country.

No, I don't want the United States to break up. I'm a left-leaning moderate living in a Democratic stronghold who truly likes other parts of the country: the rural South, Appalachia, the Great Plains, Texas. Lots of wonderful people there, including many who don't generally subscribe to my political views. And I'll go so far as to agree with them on certain items, for example, the ridiculousness of the woke fringe. Keep the United States united, I say.

On the other hand, let's consider the possibilities. Suppose we skip the war part and imagine an amicable divorce.

Trump country's obeisance to the real estate developer from Manhattan remains a mystery, especially to other people from Manhattan. Before 2016, Donald Trump was locally regarded as a sometimes-entertaining clown. As a businessman, he was a serial bankrupt who stiffed the little people. (Banks that had loaned him money and got burned had it coming.)

As for the split of assets, there would be many a dry eye in Biden country if MAGAland went its own way.

The counties that voted for Joe Biden in 2020 accounted for 71 percent of the national economy. Trump voting counties represented only 29 percent. Biden country is subsidizing Trump country. Imagine what the Blue States could do with the federal taxes they now send to Washington.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, an exemplary conservative in a previous life, continues to probe the bottom of his intellectual decline with talk of violence should Trump be subjected to the indignities of due process for, among other things, apparently stealing (and lying about hiding) top-secret documents tied to national security. They were kept in his private club through which who-knows-who could wander.

Some were so sensitive that FBI agents and Justice Department lawyers needed additional security clearances to review them. And several of them contained the names of U.S. intelligence workers — some American, some foreign — the release of which could put them in danger.

Let's call Graham's warning of "riots in the streets" for what they are. They are threats along the lines of Trump's "terrible things are going to happen" if his people are made angry. Another word for this is "extortion." Trump and his band of headcases are threatening the lives of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers.

Well, you know where they can put those threats. Furthermore, anyone who acts out violently can be thrown behind bars, including those misfits for whom Trump declares his love.

I don't want a national breakup. It is my hope that come the November midterms, patriotic voters across the political rainbow will band together to disempower a national party bent on destroying the democracy. Liz Cheney is leading the way.

But there's the Plan B: Divide the country into two parts, one a sane democracy, the other the People's Republic of MAGAland. Some fancy boundary drawings would be required. Austin, for example, is Biden country surrounded by Texas. And Arizona is a real mix.

I don't know what MAGAland would do without the great research centers, the commerce and tax base of what's now called Biden country. It would learn to manage, one supposes.

Again, I don't want it, but if we must divide the nation, let's do it without violence. We can get along despite the differences. To quote the Motley Crue song title, Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

With Changing Climate, Let's Not Expect Green Lawns In Las Vegas

One can well understand the allure of the American Southwest. Shirtsleeves in February. Natural beauty under a big starry sky. But as the region's water shortage approaches crisis levels, newcomers — and old-timers — may have to give up the idea that the good life includes a lush green lawn.

Las Vegas isn't Buffalo without the snow. Grass grows in Buffalo with minimal effort. Not so in Las Vegas, set in the Mojave Desert.

Grass needs lots of water, and the region's supplies are so strained that Las Vegas is sending out contractors to dig up "nonfunctional turf." The city defines "nonfunctional" as grass kept only for its good looks — in practice, grass along streets or at commercial sites.

Over 40 million people rely on the stressed Colorado River for water. Water levels in the river's two big reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are at historic low levels. Meanwhile, the other source that has provided water forever, underground aquifers, are drying up. Climate change and growing populations are making shortages worse.

As a result, states in the Southwest are facing a hard reality: Greenswards and gurgling fountains may become part of an unrealistic past.


Where water is scarcer, its distribution must be tightly managed. Layers of federal and local agencies must make the hard decisions about who gets how much water and for what. They have no choice but to tighten the rules.

That's why being rich and famous in the Southern California city of Calabasas still doesn't guarantee you a green lawn. Residents there are now limited to watering only eight minutes one day a week.

There's a reason golf was invented in Scotland. The weather there is cool and rainy, and that's what makes grass happy.

Not so in the Sonoran Desert, where Phoenix happens to be located. Phoenix is hot, dry and booming with new arrivals taking showers and flushing toilets.

And so it makes sense to ask why the Phoenix area has 165 golf courses. Having formed an alliance to defend their water allocations, the owners argue that year-round golf is important to the region's economy. That may be so, but couldn't they change the idea of what a golf course looks like?

Arizona farms use over half of the available water. Now getting less water than in previous years, they, too, have banded together. Perhaps the time has come for some of them to stop growing thirsty crops like cotton in the desert.

And what about homeowners? Arizona's cities and suburbs are still largely shielded from drastic cutbacks in water use, but a green lawn may no longer be in the cards.

The good news is that desert vegetation has its own charms. This Old House aired an interesting episode on landscaping a front yard in Phoenix. The result was largely a hardscape of pavement and rocks with spots of desert-friendly mesquite, lantana and, of course, cactus. One plant, the red yucca, offered dramatic blooms eight months a year.

No, it wasn't the opulent green carpets of Connecticut. On the other hand, you don't get eight months of bloom in Connecticut.

