Netherlander Euthanasia Guru Bemoans His Handiwork

by Wesley J. Smith

Boudewijn Chabot was the Netherlander psychiatrist who assisted the suicide of a deeply depressed woman who wanted to die after the demise of her two children. All she wanted to do was be buried between them. Chabot met with her four times over several weeks–never engaged actual treatment–and then supplied her with poison pills, which she took. He watched as she died.

That led to a “prosecution.” I put the word in quotes because–as Chabot’s lawyer told me in an interview for my book Forced Exit–there was never any intention of actually imprisoning Chabot, or indeed, sanction him in any way. Rather, the purpose was to set a precedent to allow deep psychological suffering to justify euthanasia.

The gambit worked. The Supreme Court ruled, essentially, that suffering is suffering whether physical or emotional to justify assisted suicide/euthanasia.

Twenty or so years later and Netherlander psychiatrists euthanize mentally ill patients, whose organs may be voluntarily harvested post-death.

Now, Chabot has been stricken by conscience. He notes that euthanasia groups have recruited psychiatrists to kill. From his article, “Worrisome Culture Shift in the Context of Self-Selected Death:”

Without a therapeutic relationship [ME: which he didn't really have, by the way], by far most psychiatrists cannot reliably determine whether a death wish is a serious, enduring desire. Even within a therapeutic relationship, it remains difficult. But a psychiatrist of the clinic can do so without a therapeutic relationship, with less than ten ‘in-depth’ conversations?

Hey, you opened this door: Own it! More:

In 2016, there were three reports of euthanasia of deep-demented persons who could not confirm their death wish. One of the three was identified as having been done without due care; her advance request could be interpreted in different ways. The execution was also done without due care; the doctor had first put a sedative in her coffee. When the patient was lying drowsily on her bed and was about to be given a high dose, she got up with fear in her eyes and had to be held down by family members. The doctor stated that she had continued the procedure very consciously.

Chabot looks at the social and moral wreckage he helped unleash and wonders:

Where did the Euthanasia Law go off the tracks? The euthanasia practice is running amok because the legal requirements which doctors can reasonably apply in the context of physically ill people, are being declared equally applicable without limitation in the context of vulnerable patients with incurable brain diseases.

In psychiatry, an essential limitation disappeared when the existence of a treatment relationship was no longer required. In the case of dementia, such a restriction disappeared by making the written advance request equivalent to an actual oral request.

And lastly, it really went off the tracks when the review committee concealed that incapacitated people were surreptitiously killed.

Please. It was all so predictable.  Heck, I predicted it.

Euthanasia consciousness changes mindsets. It alters societal morality. It distorts our views of the importance of vulnerable lives. It leads to abandonment and various forms of subtle and blatant coercion. 

Over time, it can’t be controlled.


‘They Are Never Talking About Issues Like Russia.’

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

‘They Are Never Talking About Issues Like Russia.’

“Our brand is worse than Trump.”

That quote from Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the New York Times is going to get a lot of attention. For Republicans, that comment is a reason for glee; for Democrats, it is a devastating self-assessment that challenges them on an almost existential level.

But the comment that probably ought to spur even more thought in Democratic lawmakers’ offices is this one from Chris Murphy, who dares to utter the heretical thought that the preeminent obsession of Democrats since Election Day 2016 – the as-yet-unproven possibility of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – simply is a non-factor in the lives of most Americans:

“The fact that we have spent so much time talking about Russia has been a distraction from what should be the clear contrast between Democrats and the Trump agenda, which is on economics,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether Ossoff’s defeat means the party should become more progressive, the senator responded that it’s more an issue of what they’re talking about. “When I’m back in Connecticut, I often get on a commuter bus and ride it for just an hour to talk to folks that don’t normally call my office or write my office,” Murphy explained. “They are never talking about issues like Russia. They are not talking, frankly, about what’s on cable news at night.”

Now, this idea that a party should only focus on “kitchen table issues” or what’s on the mind of the “common man” can be taken too far. There are a lot of issues that the average voter doesn’t think about much that are still important. The debt and deficit, the long-term outlook for entitlement programs, almost everything involving foreign relations that don’t involve the war on terrorism, cyber-security, most issues involving the judiciary and debates about interpreting the Constitution, most government regulations outside of a high-profile news story, the state of higher education institutions, most energy issues beyond gas prices… People tend to talk about anything that affects them directly or something that has been in the news a lot, particularly if there’s an element of human drama.

The New York Times article makes a fleeting reference that probably deserves more attention…

Part of the Democrats’ challenge now is that the jobless rate is low, and many of the districts they are targeting are a lot like the Georgia seat: thriving suburbs filled with voters who have only watched their portfolios grow since Mr. Trump took office.

Back in March, during his address to Congress, Trump boasted that the stock market had gained almost $3 trillion in value since his election; since then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen another couple hundred points. In other words, if you’re an investor, these are the good times. Your 401(k) probably looks better than you ever figured it would a year ago. Yes, the stock market could go down, and some analysts think it will. But for now, anyone who’s putting away money for retirement probably is feeling a little better about the future.

Ben Shapiro points out how apocalyptic modern political rhetoric is on both sides. How apocalyptic do you think those voters in those white-collar suburban Congressional districts feel?

California Court Dismisses 14 Criminal Charges against Center for Medical Progress

by Alexandra DeSanctis

This afternoon, the San Francisco Superior Court tossed out 14 of the 15 criminal charges that had been brought by the state of California against two journalists from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), after they released a series of undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s possible involvement in illegal fetal-tissue trafficking.

In late March, California attorney general Xavier Becerra charged David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with 15 felony charges for recording what he deemed to be confidential communications. Today, a judge dismissed 14 of those charges, but will still consider the remaining fifteenth charge, against Merritt alone, for conspiring to invade privacy.

