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

The Coming Fight Over Out-Of-State Abortions

Now may be a good time to max out your investments in airlines, car rental agencies, and intercity bus companies. Travel has picked up as the pandemic has ebbed, but the Supreme Court could give it an extra boost by revoking the constitutional right to abortion.

If that happens, a lot of American women are going to find that "shop local" is a useless slogan when it comes to this type of commerce. The pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights has predicted that with Roe gone, "abortion would remain legal in twenty-one states and likely would be prohibited in twenty-four states."

Vast swathes of the continent would become abortion-free zones — free of legal abortions, anyway. But Americans have been traveling to get what they want since the Pilgrims arrived, and women with unwanted pregnancies are no exception.

In the days before Roe, when the procedure was illegal in most of America, places like New York and Washington state had lots of visitors who didn't come for recreation. Some 40 percent of all abortions were performed on patients outside their home state.

Already, liberal states are a destination for desperate abortion-seekers. Illinois, surrounded by states that have greatly restricted access, saw nearly 10,000 women come from out of state to get abortions in 2020, the Chicago Tribune reports. Planned Parenthood says that number may quadruple if Roe falls. We are on the verge of a wave of abortion refugees.

But anti-abortion advocates are not likely to accept this outcome as inevitable. A bill was introduced recently in the Missouri legislature to bar its residents from getting abortions out of state.

Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman told Politico: "If you believe as I do that every person deserves dignity and respect and protection whether they're born or unborn, then of course you want to protect your citizens, no matter where they are." Though her measure didn't pass, it will undoubtedly inspire other states to enact their own bans.

That would be a radical step, but "radical" is a term of endearment in the anti-abortion movement. It would be a terrible idea, though, and one at odds with our entire system of federalism.

One of our fundamental freedoms, long recognized by the Supreme Court, is the right to travel within the United States and be treated as an equal citizen from sea to shining sea. A state government can no more burden the freedom of its residents who venture out of state than it can burden the freedom of migrants from out of state.

In 1969, the court struck down a California law imposing a residency requirement for public assistance. It said the rule violated the right to travel and amounted to "an unconstitutional discrimination which violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

For a state to assert its power over citizens beyond its borders would be an act of extreme presumption. Decades ago, when Nevada was the only state with legal casinos, everyone could go there and gamble without fear of bluenoses back home.

The same limits apply today. Utah can ban recreational cannabis, but its residents may drive to Colorado to get high. California may forbid the open carry of guns, but it can't stop Angelenos visiting Arizona from packing in public view.

As University of Pennsylvania law professor Seth Kreimer has written, one basic principle of American federalism is "that each citizen may take advantage of the liberties offered by any state." This arrangement also contributes to our national civic peace by accommodating a diversity of policies.

Anti-abortion advocates may argue that their cause is different because it involves life and death. Not so. A New Yorker who kills a fellow New Yorker in Atlanta and is acquitted under Georgia's "stand your ground" law cannot be convicted under New York's less lenient statutes.

Conservatives, who champion state sovereignty, should recognize that only one state can be sovereign within its borders. Otherwise, every state could extend its policies into the other 49 states.

The right should also beware of handing a new weapon to progressives. If a state can punish conduct that takes place in another state, Connecticut, which bans "assault weapons," could imprison a resident who uses one for target shooting in Maine. The possibilities for liberal mischief are endless.

If and when the enemies of Roe win their greatest victory, they will be tempted to seize every possible method of exploiting this success. But even the long reach of the law needs limits.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The End Of Roe Is Just The Beginning

Roe v. Wade may not be dead, but it appears to be terminally ill, with a life expectancy of less than two months. So supporters of abortion rights, including me, are confronted with the grim prospect of returning to the bad old days when abortion was illegal in most of America and many women were forced to travel out of state to end their pregnancies. But we shouldn't be so optimistic.

Abortion rights opponents have long averred that they only want the issue returned to the states. By establishing a constitutional right to abortion, they complained, the Supreme Court imposed a uniform policy at odds with our system of federalism. What suits New Yorkers may not suit Nebraskans. Overturning Roe would allow people in each state to have their way.

Justice Samuel Alito's draft opinion overturning the 1973 decision followed this reasoning. The case at hand concerns Mississippi's ban on any abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state, he noted, asked the court to overturn Roe "and once again allow each State to regulate abortion as its citizens wish."

Alito — along with four other justices, it appears — is eager to grant that request. "Our Nation's historical understanding of ordered liberty does not prevent the people's elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated," he wrote.

It's always been taken for granted that if Roe were struck down, abortion would remain available in many states — and women elsewhere would be able to travel to get legal abortions. But neither may be true for long. Having won at the Supreme Court, and in many states, abortion rights opponents are bound to press for even broader bans than those that existed before 1973.

The first option surfaced recently in Missouri, which has passed a "trigger" law to ban abortion after eight weeks of gestation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It would take effect when Roe is jettisoned. Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, however, is not content to ban the vast majority of abortions in Missouri.

At the moment, women in her state can drive across the Mississippi River to Illinois, where abortion is strictly protected, to end their pregnancies. Coleman, however, proposed to authorize lawsuits against anyone helping a woman get an abortion — even in another state. The Illinois exit would be closed and locked.

Her measure failed, but it is safe to wager that some other states will take the idea and make it law. Women in those states would find themselves in a pregnancy prison: barred from getting an abortion at home and barred from getting one somewhere else.

That outcome, however, is not the direst scenario. Republicans have long opposed giving women the right to decide whether to carry their pregnancies to term, and they are not likely to be content with banning abortion in some states. The Supreme Court's reversal would mean abortion could also be banned in every state, through a federal law.

That once seemed impossible. Not today. Republicans are poised to win both houses of Congress in November. If they control Congress and elect a Republican president in 2024, they will have the power to eradicate legal abortion in every corner of America.

Would they do so? Maybe not. The availability of legal abortion in blue states softens the harsh impact of bans in red states. It assures women with financial resources that, should they ever want an abortion, they would be able to get it. A federal ban would provoke wider opposition by depriving every woman of any choice.

But whether that possibility would deter a Republican Congress and president is far from certain. Most Americans don't want to outlaw abortion, but the people who do are far more engaged and far better organized than the ones who don't. Unless more pro-choice voters make the issue their highest priority — as their adversaries have done — they will keep losing ground.

There is plenty of ground to be lost. The logic of the anti-abortion cause is that anything that saves fetuses is not only commendable but imperative. Any Republican state legislator who is not willing to ban out-of-state abortions, and any Republican member of Congress who is not willing to outlaw abortion everywhere, will face a simple, stark question: Why not?