A reduced Colorado River has ignited new worries not directly tied to irrigation. Lake Powell has been a source of hydropower. Its water level has fallen so low that it soon may no longer be able to produce electricity serving millions of Westerners. Lake Powell is now down to 27 percent of capacity.

Mother Nature is a disciplinarian. If you want a lot of rain, move to Hawaii or Louisiana or Mississippi. Otherwise, learn to love the desert the way the Creator made it. Really, there's little choice in the matter.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

What About Embryos? GOP Ideology Endangers Health And Science

Such is the state of the Republican Party that only eight of its 210 House members voted yes on a bill to protect the right to contraceptives. We're talking birth control.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, denounced the bill as a "Trojan Horse for more abortions."

Start with the obvious. Contraceptives prevent the unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions. Also, the number of abortions in this country has steadily declined over the last 40 years, the reason being increased contraceptive use.

Other Republicans complained that Democrats pushed the birth control protection bill just for show. After all, no state currently bans contraceptives. One might agree, except that Justice Clarence Thomas just wrote that the thinking behind the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade could apply to contraceptives as well.

Some have opposed Roe on the grounds that Congress, not the courts, should have enshrined any national right to abortion. Well, that's the approach just taken by the Democrat-controlled House concerning contraceptives. It passed a law guaranteeing a right to birth control.


Since Republicans are going down that path, one must ask, "What about embryos?" As a law professor, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a statement that life began at fertilization. An embryo is a fertilized egg.

Fertility clinics discard thousands upon thousands of abandoned embryos every year. That's because a single round of in vitro fertilization treatment typically involves collecting 10 or more eggs with only one or two being implanted in the mother. Many countries actually require that these surplus embryos be destroyed after a certain period.

Shouldn't states declaring embryos to be people require the clinics to preserve all unused embryos or close down? The cost of storing frozen embryos can exceed $1,000 a year.

In the opinion overturning Roe, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that abortion destroys "potential life" and the life of an "unborn human being." Foes of contraception make the same argument, that sperm and eggs are potential life, even before they meet.

Then there is embryonic stem cell research, which holds great promise for defeating such medical scourges as Alzheimer's and heart disease. The procedures require destroying embryos (many of them donated by IVF patients who didn't need them).

Thanks to a new embryonic stem cell-derived therapy, a man ravaged by formerly incurable Type 1 diabetes seems to have been cured of this terrible condition. The overjoyed 57-year-old patient, Brian Shelton of Ohio, exclaimed: "This is a whole new life. It's like a miracle."

One of the developers was Dr. Doug Melton. In 2001, Melton had to cut his lab's ties to Harvard University after President George W. Bush barred federal funding for research involving the destruction of embryos. Fortunately for humankind, private money was found to help Melton establish a separate lab.

By the way, Bush never did anything about the IVF clinics that were discarding unused embryos. But in 2005, he put on a bizarre show at one of them where he said, "There is no such thing as a spare embryo." He noted that 81 embryos had already been "adopted" under a special program run by a pro-life group.

Well, that left only about 399,982 unused embryos then stored at IVF clinics — embryos that could have helped lead to cures for deadly diseases. We can only wonder how many lives might have been saved had medical research not been hobbled over two decades by an obsession over embryos that were getting thrown out anyway.

As the midterms approach, voters might ask themselves whether they want to empower a Republican Party that thinks like this — that couldn't get even one out of 27 members to support something as basic as birth control.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why 'Liberal Media' Can't Report Biden's Good News Straight Up

Interesting headline in The New York Times: "In an Unequal Economy, the Poor Face Inflation Now and Job Loss Later."

This headline appeared last Monday, after more than 50 straight days of falling gasoline prices, the biggest inflation fear. Once exceeding $5 a gallon, the price of gas in many states was already down below $4 a gallon.

As for "job loss later," what do we mean by "later"? Later includes eternity. What we do know is that more than 500,000 Americans were hired last month, greatly exceeding economists' predictions. The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and employers remain desperate for help.

We must recognize that it takes a good deal of mental dexterity to write successful clickbait headlines. But when the headline contradicts the reporting — much of it in the same news source — you have an "alternative facts" situation.

Although the Times is considered liberal, it is also hyper-woke and sensitive to left-fringe feelings. That translates into constant carping against the Democratic leadership for not doing enough — enough of what, not always specified.


The mindset further stipulates that the working poor must be subject to pity and that good news for this group cannot be acknowledged. That's why the report that average hourly earnings grew more than five percent in July from a year earlier — after similar annual gains each month this year — sat so unappreciated.

In truth, it doesn't matter whether the news is good or bad. President Joe Biden must always be seen as not meeting expectations. A rhetorical trick to this end is inserting a "but" in the middle of a headline tied to an encouraging development. An example that just popped up in the Times: "Slowing inflation gave Biden a reprieve but high prices remain a political problem."

The right accuses CNN of also being in the pocket of Democrats, but the news channel rarely presents good news without inserting its own big "but." While reporting on the slowing of inflation, anchor Christine Romans bizarrely added, "That job market is still too hot."

