Nancy Pelosi, Unhinged

To be fair, that would describe Ms. Pelosi on most days. But the specific reference is to her appearance this morning on CNN, as reported by the Washington Times. Pelosi was beside herself on the subject of abortion:

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash about criticism that Democrats did not foresee anti-abortion activists’ work, Mrs. Pelosi lashed out against the high court….

“Let’s not take our eye off the ball — the ball is this court which is dangerous to the freedoms of our country,” Mrs. Pelosi told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Beware in terms of marriage equality, beware in terms of other aspects of it. And so let’s not waste our time on that, the fact is this is a dangerous court to families, to freedom, in our country.”

It is “dangerous to the freedoms of our country” for elected representatives to determine policy on the controversial issue of abortion, rather than nine unelected justices? “Freedom,” like “our democracy,” means the Democrats getting their way. And how the presumably forthcoming Dobbs opinion is “dangerous…to families” is anyone’s guess.

Mrs. Pelosi insisted that Democrats played the long game on abortion and that they never could have envisioned former President Donald Trump winning and appointing federal judges that rule in favor of pro-life litigants.

Pelosi acknowledges, as we all knew, that Democrats were surprised by Trump’s 2016 victory. If Hillary Clinton had won, as Pelosi expected, she would have appointed Justice Scalia’s successor as well as Anthony Kennedy’s and Ruth Ginsberg’s. That would have created a solidly left-wing Supreme Court. Thank God it didn’t happen.

“I don’t disrespect people’s views and how they want to live their lives, but I don’t think that it’s up to the Donald Trump appointees on the court or any politicians to make that decision for women,” she said.

Neither does the Supreme Court majority. On the contrary, they think it is up to elected representatives of the people, not themselves, to decide what laws should govern abortion. Democrats fail to understand this–or, rather, pretend not to understand it–because they became accustomed to the idea of the Supreme Court as their proprietary super-legislature, willing to “enact” laws that didn’t have enough popular support to be passed by Congress or by state legislatures. Now they are distraught at having to take their case to the voters, and explain why they have come to view abortion not as a necessary and “rare” evil, but rather as a positive good, right up to the moment of birth and perhaps beyond.

Weakening of Warming, or Cooling Trend?

At Watts Up With That, Fritz Vahrenholt comments on recent temperature and CO2 data:

[A] weakening of the warming trend of the last 40 years is apparent.

The temperature curve of the satellite-based measurements of the University of Alabama UAH has been oscillating between -0.2 and 0.4 degrees for 20 years and seems to have remained stable since 2015, as shown in the next graph in the enlargement. (Source: woodfortrees). The mean value is drawn in green-it shows a slightly decreasing trend since 2015. Why hasn’t this been reported?

We all know the answer to that question. This is the graph of satellite measurements since 2015:

The “weakening” or decline, call it what you will, is not because atmospheric CO2 is no longer increasing:

CO2 concentrations in the air have continued to rise unabated. It is true that global annual CO2 emissions have been more or less constant for some years now, at 40 billion tons of CO2. Slightly more than half is absorbed by the oceans and plants, so that currently each year the equivalent of about 2.5 ppm CO2 is added to the air concentration. In 2015, there were 401 ppm of CO2 in the air; in 2021, there were 416 ppm. At this rate, by the way, we would never reach the IPCC’s scary scenarios of 800 to 1000 ppm in 2100.

The “green” movement is 5% science and 95% politics, so the political realities resulting from the skyrocketing cost of energy have created some flexibility among greenies:

The U.S. government is also repositioning itself. John Kerry, the U.S. government’s climate envoy, for whom the 1.5-degree target was previously the sole political guideline, is now putting things into perspective and, in view of skyrocketing energy prices, saying that 1.8 degrees should be quite sufficient as a target.

Still, fantasy rules on the left. The idea that wind and solar energy can (or should) power the world is absurd:

German policymakers are still reacting inadequately. They believe they can solve the problem of self-generated energy shortages due to the double phase-out of coal and nuclear energy by simply building more wind farms and solar plants. It must always be remembered that in 2021 the share of wind and solar energy was just over 5% of primary energy supply (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, renewables). Even in a good windy year, it would not be much more than 6%.

I think the world’s best hope to survive “green” insanity is a continuing random drop in global temperatures over the next few years.

Kamala’s Latest Deep Thoughts

Vice President Kamala Harris has offered up fresh profundities, this time on the manner in which we will all “work together,” though there is no reference to the time frame, as in, whether the time to work together is now, or every day, as we have been doing while working together, all the time.

You think I’m making this up? See for yourself (only 35 seconds, but it seems much longer, like time has stretched into tomorrow, or whatever):

How is it possible we are graced with such profundity in these divisive times?

The Evils of Socialized Medicine

Bernie Sanders wants to bring socialized medicine to the U.S. To be fair to Bernie, though, that is probably the position of nearly every Democrat. As a reminder of why socialized medicine (like socialism generally) is one of the worst ideas in world history, here are two stories that happen to be in the news in the U.K. today.

First, former Secretary of Health Jeremy Hunt is blowing the whistle on Britain’s National Health Service, which he ran for six years:

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, has described how the service he led for almost six years was at times a “rogue system” suffering from a cover-up culture that failed patients and staff.

Hunt…says the NHS’s fear of transparency and honesty about avoidable deaths and mistakes is a “major structural problem” that still needs to be tackled.

In his new book, Zero: Eliminating Unnecessary Deaths in a Post-Pandemic NHS, he reveals how civil servants in the Department of Health and Social Care tried to block him from reading patients’ letters of complaint and even told him he could not send apologies to harmed families. Before he changed the NHS stance he says there were “meetings held behind my back to work out if they could dissuade me from such a thoroughly dangerous idea”.

It is one example of what Hunt calls an “omertà around avoidable deaths” within the service and a widespread fear that being open about problems would damage public confidence in the NHS.

The ultimate fear in a government-run system.

Failed managers were often recycled into new jobs, he says, where they continued to make the same mistakes.

He says he was “shocked to his core” by the failures in care, which included 150 avoidable deaths a week in England.

Hunt also refers to the problem of lack of emergency care, with “patients who have dialled 999 waiting hours for ambulances and admission to A&E departments.” And this:

One in nine of the population in England is now on an NHS waiting list for routine surgery, a total of 6.4 million people.

The kind of rot described here is typical of government bureaucracies and is therefore entirely predictable. The second story has to do with dentistry: “Nine out of ten NHS dental practices in England closed to new routine patients.”

Across England, some 86.3 per cent of dentists are not accepting new patients who are seeking a routine check-up. Of those, 42.4 per cent state explicitly that they are not accepting new adults.

A further 43.9 per cent will only accept them with a referral from a dentist, which is likely to reflect the need for advanced dental services only, such as complications or surgical extractions.

For children, 78.7 per cent of dentists are not accepting new routine patients.

How can this be? What irrational incentives would cause dentists to shun new business?

[Louise Ansari, the national director at Healthwatch England] said the issue was compounded “by a confusing dental contract that doesn’t incentivise dentists to take on new patients, particularly ones that may require extensive treatment. And it is the most vulnerable people in our society, including children, disabled people and those on low incomes who are bearing the brunt”.
[T]he latest data published by NHS Digital in February suggested about 65 per cent of adults had not been seen in the last 24 months.

Dentists are abandoning the profession:

The British Dental Association urged ministers to “wake up” to the crisis facing NHS dentistry, warning that about 3,000 dentists had already left the NHS since the start of the pandemic.

They blame what they call a “discredited contract” between dentists and the NHS, which effectively limits the number of treatments a dentist can offer each year. The system funds care for little over half the population, while perversely incentivising dentists to take on simpler cases as they are rewarded the same for one filling as ten.

In America, people become dentists mostly because they can make very good money. They compete for new business, as more patients mean more income. If a dental practice attracts more business than the existing number of dentists can handle, they can hire younger dentists and make more money still. The result is that people in the U.S., at all income levels, generally have better teeth than people in the U.K. and most other European countries.

Socialism destroys everything it touches.

Fox News Starts New Satire Site?

So I pull up Fox News to find an opinion article titled, “It’s Time for Medicare for All.” And I notice the byline of the purported author: “Sen. Bernie Sanders.” To be sure, the article that follows does sound quite a lot like the real Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Democrat from Vermont. But it’s hard to imagine the real Bernie Sanders willingly appearing at Fox News. Though it is hard to tell, as the drivel that follows is so on-brand.

Just take in the first sentence:

The United States has the most dysfunctional, inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive health care system in the world.

Yes, this is a true statement, but the idea that Medicare-for-all is the solution is one of the great non-sequiturs of our age, which is why one imagines Fox News intends this piece as a bit of meta satire. It is federal regulation that has driven the bureaucratization and cost explosion of health care in both the public and private sector.

The article gets better:

Would a Medicare-for-all health care system be expensive? Yes.

That may be the only probative statement in the article. It quickly resumes fantasy-land:

But, while providing comprehensive health care for all, it would be significantly LESS costly than our current dysfunctional system because it would eliminate an enormous amount of the bureaucracy, profiteering, administrative costs and misplaced priorities inherent in our current for-profit system.

Yes, do recall the real Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn, and probably tried to sell the Brooklyn Bridge a few times to unsuspecting passers-by.

Chaser—Mark Perry with a helpful chart, where the definite kink in the line corresponds to when Medicare and Medicaid began their steady process of separating payment decisions from the patient.

Justice Thomas on the leak

On Friday the great Justice Clarence Thomas was interviewed by our friend John Yoo at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Hoover Institution in Dallas. I have posted the C-SPAN video at the bottom.

Professor Josh Blackman created a transcription of parts of the video and posted highlights with his own comments here on the Volokh Conspiracy’s current home base at Reason. First, Professor Blackman reports, John asked Justice Thomas if there is “anything going on at the Court these days.” Thomas let out “a booming laugh” before he responded:

The whole idea that your point about institutions, I think we are in danger of destroying the institutions that are required for a free society. You can’t have a civil society, a free society, without a stable legal system. You can’t have one without stability and things like property or interpretation and an impartial judiciary. And I’ve been in this business long enough to know just how fragile it is.

And the institution that I’m a part of, if someone said that one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone in you would say that, “Oh, that’s impossible. No one would ever do that.” There was such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, a belief in what we were doing, that that was verboten. It was beyond anyone’s understanding, or at least anyone’s imagination, that someone would do that. And look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever. When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity. You can explain it but you can’t undo it.”

Let that sink in. There is much more from Justice Thomas and, as you might expect, all of it is worth taking in. Professor Blackman features a few of the highlights and concludes: “It is our best insight to date about the sentiments inside the Court.”

Justice Thomas, long may you run.

Sunday morning coming down

I saw singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester perform on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota more than 25 years years ago and he bowled me over. There couldn’t have been more than a hundred people in the audience. Accompanying himself on guitar, he turned in a beautiful performance that concluded with “Yankee Lady.” Although Winchester had famously evaded the draft by decamping to Canada in 1967, returning only after the Carter amnesty, there was not a hint of politics in his performance.

I try to appreciate the music and put politics to one side in these posts. I understand some people can’t. I shared Winchester’s feelings about the war at the time but am a little younger than he was and drew a high number in the draft lottery held in the summer of 1970. Luckily for me (because I was wrong), my convictions were never put to the test. Winchester committed his own views to a single autobiographical verse in his adaptation of “Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt” on Learn To Love It in 1974.

Winchester died of cancer in 2014 at the age of 69. Jon Pareles has an account of Winchester’s career in the New York Times obituary. Bob Mehr took an extended look in the Memphis Commercial Appeal obituary. Winchester was a fraternity brother of William Bennett at Williams College. As I recall, Bill spoke warmly of him when he passed in 2014. The anniversary of his birth this coming Tuesday affords an opportune moment to remember him with the resources of YouTube.

Winchester grew up in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. He spoke with an endearing Southern accent that seems to me, in Winchester’s case, how American English should be spoken. You can hear all the crosscurrents of American popular music in his songwriting and in his singing. Country, blues, rock, soul, and gospel — they’re all there.

Winchester’s songwriting was appreciated by fellow musicians such as Wynonna Judd. Wynonna recorded Winchester’s gospel-tinged declaration of faith — “Let’s Make A Baby King” — on Tell Me Why (1993), along with Winchester’s “Just Like New.” The album’s ten cuts generated five hit singles, but Wynonna’s version of “Let’s Make a Baby King” reached number 61 on the country chart based on unsolicited airplay.

Winchester had a dry sense of humor that he drew on for many of his songs. Interviewing musician Herb Pedersen in 2014 and knowing Winchester was close to death, I asked Herb about the manifestation of Winchester’s sense of humor in his songwriting. “My goodness,” Herb said, “he could be funny pulling up his socks.” My intent this morning is just to recall his work and hit a few highlights.

Working the same vein that The Band had tapped into, Winchester could write songs that sounded like they’d been around forever. I thought “Yankee Lady” was an instant classic. The song was a highlight of Winchester’s self-titled debut album produced by The Band’s Robbie Robertson in Toronto in 1970. I think the live versions with Winchester accompanying himself on guitar display the song to better effect than the 1970 album version.

A songwriter himself, Robertson had been knocked out by what he describes in his 2016 memoir Testimony as the “powerful melancholy sweetness” in Winchester’s songs. You can certainly hear it in “Yankee Lady” and also in “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which I thought was another instant classic on the debut album Robertson produced. Those are the two songs Winchester played for Robertson in Ottawa at their first meeting. When Robertson told him he would help Winchester secure a recording contract and produce the album if he had time, Robertson writes, “He glowed with encouragement and looked like he was being rescued from a lost island, which in a way he was.”

The title of Third Down, 110 to Go (1972) reflected Winchester’s sense of humor, as did “Isn’t That So.” That is a statement in the form of a question.

“Let the Rough Side Drag” was the title track of his 1976 album. It’s an offbeat song of inspiration and appreciation. It’s funny too, but this is serious: “What a good thing to make a joyful noise.”

I thought Nothing But a Breeze (1977) was a strong album that should have put him over the top. One of the most striking cuts on the album was his cover of “Bowling Green,” by Terry Slater and Jacqueline Ertel. First recorded by the Everly Brothers for a single in 1967, it also appears on their Everly Brothers Sing album. Jesse’s cover does not suffer by comparison.

Jesse broke though during this period, but not at the level his talent merited. The live performance captured in the video below, for example, shows Jesse singing Martha Carson’s gospel number “You Can’t Stand Up Alone” with Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt (originally recorded for Learn to Love It). He seemed to me to have everything necessary to be a star of the first order.

I caught up with Jesse again when he released Gentleman of Leisure in 1999. Beautifully produced by dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas in Nashville, the recording showed Winchester operating in peak form with a fantastic set of his own compositions. Winchester’s dry sense of humor is all over the title track.

Winchester also wrote songs that expressed deep feeling with economy and restraint. The last song on the disc is “I Wave Bye Bye” (video below). It hits home for me with the force of revelation. I thought he must have written the song for Alice, his only daughter and youngest child, but Cindy Winchester (Jesse’s widow) gently corrected me. She advised that I had gotten that wrong in my own remembrance of Jesse on Power Line. Cindy cited “It Takes a Young Girl” (from Nothing But a Breeze) as the song he wrote about Alice.

We probably shouldn’t leave Gentleman of Leisure before we check out “Wander My Way Home.” Backed by the Fairfield Four, this is a Sunday morning song, Winchester style, with a sense of humor and a heaping tablespoon of metaphors.

Love Filling Station (2009) was Jesse’s last disc to be released before he died. Also produced by Jerry Douglas, the disc includes a moving cover of “Stand by Me.” The posthumous A Reasonable Amount of Trouble (2014) is also worth checking out.

As Winchester struggled with his first bout of cancer in 2011, fellow artists including James Taylor, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Allen Toussaint, Jimmy Buffett, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett and Rodney Crowell recorded the tribute album Quiet About It (now out of print but available on streaming services and on YouTube). Not too shabby. Indeed, I highly recommend it. Mac McAnally contributed a cover of Winchester’s “Defying Gravity” (I think that’s a pun), a number that goes back to Learn To Love It.

Elvis Costello was also a fan who contributed to the tribute album. Let’s not wave bye bye before we take a look at Jesse in performance on Costello’s old Sundance cable show. “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding” — a song from Love Filling Station — testifies to the power of music in our lives. One can see the impact of the song on Neko Case, who sat beside Jesse staring straight ahead with a tear or two streaming down her face. “That’s it, Jesse,” Elvis commented. “You finished me off.”