There has been a lot of media coverage speculating that the biggest loser in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war is the American consumer. Headlines screaming that not China but Americans are paying tariffs through higher prices are everywhere. Journalists speculate the tariffs are costing Americans upwards of $1,000 a year.
If those claims are true, there must be some evidence to support them, right? Yes, there are anecdotes about companies paying higher prices for some raw materials imported from China, and yes, there are interviews with select consumers saying they see the prices of imported goods they buy increasing. However, is that really proof that America, not China, is paying for the trade war? Not really.
Start by picking one of the amounts the media says the average U.S. consumer is paying in increased prices due to tariffs — about $1,000 per year.
That means that the average consumer will pay $1,000 more for their same piece of the GDP. Essentially, they get the same quantity of stuff but pay an extra grand for it. Another way to say this is the price of their same basket of goods increased by $1,000. That’s called inflation.
The current GDP in the United States is about $59,000 per capita, and a $1,000 increase on that amount is about 1.7 percent. Likewise, the current annual rate of inflation through August is also 1.7 percent. Now for a bit of logic: Does it make sense that all of the inflation for the year that consumers are seeing is exclusively due to paying tariffs on Chinese goods? In other words, do you think that if the Trump tariffs didn’t exist there would be zero inflation?
Another way to look at the purported Trump tariff effect on America is to examine U.S. businesses. Many use imported raw materials and components to domestically manufacture consumer goods, while others import finished goods from China for sale to consumers. If Americans were paying the tariffs as the media is reporting, wouldn’t we see increasing costs and prices in these businesses?
In fact we see exactly the opposite. In the durable goods market, the Producer Price Index for raw materials fell 0.7 percent in August — the fifth straight monthly decline. And in the non-durable goods market, raw material prices are down a full 8 percent over last year. Finally, looking to the finished goods area, prices across the entire spectrum, from imported furniture to electronics to clothing, are all down compared to last year before the tariffs even took effect.
Lastly, we’ve been repeatedly told that if prices are really declining — they are — then it must be because importers are absorbing the tariffs here in the U.S. when the goods arrive. Again, this is not true. The Trade Services Producer Price Index released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the margin between what a wholesaler (importer) or retailer pays for goods and what they sell them for. Since last year, this index has improved by an astonishing 18 percent. Importers and retailers are earning higher margins on goods that are costing American consumers less.
But someone has to be paying the tariffs, right? They are, and it’s China — in two ways. First, to continue their manufacturing fervor, Chinese businesses are cutting their prices by as much as 25 percent to avoid losing export sales. Why 25 percent? This seems obvious, but that is the amount of the latest round of Trump tariffs on Chinese manufactured goods. China is paying the tariffs by receiving 25 percent less for the sale of their manufactured goods and raw materials.
Second, the effects of the trade war have depressed the Chinese economy dramatically and reduced the value of their currency. That means buying raw materials and finished goods from China costs Americans less regardless of manufacturer price reductions. And, when China spends their depressed currency on foreign goods it costs them more. How much more? A quick calculation shows it’s roughly the amount of the tariffs.
• Kevin Cochrane teaches business and economics at Colorado Mesa University, and is a Permanent Visiting Professor of Economics at The University of International Relations in Beijing.
When President Bill Clinton signed legislation that established federal control of the District’s budget (which was drowning in red ink), bureaucracy and legislative authorities (who had allowed the ink to flow), there was but one rule of thumb: Do not believe the numbers.
The D.C. Public Schools’ budget has a hole that’s at least $23 million deep.
It’s time for parents and other taxpayers to adopt the erstwhile financial control board’s cardinal rule, because here’s what happens when school funding doesn’t follow students into their classrooms. The central bureaucracy sucks it up, and — worse — the educrats bleed the system and create a deficit.
That’s precisely what has happened in D.C. Public Schools, even though a prolific outside bean counter named Mary Levy warned top D.C. officials in 2018 that semantics was making it nearly impossible to decipher who was working on behalf of students and who was working on behalf of the system.
For example, Ms. Levy pointed out that someone who works in “instructional support” might not be a teaching assistant in a classroom with students but a DCPS employee who works in “professional development.”
D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson issued a similar warning a few months back, saying that funds and programs that were specifically designed for at-risk students were being used for other purposes.
“Schools with the highest proportion of at-risk students in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) have had their base funding cut and at-risk funds used for teacher and social worker pay instead of for added efforts to improve academic achievement,” Mrs. Patterson said. “In addition, high schools with large populations of students with disabilities have not received funding required by local and federal law, with at-risk funds also used to meet special education staffing requirements.