In addition to gas prices, the cost of food is down. Nonetheless, CNN tied the inflation report saying just that to a segment about food shoppers in Philadelphia complaining about ... the prices. One need not go far to find someone willing to gripe about the cost of eggs.

In any case, these are First World problems. If the price of filet mignon has some consumers switching to cheaper chicken, well, the sun will still rise tomorrow at dawn. (Caviar also costs way too much, don't you think?)

This consumer whining gets tied to Biden's low approval numbers. And the low numbers must — The Story goes — get tied to inevitable disaster for Democrats in the midterms.

But a recent Monmouth University poll has 50 percent of adults preferring Democrats in the midterm elections, versus 43 percent for Republicans. Perhaps, just perhaps, the popularity of the president doesn't predetermine what will happen in November. What about the unpopularity of the opposition?

CNN had Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan on to comment on the FBI search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Duncan is a good Republican who fears that putting Trump back in the headlines will hurt his party in the midterms.

"I'm one of those Republicans that wishes we were sitting there, talking about how bad Joe Biden is doing, how bad inflation is," he said. Never mind that Biden is doing well and that inflation seems to be coming down. Duncan is just passing on the Republican Party talking points.

But Republicans don't have to do that. So-called liberal media is doing it for them.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Anti-Abortion Politicians Confront Harsh New Reality

For decades, conservative politicians had a free ride on the abortion issue. They could tell their "pro-life" base that they were doing all they could to ban the procedure — while not scaring the pro-choice majority. As long as Roe v. Wade protected the right to an abortion, the talk about outlawing it was just talk.

Now that Roe is gone, unwanted pregnancies have become enshrined in the law. Parents, for example, face the possibility that their tenth grader could be forced into becoming an unwed mother at 16. There are real world consequences here, and that's why voters in generally conservative Kansas showed overwhelming support for abortion rights.

Republicans genuinely opposed to abortion should accept the political repercussions of their "success." But those who were simply opportunists and are now trying to dodge blame for ending a basic reproductive right have a hard climb.

You hear the trimmers say, look, we've made exceptions for rape and incest. That's blatant hypocrisy. If they believe that the embryo or fetus is an innocent baby, then the circumstances surrounding the conception should not matter at all.


The advantage of Roe was that anyone could obtain an early abortion without politicians demanding to know the reason. States that have made carveouts for rape and incest are going to see a lot of creepy intrusion into the lives of women — and their families.

Only the truly gullible would believe any of that sweet talk from abortion-banning states about how they'll help the women and their unplanned families. Mississippi will "take every step necessary to support mothers and children," said Gov. Tate Reeves.

Oh, sure. This is a state that couldn't summon the humanity to sign onto the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, which would have extended health coverage to 43,000 women of reproductive age. Its welfare program limits payments to poor women with two children to a maximum $260 a month.

States severely restricting abortion will soon face the demographic realities of compelling women to have children they don't want and can't afford. Their affluent residents will go elsewhere for an abortion while the dysfunctional or poorer women will stay home and have children they can't care for. (A study found that after abortion became legal in Washington, D.C., in the early '70s, the percentage of girls who became mothers in their teens fell by a third.)

As the country divides into states that defend reproductive rights and states that attack them, the latter are bound to suffer economically as a result. Indiana, for example, just passed a strict anti-abortion law, quickly signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb. That day, Eli Lilly, one of the state's biggest employers, announced that the abortion ban would make it hard to recruit workers — and that it would look elsewhere to expand its business.

When Texas virtually banned abortions — while letting any ghoul try for a cash prize if he thinks one was illegally performed — 50 major employers signed a letter in protest. The list was heavy with the tech companies that Gov. Greg Abbott brags about attracting.

Richard Alm at Southern Methodist University says that this sort of social policy "also has a labor market component." With the likes of Apple and Google moving in, he said, "you need enough labor and the right kind of labor."

Thus, these places will have to deal with the loss of top employers to states and countries guaranteeing reproductive rights. And almost everywhere else guarantees reproductive rights.

With the end of Roe, politicians must now take responsibility for harsh new intrusions into families' ability to plan for their future. This is not a hypothetical concern, and offering free baby clothes is not going to allay the public's anger.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Biden Is Obviously Not Too Old

A friend asked her therapist whether her new romantic interest, 17 years her senior, was "too old." He responded, "Too old for what?"

Those wise words could also apply to President Joe Biden, about whom many are asking the same question. Pushing 80, Biden may be slower than he was. Then again, he's not a contestant on Jeopardy. A president needs a deep well of knowledge and good people to handle the details. Biden seems to have both.

This is not a call for Biden to seek a second presidential term. It is just to say that right now, he is clearly not too old to serve as chief executive of the United States.

There's a bit of hypocrisy on the political fringes when it comes to the ages of their heroes. On the left we have Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is a year older than Biden. Progressive youth worship him still. That Sanders actually suffered a heart attack during the 2020 campaign didn't deter his supporters, nor did it cause most of the media to rule him out.

After Sanders lost the Democratic nomination, his campaign announced that he might run again in 2024. Sanders says that would be "very, very unlikely."