For the anti-abortion movement, the demise of Roe is not an end but a beginning. Abortion rights supporters who see the looming demise of Roe as the ultimate nightmare will soon realize that the worst is yet to come.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Authoritarian DeSantis Tramples On Disney’s Free Speech

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, conservatives were ready to hold a ticker-tape parade. "Free speech is making a comeback," proclaimed Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. Fox News host Tucker Carlson exulted in this victory over liberals who are "trying to control what we say and think." Gloated Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, "The Left is terrified of free speech."

But the right's unquenchable ardor for unbridled expression depends on who is speaking and who is trying to stop them. When Twitter de-platformed Donald Trump after the Capitol riot, that was censorship. When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis punishes Disney for daring to oppose his "Parental Rights in Education" law, though, that's what Disney should expect for opening its big mouth.

The law he signed stripped the company of the special self-governing status it has had for 55 years, which enables Disney to handle many functions and obligations normally assigned to municipal governments. A conservative could see that privilege as a commendable way of preventing local bureaucrats from over-regulating an innovative corporation. But Florida Republicans were willing to do that only so long as Disney didn't step out of line.

On the day DeSantis signed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, Disney said the law "should never have been passed" and that it should "be repealed." The governor took great offense at the spectacle of a company that has long enriched the state presuming to question his wisdom.

Not that he minds big corporations involving themselves in political matters. He did not object when Disney contributed more than $100,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political action committee. But if the company is going to make its views known, they had better align with his.

In their applause for DeSantis, conservatives have been unwilling to consider whether the anti-Disney measure contradicts the basic principles of free expression — and whether it violates the First Amendment. If they did, they would realize the new law is guilty on both counts.

The government does many things for its citizens that it is not required to do and is free to stop doing. Congress could abolish Pell Grants, which pay for college expenses. States can set conditions for eligibility for certain programs, such as requiring anyone getting unemployment compensation to look for work.

But once the government has extended certain benefits, it may not withdraw them from a beneficiary for exercising a constitutional right. The federal government may not revoke a student's Pell Grant, or a worker's unemployment benefits, for making a speech in favor of, or in opposition to, abortion rights or gun control or Joe Biden's immigration policy — any more than it may put them in jail.

The Supreme Court made this clear in a 1958 decision, among others. Back then, California granted property tax exemptions to military veterans, but only if they signed an oath that they did not advocate the use of force to overthrow the state or federal government. The court ruled the loyalty oath unconstitutional.

In language that could have been written with the Disney episode in mind, the court said: "To deny an exemption to claimants who engage in certain forms of speech is, in effect, to penalize them for such speech. Its deterrent effect is the same as if the State were to fine them for this speech."

DeSantis and his accomplices made little effort to conceal their illegitimate motives. "You're a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you're going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?" he said. "We view that as a provocation, and we're going to fight back against that."

Said GOP Rep. Randy Fine: "It's time for them to remember that we are not California. And they are a California company. And we're not interested in their California values here in this state."

But the First Amendment says Californians can preach their values in all 50 states. Same goes for Floridians who venture beyond their own borders.

You can't pretend to be a champion of free speech while deploying the power of government to exact vengeance against people who disagree with you. Florida never had to grant a special taxing district to Disney. But having chosen to do so, it may not revoke it in political retribution.

DeSantis and Co., who regard the guardians of Mickey Mouse as woke, immoral and hostile to Florida values, are entitled to trumpet their views till their tonsils fall out. But here's the thing about freedom of speech: Disney gets to do the same.

Printed with permission from Creators.

Biden Needs To Revive The Iran Nuclear Deal

Donald Trump was a fierce critic of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated under Barack Obama. Because of it, he said in 2018, "In just a short period of time, the world's leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world's most dangerous weapons."

He pulled the plug, and what a difference it made. On Thursday, a group of 40 nuclear arms experts issued a statement estimating that today, Tehran would need only a week or two to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb. Under the agreement, it would have taken a year.

That's because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action required the Tehran regime to scrap 13,000 centrifuges, strictly limit enrichment, ship out 97% of its spent nuclear fuel and more. It stipulated that "under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons."

Obama's critics had predicted Iran would not fulfill its obligations — but the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly certified that Iran had done what the deal required. Even as he was renouncing the agreement, Trump was unable to identify any violations. His own administration had certified Iran's compliance.

After the U.S. reneged on its commitment, though, Iran proceeded to do likewise. Since Trump's withdrawal, it has boosted its uranium enrichment, denied international inspectors access to surveillance videos and installed advanced centrifuges, all in violation of the accord.

This was not what Trump promised. He assured Americans that "we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat" and that Iran would soon capitulate under the pain of new sanctions. It should surprise no one to find that he was talking nonsense.

Those allies strenuously objected to his withdrawal. In a joint statement, the governments of Germany, France and Britain, all parties to the deal, expressed "regret and concern" and declared, "We emphasize our continuing commitment to the JCPOA." Nor did the sanctions force Iran to come crawling back, begging for mercy.

Opponents of the deal said that because various provisions only lasted for 10 or 15 years, Iran would eventually be able to acquire the bomb. But Trump only speeded up the process. His policy was the equivalent of a cancer patient rejecting a proven treatment because the cancer might someday recur.

Another criticism of the accord was that it didn't keep Iran from supporting terrorist groups or testing new missiles. But that's like our cancer patient spurning cancer treatment because it wouldn't cure his arthritis or his migraines. Solving one problem is not as good as solving multiple problems, but it beats solving none.

Trump didn't just adopt a policy that was bound to fail. He also hindered any correction by his successor. In the first place, Trump's decision served to discourage Iran from ever forging any deal with Washington. Why agree to terms with one president if the next one might very well tear them up?

Trump also devised another way to prevent a revival of the accord. A year after he withdrew, his administration elected to list Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a part of the Iranian military, as a foreign terrorist organization — which triggers particular sanctions, and which was previously reserved for nongovernmental groups.

That's now the chief obstacle to a new agreement, because Tehran insists that the designation be revoked. Otherwise, Iran will be under more sanctions than it was after Trump withdrew. The Biden administration is so far unwilling to revoke the designation. Apparently, it doesn't want to give Republicans a chance to claim it's soft on terrorism.

But George W. Bush, who was never accused of being soft on terrorism, didn't register the IRGC as a terrorist group, because there was no compelling reason to do so.

As Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told me: "Even if the IRGC is taken off the FTO list, it will remain a specially designated terror organization. It will still be considered a U.S.-designated terror organization."

Biden shouldn't let that dispute get in the way of reviving an agreement that blocked a longtime enemy from becoming a nuclear power. He may not want to be pilloried for agreeing to something that can be cynically misrepresented by his foes. But it beats being pilloried for letting Iran get the bomb.

Printed with permission from Creators.

Supply Shocks Are Fueling Today's Wave Of Inflation

Inflation was in witness protection for many years, but it has finally come out of hiding, accompanied by a brass band. Prices have risen by 8.5 percent in the past 12 months, the biggest jump since 1981. The price increases that many (including me) thought would be a passing headache show no sign of abating.