“As serious as how the funds have been misused is the issue of how they have not been used — not according to a strategy or a plan that can be tested and tweaked and improved so that we are actually getting to the issue of achievement,” the auditor said.
Those three sentences cut to the heart, with the mayor holding the reins of the D.C. school system and the D.C. Council failing to hold itself accountable for its oversight.
When a hen roosts over the henhouse, the rooster never crows.
That might sound, well, distasteful, but it’s true.
The D.C. chief financial officer isn’t sounding off about the deficit.
The deputy mayor for education isn’t complaining about the deficit either. In fact, the deputy said everyone should “calm down” because things aren’t as bad as they appear.
The mayor, meanwhile, pops around the District “investing” in her policies as if she’s spending Jeff Bezos’ billions.
A denizen of City Hall once told me to never believe what “they” say about schools. “The books are cooked.”
Politically, the cooking is deemed “reprogramming.”
Mrs. Patterson served as a member of the D.C. Council from 1995, when Mr. Clinton OK’d the control board, until 2007. The board was suspended by law 18 years ago on Monday — the same day city officials claimed that the DCPS deficit had been cut by $13 million since this summer.
What a feat — if you believe the numbers.
⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]
The unanimous ruling by the U.K. Supreme Court that the prime minister acted unlawfully in closing Parliament should have been game over for him, but these are strange times.
Their ruling was certainly bad news for Boris Johnson and he was dragged back from the United States to address the House of Commons.
Opposition parties hoped to watch a humbled man offer his “mea-culpa” for having ill-advised Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Instead, Mr. Johnson delivered an uncompromising speech that echoed the frustrations of the Brexit majority in the country. For once they felt a politician was telling it the way it is.
The opposition had no problem with castigating the prime minister, but when he described Parliament’s new law to stop a no-deal exit as a “Surrender Act,” one labour MP, Paula Sherriff, told him he should be “absolutely ashamed of himself.”
He claimed the law had given away the U.K.’s bargaining position with the EU, but to her he was using language that might endanger MP’s safety. When he dismissed that as “Humbug,” they went nuts.
The opposition parties not only have a problem with criticism, but also with how much further they can undermine the prime minister and his minority government. The last thing they want is an election, which they could well lose.
Remainers may dominate Parliament, the media and academia, but not the electorate. A point not lost on the Attorney General, Sir Geoffrey Cox, AKA “The baritone barrister.”
Prior to the prime minister’s appearance, he excoriated Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party by claiming, “They could vote no-confidence at any time, but they are too cowardly … This Parliament should have the courage to face the electorate, but it won’t.”
And for his coup de grace, “The time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.” The Remainers’ triumphal return after getting parliament reopened wasn’t supposed to have been like this.
The out-going Speaker-of-the-House, John Bercow, later complained, “There was an atmosphere in the Chamber worse than any I’ve known in my 22 years in the House.” This was surely code for, the Remainers lost.
It is hard to fathom just what the government hoped to achieve by shutting down parliament for just a few days extra as MPs still had enough time to pass the “Surrender Act.”
However, the “prorogation” as it is called, did scare the bejabers out of the Remainers and now both sides are considering risky, off-piste routes to try to win the Brexit battle.
Parliament is nervous that Mr. Johnson might try to introduce emergency powers to force a no-deal Brexit through on October 31.
One plan being rumored is to try to replace him through a no-confidence vote, once the time is right, and install a Remain supporter as prime minister.
To stop this leading to a risky general election, another idea is to call for a cross-party, government of national unity made up of Remainers. This is not to be confused with Abraham Lincoln’s well-meaning attempt to attract Democrats in the second half of the American Civil War.
A more accurate parallel — and with about as much chance of success — would be if the Confederates had tried to form a unity administration with disaffected Republicans.
Replacing an elected government to thwart the democratic will of the British people really would amount to a coup, so it’s hard to see those ideas going anywhere.
The big winner out of the proroguing Parliament debacle was the U.K. Supreme Court, which was only founded in 2009 and is the brainchild of the former Trotskyist, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
This was the second time the U.K.’s highest court has overruled the U.K. government on Brexit. The first was to assert that Parliament would have the final vote on the EU withdrawal terms.
Although sharing the same name as the U.S. legal body, the U.K. court differs in many ways. The American Supreme Court upholds the U.S. Constitution at a federal level, but Britain doesn’t have one to defend, rather it has common law derived from legal precedent.