In a statement today, an official with the group representing Merritt said they are optimistic about having this charge dropped as well. He also pointed out that Becerra received thousands of dollars in campaign donatins from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL during his time as a Democratic congressman.

More details from Life News:

The San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday dismissed 14 of 15 criminal counts but the pair are still charged with one count of conspiracy to invade privacy. However the court dismissed the charges with leave to amend — meaning Becerra could re-file the charges with additional supposed evidence against the pair.

The court ruled that counts 1-14 were legally insufficient. The state has the opportunity to amend if it can plead a more legally sufficient and specific complaint. The California’s Attorney General filed 15 criminal counts against Merritt, with counts 1-14 for each of the alleged interviews and count 15 for an alleged conspiracy. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite gave the state attorney general’s office until mid-July to file a revised complaint.

As from being a victory for the freedom of the press, this decision is another big win for the CMP journalists — who were cleared of criminal charges last year in Texas, as well — vindicating them against the frequent claim from pro-abortion activists that they engaged in illegal activity and duplicitous editing of footage to falsely incriminate Planned Parenthood.

There is still a civil lawsuit on this matter pending in California, brought against the CMP by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. Unlike these criminal charges, however, that suit does not carry the threat of jail time.

The Incomplete Media Narrative about a Murdered Muslim Girl

by Tiana Lowe

Early Sunday morning, a 22-year-old man bludgeoned a Muslim girl, Nabra Hassanen, to death with a metal baseball bat on her way home from an all-night Ramadan observance at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque. The murderer dumped the 17-year-old’s abaya-dressed corpse into a pond, where it was found by Fairfax County, Virginia authorities later that afternoon. Outrage ensued, as it rightly should, given a murder so savage, thuggish, and evil. Yet once again, the media wildly overstepped its bounds to craft a false narrative.

“Muslim Teen Kidnapped and Brutally Murdered in Virginia: This Is Terrorism” read a headline from Affinity magazine. Actress and producer Mindy Kaling also decried the murder on Facebook as “another innocent Muslim person targeted for their faith.” The Atlantic then ran a profile, “‘Muslims Feel Under Siege’” highlighting Islamophobia around Ramadan. Many stories used Hassanen’s murder as a lede to foray into a greater narrative about the collective crisis of violence against Muslims.

But then actual facts and details around the case emerged. First, the Fairfax County Police Department publicly ruled out a hate crime as a motive, announcing that they were looking more closely into extreme road rage. Then, the Daily Caller reported that the murderer, Darwin Martinez Torres, was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, with ICE confirming that it had issued a detainer request against him. Reports subsequently emerged that Torres, who has a girlfriend and son, barely speaks English and required the use of a translator following his arrest.

On these developments, the media has maintained near-complete radio silence. A Fusion piece reporting that the police ruled out anti-Muslim bias as a motive was still tagged as “Islamaphobia,” and did not include the identity of the killer. They declined to even label Torres a “white Hispanic” illegal immigrant!

That Torres’s motive was not as initially reported should make the murder no less enraging. And nor should his immigration status make it any more deplorable. But any conversation about Nabra Hassanen, be it about hate crimes or immigration policies, will inevitably be half-baked if we’re only served half-truths.


This Acquittal Was Correct -- Jury Exonerates Cop in Milwaukee Shooting

by David French

Each police shooting has to be evaluated on its own facts Today, a Milwaukee jury rightly acquitted former police officer Dominique Heaggen-Brown in the 2016 shooting of Sylville Smith — a shooting that led to unrest in the city. This case was markedly different from the Philando Castile shooting, and the prosecution was highly problematic.  

Smith ran from a traffic stop, approached a chain-link fence, and turned to face the pursuing officers, gun in hand. Heaggan-Brown fired his first shot — a shot the prosecution conceded was lawful — and then fired the second, fatal shot less than two seconds later, just after Smith had thrown away his pistol The prosecution claimed that the second shot constituted reckless homicide. 

The problem with the prosecution is obvious. A police officer who reasonably perceives a mortal threat (as the officer did here) doesn’t shoot, reflect, observe, and shoot again. He shoots until the threat is neutralized. The officer’s expert witness was right:

The defense rested Monday after calling its lone witness, Robert Willis, an expert in police use of force, according to WISN.

Willis testified that Heaggan-Brown acted in “accordance with his training,” CNN affiliate WTMJ-TV reported.

His testimony centered on the 1.69 seconds separating the two shots. He testified the officer’s decision to fire again was made before he even pulled the trigger. The second shot was justified, Willis told the jury, because officers are trained to assume a suspect may have more than one weapon.

Heaggan-Brown experienced the encounter in “real time,” not in frame-by-frame motion as it was shown to the jury, Willis said, according to WTMJ.

“So when we see the trigger being pulled, we have to not consider that the moment of decision,” he said. “It’s not. We have to go back — and I can’t tell exactly how many frames but we have to go back two-tenths or three-tenths of a second — we have to go back several frames … to delve into the decision-making process that goes into firing this shot.”

The officer chose his witness well. According to CNN, Willis “wrote the use of force manual used by Milwaukee police officers.”

Smith’s confrontation with police created exactly the situation the law is designed to address. We can’t impute god-like perception to police officers, and the split-second reasonable decision to fire on an armed suspect isn’t something that has to be reconsidered with every pull of the trigger. In this case, the jury reached the just result. 


0-4 and an About-Face: Democrats Suddenly Believe Ossoff No Longer Matters

by Tiana Lowe

He was a candidate on whom it would be worth risking millions. He was a messianic, baby-faced neophyte slated to stage a Macron-esque takeover of Georgia’s sixth congressional district in the #Resistance’s first great blow to Trump’s America. CNN’s Don Lemon even likened him to Barack Obama.