Two people have gotten the bulk of the blame: Joe Biden and Jerome Powell. Biden's contribution came in the form of a big pandemic relief spending bill that spread $1.9 trillion around. Powell's sin was keeping interest rates low and the money supply growing, to encourage us all to get out, or stay in and spend.

Those policies, however, have been reversed. The staggering increase in federal spending that fueled the economy in 2020 and 2021 has ended — which means that this year, fiscal policy will actually be a brake on inflation. The Fed has begun a series of increases in interest rates, while selling bonds to sop up excess cash.

But those changes don't mean inflation is on the way out. On the contrary, it is likely to persist, even in the face of sober fiscal and monetary policy. The chief cause of rising prices is one that is beyond the control of the president or the Fed.

Fed critics often quote economist Milton Friedman, who wrote, "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon." But they rarely quote what he added — that it "can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output." Inflation, he argued, results from too much money chasing too few goods.

He was right. But what is going on right now is not just too much money; it's also too few goods. The money supply has grown faster than output partly because output has lagged. Supplies of goods and services have been curbed by the pandemic and the disruptions it has caused. Even if the money supply were fixed, supply shocks could cause prices to rise across the board.

Imagine a very simple economy in which there is $100 to spend and only one way to spend it — on the 20 hamburgers the economy can produce. Those burgers would cost $5 apiece. Now imagine that restaurants can manage to turn out only 10 hamburgers. They would each cost $10. Too much money? No — too few goods.

Something similar has been going on with the U.S. and the global economy. Supplies have declined or stalled even as demand has grown. In 2019, automakers worldwide produced 92 million vehicles. Last year, they made only 80 million.

One Pittsburgh auto dealership owner told The New York Times, "If I could get 100 Toyotas today, I would sell 100 Toyotas today." But she had only three. With cars and trucks scarce, prices were bound to climb.

Likewise with oil. The war in Ukraine has scrambled the market, pushing prices up. The International Energy Agency said the world could lose 3% of total output — "the biggest supply crisis in decades." The war has also curtailed the availability of food, because Russia and Ukraine have long been major producers of wheat, corn and cooking oil.

In the U.S., housing construction was lagging behind population growth even before COVID-19 came along. The pandemic, however, made it harder to get lumber, appliances, windows and doors — without which buildings can't be built. The number of homes for sale has hit a record low.

Something else is needed to produce houses or just about anything else: human beings. But COVID-19 pushed a lot of Americans out of their old jobs, and labor-force participation remains well below what it was before.

On top of that, an important source of labor, immigration, has dried up. Alex Nowrasteh and Michael Howard, analysts at the libertarian Cato Institute, calculate that if our foreign-born population had continued growing at its pre-2016 pace over the past five years, we'd have 4.8 million more workers than we have today.

A price jump in one sector is common even in noninflationary times, because of shifts in supply and demand. But when supplies can't keep up with demand in many sectors, you get broad inflation. That's our current predicament, and it has no simple or quick solutions.

A previous generation figured out how to conquer inflation in the 1980s: by squeezing the money supply till it screamed. But yesterday's solution won't suffice today.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators

Biden Wisely Favors Fossil Fuels For Today, But Not Tomorrow

Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has thrown world energy markets into turmoil. Prices are high; Europe is still dependent on natural gas from Russia; and Joe Biden is urging other countries to boost petroleum output. For his efforts, the president is under attack from both Republicans and Democrats, who are each erring in their own peculiar way.

Biden has banned imports of Russian oil and gas because such purchases would help fund Putin's war. But he is not content to see world oil supplies shrink. On Thursday, he said he would release one million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months.

The administration has also lobbied the unsavory governments of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to boost output. The same president who wants to phase out the burning of fossil fuels now wants to ensure that plenty of fossil fuels are available for burning.

His GOP critics accuse him of hypocrisy. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), said, "Biden must end his war on American energy production so the United States and our allies can have access to affordable, secure energy." Republicans still live by Sarah Palin's credo: Drill, baby, drill.

But progressives are equally unhappy, urging Biden to take steps to "end the fossil fuel era and petrochemical tyranny" by ramping up renewable energy production. "Putting more oil on the market is not the solution to our problem but the perpetuation of our problem," said Mark Brownstein, vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Both sides make the same mistake, which is failing to understand the difference between short-term necessities and long-term imperatives. In an emergency, your focus is on the immediate need, not the long-term one. But it's important that while attending to the present, you don't forfeit the future.

Biden is capable of meeting both obligations. He understands that letting prices soar is a bad thing for the anti-Putin effort (and the world economy). At the moment, his priority is depriving Russia of the means to fund its aggression.

Biden's Strategic Petroleum Reserve announcement helped, pushing prices down below $100 per barrel. Getting other oil exporters to increase production would further depress prices and make it harder for Putin to sell his most important commodity.

If resisting aggression against Ukraine means making nice with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, so what? Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt teamed up with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany, and it's a good thing they did. "If Hitler invaded hell," Churchill said, "I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

Conservatives think Russia's power over global fuel supplies proves the need to produce more oil here at home. They say that by canceling the Keystone pipeline and putting a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands, Biden has inflated gasoline prices and doomed Americans to be fleeced by Putin.

But those policies have little if anything to do with the current price of gasoline. Killing Keystone didn't reduce oil supplies, because it hadn't been built. New federal oil and gas leases would take years to generate production. Biden's policies may mean higher fossil fuel prices down the road, but not now, and not soon.

The current supply crunch, we are told, proves the need to increase exploration and drilling. But the supply of oil on the world market — and the price here at home — will always be at the mercy of unpredictable events in foreign lands. Under the oil-friendly presidency of George W. Bush, the price more than quadrupled, topping out at $128 per barrel — the equivalent of over $168 in today's money.

Sunshine and wind keep coming regardless of wars and revolutions on distant shores. Supplies of renewable energy are far more reliable than those of fossil fuels. Real "energy independence" is not producing more oil and gas at home; it's freeing ourselves from the need for either. Putin has far more to fear from solar panels and wind turbines than from the Permian Basin, and so do Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

More important, though, is that clean energy addresses the emergency of climate change — which is less immediate than Putin's invasion but ultimately even more dangerous. Doubling down on fossil fuels is the wrong strategy for a warming world.

The war in Ukraine is a matter of urgent consequence, but it won't last forever. The best energy policy is one that meets the needs of today without torching tomorrow.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

We Should Welcome Refugees From Ukraine (Russia And China Too)

Of all the weapons and tactics available in geopolitical conflicts, my favorite is taking in refugees. It spills no blood, wrecks no cities, causes no misery, and invites no escalation. It exacts a toll on the enemy while making us better off. It allows no doubt as to who are the good guys and who are the bad.