Also, the U.K. Supreme Court judges have no confirmation hearings and are appointed. When their function was just to uphold U.K. Common Law, no one minded, but this was also changed by Prime Minister Blair.
In 2005, his government introduced reforms so that judges could only be selected if they, “demonstrate a lifetime’s commitment to Equality and Diversity,” which could add a progressive filter to their judgements.
The Courts decision to overrule the government was defended by Stephanie Boyce, deputy vice-president of the Law Society, “We are all bound by law to accept that ruling — even those who wish it had gone another way.”
So how about the establishment also being bound by the Brexit ruling of the British public?
• Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and scriptwriter.
A friend of mine’s third-grade daughter came home from school a few weeks ago with tears streaming down her cheeks. “My teacher say we only have 10 years before the oceans rise, and we are under water,” she moaned. “Are we all going to die?”
That’s a heavy burden to place on the shoulders of a 9-year-old.
Gloomy stories of the coming apocolypse have become commonplace in schools, textbooks, churches, movies and even children’s bedtime stories. The Wicked Witch of the West and Darth Vader have been replaced by the oil companies and auto company CEOs.
This over-the-top campaign of doom is clearly affecting the psyche of the young. We saw an example just last week, when Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl, gained international publicity by passionately telling a United Nations panel that “we are at the beginning of a mass extinction with entire ecosystems collapsing” and “we have only eight-and-a-half years left.”
This poor girl, who some are saying triumphantly is the voice of her generation, sounded terribly frightened. Who filled her head with these morose beliefs that the end is near?
Then there is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the 29-year-old voice of the millennials in Congress whose message is that the baby boomers have ruined the planet for her generation. She says we have 10 years left to head off planetary destruction. We have apparently returned full circle to the early days of humankind when life on Earth was described by Hobbes as “nasty, brutish and short.”
The only difference is that even the Neanderthals had more than eight-and-a-half years of survival in front of them.
Of course there are major challenges for the younger generations as there has been in every age since man appeared on the planet. My parents had to overcome polio, the Great Depression and Nazi Germany. When I was a kid we had to practice bomb drills in school because of fear of Soviets dropping nuclear bombs that would wipe out whole cities.
But to fill the young with false fears of “mass extinction” and so on is to ignore the true state of the planet. It isn’t dying. The young should be celebrating what every objective measure shows; they are living at the greatest moment in the history of the globe.
For those under the age of 30, listen up: You will live longer, healthier lives with more material wealth than any previous generation. You will inherit a world with less poverty, less disease, more leisure time, less pollution, and more material wealth, less discrimination, and more opportunity to achieve your dreams and aspirations than any other generation — except for that of your children’s and grandchildren’s.
You are not inheriting a severely injured planet but one in which a storehouse of thousand of years of accumulated human knowledge make you capable of combatting almost any conceivable problem or catastrophe.
The whole history of modern times is for human ingenuity, innovation and technological know-how to combat the challenges that mankind confronts. If you think global warming is a challenge, thank God you don’t have to deal with small pox, typhoid, tuberculosis, polio or the plague. The black death in Europe killed about one of every four residents. Now that is an apocolypse.
What the young lack today is perspective.
AOC thinks she has problems? It wasn’t so long ago that as many as one in 10 women died while giving birth.
I always marvel that the woe is me refrain from the young today is often recited as they tap on their $600 iPhones (charged with the electric power that they want to do away with) and they carry around their carmel lattes from Starbucks. I tell my kids that without fossil fuels, they may not have the power for their computer games. That gives them pause.
As for the trends on toxic air pollution, cities from London to Pittsburgh to Mexico City to Los Angeles as recently as a century ago were filled with dark and dangerous clouds of smog that choked the lungs and prevented the sun from shining. These pollution levels have fallen by 50, 70 and even 90 percent.
Children are now taught that cars are evil polluters and that the combustible engine needs to be abolished. Really? When Henry Ford started rolling his Model Ts off the assembly lines 100 years ago, he was heralded as the greatest environmental savior in the history of the planet. Why? Because cars replaced horses — which dropped many tons of smelly toxic manure into the city streets. Imagine the deplorable conditions of Los Angelese today if you had 3 million people riding around on horses.
It is sadly ironic that the greens who want to save the planet are also the one’s that turn to the intellectual dead end of socialism and statism to fix things.
