The Cronyism Grown Into U.S. Food Aid

America is a generous country. Taxpayers can take pride in the fact that, under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, they will send more than $2 billion worth of food to needy countries this year. Thanks to these aid programs, more than 50 million people in 51 countries will be fed by U.S. foreign aid. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that these programs are rife with cronyism that make them more expensive and less effective than they should be.

Just how much cronyism is there? Enough that another 8 to 10 million people could be fed at no added cost just by removing two unnecessary regulations.

What do these regulations do? The first requires that nearly all U.S. food aid be sourced from American farmers. The logic is that American food aid can combine generosity with national self-interest, stabilizing U.S. agricultural markets while providing aid.

But that self-interest has a cost, and a significant one. Namely, there is often more than enough food nearby that could be purchased and transported at a far lower cost and with far less waste than by shipping American food across the ocean. Even Africa, the continent most commonly associated with hunger crises, produces more than enough food to feed itself — as does the world as a whole, for that matter. In light of this fact, requiring that food aid be sourced in the United States no longer makes sense.

It’s a bizarre case where the costs of cronyism so outweigh the benefits that even one of the primary beneficiaries, the American Farm Bureau Federation, supports reform. The problem is that this regulation is a relic of a different era, one in which food aid was a meaningful portion of American agricultural exports and in which local food production in hunger-stricken areas was rarely sufficient to meet local demand. That is no longer the case — food aid today accounts for less than 1 percent of agricultural exports and less than 0.1 percent of food production in the country. The times have changed, but our rules have not.

The other regulation mandates that at least half of all U.S. food aid be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, known as the Cargo Preference for Food Aid (CPFA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the effects of the CPFA, and found that the costs were significant. Overall, the GAO estimated that the CFPA increased costs of shipping by 23 percent between 2011 and 2014, making up over $107 million of the total $456 million cost.

This time, the original intent behind the rule was based on national security concerns rather than economic ones. Lawmakers intended to use the food aid program to subsidize a merchant marine that could be called upon in times of war. Yet again, the organization that the regulation is intended to benefit, the Department of Defense, supports reform. The vast majority of U.S. vessels carrying food aid do not meet minimum standards for reform, and the DoD has stated that elimination of the regulation would not impact America’s maritime readiness in the case of war.

It is an unfortunate fact that as much as 60 percent of the food aid budget is spent on items that have nothing to do with food — such as transportation costs for the American food that we’re sending halfway around the world on more expensive American ships. And it’s why simple reform, such as the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2018, would free up nearly $300 million simply by reducing the requirement for U.S.-sourced food to 25 percent.

It’s rare that cronyism is so egregious and outdated that its beneficiaries support reform. When they do, lawmakers should take the hint, and support reform as well.

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Yes, Virginia, Medicaid Expansion Will Harm the Poor

Last week, Virginia’s general assembly voted to expand Medicaid under the auspices of Obamacare. The commonwealth’s legislators had wisely resisted doing so for years, but four GOP state senators broke ranks to vote for this bill in exchange for a provision stipulating an anemic work requirement. The “news” media have, of course, touted this betrayal as a victory for the poor. It is however, precisely the reverse. Expansion will consign thousands of truly poor and disabled Virginians to purgatorial Medicaid waiting lists while advancing able-bodied adults with incomes above the federal poverty level (FPL) to the front of the line.

Why would Virginia pursue such an obviously unjust policy? Like all Democratic programs, it’s about power and money. Obamacare incentivizes expansion states to shift Medicaid’s focus to able-bodied adults by paying over 90 percent of their coverage costs, while the federal share of costs for traditional Medicaid patients remains below 60 percent. This does not mean, however, that doctors and hospitals will receive more money. Providers will continue to be paid less by Medicaid than the cost of treatment whether the patients are expansion or traditional enrollees. The extra money will go to political slush funds and insurance companies.

Medicaid expansion doesn’t work like the original program, which was administered by the states as a safety net for poor children, pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly. Management of Obamacare’s corrupted version of the program is farmed out to insurance companies. A typical example is Wellcare, which accrued over $10.6 billion in 2017 from its coverage of able-bodied adults. The company plans to reinvest $2.5 billion of that revenue in the acquisition of Meridian Health Plans of Illinois and Michigan, which will increase its Medicaid portfolio by 37 percent. Meanwhile, truly poor patients die on waiting lists.