Joe Biden had the foresight and courage to embrace this option, announcing Thursday that the United States will not only provide $1 billion to European countries that have been flooded with refugees but also accept 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

If that sounds like a lot, it isn't. In the 1990s, U.S. refugee admissions often exceeded that number, and in 2016, we took 85,000. By that standard, we have a lot of catching up to do, having taken only 76,000 in the four years from 2018 through 2021.

Some 3.6 million people have left Ukraine, and as many as seven million have been displaced internally. Two million have escaped to Poland — enough to swell its population by five percent. But governments that object to Vladimir Putin's aggression and want to help its victims can't expect Ukraine's closest neighbors to shoulder the whole task.

In the short run, a huge influx puts a serious strain on health care, housing, education, and other services in the receiving nation. The best remedy is to spread the refugees among many countries.

Germany has admitted 175,000 so far, and 150,000 have gotten into Austria. The European Union acted quickly to grant Ukrainians the right to live and work in Europe for up to three years. Even the Hungarian government, which was known for its aversion to refugees, plans to take tens of thousands. Biden's plan should represent a down payment on our rightful share.

Cynics may figure the administration is inclined to help only because the unfortunates are white, European and mostly Christian. In fact, our past refugee admissions have come mostly from Africa and Asia, including the Middle East. Since the fall of Kabul, the U.S. has taken in 74,000 Afghans.

Besides, there are powerful reasons beyond humanitarian concerns to accept displaced Ukrainians. Welcoming refugees is a potent weapon against our adversaries, as we recognized during the Cold War.

The U.S. opened its doors to people fleeing communism in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Cuba, on the perception that we could only benefit from new arrivals who yearned for freedom. It was a point of great significance in the free world that the East German government erected the Berlin Wall not to keep intruders out but to keep its own people in.

If communism was a superior system, Americans asked, why weren't Westerners eager to live on the other side of the Iron Curtain? In the early 1960s, Cubans who couldn't leave went so far as to send their children to this country to spare them a life under Fidel Castro's dictatorship. South Vietnamese took to the sea in flimsy boats after the communist victory in 1975.

We didn't merely feel an obligation to these exiles; we felt a deep kinship. In the great struggle between democracy and totalitarianism, they had to make a life-altering choice, and they chose us. The same can be said of Ukrainians who are desperate to escape death or subjugation at the hands of Putin.

There's no reason to limit our hospitality to Ukrainians. We should also offer safe haven to Russians who fear and detest Putin, just as we welcomed defectors from the Soviet Union. Cato Institute scholar Ilya Somin (a Russian Jewish immigrant) argues that fostering a brain drain would undermine Russia's war machine while enhancing America's scientific progress and economic growth.

This strategy would also work against Xi Jinping's suffocating rule. Somin's Cato Institute colleague Alex Nowrasteh notes that "90 percent of Chinese STEM doctorate recipients were still in the United States a decade after completing their studies. All the U.S. government has to do to wipe out the Chinese government's talent recruitment efforts and raise that percentage even more is allow them to come to study, work, and live here with a minimum of bureaucratic fuss and the removal of arbitrary visa restrictions."

Many able strivers in unfree countries would love the chance to find freedom and contribute their talents to America. Putin and Xi would hate to see them go, which is all the more reason for us to make it happen.

Reprinted with permission from

Why Backing Putin May Destroy Trump’s 2024 Candidacy

By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has united the world against him, torched his economy, exposed the incompetence of his military, and jeopardized his hold on power. He's also done serious harm to his faithful friend Donald Trump.

Of course, Trump has contributed to this damage, as he often does. After the invasion began, he praised Putin's "genius" and remarked, "He's taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I'd say that's pretty smart." Trump couldn't wait to remind Putin of his unconditional devotion.

That supine posture can't be appealing to anyone this side of Tucker Carlson. It looks especially foolish and craven next to the brave defiance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And it provides additional evidence for Republicans that nominating Trump in 2024 could be a fatal blunder.

In most ways, the next election looks promising for the GOP. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, only 42 percent of Americans approve of Joe Biden's performance, while 57 percent disapprove. Inflation is surging, and the Fed's efforts to contain it could trigger a recession. The poll found that 46 percent of Americans plan to vote for a Republican in this year's House elections, compared with 41 percent who prefer a Democrat.

Republicans are likely to have another advantage in 2024. Biden will be 81, which will not be a selling point. Should Biden decide not to run, he has no obvious heir — and the GOP nominee won't have the burden of unseating an incumbent president.

Nominating Trump would squander much of the party's advantage. He has already lost the popular vote twice. The record of losers who are renominated is dismal. Republican Thomas Dewey lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and to Harry Truman in 1948. Democrat Adlai Stevenson got trounced by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.

It was in reference to Dewey that Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, said, "Any woman knows you can't make a souffle rise twice."

Republican Richard Nixon managed to win after falling short on his first try, but he had to wait eight years. Only one losing incumbent has ever made it back to the White House — Grover Cleveland, in 1892.

Trump already appears to be losing influence in his party. A recent YouGov poll found that 85 percent of Republicans regard Russia as an enemy — up from 51 percent in 2017.

The National Journal's political columnist Josh Kraushaar reports that he "is staring at a real chance that his endorsed candidates go zero-for-three in competitive Senate primaries in May." In that case, Republicans who feared his wrath may feel emboldened.

On top of these drawbacks is the former president's record of deference to a tyrant who is angling to be indicted for war crimes. His latest praise of Putin is nothing if not predictable.

From the time he announced his candidacy in 2015, Trump couldn't have been more subservient if he had been courting Putin's daughter. He frequently said that he "would get along with Putin," whom he described as "brilliant" and "a strong leader."

In office, Trump was ever eager to please. He called to congratulate Putin on his 2018 election "victory" — disregarding briefing instructions that said, "DO NOT CONGRATULATE." He lobbied to restore Russia to the G-7, from which it was banished for its 2014 invasion of Crimea.

At a summit meeting in Helsinki, Trump was asked if he agreed with his own intelligence agencies that Putin had meddled in the 2016 election. "President Putin said it wasn't Russia," he replied, as Putin gazed on benignly. "I don't see any reason why it would be." He was mocked as "Putin's poodle," which was an injustice to poodles.

Republicans accuse Biden of inviting Russian aggression with his withdrawal from Afghanistan and other displays of "weakness." Nominating Trump would pretty well nullify that charge.

Biden gets low marks for his handling of the economy but high ones on Ukraine. By imposing stiff sanctions and sending arms to Ukraine but avoiding direct military involvement, he's managed to avoid either appeasement or war. Despite high gasoline prices, his ban on Russian oil imports wins support from 79 percent of voters.

