National Review

Unfooled by China for 65 Years — Just One Reason to Back Our Webathon Effort

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Chinese servicemen walk past portraits of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as they patrol a street near the Great Hall of the People on the opening day of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, China, May 22, 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

We are taking on all comers at NR. Not just the presidential contenders hiding in basements, or the thugs rioting in our cities, or the unalloyed leftist ideologues fulminating in our newsrooms. We’ve got a special thing for the ChiComs, to use a term that should never have gone out of style (and hasn’t in these precincts). They are the foes in what is surely too a fight (the fight?) for our civilization, and for the future of this nation as Freedom’s beacon to the world.

This is why we fight. This is why we need your help. And that is why we have launched our Summer webathon. It seeks vital material help, to the tune of $250,000, which is by no means even close to how much real assistance we require. But $250,000 it is, and there are now two weeks remaining in this drive towards it. The facts may seem grubby to some, but this is a real effort, with real-time info, which we feel obliged to share: As of Monday morning here in NYC, we have registered donations from 1,193 selfless people, tallying $107,417.00. That means we are 43 percent of the way towards our objective. There is a long 57 per cent to go.

Back to China. Red China. When Bill Buckley forced himself into the media pool traveling with Richard Nixon on his historic 1972 journey to meet with mass-murder Mao, he filed a report (his March 17, 1972 NR essay, “Vini, Vidi, Victus”) that unloaded both barrels:

We have lost — irretrievably — any remaining sense of moral mission in the world. Mr. Nixon’s appetite for a summit conference in Peking transformed the affair from a meeting of diplomatic technicians concerned to examine and illuminate areas of common interest, into a pageant of moral togetherness at which Mr. Nixon managed to give the impression that he was consorting with Marian Anderson, Billy Graham and Albert Schweitzer. Once he decided to come here himself, it was very nearly inevitable that this should have happened. Granted, if it had been Theodore Roosevelt, the distinctions might have been preserved. But Mr. Nixon is so much the moral enthusiast that he alchemizes the requirements of diplomacy into the coin of ethics; that is why when he toasted the bloodiest, most merciless chief of state in the world, he did so in accents most of us would reserve for Florence Nightingale.

We’ll get this article to you in full in the next couple of days. Anyway . . . the utter foulness of Mao and Chinese Communism had been on NR’s lips since our very first issue in 1955. Closing out the premier appearance of The Week was an editorial on Alger Hiss defending Yalta in The Pocket Book Magazine. We wrote of that journal’s editor:

“Dear Mr. Watts: Why did you ask a Communist for his views on Yalta in the first place? But having done so, why did you fail to call attention to the fact that he is a convicted liar? What have you got for your next issue — “How Chiang Benefited from the Marshall Mission,” by Mao Tse-tung?

Thus ended the editorial. But what has never ended is our utter determination to keep Red China — and all its threats and intentions for global dominance, its penchant for mass murder and brutality, its aiding-and-abetting media and corporate lackeys — front and center as a cause, as a thing our readers must know about, as an economic powerhouse which simply has no intention of “liberalizing.” Visit NRO any day and you are sure to find exceptional analyses on these matters by the likes of Jimmy Quinn and Therese Shaheen and Christ O’Dea and Michael Auslin and Jianli Yang and so many more experts. They are working diligently, whether they know it or not, alongside Bill Buckley, standing athwart history — athwart the possibility of a China-dominated future — yelling Stop.

That’s the kind of journalism we need a lot more of, and it’s the kind of expertise your support makes possible. So NR’s Red China coverage is a big reason many (God bless them one and all) are responding to our Webathon appeal. But various folks have various motivations, some expressed along with donations. We share some of such here:

  • Dan spots us 200 smackers and offers a little literary criticism: “I first read your print magazine when I was 10 in 1984, and today we seem closer to 1984 than at any time in my life. Keep up the great work to defend reason, diversity of opinion, and conservative principles!” George had them nailed. This means the world to us — thanks very much.
  • Michael sends NR $100 and shakes his head: “When a face of the Dems says a statue of Father Damien is a symbol of ‘white supremacy,’ you know they’ve become unhinged. Time to cancel the Dems.” The party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left, but then you knew that Michael. Many thanks.
  • Patricia allots $50 to the cause and we compare notes: “Thank you, please continue to speak out so we can stamp out sparks of socialism, false history facts, and blatant attacks on the Constitution and the Founders of this great nation.” We’re stamping as fast as possible, thanks to good friends such as you.
  • Craig sends $200 and sizes up what he’s just done: “A drop in the bucket but at least it is more than a gesture.” Pretty big drop if you ask us. Thanks much Craig.
  • Carol donates 20 bucks and a strategic plan: “It’s time to take a stand. Being a senior citizen with hearing problems, my small contribution is the only way I can do it. I hope you receive many, many small contributions from citizens just like me.” Your lips to God’s ears! And Carol, you may have a hearing problem, but you most definitely don’t have a kindness problem.
  • Alexander sends a staggering $2,500 and a short pep-talk: “Keep up the good fight!” Keeping! God bless. And holy mackerel too!

We have 13 days left to find another — let’s call it 2,000 — contingent of generous friends to come to NR’s aid. A fact: We fight those fights that need to be fought. Another fact: You need us to be in the thick of it, to hold the line, and then to begin the operation of pressing back the enemies of liberty. There’s no gift too small, no gift too big — your personal circumstances and means are known to you, and we have no moral claim on even your loose change. But that doesn’t mean we cannot appeal to your sense of reality, to your hunger for the kind of intelligence and sanity NR uniquely provides. And now that all heck has broken loose, to your desire to support at least one institution not afraid to say, We have brought a gun to a knife fight. We are fighting. You help us to stay in the fight through your generous donation, of $10, or $20 or $50 or $100 — can you do that? Has the Almighty looked kindly upon you so that $250 or $500 or $1,000 or more is possible? If that is the case, will you please donate? It would mean so much to us, true, but truth is, it would also mean so much to you. Donate here. To show your support by check, if such is your preference, make it payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. In advance of your generosity, thanks for your support.

Coronavirus Update

COVID-19 Update: As Surges Slow, Death Rises

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Workers greet motorists as they line up at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing in Leesburg, Va., May 20, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In my last COVID-19 update, I looked closely at these surges as they peaked. Now, as peaks come down, it’s well worth looking at the collateral damage and the overall state of the nation.

A Snapshot of the Nation

The devastating peaks in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas are on the decline. Some of the states hit the hardest early on — New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey — have not yet seen a significant second wave, despite gradual reopenings.

However, daily deaths have noticeably increased in California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Deaths per capita are on the rise as well, especially in Arizona, growing steeper after the peak in cases around mid-July.

A Closer Look at Death Rates

Despite rising death rates in post-surge states, California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas have maintained lower overall deaths per positive cases throughout the pandemic than New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The national proportion of deaths to cases has also fallen dramatically, signaling a major change in the fatality of the disease.

This could be the result of a variety of factors. There has been real progress. Doctors are better equipped to treat the virus. With the use of treatments such as dexamethasone and remdesivir or techniques such as turning a patient on their stomach, health-care providers are more effective now at decreasing COVID-related fatalities. These newer treatments may explain the lower death rates in states the virus reached later than the likes of New York.

But other reasons for this drop are merely statistical. For instance, testing is on the rise, detecting more innocuous cases than before.

And lifestyle changes could explain the lower death rate. Young people are congregating in groups again, driving the age of infected patients down. In Florida, for example, the median age of COVID-19 patients dropped from 65 to 35 from March to June. In states such as Texas, where reopenings are well underway, younger people make up the majority of patients, often spreading the virus in bars or at gatherings. According to Texas governor Greg Abbott, “There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars.”

Younger patients are far less likely to suffer fatalities from coronavirus. However, as more younger people get infected, they raise the risk of spreading the virus to more vulnerable citizens.

Lagging Death

Though the case surges in California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas have vastly decelerated, deaths have increased, presumably due to the lag in symptom onset after infection. My last update looked at case peaks in July, noting the lack of spike in deaths. Now, however, Americans are experiencing the consequence of case spikes: The curve for deaths per positive case in California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas is rising.

Accordingly, new deaths per current hospitalization have ticked up from July into August. This is consistent with the pattern described above: Though cases peaked in July, the peak of fatalities and cases necessitating hospitalization occurred two to three weeks after the positive-case peak (the massive spike in late June may owe to New Jersey’s late reporting of backlogged cases). Thankfully, the rate at which deaths per cases are increasing is nowhere close to rates seen back in March and April.

Looking Forward

In a Fox and Friends interview yesterday, the president said: “Much of the country is in really good shape. . . . We’re set to rock ‘n’ roll.” The data say otherwise. In July, states such as California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida experienced massive case spikes, further driving the United States’ disappointing per capita outcomes and giving credence to critics of the administration’s response.

Though the death rate is lower than its early peak, cases keep piling up while the death rate slowly rises. We aren’t seeing the catastrophic surges of March and April, but COVID-19 is certainly sticking around.

Twenty-Five Things that Caught My Eye Today: Lebanon, China, Surrogacy & More (August 5, 2020)

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1. China Uighurs: A model’s video gives a rare glimpse inside internment

2. Up to 1,000 babies born to surrogate mothers stranded in Russia

3. AP PHOTOS: Terror, death, devastation in Lebanon explosion

4. ‘This is What Death Looks Like’: Lebanon’s Christians Reeling from Explosion as Some Say Country Too Dangerous to Stay

5. Beirut Explosion: ‘I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.’

6.

7.

8. “We’ve lost a generation.” Will Anyone Protect the Yezidi Survivors of ISIS Genocide?

9. Iran women’s podcast gives voice to victims of abuse – BBC News

10.

11. Matthew Soerens from World Vision:

American Christians must ask ourselves some tough questions. Scripture makes it clear that all believers are part of the body of Christ and that when one member suffers, the entire body suffers alongside it. Yet the policies of the elected officials chosen by most white Christians suggest that we’ve closed our ears — and our nation’s doors — to this suffering.

This is not to say that there haven’t been key policy victories for religious freedom here at home, or to say that those policy victories don’t matter. But, frankly, I have a hard time celebrating that my kids have presidential permission to read their Bibles at recess at their public school and that pastors are told they can make partisan political endorsements when Christians elsewhere are literally being slaughtered and when our nation’s “golden door” for these sisters and brothers “yearning to breathe free” has been all but slammed shut on them.

12. In the WSJ, Walter Russell Mead says this COVID-19 business is just a dress rehearsal:

The pandemic, which is mild as the great plagues of history go, demonstrates that the complexity of this global civilization has become a source of new vulnerabilities. And with the legitimacy of many institutions resting on their ability to solve problems quickly and effectively, Covid-19 challenges political leaders and institutions in ways that they cannot easily manage.

 

Continue reading “Twenty-Five Things that Caught My Eye Today: Lebanon, China, Surrogacy & More (August 5, 2020)”

International

The Swedish Exception (?) — and New York City

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A woman wearing a face mask at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 26, 2020. (Stina Stjernkvist/TT News Agency/via Reuters)

As discussed in the latest Capital Note over on Capital Matters, Sweden came out with (under the circumstances), bearable economic numbers today. Quarter-on-quarter GDP fell by 8.6 percent (and 8.2 percent year-on-year). While these numbers were in no sense good (Statistics Sweden notes that “the decrease in GDP is the largest single quarter drop in the directly comparable time series starting 1980.”) they compare favorably with some of the data elsewhere in Europe and, for that matter, the U.S.

Writing in The Spectator, Matthew Lynne:

It was also better than most other places. Overall, the euro-zone reported a 12 per cent drop in output over the same period. Spain was down by a terrifying 18.5 per cent, France by 13 per cent, and Germany by ten per cent. The United States was down by 9.5 per cent…

As reported in an earlier Capital Note, Swedish companies also reported a better second quarter than might have been expected, and it is, I think worth noting this from a Financial Times article on this topic:

What is the likelihood that this fear factor subsides?” asked Mr Danielson [the chief equity strategist for Swedish bank, SEB]. “That is going to be the big question of how quick the recovery will be. Now it’s about psychology, it’s about people.”

He is not alone in thinking that Sweden has a subtle psychological advantage by dint of having stayed more open and having people less scared of working, shopping and socialising outside the home.

By contrast, there is clear evidence in Manhattan — and not just Manhattan — that the prolonged lockdown (as well, of course, as continuing fear of contracting COVID-19) is, in a sense, feeding upon itself.

Bloomberg:

It’s been almost two months since Manhattan started to reopen, but the shoppers aren’t around.

Wealthy New Yorkers have decamped for the summer, or longer. Storefronts are boarded up in Soho, while the Times Square and Fifth Avenue sidewalks are quiet as a city devoid of office workers and tourists tries to regain its footing.

New York was already dealing with a glut of retail space — and the pandemic is making it worse. Average asking rents in Manhattan, which have been sliding for years, plunged to the lowest level since 2011 in the second quarter, according to a report by CBRE Group Inc. Vacancies are growing in prime shopping districts, the firm said . . .

It’s easy to understand why Manhattan is hurting. Midtown’s office workers are at home, and many are expected to stay there for months. The same is true of international tourists, with a 40% decline seen this year, according to the Partnership for New York City.

In addition to national chains, the group estimated that as many as one third of the city’s 230,000 small businesses will close for good as restaurants and bars struggle to pay rent with social distancing sapping business.

“The restaurant scene supports so many pieces of New York City culturally, it’s very difficult to watch,” said Camille Renshaw, Chief Executive Officer of brokerage B+E. “So many people make money as they come up in the city through the restaurant scene. If that doesn’t exist, how do these folks survive?”

Our David Bahnsen asks just that question on Good Day New York Fox 5.

Back in Sweden, the finance minister is unwilling to make much of a connection between the country’s light touch approach to lockdown, possibly, I suspect, out of politeness, but, as noted by Bloomberg, she also makes two important points worth remembering as we wait for future data. The first concerns Sweden’s exposure to the global economy (exports account for more than 40 percent of GDP) and the second compares its performance relative to Denmark, a country with which it is inevitably compared:

The finance minister also cited her country’s sensitivity to the broader economic cycle in shaping how the recovery evolves from here. “We’re an export-dependent country so we are of course very affected by what happens in other parts of the world,” Andersson said.

Sweden’s industry structure is an important factor in assessing how the country measures up against its Nordic neighbors, according to Andersson. Denmark, for example, is expected to see a similar economic contraction despite a strict initial lockdown and substantially fewer fatalities.

“Look at Denmark, a big exporter of pharmaceuticals and food,” Andersson said. “Of course they are less exposed to a big drop in the world economy than we are.”

Those sectors are, of course more stable than engineering, which represents a large part of the Swedish economy.

Meanwhile, from Newsweek:

While novel coronavirus cases have spiked across several parts of Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, Sweden—where a countrywide lockdown was never issued—continues to report a downward trend in new cases and new deaths…

Sweden’s latest case-fatality ratio (portion of deaths compared to total cases) was reported to be 7.1 percent. The figure is more than half the percentage reported in the U.K. (15.1 percent), half that of Italy and Belgium (each reporting 14.2 percent) and nearly half that of France (13.4 percent), according to Johns Hopkins University.

We will not know, of course, know how Sweden truly compares with other countries until we see how any second wave plays out elsewhere and, of course, in Sweden itself, but The Spectator’s Matthew Lynne is right to make this point:

True, infections [in Sweden] were high to start with, and so was the mortality rate from Covid-19, at least compared to its immediate neighbours. Right now, however, it doesn’t look as if the final tally will be much different to anywhere else. But the economy will emerge in far better condition, with less lost output, and less extra debt as well.

There is a lesson in that for other countries. Of course it is important to protect health systems and make sure they are not overwhelmed. But it is also important to protect the economy. If you don’t, very quickly there aren’t any jobs to go back to, and there won’t be any money to pay for healthcare or for anything else for that matter. Sweden has done a better job of protecting output than any other major, developed country. And if a second wave does arrive in the autumn or winter, the rest of the world should take note — and not rush straight back into lockdown no matter what the pressure to do so might be.

There is a lesson in all this for New York City too and, as David Bahnsen has stressed, for its business leaders as well. Whether anyone is paying attention is a different question.

History

Four Years of Reliving World War II — on the Radio

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(DutchScenery/Getty Images)

August 15 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, with the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay, and perhaps the most ambitious commemoration of the war has been going for four years now. Since December of 2016, Chicago’s Those Were the Days, an old-time radio show that began broadcasting in 1970, has been covering the war in “real-time,” letting listeners relive history’s greatest conflict as it happened.

This year will be the last major anniversary with significant numbers of WWII veterans still alive; today, there are only 300,000 veterans remaining of the twelve million U.S. men and women who served in history’s greatest conflict. Even without the Internet and social media at the time, the war is likely the most-covered event in history, and the world has been flooded with still and moving images, memoirs and novels, art and memorials from the conflict for the past three-quarters of a century. For those who grew up in an America where WWII vets were not only ubiquitous, but were local and national leaders, principals and doctors, priests and rabbis, screen stars, shop owners, police, and teachers, their slow disappearance has been one of the more disorienting aspects of the passing of the decades. Every family used to have an uncle or grandfather, cousin, often a father, sometimes a mother, who served in the Good War, and clan gatherings were often replete with old war tales (“days of sheer boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror,” seemed to be the inevitable takeaway).

This week, Those Were the Days wraps up its commemoration of WWII on WDCB, the radio station of suburban College of DuPage, a fine jazz station. Host Steve Darnall got the idea, he says, after listening to the show’s founder, Chuck Schaden, who did a similar project in 1991, for the 50th anniversary of the war. “I felt it was important to share these sounds of a time when radio began to understand and embrace its own remarkable potential,” Darnall said in an email.

Darnall has been broadcasting (and streaming, for those not in Chicago) an ongoing mix of news reports, public speeches, and war-connected radio programs on or near the dates they occurred 75 years ago, all leavened with a generous dollop of the music of the era. From big band broadcasts and war bond rallies to all-star revues and radio staples such as Jack Benny, Glenn Miller, Edward R. Murrow, and Fibber McGee, Those Were the Days has become the closest thing to a 1940s time machine on Saturday afternoons from 1-5 p.m. Central time (and archived for two weeks on a rolling basis). Not every segment every week is devoted to WWII, but over the past four years, barely a week has passed without some replaying of a war-related broadcast. Darnall estimates that he and his team have played some 400 broadcasts from the war by now. From the depths of America’s early losses in the Pacific to the enormity of D-Day, and from reports of meetings of the Big Three at Tehran and Yalta to the suicide of Hitler, Those Were the Days has made its listeners feel (as another long-ago, well-known radio series put it) that “you are there.”

One of the most powerful effects of the series is to hear the voices of those who once were so central to America’s history, above all President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For a generation of Americans, FDR was the president, due not only to his four terms in office, but because of his herculean efforts during the Great Depression and the war. When, in April of this year, Those Were the Days devoted an entire four-hour show to FDR’s death, the emotion and shock of his sudden passing was, surprisingly, almost overwhelming for many listeners. The following week, as the show “covered” FDR’s laying in state and funeral, the grief and sense of loss in the voices of even the most experienced of broadcasters was palpable. Now, for the past several weeks, the voice of President Harry S. Truman has been broadcast, and it has given the most direct, and eerie, feeling of actually getting use to Truman as president.

As an effort of public education, Darnall’s four-year effort may be unparalleled, and one can only hope that he may one day decide to collect every WWII show he’s broadcast, making them available to historians and history buffs, not to mention keeping them in reserve for the 100th anniversary of the war. Historians owe him (and Schaden before him) a debt of thanks for bringing back to life those vital days in such a comprehensive way, reviving comedies and dramas, war bond drives and news bulletins. For those who have not been listening over the past four years, this coming Saturday, August 8, will be the culmination of the series, with V-J Day. It’s a rare opportunity to relive history.

Elections

Ilhan Omar’s Got a Little Competition

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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) speaks at the scene of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minn., June 3, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Ilhan Omar, the Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, has been described as a “rising star” of the progressive movement and as President Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare.” So she surely did not expect to face much opposition during her reelection campaign. Certainly not in the Democratic primary, to be held on August 11. After all, in 2018, Omar won the fifth district’s primary by a comfortable 18 points en route to an easy general-election victory, and has only boosted her name recognition since then. But making herself famous at the expense of diligent policymaking now renders Omar susceptible to attacks by her rising primary opponent: Antone Melton-Meaux.

Antone Melton-Meaux is not an easily categorizable man. He was born and raised in the American Midwest. His father earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in Vietnam, and his mother grew up picking cotton. While attending Washington University in St. Louis, he was a top student, star track-and-field athlete, and a student-government representative. Later in life, Melton-Meaux became a corporate lawyer, a mediation practitioner, and a Christian pastor with a specialty in Old Testament theology. He has also participated in public service, volunteering to help support children in foster care, inmates, and special causes such as education and theater. He is also black, which may shield him from Omar’s penchant to hurl the word “racist” at things she doesn’t like.

To be sure, Melton-Meaux is a staunch leftist — he describes himself as a “progressive Democrat” and does not discernibly depart from the progressive orthodoxy. Still, his professed approach to politics, “bringing people together” and finding “common ground,” should be far less intimidating to American conservatives than Ilhan Omar’s. Indeed, Omar denounces the United States — the one country among the two-hundred odd nations of the world in which her family consciously decided to seek refuge, knowing full well its unmatched hospitality, industry, and opportunity — as deeply bigoted and prejudiced. She has also promoted herself on Twitter as “Hijabi, Muslim, Black, Foreign born, Refugee, Somali,” neglecting to add “American” or even “Minnesotan.” Another difference between Omar and Melton-Meaux is that the latter shies away from demonizing groups conspiratorially. He has condemned Omar’s notorious anti-Semitic remarks and enjoys the support of the pro-Israel and Jewish communities over the incumbent. Finally, Melton-Meaux emphasizes his hope to actually serve his constituency in good faith, rather than engaging in dramatic Twitter wars with the president. For all this, Omar’s internal polling shows that she still leads Melton-Meaux by a very large margin, as of July 17. But then again, the poll is not independent; that Omar has begun to go on the attack against her opponent shows that she actually takes the threat he poses seriously.

No matter what happens this November, it would be a sweet victory against the politics of demonization, self-righteousness, division, and bigotry if Omar were not even on the ballot in Minnesota’s fifth, having been ousted by Melton-Meaux in a primary so soon after using her position to get fame at the expense of her constituents.

Economy & Business

Capital Note

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The latest Capital Note is up over on Capital Matters. Among the topics covered, increasing capital returns, Sweden’s “interesting” second quarter GDP numbers (terrible, but they compare favorably with much of Europe and, indeed, the U.S.) and the advantages (to a company) of using Twitter:

new paper out of George Washington University finds that public companies with Twitter accounts significantly outperform their non-Twitter counterparts. 

Who’d have thunk it?

Monetary Policy

The Progress of a Bad Idea

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Joe Biden recently floated the idea of making it part of the Fed’s mission to minimize racial disparities. Now congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to effect this change. As I argue in the first link in this post, it is easier to see how this new mandate would either have no effect on monetary policy or make it worse than how it would improve it.

PC Culture

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Punishes Doctor Who Questioned Affirmative Action

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It’s futile to try to keep up with all the PC outrages, but Hans Bader explains the latest, at least as of this morning, here: “The University of Pittsburgh has removed a program director at its medical center because he published a scholarly, peer-reviewed white paper discussing the pitfalls of affirmative action for black and Hispanic students. This violated the First Amendment . . .” Mr. Bader gives chapter and verse on the legal problems with what the school did to the program director, Dr. Norman C. Wang, and I’ll just add that it’s reprehensible to punish people for telling the truth, whatever the law allows.

Politics & Policy

Cuomo Courts the 1 Percent

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It has been gratifying to watch Andrew Cuomo slowly explore in public the deficiencies of his own political school, for example in his ongoing agony over the limitations of a steeply progressive tax code. With New York City’s wealthiest residents seeking safe haven from the coronavirus epidemic and from the Bill de Blasio–enabled crime epidemic, Cuomo is begging them to return.

Why?

“A single percent of New York’s population pays half of the state’s taxes, and they’re the most mobile people on the globe,” he says.

A generation ago, if you were in finance, media, publishing, fashion, or advertising, you pretty much had to have a New York City presence if you had large ambitions. That is no longer the case. People returned to New York City in the Giuliani era and after not because there were no jobs or opportunity to be found elsewhere but because it had become a good place to live. And if you were one of those 1-percenters who pay most of the taxes, New York was worth the surcharge.

But that was a reasonably safe, clean, and orderly New York with a functioning subway system. Bill de Blasio’s New York is a different kind of New York, and, for many of those “most mobile people on the globe,” it is not worth the surcharge.

There are many nice places to live, especially if you are wealthy, and for that reason New York needs the billionaires more than the billionaires need New York. Conservatives who want to make a case for a reforming approach to municipal governance have a great opportunity before them. But this is not a problem that is going to be solved by cutting taxes — heavy taxes are a burden, but New York’s most pressing problems are public health and public hygiene, crime, transit, education, and housing. With the exception of crime and school choice, conservatives generally do not speak very convincingly about those issues.

But if the deficiencies of the so-called blue-state model are penetrating even the once-impregnable fortress of Andrew Cuomo’s skull, it is not impossible to communicate them to the city’s business community, to its civic leaders, and to a meaningful portion of ordinary New Yorkers, too.

Culture

On ‘Legal Quackery’ and Loan Fraud

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(Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In New York magazine’s The Cut, writer Hannah Gold takes issue with the fact that pregnancy-resource centers — or, to use her term, “anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers” — received small-business loans from the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program.

Gold defines these centers as “religiously affiliated and faith-based nonprofits” when in fact several major networks of pregnancy-resource centers are for-profit organizations, and many are not religiously affiliated. For instance, one of the largest of such networks in the U.S., the Women’s Care Center, is explicitly not faith-based. She also alleges, without so much as gesturing at a citation, that these centers “coerce women into carrying their pregnancies to term.” The supposed methods of coercion are left unexplored, and nowhere does she note that these centers exist primarily to give women alternatives to abortion by offering counseling, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, financial assistance, and parenting resources, most often free of charge.

“In the medical community,” Gold states authoritatively, “crisis pregnancy centers are widely understood as legal quackery designed to prevent women from considering and undergoing abortions.” She does not articulate what makes these centers guilty of “legal quackery” — a bizarre term that goes undefined — nor does she provide any evidence that “the medical community” agrees with her assessment, apart from quoting one doctor and one professor, each of whom seems to believe that crisis-pregnancy centers are suspicious or unethical because of their religious affiliations.

On the subject of PPP loans, Gold complains that crisis-pregnancy centers in the U.S. received a total of somewhere between $4 million and $10 million, and she contrasts this with the (in her view inappropriate) uproar following the revelation that Planned Parenthood affiliates also obtained small-business loans from the PPP.

Gold conveniently ignores that the CARES Act explicitly excludes from the loan program any affiliate of a non-profit organization with more than 500 employees — a category that Planned Parenthood easily falls under, with about 16,000 employees nationally. Nevertheless, at least 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates applied for and received loans totaling $80 million, somewhere between eight and 20 times the total amount claimed by pregnancy-resource centers. In short, these affiliates committed loan fraud, and rather than acknowledging that, Gold has assembled a shoddy case against crisis-pregnancy centers in order to justify the money that went to abortion clinics.

It’s no secret that proponents of legal abortion despise pregnancy-resource centers, and their opposition should come as little surprise. For an industry that profits from a woman’s choice to abort, a network of centers encouraging women to consider anything other than abortion — and giving them the resources they need to do so — is a direct financial threat. Considering that most crisis-pregnancy centers offer their services to women free of charge, they stand to gain much less from offering women abortion alternatives than abortion clinics do from convincing women that abortion is their only choice.

Politics & Policy

Biden to Black Journalist: ‘Are You a Junkie?’

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Shortly after President Trump’s effort to win reelection was challenged by an interview with Jonathan Swan that goes wildly off the rails, former Vice President Biden turned in his own train wreck of an interview, getting testy with CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett during a virtual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

BARNETT: Please clarify specifically, have you taken a cognitive test?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No, I haven’t taken a test! Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man! That’s like saying you . . . before you got in this program, you’re take [sic] a test whether you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?

BARNETT: What do you say to President Trump who brags about his test and makes your mental state an issue for voters?

BIDEN: Well, if he can’t figure out the difference between an elephant and a lion, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Did you watch that — look, come on, man. I know you’re trying to goad me, but I mean . . . I’m so forward-looking to have an opportunity to sit with the President or stand with the President and the debates.

Unsurprisingly, many are cringing that Biden is, unprompted, asking an African-American journalist if he’s “a junkie” . . . three months after Biden told radio DJ Charlamagne tha God, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

As noted last month, somehow the United States managed to pick its two least self-aware, sensitive, erudite septuagenarians to run for president this cycle.

Culture

The New York Times and Its Love/Hate Relationship with Private Jets

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Last month I wrote, “the New York Times is simultaneously the vanguard of the revolution against wealthy, powerful, white, mostly older, mostly heterosexual couples . . . and it is also one of the biggest and most influential cultural journals of wealthy, powerful, white, mostly older, mostly heterosexual couples.”

In the most recent travel section, the Times featured an article entitled, “Afraid of Airlines? There’s Always the Private Jet.” The article showcases “the growing number of Americans using private jets, seeing them as a safer alternative to the often cramped commercial flights filled with strangers during the pandemic.” The flights do cost much less than one might expect: “JSX flights tend to cost between $300 and $500 one way, per person, but some shorter legs can cost less than $100.”

But not all of the flights are less expensive than expected; the article discusses the founder of a personal-training company who spent $20,000 to take himself and his family from Florida to upstate New York.

A good portion of the newspaper’s environmental news and op-ed pages focuses on denouncing lifestyles that involve conspicuous consumption and luxury. (According to a private jet company quoted in Bloomberg News, a private jet emits as much as 20 times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than a commercial airliner.)

A good portion of the Times lifestyle and travel coverage focuses on celebrating lifestyles that involve conspicuous consumption and luxury, and of course, much of the advertising that keeps the newspaper financially afloat is for brands associated with conspicuous consumption and luxury.

It will be interesting to see if these internal contradictions ever catch up with the paper.

Impromptus

Classic Lines, Tricky Names

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Ray Stevens at the 53rd Annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., November 13, 2019 (Charles Pulliam / Reuters)

I begin today’s Impromptus with classical music: Should orchestras take down the screen? The screen that separates an auditioner from his auditors in “blind auditions”? I say no, others say yes. I also discuss Trader Joe’s, the English language — a number of issues.

Let me linger over one here.

Yesterday, Yascha Mounk (the academic and journalist) tweeted, “In the long run, it is very hard to shame people into supporting your politics. You’ve got to hear them out and win them over.” In Impromptus, I jot the following:

I’ve been thinking about Bill Buckley lately — more than I usually do. He was very good at persuasion. Very good at it. I should know, as one of his (countless) persuadees. I hope that we will never give up persuasion. Never give up trying to persuade.

Enjoyable as ownin’, drinkin’ (tears), and dunkin’ may be.

Recently, I was in the office for the first time in a long time. There was some mail, by which I mean, honest-to-goodness U.S. postal mail. One letter came in response to a piece I had at the beginning of the year: “Waxing Lyrical: In appreciation of some weird and wonderful lines.”

Our correspondent gave me one from Ray Stevens, the country singer: “Get your tongue outta my mouth, ’cause I’m kissin’ you goodbye.”

That may just take the cake.

Another responded to a more recent piece of mine: “‘Scandalize My Name’: On the use and abuse of ‘Karen,’ etc.” I wrote about a kid whose last name was “Glasscock” and who acquired an excellent nickname: “Crystal Pistol.”

Well, the letter in question was from a Mrs. Glasscock, who had a special appreciation for the piece. She married into her last name and has two sons. She told me several wonderful stories, having to do with her career as a registered nurse: She worked with a urologist named Dr. Cockburn; with a general practitioner named Richard Dick; etc.

Years ago — mainly with her two boys in mind, I think — she cut out a poem published in the “Dear Abby” column. The poem is by Edgar A. Guest, and it has a number of versions, but it is generally called “Your Name” and starts like this:

You got it from your father, ’twas the best he had to give.
And right gladly he bestowed it — it is yours the while you live.
You may lose the watch he gave you, and another you may claim.
But remember, when you’re tempted, to be careful of his name.

Thanks to all.

Business

Dell’s America

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Michael Dell delivers his keynote speech at the All Things Oracle OpenWorld Summit in San Francisco, Calif., in 2013. (Jana Asenbrennerova/Reuters)

Amid all the current gloom, it was refreshing to read this in a New York Times interview with Michael Dell by David Gelles:

The first eight years, we grew compounded 80 percent per year. The six years after that we grew about 60 percent per year. Any number you start with, if you put that into your calculator, you get like tens of billions of dollars. That’s what happened. America, what a country.

Then, the New York Times being the New York Times, comes this:

Last year at Davos you said you didn’t support a steep increase to the individual tax rate on the wealthiest Americans. Can you say a bit more about that? Why isn’t a higher individual tax rate a good thing at a moment when the federal government clearly needs real resources to do things like educate our kids?

Gelles appears to muddy the difference between a “steep increase” and a “higher . . . rate,” which are two different questions (although I’d oppose any increase) and then, inevitably, brings in “our kids.”

As a reminder:

In 2016, the United States spent $13,600 per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student on elementary and secondary education, which was 39 percent higher than the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries of $9,800 (in constant 2018 U.S. dollars). At the postsecondary level, the United States spent $31,600 per FTE student, which was 95 percent higher than the average of OECD countries ($16,200).

Part of the problem might be, I suspect, not the amount of money that is spent, but how it is spent.

Corey A. DeAngelis, writing for Reason, writing earlier this year:

On average, the United States currently spends over $15,000 per student each year, and inflation-adjusted K-12 education spending per student has increased by 280 percent since 1960. In California, where the previously mentioned football coach resides, inflation-adjusted spending on K-12 education has increased by 129 percent since 1970. Furthermore, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that nearly a third of all state budget expenditures go toward education.

This is a particularly pernicious myth in the education debate because increased education spending generally isn’t associated with better results. Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek reviewed nearly 400 studies on the topic and concluded that “there is not a strong or consistent relationship between student performance and school resources.”

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Pouring more money into the same broken system won’t fix the deeper problem — government monopolies have weak incentives to cater to the needs of their customers by spending money wisely.

Dell diplomatically avoids a direct answer to Gelles’s question:

It may very well be. My wife and I have a foundation. We focus a lot on education. We’ve contributed $2.5 billion into our foundation, and it does enormous work in the education space in the United States and around the world. You’ve got myriad proposals out there for how to improve the system. We’ll let the marketplace of ideas do its thing. I won’t be shy in saying that I believe in entrepreneurship. I think having a system where you can take risk and innovate is incredibly important. Now, all that has to be balanced with the public interests. There you go.

Back to Gelles:

Many of your contemporaries are not shy about saying, “The system’s broken.” Marc Benioff is out there saying, “Capitalism’s broken.” Ray Dalio is out there saying it. Do you have those sort of same existential concerns as some of them?

Dell:

Probably not as inflammatory. Is it a perfect system? No. Can it be improved? Yes. But let’s go back to the entrepreneurship and risk-taking, the innovation. We have, in this country, an engine that is creating a lot of new businesses, and a lot of new innovation that is globally relevant. I think any of those other countries would love to have that, right?

Gelles:

Is your contention that high taxes stifle that entrepreneurial spirit, or that innovation?

Dell:

No, my contention is, I’m not a tax policy expert, and I’m not going to be setting tax policy. It’s just not what I do.

If I had to guess, some of the changes that are now being talked on the left about capital-gains tax, whether it’s significantly higher rates or moving to a mark-to-market system would, in fact, be devastating, particularly for young, private companies proceeding through successive rounds of venture financing, hopefully at higher values: Forcing those companies’ entrepreneurs to sell stock to pay tax doesn’t seem very smart.

Gelles:

When you talk about a system that supports entrepreneurship and innovation, what does that look like?

Dell:

We have something pretty precious in our system that’s a combination of culture and capital. As we tweak it and improve it, we want to make sure we preserve that, so that new, small businesses and entrepreneurs are able to be created in the process.

Indeed.

Perhaps it’s worth quoting part of a sentence from John McGinnis’s review for Law & Liberty of Matt Ridley’s new book, How Innovation Works:

Of Europe’s 100 most valuable companies, not one was created in the last 40 years.”

Food for thought.

World

Thirty Things that Caught My Eye Today: Beirut, Abortion Clinic Sidewalk Save & More (August 4, 2020)

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1.

2.

 

3. ‘We share your pain’: Israel offers aid to Lebanon after Beirut port blast – Israel News – Haaretz.com

4.  Maronite Catholic priest concerned by potential shortages after Beirut blast

5.

6. On Yazidi genocide anniversary, failure to support survivors decried – The Jerusalem Post

7. Christians in India Face Stunning Ultimatum: Renounce Your Faith in Christ or have Family Beaten and Evicted from Home

8. Arson Experts and Police Investigate Fire Set at Catholic Church In Massachusetts Possibly Caused by Molotov Cocktail

9. Catholic Charities distribute nearly $400 million in emergency assistance during COVID-19 crisis

10. Kay Hymowitz: Disentangling the Effects of Family Structure on Boys and Girls

11. How Effective are Programs Supporting Unmarried, Nonresidential Fathers?

12. Pro-Family Leaders: Strengthen and Extend Emergency Paid Leave

13. Dangerous Restraints Were Routine at This Youth Home. Then a Black Teen Died.

14. Her Rapist Threatened to Make Her “Disappear.” Instead of Asylum, ICE Put Her in a Hotel and Sent Her Back.

15. Florida Adoptions Taking Place Despite COVID-19

16. Dad tells sidewalk counselor outside Illinois Planned Parenthood: ‘You guys changed our mind’

Continue reading “Thirty Things that Caught My Eye Today: Beirut, Abortion Clinic Sidewalk Save & More (August 4, 2020)”

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