Monday Miscellany, 12/18/23

Monday Miscellany, 12/18/23 December 18, 2023

The military stalemate in Ukraine,  the Government’s plan to seize patents, and locking out teachers who won’t lie to parents.

The Military Stalemate in Ukraine

The National Review’s Jim Geraghty explains why Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by the Russians has been unsuccessful.  It isn’t just because the U.S. and Europe are not giving Ukraine enough aid.

Drawing on a number of military experts, Geraghty gives a vivid account of the difficulties in dislodging such a large force.  A rule of thumb in military doctrine is that attackers need a three-to-one advantage in numbers in order to defeat entrenched defenders.  Ukraine forces are still outnumbered by the Russians.  More than that, Russians have planted millions of mines between them and the Ukrainians.   When a path is cleared, the Russians tee-up on the advancing vehicles with anti-tank missiles. The wreckage stops the advance, and vehicles that leave the path get blown up by mines.

Then again, Russians can’t advance through their mine fields either.  The result is a stalemate, similar to the trench warfare of World War I.

But as in World War I, this conflict has become a war of attrition.  At the beginning of the war, the Russian army had 360,000 troops.  Today total Russian casualties, killed and wounded, number 315,000.  The number has been made up mobilizing new recruits, including convicts, but, according to Geraghty Russia in two years has already lost twice as many soldiers killed and about the same number wounded as the U.S. lost in the eight years in Vietnam.  Ukrainian casualties number some 70,000 dead and 120,000 wounded.  But Russia has a far larger population than Ukraine to pour into the meat grinder.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s allies that have been supplying Ukraine are running out of ammo:

The British military—the leading U.S. military ally and Europe’s biggest defense spender—has only around 150 deployable tanks and perhaps a dozen serviceable long-range artillery pieces. So bare was the cupboard that last year the British military considered sourcing multiple rocket launchers from museums to upgrade and donate to Ukraine, an idea that was dropped.

France, the next biggest spender, has fewer than 90 heavy artillery pieces, equivalent to what Russia loses roughly every month on the Ukraine battlefield. Denmark has no heavy artillery, submarines or air-defense systems. Germany’s army has enough ammunition for two days of battle.

The U.S.–which must now also send weapons to Israel–has seriously drawn down its supply of artillery ammunition and tactical missiles.  As the Pentagon is scrambling for more money to replenish its arsenal, defense companies are cashing in, with President Biden packaging our supply problems as a jobs program that helps our economy.

The Government’s Plan to Seize Patents

Intellectual property is a form of property.  A patent gives ownership rights to inventors and developers.  But the Biden administration is setting up a mechanism for seizing patents if the product is not sold cheaply enough.

A Wall Street Journal editorial is entitled Biden Ambushes Pharma Patents, with the explanatory deck, “New guidance will let the feds steal IP [intellectual property] if drug prices are too high.”

The old practice had been that patents derived from research funded by the federal government belonged to the federal government, which typically did nothing with them.  Then in 1980 Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed research institutions receiving federal funds to patent inventions and to license them to private companies.  The government could “march in” to takeover patents only in limited circumstances, mainly when the private sector did nothing to commercialize the discoveries.  As a result of Bayh-Dole, new products and new discoveries have proliferated throughout the economy.

But now the Commerce and Health and Human Services Departments are proposing new rules that would allow the government to “march in” and confiscate patents when the products are deemed too expensive.  From the editorial:

Under the proposed Biden guidelines, march-in rights will be used as price controls. Government agencies could seize patents if “the price or other terms at which the product is currently offered to the public are not reasonable” or “unreasonably limit availability of the invention to the public.”

As Biden National Economic Council director Lael Brainard explained, “We’ll make it clear that when drug companies won’t sell taxpayer funded drugs at reasonable prices, we will be prepared to allow other companies to provide those drugs for less.” Translation: That’s a nice medicine you have there . . . shame if something happened to it.

The allusion is to extortionists.  The government would be extorting property owners  to do its bidding; otherwise, their private property would be taken away.

Then there is the problem of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.  If companies can’t make money from a product, they won’t manufacture it.  If a price of a product is set artificially to be less than the cost of making it, the product will disappear.  As would the incentive to develop new medicines.

Locking Out Teachers Who Won’t Lie to Parents

The school district in Escondido, California, has a policy that requires teachers not to inform parents if their child has chosen to “transition” to a different gender.

Two Christian middle school teachers, Lori Ann West and Elizabeth Mirabelli, objected.  They requested a religious accommodation that would exempt them from the parental notification policy.  This was refused, whereupon the two sued the district.  As a result, they were put on administrative leave.

Hannah Grossman quotes from the original complaint:

“Once a child’s social transitioning has begun, EUSD [Escondido Union School District] elementary and middle school teachers must ensure that parents do not find out.”

“If a suspicious parent asks a teacher about whether their child has socially transitioned at school, the teacher must simply respond that ‘the inquiry is outside of the scope of the intent of their interaction’ and that they can only discuss ‘information regarding the student’s behavior as it relates to school, class rules, assignments, etc.,’” the suit said.

Two months ago, a federal court ruled in their favor, but they are still not being allowed in the classroom.  The two, who have been on administrative leave for six months, are now asking that the school district be charged with contempt.

But allowing Christian teachers an exemption still would not nullify the policy, which is being adopted across the country.

HT:  Steve Bauer


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