Anyone running against Trump in 2024 will be able to run scathing TV spots showing him repeatedly praising Putin, interspersed with grim footage of Russian tanks and bleeding Ukrainians. The tagline: "A vote for Trump is a vote for Putin."

The GOP has plenty of possible nominees who are not Kremlin stooges. A smart party would choose one of them.

Reprinted with permission from

Don’t Punish Innocent Russians For Putin’s Crimes

The International Skating Union has announced that it won't let Russian athletes compete in this month's world championships, and you may think this is a fitting punishment for the sordid doping scandal involving 15-year-old Kamila Valieva at the Beijing Winter Games. But you would be wrong.

The Russians are not being barred for that transgression or for the long history of Russian doping in Olympic sports or because the ISU fears another positive test. These skaters are being barred because their government has mounted an invasion of Ukraine. They will pay the penalty for Vladimir Putin's crimes.

Ditto for the 71 Russians and 12 Belarusians who traveled to Beijing to compete in the Paralympics. The International Paralympic Committee banished them Thursday, allegedly because participants from other countries objected to their presence.

Not to be outdone, the International Cat Federation says it will not allow any feline owned by people living in Russia to take part in its international competitions. It will also exclude Russian cats from its pedigree books.

Wars have a way of obliterating crucial distinctions, such as the one separating the innocent from the guilty. Russian skaters and Paralympians didn't decide to make war against Ukraine, and neither did Russian cat fanciers. But at the moment, being Russian is enough to make you radioactive.

The anti-Russian movement has claimed other victims. The Bavarian State Opera canceled performances by singer Anna Netrebko for an alleged "lack of sufficient distancing" from the despot in the Kremlin. The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra fired conductor Valery Gergiev when he failed to denounce Putin.

Dan Milstein, a Kyiv-born agent who represents most of the Russians in the National Hockey League, said his clients have been the target of harassment and death threats. The United States Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey Leagues, which feature young players, may exclude Russians from next year's draft.

All this amounts to equating nationality with evil. But in this war, the villains are not the Russian people as a whole or Russian athletes and artists in particular. They have no control over the autocrat who rules their country.

The only people who deserved to be held responsible for the assault on Ukraine are those who are part of the regime or closely tied to Putin. Seizing the yacht of the head of a big state-controlled oil company, as France did, is fitting. But other Russians should be considered blameless unless proven otherwise.

Nor is there justice in punishing Russians who decline to take a firm stand against the war. We don't know what pressures they are under to keep quiet, but the Putin regime has a history of taking harsh measures against dissidents — including murder. Its assassins have even struck in foreign countries.

The grim truth is that Russians at home and abroad can't act or speak without weighing the serious risks to them and their families. Well before the invasion, a lot of dissidents and journalists had gone into exile abroad for fear of being locked up.

Nikita Zadorov of the NHL's Calgary Flames posted a "No war" message on Instagram, but Milstein thinks that sort of statement should not be demanded of his fellow Russians. "While some of my clients can speak freely in the safety of being in North America, their family could be scrutinized back home and anything could happen," he told ESPN.

Those Russians who are part of Putin's circle or have publicly championed his policies belong in a different category. Shunning them is a sensible act of moral hygiene.

Organizations and individuals have solid grounds to avoid Russia. The men's and women's professional tennis tours called off a tournament scheduled for Moscow. Some Western musical artists have scrubbed concerts.

Soccer organizations in Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic announced that their teams would not play World Cup matches in Moscow. Formula One said it will no longer hold races in Russia.

Proceeding with such events would imply, at best, indifference to Putin's aggression, while generating revenue that could bolster his economy and his regime. Pulling the plug lets Russians know in no uncertain terms that most of the world sides with Ukraine. Ordinary Russians will pay a price, but that's an unfortunate side effect, not a praiseworthy purpose.

In times of war, it's crucial to accurately identify the enemy. Being a brutal tyrant who commits international aggression is grounds for condemnation, punishment, and ostracism. Being Russian shouldn't be.

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Putin Turned His Ukraine Problem Into A Massive Disaster

Vladimir Putin had a problem with Ukraine. It was gradually moving into the Western orbit — expanding trade, building democratic institutions and aspiring to join the European Union and NATO. He saw this course as detrimental to Russian interests and Russian security, and he wasn't wrong.

But one of the pitfalls of leadership is trying to solve a problem that has no solution. Sometimes such difficulties need to be treated more like tornadoes in Oklahoma. You can't prevent them, so you need to find ways to minimize the damage they do.

Putin, however, was not about to settle for adapting to the inconveniences of reality. He strove mightily to pressure, isolate and dominate Ukraine — but the more he tried, the more it resisted. He finally played what he thought was his trump card: embarking on a military conquest that would cement his control over the country once and for all.

He's now found that the Ukraine problem resembles the Hydra in Greek mythology — a nine-headed creature that grows back two heads when one is cut off. Putin has turned an uncomfortable situation into a full-fledged disaster.

He shouldn't have been surprised. The history of our time is littered with cases of major powers embarking on needless wars that backfire.

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to rescue a communist regime from losing a civil war — and, after nine bloody years, had to admit defeat and leave. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon with the goal of replacing a hostile regime with a friendly one, but found itself bogged down in a conflict that ended dismally 18 years later.

In 2003, George W. Bush launched an invasion of Iraq, confident of an easy victory and a rapid exit. We spent eight years fighting a vicious insurgency, at a cost of more than 4,400 American lives and trillions of dollars.

Great powers often succumb to the temptation of overestimating their power. Putin, however, failed to learn from these experiences.

Maybe that was because he had succeeded in crushing his enemies when Russia went to war in Chechnya in 1999 and Georgia in 2008. He made the same mistake as George W. Bush, who assumed that because the U.S. had easily defeated Serbia in 1999 and toppled the Taliban in 2001, it could win any war.

Putin poses as a champion of Christian civilization. But he overlooked the Bible verse that warns, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

The Russian president clearly misjudged the strength of Ukraine's resistance. Chechnya and Georgia are small entities with just 5 million people between them. Ukraine is nearly as big as Texas, with a population of 44 million and a longstanding preference for being part of Europe, not a vassal of Russia.

Having seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 with minimal resistance and no real penalty from the West, Putin apparently figured he could get away with a more ambitious attack. But the scale of this outrage made it impossible for the world to do nothing. Images of Russian tanks rolling over the borders instantly turned Putin's government into an international pariah, even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's brave leadership turned him into an overnight hero.

Putin envisioned making Ukraine a sturdy buffer against NATO, which he sees, not without reason, as a military threat to Russia. But the invasion stands to make Russia less secure by miring its army in a nasty war against a popular insurgency. It has also galvanized NATO into greater unity and resolve against Russia than it has ever shown before.

