The late-day sun coaxes a rainbow of colors out of the eroding cliff at Aquinnah, a town on the western tip of Martha’s Vineyard. The soil, thrust upward millennia ago by a glacier, is spotted with glowing red clay, chalk white crevices and touches of gray, brown and black.
The striking geography of the island – where the Wampanoag tribe says its ancestors have lived for more than 10,000 years – is one of the reasons the Vineyard is a magnet for tourists and second homeowners.
Last week, apparently at the behest of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the island also became a destination for two planes carrying about 50 migrants from Venezuela – not because they wanted to go there but so the governor, running for re-election this year, could make a political point about President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. The dramatic gesture is a play that could stoke support among conservatives for DeSantis, who’s seen as a future GOP presidential contender.
The “scheme sparked both outrage and action on the tiny island, where residents scrambled to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the migrants, who had arrived with little more than each other and a map to the local community services center,” Nicole Hemmer wrote. “Though the residents of Martha’s Vineyard had been caught off-guard, the plan had been heralded for months in right-wing media circles, where hosts cackled at the thought of liberal cities awash in confused and displaced migrants.”
In DeSantis’ mind it was a win, Hemmer wrote. “The proper people were outraged and delighted. Liberal shock, conservative glee: these were the emotions DeSantis hoped to evoke with his latest round of ‘trigger the libs’ politicking. It is a politics devoid of efforts to develop workable policies, devoted instead to grabbing headlines and building support with the Republican Party’s Trumpian base.”
Hemmer likened the tactic to the 1962 “decision of southern segregationists to begin funding one-way trips to the North for Black citizens in what they called ‘reverse Freedom Rides’ – a jab at the efforts of civil rights activists to desegregate interstate travel.”
Referring to the migrants crossing the southern US border, DeSantis told reporters, “Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens. It shouldn’t all fall on a handful of red states.” He was following the example of Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, who have sent thousands of migrants north to cities such as New York City and Washington, DC., including to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Immigration, along with inflation and abortion, is an issue that could resonate in the midterm elections. “Two things are simultaneously true,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote. “First, the Biden administration has mishandled immigration messaging by telling migrants not to come even as it pressed for more humane — meaning relaxed — border policies. Second, without a more forward-looking immigration policy, one more closely aligned with labor-force demands in an economy starved for workers, the nation’s long-term economic growth prospects will be stunted.”
In February, when Russian President Vladimir Putin met China’s leader Xi Jinping during the Beijing Olympics, “Putin apparently expected that his forces would take Kyiv in a matter of days, dealing a painful blow not only to the Ukraine but also to the United States and its allies,” noted Frida Ghitis.
“At the time, that outlook was shared by many around the world, including in the US. But the reality turned out quite differently, and now Russians are on the run in parts of Ukraine they had controlled for five months, losing more territory in a few days than they captured – at very high cost – during months of fighting.”
The Russian retreat put Putin at an embarrassing disadvantage. “Putin needs Xi much more than Xi needs Putin, and that imbalance has grown far greater since their last meeting … In fact, Putin’s war has already gone a long way in making the world rethink its economic reliance on autocracies. That, to put it mildly, is bad news for China.”
In remarks in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held a summit, Putin conceded that China had “questions and concerns” about the Ukraine invasion and told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Russia would “do everything for all of this to end as soon as possible.”
David A. Andelman observed that the Ukraine war is far from over – and the outcome still uncertain. “Without question, Putin is now beginning to face some of the challenges that have been quite clear to Western leaders until now, with even more complications. Though he clearly controls the media and dissemination of information on the war, more social media are beginning to break through, and anti-war voices are being heard.”
“They are on the cusp of becoming as strident as some Western voices, especially in Europe where sanctions designed to thwart Russian efforts are beginning to bite even before a long cold winter without supplies of natural gas and oil that Putin is turning off in reprisal. The winner will be the side that is best able to withstand these drumbeats of negativism.”
Good news on child poverty
There was agreement on one thing between the political left and right last week: America has sharply lowered the rate of child poverty – from 27.9% in 1993 to 11.4% in 2019, as Oren Cass noted. “A new report confirms the enormous progress that America has made in reducing child poverty – and the enormous problem that progressives have coping with that fact,” he wrote.
Cass pointed out that the “war on poverty” that began in the 1960s had minimal impact on the level of child poverty, while the three decades since the Clinton-era welfare reform have seen sharp improvement. “Welfare reform replaced the open-ended program of cash grants to parents with little or no income … with a less generous, time-limited, work-required program … The change, progressives predicted, would plunge millions into poverty. Two of President Bill Clinton’s top social-services administrators resigned in protest.”
He noted that some commentators on the left argue that “one either supports helping the poor through unconditional cash – or one hates the poor. Which policies seem empirically most effective in fighting poverty is rather beside the point for these critics.”
New Census Bureau data cited by Kristin Rowe Finkbeiner showed that “the share of children in poverty dropped nearly by half in 2021 – primarily because of a one-year enhancement of the Child Tax Credit that Democratic leadership in Congress fought to pass. Studies showed that the credit helped to significantly reduce hardship among families with kids…”
“But Republicans – and moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – have so far blocked the extension of that enhanced credit …The status quo is not okay. Our nation has unfinished business for women, for families, for our economy – and the upcoming midterm elections are a key way to move that much-needed change forward.”
Lindsey Graham’s move
After months of Republican assurances that the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade simply passed the issue of abortion back to the states, the senior senator from South Carolina upset the party’s narrative. Lindsey Graham introduced “a bill that would be a national ban on abortion, stripping away access to the procedure in all 50 states,” noted SE Cupp. “It bans abortion after 15 weeks, and allows exceptions in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother…”
“ln the wake of the Roe fallout, there was a plan among some Republicans, especially in swing states – soften the language around abortion or stop talking about it at all,” said Cupp. Better to focus on issues like inflation, the thinking went.