This is not conjecture. A recent study, conducted by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), revealed that at least 21,904 Americans have withered away and died on Medicaid waiting lists in the states that expanded the program under Obamacare. Even worse, the 21,904 figure reported in the study almost certainly understates the true death toll. A number of expansion states were somehow “unable” to provide FGA with death totals, while others implausibly claimed that there were none to report. It is nonetheless clear that Medicaid waiting lists in expansion states constitute a kind of death row for the genuinely poor.

The worst carnage has occurred just north of the Beltway. Maryland is easily the deadliest state for traditional Medicaid applicants, chalking up no fewer than 8,495 deaths among individuals languishing on its waiting list. During the same time period, even as these patients were left to die, the bureaucrats of the Old Line State enrolled very nearly 300,000 able-bodied adults under the aegis of Obamacare. Louisiana took second place in killing its traditional Medicaid patients. The Pelican State reported 5,534 deaths among the unfortunates who wound up on its waiting list, while 451,000 able-bodied adults were enrolled under Obamacare’s expansion.

Additional states whose Medicaid waiting lists have killed a thousand or more people include New Mexico, where 2,031 poor and disabled patients died while the state signed up 259,537 enrollees under Obamacare’s expansion scheme. Michigan left 1,970 of its residents to die while enrolling 665,057 in its new and improved Medicaid program. West Virginia allowed 1,093 patients to die on its waiting list while signing up 181,105 able-bodied enrollees. The remaining expansion states are mere also-rans with death tolls ranging from Iowa’s paltry 989 down to Minnesota, which managed to leave only 15 of its poor and disabled citizens for dead.

This is the august company Virginia’s General Assembly chose to join last week. The Old Dominion will become the 33rd state to take Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion bait, demonstrating that the commonwealth’s politicians have learned little or nothing from the deadly experiences of the previous states that were gaffed by their own greed. Those Medicaid expansion states still have nearly 250,000 poor, disabled, and elderly individuals wasting away on waiting lists. Yet Obamacare advocates in Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska — blissfully unaware of the death tolls quoted above — are working to pass expansion in November via referenda.

Maine activists have already tricked the voters of the Pine Tree State into passing a referendum approving expansion, but the program hasn’t been implemented because Governor Paul Lepage has refused to go forward: “My administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families.” This speaks to one of expansion’s most profound ironies. Even if Washington continues footing most of the bill, herding the able-bodied into Medicaid is a budget buster for the states. It nearly broke Maine the last time they tried it.

Medicaid expansion under Obamacare privileges able-bodied adults with incomes above FPL, states can’t pay for it in the long haul, and it causes the genuinely poor to be dumped onto waiting lists where they quietly die in their thousands. Yet the Old Dominion’s newly-minted Governor, Ralph Northam, will gleefully sign an expansion bill into law this week as the leaders of his party and the media beam benevolently from on high. His name may even be uttered by the Great Mentioner as potential presidential material. For any Democrat, that’s certainly well worth a little inequity, the occasional budget deficit, and a few thousand human sacrifices.

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Animal Rights Activists Endanger Chickens in Massive ‘Rescue’

Animal rights activists forcibly broke into a farm supplying Whole Foods with eggs and stole chickens in broad daylight last week. Local farmers worry that in their zeal to save chickens the activists actually endangered them.

The Direct Action Everywhere “rescue,” which involved hundreds of activists transported to Petaluma, California, on seven buses on May 29, comes as the latest action targeting Whole Foods or businesses connected with the supermarket giant.

“They were bused in,” Toni Brooks, a neighbor of the targeted Sunrise Farms property, told The American Spectator of the estimated 300 to 400 activists descending on the city about an hour north of San Francisco. “They marched up the street with signs saying, ‘Funeral Procession.’”

Brooks’s husband Phil, also a local farmer, found the rhetoric confusing given that the poultry on the targeted farm produce eggs and not meat.

“All of them are for eggs,” Brooks told The American Spectator. “There are no meat birds here. They were yelling at us that we were ‘baby eaters’ because we eat eggs.”

