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Nevertheless, Xi persisted — with Biden’s support

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Nevertheless, Xi persisted — with Biden's support

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, what does it mean when a phone doesn’t ring? This philosophical chestnut recurs whenever a new American president phones his allies and clients or, if you’re Joe Biden, when the calls are to your deepest frenemy Benjamin Netanyahu or your ex-friend and now quasi-enemy Xi Jinping.

Now and then, you are reminded that the Khomeinis and Khameneis, and the Osama bin Ladens, too, have a point. America’s politicians are decadent and feckless. They substitute image for reality, and when it goes wrong, they pretend it never happened. Everything about Joe Biden is false, from his teeth to the random musings that float past them. The whole world sees this, but we are enjoined not to by an administration that drifted into office on a cloud of fantasy, puffed up by a largely complicit media.

“Biden confronts China’s Xi in first call,” reports Politico. Biden couldn’t “confront” a cheese sandwich without a side order of denture paste.

“In first call with Xi since election, Biden warns him on human rights,” reports The New York Times. That’s a “warning” on “human rights” abuses that Xi says aren’t happening.

“Last night, I was on the phone for two straight hours with Xi Jinping,” Biden announced to the press on Thursday, as though boasting of the bladder strength of a younger man. “We don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch.”

But America’s lunch was long since served to China, and Biden was a consistent supporter of serving it. What’s coming next is the tab. This, as is traditional, will be paid by ordinary Americans and other suckers.

The Washington Post gets it right, if only by accident: “Biden has first call as president with Xi Jinping.” It’s Biden who’s now the weaker party, ringing up to petition for favors so he can confirm his false view of reality, and the false impressions that his domestic media are pushing. Substituting fiction for reality is, of course, a sure and short path to disaster. And it is the path we are on.

For similar reasons of image, Biden — or the handlers who compose his cue cards — is sending a signal by not sending a signal to Netanyahu. The message is that the Obama days are back. Netanyahu is in for triple-time on the naughty step, first for denouncing Obama’s Iran deal to Congress in 2015, again for going on play dates with that nasty Donald Trump, and yet again for making up with the Gulf monarchies.

Who are the intended recipients of this infantile theatrical? Not Netanyahu. He won’t have expected anything less, given how he’s behaved — and how Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton behaved toward Israel during the Obama years. He doesn’t care, and with deepening ties to Russia, China and his new Sunni Arab allies, he doesn’t need to care.

Not the leaders of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, who risked a lot by opening relations with Israel, just as the US always wanted them to — only to have the Biden administration begrudgingly acknowledge that it was prepared to let these peace deals stand. They care less and less too. Everyone in the region knows that America is finished, and that Russia and China are the foreign powers to watch.

The intended recipients are the Democrats’ new allies, the zealots of the American media and the mullahs of the Iranian regime. The trauma of the Trump reality shock has welded most American media to the Democrats. They care intensely that Biden issues a symbolic rebuff to Netanyahu, because all they care about is that their side wins the domestic war of images. Reality — the reality of America’s collapsing position in the Middle East and western Asia, the reality of a collapsing polity at home — means nothing. They don’t care about the national interest: They care about proximity to power.

The Biden administration can do no wrong in the media’s eyes, unless it’s on matters of racial or gender “equity.” Even then, no one complained that the first recipients of Biden’s slurred wisdom were the leaders of Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany and France. Biden was telephonically privileging a bunch of white men and Angela Merkel. We were told this was how serious diplomacy is done.

This, like most of what the media tells us about the Biden administration, is nonsense. Serious diplomacy is done with people who don’t like you. People like Benjamin Netanyahu, who accurately sees Joe Biden as a blowhard and a fool. People like Ali Khamenei of Iran, who doesn’t care when the call comes, because he already knows that, one way or another, Biden will give him everything he wants, whether he wants to or not. People like Xi Jinping, who surely cannot believe his luck that Donald Trump, the first president since the Korean War to give China a hard time, has been replaced by Hunter Biden’s semi-senile father.

The world is saying goodbye to America. Americans should understand that this means that they too will be saying goodbye to America. Dream on.

Adapted from Spectator USA

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Opinion

‘Fiscally conservative’ war hawks are trying to defraud GOP voters — again

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‘Fiscally conservative’ war hawks are trying to defraud GOP voters — again

With the Republican loss in the 2020 election, there is a great deal of debate on where the party and the wider conservative movement are headed. According to betting markets, the 2024 field is wide open. The odds-on favorite is former President Donald Trump, but even he only has around a 20 percent chance as of this writing. In second place is Nikki Haley.