Putin can probably impose his will on Ukraine if he is willing to unleash overwhelming force and slaughter large numbers of civilians. But what's the value of ruling over a wrecked nation whose people hate you? And how much opposition will the war create among Russians?

Putin plainly thought the fallout from his assault — at home, in Ukraine and in the rest of the world — would be minimal and short-lived. It has been heavy, and it's likely to last a long time. His military, his economy and his people are already significantly worse off than before, and their troubles have only begun.

The invasion came as a surprise because it was so obviously not in Putin's interest to follow through on his threats against Ukraine. He may come to realize his error, if he hasn't already. But as the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, "Hell is truth seen too late."

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Texas Governor Bullies Parents Of Transgender Kids

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is a staunch champion of parental rights. In January, he proposed amending the state constitution to incorporate a "Parental Bill of Rights." The goal, he said, "is to ensure that parents are put at the forefront, both of education of their children as well as the decision-making for their child's healthcare."

Abbott, a Republican, believes the government has no business interfering with the choices families make to protect the health and well-being of children. Yes, he does. And I'm Billie Eilish.

This is the very same governor who on Tuesday gave Texas parents a firm order to butt out. In a letter to the state Department of Family and Protective Services, he claimed that it is illegal for parents to allow "gender-transitioning" treatments for their children.

Abbott added, "Texas law imposes reporting requirements upon all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse."

It's not enough to terrorize parents coping with profound, intimate issues. He also wants to intimidate anyone who might have any role in, or even knowledge of, these treatments.

The governor was following the lead of Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said Monday that gender-transition therapy constitutes child abuse and "must be halted." The two are not deterred by the fact that, as Adri Perez, an official of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas noted, "there's no court in Texas or the entire country that has ever found that gender-affirming care can constitute child abuse."

It's fair to infer that Abbott and Paxton are motivated not by an abiding concern for transgender kids but by hostility toward the whole concept. Both endorsed a 2017 bill prohibiting transgender Texans from using the restrooms in public buildings that correspond to their gender identity. (It failed.)

Most medical experts don't see transition therapies as harmful, much less criminal. They regard puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery as indispensable tools in caring for children coping with "gender dysphoria."

"Every major medical association in the United States recognizes the medical necessity of transition-related care for improving the physical and mental health of transgender people," says the American Medical Association. "It is inappropriate and harmful for any state to legislatively dictate that certain transition-related services are never appropriate and limit the range of options physicians and families may consider when making decisions for pediatric patients."

The choices facing parents of transgender children are complex, daunting and often painful. Paxton says gender-transition therapies must be banned because they can have irreversible physical consequences, including infertility. But forbidding these treatments can also cause irreversible harm.

A transgender girl or boy who is deprived of puberty blockers will never be able to alter some of the effects of the physical changes that naturally occur during adolescence. Either option has grave consequences — making it especially critical that the choice is made by those who are most affected by it.

But Abbott and Paxton would put parents who approve medical interventions in the same category as adults who beat, starve, molest or neglect their children. It's like saying that a mother who takes her child to the dentist for a tooth extraction is no better than a woman who knocks her kid's teeth out.

These politicians have a record of inserting themselves into decisions that are none of their business. Texas requires minors to get a parent's consent for an abortion. But last year, Abbott signed a law making the procedure illegal after about six weeks' gestation — which means that at a very early stage, parents and daughters no longer have the option of terminating a pregnancy.

This measure is another case of using state power to damage the health of children. Carrying a fetus to term, as any mother can tell you, has major, irreversible effects on a woman's body. Pregnancy and childbirth also carry serious hazards, particularly for teens.

"Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15-19-year-old girls globally," reports the World Health Organization. But Abbott and the Texas legislature have chosen to force the vast majority of minors who get pregnant to give birth.

Abbott and Paxton are staunchly in favor of protecting the rights of parents to make choices for their kids only if those choices are agreeable to Abbott and Paxton. If not, they have a message for parents: Get out of our way.

Reprinted with permission from

Beneath Cheap Shots At Biden Lies Broad Consensus On Ukraine — And Putin

Republicans and Democrats have deep and unbridgeable differences on a variety of issues, from vaccination mandates to immigration policy to the Iran nuclear deal. But when it comes to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the differences are not detectable without a microscope. The fight going on now is a theatrical performance staged to conceal their fundamental agreement.

Republicans accuse Joe Biden of unforgivable weakness and appeasement, invoking the specter of the 1938 Munich deal. Democrats contrast Biden's blunt criticism of Vladimir Putin with Donald Trump's meek deference. What is most striking about this rhetorical battle, though, is how closely the two parties are aligned on the issue.

Trump is the exception, rushing to praise Putin for a "genius" move in recognizing two Ukrainian republics as independent. But his party's officeholders overwhelmingly part ways with him on this issue, as they did during his presidency. Nor do the likes of Tucker Carlson have much influence on either side of the aisle in Congress.

Pretty much no one thinks Putin has the right to seize Ukrainian territory, or approves of his efforts to intimidate Ukraine and NATO, or opposes the use of economic and financial sanctions to punish Russia.

Both parties, however, are willing to go only so far in supporting Ukraine. Neither favors sending American troops to fight the Russians. Trump approved "lethal aid" to Ukraine in the form of anti-tank missiles and other weaponry, and Biden has continued to do so.

Republicans demanded the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany — and, after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in early February, Biden promised if Russia invaded, "we will bring an end to it." Sure enough, when Putin ordered troops into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, Scholz called off the pipeline deal.

Yet Republicans claim that Biden brought this on by pulling out of Afghanistan. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise declared, "Weakness has consequences." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that "as a result of President Biden's weakness and appeasement, the Biden administration is in the process of abandoning Ukraine to Vladimir Putin."

Their verbal volleys bring to mind the psychological phenomenon Sigmund Freud referred to as "the narcissism of minor differences." Most of the partisan disagreements are petty quibbles over the extent and timing of sanctions. Pretending that Biden is to blame for the invasion is a crude political ploy.

Biden isn't to blame for the invasion. Even conservative commentator Walter Russell Mead of The Wall Street Journal grudgingly admitted last month, "There is only one option that would stop a Russian invasion — and that is the one that all the serious players in Washington say is off the table: dispatching an American and coalition force to defend Ukraine."

Maybe that deployment would stop Putin, or maybe not. NATO would be at a severe disadvantage fighting on Russia's doorstep, where the enemy has big advantages and a far greater stake. We would have the additional handicap of having to calibrate our military strategy to avoid precipitating a nuclear exchange. But there was never any chance that any president, Republican or Democrat, would go to war over Ukraine.

Republicans boast that Russia didn't invade Ukraine when Trump was president. But Trump was the guy who withheld military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to force President Volodymyr Zelensky to come up with dirt on the Bidens. An invasion would have been a poor way for Putin to repay his compliant friend in the White House.