The young like to recite the “scientific consensus that climate change will be catastrophic. Maybe. But 30 years ago scientists warned of overpopulation, food shortages, energy scarcity and even mass starvation. All of these scares were combatted through innovation and progress.
Bad things happen. Sometime in the next centuries an asteroid could plunge into the planet or some new version of the plague will afflict us, or the big earthquake could devastate California, causing millions of deaths. Who knows?
What we do know is that as we grow richer and wiser, we will be better equipped with the resources and the brainpower to deal with catastrophes than any previous generation since the dawning of time.
Our responsibility as parents, teachers, clergy and lawmakers is to teach the children how to solve problems effectively, not to preach the end of the world.
America’s millennials will inherit from my generation some $100 trillion of wealth — a bigger treasure chest of knowledge and resources than all of the other generations that have gone before, combined. How about some gratitude?
If the planet continues to warm and the oceans rise, you have the creativity, brainpower and the tool chest to figure out the solution. I don’t know what that will be, but I do know that the solution isn’t moving us backward in time to the pre-industrial and pre-energy age — when life was pretty rotten.
I’m an optimist and a realist. This next generation will figure it out. They will save the planet from extinction. And the really good news is there is a lot more than eight-and-a-half years to come up with the right solutions.
• Stephen Moore, a columnist for The Washington Times, is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump for allegedly asking the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded: “Facts be damned. Democrats are insisting this is their moment to impeach President Trump. Speaker Pelosi’s decree changes nothing.”
And, thus, without even intending it, Mr. McCarthy just stumbled into what will be the campaign slogan for the Democratic Party from now until November 2020.
It doesn’t matter which candidate prevails in this clown-show of a primary our country is presently forced to endure. The campaign tagline for the eventual nominee, whether it is Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris, will be, “The facts be damned. Impeach Trump!”
Consider the following.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, is caught admitting the real motivation behind the Green New Deal has little to do with climate change but is instead a bold-faced move to seize control of the world’s economy. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” said Mr. Chakrabarti, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all. Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans are destroying the Earth. Impeach Trump!”
Black and Hispanic unemployment reach record lows as the U.S. Labor Department reports the smallest gap between minority and white unemployment ever recorded in the nation’s history.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans are racists. Impeach Trump!”
Rasmussen tells us that voters continue to say President Trump has been better for young blacks than President Barack Obama. Thirty-three percent of likely voters report that life for young African-Americans has gotten better since Mr. Trump’s election, compared to just 13 percent who said the same at the end of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans are hurting blacks. Impeach Trump!”
Socialism continues to fail in every country it has ever been tried. Venezuela. Cuba. China. North Korea. Soviet Russia. Economies are destroyed. Freedom is stolen. Human dignity is lost.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Socialism is good. Capitalism is evil. Impeach Trump!”
Women lose their sports, lose their scholarships and lose the right to even have their own restrooms because of the misogynistic delusions of the rainbow cabal and LGBTQ fascism.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans oppress women. Impeach Trump!”
Planned Parenthood leaders are caught bragging about selling human lungs, legs, hearts and heads. Life is sacrificed for Lamborghinis.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans don’t care about children. Impeach Trump!”
Young boys and girls are trafficked and sold for sex by the tens of thousands through porous and unsecured borders.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans are inhumane. Impeach Trump!”
Public schools care more about teaching young boys how to use a condom than how to develop character. Chivalry is mocked. Masculinity is toxic. Victimization trumps virtue. Government-defined consent supplants God’s Ten Commandments.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans are anti-education. Impeach Trump!”
STDs are pandemic. Twenty-five percent of millennial-aged women are now infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that male-on-male sexual activity results in an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of deaths from AIDs.
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned. Republicans are prudes. Impeach Trump!”
The list goes on and on. Rep. Ilhan Omar proves she’s an anti-Semite. Mrs. Harris mocks due process. Mrs. Pelosi disparages religious freedom. Pete Buttigieg creates his own religion. Beto O’Rourke says, “Hell yes,” he’ll ignore the U.S. Constitution. Sen. Bernie Sanders promises confiscatory taxes. Ms. Warren is the “chief’ of cultural appropriation.” And Mr. Biden boasts of choosing “truth over facts.”
The Democratic response? “The facts be damned.” Impeach Trump!”
In his book, “Truth Decay,” Douglas Groothuis writes, “If the idea of objective truth falls into disrepute [i.e. if ‘the facts be damned’], politics devolves into nothing but image manipulation and power-mongering.”