Jon Ossoff was supposed to be a vessel for the categorical repudiation of the Trump administration, but alas, as the president gleefully noted this morning, the Democrats marked two new entries in a growing line of losing streaks in special elections framed by some in the media as referendums on one of the most unpopular presidents in modern American history.

After sinking $25 million into Ossoff’s campaign, Democrats are stuck rewriting the narrative that all hope and glory rested on the fate of GA-06. 

The original liberal logic went: An effective Democratic candidate, not bogged down by the scandals and unlikability of Hillary Clinton and running, in effect, against Trump (who beat Clinton in the district by an uncharacteristically low margin of 1.5 percent), could easily outperform Clinton. The Democrats put so much weight on this concept that Ossoff’s campaign became the most expensive congressional bid in U.S. history. California donors and super PACs outspent every other state nine-to-one to try to flip the sixth district, only to see Ossoff actually underperforming both the polls and Clinton’s 2016 GA-06 vote to go down in a stunning defeat.

In April, Slate branded Ossoff the pioneer of “Georgia’s progressive renaissance” — a man gearing up to answer the “existential insult of Trump.” Following Ossoff’s win in the Georgia primary, CNN’s Sally Kohn boasted that the election “damn sure was a referendum on Trump and Trump lost big league.” The Left continued to characterize the race as Ossoff versus Trump as the runoff drew nearer. Just this past weekend, the New York Times declared it would be a “high-stakes referendum on Trump,” with the “highest” stakes for Republicans.

Yet as the votes poured in and Handel began to exceed polling and expectations, the media began to sing a different tune.

The spin began as the New York Times tweeted that “Handel averted a humiliating upset for Republicans.”

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, who had previously compared Ossoff’s crusade to “Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign” reflective of a “leftward shift of the Democratic Party’s message,” today decried his “bland and inoffensive” image of “just a nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump.”

In a similar 180, Kohn tweeted out, “In many ways, [Handel] distanced herself from [Trump]. This is not Trump’s victory.”

Wait, so is Ossoff basically Barack Obama or a tepid centrist? Is Handel a Trump surrogate or a Never Trumper? Most importantly, wasn’t Ossoff supposed to win with a five point lead?

The Democratic panic is warranted. Ossoff’s losing 1.2 percent of Clinton’s GA-6 vote after the Democratic party put everything, emotionally and financially, on the line for a candidate they equated to their only remaining widely liked leader, has worrisome implications. Perhaps if the Democrats had put slightly less of a moral investment in this election, it would be seen for what it really is: a special election. But FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver aptly noted, “Sometimes dumb things matter if everyone agrees that they matter.”

With taxpayer-subsidized Planned Parenthood dumping nearly $735,000 into Ossoff’s campaign and the DCCC pouring in over $5 million, Republicans turned out to vote in record numbers. Ultimately, for Georgia voters the election was less of a referendum on Trump than a rejection of an untried carpetbagger.

Spending Cuts Are the Best Way to Pay for Tax Reform

by Veronique de Rugy

Yesterday, Speaker Ryan promised that tax reform would happen before the end of 2017. My two cents is that it won’t until Ryan finally agrees to drop the border-adjustment tax that has fractured our movement, the business community, and the Republican caucus. As it stands, tax reform may not even be able to get out of the House, let alone the Senate (the White House is also skeptical of the border-adjustment tax).

When Ryan does drop the border-adjustment tax (BAT), we can finally unite behind tax reform and look for alternative ways to get it done. As such, now is as good a time as any to remind the Republicans in charge of leading this effort that there’s a right way and a wrong way to move beyond the border-adjustment tax. Recently, Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady, the most dogged proponent of the border-adjustment tax in Congress after Speaker Ryan, simultaneously admitted that the only function of the BAT is to raise revenue and suggested that dropping it may require Congress revisiting the revenue raisers in the Camp proposal (named after former congressman David Camp of Michigan), though Brady was quick to point out that he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

Perhaps this is Brady’s way of pressuring critics to just give up and accept the BAT because falling back on the Camp plan is a poor substitute for real tax reform.

Like the current effort, Camp was hamstrung by a misguided insistence on “revenue neutrality.” Revenue neutrality means that the government continues collecting just as much in taxes after reform. While some may think it make sense in today’s high-debt environment, it is no solution to our debt and economic-growth problem. First, overspending is the driving cause of our giant debt and there is no amount of revenue that will address the explosion of our national debt that is caused by the entitlement-crisis wall into which we are heading very quickly. Second, revenue neutrality means that Congress is voluntarily deciding to tie its hand on what it can do to grow the economy through tax reform because lawmakers have to choose between lowering tax rates in exchange for increasing double taxation or reducing the tax burden on savings and investment in exchange for only slightly lowering rates.

Granted, unlike Representative Camp in 2014, Republicans plan to finally use dynamic rather than static scoring — dynamic scoring takes into account the impact of tax reform on economic growth. However, CBO’s modeling still leaves a lot to be desired. So while they are trying to actually reduce the tax burden overall, they are still likely to overpay with revenue offsets.

The revenue constraints placed on Camp forced inclusion of many bad ideas in his proposal such as increasing the tax bias against savings and investment by raising the tax rate on capital gains and “extending the length of the period over which businesses may deduct the cost of buying machinery or equipment and building factories or other structures,” as David Burton explained back in 2014. In that vein, and among other items, the plan randomly targeted advertising expenses for the sole purpose of raising revenue. Burton explains:

The Camp plan would require that half of advertising expenses be deducted over a 10-year period. This entirely unwarranted provision would deny businesses the ability to deduct their expenses and thus overstate their taxable income. This provision would increase business taxes by $169 billion over 10 years.

Why would the plan arbitrary treat advertising expenses differently than other business costs? I do not know. Advertising serves an important purpose in helping the economy function smoothly. It provides information to consumers and facilitates competition and entry of new products to the market. Moreover, the whole point of tax reform is to simplify the code and end distortions such as that.