What has always been clear is that the U.S. has a weak hand when it comes to Ukraine and no good way to play it. Putin has always known he could use force without facing military retaliation from NATO.

He may have hoped he could get away without paying a high economic penalty. If so, he has been unpleasantly surprised.

Instead of driving a fat wedge between the U.S. and its European allies, Putin has spurred a new spirit of unity. He has virtually guaranteed that NATO will increase its spending and bolster its forces in the countries geographically closest to Russia.

He's also managed, against all odds, to foster an effective consensus between Republicans and Democrats, who are united in seeing him as a brutal outlaw and a threat to the international order. It's a miracle that could only have been made in Moscow.

Reprinted with permission from

Wrong Turn: A Gas Tax Holiday Would Frustrate Biden's Critical Goals

In politics, there are proposals that are so sensible they are bound to become law. There are ideas so awful that they are quickly discarded and forgotten. Then there are the ones that have no chance of being enacted but keep coming back.

They are the zombies of public policy: not exactly alive, but never quite dead. A prime example is the gas tax holiday. Several Democratic senators have signed on to a bill to suspend the 18.4-cents-per gallon federal levy to reduce the cost of fuel and combat inflation.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), argues that lifting the gas tax would be "something that directly helps people right now when they need it." Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says, "It's one of the many things that we're looking at in terms of reducing costs." The White House declines to rule it out.

No one likes paying taxes or feeling gouged at the pump, which explains the appeal to politicians. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake regards it as "a great populist issue because people are always mad at gas prices and gas taxes."

Democrats would do well to recall the example of Barack Obama. During his 2008 presidential campaign, he had to contend with two rivals, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain, who proposed the same thing. Obama had the backbone to deride it as "a gimmick that would save you (the cost of) half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say they did something." He found an unlikely ally in George W. Bush.

It's a lousy idea, for reasons that should be most obvious to Democrats. They united to help pass Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which will be financed partly with revenue from the federal gas tax. As the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes, a gas tax holiday would deprive the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for roads, bridges and mass transit, of $20 billion a year.

If that weren't bad enough, the trust fund has been spending more than it takes in, putting it on schedule to go broke by 2027. Suspending the gas tax would move that date up by a year.

It would also contradict another core Democratic goal: reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. High gas prices, as it happens, are a good way to encourage conservation, enhance the appeal of electric vehicles and curb greenhouse gas emissions. Larry Summers, who was director of Obama's National Economic Council, said last summer, "There's no more important price to increase in the American economy than the price of carbon-based fuels.

"Summers was rebuking Biden for urging oil-producing nations to boost output to lower prices — even though the more oil they produce and the world consumes, the faster the planet will heat up. "On the surface, it seems like an irony," Biden acknowledged. Actually, a better term would be "self-contradiction."

That wasn't Biden's only divergence from sensible methods of combating climate change. In November, he released 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The White House explanation: "Oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic." Never mind the obvious way to balance demand and supply: letting prices rise.

Contrast these efforts with what Biden said in canceling the Keystone pipeline from Canada: "The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory."

Not that Republicans are any more honest or consistent. As prices were rising in 1996, presidential nominee Bob Dole advocated not merely suspending but abolishing the federal gasoline tax. He and GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it was "the least we can do for hard-working Americans whose pocketbooks are taking a major hit." McCain said similar things in 2008.

Both parties are prone to irresponsible pandering, and each has found occasions to target the gas tax for political exploitation. But it's never energized public support, most likely because most people don't see 18.4 cents per gallon as that big a deal.

The consolation is that each time the idea emerges, cooler and smarter heads make sure it goes nowhere. It will probably go nowhere this time. But only after we've had our intelligence insulted.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

The Professor Who Brought Reform To American Law Enforcement

Many people, looking back on their lives, wonder if anything they've done made any difference in the lives of their fellow humans. Yale Kamisar only had to turn on any TV police drama to be reminded that millions of people had benefited from his work.

Kamisar, who died at age 92 on January 30, was a law professor who spent most of his career at the University of Michigan. Like most academics, he toiled away without imposing unduly on the attention of the public at large.

But in 1966, the Supreme Court took notice of an article he had written contrasting the protections afforded defendants in court with the conditions suspects endured when being questioned in police stations. The justices cited the essay four times in one of the most important decisions of the past century, Miranda v. Arizona.

That decision, with a majority opinion by Chief Justice Earl Warren, required police to recite a warning to anyone they arrest: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."

The case involved Ernesto Miranda, who signed a confession only after being handcuffed, forced to stand and browbeaten for four hours by police, who ignored his plea for an attorney and, when his lawyer arrived, refused to grant him access to his client. Such abuses were common police practice at the time, but Kamisar helped the court see a way to combat it.

John F. Kennedy once said, "Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan." It was only Kamisar, though, who became known as "the father of Miranda."

The point of the ruling was to give suspects a measure of protection in the coercive environment of a police station. It was controversial not only at the time but for decades afterward. An official in Richard Nixon's Justice Department argued that the Miranda warning would harm public safety by "preventing a defendant from making any statement at all."

But the concept gained broad acceptance, and in 2000, the Supreme Court strongly, and unexpectedly, reaffirmed it. "Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture," said the court — in an opinion written by that former Justice Department official, Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

The Miranda warning was not enough by itself to prevent police abuses, as Kamisar recognized. He was an early proponent of recording interrogations — an idea that has been adopted by more than half the states. But the warning serves as a regular reminder to police, suspects and the public that even the worst of us have rights that the government must respect.

Kamisar might have kicked back and spent the rest of his life dining out on that achievement. But his prodigious scholarship continued, and it continued to be a formidable influence on other matters, being cited in more than 30 Supreme Court decisions.

Remember that line in the Miranda warning about your right to a lawyer, at public expense if necessary? It stems from the court's 1963 decision that the Constitution requires ensuring that defendants have legal counsel — a decision that also cited Kamisar.

He was vigilant in trying to make sure that constitutional guarantees had real force. Among his most passionate causes was defending the exclusionary rule, which generally bars the use of evidence that police obtain through illegal searches.

When the Supreme Court applied this restriction to states in 1961, critics howled that it would cripple law enforcement and let the guilty go free. Kamisar pointed out that their complaint was really about the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The court, after all, didn't alter the Fourth Amendment or the obstacles it posed to law enforcement. All it did was provide a penalty and remedy for constitutional violations.

"If the police feared that evidence they were gathering in the customary manner would now be excluded by the courts," Kamisar noted, "the police must have been violating the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure all along." The exclusionary rule made this fundamental liberty something more than a quaint ideal.

Constitutional rights are mere words on paper until human beings find ways to give them life. Americans have far more protection against police abuses than they once did, and Yale Kamisar is one of the reasons why.