He goes on to argue, “Intellect loses its virtue when it ceases to seek truth and turns to the pursuit of political ends. Social consensus and the duties of shared citizenship become irrelevant and impossible as various subsets of the population — differentiated by race, ethnicity and sexual orientation — grasp for power …
“[When] law is not grounded in a moral order that transcends [power] it becomes malleable and ultimately arbitrary … When reasonable debate serves no purpose in achieving knowledge of the truth, all that remains are the machinations of power … Citizens become tribes of people with little sense of the public good. The maxim of ‘speaking truth to power’ is transformed into ‘mobilizing our power to overcome [yours].’”
“Machinations of power.”
“Our power over yours.”
Remember these warnings the next time you hear someone shout from the stump, “the facts be damned.” Then go vote for their opponent.
• Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).
A 2002 movie called “Minority Report” featured a 2054 society where members of a specialized police force called PreCrime searched out and arrested suspects who were identified by a trio of psychics, “precogs,” as poised to commit vicious crimes. Poised — meaning not yet committed. Did you get that? Suspects were apprehended pre-crime, based on figments of psychics’ imaginations.
This is how the Democrats’ and Nancy Pelosi’s “impeachment inquiry” into President Donald Trump rings.
The precog forces of the far left are demanding Trump’s impeachment for impeachable crimes he’s not even committed — for what “Minority Report” would have chalked up as pre-crimes.
Sound stupid? It is. But just look at the Democrats’ own words.
What is an “impeachment inquiry,” after all, except the left’s special way of announcing they’re going to go on a hunt for impeachment-worthy crimes this president has supposedly committed, so they can then punish him for those crimes by impeaching him?
They believe Trump — they want to believe Trump — has committed offenses worthy of impeachment. So they’re going to search and search and search until they can destroy.
In that regard, Democrats, and shamefully, even some Republicans, have been staging an impeachment inquiry into Trump since Day One. Since before Day One. In April of 2016, Politico ran a report that speculated on all the pundits, politicians and media types who were busily speculating on the chances of Trump to be impeached; Trump, it should be noted, wasn’t even nominated as the Republican Party candidate of presidential choice until July 19, 2016, at the Republican National Convention — fully three months after this Politico report was published.
It’s one thing for a president to raise red flags of criminal behaviors, or even questionable deeds, to heights that warrant deeper scrutiny.
It’s another thing entirely for a faction of the political forces in this country to use their hatred of a president to justify constant queries and inquiries and investigations in hopes of turning up the goods.
The latest look-see involves Ukraine and a whistleblower — a whistleblower who wrote a nine-page document outlining information that may or may not point to Trump’s crossing of legal lines, that may or may not indicate impeachable offenses committed by Trump, but that definitely was based on hearsay, and that was definitely based on the hearsay of unidentified sources. That The New York Times has identified this whistleblower as a CIA official doesn’t exactly bolster the allegations on the truthfulness scale.
John Brennan, who headed up the CIA until January of 2017, when Trump took office, has spent his down time filling his Twitter feed with as much anti-Trump messaging as can fit in the allotted character count. In one of his latest, he wrote, just weeks ago, “The stain Donald Trump leaves on our Nation’s soul should be a constant reminder that we cannot assume candidates for public office have the competence, integrity, & decency Americans deserve. In 2020, we need to elect someone to safeguard & strengthen democracy, not trample it.”
And let’s not forget: Jim Comey. Peter Strzok. Lisa Page. Not to mention the ones we still don’t know working steadily, secretly and silently to unseat this president.
At this point in time, is it even feasible to expect the American people to believe anything that comes out of U.S. intelligence agencies? Particularly when the things that come are cloaked in anonymity, carried by an openly anti-Trump press? It’d be nice to believe. But honestly, the hostility of the left and the contamination of our intel agencies make it tough.
As a smart guy just said to me: “Impeachment inquiry” is a phrase the anti-Trumpers can use to keep “impeachment” talk going, well into election season, even knowing full well they don’t have the goods to impeach. That’s a concise summary.
Just so the voters are clear, though: Impeachment inquiry is not really a real thing. It’s a hunt for an impeachable offense.
It’s tantamount to a fantasy Hollywood movie drama about pre-crime. If the left actually had the stuff to impeach, there would be no talk of inquiry. There’d be votes and action. There’s be nothing secretive or speculative about it.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
Update, September 30:
The District’s latest Target, situated in Tenleytown, is scheduled to hold its grand opening November 10, according to the company. The store will have about 80 employees initially.