The protesters came from Animal Liberation Conference 2018, an event hosted by the Save Movement and Direct Action Everywhere at the University of California, Berkeley. Wayne Hsiung, the cofounder of Direct Action Everywhere, laid out the group’s purpose to activists immediately before the event, cryptically labeled “Action #4” on the conference schedule. He told them that they traveled to Petaluma to rescue sick birds before leading a march up a road. The action resulted in 40 arrests.

“They got down into the chickens before the police got there,” Phil Brooks, who confronted the activists, explained to The American Spectator. “They pried the door open using crowbars. This is a steel building — brand new, million-dollar building. The employees inside tried to hold the doors closed.

“They barged their way in and there were women who were employees — they were grabbing the women and throwing them down, out of the way. The women tried to hold them back but they just kept pushing the women out of the way and they went right on in.”

In another building, the activists absconded with a dozen to several dozen chickens. They draped white cloths around the chickens they labeled sick or injured and black cloths around dead ones.

The farm houses several hundred thousand chickens. By entering the farm without a foot bath or other standard precautions, the activists, critics say, threatened with sickness the very birds they claimed to save from sickness.

“All farms in today’s world are very high biosecurity,” fifth-generation farmer Trent Loos explains to The American Spectator. “You cannot afford to let anybody to come on your farm. People can put the entire population of chickens in jeopardy.”

As they ignored farm-specific customs to protect animals, the activists dismissed civilizational ones to protect people, as well.

“The women and the guys were going in between these vans and using it as a bathroom,” Phil Brooks explains of the makeshift, open-air bathroom on the farmer’s property. “Oh, yeah. One guy, I yelled at him. I said, ‘Hey, what are you wiping yourself with?’ It was totally unsanitary and uncalled for. There was garbage all over, plastic bottles from water, and whatever they were eating.”

Brooks concedes that, after prodding from him and other locals, the protesters thoroughly policed their trash. But they drew a line, and flashed a “peace” sign, when asked to remove their excrement.

Apart from livestreaming the event, the protesters invited the local media and dispatched drones to document from the skies. But farmers say that, despite the extensive preparations to chronicle the action, the demonstrators never bothered to educate themselves on the proper hygienic protocols for close encounters with farm animals.

“In the United States and in California, cows, hogs, and chickens have received viruses from immigrants, where the people passed a virus to the animals,” Loos points out. “H1N1, for instance, was passed from the people to the animals.”

Local farmers find out in the coming weeks that if an action taken to save animals results instead in widespread animal deaths.

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Reigniting The Meaning Of Citizenship Through National Service

It’s been a long time since a common rite of passage among our nation’s men was to put on a uniform and defend your nation, community, and family. Yet at a time of increasing hyperpolarization in our country, as well as the deteriorating state of our nation’s youth in mind, body, and soul, national military service may be an idea worth considering once again.

National service has been ever-present in our country’s history. From militias in the Revolutionary War era to the wartime drafts in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, to peacetime drafts through various parts of our nation’s past.

The legacy from those eras of conscription still remain in the form of the Selective Service system, which many of us remember being notified that we needed to register for upon reaching age 18.

The Selective Service system also has been the subject of debate in recent years, as many persons have considered whether women should register for it as well – such as during the 2016 Presidential election when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called for such.

Among other republics and democracies in the world national service is relatively common, from the nations of Europe to Africa, from the Middle East to Asia to South America. Conscription began falling out of favor since the end of the Cold War, as the general state of worry over military conflict faded.

Yet in recent years conscription has made a comeback. French President Macron has been trying to reintroduce military conscription in order to “foster patriotism and heal social divisions.” Norway recently expanded its military conscription in 2016 to include women, as Sweden has now re-introduced conscription as well.

Perhaps the most noted military conscription program is that of Israel, which requires all men and women to serve about two years in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with few exceptions. While brought about by military necessity, it has also cultivated an Israeli citizenry that has the character, grit, and sense of duty to keep their nation thriving.

It used to be that way in America, as serving in the military was a relatively common experience. In 1980, veterans totaled 18% of adults in the United States. In contrast, by 2016 that number had fallen to 7%.

At a time when our nation is reeling from divisions along seemingly every line possible, it is worth considering a common and shared experience as national service to reconnect our country together. The benefits are very clear in other nations, as despite often no overt military conflict conscription still provides a variety of security and social benefits to the country.