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Why Are Americans Feeling So Bad About A Good Economy?

The U.S. economy is doing its best impression of a Formula One car, racing at high speed while negotiating a series of twists and turns. Last year, real gross domestic product grew faster than any year since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was running for reelection on the theme, "It's morning in America."

One indicator after another suggests an economy enjoying robust health. Last week, economists were pleasantly surprised when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in January, the economy added 467,000 jobs — despite omicron, which spread across the country with alarming rapidity.

Unemployment remained low at four percent, compared with 6.4% a year before. A record number of people quit their jobs in November, reflecting their confidence that in today's labor market, they can find better ones.

The stock market is up more than 12 percent over the past 12 months. Corporate profits reached a 70-year high in 2021. Federal tax revenues soared by 18 percent in the 2021 fiscal year, as more people made more money.

But ... there's always a "but." As the columnist George Will postulated years ago, all news is economic news, and economic news is always bad. The dominant news in recent months has been inflation, once thought to be permanently vanquished but now making a comeback.

Prices climbed by seven percent last year, the biggest increase since 1982. A recent CNN poll found that 80 percent of Americans regard rising prices as a major problem, and 63 percent think the national economy is in poor shape.

That notion is at odds with reality. In April 2020, when the economy was suffering a pandemic-induced collapse, CNN found, 60% of Americans thought the economy was in bad shape. That the number is higher now than it was then is a testament to the power of negative thinking.

Where does the negative thinking come from? Maybe from the psychological phenomenon known as loss aversion. As Investopedia explains, some research suggests that "the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the joy we experience when winning."

Since the pandemic crushed the economy, we have regained nearly 24 million jobs, and growth has rebounded strongly. But those gains get discounted because of what we have lost: stable prices. The joy of a boom doesn't compare to the misery of inflation.

Politics plays a role. Most of the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 are not inclined to cheer the state of the economy, because they don't want to think that Joe Biden has done well at managing it. They feel vindicated by every unfavorable development. They bring to mind country artist Patty Loveless, who sang, "You can feel bad if it makes you feel better."

Biden hardly deserves all or even most of the credit for our improving fortunes. The economy is an unpredictable beast over which Washington has only limited control. But he did push through a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package last spring, despite warnings that it could overheat the economy and spark inflation.

Those warnings turned out to be valid. But if you're going to blame Biden's spending for the rise in inflation, you have to give credit to Biden's spending for the surge in economic growth. The outlays served to boost overall demand, which produced both results. Without the relief package, we'd have lower prices but slower growth and higher unemployment.

Much of the gloom about the economy stems from the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Some are economic: snarled supply chains, shortages of some goods, canceled airline flights and other events resulting from workers being infected. But the fear of COVID-19, the obligation to wear a mask and get any number of vaccine shots, and endless uncertainty may do more damage to the national psyche.

We all yearn for a normal life that we fear will never return. And whether we are in the pro-mask, pro-vaccine group or the opposing camp, we are confronted with reminders every time we go out that the other side is an obstacle to what we want. Bitter feelings fester.

In our yearning, we forget that in what we recall as the happy times, we were grumpy. In December 2019, before the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., Gallup found that 62 percent of Americans were "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time."

When you're smiling, the song says, the whole world smiles with you. These days, though, you'll get more company with a scowl.

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Beijing Olympics Highlight Shattered Hopes For A Freer China

China is one of the greatest success stories of the past century. It is also one of the greatest tragedies. The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are a vivid illustration of how far the country has come from what it was in the 1960s and '70s — and how badly it has diverged from its promising course of two decades ago.

Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, freedom and democracy were on the march around the world. One dictatorship after another came tumbling down under popular pressure, including Spain, the Philippines, Chile, and South Korea. Between 1974 and 1990, the number of democracies in the world doubled — a rise that continued in the 1990s.

It was reasonable to think that in due time, China would join the parade. It had already achieved a miraculous reversal from the chaos, famine and savage repression it endured under Mao Zedong. Thanks to major economic reforms and the loosening of state control over its citizens, the country underwent a massive transformation for the better.

Economists at the World Bank wrote in 2002, "China has seen the most spectacular reduction in poverty in world history." The government allowed citizens greater freedom to move about the country, travel abroad and start businesses. Local governments incorporated elements of democracy. Censorship eased, foreign movies and TV shows were allowed and a modest space opened for political dissent.

The nation was on the same path taken by other countries, which became freer and more democratic once they reached a certain level of wealth and prosperity.

"Either China will remain relatively poor and authoritarian, or it will become rich and pluralistic — and it seems to have chosen the latter path," wrote Henry Rowen, a scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, in 1996. He went so far as to predict a date when China would become a democracy: 2015.

Bad guess. Instead of reforming, the Beijing government has reverted: clamping down hard on opposition, censoring online and print media and subjecting its people to relentless surveillance.

For the past seven years, the human rights group Freedom House ranked China "the world's worst abuser of internet freedom." In his 2021 book, China's Leaders: From Mao to Now, George Washington University's David Shambaugh wrote, "Since coming to power (President) Xi Jinping has unleashed a sustained reign of repression and comprehensive controls on China not seen since the Maoist era."

Xi has also mounted a ferocious campaign against the Muslim Uyghurs (pronounced "we-gers") in the Xinjiang region, whom they see as a separatist threat. The offensive, says Freedom House, includes "the forced relocation of rural residents, the forced sterilization of Uighur women, the mass detention of Uighurs in 'political reeducation' centers, and the imprisonment of tens of thousands of others by the courts."

As many as two million Uyghurs have been imprisoned since 2017. A British human rights tribunal concluded that Beijing's policy amounts to genocide.

Hong Kong used to be an oasis of freedom. In 2020, though, China imposed a new "national security" law that drastically curtailed freedom of speech, press and assembly in the former British colony. Human rights activists have been locked up, and organizations that once took part in mass protests have closed down.

The Olympics were supposed to be a chance for the Beijing government to impress the world. But the games have brought attention to the very things that have made China a human rights pariah.

The United States, along with nine other countries, is refusing to send official representatives because of the "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Robert Ross, a China scholar at Harvard and Boston College, told me such scrutiny was "a price China was willing to pay. I don't think Xi Jinping cares."

Somehow China, unlike so many other countries, has managed to achieve prosperity without having to allow liberalization. One reason is that the rulers in Beijing learned from the Soviet Union and other dictatorships the dangers of relaxing their grip over political matters.

For the Chinese Communist Party, economic reform was a way to strengthen its dominant position. The paramount goal all along, says Hoover Institution scholar Michael Auslin, has been "to make the world safe for the party." So far, it has succeeded.

When China hosted the 2008 Summer Games, there were still grounds to believe it would soon evolve into a more civilized and humane country. The Olympics are back in Beijing, but that hope is gone.

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