Oh and then there was this:

One of the most egregious violations of sound tax policy in the plan is a tax on systemically important financial institutions (SIFI). The tax, better known as a bank tax, would apply to only a few of the largest banks and other financial firms — those with more than $500 billion in assets. The tax would be 0.035 percent on those banks’ assets, assessed quarterly. It would raise more than $86 billion over 10 years. Sound tax policy does not single out particular businesses in certain industries for extra taxation. If there are issues arising because of how other laws affect these banks, those issues should be addressed outside of the tax code.

I would like to repeat this: “Sound tax policy does not single out particular businesses in certain industries for extra taxation.”

In other words, falling back on the Camp reform pay-fors such as the few named above would be a step backward. There is no way that Republicans believe that these are are only two options for tax reform. They must know that a better approach would be to acknowledge fiscal reality and cut spending. Or not. An imperfect and partial alternative is to extend the budget window, as some are now considering. It would have the merits of better accounting for the positive economic impact of tax reform and lessening the need for counterproductive new taxes.

Immigration Has Changed the Progressive Movement

by Jason Richwine

Peter Beinart has an excellent essay in The Atlantic on how the American Left has shifted on immigration. Just a decade ago, he writes, progressive intellectuals such as Glenn Greenwald, Paul Krugman, and even Barack Obama at least acknowledged the costs of immigration. In fact, Krugman outright stated that, “Realistically, we’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.”

I would add to those examples the New York Times editorial from 2000, “Hasty Call for Amnesty,” which declares, “Amnesty would undermine the integrity of the country’s immigration laws and would depress the wages of its lowest-paid native-born workers.” Far from sounding progressive to our 2017 ears, this is the kind of statement that might get a speaker disinvited from a college campus these days.

The strange marriage of progressivism and mass immigration has always puzzled me. Last month, I wrote an article for RealClearPolicy showing that progressive and high-immigration California is failing by progressives’ own standards. California has the nation’s highest poverty rate, its math and reading scores rank near the bottom, and its communities suffer from low levels of social trust. These problems have many causes, but mass low-skill immigration has clearly exacerbated them. Two questions for progressives follow. First, if the nation’s leader in blue-state governance cannot mitigate the problems related to mass immigration, which state will? Second, and more broadly, how does immigration move us closer to the egalitarian, cooperative, and science-loving society that progressives envision?

I never received any answers to these questions, but maybe the Beinart article points to one: Immigrants and the organizations that lobby for them are now an important Democratic-party constituency. As a result, boosting immigration has itself become a progressive cause, even if it means the old-fashioned vision of egalitarian communities has to be permanently set aside. This is a major political realignment, and yet another example of how mass immigration fundamentally changes nations.

A Few Lessons Democrats Aren’t Learning

by David French

After a day of commentary and hot takes following Karen Handel’s relatively comfortable win in Georgia’s Sixth District, it’s clear that there are a few lessons that Democrats are slow to learn.

First, abortion and socialism aren’t big winners in center-right districts. It’s been stunning to see more than a few folks on the Left declare that one lesson of the loss is that it’s futile to move towards the center. Absent a total collapse in Republican support, a move to the hard left is only going to help spur Republican turnout. Lots of suburban voters have qualms about Donald Trump, but they hate abortion-on-demand, loathe the idea of single-payer health care, and have no interested in being enlisted in the social justice culture war.

Second, politics is still a subculture. There is an extraordinary gap between regular voters and the obsessive tweeters who spend their days agonizing over every Trump tweet and sputtering with outrage over every Trump scandal. I live in the middle of Trump country, and trust me when I say that the average voter isn’t tracking a tenth of the coverage. It takes time for political trends to bake fully into the cultural cake, and there is yet no “consensus” about the Trump presidency. It’s still early.

Third, aside from hating Trump, hard-core progressivism is the Democrats’ only coherent message. Putting aside the Bernie Bros and the social justice warriors, what is the Democratic Party’s message to America? What does it stand for? And you can’t say “equality,” “diversity,” or “inclusion.” Those are platitudes, not policies. At the least the progressives have a vision. It’s not one that has much hope of winning over center-right voters, but it is a message. Where is the rest of the Democratic Party? Is there a rest of the Democratic Party?

The bottom line is that a party built from the ground-up to appeal to single women and minorities is going to struggle locally where those demographics don’t dominate, and it’s going to struggle nationally when those demographics aren’t inspired. They have 16 months to either get a better message or, failing that, pray for a Republican collapse. 

How Many Libertarians Are There?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Likely writing in response to this study, which finds that only 3.8 percent of the public falls into the category, Emily Ekins surveys a range of studies that have found a larger percentage. Most put them in the 10-20 percent range, which makes them too large a group to be ignored.

Two Arguments on Immigration

by Ramesh Ponnuru

My new Bloomberg View column:

Part of the long aftershock of President Donald Trump’s election is a new debate over immigration. Two provocative entries in that debate have appeared in recent days. Both featured columnists playing against type.

Conservative Bret Stephens wrote tongue-in-cheek in the New York Times that to make America great again, we should be deporting complacent native-born Americans rather than industrious immigrants. At the Atlantic, liberal Peter Beinart wrote that Democrats have become too insouciant about illegal immigration and need to remember the virtue of assimilation. . . .

My thoughts on both arguments continue here.

FBI Report on Alexandria Quietly Debunks the Gun-Controllers’ Talking Points

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The FBI has published a brief report on the shooting in Alexandria. It is devastating to the idea that the gun-control measures presently coveted by the Democratic party would have done something to prevent the attack.