Undoubtedly the implementation of a conscription program, not seen in our nation for almost half a century, would be difficult initially. Not only have the times and culture changed, but so has the very nature of our armed forces.

Our military nowadays is an extremely high-tech organization and finding how to best utilize the massive manpower from our almost 330 million person nation would require careful delineation.

Furthermore, many of our nation’s youth, estimated currently at 71% of those between the ages of 17 and 24, are grossly unfit for military service. Creating a new conscript category and integrating them usefully into the nation’s military would be challenging, but given how seemingly every other nation is able to do it effectively we undoubtedly can find a way to as well.

The idea of national service would undoubtedly require a significant period of pilot programs and testing. The idea has been proposed frequently in the national discourse throughout the years and particularly during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. It is a big, nation-changing policy that certainly, if it gets further traction and consideration, would be a serious national debate.

National service is a very realistic program that could do a lot in solving many of our nation’s otherwise seemingly unsolvable problems, as well as reigniting reflection on the meaning of citizenry in a republic.

I think it is worth considering at our present time, as, although it seems a big change, nonetheless could revive our American spirit and heal our nation in an extraordinary way.

 

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What Drugs Was Samantha Bee Taking?

Of course we don’t want Rosanne Barr calling Valerie Jarrett an ape. That’s as clear as can be. It was a horrible comment. But maybe we should listen for just a moment to what Ms. Barr says in her defense: She was taking Ambien all through the day when she spoke. Now, Ambien is a super potent sleeping pill. Like all super potent sleeping pills, if you fight it, it puts you into a confused, dizzy state. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re saying. You say things you think are funny because you think you’re walking on the surface of the moon. The things you say sometimes have zero to do with who you are as a person and who you would like to be. You berate your friends. You curse. You say things you would never say if you were not thoroughly drugged.

So, if Roseanne were really “tweaking” Ambien, it would not be at all surprising for her to say wildly offensive things. It would not even be she that was talking. It would be a Roseanne who had been hypnotized by the power of the drugs.

Yes, of course the makers of Ambien are going to say Ambien does not cause racism and it doesn’t. But it does cause people to say spectacularly inappropriate and offensive remarks…again, because they’re snowed under by the power of the drug, which has them in an essentially somnambulistic state. They’re talking in their sleep and it’s not even them that’s talking. A certain reverse polarity might set in.

So, let’s all be careful around taking sleeping pills during the day and let’s pray that Roseanne can get off the drugs as soon as possible. And let’s beware of thinking we are better than a woman who was possibly speaking under the influence of a useful but devilishly powerful drug, with no ill intent whatsoever. I’m sure the makers of Ambien also had no ill intent. They would never have wanted a patient to take Ambien while at work. But as Fitzgerald said, “I hate careless people. It takes two to make an accident.”

Meanwhile, what possible excuse can there be for Samantha Bee? What drugs was she taking? How dare the people who put her vile guttersnipe talk on the air simply go “tut-tut” and let her go on her way? This is the horrible fact of a totalitarian American culture machine. Those in its favor can get away with murder. Those in its sights get shot without trial and with no defense allowed. Can you imagine what life would be like if Hillary had won?

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That Old Bat Magic — Finn Wins Hearts and Minds

My wife and I spent Memorial Week in Las Vegas. That’s right. Sin City, though I don’t suppose Las Vegas city fathers and mothers much like this old designation. They’ve tried to make the place more “family friendly.” This by necessity, as so many states have made so many ways to gamble at home available it’s no longer necessary to fly to the middle of the desert to give one’s money away. Walking the Vegas strip one is entitled to wonder which family the city’s marketers had in mind. People-watching on the ant-hill Las Vegas Boulevard always is can recall the bar scene from the original Star Wars movie.

But not to worry, gentle reader. We didn’t take the mortgage money with us. The purpose of the trip was to meet up with my computer-smart step-son and his delightful bride (she’s smart too). They live in nearby (as these things are reckoned in the West) Salt Lake City. None of us are gamblers. So we never ventured as much as a quarter in the thousands of available slots. And we only observed the poor souls shooting craps or grimly playing black-jack or poker. The most depressing were the quietly desperate $8 an hour folks sitting at the slots, smoking and trying to improve their lives. Of course their chances of doing so are roughly the chances that the San Diego Padres will win the World Series this year. All but the quantitatively feeble-minded realize that the only machine in Las Vegas that’s even money is the ATM in the hotel lobby.