Original post, February 15:
Department store retailer Target will continue its expansion in the District by moving into the former Best Buy space in Tenleytown, commercial real estate company CBRE said in a release on Friday. At roughly 46,000 square feet, the store is set to open its doors in 2020.
The Washington Business Journal was the first to report the news, citing a 10-year lease with renewal options that cropped up in property records yesterday. The Best Buy closed last year. Michael Zacharia with CBRE negotiated the lease on Target’s behalf, according to the release.
Located at street level at D.C.-based Roadside Development’s Cityline at Tenley project, the site used to house a Sears in the 1940s. The address is 4500 Wisconsin Ave. NW, above the neighborhood’s Metro station and across the street from its public library. The development also includes underground parking. Other Target stores are planned in the coming months in D.C., in Ivy City, Cleveland Park, and Shepherd Park. (The latter two will be small-footprint.)
Target operates a large location in Columbia Heights. It is part of the DC USA development.
Target to fill big Tenleytown retail vacancy [Washington Business Journal]
Business in Brief: Tenleytown Best Buy closing; a Chevy Chase restaurant pays tribute to American City Diner [Forest Hills Connection]
When the Tenleytown Best Buy Was a Sears in the 1940s [Curbed DC]
Target will open new stores in Ivy City, Cleveland Park [Curbed DC]
Another miniature Target coming to Northwest D.C. [Washington Business Journal]
RIDGWAY, COLORADO – Fifty years ago, a lot of big things happened.
Man reached the moon for the first time. Woodstock was staged, and it’s still with us in many ways.
Also, 50 years ago, a remarkable film was released starring John Wayne. Based on the novel by Charles Portis, “True Grit” has become one of the best loved Westerns of all time and the one for which the Duke finally got his Oscar as best actor.
In Ridgway, Colorado, where much of the movie was filmed, the community is going all out during the second weekend in October to honor the 50th anniversary of “True Grit.” The Old Town portion of Ridgway stood in for Fort Smith, Arkansas, and many sites are still there, including the park where hangings were held, the jail wagon, the railroad depot and the saloon where the villain Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) shoots the father of teenager Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) in the street.
That event triggers the film’s theme, which is Mattie’s courageous and relentless pursuit of justice. She’s aided by Wayne and Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Glen Campbell), who have baser motives (reward money) but, like Han Solo in “Star Wars,” come through in the clinch. By the way, just as Ridgway has no “e,” LeBouef has no first name.
The story is so good that the Coen Brothers made a more accurate albeit far-less scenic remake in 2010 starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld.
Ridgway’s True Grit Cafe is a veritable shrine to Wayne, who died in 1979 at the age of 72 from cancer. He had already lost a lung before the filming, but went on to make “Rooster Cogburn” (1975) and his last movie, “The Shootist” (1976).
When people do something big, it often leaves a legacy of good or ill. Woodstock, which culture critic Rabbi Daniel Lapin describes as a “finger in the eye of God,” gave us some memorable pop music.
But the dark side of Woodstock left its mark. All too many baby boomers believed the lies of the sexual revolution and drug-themed music and became charter members of the Me Generation. The resulting wreckage — abortion, sexual anarchy, broken families, recreational drug use and perpetually adolescent citizens looking for handouts and someone else to blame — is Woodstock’s enduring curse.
Colorado, blessed with stunning Rocky Mountain beauty, is a potent cultural mix of John Wayne and Woodstock.
The Duke’s imprint is seen in the proud, independent Western culture all over the state. In a gun shop in Vallecito Lake in southwest Colorado, a woman shopkeeper happily showed me a lightweight AK-47-type rifle imprinted with “Snowflake” and “Beto,” after the Texas Democrat who is openly calling for the government to confiscate these types of rifles. American flags are everywhere. Washington, D.C., seems far, far away.
But you also see the state veering politically from purple to blue. Marijuana dispensaries and head shops are all over Denver and Colorado Springs. They’re springing up even in remote mountain towns, along with Bernie stickers, which makes perfect sense. Bernie is selling a free ride; stoned people are not in the best frame of mind to defend their freedom against a sugar daddy government bent on creating a dependent population.
Sure, plenty of potheads distrust The Man and have figured out that big government is not their friend. But those folks lean libertarian, sucking away votes from conservatives and allowing Democrats to continue to build toward a Godless, socialist America.
The Democrats are now Woodstock on steroids. Get free stuff; smoke all the pot you want; watch all the porn you want; kill all the babies you want; change your God-given sex if you want. We’ll even rig the law to force others to pretend with you. Just don’t complain when we run the rest of your lives.