Over the past two decades, Democrats have focused on three major proposals for reform. They are: 1) That all private transfers should be contingent upon a federal background check; 2) That firearms that look a certain way should be classed as “assault weapons” and prohibited from sale; and 3) That civilians should be forbidden from buying magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. None of these proposals intersect with what happened in Alexandria.

First, the FBI confirms that Hodgkinson moved to Virginia in March of 2017:

In March 2017, Hodgkinson, of Belleville, Illinois, told a family member that he was traveling to Washington D.C., but he did not provide any additional information on his travel. FBI analysis of Hodgkinson’s computers showed a Google search of truck stops, maps, and toll-free routes to the Northern Virginia area. Prior to his travel, local law enforcement in Belleville had been called to Hodgkinson’s residence due to complaints of target practice he was conducting on his property. Local law enforcement requested he keep the noise down but determined Hodgkinson was not in violation of any local laws. Hodgkinson’s prior criminal record includes a charge of domestic battery in 2006.

Evidence collected thus far indicates Hodgkinson had been in the Alexandria area since March 2017.

It then confirms where — and how — he obtained his weapons:

The investigation thus far determined that Hodgkinson purchased his SKS 7.62mm caliber rifle in March 2003 and 9mm handgun in November 2016 legally through federal firearms licensees. The investigation has determined that there were cartridges found to be chambered in the SKS rifle and the FBI’s Evidence Response Team found 9mm and 7.62mm shell casings on scene. The SKS rifle was modified to accept a detachable magazine and the original stock was replaced with a folding stock.

This means that Hodgkinson bought the guns in Illinois, where he was resident.

Why does this matter? Well, because before they knew anything about the case, many in the press had reflexively tried to use the incident as an argument for stricter gun control. The Atlantic’s David Frum, for example, immediately went on an error-laden tear about Virginia’s laws, which he considers to be too lax, and then took to proposing the sort of “common sense” reforms that the Democratic party has been so impotently trying to sell. But, as the FBI confirms, this reaction was an ignorant one. For a start, the guns weren’t bought in Virginia; they were bought in Illinois, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. And they weren’t purchased privately, illegally, or without attendant background checks, but “legally through federal firearms licensees” that are obliged under federal law to run checks. Moreover, Hodgkinson only got the weapons after he obtained an additional possession-and-purchase license (FOID) of the sort that more extreme gun-control advocates want to see made mandatory in all states.

Or, put another way: Illinois has stricter rules than even Barack Obama endorsed — it quite literally licenses all gun-owners in the state — and those rules made no difference to this case. This is not rare. It is typical.

Alas, the errors don’t end there. Frum and co. also berated Virginia for being among the 40+ states to permit open carry. But Alexandria, where the shooting took place, doesn’t permit open carry, a fact that prompted one of the most hilariously convoluted arguments I have seen in my life. Others talked about both “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines. But as the FBI notes, the firearm used was an SKS in 7.62mm, which has never been classed as an “assault weapon,” and which wasn’t included in the ban that obtained from 1994-2004. Further, when he bought it, Hodgkinson’s SKS was unable to take “high-capacity” magazines at all; rather, it came with an internal 10-round box magazine. Per the report, Hodgkinson seems to have modified it to take external magazines after the purchase, a change that raises the fair question of how effective any at-sale restrictions can really be in stopping the determined. Either way, even after he modified it there is no evidence that Hodgkinson introduced a larger than 10-round external magazine (that’s the standard for the modified SKS), or that, if he did, it had any effect on the outcome.

Finally, I am seeing it said that Hodgkinson should not have had his weapons — and shouldn’t have been permitted to buy his handgun in 2016 — because he was a “domestic abuser.” But that’s not true either. The FBI report confirms that “Hodgkinson’s prior criminal record includes a charge of domestic battery in 2006.” Note the key word: “charge.” Charge, not “conviction.” I understand that this is an emotive issue, but we presumably do not want to start taking away people’s rights on the basis of accusations alone? There are a lot of terrible men out there — men who do unspeakable things to women. Perhaps Hodgkinson was one of them; perhaps he was not. Either way, unless a person has been convicted of a crime he remains innocent under the law, and he must be treated as such by the state. Due process matters, and I hope that our self-described “liberals” are not going to abandon their commitment to it simply because they dislike the Second Amendment.

Now, there will be be voters out there who say, “Fine, but I don’t want these sorts of minor changes, I want to get rid of all the guns.” And that’s fair enough, if extraordinarily naive. But we need to separate out that argument from the ones we actually hear. Repeatedly, conservatives such as myself are told that “confiscation” and “outright banning” are red herrings and straw men and “NRA lies,” and that what is being proposed is merely ”common sense” gun control. Specifically, we are pitched on the ideas I mentioned above — and they are sold as the means by which incidents such as this one will be prevented. Well, those ideas didn’t have anything to do with this incident, and those who are honestly limiting their ambitions to them need to stop for a moment and acknowledge that. And if they’re really talking about something else . . . well, they should acknowledge that, too.

Hard Choices, Hard Lives

by Jay Nordlinger

When people under dictatorship decide to go dissident, they make a choice with huge consequences. (Almost invariably, they will tell you they did not “decide” to go dissident; they could simply do no other.) They set off a chain of events for themselves, and for their family.

Gao Zhisheng did this. A human-rights lawyer, he is one of the greatest men in all of China. What he has endured is almost unimaginable. And his family has had to endure a great deal too. About this, he is wracked with guilt.

I met his daughter, Grace, and wrote a piece. It is on the homepage today, here.

It is a vicious period for human-rights lawyers in China. The boss of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has cracked down on them, hard. Two years ago, the Party rounded up some 250 of them, in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown.” (The arrests started on July 9.) These lawyers have been tortured, some of them into insanity.

What business is this of the United States? We have to engage with China, right? Get along? Of course. But an awareness of the reality of China is desirable.