On the right we have Donald Trump. Trump is only two years younger than Biden and seriously overweight. I'd like to see Trump even get on the bicycle that Biden fell off. As president, Trump's most memorable achievement was nearly breaking the democracy.

Youth, meanwhile, is not necessarily a guarantor of superior mental acuity. The youngest member of congress, 26-year-old Madison Cawthorn, is a lunatic.

In any case, if younger people want to challenge the older officeholders, good for them. However, no one has an obligation to, as the ambitious juniors like to say to, "step aside for the next generation." Let the voters decide who can best do the job.

Young challengers would do themselves a service by not flogging their opponents over their age. Did you hear that, Joe Cunningham?

Cunningham is a Democrat who accomplished the feat of winning South Carolina's 1st congressional district for a term. Now running for governor against the incumbent, Republican Henry McMaster, Cunningham is proposing a 72-year age limit for South Carolina politicians. McMaster just happens to be 75.

I hope Cunningham wins, but playing the age card is simply not great politics. For starters, there are a lot of 72-year-old voters. They may not like hearing 40-year-old Cunningham complain that politics in our country are run by a "geriatric oligarchy."

Furthermore, there are all kinds of 72-year-olds. Some are frail; others beat millennials in tennis. Being the chief executive of a state (or a country) does not require athletic ability. Franklin Roosevelt, paralyzed since age 39, guided America through the Great Depression and World War II while in a wheelchair.

In proposing an age limit, Cunningham couldn't possibly have been referring to Rep. Jim Clyburn, the 82-year-old Democratic power broker from his own state. Clyburn is No. 3 in the House leadership and seems to be doing just fine.

It's true that Biden's approval rating currently scrapes the depths, but that surely reflects Americans' generally foul mood. It also reflects his administration's pathetic communications skills.

That's why it hasn't sunk in that under Biden, America has created almost 10 million jobs, and COVID deaths are down 90%. Nor does the public fixate on how skillfully Biden has guided support for Ukraine while minimizing escalation with Russia.

As Barack Obama famously said, "Don't compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative."

Biden has a history of being counted out until he sweeps away the alternatives. It's too early to count him out.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Humanity Can Beat The Heat -- But Our Cities Need Millions More Trees

Sitting in the AC, I look out the window and smile as dogs being walked collapse under the shade of my Norway maple. And who could blame them? Would any of us want to be out in this harsh heat wearing a fur coat?

This has been one of the few times I've given thanks I'm not in Paris. That's because, though much of Europe is baking, Paris is suffering even more than cities like London, where the temperature exceeded an unheard-of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Climate change is happening all over, but why is Paris doing worse than elsewhere? Not enough trees.

Trees provide shade, which cools the pavement below. They also increase water evaporation, another factor moderating the heat.

The concrete, metal and asphalt of cities soak up heat and radiate it back. Without much green to offset some of it, Paris has become a case study in the "urban heat islands." That is, parts of the city were found to be nearly 20 degrees hotter than neighboring areas.

The favorite French word for the heat wave is "canicule." Translation: "dog days."


Noting that a green umbrella helps lower temperatures, MIT's Senseable City Lab has put together a "Treepedia" that compares tree coverage in a number of cities. The researchers based the calculations behind their "green view index" on Google Street View panoramas.

Paris came in near bottom. It's tree canopy covered only 8.8% of the city. In contrast, London's shaded 12.7%. In Los Angeles, trees sheltered 15.2% of the city from the sun. There should be little surprise that Seattle's tree coverage was an admirable 20%.

Interestingly, New York City's "green view index" came in at a respectable 13.5%. Gotham is not all "concrete canyons," as lore would have it.

Complicating cities' efforts to plant more trees is the competition for limited space. For example, Athens has long been a hot, paved city. But proposals there to plant trees must fight demand for parking spaces. One must choose.

The heat problem has economic implications. By 2050, "urban heat stress" could cut a person's ability to work by about 20% in the hot months, according to a United Nations report by leading climate experts. Overheated human beings are more likely to suffer exhaustion, dizziness and even organ failure.

Trees, of course, play a big-picture role in the global warming crisis. Wherever they are located, trees store the carbon dioxide gases that warm the earth's atmosphere. They also release water vapor that helps form clouds. Thus, the massive deforestation in the tropics is harming quality of life in far-distant places, including northern urban centers.

The science here is not simple, though. Some effects of climate change could actually moderate the heat trend. As the Arctic melts, Science magazine reports, trees are growing in regions where ice predominated. In parts of Alaska where there was only moss and lichen, spruce trees are rising.

The bare tundra of northern Siberia is giving way to bushes and willows. Such a development, if it continues, would create no small forest. The Nenets autonomous district alone is the size of Florida.

In arid regions with milder climates, meanwhile, increased concentrations of carbon enable plants to use water more efficiently and thrive in drier soils. Carbon dioxide also acts as a fertilizer, promoting the growth of wood and leaves.

Certainly, multibillion-dollar things can be done to insulate buildings and retrofit the urban infrastructure to absorb less heat. But trees cost so little, do not require new technology and look nice, too.