Speaking of hotels, we breezed through all of the household names and found them as gaudy and over-the-top as we anticipated they would be. The themes are different, but there is a sameness to the kitsch and the pricey shops and the pricy restaurants (we ate in two that were pretty good). Of course there are things worth seeing. I don’t mean to sound too cranky. We liked the conservatory at the Bellagio, and the light and water show out front of same is, though a bit hokey, pleasant to watch. So there’s obviously a lot in Las Vegas that appeals to a lot of people. And to these folks I say, “God bless, and have a good time. Just don’t try to draw into an inside straight.”

Some of the best times of the week were the away from Las Vegas day trips, the first to Hoover Dam and the second to the beautiful Red Rock Canyon. This last could be called God’s layer cake. If you’re ever fortunate enough to see it, you’ll immediately see why.

Regular readers of this space will not be surprised to learn that while in Vegas we took in a baseball game. This entertaining contest was between the Las Vegas 51s (from Area 51, which has something to do with aliens from outer space, some of whom I think we saw on The Strip) and the Tacoma Rainiers of the AAA Pacific Coast League. The game, which took place in comfy Cashman Field between The Strip and the mountains that surround Las Vegas, went to the Rainiers 8-6.

One of the favorite 51s did not wear cleats or a number on his back. The big crowd favorite was Finn, a five-year-old black Lab bat-dog who ran out to retrieve the 51s’ bats and return them to the dugout. He also carried bottles of water in a small blue and white cooler to the umpires between innings. After these missions, which he clearly enjoys and for which he is lustily cheered, he sits on his red, plastic fire hydrant until duty calls again. In between innings Finn performs more complicated evolutions, including jumping chairs and running good routes to a Frisbee.

I was privileged to meet Finn and his trainer, the able Fred Hassen, and sit with them for the three innings that Finn worked. Finn could work the entire game. He may be five years old, but there’s still a lot of puppy in him, including inexhaustible energy and joie de vivre. But Fred, who played baseball through junior college, has a day job, so doesn’t wish to stay out too late. Thus the three-inning stints. The dog training business Hassen started, called Sit Means Sit, now has 130 locations across the country. If Finn is an example of Sit Means Sit graduates, he’s a fine advertisement for the company, and for Hassen’s skill as a trainer.

I asked Hassen if Finn reacted badly to his first taste of pine tar. Fred reminded me of the things dogs willingly eat, and the places their snouts visit. Of course I know this, so after a moment’s reflection I withdrew the question.

Speaking of questions, I’ll answer the obvious one. No, Finn doesn’t take off after the baseball when it’s in play, though you can tell he would really like to. He’s well trained and makes no rookie mistakes that his more than ample enthusiasm could lead to. He sticks to his business, at which he is fast and precise. What a joy to watch someone who is good at his work and so obviously loves it. So on this soft desert night, which already included the blessings of baseball, beer, and the company of loved ones, we had the bonus of the charming and most entertaining Finn. The Rainiers may have won the baseball game that night. But it was Finn who won our hearts.

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What Do You Get When You Google ‘Homeschoolers’?

My wife and I have four children and we homeschool them. People often ask us if that is difficult, with the kids there all the time. We usually respond by pointing out the benefits of home schooling.

And there are many, many benefits to home schooling our children. There might be more expenses involved than just sending them to public school, since the government has already captured our tax dollars. But homeschooling is cheaper than sending them to private school and we know exactly what we are getting.

We don’t have to get the kids up early and get them ready to go. They can learn at their own natural pace, rather than struggling to keep up with or being slowed down by the class. We don’t have to pack lunches for them in advance or pay for lousy cafeteria food. Much of the school day at public schools is filler; we can cut that out.

Any school violence is handled by saying “Son, stop hitting your sister!” And there are no disruptions or penalties if we decide to take the whole family from New Hampshire to Florida for a few months in the winter, which is awesome.

The bottom line is that home schooling allows us to fit education around our family’s life rather than the other way around.

But having said all that, yes, there are difficulties that are common to home schooling parents everywhere. Often, we know exactly what they need to learn, and proceed to teach them. But we don’t always have the subject competency that we would like to teach our children.