Recently, President Trump spoke about Cuba, and spoke rightly. He also said, “We will not be silent in the face of Communist oppression any longer.”

Hypocrisy is inevitable in human affairs, and this goes double for foreign policy. And yet sometimes hypocrisy is so flagrant, it costs you credibility in the world.

President Trump has gone out of his way to flatter Xi. He refers to him by his first name (which, in the Chinese style, is actually the second name): Jinping. More than once, he has called him “a great guy.” He has said, “I like him a lot. I think he likes me a lot.” And so on.

This is unnecessary. Like a broken record, I quote Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Soviet-era dissident. He said something like this: As democratic governments go about their business, dealing with dictatorships, they should occasionally pause to wonder, How will it look to the boys in the camps?

My piece today is entitled “A Hero’s Daughter.” The subtitle says that she has led “a hard life.” That’s putting it mildly. The piece concludes with these sentences: “The Communist system — wherever it is installed — is evil in a thousand ways. But not least in what it does to girls like Grace, and to families like Gao Zhisheng’s.”

Planned Parenthood’s Spending Falls Short in Georgia’s Sixth

by Alexandra DeSanctis

It’s difficult to determine who ended up as the biggest loser in yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s sixth district. The most obvious choice is Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who, despite raising an historic $23 million in campaign funding, could not bring home the victory for his party last night.

The Democratic party itself was another dud in Georgia’s sixth. After months of spinning this race as an entirely winnable one — and a referendum on the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency — the party and its advocates are once again being forced to reexamine their strategies and their appeal to American voters.

But one outside group was dealt a particularly heavy blow in Ossoff’s stunning defeat last night: Planned Parenthood. The group’s political-activism arm poured nearly $735,000 into the Democrat’s campaign, a contribution that was topped only by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

After the results came in last night, Planned Parenthood immediately shifted the narrative, attempting to justify its obscene spending levels by portraying the race as some of kind of moral victory. This claim is an exercise in blatant goalpost-moving. Progressives, Planned Parenthood included, insisted throughout that Ossoff had the potential to turn Georgia blue. A loss does no such thing.

Planned Parenthood’s activist rhetoric was clearly lacking as well. The abortion group was the campaign’s biggest purveyor of the fiction that Ossoff’s opponent, Republican Karen Handel, had intentionally deprived women of essential health care by severing ties with Planned Parenthood when she served as a vice president for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. But Handel wasn’t the instigator of that policy change; the foundation had considered it for over a decade, largely due to Komen donors’ concerns that their gifts might indirectly fund abortion.

By tacking a $735,000 price tag onto Ossoff’s failed effort, Planned Parenthood has revealed its own futility at influencing elections. That failure underscores another important point. Planned Parenthood consistently argues that, if it were to be stripped of its federal funding, millions of women would lose “vital health care.”

If money is really so tight over at Planned Parenthood — and if American women are truly in desperate need of life-saving care that they can’t get anywhere else — perhaps the abortion-rights group should think twice before dropping hundreds of thousands on insignificant political races, whether or not those races end in bitter defeat.

Wednesday links

by debbywitt

Summer started this morning at 12:24 EDT - here’s some solstice science, history, poetry and music. Related: Fridgehenge: to celebrate the solstice, British guy recreates Stonehenge using old refrigerators

Why Is It Called Area 51?

Hawaiian Style: The History of the Aloha Shirt.

How to Have a Healthy Summer: advice from 1656.

You’ve Got Quail: Why Thousands of Rural Mail Carriers Count Roadside Wildlife Every Year.

How Cats Used Humans to Conquer the World.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include the science of whiskey flavors, the anniversary of Waterloo (with a Lego re-enactment), the art of Soviet children’s literature, and, for Father’s Day, a selection of parenting advice from Homer Simpson.

You’ve Earned a Little Victory Dance This Morning, GOP!

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt…

You’ve Earned a Little Victory Dance This Morning, GOP!

Go ahead and do a little dance this morning, Republicans!

Watch to see if the conventional wisdom on Jon Ossoff as a candidate changes quickly. (I can’t tell whether Jonah is serious when he refers to Ossoff as a ‘hipster dufus candidate’.) Remember, heading into yesterday, he was considered a pretty solid candidate for this district, once you put aside the residency issue and his baby face. He’s got a pretty good resume (Georgetown, London School of Economics, held a security clearance while working in Congress, made a documentary about ISIS) and avoided gaffes on the trail and in debates.

For a long time, Republican campaign consultants and their allies would look at a Democratic opponent who had served in a state legislature or Congress, and add up every time they had voted in subcommittee, committee, or the full chamber for a bill, amendment or budget resolution that included tax increases. Sometimes they would throw in any vote against a tax cut as well. You know the end result from attack ads: “John Smith voted to raise taxes 132 times.”

In a legislature, a lawmaker votes on all kinds of matters, and sooner or later, he’ll make a controversial one. Democrats gradually realized that an inexperienced candidate, with no time spent in government, has something of an advantage in that there’s no record to examine and attack. A big part of the Democrats’ wave election in 2006 was built on first-time candidates or those with non-traditional candidate backgrounds: Jim Webb in Virginia, Tim Mahoney in Florida, Brad Ellsworth in Indiana (he had been a sheriff), Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack in Iowa, John Yarmuth in Kentucky, Tim Walz in Minnesota, Heath Shuler in North Carolina, Jason Altmire, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney in Pennsylvania and Steve Kagan in Wisconsin. It’s easier to argue “I’m not like those other Democrats” when you have no record of voting like all those other Democrats.

Of course, in subsequent cycles, a lot of those Democrats elected in 2006 got knocked off, as they gradually accumulated a voting record that gave Republicans avenues of attack, and make the increasingly plausible argument that those representatives had grown too liberal for their districts.

Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker, didn’t have much of a record. His ads were about what he wanted to do, and were pretty nonpartisan: “How do we keep metro Atlanta’s economy growing? Just ask the entrepreneurs who do it every day. Promote high-tech and biotech research, because it drives innovation. Prioritize our college and tech schools, so we can hire young people with the right skills. And cut the wasteful spending in Washington, because the deficits are holding back our economy. I approved this message because I’ll work with anyone to keep our economy growing. I’m listening to them.” The promises in that ad script could be run by just about any Republican running in a swing district across the country.

This was the playbook that worked for Democrats in districts like this before and this was the approach Democrats thought they could use heading into 2018 to regain control of the House. Let Trump’s low approval rating and the GOP’s difficulty passing legislation speak for themselves; target the suburbs full of white-collar and middle-class whites, particularly women, and come across as the sensible alternative.

That approach was good enough to get Ossoff to 48 percent twice.

Democrats can say this morning that they always knew this was a difficult district, but you don’t spend $31 million to finish a few points behind in a difficult House district. Democrats and progressives were convinced they had a chance to win this race, and the fact that they didn’t suggests that their real problem is that they don’t actually know where they can win. They’re walking around with a false sense of their own electability – just seven months after they were convinced Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 election easily.

Yes, there’s a lot of road ahead, and there will be easier districts for Democrats to win in 2018. But when you add up all the spending and use the most recent numbers reported in the New York Times, it calculates to a $9 million advantage for the Democrats. ($23.6 million raised by Ossoff + $7.6 million spent by outside groups preferring him = $31.2 million; $4.5 million spent by Handel + $18.2 million spent by outside groups preferring her = $22.7 million.)

If you fall short in an open seat special election, in a district Trump barely carried, with a candidate who avoids gaffes and with a giant spending advantage… just where the heck are you going to win?

The other big story of the night was the special election in South Carolina’s fifth Congressional district, which received almost no attention because no one thought it would be competitive. Surprise! Ralph Norman, the Republican, defeated Archie Parnell, a Democrat, but only won by four points, a much smaller margin than expected. This is spurring some cries that the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fumbled by focusing so much on Georgia and barely at all on South Carolina. But if that race had gotten more attention from outside the district, it probably wouldn’t have been as competitive.

Turnout in South Carolina’s special election was extremely low, fewer than 90,000 votes. Even in a noncompetitive midterm year, like 2014, when Mick Mulvaney was cruising to an easy victory, more than 175,000 voted in this district. More attention would have likely brought out more unmotivated Republicans and helped Norman cushion his lead.

A Reality Check about What Handel’s Win Means

by Jonah Goldberg

Karen Handel, the Republican, won. Who among us can contain his excitement?

It’s also a win for Donald Trump for one simple and obvious reason: because the alternative would have been so much worse for him. If Handel had lost, it would have hardened the media narrative that Republicans are fleeing the president (note: I said narrative, not fiction. The man is at 72 percent among Republicans, but that’s down eleven points in two months). A Handel loss would probably have led to actual politicians fleeing the president. Meanwhile, if Ossoff had won, Democrats would have been even more emboldened. They could go to donors and say, “We bought a seat in a Republican district with a hipster dufus candidate, who got trolled into getting engaged. If we do it 23 more times, we get a Democratic House, a Speaker Pelosi, and maybe impeachment.”

In other words, in the realm of spin, appearances, and momentum, a Handel win is a huge victory for the White House. That realm is really important — more important than it should be, but really important nonetheless.

On the other hand, a Handel win is not anywhere near the victory/mandate/endorsement the Trump team will claim it to be. This is a Republican district. The only reason it was close: A lot of Republicans voted for a Democrat. So, the GOP victory on the merits is pretty limited. Spending enough money to scald a wet mule (to borrow a phrase from Haley Barbour) to hold on to a district that Tom Price (Trump’s HHS secretary) and Newt Gingrich held is not a sign of Republican health. I’m okay with calling that a moral victory for Ossoff, as the media certainly will. But a moral victory plus $1.89* will buy me a large coffee at my local Starbucks. Meanwhile, a literal defeat for the GOP would have been a disaster.

*Correction: Perhaps due to the Venti Irish whiskey the author consumed, he mis-characterized the cost of a large coffee from Starbucks. He should have written $2.89. He regrets the error, but not the whiskey. 

In a Bad District for Trump, Karen Handel Persisted

by Dan McLaughlin

For nine months in 1916, the French and German armies battled with insane ferocity over a small patch of land in Northern France, committing over two million soldiers, spending the lives of over 300,000 men (and more than that wounded) and at the epicenter of the battle, pouring millions of shells (literally over a ton of explosives) on an area covering about twelve square miles. The Battle of Verdun was about control of a modest piece of strategically useful territory, but it was really about a lot more: two national combatants testing their strength, resources, and resolve, stakes far more important than an individual town or ridge. Virtually every inch of land that was fought over was destroyed. The victors, the French, held nothing more than what they started the battle with, and their army was broken so badly it has not yet recovered a century later. The losers, the Germans, lost the war.

The residents of Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District can be forgiven for feeling like the villagers of Verdun after a special election that pulverized the district with ad spending and activists. Patrick Ruffini estimated on Twitter this morning that the two parties combined to spend more money in this House race ($50 million) than Ronald Reagan spent on his 1984 presidential re-election (even adjusting Reagan’s $28 million campaign for inflation). At this writing, given the projected outcome, the net result looks very much like Verdun: a costly and depressing victory for the Republicans, bled white defending their own turf, and a debacle for Democrats, who came home empty-handed and must be able to win districts like GA-06 if they are to take control of the House in 2018 and carry out their chief policy goal of impeaching President Trump.

