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NYC insiders are ramping up attacks on Andrew Yang

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NYC insiders are ramping up attacks on Andrew Yang

Is Andrew Yang getting interesting? The mayoral front-runner has lately developed a habit of making reasonable, if rather big-picture, suggestions for governing Gotham — and it’s driving his rivals crazy. Yang hasn’t proved he’s ready to be mayor, but his competitors’ unhinged responses to even the most obvious of his ideas show they aren’t. 

Yang’s least interesting or constructive idea is his signature issue: universal basic income. Last year, he ran for president on giving every adult in America $1,000 a month. The idea is to give the poor choice in what to do with their money, rather than hand them vouchers for housing, food and so forth. UBI gives everyone else a weapon against wage stagnation and the automation and offshoring of jobs. 

The Big Apple can’t give every adult $1,000 monthly. It would cost $80 billion a year, exceeding tax revenues. So Yang offers a stripped-down version of his “universal” plan: $167 a month for the poorest half-million New Yorkers. But he never explains key details. 

Ignore UBI, however, and Yang has other, useful ideas. Last week, he suggested that the city not raise taxes on top earners, as it might drive them away. “If you raise taxes . . . where people actually vote with their feet and head to Florida, then you’re not serving the policy’s goal,” he told the Association for a Better New York. 

Yang suggested, too, that the city consider incentives to lure suburban workers who have been away from their Manhattan desks for a year to give the commute another chance. This, too, is worth trying: Why not give people vouchers to take commuter rail, with expiration dates within a couple of months, to get those bored at home to try a trip into town? (Yang rival and city Comptroller Scott Stringer predictably accused him of practicing “muni­cipal Reaganomics.”) 

Yang also suggested that Mayor Bill de Blasio not spend the entire $6 billion in relief money that we’re getting from the feds. As the city could face years of deficits, Yang said, it would be prudent to squirrel 70 percent away. 

This is sensible — but another rival, former de Blasio legal counsel Maya Wiley, attacked him. “Our city deserves a serious leader, not a mini-Trump,” her spokeswoman said. Huh?

Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president, didn’t need a policy reason to tackle Yang. At an event ­accepting a union endorsement — where he should have been in a good mood — Adams said that “people like Andrew Yang” have “never held a job in [their] entire life. . . . you are not going to come to this city and think you are going to disregard the people.” 

Yang is a lawyer. He has worked at startups, ran a school-testing firm and founded and ran a nonprofit training people to be entrepreneurs in struggling cities. He has always had a job. And he has lived in New York for a quarter-century. 

What’s behind the attacks is that the insiders are growing afraid of the outsider. 

The insiders’ bet is that Yang’s front-runner status will disappear as voters pay attention. Yang has about 16 percent of the vote, closely followed by Adams. Half of voters remain undecided. 

But the idea that people are suddenly going to learn who Stringer and Adams are and get excited about them is rather tenuous. And as the latest Fontas Advisors poll shows, sure, people — 85 percent — know who Yang is. 

But they also know who Stringer and Adams are, at 64 and 62 percent. Wiley, at 42 percent, has room to introduce herself. The others don’t. 

Stringer and Adams also face a threat from other candidates with low name recognition. Ray McGuire was a career investment banker; Kathryn Garcia ran the Sanitation Department. Only one-third of voters know who they are. As voters learn, they may like what they see, cutting into the undecideds. 

The final wild card: ranked-choice voting. Sure, Adams and Stringer could fight with each other for a few votes, only to see everyone split their first choice between them, then pick Yang, the affable Yankees-game attendee, as their second choice, putting him at the top. 

Yang’s critics aren’t entirely wrong: He demonstrates an off-putting lack of familiarity with city government, and some of his ideas — like building a casino on Governors Island — are just weird and dumb. But for voters desiring change in a crisis, his well-known major rivals are too familiar with government. 

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor of City Journal. 

Twitter: @NicoleGelinas

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Opinion

Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

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Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

Nearly two decades, $2 trillion and more than 2,300 US casualties later, President Joe Biden has announced that it is time to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan.

Biden is absolutely right. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the 10th anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing, we need to accept the fact that we accomplished our only real objective in the region long ago: eliminating the terrorist mastermind responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans.

There was never any other reason to be there. Killing Osama bin Laden was an appropriate response to heinous attacks on American soil, and it is unfortunate that it took us a decade to find him hiding out in neighboring Pakistan. But a decades-long attempt to bring democracy to a country that has never known anything but brief intervals of peace amid thousands of years without a centralized government? This was mad folly, and no one should be surprised that the authorities in Kabul have accepted the reality of sharing power with the Taliban.

We should, too.

The saddest thing about our “forever war,” to use a phrase Biden has appropriated from his predecessor, is that its futility was totally predictable. I hate to be one of those young fogies who laments the decline of reading, but sometimes I wish people in charge would just open an encyclopedia for once. Here is what it says in my dusty old set of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1911:

“The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death and audacious in attack but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases.”

Does this sound like the start of a modern fairy tale about the triumph of liberal democracy and brotherly love in a despotic wasteland? Did anyone really think that democracy hadn’t arrived in Afghanistan before 2001 because no one had ever thought of trying it before and that its people would abandon centuries of habits to play along with our pet project? Let’s keep reading:

“Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence; the traveller conceals and misrepresents the time and direction of his journey. The Afghan is by breed and nature a bird of prey.”

These are hard words, ones that would never appear in a modern reference book. But they are full of genuine wisdom, the fruit of decades of British experience in Afghanistan, which even the Empire upon which the sun never set could not subdue. The Russians couldn’t do it, either, which was why the United States was happy to watch the crumbling Soviet Union waste what was left of its military might there in the 1980s. Why did we think we would fare any better?

I am old enough to remember when what Biden is attempting now was unserious at best and at worst criminal, a return to the wickedness of Charles Lindbergh and the anti-World War II “America First” movement. But lots of things (elite belief in the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, for example) have changed since the last administration. Maybe if former President Donald Trump had campaigned on staying in Afghanistan for all eternity, he would have been impeached for not getting every last American home by Thanksgiving 2017.

The truth is, though, that even Biden isn’t going to have an easy time getting us out of Afghanistan. Like both of his predecessors, he is about to discover that the Pentagon is used to getting whatever it wants and that the US foreign-policy establishment has decades worth of spurious justifications for keeping American troops in the region indefinitely. While it would be nice to think that the president has enough of a mandate to push through a withdrawal, there are good reasons to remain dubious.

In his speech announcing the move on Wednesday, Biden said that all 2,500 US troops will be home by Sept. 11. This is a fitting date.

But I will believe it when I see it.

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine.

Twitter: @MatthewWalther

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NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

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NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

“As you look down the road, as far as crime-reduction in New York City, it’s a very bleak picture,” ex-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently told radio host John Catsimatidis. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, as far as I can see.”

That was one bleak assessment by the city’s former top cop. Kelly lamented that none of the leading mayoral candidates has shown an interest in cracking down on crime.

Case in point: Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang was heckled and called “pro-cop” by demonstrators during a bike ride protesting the police-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright on Tuesday night.

Apparently, the anti-cop protesters took offense at Yang’s mild call for more funding for the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crimes Task Force amid a spate of violent attacks. But Yang’s remarks are in-sync with most New Yorkers, who want police follow-up to both solve crimes and prevent future ones — with the perps arrested, tried and imprisoned.

But speaking common sense out loud will get candidates heckled, shamed and run out of events, as the radicals did to Yang.

The bullies have most of the Democratic mayoral wannabes embracing the “Defund the police” nonsense. Progressive favorite Maya Wiley would cut the headcount at 1 Police Plaza and city jails and use the savings to fund one-stop community centers and so on.

Establishment Democrat Scott Stringer strives to appease the radicals by taking various responsibilities (and funding) from the NYPD and giving the Civilian Complaint Review Board final say over cop discipline — kneecapping the department’s commissioner.

Eric Adams, a retired police captain, vows to . . . name the first woman police commissioner. He’s anti-“defund” but promises to find $1 billion in “savings” in the NYPD budget. Another dodge: Rather than disbanding the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, he says he’d have turned it into an anti-gun unit — which is what it actually was anyway. But Adams would much rather talk about his big plans for . . . wind power.

Yang and Ray McGuire talk about naming a deputy mayor just to bird-dog the department. Yang also wants a civilian, not a career cop, to head the department, while McGuire also vows to find “savings” in the NYPD budget.

Absent is any loud vow to get New York off the path to being an open city for criminals and violent street crazies, any clear recognition that subways, buses and other public spaces won’t become safer on their own.

City Hall needs straight-talking leadership with a laser focus on reducing crime and disorder — someone who’ll face down the radicals who demand police scalps and stand with a public that desperately wants the “good old days” of ever-increasing public safety to return.

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The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

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The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

Just two days after the feds announced the pause on the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, vowing it’d only be “a matter of days” as they looked into six cases of blood clots in the 7 million Americans who’ve gotten the jab, they’ve found just two more — and now say it’ll be at least a week to 10 days before they un-pause. This “abundance of caution” has nothing to do with science, only bureaucratic indecision. And it’s downright dangerous as it puts vax programs on hold and feeds anti-vax hysteria.

The issue is a rare blood clot, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, which occurs in about 5 to 15.7 people per million each year. The J&J shot has an even-lower case rate — if it’s actually linked to them. (The first six cases involved women of childbearing age, and birth control heightens the risk of blood clots; one of the two new cases is a man. All eight also suffered low levels of blood platelets, making the clots tough to treat.)

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a three-hour emergency meeting Wednesday to assess whether this handful of cases should keep a halt on the vax.

Three bureaucrats — Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC chief Rochelle Walensky and President Joe Biden’s vaccine czar, David Kessler — testified to Congress Thursday that all three federally authorized vaccines, including J&J’s, are safe and effective. And they urged Americans to get one of them as COVID cases continue to rise.

But the decision to halt the only vaccine that’s given in one dose rather than two and doesn’t need freezer storage is making mass vaccination more difficult. It’s put a hold on New York City’s home-vaccination program for the elderly and disabled, and likely many others across the nation.

And it’s tanking public confidence in the safety of J&J’s vaccine, from 57 percent before the halt to 32 percent after, per a YouGov/Economist survey. And anti-vaxxers are pointing to the pause to fuel their conspiracy theories about all brands of the lifesaving shot.

You’re far likelier to die in a plane accident than get a blood clot from J&J’s jab, yet we still allow air travel. And getting as many people immunized ASAP is vital to beating COVID and saving far more lives. People can make up their own minds about the minuscule J&J risk, and there’s nothing scientific about bureaucrats taking the decision out of their hands — or about politicians letting them do it.

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