- - Sunday, July 15, 2018

Gershwin got it right: “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, the fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” It’s the season for sitting on the bank of the creek with a fishing pole and letting life come to you. But sometimes those fish aren’t biting, and the flies and mosquitos are. The dog days are soon upon us, and the grumblers will be wondering where to get a peaceful, easy feelin’. It’s the summer of our malcontents.

President Trump arrived in Brussels with a jarring message for the malcontents of NATO: Pay up your fair share for the common defense. “Many countries owe us,” the president pointed out what they already knew. “The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough. This has been going on for decades, for decades, it’s disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States.” It’s the season for garden parties, but the Donald, telling it like it is, triggers the feeling in the alliance that a skunk was mingling in their midst.

Europeans cluck their tongues until they’re sore, despite acknowledging that while the United States spends 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, only four other NATO members have paid their sworn obligation of 2 percent. Germany offers payment in kind. “Germany does a lot for NATO,” says Chancellor Angela Merkel, stressing that in addition to a contribution of only 1.2 percent of GDP, it provides the second-highest number of troops, behind only the United States. Greece counts pensions paid to old soldiers as part of its contribution.

Back home, the malcontented Democrats sweat the president’s choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court. Envious of Mr. Trump’s fortune of getting to add a second judge in two years to the High Court, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer vows to throw every legislative grenade short of a blockbuster into the path of Brett Kavanaugh. “I’m going to fight this nomination with everything I’ve got,” he says, but the early returns suggest he doesn’t have much.

Desperate Democrats propose tabling the Kavanaugh nomination until after the November congressional elections. Mr. Kavanaugh, they argue, is the president’s insurance against whatever special counsel Robert Mueller finds in his search for evidence that President Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to cook Hillary’s goose in the 2016 election. The idea that Judge Kavanaugh is the president’s Trojan horse invites mostly a horse laugh.

Certain other judges, posing as friends of the children, compete to see who can make the most mischief on the border. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in California ruled that the Trump administration cannot delay the reunification of some 2,000 immigrant children just to make sure children are returned to their actual parents. The administration wants to use DNA tests to authenticate actual blood ties. But Judge Gee says that’s just a “cynical attempt” to delay reunification.

Since the court prohibits the confinement of alien children for more than 20 days, and Judge Gee’s ruling forces authorities to return them to parents — to theirs or to somebody else’s — the U.S. Border Patrol must release both child and adult even if there’s no proof of who’s getting whose child. Coyotes and the human traffickers who operate with abandon in Mexico and Central America now see an easier way to guarantee a ticket across the border, by pairing any adult with any child.

Every era demonstrates its shortcomings, and we moderns live in a time when medicine has replaced folk remedies for curing disease and maintaining good health. Mary Jane is the wonder drug of the 21st century, just as snake oil dazzled our great-grandparents. The internet is ablaze with claims that pot is a modern cure-all, like the boast on Twitter that “cannabis cures 7 out of 10 cancer patients.” Real doctors are skeptical, one might say. “We know that a component in cannabis might be useful in treating cancer,” says Dr. Joseph A. Califano III, a distinguished California cancer surgeon. “But we don’t know if marijuana can stop or cure it.”

The promotion of pot as a curative is fueled by the legalization movement that has won approval of pot in 30 states and the District of Columbia. For the ill, the notion that weed will make them well is usually a mirage, like the traveler’s sight of an imaginary oasis in the desert. In the season of malcontents there’s a market for a chill pill but, alas, we have only the crooner’s lament that there still ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

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