GA-06 was always going to be a heavy lift for both sides. For Democrats, the obstacles were obvious: it’s a deeply conservative district, Newt Gingrich’s old district, that Mitt Romney won 61-38 in 2012, where then-Congressman Tom Price was regularly re-elected with ease. Their candidate, Jon Ossoff, is young and looks younger, had no real base of support in Georgia (the vast majority of his donors were out of state), and doesn’t even live in the district. His opponent, Karen Handel, was much better-known: she was first elected to office in the district fourteen years ago, previously won statewide office as Secretary of State, ran respectable races for Governor in 2010 and Senate in 2014, and won national notoriety in 2012 over her ultimately unsuccessful effort to separate a national cancer charity from Planned Parenthood.

For Republicans, the race was difficult because this is probably the least Trump-friendly Republican district in the country, an upscale, educated suburban district full of transplants from around the country who work for big multinational corporations headquartered in Atlanta. Trump won it by just a point, running double digits behind Romney, and his approval ratings are well lower now than even his dismal favorability numbers on Election Day. Trump lost just four counties in the state in the 2016 presidential primary, but three of those four (Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb) make up GA-06, all of which went for Marco Rubio. Trump’s worst counties in Georgia in the primary:

DeKalb: Rubio 41, Trump 25
Fulton: Rubio 42, Trump 27
Clarke: Rubio 35, Trump 27
Cobb: Rubio 35, Trump 31

In November as well, Trump ran poorly in these counties compared to incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson – his worst counties in the state relative to Isakson:

Fulton: Isakson -23, Trump -41
Macon: Isakson -12, Trump -27
Stewart: Isakson -5, Trump -20
Dooly: Isakson +16, Trump +2
Clarke: Isakson -23, Trump -37
DeKalb: Isakson -49, Trump -63
Cobb: Isakson +11, Trump -2

That matters because it has gotten a lot harder for down-ticket Republicans to get separation from Trump. In 2016, the election results showed that voters were able and willing to see the differences between Trump’s highly unconventional outsider campaign and the Congressional GOP: most Senate and House Republicans not only ran ahead of Trump, but they won with the support of different voters. A lot of those voters didn’t really believe Trump was going to be the president. Five months into Trump’s term, as he and the Hill GOP are forced into an uncomfortable arranged marriage, it is harder for Republicans to stand clear of the blast radius of Trump’s daily controversies.

The reason why both sides poured so many resources into this race was the simple calculation by both sides that upscale suburban Romney-not-Trump voters are precisely the kind of swing votes that the Democrats need in 2018 to reclaim the House. And yet, Karen Handel persisted, and prevailed. If the Democrats are going to crack that code in 2018, they haven’t yet. Ossoff’s message was a mixed bag of occasional Trump-bashing, conservative-sounding promises to tackle wasteful DC spending, and a very belated rush to hit Republicans on health care after soft-pedaling the issue until the campaign’s final days, when candidates traditionally give up on persuasion and focus on firing up their base.

They still may figure it out: Democrats in 2009-10 won the first seven straight special elections for the House before the GOP got its stuff together in time for a midterm 2010 landslide. The seventh of those, the Mark Critz-Tim Burns race to replace John Murtha in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, seemed at the time like a bellwether, and Critz was re-elected in November. It availed them not, and Critz was eventually defeated in 2014.

Republicans can breathe easier tonight; Karen Handel will be a good Congresswoman, and the Democrats haven’t proven yet that they can win in 2018. Handel’s win will stem some of the panic in Republican ranks about the next cycle, and offer a caution to potential Democratic recruits. But the fight for the House isn’t over yet. In a democracy, it never is.

The Slow Death of an Important Constitutional Clause

by George Leef

When the Constitution was written, the Founders wanted to make sure that the states did not mess around with contracts. They understood that the stability of contracts was crucial to a thriving economy. Hence, among other things states were prohibited from doing was to “impair the obligation of contracts.”

But like other parts of the Constitution that were meant to restrain government power, the contract clause has been shunted aside. Today, states can get away with rewriting or dissolving contracts as long as they can come up with some plausible “police power” excuse for dong so.

Vanderbilt law professor James Ely, Jr. has written an illuminating book on the history of the contract clause and I discuss it in this Forbes article.

Philando Castile Dash-Cam Footage Released

by Robert VerBruggen

Response To...

A Tragedy and an Acquittal

Over the weekend I noted that the Philando Castile dash-cam video had not yet been made public. Now it has been (this is obviously disturbing):

As I wrote previously: Body-camera footage would have been far better than a dash-cam video here. We just can’t see what exactly Castile did. It’s clear that Yanez believed he was in danger — listen to the escalation between his calm “Don’t reach for it, then” to his second “Don’t pull it out!” before he fired (all of which go by quite quickly). But was that belief reasonable from the movements Castile was making? Bear in mind that if someone is drawing a weapon despite repeated commands not to, the officer is dead if he doesn’t react quickly.

I have no idea. It’s hard to convict someone with that degree of uncertainty.

Update: There’s a lot of new information coming to light in a document dump that’s shifting my view of this.

For one thing, while Yanez testified confidently at trial that he saw Castile put his hand on the gun, he’d previously said he didn’t know what Castile was touching, not only toward the end of the video above (which was played for the jury), but again in a subsequent interview. City Pages notes:

While jurors indicated they were torn over whether Yanez ever saw Castile’s gun or not, they never got to weigh the now-former officer’s [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] interview because the prosecution failed to bring it up during the presentation of the case. Instead, the prosecution strategically tried to bring the BCA transcript in during its cross-examination of Yanez.

The judge rejected this attempted introduction of new evidence.

He also made a horrifying comment about what was going through his mind when he decided to pull the trigger, inspired by the smell of marijuana:

I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front-seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?

As the law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones told the Washington Post, even if he couldn’t be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, Yanez “made a terrible mistake, and he shouldn’t be a cop.”