Trees don't just stand there. They can help beat the heat and may end up saving civilization. Dogs already know this.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Actually, Joe Biden Is Playing A Bad Hand Pretty Well

The price of gasoline is not Joe Biden's fault, nor did it break records. Adjusted for inflation, it was higher in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was president. And that wasn't Bush's fault, either.

We don't have to like today's inflation, but that problem, too, is not Biden's doing. Republicans are nonetheless hot to pin the rap on him. Rising prices, mostly tied to oil, have numerous causes. There would be greater supply of oil and gas, they say, if Biden were more open to approving pipelines and more drilling on public land.

Nope. Any added supplies from new drilling would be months in the future. Additional pipelines would take more than a year to build. And if you want to make unfair comparisons, note that the U.S. produced more oil under the first year of Biden than it did under the first two years of Donald Trump.

What we have is a spike in demand and constricted supply because of the war in Ukraine. Sure, we and our NATO allies could hand Ukraine over to Vladimir Putin, and the price at the pump would rapidly fall. Surrendering would give the unhinged Russian leader free rein to bomb more of Europe, and that would end up costing us a lot more. Biden says we must work to defeat Putin "as long as it takes." Biden is right.

There is good news mixed in with the bad. Inflation may be at a 40-year high, but unemployment is a near-50-year low. Consumers are still consuming, which drives up inflation but also counters the assumption that everyone's depressed about the economy. (It's often said that the best cure for high prices is high prices.)

From the left come gripes that Biden hasn't done enough to offset the Supreme Court's decision on Roe ending the right to abortion. But his administration is working to protect access to FDA-approved pills used to end pregnancies. It's unclear what else he could do. (If the left hadn't demonized Hillary Clinton in 2016, we'd almost certainly have a different Supreme Court today and Roe would be secure.)

Allies of Brittney Griner are lengthening the lines at the Biden complaint department. They accuse the administration of not doing enough to free the professional basketball player, arrested while trying to leave Russia with some hash oil in her bags.

Griner's long detention is absurd, and we should try to get her out, certainly. But suggestions that the U.S. exchange the imprisoned arms dealer Viktor Bout for the basketball player — an arrangement that understandably interests the Kremlin — are also absurd. Known as the "Merchant of Death," Bout conspired to sell weapons to kill Americans.

This would be a highly uneven trade. Griner's wife, Cherelle, is broadcasting how she's "fed up" because the State Department is not prioritizing Brittney's release. The administration, Cherelle says, is "wasting time from my wife's life." How about the time lost by the Merchant of Death's murdered victims?

Biden would do well to ignore the organized protests by groups representing LGBTQ interests, women and people of color. And these groups would do themselves a service by dropping demands we secure Griner's release in return for freeing the Merchant of Death. While trying to secure Griner's release, Biden must put national security first. And further complicating the issues, Griner was foolishly carrying a substance that is highly illegal in Russia.

For some reason, Biden is getting attacked from all political sides and for things that are not his fault. He's been handed a bad hand to play on so many fronts. Given the cards he's been dealt, Biden is actually doing a pretty good job.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Those High Gas Prices Aren’t Stopping Summer Traffic

It's easy to find people who say gas prices will keep them from driving. They're on the roads.

That is an early hint that the "crisis" of high prices at the pump is less dramatic than the testimonials make it. And if history is any guide, it is temporary.

Florida is seeing a record number of tourists. They are driving, and they are flying in, having bought air tickets made extra expensive by the high cost of jet fuel. The Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airport security, expects travel this season to match or even exceed the pre-pandemic levels.

And Florida is surely not alone. Las Vegas tourism is reportedly back to near pre-pandemic levels. In Colorado, the Automobile Association of America expects driving over the Fourth of July weekend to be up about 8% over a year before. Never mind that the national average for a gallon of regular is $1.86 higher than it was in July 2021.

A recent Longwoods International Travel Sentiment study has two-thirds of American drivers saying that higher gas prices would factor into their decision about traveling the next six months. But only 6% of those surveyed said they are actually canceling trips because of it.


And so what gives? It could be that Americans, driven by pent-up demand for post-pandemic travel, are just willing to dig deeper into their funds to keep the tank filled. It could it be that they are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and thus buying fewer gallons of gas to begin with. It could be that the "record-high price of gas" we keep hearing about is not actually a record high.

It could be all the above.

To some extent, consumers make choices as to how much gasoline they buy. Consider the woman in Reno, Nevada, who worried on CNN that high gas prices might deprive her 3-year-old daughter of a visit with family.

"There's so much my daughter has lost out on," she said, referring to the COVID-19 shutdowns. "And there's a feeling again as a parent that I'm going to have to be limited about what I can offer."

It's true that pump prices in Nevada are among the highest, but we do decide how far to live from family. The Reno woman has a car, unlike the very poor, and looked solidly middle-class. She ought to know that cheap gas is not an entitlement. And living far from family is ultimately her decision.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many workers moved away from metro areas for bigger houses and more land. Their choice. If that meant they had to drive more, well, that belonged in their calculations. For many, the ability to work from home saved on commuting costs. But also for many, there was the strong possibility that they may have to return to an office. And it's never wise to assume that those travel expenses won't go up at times.

We should not underestimate the power of more fuel-efficient vehicles to relieve "pain at the pump." Mileage has been improving for decades, with electric vehicles an absolute game changer. Ford's current high-class problem is keeping up with calls for its electric vehicles, particularly the Mustang Mach-E EV and the electric version of its F-series trucks.

A sophisticated analysis of today's gas prices would note that the national average for a gallon of regular now stands at about $5.01. Adjusted for inflation, the price for that gallon in 2008 (then $4.11) would have been $5.37.

Demand for gasoline keeps rising. But so apparently is demand for space on the roads. Moan about high gas prices, if you must. The traffic doesn't seem to have noticed.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The Lone Star State Is Now The Pro-Death State

On May 24, Fox News blasted a headline, "New York City subway crime up 58 percent so far compared to 2021; Hunt for gunman in unprovoked shooting intensifies."

That day, a gunman shot 19 elementary school children and two adults to death in Uvalde, Texas. For the record, the number of homicides on New York City subways this year totals four.

Last year, Houston had at least 473 homicides. New York City, with four times the population, saw only 15 more.

If you want to limit the discussion to the dangers of commuting, consider the spike in road rage homicides in the Lone Star State. Last year, 33 people were shot and killed by angry, unhinged drivers — presumably strangers.

This week in Houston's Harris County, a Nissan SUV reportedly cut off a Chevy Malibu. The driver of the Malibu followed the Nissan, fired several shots, came around again and fired more, killing a passenger.

Just another day on the roads of Texas.

Crime is rising everywhere. Gang violence and demographics certainly influence the statistics. There are mentally ill people across the country, and some can get their hands on weapons of war regardless of local gun control laws.

But there's a sick, cultural thing going on in places like Texas that equate ownership of assault-type weapons with manliness. In truth, give a killing machine to a 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair, and she could mow down a line of weightlifters.

The deadliest school shooting in U.S. history took place 10 years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But the state of Connecticut responded with a raft of new gun control laws. And the state's representatives in Washington have since pushed, in some cases hollered, for more stringent limitations.

"It's f-ing awful," Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat, said on the day of the Uvalde outrage. "And it's just our choice whether we want this to continue."

That's apparently the choice in Texas, where mass shootings in schools, churches and shopping centers fly past the elected leaders' consciences like clouds across the West Texas skies.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the Uvalde massacre with the words "Horrifically, incomprehensibly." Yes, "horrific," the Houston Post countered, "but the second word Abbott used — 'incomprehensibly' — is just as much cowardice as it is a bald-faced lie."

The governor, with the connivance of the legislature, the editorial said, passed gun "laws so permissive that they've even defied the objections of police chiefs and gun safety instructors." It went on to note that Abbott bragged on Twitter about the 2021 permitless carry bill that lets any eligible Texan carry a gun in public with no license or training — "as though that were progress."

Never mind that polls show 80 percent of Texans wanting universal background checks, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally deranged. But the legislature won't go there. Nothing — not the previous and recent mass shootings in El Paso, Odessa, and Midland — would move them.

The latest paroxysm of gun violence in Texas comes right in time for the planned annual convention in Houston of the National Rifle Association. Abbott will be there, undoubtedly singing their praises, as will the two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. And the NRA will likely praise them back.

"Heidi and I," Cruz just tweeted, "are fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde."

You can bet that these politicians will continue going on and on about protecting "unborn babies" while giving free rein to those who kill born babies. Texans have much to be proud of, but their growing reputation as the pro-death state is tragic.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Democrats May Still Weather A Stormy Midterm

Political seers confidently insist that Democrats are going to lose big in the upcoming midterms. On one hand, they may be right. On the other, they don't really know.

On the third hand, Democrats do have reasons to hope the predictions of doom are overwrought. Here are three:

One: The real Republican threat against the right to end an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion has been a good issue for Republicans. By speaking out against it, they could fire up its fierce opponents to come out and vote.

But thanks to the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade, the much larger pro-choice majorities felt little urgency. They knew they had access to legal abortion, no matter what a candidate was saying. This freed pro-choice independents and Republicans (of whom there are many) to support Republican candidates over other issues.

Now that the Supreme Court seems highly likely to throw out Roe, a sleeping pro-choice public has been aroused. Republicans now find themselves in the predicament of the dog who caught the bus.

Two: Democratic pressure on President Joe Biden to leave Title 42 in place. This pandemic-era policy discouraged unauthorized migrants to seek entry at the southern border. Polls show widespread bipartisan concern about lax controls at the border. Half-hearted efforts to ease the pressure, moderate Democrats keep telling the president, will draw even larger crowds and more chaos.

The administration says it has a plan in place to maintain order, and maybe it does. But Biden has done a poor job convincing the public that his heart is in it. At the very least, he could wait until after the election.

The positive news is that party moderates may force a postponement. And as possible evidence, the administration has actually stepped up expulsions under Title 42.

Ending Title 42 right now would be a case of Democrats shooting themselves in the foot. The possibility that they might not offers reason for hope.

Three: There are nearly six months between now and the election. Much could happen. Consider:

Last December, the political obsession was Eric Zemmour, a far-right politician in France. An extremist and a rising star, the Trump-like Zemmour attracted large crowds, feeding speculation that he might very well become the French president. As it turned out, Zemmour didn't even make it to last month's runoff. The centrist Emmanuel Macron won reelection, defeating another right-winger, Marine Le Pen.

Six months ago, the omicron variant of COVID-19 was taking off in this country, raising fears of a 2020-level pandemic. Highly infectious — it had nearly 50 mutations! — omicron drummed up new dread that current vaccines could be nearly powerless against it. Health officials worried that already swamped hospitals might collapse under a tsunami of new cases.

Didn't happen. The variant turned out to be less deadly, and the vaccines seemed to work at preventing serious illness. Now the public shrugs at omicron, even as caseloads fluctuate and some subvariants have come on the scene.

Half a year from now, events favorable to the Democrats' prospects could overtake some of the bad news. Gasoline prices could be coming down for the usual supply-and-demand reasons. Biden might adopt a vigorous approach to border security, as Barack Obama had.

An even better bet is that the Republican right will be pushing for extreme curbs on reproductive rights. Some are already hard at work on a ban of abortion pills, reduced access to birth control and punishments for women who travel to states where such services are legal.

And so, while we can't ignore the political storm system Democrats now face, weather does change. The clouds move on, and six months is a long time.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The Threat To Abortion Rights Began In 2016

The demolition of Roe v. Wade began long before now. It started in 2016, when Sen. Bernie Sanders and his left-wing followers destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Had Clinton won the presidency, Donald Trump would not have been able to add three justices to the Supreme Court who have made ending a right to abortion highly likely.

That year, the senator from Vermont ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, as was his option. But he ran a scorched-earth campaign, tarring Clinton as "corrupt." And long after it became clear that he was not going to win the nomination, Sanders continued to sabotage her candidacy.

By April 2016, Trump had become the presumptive Republican nominee. He said that women should be punished for having an abortion.

That same month, Sanders said that Clinton was not qualified to be president. That same month, Clinton trounced him in a string of liberal Northeast states, but Sanders continued to carpet-bomb her reputation.

This was a time when a significant segment of the Democratic left declared open season on women's dignity. After Clinton won the Nevada caucuses, as even Sanders conceded, the Bernie "bros" threw a misogynistic tantrum. Threatening violence at the Nevada Democratic state convention, they shouted the C-word at the female officials trying to certify the results.

Sanders should have come down hard on this shocking display by his supporters, but he held back. He finally issued a statement disapproving of their conduct — in the third paragraph. He then proceeded to blame both sides.

As it became clear Clinton was taking the lead, Sanders appealed to the party's superdelegates and claimed a victory for Clinton would result in a contested convention.

Most of his voters did eventually move to Clinton, but Sanders had groomed a cult open to swallowing conspiracy theories. Trump and his Russian trolls took them and ran.

"To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates," Trump said, "we welcome you with open arms."

At the Republican National Convention, Putin pal Michael Flynn led the outrageous anti-Clinton chant, "Lock her up." Then, at the Democratic National Convention, some Sanders delegates parroted him by also shouting, "Lock her up."

Toward the very end of the campaign, Sanders announced his support for Clinton. Admittedly, she was not the cleverest candidate, but even then, Clinton beat Trump by Three million popular votes. Narrow victories in three pivotal states gave Trump a fluke Electoral College win.

Having slashed the tires on her campaign, Sanders later expressed bewilderment that Clinton failed to put Trump away.

Abortion rights are not some culture war bauble. Losing them threatens the ability of women and their mates to control their lives. (That said, Democrats would help themselves if they were more open to the nuances of the debate while ensuring that early abortions are easy to obtain.)

The white, educated liberals who dominate the left wing tend to live in states that would keep abortion legal even if Roe were struck down. And if they live elsewhere, they'd have the means to jet off to a state that provides the service — or to Mexico.

The politics of this do not favor Republicans. Some right to end an unwanted pregnancy has been taken for granted by many voters otherwise open to voting for Republicans. That right will be lost if the Supreme Court throws out Roe.

Clearly, the creation of a Supreme Court poised to do just that dates its origins to 2016, when Trump won the presidency. That's when Bernie Sanders played the Democratic spoiler who handed power to the right wing.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Ukraine Is Our War -- And Joe Biden Is Our Wartime President

We and our allies are in a war to save civilization. Fortunately for us, Ukrainians are doing the fighting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's barbaric assault on Ukraine has awakened Europe to the reality that he is truly evil and could continue his march westward. It is no coincidence that Sweden and Finland — once fiercely neutral countries — now show serious interest in joining NATO. Ukraine is not in NATO, which is why members of the military alliance have held back in sending in their forces.

It is also the West's good fortune that Joe Biden is president and not Donald Trump. Overseeing a flood of arms to Ukraine as it fights alone, Biden is playing Franklin Roosevelt to Ukraine's Winston Churchill, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And he's doing it carefully, working with allies to squeeze Russia financially and giving Ukraine the means to defend itself, all the while carefully trying to avoid a wider conflict.

This is a full-time job whose consequences are not politically helpful. Confronting Putin has raised the cost of gasoline. It's making food more expensive. The resulting inflation has hiked the cost of borrowing to buy a home.

This, plus the carnage in Ukraine, is making Americans feel bad. The tendency in such circumstances is to blame the president, even when the president is doing the best job possible managing crises that aren't his fault. (The one exception for Biden would be his fuzzy messages about easing immigration restrictions at a time of a surge at the border.)

Those worried about climate change must hold their tongues as Biden releases 1 million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Same goes for his plan to open some public lands to new drilling.

It's hard to calculate the threat to national security had Trump won reelection — or succeeded in pulling off a coup after he lost. Trump was God's gift to Putin and his maniacal plans. Russians have owned him for decades.

In 1987, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads urging Americans to stop paying to defend others, the big subtext being to leave NATO. (George W. Bush and Barack Obama also called for other countries to raise defense spending but didn't dream of using that as an excuse to compromise U.S. security.)

These were Russian talking points parroted by a real estate investor whom the Russians were bailing out of bankruptcies. Trump in return laundered Russian oligarch/mob money through sales of U.S. property in all-cash, anonymous transactions. One example is the deluxe Trump Towers in Miami's Sunny Isles Beach, now known as "Little Russia."

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election to help elect comrade Trump. He came through for the Russians three years later when he blocked nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Trump claims that Putin would never have invaded Ukraine had he still been president. This is the opposite of true. Trump's advisers reportedly warned him that blowing up NATO would be unpopular and could cost him reelection.

"Yeah, the second term," Trump is said to have responded. "We'll do it in the second term."

Had Trump succeeded, Putin would now have free rein to rampage through Eastern Europe and who knows where else.

After calling Putin "a genius" for invading Ukraine, Trump added, "I know him very well. Very, very well."

Apparently not nearly as well as Putin knows Trump.

As a wartime president, Biden has one mission: to stop the aggressor. He doesn't have the luxury to obsess over rough poll numbers related to inflation. And the culture wars can wait. Right now, the only war that matters is the one directed at defeating Putin.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: jorono at Pixabay


How Putin's War Is Emptying The World's Bread Baskets

What will happen to the "bread basket of Europe" once the shooting in Ukraine stops? Russia is the largest and Ukraine is the fifth largest exporter of wheat. Together they account for 29 percent of the world's annual wheat sales. The war has disrupted not only the harvests in Ukraine but also the ability of Russia to ship its wheat to other countries.

This will cause food crises through much of the world. Two of the most volatile regions, the Middle East and North Africa, are the most dependent on these two sources. But food prices everywhere will be under pressure.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, wheat prices were already 49 percent above their 2017-2021 average, The Economist reports. They've gone up another 30 percent since the war began.

The war will cut supply in several ways. Obviously, it will reduce harvests in Ukraine. But even if Russian wheat fields continue producing, the conflict will make it harder to export its grain, as noted above.

Importantly, it will affect harvests elsewhere because Ukraine and Russia are also major suppliers of farm fertilizers. Ukraine's supply is being pounded by war, while Russia's is getting frozen by economic sanctions.

But what about U.S. farmers? The United States is the world's second-largest wheat exporter. Couldn't American agriculture replace a shortfall in supply, especially if higher prices for their crops spur our farmers to grow more? It's apparently not that simple.

American farmers would certainly value higher prices for wheat. The problem lies in the higher cost of producing it. Already paying record prices for fertilizers, farms must also deal with the rising cost of the diesel fuel that runs their tractors and other machines.

High fertilizer prices are already affecting what farmers choose to grow. Americans, for example, usually plant more corn than soybeans. This year, however, the balance has changed to favor soybeans. The reason: Soybeans generally need a quarter of the fertilizer that corn does. As for wheat, it falls somewhere in the middle in fertilizer use.

Aggravating matters, wind and dry conditions have left America's winter wheat crop in its worst shape on record, according to the Department of Agriculture. This follows a poor harvest in 2021 that forced American wheat stocks down to their lowest level in 14 years. In any case, almost all the winter wheat was already planted when the war began. And severe drought is being forecast for the Western Plains, America's bread basket.

Even if the violence against Ukraine stops through a ceasefire or, better, a resolution, that country will have a hard time restoring its agricultural might. First off, its farm infrastructure is being destroyed. Tractors and other farm machinery have been used to stop Russian tanks. And the Russians have been bombing agricultural buildings full of tools and other farm equipment.

There are also questions of how much ordnance is now buried in Ukrainian fields. That would put farm workers in danger of setting off explosives, much as happened in Europe after World War II. Ukrainians are already fearful of Russians having booby trapped dead bodies on the streets with bombs. They could do it on purpose in the fields.

But should Ukraine get back on its feet, will everyone then revert to the earlier world food order? That seems unlikely. This bizarre invasion has toppled many assumptions about where everyone's food comes from. And if this horrible war goes on for years, the international system for feeding the planet will certainly have to make permanent adjustments.

America, the land of plenty, will not starve. Our expectations that food will be cheap as well as plenty may not hold, but we have much to be thankful for.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.