The former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador is an object of Beltway fascination, as can be seen in a recent feature profile in Politico. But what would a candidate or President Haley stand for? Would her views jibe with those of the working-class voters who propelled her ex-boss’ unlikely journey to the Oval Office?

If her new organization, Stand for America, is any indication, the answer is no. Instead, it looks Haley will offer the old and tired combination that GOP primary voters decisively rejected in 2016: fiscal conservatism married with a hawkish foreign policy. Whether or not this fusion has a chance politically, basic arithmetic shows that what are likely to be the two pillars of the Haley 2024 campaign are in contradiction.

Not long ago, Haley complained about Democrats wanting to bring back earmarks, highlighting a $50 million project for an indoor rainforest in Iowa. But Americans who believe that Washington should live within its means must see through what is a transparent fraud: Haley frets about a $50 million indoor rainforest — while supporting a foreign policy that costs trillions.

Fact is, pork-barrel projects are a drop in the feds’ sea of red ink. In 2019, the US government spent $4.4 trillion. While tens of millions of dollars may seem like a lot of money, projects in that range shouldn’t be the focus of true budget hawks.

Where does most of the budget go? About half to entitlements, which are politically untouchable. The next category, however, is the military, which amounted to 3.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2019. At the height of the War on Terror, the numbers were higher; in 2010, the armed forces consumed 4.5 percent of GDP, and we could easily return to such numbers under the budgets preferred by many Republicans.

To see how meaningless pork-barrel projects are in the grand scheme of things, we should return to the indoor rainforest that so upset Haley. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, as of 2019, the post-9/11 wars had a long-term cost to the United States of around $6.4 trillion. About $2 trillion of that was wasted on Afghanistan alone, with the Taliban now controlling more land than it did in the years immediately after the 2001 invasion.

If the price of an indoor rainforest is $50 million, then the Afghan War has cost taxpayers 40,000 times as much. No, that isn’t a typo: For the price of being in Afghanistan, the federal government could have built an indoor rainforest every 80 square miles across the entire continental United States, or, if it preferred, 13 in each US county.

Perhaps that wouldn’t be the best use of government money. But the point is this: It’s undeniable that foreign wars have been a massive drain on the nation’s resources. Trumpian Populists and progressives would like to see the government invest money at home. But even those who think budgetary restraint is important shouldn’t be manipulated by mathematically ignorant arguments made by those who seek power.

War hawks can’t honestly claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism while only attacking relatively minuscule pork-barrel projects. If American dollars are better spent in places like Afghanistan and the South China Sea than at home, fine. But politicians should make that case directly to the American voter, not try to burnish their fiscal reputations by attacking puny projects while leaving untouched far heftier expenditures.

Republican strategists and activists beware: The combination of opposition to indoor rainforests and support for more pointless war isn’t the path to either electoral success or fiscal responsibility.

Richard Hanania is president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology and a research fellow at Defense Priorities.

Twitter: @RichardHanania

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NY parents desperate for more school choice: Lift the charter cap!

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NY parents desperate for more school choice: Lift the charter cap!

Parents fed up with the city Department of Education’s disastrous performance this last year are desperate for better choices. Better-off families can pay for alternatives such as private and parochial schools. To give low-income New Yorkers the same opportunity, state lawmakers have a clear duty to lift the cap on public charter schools.

In the city, charter-school enrollment was 138,000 across 267 schools in the 2019-2020 school year. Expansion of existing schools will let that grow some, but not enough.

The DOE’s timidity in reopening schools, its open-close-and-repeat approach to those that aren’t shuttered and its utter failure to make remote learning more than a sad joke frustrate parents across the city. A major exodus from public schools is inevitable — unless the state allows for more high-quality, well-managed charters.

As the pandemic raged, Mayor de Blasio and outgoing Chancellor Richard Carranza took no break from their war on charters. Recently, a state judge ordered the DOE to include charters in the same weekly COVID-19 testing program used at regular schools — and the city is appealing the decision.

Some charters, such as Success Academy, were forced to go all-remote because the DOE wouldn’t let them reopen classes in spaces shared with traditional public schools — lest they make those schools look bad. Yet Success and others at least made remote classes work. KIPP Infinity in Harlem recorded 98 percent attendance because every kid received devices and those with connectivity issues got hotspots.