The way that most homeschooling families handle this is by banding together. We form co-ops to help our children learn and socialize together. This allows us to use the expertise of other parents to fill in what we lack and it allows us to seek out resources — from online classes to specialized tutoring and teaching — together.

Homeschooling co-ops have become such a big deal that Google is even taking notice. It will soon be making a resource called G Suite for Education available to co-ops like mine, helping to further close the resource gap between public schools and folks who have to create school from scratch.

G Suite for education is a suite, or bundle, of tools — a little bit like Microsoft Office, but it’s free and much more internet-based. These tools include Google Drive and Docs, Calendar, Gmail and Google Classroom. As someone who uses Google tools extensively in his business, I am very happy that my children will soon be able to use the same tools and more to further their educations.

This new tool should make it easier for them to get individual instruction from teachers over the internet, organize, collaborate with other co-op classmates when they aren’t in the same place, and do all kinds of things I couldn’t even dream of doing at their age. It’s wonderful to see the opportunities available to this generation of homeschoolers.

Google takes a lot of flak for its policies in other areas, but good on the company for making this happen.

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Spicy Weekend

Friday

A great day. I used to go to Mr Chow constantly, but then I stopped because it was too loud. I didn’t go for years. Then I happened to be slouching by on Thursday and went into the bar for a Diet Coke. The bartender was friendly. The captains were super-friendly. Theo, the dean of waiters, was ultra-friendly and hugged me. So tonight I came back and had one of the tastiest dinners of my life. Spicy. But magnificent. Spicy fried beef. Spicy ribs. Spicy candied walnuts. Spicy chicken with cashews. Or maybe walnuts again.

I was in heaven. It was still fantastically noisy but I was happy. I drove home, which is only a five-minute ride from Mr Chow. At the corner of Rodeo and Carmelita, some drunken jerk ran the stop sign and came within inches of crashing into me. He was in an immense white Lexus.

I swerved and avoided him but that was too close. Thank you God for sparing me once again. When I count the number of times God has spared me, it’s almost infinite. In fact it is infinite. I never had to get shot at like my pal, hero Larry Lissitzyn.

When I got home, wifey and I watched an incredibly creepy and scary noir story about a conspiracy in 1928 Weimar Berlin. Every single person in the story was crazy one way or another. And killers. But the atmosphere was compelling. Lots of shiny wood and people turning to crime to support themselves.

Then popcorn and then sleep. I dreamed I was at dinner with a charming friend who has the most voracious appetite of any person I have ever known. He eating all of my Mr Chow ribs. I was really upset. Then I dreamed I was in an old age home with my brilliant friend, the law scholar Arthur Best. We were both depressed as hell but Arthur was making jokes about it.

He’s a funny guy. We’ve been friends since 1962.

Saturday

Dinner again at Mr Chow. This time with a hilarious friend trying to explain block chains to me. It was as if he were talking about flying saucers. It was better than lunch today though. There I dined with a tall, charming woman whose mother had died 24 hours earlier. She was in shock. It’s too cruel to lose the ones we love.

The food tonight was ultra-spicy. Afterwards, I drove home very carefully. Beverly Hills is a beautiful neighborhood but has the worst drivers in the world. Why? Because they feel too entitled to obey the law. It’s that simple.

Wifey and I watched the end of the endless series about Weimar Berlin. It’s called “Babylon Berlin.” With all my heart, I recommend you not watch it. Too depressing. Too long. The plot is a thousand times too complex. But the people who made the sets should all get Oscars or Emmys or something. Still, don’t waste your time.

Monday

Memorial Day. I swam and thanked God for the brave men and women who were shot out of the sky, who got malaria, who got blown to pieces by mines, who were eaten by sharks, who were worked to death by the Japanese. I thanked God for my Grandfather Dave who fought in the Philippines where capture meant death. For my Silver and Bronze Star father in law, Dale Denman, Jr., hero of Germany and Vietnam. For my uncle Bob Denman, who fought hand to hand at Cho-Sin. For the families of those who died or came home wounded badly or crazed. How many have been in terror so I could swim in my pool every day? How many so I can vote? How many so I can say Kaddish in Hebrew for my parents? How many so that the media can whine and bitch all day and night? What can we ever do to thank them? I’m going to my checkbook to write a check to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS. That’s what I’m doing. TAPS.ORG.