Then Graham stepped in. “Graham’s bill has no chance of passing with Democrats in control. So what, exactly, was the point?”
In the wake of the Dobbs decision, Chief Justice John Roberts lamented growing public distrust in the court. “Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for criticizing the legitimacy of the court,” Roberts said.
“The chief justice is absolutely right to be concerned about Americans losing faith in the Supreme Court: A June Gallup Poll found that a record low 25% of respondents say they have confidence in the court – down from 40% two years ago,” Dean Obeidallah wrote.
“The hard truth, however, is that Roberts must pin the blame for the loss of confidence in the Supreme Court on himself and his five fellow conservative justices,” wrote Obeidallah. “Decisions delivered by the conservative justices this past term on hot-button issues such as abortion, climate change regulations and gun laws felt more like rulings written by the Republican National Committee than the highest court in the land.”
College ranking debacle
Columbia University fell from second to 18th place in the much-followed U.S. News college rankings after the university acknowledged it submitted inaccurate information. “This revelation was brought to light by a math professor at the university, who found discrepancies between the data Columbia submitted for the ranking and reality,” wrote David M. Perry.
“Everyone in higher education knows that these rankings don’t really measure true quality, that cheating is rampant among many different schools, and that even schools that report accurate data still try to game the ranking system.”
What should students do? When the U.S. News rankings “started publishing, it was relatively more difficult to get information about colleges across the country. Today, we live in an information overload, but we can use that to our advantage and do our own investigating – either by savvy web searches or just by emailing schools we’re interested in – to get information on the factors that really matter to us.”
Inflation’s not over
The timing for Biden’s South Lawn celebration of the Inflation Reduction Act was off. As Marc A. Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post, “Just hours before the event, we learned that inflation hit 8.3 percent in August — prompting the Dow Jones industrial average to nosedive more than 1,200 points, the market’s biggest one-day collapse in more than two years. Americans learned that inflation rose for food to 11.4 percent since last year, the largest increase since 1979.”
Former Rep. Charlie Dent wrote for CNN Opinion that “the economy and inflation remain top concerns among voters – and these latest government figures will not do much to ease voter anxiety.”
“The news is even worse in cities in key swing states – including Phoenix, Atlanta and Miami, with inflation jumps year over year of 13%, 11.7%, and 10.7%, respectively, according to Axios’ analysis of BLS data. Meanwhile, as consumers are paying less for gasoline overall, gas prices remain stubbornly high, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and other critical states to the Democrats’ goal of maintaining congressional control.”
Megan McArdle wrote in the Washington Post that if you exclude particularly volatile items such as energy prices, the underlying “metrics indicate a stubbornly high general upward pressure on prices. And much of that pressure is due to Biden’s fiscal policies, which have seen the president approve more than $4 trillion in new borrowing during just 20 months in office. The Inflation Reduction Act has been his only serious attempt to get deficits under control, and he promptly undid even this modest effort by promising $500 billion in unfunded student loan forgiveness in late August, which will wipe out the savings from the IRA — twice over.”
She urged Biden to “stop fire hosing money into the economy. That won’t be easy, because both Democrats and Republicans think of deficit spending as free money with which to pursue their goals and reward their voters.”
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Britons stood in long queues to pay their respects before the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, and members of the royal family spent the past week in time-honored ceremonies to mark her passing. But the height of the mourning period comes Monday. “Whatever you think of the monarchy, of the late Queen Elizabeth II or of the new king, Charles III,” wrote Frida Ghitis, “there is no question that Monday’s royal funeral will live on in the annals of history. Billions of people will likely watch. For those who attend in person, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. That’s why an invitation to the ceremonies has become the hottest ticket on Earth.”
“In addition to the resplendent uniforms, the solemn salutes and the meticulously choreographed ceremonies, something else is occurring in London: Some 500 world leaders and dignitaries are coming to England to pay their respects – but also to see and be seen at what is certain to be one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the history of the world.”
In the UK, it’s clear that an era has ended, wrote historian Sarah Gristwood.
“For 70 years, the British people have grown used to singing ‘God Save the Queen.’ To sing ‘God Save the King’ will catch in the throat for some time to come. Flags, coins, banknotes and stamps across the UK will soon look different and senior lawyers who were honored to be appointed ‘Queen’s Counsel’ are rushing to order new stationery – they are ‘King’s Counsel’ now…”
“The actor Helen Mirren, who famously played the titular role in the 2006 film ‘The Queen’ once said that while she was raised an anti-monarchist, she was “a queenist.” Many feel the same way. Indeed, over the last 70 years, the image of a queen has come to define our vision of sovereignty.” That poses a challenge for Charles.
Holly Thomas foresees other questions about the new king. “In speaking his mind so liberally before he became King, Charles forfeited the chance to assume the throne with a blank slate. But as the Queen also demonstrated during her long reign, and particularly in its last months, every monarch is human, and silence is not necessarily benign.”
“When she chose to stand by (Prince) Andrew, the public didn’t just see a personal choice. It saw royal patronage. Even if Charles does censor himself from here on out, it is unlikely that the Crown will ever recover its appearance of impartiality again.”
Charles has been outspoken on climate change for decades – and he shouldn’t mute his views now that he’s on the throne, argued Joseph Romm. “Charles can and should make climate change a key focus of his reign, both in public and private. Indeed, it’s probably the only way to keep the monarchy relevant in the coming decades where climate change becomes the world’s dominant issue as its impacts are increasingly widespread and catastrophic.”