The flexibility enjoyed by charters allows for out-of-the-box thinking not just in responding to challenges like a pandemic, but also in providing a quality public education for mostly low-income, minority student bodies. They’ve proved to be the laboratories of innovation and achievement that then-Gov. George Pataki envisioned when he pushed charter-school legislation through the Legislature over two decades ago.

In that time, a total of 397 charters have been issued statewide, with 325 schools now serving students, plus 26 approved but not yet open. The 2015 law that raised the state charter cap to 460 allowed only a few dozen more for the city — all which have now been used.

There remain about 25 so-called “zombie” charters — ones that were revoked or approved but never opened. Those licenses should be re-assigned, but it still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the huge demand for charter seats, grades K-12.

Families need new legislation to lift or eliminate the cap. The progressive lawmakers who now dominate the Legislature should ignore the teachers unions, which despise charters, and do right by inner-city kids. It’s a matter of fundamental fairness to give low-income children the same chance to escape bad schools that the wealthy enjoy.  

A million city kids have essentially lost over a year of education. Public charters can lead the way in bringing thousands back up to speed via a quality, rigorous instruction.

Save public education and increase basic equity: Raise the cap!

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Alzheimer’s took my mom, but her dignity and love shone to the end

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Alzheimer's took my mom, but her dignity and love shone to the end

There are a hundred things I could tell you about my late mother that are more important than the disease that caught her in its grip the last few years of her life.

I could tell you about her relationship with my older bother, who has autism, and her deep, lifelong friendship with him. 

I could tell you how she took her experience fighting the schools to educate and treat my brother decently and went into social work as a career, helping countless other disabled and mentally ill people. 

I could tell you about her accomplished painting, her love of cats or her civic involvement. 

After losing her last week, though, I want to share something about the worst, about the end, about the Alzheimer’s disease that took this vibrant woman, who made friends and plans wherever she went, and confined her to a wheelchair and rendered her nearly mute and inert. 

Because I’ve come to believe that this crushing disease doesn’t, during almost all its progression, achieve as complete a victory as it might seem. It takes away so much. The ability to live independently. The ability to talk. And in the end, the ability, or will, to eat. There are no heartening stories of Alzheimer’s survivors. 

But our personhood is so strong that the disease, even in its late stages, can’t fully extinguish the human personality. No, the spark is still there, flickering, very difficult to detect at times, but there. 

I acknowledge that some families have worse experiences than mine, wrenching though it was, and Alzheimer’s forces you constantly to ratchet your expectations downward. First, you’re glad of conversation, even if it doesn’t make much sense. Then, you’re glad of any words. Finally, you are glad of, well, anything. 

Still, there are little gems of surprises. Once, I was wheeling my mom from the cafeteria area in her nursing home, hoping to get her from Point A to Point B without incident, when she reached out and got a death grip on the chair of another resident. 

This other resident was a notably stately woman. “Hello, gorgeous!” said my Mom. Where did that come from?

Toward the end, when things were bleakest, my Mom would still shine through the shroud of the disease. If she talked, it was always incoherently, but I could see her making points the way she always had. She might chuckle softly at a mention of my brother. Even when I couldn’t get anything else out of her, she’d hum, to patriotic songs, to hymns, to “Ode to Joy.” 

No matter how bad it got, you’d see grace notes in the incredible love showered on her and others by the staff of the facility caring for her. Or another resident would do something amusing or touching. 

I remember an otherwise despairing visit, when another lady sat down randomly besides us. I said I liked the stuffed dog she had in a basket on her walker. She said he was a good boy, began to pet him and then kissed him a couple times lovingly on the snout. It was so sweet, I was moved to tears. 

The last time I visited my Mom, days before she took to her death bed, I badgered her, as I often did, to try to get a reaction out of her: “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”

Sometimes she wouldn’t say anything. Sometimes you might notice her trying to reply. This time, she got out an unmistakable, “Yep.” 

I played the “1812 Overture” on my phone, loud. Again, to get a reaction, I swung my arms in exaggerated, mock conductor movements, especially toward the finale, with Tchaikovsky’s chimes ringing and the cannons firing in a crashing crescendo of victory and resolve. 

And right at the end, my Mom briefly raised and twisted her hand in a conductor motion of her own. 

Take that, you merciless, godawful disease. 

Twitter: @RichLowry

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