God bless the families of those who died for us bums back home.

LOVE TO THEM ALL.

 

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The Open Era

You see where the line is between a good tennis player and an Immortal in the first round match between former No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Rogerio Dutra-Silva on the Philippe-Chatrier Stade at Paris’s Roland Garros the other day.

The Brazilian, a veteran player ranked in the top 100 won some excellent points and broke the 2016 champion to even the score at 4-4 in the third set, his last chance to make a serious stand in the first round of this year’s Internationaux de France, aka French Open. Djokovic broke right back, then held serve at 15 and that was that, three sets to nought.

It was a fine match, even as seen on TV, but nothing to write home about. Anyway we would not be writing home because due to certain circumstances involving the law firm of Jauvert & Jauvert, TAS can only provide some long-distance analysis this year, but never mind the details. The question here is: is the great Serb ace back?

The question is pertinent because every tennis commentator queried by Tennis, the voice of the American tennis establishment, says defending champion Rafael Nadal will repeat, on the rational theory no one can beat him. A non-scientific survey of the international sporting press offers the same consensus. Djokovic, one of the few able to beat Nadal, has been in a prolonged slump worsened by an elbow injury requiring surgery as the season began.

With the loss in five sets by 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka to a stubborn and solid Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Nadal has last year’s finalist out of the way. He is leading a tough and able Simone Bolelli by two sets when play is adjourned on Chatrier due to rain. The Italian is up 3-0 in the third, but these rain delays usually favor the champ, who uses them to recharge is fierce competitive drive.

And with the defection due to injury of Australia’s bad boy tennis genius Nick Kyrgios, he has one less of the up-and-coming young men to worry over. He has been in fantastic form, taking titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome to prepare his title defense. Like LeBron James on the basketball court, like Mike Trout (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, you know what I mean) on the mound, Rafa Nadal is the King. At least on clay. In tennis, surfaces matter; the maestro, Roger Federer, has only one Coupe des Mousquetaires among his 20 Slam trophies.

Moreover, Federer, the Stan-da-Man of tennis in our era, is following last year’s strategy of sitting out the clay season the fresher to be on grass and during the North American summer hard-courts. (He won at Wimbledon, not at Flushing Meadows.) And Andy Murray is out, recovering from injuries that he hopes will be gone in time for the All-England in early July.

Injuries, age; recovery, youth. The beauty of this sport derives from the way it brings out the basics of life in stark simplicity. An individual sport, in which you are upfront and alone: you step up or you do not and there is no team to back you up — or a single star like LeBron James to bail out the team. It is, pace Andre Agassi’s famous quip, not like boxing; you do have to run and you cannot hide.

It is Nadal’s to lose this year, making it likely he will get an unprecedented 11th trophy in a single major tournament. His lean and hungry challengers have fallen short in the endurance tests that are unique to the Slam circuit, or succumbed under Nadal’s clay power game, designed, and perfected for the conditions produced by this surface (limestone and crushed brick, if you ever wondered).

So, not too much suspense here, though y’never know. American men have not done very well on clay in recent years, but Jared Donaldson won his first round match in five sets, showing good form, while Frances Tiafoe and Sam Querrey both have shots at reaching the second week; unfortunately they square off in the first round so only one will (maybe) do it. (Update: it goes to Querrey in three sets; Isner, before the rain, was up two against Tiafoe’s contemporary, Noah Rubin.)

On the women’s side, Venus Williams went down in the first round and her sister goes into action on Tuesday. They have two doubles titles here, Venus has never won the Coupe Lenglen, but Serena has done it three times. The defending champ, Jelena Ostapenko, lost her first round match on an injured foot. Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys easily got through to round two. They are best friends, there was a touching scene when Miss S. beat Miss K. at the final of the U.S. Open last September, real friendship. But still it is a lonely sport.

Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver returned to Roland-Garros 50 years ago, in the inaugural major of the Open era; “Muscles” prevailed over “Rocket” in the finals. He also took the doubles with his compatriot Fred Stolle. Outside the tournament, France was in some turmoil as the cultural revolt known as the May Events continued.

These have been the subject of rather dull retrospectives and remembrances for the past months; for all their charm, you have to admit the French have a predilection for editing their own history rather in the direction of fashion, which is annoying. The fashion is that in the grand scheme of things, the May Events were a Good Thing. As far as I can tell, their main effect was that the French stopped saying “vous” and also gave up on wearing ties and hats. For the past few years, they have been destroying their own grammar, abolishing the gender declensions that charmed (and tortured) students of their language.

The remembrance that came to my mind, perhaps by unconscious association with our Memorial Day weekend when we honor those who gave all for our freedom, was one that no one, to my knowledge, mentions in all the yak-yak. I had in mind a man named Maurice Grimaud. He was the police prefect of Paris, in effect the man responsible for security, and he was heavily handicapped by the fact that his forces were overwhelmingly outnumbered by the thousands of kids who had nothing better to do than skip class, block the entrances to the university so those who wanted to learn could not get in, and instead tear up the cobble stones of the old streets of the Latin Quarter and throw them at the cops, who exercised admirable restraint.

Grimaud, who died ten years ago after a long and distinguished career as a high civil servant, had put out the word that there was to be as little rough stuff as possible, which is why the “revolutionaries” had a field day and for the next half century have been able to compare themselves to the men women and children whom you see in Les Misérables, and who were mowed down by cannon and musket when protesting for actual real reasons, such as having nought to eat. In 1968, the enactors were bourgeois kids, playing at historical drama.

Detachments of CRS and gendarmes (police under military discipline but in this case under Grimaud’s authority) reinforced the Paris uniforms. These were for the most part working class and farm-region boys, young men who had served their country in the last years of the colonial wars and were not exactly impressed with tweed-wearing students who had avoided those bitter wars and had not grown up in the poverty that was still common in those years, yet had the gall to claim they spoke for the wretched of the earth. The young men working overtime to keep the city safe while others spouted verses from Mao and Trotsky must have wondered what future elites the country was going to have, but they kept their cool and, no doubt, had a sense of humor sorely lacking in the feverish brains of bourgeois Stalinists.

In one of the “iconic” photos of the time, the student leader Dany Cohn-Bendit is seen offering a mischievous grin to a stern looking gendarme (who on closer inspection is repressing a sly smile); this has gone down in history as a symbol of the “whole” “liberation” “movement” of the ’60s.

Cohn-Bendit was, in fact, one of the less ridiculous soixante-huitards (in English: hippies, or San Francisco Democrats). He was ferociously anti-communist; the Stalinists and Trotskyists hated him. They piggy-backed the protests he and his anarchist pals started against dorm restrictions on the university campus. But he himself knew he was using sex stuff to kick start the reverse potty training he gleefully wanted to spread all over society. This is why Charles de Gaulle, who was president at the time, referred to the events aschien-lit, dog s….

Dany said they were in it to oppose “imperialism” as well as dorm restrictions, meaning the Vietnam war. What did he know about the Vietnam war? He knew enough to admit, 50 years later, that even then he knew that in Vietnam, he would have ended before a firing squad. Instead, he has a seat in the European Parliament at Strasbourg. It is not clear what they do there, but they get nice perks.

As we know, the year 1968 began with a communist rampage in Vietnam. Known as the Tet offensive, it had as its objectives to shock public opinion in the U.S. and convince our “elites” the war was unwinnable; to hold territory long enough, in such provincial capitals as Hue, to mass-murder civic and intellectual leaders, as well as policemen, who might form the backbone of resistance to their imperialism; and to destroy the Viet Cong cadres in the South, whom the Northern Stalinists did not trust. Although American and South Vietnamese forces, despite taking terrible casualties, threw back the onslaught, these objectives were achieved.

Some commemoration. Better to remember that first Open tournament on the far west side of Paris, on a street named for Gordon Bennett, an American newspaper tycoon and, no doubt, a Yankee imperialist!

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An Encouraging Sign

It would be easy to despair these days as the various precincts of the America-Is-Awful brigade seem to command the heights of contemporary culture, and any gesture of patriotism or love of country is ruled out of order by the smart set. But these villains haven’t had their way with all of us, as this good news out of California informs us.

Before a championship girls softball game in Fresno, it was announced that there would be no playing of the National Anthem. So the solid Americanos in the stands stood up and sang it themselves. Perhaps not exactly on key, but who cares? 

God bless these solid Fresno patriots.

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