Back in John Wayne country, you see his witticisms on plaques and mugs: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” And: “Never apologize and never explain; it’s a sign of weakness.”
Few people in Ridgway today were around when the movie was made. Visitors center volunteer Rick Gregory, 73, has spoken to several. He said they found the Duke far friendlier in person than his flawed, on-screen persona, federal Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. “He was very human, very popular, he made time for people,” Mr. Gregory said, noting that when a production crew member’s car broke down, Wayne bought him a new one.
Ridgway and nearby Ouray, where the courtroom scene was filmed, seem more Wayne than Woodstock. Near Owl Creek Pass (altitude 10,114 feet), you can easily find Deb’s Meadow, the aspen-ringed field where Wayne as Rooster Cogburn charges his horse at four armed outlaws while firing a rifle in one hand and a revolver in the other.
It takes faith and courage — true grit — to dare big and do great things. John Wayne did it superbly on screen.
The American astronauts who thrilled the entire world on July 20, 1969, risked their very lives. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were undoubtedly scared to death.
But they saddled up anyway.
• Robert Knight is a contributor to The Washington Times.
There are many reasons to opt for taking Amtrak over flying or driving to your destination: the high costs, the surly service, and, above all, the frisson of excitement that comes from not knowing when — heck, even what day — you may arrive. Still others have an even more novel rationale for preferring America’s government-owned rail monopoly over other, more reliable conveyances: the food.
It turns out, you see, that Amtrak doesn’t only dish up the microwaved Hebrew National hot dogs and burnt coffee familiar to those of us who frequent the Northeast Corridor service that traverses the Boston to Washington megalopolis.
On longer routes — the Chicago to New Orleans line, for instance, and the New York to Miami node — Amtrak still offers a proper dining car, replete with white tablecloths, family-style dining, and steak cooked to order. But not for long. As of this week, Amtrak will end proper dining car service on several long-distance routes and instead offer pre-packaged meals. Passengers on higher fare tickets will still have access to a separate dining car, but gone will be the white linen tablecloths and general air of decadence.
On Twitter, Amtrak’s few fans bemoaned the decision. Author Neil Gaiman said the dining car is “part of what [makes Amtrak] magical.” Journalist Megan Messerly reported that the dining car was her “favorite part” of a recent rail journey. (Though come to think of it, Ms. Messerly’s comment could be interpreted in multiple ways: The Hebrew National hot dog was actually my favorite part of the 14-hour journey from Washington to New York!)
Amtrak blames changing consumer tastes — and particularly those millennials — for the shift.
The rail service wants to “lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run,” Washington’s other newspaper reported.
But that’s ludicrous: Nobody “on the run” takes a multiday Amtrak journey.
In reality, Amtrak’s decision is based on costs; kiboshing the dining car will save some $2 million a year, the rail service reckons. So what others see as a tragedy is in fact something altogether different: a good start.
Richard Anderson took over as Amtrak’s CEO in 2017. This was a very good sign for the ill-managed, money losing rail network. Mr. Anderson had just come off a remarkably successful tenure at Delta Air Lines. In Atlanta, he turned Delta from a perennial money loser into a highly profitable, operational dynamo. By the time he left, Delta was by far the country’s most reliable airline, lapping the field with far fewer cancellations and delays than the competition. It also offers far better service than other U.S. carriers. Oh, and Mr. Anderson made a bunch of money for shareholders too, no easy feat in the famously cutthroat aviation industry.
Now ensconced at Amtrak, Mr. Anderson is right to focus on paring back losses.
“Amtrak says it is profitable on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, where adjusted earnings were $524.1 million in fiscal 2018, including $318.8 million from the Acela express train. But the company lost more than $540 million on its 15 long-distance trains, which cover routes of 750 miles or more,” The Wall Street Journal reported this year. In fact, in its near 50-year history, Amtrak has not once turned a profit.
Given Amtrak’s high ticket prices, that means U.S. taxpayers have for decades subsidized what amounts to a luxury good accessible only to a small sliver of the U.S. population. Indeed, Mr. Anderson should consider going further than merely eliminating perks on money-losing long-distance routes, and considering ending some of them altogether.
Sure, Amtrak partisans will carp about such reforms; union leaders have already been vocal in their complaints that Mr. Anderson wants to “run Amtrak like an airline.” (Um, yes, that’s the point.) But oddly enough, the Democratic Party’s presidential front-runner, Joseph R. Biden, who famously loves Amtrak and used to commute on it daily between Washington and Wilmington, has been silent on the subject. Mr. Biden, of course, is running a largely content-free campaign, and his campaign ignored questions as to whether the former vice president will ever release a rail policy.
That’s doubly odd considering rail policy is urgent at the moment. “Overall Amtrak ridership has stagnated. At the same time, infrastructure challenges loom large, especially the stalemate around rebuilding Amtrak’s North Hudson River tunnels into and out of New York City … In addition, a large portion of Amtrak’s assets,” says Robert Puentes, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank.
In other words, Richard Anderson is right to cut back unnecessary spending — especially with big challenges looming. Sorry, Neil Gaiman, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to eat hot dogs along with the rest of us.
• Ethan Epstein is deputy opinion editor of The Washington Times. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ethanepstiiiine.
Hong Kong’s democracy protesters may be in for a nasty surprise in the coming months. The mainland Chinese have reportedly designed a sonic weapon that can selectively target individuals or groups in a crowd of demonstrators, leaving them unable to control muscle movement and render them easy pickings for riot police to round up.
The weapon is designed to be non-lethal, and the effects wear off eventually. That non-lethality makes it a perfect tool for controlling the kinds of protests that have driven the Communist hierarchy in Beijing to distraction in recent months.
Although the weapon is popularly described as sonic, it is actually based on “infrasound,” which is essentially the same type of science that surgeons use to break up kidney stones without using invasive surgery. Used on the body as a whole, it creates the same effect on the subject it is used on as a temporary case of cerebral palsy. It will have the effect of breaking up crowds in a non-lethal manner that the Chinese would have liked to have had in at Tiananmen Square three decades ago.
President Xi Jinping is probably not less bloody-minded than his predecessors in the Chinese hierarchy, but they had the home field advantage and could shield their actions from live press coverage of the lethal carnage inflicted on the demonstrators. Beijing does not enjoy that advantage in Hong Kong, where the eyes of the world are watching on a 24-7 basis.
In the mid-’90s of the last century, our Marine Corps was exploring a number of advanced non-lethal technologies as an antidote to the tactic of using women and children as human shields in combat situations that they had experienced in Somalia. The Marines examined infrasound in the the mid-’90s, but the state of the art at the time was omni-directional and animal effects testing merely upset the monkeys. Consequently, the Marine Corps’ experimental personnel put their limited money into other technologies.
After some success with using experimental non-lethal weapons (NLW) in the evacuation of Somalia in 1995, Marine Corps leaders convinced Congress to authorize a Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. That organization concentrated much of its effort on creating a directed energy weapon called the Active Denial System (ADS), which would be very effective in Somalia-like situations. V-MADS has passed extensive human-effects testing.
Humanitarian concerns over the potential misuses of non-lethal weapons by despots has prevented ADS from being employed to date, and that has prevented work on more advanced systems, which could eventually have prevented the loss of civilian lives in situations such as Mosul and towns in Afghanistan and Syria where ISIS deliberately fought among civilians.
The argument made by human rights groups against advanced the NLW was that — in the wrong hands — such weapons could be used to suppress legitimate pro-democracy movements and other forms of dissent. Those of us who argued for including advanced NLW in our military and law-enforcement tool kit pointed out that neither infrasound nor other forms of directed energy systems was rocket science, and that the bad guys would get hold of them eventually.
Our argument was that the adult supervision provided by civilian control of the military and police would allow American forces to use tools short of mass destruction in situations where such action is appropriate. We were right. Malign actors now have the technology. The question now is: Where do we go from here?
Advanced forms of both infrasound and ADS-like technology have the potential to temporarily incapacitate all of the occupants of a structure where combatants and civilians are intermixed, allowing enemy capture and mitigating much of the carnage that we saw in places like Mosul, but the Pentagon is unlikely to spend money on weapons systems that it may not be allowed to use due to political concerns.
Meanwhile, the Chinese will no doubt use what they now have to ensure that the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist regime in China goes on without messy pro-democracy demonstrations.
It might be a good time for responsible human rights groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross to declare a truce with the Pentagon and the defense ministries of other democracies and develop guidelines and protocols for the development and employment of the NLW. This would make the misuse of such weapons by the Chinese and other despots out of bounds of civilized conduct. The non-lethal genie is out of the bottle, but there is still time to set some responsible boundaries.
• Gary Anderson was the chief of staff of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and the first director of the Marine Corps Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities.