NR Webathon

How Much Is Courage Worth to You?

Pro-life activists celebrate outside the Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning Roe v Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

MBD had a good post on Friday urging people to give to our current webathon to support the work of Alexandra DeSanctis, who has been so stalwart on the issue of life. If you think we need advocates for our cause who have zero tolerance for BS, who are unfazed — indeed, amused — by the abuse hurled their way, who know much more than their adversaries, who refuse to get discouraged by the never-ending deceit and obfuscation thrown up by the other side, who are tireless and passionate, well, then, I humbly suggest you do the right thing and back Xan’s important work. Courage, persistence, and attention to detail are invaluable qualities, and we’re hoping you can affirm them with a contribution of any amount. Whatever you give will be instantly doubled because we have a friend who has generously agreed to match any contribution up to $100,000. Thank you!



Law & the Courts

Why Didn’t the Police Arrest the Highland Park Shooter in 2019?

Police officers drive into the Highland Park Police station after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., July 4, 2022. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

According to the New York Times, the Highland Park shooter had a “troubled past.” In April 2019, someone who knew him “called the police to say that the teen had attempted suicide, the police said.” And:

Four months later, a family member contacted the authorities, reporting that [the shooter] had threatened to “kill everyone.” Police officers removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from the home, but there was no probable cause to arrest him at that time, Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office told reporters on Tuesday.

I am no expert on Illinois law, and I understand that there is often a distinction between a circumstance in which the law can disarm a person and a circumstance in which the law can imprison a person, but, given the details of the case, I find it extremely strange that the police who visited in 2019 were worried enough by the shooter’s threat to “kill everyone” to remove his weapons, but not worried enough to arrest him. Surely, if the police took those words seriously enough to remove the means by which they might be effected, they ought to have taken them seriously enough to enforce the laws that punish their utterance?

In the context the Times provides, threatening to “kill everyone” is not protected speech. It’s assault, or intimidation, or possibly even domestic violence.

Under Illinois law, “assault” is defined as “conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” Threatening to “kill everyone” in your house clearly does this, which is why “a family member contacted the authorities.”

Under Illinois law, “intimidation” is defined as “when, with intent to cause another to perform or to omit the performance of any act, he or she communicates to another, directly or indirectly by any means, a threat to perform without lawful authority any of the following acts”, including “inflict physical harm on the person threatened or any other person or on property.” Threatening to “kill everyone” in your house clearly does this.

Under Illinois law, “domestic violence” is defined to include “family members related by blood” and “people who share or used to share a home, apartment, or other common dwelling,” and it includes “physical abuse, harassment, intimidation, interference with personal liberty, or willful deprivation.” Threatening to “kill everyone” in your house may well apply here, too.

I could be missing something here — or the Times could be wrong in its description — but, if not, the police in Highland Park have some explaining to do.

Politics & Policy

Lawmakers Investigate State Department’s ‘Equity’ Diplomat

Left: Desirée Cormier Smith. Right: Outside the State Department Building in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Department of State, Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Republican House members launched an investigation into the State Department’s new racial-equity post last week, citing a National Review report. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Representative James Comer — the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee — and other GOP lawmakers on the panel expressed their concern that the new role “categorizes and further divides Americans.”

Comer and the GOP lawmakers compared the new role to the Department of Homeland Security’s recently disbanded “Disinformation Governance Board,” writing, “The Special Representative is the latest evidence the Biden Administration is willing to devote time, funding, and other government resources to enact divisive policies.”

The Biden administration created this new special representative for racial equity and justice post earlier this year, as part of the State Department’s equity-action plan, as NR previously reported. The special representative has a number of responsibilities that include promoting racial equity within the department, advancing equity globally throughout U.S. diplomacy, and countering disinformation on related topics.

The lawmakers also contested the Biden administration’s characterization of equity as a core national-security objective.

“The Biden Administration has characterized equity as a ‘national security challenge with global consequences’ in an April 2022 Department press release initially announcing the Special Representative,” they wrote. “The Biden Administration’s prior attempts to shoehorn this pernicious ideology into every corner of the federal government have failed, and Committee Republicans urge reconsideration of this latest change within the Department.”

Blinken announced Desirée Cormier Smith, a former senior adviser within State’s international-organizations bureau, as his pick for the role on June 17. Cormier Smith, he said in a statement, “is a recognized racial justice expert with a deep and steadfast commitment to equity and justice to all.” The position does not require Senate confirmation, and she immediately started her tenure as special representative.

Before joining the administration in 2021, Cormier Smith made a number of statements hinting at the perspective with which she approaches her job. During her time as an analyst at the Open Society Foundations, she expressed her support of a global reparations campaign for structural racism on Twitter. She also railed against the Electoral College, which she characterized as a racist institution.

The Republican lawmakers requested all State Department documents relevant to the creation of the special-representative position and Cormier Smith’s appointment to it.

White House

Even a Good Staff Couldn’t Save Biden … and He Doesn’t Have a Good Staff

President Joe Biden shakes hands White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain as Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm looks on at the White House in Washington, D.C. June 30, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The new CNN profile of the inner workings of the White House is yet another devastating portrait of inertia, incompetence, flailing, and finger-pointing. It’s not just that the Biden team seems overwhelmed by the massive problems facing the country as the midterm elections get closer; it is that the team around Biden struggle to even get the easy parts right:

Multiple Democratic politicians who have reached out to work with Biden — whether it’s on specific bills, brainstorming or outreach — often don’t hear anything back at all. Potential appointees have languished for months waiting to hear if they’ll get jobs, or when they’ll be done with vetting. Invitations to events are scarce, thank you calls barely happen. Even some aides within the White House wonder why Biden didn’t fire anyone, from the West Wing or at the Food and Drug Administration, to demonstrate some accountability or at least anger over the baby formula debacle. . . .

Several officials say Biden’s tendency to berate advisers when he’s displeased with how a situation is being handled or when events go off poorly has trickled down the ranks in the West Wing, leaving several mid-level aides feeling blamed for failings despite lacking any real ability to influence the building’s decision-making. That’s contributed to some of the recent staff departures, according to people familiar.

Notice the problems described aren’t a matter of messaging and spin; as I noted last week, this goes well beyond Karine Jean-Pierre having lousy press conferences. What those multiple Democratic politicians describe is the basic blocking and tackling of politics — working with your allies on Capitol Hill, keeping the lines of communication open, making sure your allies feel valued and appreciated. And a lot of it points to weak leadership, with leaders blaming their underlings for their own failures.

No doubt, the buck stops with the president. (The article states that “few are trying, and even fewer succeeding, in pushing back against Biden’s infamous inability to settle on decisions, on everything from whether to lift tariffs on Chinese imports or cancel student loan debt.” Good to see CNN deciding to tell us that Biden’s indecisiveness is infamous now, as opposed to before the election.)

But Erick Erickson notes the article doesn’t mention White House chief of staff Ron Klain. While it’s hard to separate the poor performance of a long-past-his-prime blowhard of a president from the poor performance of his staff, it is probably long past time to recognize that the senior staff around Biden just aren’t doing a good job. Almost all of them have been on the job for a year and a half; they’re not “settling in” anymore. Klain, Jen O’Malley Dixon, Bruce Reed, Mike Donilon, Anita Dunn, Neera Tanden, Susan Rice — if the president isn’t seeing good policy options, these are the folks who are supposed to put good policy options on his desk. If the president is indecisive, these are the folks who are supposed to make clear to him that time is of the essence. If Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are losing faith, these are the folks who are supposed to help the president smooth things over.

No, this isn’t entirely the staff’s fault. If, as I suspect, Biden’s age and health mean he has only a few good hours a day and needs a lot of rest, this White House operates without a fully functioning president for long stretches.

But it’s not just the president who’s supposed to return calls from congressional allies, make sure appointees are processed and nominated on a regular schedule, send out invitations to White House events, or send thank-you notes. The outreach to allies and thank-you notes are the sort of thing that well-run Senate offices take care of as naturally as breathing, part of a culture of professionalism, responsibility, and attention to detail.

After the 2020 election, the Biden team was greeted with declarations that “the grown-ups are back in charge in Washington.” But what if the team around Biden were never the grown-ups, after all? What if they were a familiar bunch of overgrown teenagers in grown-up bodies — irresponsible, gossipy, finger-pointing, prone to infighting, leaking to the press, turf battles, and spreading the blame?

Politics & Policy

Lobbyists Discover Federalism

(Larry Downing/Reuters)

I’m a bit late to this story, but still somewhat heartened to find that lobbyists are — gasp — discovering that federalism exists. From a Politico story last month:

As partisan divides ensnare congressional lawmakers in stalemates over key legislation, many lobbying firms find it faster to take their efforts to governors and state legislatures. State leaders have become as influential as they’ve ever been and are now shaping the national conversation on issues as diverse as energy policy and abortion rights. And those seeking a say in what happens in state capitals have been adapting by building out robust and sophisticated lobbying operations that stretch far beyond Washington.

It would be easy enough just to take simple pleasure in the fact that the people who want to influence policy are realizing that policy is formed in many places outside of Washington, D.C. (Though lobbyists themselves are far from noble creatures, and lobbying itself is hardly a noble profession.) And I will take some. But I still have some reservations.

One comes from the article itself. Politico quotes Harold Iselin, co-chairman of the law firm Greenberg Traurig’s government and policy practice, justifying increased expenses at the state level because “states become laboratories for larger policies.” This is, unfortunately, true these days, but reflects the warped understanding of federalism best distilled by the late Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, who vaunted the possibility of a state to serve as a “laboratory” of democracy. But Brandeis, a progressive justice through-and-through, was describing not the proper dimensions of constitutional power in our political order, but something more along the lines of the obsessively scientific mode of politics in his time. His original remarks make this clear: “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” The kind of “novel” experiments the Brandeis hoped states would try tended to involve distortions of and diversions from the political and economic arrangements rooted in the country’s Founding principles. Federalism, to Brandeis, was simply a possible means, not a worthy principle in itself. If that is what this new “lobbyist federalism” entails, then count me out.

Count me out as well if it simply entails the replication of the ills that so blight our national politics but merely at more-local levels. Conservatives are right to highlight and support the federalist principle. And it is better for government responsibilities to exist, whenever possible, as locally as is feasible. But just because government is closer to the people does not mean it will be immune to abuse or corruption. John Adams once wrote that “absolute power intoxicates alike despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, and Jacobins, and sans culottes.” Mayors, city supervisors, et al. tend to have nothing like absolute power in most situations. But they are still more than capable of wielding what power they do have to what suspect ends they may identify. And thus also can they themselves be wielded by malicious interests and self-interested actors. Human nature is at play both in the city-council meeting and in the halls of Congress.

All of these things are worth keeping in mind if the course of our national politics continues to make local politics matter more.

Politics & Policy

Mopping Up This Year’s Bad Fourth of July Takes

People watch the Independence Day fireworks celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Each Fourth of July, progressives treat us to a number of bad takes about the celebration of our country’s founding. Many of them are in line with the 1619 Project — the critical race theory-esque critique that slavery made an indelible mark on America’s constitutional system. With that in mind I wrote a piece about how the American Revolution led to several abolitionist victories in its immediate aftermath and a post where I argued that the best way to argue for a cause is to appeal to America’s Founding, as so many great warriors for freedom did.

However, this year’s attacks on the Fourth had a dimension that perhaps I should have foreseen. With the best Supreme Court term of my young life coming to a close, leftists were upset that they were not getting their way judicially, which made it hard for them to have a fun Independence Day.

We saw this play out the best in an update for the City of Orlando’s fireworks display, for which the city later apologized:

A lot of people probably don’t want to celebrate our nation right now, and we can’t blame them. When there is so much division, hate and unrest, why on earth would you want to have a party celebrating any of it? 

But in all seriousness, you know in your heart, Fourth of July fireworks are amazing, especially when you are standing in 90° heat, 100% humidity, next to 100,000 of your closest friends. In that moment, something takes over and we all become united in an inexplicable bond. Yes, America is in strife right now, but you know what…we already bought the fireworks.

When immigrants fleeing tyranny saw the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, Jews being held in concentration camps saw G.I.s come to liberate them, or Eastern Europeans living under communism saw Ronald Reagan say, “Tear down this wall,” something tells me that they did not think, “Wow, that country must have some awesome fireworks.” Never mind the principles of freedom and equality that inspired those people toward such great deeds. It must have been the pretty lights.

Other critiques in this vein were a little more sophisticated, such as one in a Washington Post column arguing that we should “declare our independence from the Founding Fathers.” The Supreme Court’s collection of solid decisions weighed heavily on the piece. Because the cases were decided very much on originalist grounds that drew on American history — Alito’s finding no precedent for a constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs or Thomas’s arguing that gun regulations need strong precedent in Bruen — the progressive cause could use the Founding as a hobgoblin even more.

“The America of 1789 becomes a prison the conservative justices can lock us all in whenever it suits them,” writes the piece’s author, Paul Waldman. I am always puzzled by this criticism of the opinions of conservative justices. It essentially amounts to: the Supreme Court, which has a duty to interpret the Constitution, should not interpret the Constitution.

Waldman goes on to write:

I am no spirit medium, able to communicate with the framers through the mists of time, and neither is anyone on the Supreme Court. But I suspect they themselves would find the originalist project as practiced on the right to be utterly absurd. Imagine you could travel back and describe to them the idea that hundreds of years hence we’d all be bound to their utterances and the condition of their society. They’d probably say, “That sounds insane.”

This is the most incredible part of the piece because Waldman admits he cannot know for sure what the Founding Fathers would have wanted, but then goes to make a pronouncement on what they would have wanted while offering no evidence for that claim. Instead, he says that conservatives believe that “the Founders were essentially perfect, and only we conservatives are capable of interpreting their will.”

I understand the hyperbole, but Waldman would be hard-pressed to find any conservative who believes that the Founders were perfect. In fact, most on the right will praise them for their cognizance of their imperfection, best demonstrated by their inclusion of the amendment process in the Constitution. If there is something the Founders got wrong, e.g. their failure to outlaw slavery from the outset, we can amend the document through the legislature, as we have done 27 times. That is the essence of conservative judicial philosophy. Courts must apply the Constitution whether they like the outcome or not; if the document needs change, the legislature can pass a law or an amendment to that end. The separation of powers is one way our system is so ingenious. For that reason and for many others, America and its creators are worth celebrating.


Keeping Tabs on the Education World

(Frederick Bass/Getty Images)

A host of recent developments — pandemic-era school closures, the spotlight shined on critical race theory, political action about school curricula from school boards up to governors’ mansions — have combined to put education, always an important issue, at the forefront of the public mind. If you’re looking for more coverage of this always-interesting topic than National Review offers, I would recommend checking out Chalkboard Review. Run by, among others, some education experts who have also written for us, Chalkboard Review was founded in 2020 “to provide a heterodox outlet for editorials, breaking news, and other commentary from educators.”

In addition to covering the aforementioned topics, contributors at Chalkboard Review also cast an often-skeptical eye at the network of nonprofits that currently dominate the education-reform space. In one such recent dispatch, Anthony Kennett (who has also written for National Review), takes a look at the record of Chris Stewart, CEO of the education-reform organization Brightbeam. Stewart’s various enterprises over the years have been backed by, among others, the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; he appears regularly at education conferences. Yet beneath Stewart’s sheen of respectability, Kinnett finds a questionable past:

In the early 2000s, Stewart owned and operated a blog called “American Hot Sausage” where extremist and racist diatribes were published under the pseudonym “Reverend Rahelio Soleil.” Although the blog is now defunct, some of “Rahelio’s” rants can still be found at other websites.

Stewart’s ownership of this pseudonym was revealed in a front-page article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2006. No additional blogs under the pseudonym were posted after the scandal, and Stewart sold the domain soon after. At best, Stewart’s backers failed to do their due diligence before giving him a platform and piles of cash.

While Bloomberg donated $15 million to founding the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Stewart’s pseudonym wrote his disdain for mourning the loss caused by the terrorist attacks, claiming “September 11th is just another day in which nothing extraordinarily superhuman happened…nothing of important [sic] anyway.”

Sickeningly, he adds: “3,000 is not that many dead. Especially considering the amount of deaths we have caused or allowed internationally. Now, go tell Toby Keith and the nation of retards he represents to write a song about that.”

As the Walton Family Foundation donated a considerable amount to the Center named for Harriet Beecher Stowe (the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), the so-called “Reverend Soleil” gave “Coon of the Week” awards to black people he “considered too cozy with the white power structure.”

In an article by “Rahelio” titled “How do we draw the N****r line?” he states, “The simple answer is that [Justice Clarence] Thomas is not black because he shares almost nothing in common with common black people. He is white with black skin.”

He then admits, “That is a racist statement, I know. I am a racist. America is racist. Only drunk people and liars would say differently.”

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative spent millions on Hispanic-education environments. Stewart spent half of his term on the board of Minneapolis Public Schools suspending and silencing Principal Tim Cadotte for attempting to boost Hispanic and ESL programs—which Stewart claimed were anti-Black.

These days, Stewart engages in the more workaday (for a certain kind of would-be education reformer) pastimes of calling opponents of critical race theory supporters of white nationalism and peddlers of “white grievance.”

Those interested can find more along these lines at Chalkboard Review.


Lie Another Day

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and Britain’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid arrive for a news conference in Downing Street, London, Britain, September 7, 2021. (Toby Melville/Pool via Reuters)

According to its own rules, the British Conservative Party cannot get rid of Boris Johnson through a no-confidence vote for another twelve months. But it can put enormous pressure on him to resign. And that’s what the double whammy of the resignations of his chancellor of exchequer Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid now represent.

The challenge to the prime minister’s authority comes after the most recent scandal plaguing his government. In the past five years, Chris Pincher, the deputy chief whip, has been dogged with allegations of sexual misconduct. Most recently, Pincher was accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private members’ club. No 10’s official spokesperson initially stated that the prime minister had not been aware of any such allegations at the time of promoting Pincher. This was later changed to “specific allegations.” And then changed again to an acknowledgment that the prime minister was, in fact, aware of the allegations when he promoted Pincher. His excuse? He “forgot.”

Boris Johnson was caught lying to cover himself. (Again.) More resignations could be forthcoming but, as with the no-confidence vote last month, when it comes to loyalty to the prime minister, there is an unsustainable split in the Tory party. It’s now not a question of whether Johnson goes, only when.

Economy & Business

McKinsey Had Greater Involvement in Promoting Opioids Than Previously Reported

McKinsey & Company logo at Viva Tech in Paris, France, in 2019. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Last year, I detailed some of the reasons that “a commitment to free markets in the abstract does not oblige conservatives to defend McKinsey in particular.” At its worst — which seems to be the case distressingly often — the firm embodies the kind of soulless, value-free technocracy that seeks only to maximize goals within evident parameters, frequently eliding questions about whether those parameters are sound in themselves. Aside from McKinsey’s dodgy dealings with foreign governments, including the Chinese Communist Party (with which McKinsey had a deeper relationship than it had first let on), its most dubious project by far was its role in helping to “turbocharge” America’s opioid crisis. As I wrote last year:

This might explain the embarrassing litany of truly egregious business decisions McKinsey has made in recent years. Most egregiously of all, the company inarguably exacerbated two of the most distressing trends of the 21st century. Inside the U.S., McKinsey was hired to help Purdue Pharma “turbocharge” sales of opioids, resulting in the opioid epidemic that has ended thousands of lives and destroyed or unsettled countless more. In February, the company agreed to a $600 million settlement with 47 states for its role in the epidemic. But don’t cry for McKinsey: Its stake in opioid-treatment businesses means it may profit off this as well.

One result of this settlement was the release of documents, now obtained by the New York Times, that paint a picture of even greater McKinsey involvement in promoting the sale of opioids. A recent Times story focuses on the opioid Opana, manufactured by pharmaceutical company Endo, and McKinsey’s role in boosting its sales:  

It was twice as potent as OxyContin, the painkiller widely blamed for sparking the opioid crisis, and was relatively easy to dissolve and inject. By 2015, government investigations and scientific publications had linked its misuse to clusters of disease, including a rare and life-threatening blood disorder and an H.I.V. outbreak in Indiana.

Opana’s manufacturer, the pharmaceutical company Endo, had scaled back promotion of the drug. But months later, the company abruptly changed course, refocusing resources on the drug by assigning more sales representatives.

The push was known internally as the Sales Force Blitz — and it was conducted with consultants at McKinsey & Company, who had been hired by Endo to provide marketing advice about its chronic-pain medicines and other products.

The story goes on to detail how McKinsey used its most cutting-edge techniques to expand markets, target providers, and creatively circumvent regulators and taxes. One presentation the firm made to promote its services reportedly bragged of its “in-depth experience in narcotics.” And at one point, the relationship between Endo and McKinsey extended even to personnel, when a McKinsey employee crossed over to head Endo.

The whole article is worth reading, if for nothing else than to get a better sense of McKinsey’s questionable record.

Politics & Policy

McConnell on Revival of Build Back Better: Not So Fast

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 14, 2022. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

One of the last big-ticket bills that has a chance of becoming law this year is the misnamed Bipartisan Innovation Act, which masquerades as a measure to maintain U.S. technology’s edge over China but in reality is a 2,900-page industrial-policy bill stuffed with pork-barrel items, giveaways to Big Labor, and “woke” ideology.

While it passed the Senate last year with some GOP votes, only one Republican voted for the bill in the House. The two versions are now in conference committee.

In addition to $50 billion in subsidies to semiconductor firms, the Senate version creates a diversity directorate within the National Science Foundation, while the House bill parcels out billions to a U.N. climate fund.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is so eager to get a reconciliation bill that both raises taxes and revives parts of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better scheme that he is submitting initial language on the bill to the Senate parliamentarian this month. Schumer hopes to convince Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to back it.

Health-insurance companies are blitzing D.C. with ads demanding an extension of supersized Obamacare subsidies, which are now expected to be a central part of the spending side of the reconciliation bill. The tax side may be getting even worse, with the potential rumored inclusion of a carbon tariff.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is playing hardball. He told Schumer bluntly last week:

Here’s hoping both bills die, but for now McConnell at least is making the stakes clear. If Democrats want to raise taxes and bring back Build Back Better, they will have to sacrifice their friends in Big Labor and the semiconductor industry.

Politics & Policy

New Survey Finds 64 Percent Think Biden Is Too Old to Serve as President

President Joe Biden listens to a reporter’s question on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One for travel to Alabama from Joint Base Andrews, Md., May 3, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A new Harvard-Harris poll shows 60 percent of respondents have doubts about Joe Biden’s fitness for office, compared to just 40 percent who say Biden is mentally fit to serve as president of the United States. The same survey finds that 64 percent say Biden is too old to serve as president, while just 36 percent say he is showing he is fit to be president.

This could mean that I have now brainwashed well more than half of America with columns like this one from last August. But it is more likely that roughly 6o percent of Americans are paying attention and can’t explain it away — the rare interviews, the brief appearances in front of the cameras, the struggle to read lines off a teleprompter, the long, meandering anecdotes and increasingly frequent flashes of irritability. Biden looks like a man well past his prime — about to turn 80 — who should be enjoying Matlock reruns and pudding and watching professional golf at a really high volume.

An unnamed Democratic lawmaker complains to NBC News:

“There’s a benefit to having the president out there every day using his executive power to show the country you’re fighting for them,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “And it’s almost like he’s hiding. He has the bully pulpit, and he’s either hiding behind it or under it. I don’t know where he is.”

The simplest explanation is that at 79 years old, Biden doesn’t have the energy to use the bully pulpit the way Democrats wished.

Law & the Courts

Slanders and Standards


I don’t see how Dominion loses these defamation cases against Fox News et al., but, then, I don’t see how Sarah Palin lost her libel suit against the New York Times, which ought to have been an open-and-shut case.

If “reckless disregard for the truth” doesn’t cover the avalanche of bulls*** that came out of Fox et al. after the 2020 election, then “reckless disregard for the truth” doesn’t mean anything.


‘Veronica Ivy,’ a.k.a. Rhys McKinnon


A man calling himself “Veronica Ivy” went on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show last week and said nothing true or interesting.

Before he re-renamed himself, Rhys McKinnon called himself “Rachel McKinnon.” Life is too short to play these silly sex-evading name games.

As I wrote in 2019:

The precise moment I decided to stop lending McKinnon special courtesies, was when he lauded the terminal illness of a young woman, Magdalen Berns, whom I held (and still hold) in great esteem.

Berns believed strongly that men cannot be women. As she lay on her deathbed in Scotland, at the age of 36, surrounded by her loved ones, McKinnon tweeted that he was “happy” when bad people died, that this feeling is “justified,” that Berns is a “trash human,” and further advised his followers “don’t be the sort of person who people you’ve harmed are happy you’re dying of brain cancer.” By contrast, here is a characteristically civil, clear and courageous quote from Berns: “it’s not hate to defend your rights and it’s not hate to speak the truth.”

Men can be so rude sometimes.

Other women have tried to articulate similar sentiments with regard to McKinnon. Take Jen Wagner-Assali, who, after coming in third to McKinnon at the UCI Masters Track World Championship in 2018, tweeted: “it’s definitely NOT fair.” After being bullied, Wagner apologized to McKinnon for causing offense. But that wasn’t enough, as McKinnon explained. “The apology is not accepted: she still thinks what she said. She merely apologizes for being caught saying it publicly.”

She still thinks it’s not fair for a man to beat her in the women’s category? Just imagine!


Electric Vehicles: Slow Pursuit


That was then (at least on TV, but not only on TV . . .)

Starsky & Hutch

Miami Vice

The Sweeney

This is now (in reality) (via the Daily Telegraph):

Electric police cars are running out of charge when responding to emergencies because the blue lights and sirens drain the batteries, it has been suggested. Officers using environmentally friendly vehicles in rural areas are also struggling to locate charging points, raising questions about their effectiveness. The vast majority of constabularies in England and Wales now include electric vehicles in their fleet, with the Metropolitan Police pledging to be 100 per cent electric by 2030. Despite being one of the country’s smallest forces, Gloucestershire Constabulary has the second biggest number of electric vehicles in the country. With almost 90 battery powered police cars on the county’s roads, electric vehicles make up a fifth of the force’s entire fleet. But the local Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Nelson, has acknowledged there are issues with the cars responding to some emergencies. He said vehicles using their lights, radio and heater were in danger of “running out of puff”. . . . The Government has pledged to ban the production of all new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030, leaving police forces urgently looking for alternatives. But the increasing amount of technology carried in them — such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition computers and sophisticated radio equipment — affects battery range.


When central planners start insisting on the adoption of a technology before it is ready for prime time, this is the sort of thing that will happen.


‘Children Belong at Drag Shows’


“Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun & expression & freedom,” says the caption to a disturbing TikTok video in which a topless adult in a thong with cash sticking out dances with a little girl.

As I wrote earlier, this is the natural consequence of the LGBT movement’s self-defeating conquest of “normality.” The statement “children belong at drag shows” is designed to shock and subvert norms in a way that drag itself no longer can.


A Shameful Misrepresentation

Ezra Klein promotes his book Why We’re Polarized in 2020. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Ezra Klein Show: “For decades now, the conservative legal movement has been on a mission to remake this nation’s laws from the bench.”

That is not an error — it is a lie.

The main focus and effort of the “conservative legal movement” — i.e., the radicals who believe that we write our laws down for a reason — has been to stop the remaking of our nation’s laws from the bench and, in some cases, to undo particularly flagrant acts of judicial lawmaking such as Roe v. Wade.

Roe usurped the power of lawmaking from the elected lawmakers; all Dobbs does is return the power of lawmaking to those elected lawmakers. Which is to say, what the conservative legal movement has accomplished here is to ensure that laws are not made or remade from the bench.

Klein’s claim is a shameful misrepresentation, and it is intellectually dishonest.

Politics & Policy

Harvard-Harris: Americans Don’t Know What Roe Did

Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the United States Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case overturning Roe v. Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Michael Mccoy/Reuters)

This Harvard-Harris poll, which was conducted entirely after Roe v. Wade was overturned, demonstrates nicely why the claim that Roe and Casey had made a wise and enduring decision for the nation was always such bunk.

When asked, “Do you  support or oppose the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade, which allows each state to decide its own standards for abortion instead of a set right?” 55 percent of respondents said that they opposed the overturning, with 45 percent saying they supported it.

In and of itself, this isn’t exactly resounding. Just 55 percent against? In this media environment? But when one adds in the subsequent questions in the poll, the case for Roe as a beneficial political settlement (which was made by Justice Breyer during oral arguments, by the majority in Casey, and by anyone who was too embarrassed to pretend Roe was law) falls apart. Out of the options presented to them, 72 percent of respondents said that they supported abortion up until 15 weeks — the exact issue at stake in Dobbs — while 49 percent went only to six weeks. Both of these views were incompatible with Roe, which means that, whether they knew it or not, many Americans said they supported Roe while opposing what Roe actually did.

Nor do Americans seem to be too upset with the Court, or with the GOP. The Democrats’ execrable “pack the Court” idea remains as unpopular as ever: Sixty-three percent of Americans consider the Court “legitimate,” and 59 believe the Democrats are wrong to say otherwise. And, when asked whether the overturning of Roe would have an effect on their vote in the midterm, the results are a wash. Thirty-six percent said it would make them more likely to vote for a Democrat, 36 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for a Republican, and 29 percent said it would have no effect.

These are not the ingredients from which backlashes are made.


DeSantis Blasts Fake Civics Bill

Florida governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign rally at Pensacola International Airport in Pensacola, Fla., October 23, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The silence of Republican office-holders on the Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA) — a bill that would push critical race theory (CRT) on every public school in the country — has just been broken by Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Late last week, DeSantis exposed this supposed federal “civics” bill for what it is: an opportunity for Biden’s education bureaucrats to fill students’ heads with CRT.

Seduced by the lure of what they think is good old-fashioned “civics,” three naïve Republican senators — John Cornyn, Bill Cassidy, and James Inhofe — have signed onto CSDA as co-sponsors. Maybe that’s why Republicans on the Hill have been reluctant to openly criticize this “bipartisan” legislation. Now, however, public opposition from so prominent a Republican office-holder as Ron DeSantis may break the logjam and shift momentum against this dangerous bill.

Last year, DeSantis made a major update to Florida’s civics standards. As revised by DeSantis, Florida’s standards now highlight the benefits of the free market and of America’s constitutional system, while explicitly comparing the advantages of America’s institutions to socialist, communist, and authoritarian regimes. That is not how America’s left-dominated education establishment does civics. Yet it’s exactly what parents in many states want.

Nothing threatens a state’s ability to go this traditional route more than federal grants administered by Biden’s pro-CRT Department of Education. Yet that is what CSDA is. The Civics Secures Democracy Act is a series of baited hooks — civics grants with strings attached by Biden’s leftist bureaucrats. On top of that, CSDA’s state grants are tied to student performance on a national test, which gives the designers of the federal test (who are chosen by Biden) de facto control over state standards and curricula.

Understanding this, last week DeSantis slammed the Civics Secures Democracy Act for trying to “buy off states with $6 billion if they sacrifice American History for Critical Race Theory and Biden’s other political whims of the day.” It’s easy to see why DeSantis accused Biden of planning to use CSDA’s fat grants to “indoctrinate” students with CRT. Last year, at around the same time DeSantis was releasing his revisions to Florida’s civics standards, the Biden administration published a rule assigning priority to history and civics grants that follow in the footsteps of CRT theorist Ibram X. Kendi and the infamous 1619 Project.

This is how we got Common Core. Obama stuffed a lavishly funded federal grant program called Race to the Top into his 2009 stimulus bill. No one noticed at the time, but those grants soon transformed American education by stripping the states of their curricular autonomy. Obama made acceptance of Common Core a condition of applying for Race to the Top money. Cash-strapped states quickly complied, thereby sacrificing the lion’s share of control over their own curricular content. CSDA works the same way. To get the latest tranche of fat federal education grants, states will have to please bureaucrats who we already know — from Biden’s 2021 rule and a series of other signals — strongly favor CRT.

Don’t underestimate how difficult it is for a governor to say no to a bill filled with federal grants for states. Remember, 48 states promised to adopt Common Core — many of them before they even knew what was in it — just to get those big federal bucks. Texas governor Rick Perry took a lot of heat from Democrats and the press at the time for turning down Obama’s stimulus money. Perry used to say, “The academic standards of Texas are not for sale.” DeSantis’s rejection of Biden’s attempt to “buy off states with $6 billion dollars if they sacrifice American History for Critical Race Theory” is in the same vein. So far, DeSantis is the first and only governor to take that bold stand on CSDA. Sadly, this kind of independent stance is rare.

DeSantis hit back at CSDA at an event announcing the results of Florida’s 2022 civics assessments. In general, Florida students this year scored better on civics tests than they had the year before. The improvement rates for all minority students were especially impressive. African-American students in particular had the highest rate of improvement, which means that the civics “achievement gap” between white and African-American students has narrowed significantly.

You might think this would give Florida the inside track for federal grants under CSDA. After all, the bill instructs the secretary of Education to give priority to proposals with the greatest prospects of helping “underserved” students narrow civics achievement gaps. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

Under the theory favored by the left-dominated education establishment, the best way to help poor, minority, and recent immigrant students (the “underserved”) is to abandon traditional approaches to American history and civics, while substituting CRT-style curricula instead. No matter how good DeSantis’s results, Biden’s bureaucrats would have the power under CSDA to define what truly benefits the “underserved.” And time and again we’ve seen that Biden’s Education Department goes the CRT route — all the while fighting DeSantis-style attempts to revitalize traditional history and civics.

With Biden in control of a federal civics test tied to eligibility for state grants, it’s tough to see how governors in search of federal funds will be able to conduct meaningful state assessments of civics, especially if they adopt more traditional standards, on the Florida model. Schools “teach to the test.” But will they be teaching to a statewide test tied to distinctive state standards, or to a federal test tied to Biden’s leftist vision of civics and history? CSDA will make the federal test all powerful, a backdoor route to de facto federal control over state standards and curriculum.

The fight over CSDA is also a window onto the struggle to define the Republican Party. Two of the bill’s Republican co-sponsors have led pushes for bipartisan legislation, Cornyn on guns and Cassidy on infrastructure. (NR’s Editors opposed both of those bills.) On the other side, so far only former President Trump, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and now Governor DeSantis have publicly opposed the Civics Secures Democracy Act. (For Trump’s remarks on CSDA, see 1:26-1:33 of this speech.) The latter three are probably the savviest, most influential, and most effective Republicans when it comes to fighting the good fight on cultural issues. Which way will the party go? Above all, will congressional Republicans have the gumption to publicly break with their credulous colleagues by openly criticizing CSDA?

Cornyn and Cassidy have fallen into the Democrats’ trap and opened the door to the nationalization of CRT, all in pursuit of a bogus bipartisanship. At the very moment when conservatives have a fighting chance to take back the culture — or at least to carve out a cultural redoubt of our own — a few naïve senators are on the verge of handing our schools over to the Left. Should CSDA become law, whether Republicans take Congress in 2022 or not, Biden will have de facto control of America’s education system until the end of his term. This is madness, and political suicide, too. What will happen when the Republican base wakes up to find that our own senators have delivered America’s schools into the hands of CRT propagandists?

Ron DeSantis is willing to fight the cultural fight, and smart enough to know how the game is played. He is leading on civics, and on many other cultural issues as well. Kudos to him for taking on the fake federal civics bill. Let’s hope more Republicans follow his lead.


I Don’t Think He Thought This Through


From Francisco Cantú, writing in the New York Times:

Our national mythology has also clearly hampered our capacity to respond to gun violence — a favorite line of the N.R.A. is that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This delusion, disproved in Uvalde and countless times before, flows directly from Hollywood fantasy and underlies arguments about arming teachers, expanding open-carry laws and ushering armed law enforcement into more and more public spaces.

Surely the lesson of Uvalde is that you cannot rely on the police to protect you.


Pope Francis Says Follow the Science on Abortion

Pope Francis gestures as he leads the Angelus prayer from a window of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, February 13, 2022. (Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters)

From a Vatican write-up of a new Reuters interview:

“In this we have to be scientific, see what science tells us today. Science today and any book on embryology, the one our medical students study, tells you that 30 days after conception there is DNA and the laying out already of all the organs.”

He asked, “Is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?” He insisted, “It’s a human life – that’s science. The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem.”

“Indeed, is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?”

Pope Francis made the remarks in an hour-and-a-half-long interview with Reuters correspondent Philip Pullella, published on Monday.

(He’s compared abortion to hiring a hitman before.)

Here, from Reuters:

He strongly condemned abortion, comparing it to “hiring a hit man”. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception.

“I ask: Is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?”

It’s unfortunate they it leaves out the science part. You don’t have to be a Catholic to understand what you see on a sonogram. You don’t have to believe in God to acknowledge that there is new life developing at conception. Joe Biden has said women should have the right to abort a child. Even if it was a slip up, forgetting about the euphemisms the abortion industry has insisted on, I appreciated the honesty. Let’s be honest about what abortion is. Abortion advocates are fighting for the right of a mother to end the life of her developing child.

On Independence Day, let’s reflect on how we can better protect life and the pursuit of happiness, not put them at odds when a pregnancy is unplanned.

America’s First Catholic Bishop on the Danger of Letting Religion Languish


From Archbishop John Carroll:

For when it pleased God to institute a religion here on earth he surely did not intend that it should remain hidden in darkness and sequestered from the eyes of mankind. As it is to serve to glorify him, it cannot be sufficient for it to remain shut up in the secret of men’s hearts: it must be visible and by its splendor contribute to raise in us ideas worthy of the greatness of the master to whom it subjects us, and proposes as the object of our worship. For this purpose were ordained the public ceremonies of religion; the solemn celebration of our august mysteries; and in a word all the outward duties which accompany the service of God. If then we purpose merely to confine ourselves to a pretended religion of the heart; without drawing any outward appearances of it, we betray a disposition so severely condemned by Jesus Christ in these remarkable words (Lk 9:26). He that is ashamed of me, and of my words, of him likewise will the son of God be ashamed, him will he disavow on the great day of judgment, in the presence of his Father, and the angels, in the face of heaven and earth.

But the evil proceeds farther by our withholding from God our public and apparent testimony to his holy religion; and we transgress another important obligation, namely that of the example which every believer owes to the society of which he is a member. For we are all but one body in Christ, and that which strengthens and gives vigor to this mystical body is the common edification mutually given and received, and resulting from the outward functions of religion, which make the greater impression, as we are naturally more encouraged to imitate what we see. But if, on the other hand, this outward worship begins to be neglected, all languishes with it: the idea of religion itself begins to fade away in our minds; impiety avails itself of this neglect and introduces not only a disgust, but even a contempt of all public and every private worship. From hence may be concluded how important the duty is, to which I now exhort you, the duty of honoring your religion.


Mass and Prayer Protested and Obstructed in Lower Manhattan

Protesters blocking a pro-life prayer procession in New York. July 2, 2022 (Image provided by Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Around noon on Saturday, outside the back door of Old St. Patrick’s Basilica in lower Manhattan, a slim young woman with a modest, long, frilly dress and round sunglasses stood with a single rose and a handwritten sign “God F***Ing LOVES Abortion.” Love was underlined twice.

There was a P.S. to her sign: “God is def. trans.” She ended the second message with a hand-drawn heart.

That was a haunting end to the morning, capturing the depths of woundedness on display in protests to our monthly Witness to Life for the month of July. (It’s organized by the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.) This has been going on for about 15 years. In the last year, especially (but it would happen pre-COVID as well), We’ve gotten used to people protesting our prayer. Increasingly, too, we’ve gotten used to human blockages as we simply process the block across the street from Planned Parenthood where we pray the Rosary.

Continue reading “Mass and Prayer Protested and Obstructed in Lower Manhattan”


Alarmist ‘News Stories’ and Big Government


The ideological slant in most “news stories” is now commonplace. In the letter below, Professor Don Boudreaux points out an egregious case in the Washington Post.


A reader encountering your headline “Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous” (July 3) can be forgiven for supposing that more and more Americans are dying from summer heat. This same reader, however, is surprised to find in the report no evidence of any such trend. (Quoting a professor’s claim that “[w]e can start saying people are dying because of climate change” isn’t evidence, especially because this quotation is accompanied neither by a link nor by a reference to data.)

I suspect that the reason your writers offer no evidence that summer heat is increasingly deadly in America is that the evidence shows the opposite. As Reason’s science correspondent Ron Bailey recently reported, “a January 2021 study in Weather, Climate, and Society (WCS), which looked at national heat mortality trends based on data from the 107 largest cities in the U.S., reported that the relative risk of dying from heat exposure has been falling in most regions since 1975.”

Summers might well be getting hotter and longer. But at the same time we humans are growing wealthier. Health care and weather forecasting are improving; building materials provide better insulation; travel to cooler climes is increasingly affordable; and most significantly, air conditioning is more widespread in homes, schools, workplaces, and transportation vehicles. It’s about time for climate reporters to stop assuming that the only possible means of mitigating harm from climate change is to slow or to prevent such change. Evidence shows that we are quite innovative at finding ways to live with climate change – ways that arguably are not only less costly than are grand and often fanciful schemes to reduce carbon emissions, but also quite likely to be more successful than are these schemes at actually saving lives.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

I would add that slanted “reporting” always goes in the same direction. After pointing out some purported  crisis, the piece inevitably pushes the notion that more government action is the solution. You never see stories about terrible conditions where the implicit or explicit conclusion is that government is at fault or that voluntary action might lead to the best solution. If it’s true that summers are getting hotter, why can’t we adapt to that with all the great stuff the free market makes available rather than going on a crusade against fossil fuels?

Politics & Policy

Happy Pride Day

The Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks explode behind a U.S. flag in New York City, July 4, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

There are many stripes on the Pride flag, but even as that flag becomes a bit cluttered, it still isn’t as expansive as the American flag, because the national flag’s stars (and stripes) represent the 50 states. This Fourth, more than usually, we celebrate the vast diversity of the Republic. You live your way of life, I’ll live my way. We should all be proud to live in a country that honors freedom so thoroughly.

David French and others have argued that we’re heading toward something like another civil war, because different states have such different theories of what liberty and justice mean. But why have a war at all? If Texans don’t like the abortion policies of Texas, they are free to become Californians or New Yorkers. The same goes in reverse. Calling U-Haul strikes me as a great deal easier than forming a regiment. My sense of Democrats in Texas is, however, that they love their state, abortion restrictions or no. Perhaps we can even learn that if your very neighbors don’t think the same way as you, that’s okay too. The New Yorker gets it!

Thinking of most questions as being definitively answered by nine unelected people in Washington is a bad habit that America is perhaps finally growing out of. I look forward to the day when Americans can, instead of marching pointlessly in the streets every time they don’t like a decision that affects other Americans far away, calmly explain to visitors from other countries that we are a gorgeous mosaic of sovereign states. Each enjoys its own ability to decide on what is best for that state, with the exception of a few constitutional matters, such as freedom of worship, the right to due process, and the right to bear arms, that the Founders declared were non-negotiable bedrock rights of all Americans, no matter what state. We have much in common — the Constitution — but much freedom to take our individual states in different directions. The Supreme Court is enhancing the freedom of states to be different. To paraphrase a saying popular in a city full of Texan Democrats: Keep America weird.


How Best to Argue for a Cause: Lessons from American History

Frederick Douglass, c. 1879 (National Archives/via Wikimedia)

Each Fourth of July, many progressives claim that America is not worth celebrating. Last year, that included members of the House of Representatives. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) argued that “this land is stolen and Black people still aren’t free” and Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) asserted that “they weren’t thinking about us” in 1776. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, some commentators are already arguing that “the Constitution will always be a hell of an excuse to oppress Black folks on behalf of white supremacy.” On the homepage today, I respond to a version of this perennial argument that the American Revolution was fundamentally flawed, or even a “mistake” altogether, because it defended slavery.

But I wanted to follow up here to emphasize that this is the wrong lens through which to view our Founding Fathers. The idea that they unanimously approved of slavery or had no intention of outlawing it is not true. Multiple northern states such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts abolished the practice immediately after the Revolution, citing their newfound independence as reason for doing so. Still, the Founders’ failure to outlaw slavery completely from America’s inception should be the cause of great sorrow for us, but not sorrow so great that we renounce their entire legacy. Many activists, both ill- and well-intentioned, have made that mistake. But the greatest warriors for freedom, justice, and equality throughout American history were those who looked back to the Founding in their activism.

During the Civil War and the period leading up to it, the abolitionists challenged our country to live up to the promises of the Founding documents. They did so in the face of the Confederacy, whose supporters believed that the Constitution contained a right to slavery, which was, in the words of their predecessor, John C. Calhoun, “an essential element in the distribution of its powers among the States.” When his state of South Carolina seceded from the Union, it did so because its legislators believed that the efforts of anti-slavery politicians “ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.” One of the first to oppose them was William Lloyd Garrison, who, while he had a noble cause, did not always argue for it in the best way. In an 1854 speech on the Fourth of July, he called the Constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell” and burned a copy of the document as he said it.

Many of his fellow abolitionists saw his attacks on the Founding as counterproductive. Among them was Frederick Douglass. Each Independence Day, progressives love to quote his “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech, in which he denounces the hypocrisy of a country celebrating freedom while keeping millions of souls in chains. No one today will counter Douglass on that argument, which he spends the first half of his speech outlining. Curiously, though, those who use the speech to bash the Founding usually do not quote the second half, in which Douglass calls the Constitution a “glorious liberty document.” He goes on to say that there is not “a single pro-slavery clause in it” and that “there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution.”

Douglass was joined in his love for the Founding by President Abraham Lincoln, who, in the days leading up to his presidency, called the Declaration’s promise of liberty to all an “apple of gold.” That principle was a treasure that needed proper adornment. That was supplied by the Constitution, the “picture of silver.” He carried that attitude with him into his presidency. In his Gettysburg Address, he told the crowd that America was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” calling upon them to give the nation a “new birth of freedom” by winning the Civil War and ending slavery. For Douglass and Lincoln, the Declaration and Constitution allowed the best parts of each other to shine forth and make the country a better place for its citizens. This belief allowed them to rise above their contemporaries, both friends and foes, and bring freedom to those who lacked it.

Unfortunately, the fight did not end at Appomattox, and black people in Southern states endured a century of inequality due to Jim Crow laws. Segregationists argued that their actions were in the tradition of the Founding. In his “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” speech, Governor George Wallace of Alabama reminded his audience “that a Southerner, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of Independence, that a Southerner, George Washington, is the Father of our country that a Southerner, James Madison, authored our Constitution.” It is not a coincidence that he only cited slave-owners. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Malcolm X was rightly horrified at the mistreatment of black people, but his solutions were not the most effective. In his pursuit of black nationalism, he argued that “the Constitution was written by whites for the benefit of whites. It was never written for the benefit of blacks.”

As the country learned almost a century before, however, the way to make America better is to recognize the goodness of its Founding. The person who stood out the most in the civil-rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr., who had an appreciation for the Constitution from an early age. He won a speech contest in high school, in which he called American slavery a “strange paradox,” given the country’s commitment to freedom. He knew that the Founding principles were antithetical to any form of racism, and he vowed to be “imbued with the spirit of Lincoln” to fight the vestiges of enslavement. It was that commitment that led him to declare in his “I Have a Dream” speech that “when the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” King saw himself in the tradition of Lincoln and Douglass, fulfilling the Founding promise through his cause, not remaking or renouncing it. He is the namesake of a national holiday because of it.

All these people succeeded because they drew their inspiration and philosophies from the great men who drafted the Declaration and the Constitution. Many of those statesmen were emboldened to begin erasing the stain of slavery in their own time, and their posterity made America live up ever more to its Founding promise. Independence Day is a celebration not only of our country’s founding, but also of the people who have improved it throughout the ages. These advances all stem from the documents that created our nation, and we should rejoice at the bravery of those who created and nurtured them.


UNC Coaches’ Salaries — High and Opaque


Football and basketball coaches’ salaries at big universities are jaw-droppingly high. They’re also pretty substantial at lesser schools too. And it’s not always easy to find out exactly how much they’re being paid.

In today’s Martin Center article, Ashlynn Warta looks at head-coaching salaries throughout the UNC system, ranging from the big powerhouses (Chapel Hill and NC State) to the small schools like Elizabeth City State.

She reports that base salaries are a matter of public record (topped in football by the $2.4 million the head coach at NC State makes) but also that there is a good deal of supplemental compensation that is not. Warta writes, “While these base-pay data are helpful, they don’t give the entire picture. With ‘other pay’— sponsorships, benefits, etc.—it is likely that base pay is merely the tip of the iceberg.”

Also, most coaches have a “buyout” clause that can add a lot to the total. “As with salaries,” Warta continues,  “buyout amounts vary widely, but they can become hefty depending on which coach is under discussion. For example, Roy Williams, who retired as UNC-Chapel Hill’s men’s basketball coach last year, had a total compensation package of $4,168,250 in 2021 and a whopping $7,612,500 buyout.”

Nice work if you can get it.

Film & TV

Blade Runner: 40 Years On

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner(1982) (Warner Bros.)

In response to <em>Blade Runner</em> at 40

Jack Butler put up a fine post on the Corner on Saturday to mark the 40th anniversary of Blade Runner, a film that, in my view, is the greatest science-fiction movie ever made. Jack notes that Blade Runner was “underappreciated” on its initial release. That’s true, although I can remember reading the reviews at the time it first hit British cinemas and deciding then and there that this was something that needed seeing. And soon. I was right.

Contrary to many, I liked the voiceover and, indeed, the original ending (which, appropriately enough, featured leftover footage from The Shining, to some, the greatest horror film ever made, although both it and Blade Runner are masterpieces that transcend their genre). As for the different cuts of Blade Runner (I have seen a number of them), there’s a way beyond the obvious in which, collectively, they add to a film in which memory is malleable and the hero may, unknowingly, not be what he thinks.

Meanwhile, the news has been released that Joe Turkel, so memorable as Eldon Tyrell, the scientist and entrepreneur behind the Tyrell Corporation (a company so far overlooked by Capital Matters: This must change), died on June 27 at the grand old age of 94. Until reading his obituary, I was unaware, shockingly, that, in a second connection between The Shining and Blade Runner, he had also played Lloyd, the bartender at the Overlook, another extraordinary performance. RIP.

Jack describes Blade Runner as neo-noir, which indeed it is, and also singles out Vangelis’s soundtrack, rightly so. That soundtrack, of course, includes, “One More Kiss, Dear,” a song that brilliantly links an imagined future to a lost past, a pastiche, of course, but in a film when memory can be confected, the real thing would not have been . . . right.  In The Shining, by contrast,  Kubrick went back to the 1930s, close enough to the Overlook’s greatest — if that’s the word — years, resurrecting a recording of “Midnight, the Stars and You,” sung by Al Bowlly, who was later killed during a German bomb attack on London in 1941, but not before he had recorded a version of an Irving Berlin song anticipating the day when Hitler would be no more:

When that man is dead and gone
When they lay him twelve feet deep
I’ll be there to laugh, not weep . . .

Economy & Business

Regarding Studies Purporting to Prove That Minimum-Wage Laws Don’t Have Bad Effects

A man holds up a minimum wage sign at a rally held by fast food workers and supporters in Los Angeles, Calif., February 18, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Advocates of big government have a number of rejoinders to the argument made by free-market supporters that minimum-wage laws are a bad idea. They like to say, e.g., that a research study showed that raising the minimum wage doesn’t lead to unemployment.

How best to reply?

Economics professor Caleb Fuller of Grove City College gives a lot of good ideas in this Independent Institute article.

Fuller writes that  “skilled economic communicators like Don BoudreauxRobert Murphy, and Steven Landsburg, have been patiently dissecting every last argument for the minimum wage. They’ve been originating countless new thought experiments, analogies, and parables to convey the consequences of price floors. And in many cases, they’ve pointed out the flaws in empirical studies, but I haven’t seen a one-stop-shop where these problems are succinctly described.”

Among Fuller’s points are the existence of non-wage adjustments that employers make when government demands higher wages, that workers can become “underemployed,” and that employers can’t immediately adjust to higher wages, so studies done over short periods of time will be misleading.

If you want to be well-armed against those who say that minimum-wage laws don’t have adverse effects, read Fuller’s article.


The Long-Term Problem with Responding to a Crisis with Scapegoating

Gasoline prices are displayed at an Exxon gas station behind American flag in Edgewater, N.J., June 14, 2022. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

One of the problems with the Biden White House’s scapegoating strategy for high gas prices is that even if the president succeeds in diverting blame from his administration to oil companies, gas station operators, or Vladimir Putin . . . he, and the country, are still stuck with high gas prices.

Demand for gasoline peaks in summer. Gas prices have come down a bit from their peak – about twenty cents per gallon nationally over the past three weeks – but they’re still at an astronomically high price by the standards of recent history, averaging $4.81 for a gallon of regular nationwide.

We don’t know exactly what gas prices will be through July and August, but they’ll probably still be very high. It’s probably going to be several months before they decline below the previous record level of $4.17 per gallon. We don’t know what the price for a gallon when voters cast ballots in November 2022, but we know it will be significantly higher than the $2.10 per gallon national average of two years earlier. The public anger won’t dissipate, and no matter how much blame gets assigned to these other entities, voters will start to ask, “wait, wasn’t this president supposed to restore normalcy?”

Eventually the scapegoating message starts to sound like helplessness: “I wish I could bring down the price of gas, but there’s not much I can do. Russia won’t stop its invasion, OPEC won’t produce more oil, the oil companies are too greedy, the gas station owners are too greedy, Congress won’t temporarily suspend the federal gas tax of 18 cents per gallon, most states won’t temporarily suspend their state gas taxes… there’s just nothing I can do.”

That’s not too different from Biden’s overall message on inflation, or high food prices, or baby formula shortages, or lingering supply chain problems, or the insecure border, or anything else.

If Biden’s message always seems to be some variation of, “I’d like to help, but other forces won’t cooperate, so there’s just not much I can do,” many voters are likely to respond, “if you can’t do anything to help with my problems… then what do we need you for?”

White House

On the Jimmy Carter vs. Joe Biden Comparison


Joe Biden’s appalling tenure in the White House has gotten many people comparing him to Jimmy Carter.

In this Independent Institute post, Jon Miltimore of the Foundation for Economic Education argues that in terms of damage done to the country, it isn’t even close — Biden is far worse.

Crucially, Carter approved a number of important moves to deregulate the economy, whereas Biden has done nothing but expand the scope, power, and cost of the federal behemoth.

Now, Carter is responsible for one of the worst federal agencies, the Department of Education, but never contemplated anything so Orwellian as Biden’s Disinformation Board.

PC Culture

LEAKED: U.S. Navy Pronoun Directive

Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) First Class Reymond Rallos launches an AV-8B Harrier attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, under way in the Atlantic Ocean, April 20, 2022. (Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jesse Schwab/US Navy)

Editor’s Note: The following U.S. Navy pronoun directive was leaked to National Review at great personal risk. It would seem that the Navy’s recent pronoun training video has left many sailors confused about what pronouns are, how to use them, and why they should care. This document is super legitimate and comes from an anonymous leaker in the Navy and not from the desk of Luther Abel.

01 Jul 22

To:    Director, Surface Officer Distribution Division (PURS-41)
Via:   Commanding Officer, U.S.S. STACEY ABRAMS (KG 300)



  2. Subjective Personal Pronouns — he/she/they
    1. He — HE went to captain’s mast for mansplaining the CIWS system to the junior sailors.
    2. She — SHE avoided FOD walkdown by claiming that skating was mindfulness training.
    3. They — THEY identify as an attack helicopter and so will be provided a hangar bay berth and a ration of JP-5.
  3. Objective Personal Pronouns — him/her/them
    1. Him — “G**d*** these m*****f******. F*** HIM, and F*** you,” said MM2 Hernandez inclusively, as MM2 Abel and GSM2 Guerrero tardily stumbled into Central to assume the 0200 Sounding and Security watches.
    2. Her — “I’m giving HER all she’s got,” said the red-shirted engineer destined to receive 100 percent disability from the VA post-service.
    3. Them — “I would never gundeck like THEM,” said Seaman Timmy observing his nonbinary first class petty officer’s dirtbag demeanor. Seaman Timmy would days later would begin a long and storied career of gundecking maintenance, logs, and personal qualifications. He would retire a senior chief.
  4. Possessive Personal Pronouns — his/her/their
    1. His — HIS qualifications were signed off upon the training petty officer’s receipt of a Monster and a pack of Marlboro Reds.
    2. Her(s) — HER chain of command prolonged morning quarters by tactically piggybacking off of one another for a record thirty-eight hours straight.
    3. Their — THEIR coffee cup was host to new life forms, having been unwashed for seven deployments and three INSURV periods.

Adm. P. Nowne


Climate Policy, the Pre-Modern, and Rationing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference at Downing Street in London, England, May 25, 2022. (Leon Neal/Pool via Reuters)

That Britain has become a poster child for the stupidities of the current state of climate policy does not say much for its governing (if that’s the word) Conservative party. That all Britain’s other major parties would push the climate agenda in roughly the same direction does not change that fact, or the increasing possibility that the Tories, having squandered their great victory in 2019, are headed for defeat in 2024.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, David Frost, a senior Conservative now sitting in the House of Lords, has a few things to say about where things are going:

The Government must realise that it faces a crisis. In the short run it must keep the lights on or pay a heavy price. It should then drop the mad dash for medieval wind power technology and focus on the only acceptably low-carbon form of power available – gas. Get shale gas extraction going, commit long-term to the North Sea, put in place proper storage – and build some new gas power stations. By all means commit to nuclear, too – but only gas solves the problems in a meaningful time frame.

Of course I don’t think this will happen. We will muddle along, and then, one day soon, when we realise we don’t have the energy our economy needs, whoever is in power then will resort to rationing.

Frost knows, but is, perhaps, too polite to mention, that it was power rationing that, more than anything else, destroyed the Tory government led by Ted Heath from 1970-74. In terms of personality or superficial political style, Boris Johnson could not be more different than Heath even if, at a deeper level, there are some interesting similarities. Nevertheless, there will be a certain irony if the prime ministers who, respectively, took Britain into and out of the EU (or in Heath’s case, what became the EU) are destroyed by energy rationing.

Read on, however, to find this:

I fear a different world view is now deeply embedded across politics. It’s one that sees industrial civilisation as damaging to the planet and low energy use as desirable. It’s one that thinks some form of original sin was committed in this country by James Watt and Richard Arkwright, for which we must now expiate – a view shared by the Prime Minister, to judge by his comments in Glasgow at Cop26.

There is no rational reason that climate policy had to go in the direction that it has, but one key reason has been the persistent power of a pre-modern millenarian fantasy that has, in one form or another (Marxism is one variant), existed for a very long time.

And such millenarian fantasies are often (although not in the case of some of Marx’s immediate heirs, a good number of whom shared a Promethean vision of a world reshaped by technology) accompanied by an urge to abandon technological advance. That’s one reason why so many of the solutions that would, as presented, solve the problems caused by a supposed climate “crisis” are rejected.

Lord Frost, however, is having none of it.

Modern civilisation needs energy, and lots of it. Abundant energy powered the Industrial Revolution and everything that came with it – proper housing, enough food, scientific and medical advances, economic growth that frees up time to do things you like doing as well as working.

I don’t like poverty, I don’t like artificial limits on human aspiration and potential, and when you don’t have enough energy you get a lot of both. That’s why we need to change tack now. We need an energy policy that delivers power, at acceptable cost, whenever we need it – because an advanced economy without that will not stay advanced for long.


Film & TV

Blade Runner at 40

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner(1982) (Warner Bros.)

The summer of 1982 was a pretty good one for sci-fi movies. In addition to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there was John Carpenter’s The Thing, E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (the latter two an . . . interesting pairing), and, of course, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Underappreciated in its initial release (thanks in part to the version seen by most audiences at the time, which includes some rather amusing voiceover narrations from star Harrison Ford and a different ending), Blade Runner has grown in stature over the years. Its neo-noir atmosphere, enhanced by an indelible Vangelis score (R.I.P.) and dominated by giant cities, soulless mega-corporations, and synthetic humanoids, endures as a pop-culture landmark to the present day. Its influence can be seen in countless creations in a variety of media since (including a pretty good sequel directed by Dune director Denis Villeneuve and released in 2017).

As it came out 40 years ago this month, the retrospectives are now circulating. In Esquire, Tom Ward argues that Blade Runner “arguably defined not just 1980s science fiction, but in the forty years since its initial release, sci-fi films in general”:

Famously, the film was a critical and commercial flop in the U.S. with VHS sales and endless re-edits eventually leading to its cult status. (In 2004, it was even voted as the best science fiction film of all time by a panel of global scientists). Today, it’s difficult to picture a sci-fi film that doesn’t play homage. Would HBO’s Westworld have updated its 1973 film version so successfully and stylishly without Blade Runner paving the way both visually and in terms of its musings on free will? And, decades before Elon Musk looked set to take over the world, Blade Runner’s Tyrell Corporation (and indeed, Alien’s Weyland-Yutani) was inspiring evil empires from Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation to RoboCop’s Omni Consumer Products and The Terminator’s Cyberdyne Systems.

Meanwhile, at the Hollywood Reporter, Ryan Parker resurrects an old interview with co-star Rutger Hauer, in which Hauer claims that Roy Batty, the rogue android Ford’s Rick Deckard is tasked with exterminating (with extreme prejudice?), is not, in fact, a villain:

In an interview for the film’s 1982 release, the Netherlands-born Hauer, while being flattered by a journalist about his good looks, was asked why he would want to play a “villain” in the film when he was handsome enough to be the hero. A polite Hauer responded that he did not see his character, Roy Batty, in the same light.

“I don’t think this is a villain,” he began. “What is wrong with a man — from the point where they start chasing him, he just wants to live a little longer. He hasn’t done so much harm. You don’t see him do any harm, and then they start chasing him down. He has to fight once in a while because that’s survival.”

Whatever you think of Hauer’s ambiguity on this question — not even the most famous ambiguity about the film — Batty’s final moments are undoubtedly some of the finest in science fiction. The character’s dying monologue, written in collaboration with Hauer, achieved the immortality he himself cannot, and helped the film to do the same:



Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Christians in Pakistan, Getting Practical about Life after Roe & Much More

Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as the Court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

1. Christians in Pakistan are victims of rape, forced marriages, and violent mobs using blasphemy laws against them

2. Erika Bachiochi in the NYTimes: What Makes a Fetus a Person?

Another vision for women’s equality and liberty exists that challenges rather than accepts the ideal of autonomy. The 18th-century English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” and her heirs that were in the 19th-century American women’s rights movement sought civil and political rights so they might better fulfill their responsibilities to others. As Wollstonecraft reasoned, “The only method of leading women to fulfill their peculiar duties is to free them from all restraint by allowing them to participate the inherent rights of mankind.”

So while Wollstonecraft viewed persons as individuals justly protected by rights, as she vied for equality, she urged both women and men not to dismiss their responsibility to others. For her, maternal and paternal responsibilities began not when the child was born, but when he or she was still developing in the mother’s womb. Achieving the kind of moral maturity that would regard service to and care of others as life-giving and fulfilling was life’s goal.

As the nascent child shares her mother’s body, the mother depends upon many others for her own sustenance and flourishing. This is the case in every pregnancy, of course. But the need of the expectant mother becomes more acute when she is poor or ill, or her life or health is endangered by the pregnancy. The woman with child means two vulnerable patients for doctors to care for and for insurance to support; capacious workplace accommodations and financial assistance; paternal duties expected, not ignored.

Without robust societal support of pregnant women and child-rearing families, too many pregnant women will be left to regard their unborn children as trespassers on their already taxed lives rather than unbidden gifts that open new horizons to them. These women need society’s utmost assistance — not abortion, or scorn.

3. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Liberal policies return children like Julissia Batties, 7, back to their abusive parents

It’s about damn time. That’s the first thing to be said about the arrest in the murder of Julissia Batties by her mother, Navasia Jones, and her half-brother Paul Fine Jr. It’s been almost a year since the 7-year-old girl was found beaten to death in Jones’ Bronx apartment. And it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who was responsible.

According to the district attorney, Fine assaulted her between Aug. 8 and Aug. 10, and Jones failed to get medical help while her daughter was dying. The beatings were so bad, they damaged her internal organs and she had bruises all over her body. Oh, and she was sexually abused as well.

But even if Jones and Fine spend the rest of their lives in jail, there is plenty more work to be done to fix the system that failed Julissia.

4. Nora Kenney: Former foster youth clap back against pro-choice narrative on TikTok

Let’s hear it for the former foster children on TikTok clapping back against the pro-abortion rights narrative that their lives are so miserable they’d be better off dead.

You know the narrative. It goes something like this: There are children conceived into bad situations, including abusive homes and cycles of poverty, and therefore, abortion must be legal to ensure their parents can end their lives and preempt their suffering.

“I have seen firsthand what happens to children born to parents who don’t want them,” one foster mother explained tearfully on TikTok. Her takeaway was clear: It would be better if the children had never been born, an outcome the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will threaten.

5.This is terrorism’: Molotov cocktail thrown into Tennessee pregnancy resource center

6. Virginia Catholic Church targeted with fire, graffiti after SCOTUS overturns Roe


8. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone: Our Task in Post-Roe America

Call up a local pregnancy center and commit to a monthly donation. Support political leaders who not only restrict abortion but provide new resources for mothers in crisis. Volunteer to accompany single mothers not only during pregnancy, but also beyond. Fast one day a week and donate the money you save to Catholic Charities or other organizations that provide for mothers in need. And men, answer the call to be a father to the fatherless.

9. Lauren Green McAfee: After Roe, How Do We Stand for Life?

Practical Ways to Engage

There are myriad ways we can practically apply our theology to the pro-life issue. As individuals and churches consider how to engage at this monumental moment, these suggestions are meant to be a starting point, not all-encompassing.

Unexpected Pregnancy and Pro-Life Support

Start an Embrace Grace group or discipleship group at your church to walk alongside single moms in unexpected pregnancies.

Lead a Bible study or Sunday school series studying the imago Dei or similar content and seek to develop a holistically pro-life ethic among your church body.

Partner with a pregnancy center near your church.

Create a resource closet or list of resources available for mothers in unexpected pregnancies.

Pray for pro-life ministries that provide care to women and families facing an unexpected pregnancy, and support their work.

Attend a pro-life conference with members of your church.

Provide community and care for single mothers in your church.

Help post-abortive women and men connect with ministries like Support After Abortion that provide support in the healing process.

Adoption and Foster Care

Prepare your church to step in and support families in crisis who are at risk of having their children removed from the home.

Start an adoption fund from your church through Lifesong for Orphans, so that your church can provide grants to families in your community who want to adopt.

Share about ways the church can pursue adoption with gospel-centered agencies.

Educate church members about how to get involved in your local foster care system.

Start an adoption and foster care support group for families in your church.

As the church engages abortion in a way that demonstrates our belief that all people are created in God’s image, our culture will be radically changed—even more than it has been by this Supreme Court ruling. This is an opportunity for the church to love people to Christ and help them in their journey. Let us not waste it.

10. Laura Wolk: Protecting Unborn Disabled Life in a Post-Roe World

In short, exposure to people with disabilities enables us to transform the abstract principle of human dignity into a lived reality. Thus, we cannot move from rationally understanding the value of life in all its diversity, complexity, and beauty to living it out in our actions unless we come to know, befriend, and yes, even dislike people with disabilities—that is, until we invite them into the entirety of the messy human experience.

Now more than ever, the pro-life movement must recognize and rectify our failures in this area. Unfortunately, many of us lack this necessary exposure to disabled people in our daily life, leaving us just as vulnerable as those who are pro-choice to subconsciously devaluing their lives. Access barriers and refusals to accommodate keep people with disabilities out of our social, educational, and employment spaces, including those run by pro-life entities. Fear and lack of familiarity cause us not to approach. And our squeamishness in the face of suffering urges us to avert our gaze. But if we don’t have disabled friends, loved ones, colleagues, church members, or customers in our lives, how can we ever hope to convince a terrified mother, newly armed with a life-altering diagnosis and bombarded by her doctors to abort, that there is another way? If we do not have a realistic understanding of the time, energy, and resources it takes to raise a profoundly disabled child, or if we have never walked the road with someone who carries a terminal child to term, how can our hearts possibly contain the compassion and charity necessary to assist a stranger?

If we do not take a serious accounting of our approach to disabled lives outside the womb, we stand a huge chance that the lives of unborn disabled children will remain a viable bargaining chip in state legislatures across the country. If we only understand the intrinsic worth of disabled lives with our rational intellect rather than also through our personal experiences, then we will lack the adequate drive to advocate their protection, and we will risk allowing the right to kill a disabled child to remain a temporary or permanent part of the compromises forged at the state level.

11. Marco Rubio: The Providing for Life Act: A pro-life plan for post-Roe America

12. Nicole Stelle Garnett: A Victory for Religious Liberty and Educational Pluralism

The Supreme Court rejects policies that exclude faith-based schools from private-school-choice programs.

13Ericka Andersen: Young people aren’t attached to religion, which could augur ill for their future giving.

14David Alton: Religious persecution is a hallmark of the CCP

A Chinese pastor who is currently in prison is Wang Yi. His pen name is Wang Shuya. He is the founding pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church, a Calvinist house church in Chengdu. He is also a writer, editor, and social activist, and was a legal scholar at Chengdu University. In 2018 he was arrested along with dozens of church leaders as part of an continuing crackdown on all unauthorized religious groups in China. He was given a 9-year prison sentence for “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations”.


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Law & the Courts

A Needless and Mistaken Attack on Lochner v. New York


In Justice Alito’s opinion for the Court in Dobbs, he launched into a surprising attack on an old case, Lochner v. New York. That 1905 case involved a New York statute that put an upper limit on the number of hours that bakers were allowed to work.  The Court invalidated the statute on the grounds that the 14th Amendment protects the individual’s liberty of contract.

Generations of law students have heard that decision berated as wrong, an abuse of judicial power. Apparently, Justice Alito imbibed that view because he made a swipe at Lochner in Dobbs.

In this Reason piece, Damon Root argues that the 14th Amendment indeed does protect liberty of contract. I think he’s right. The 14th Amendment ought to protect people against special-interest legislation (as was the case in Lochner) that deprives them of basic freedoms.


The Problem of Gerontocracy

President Joe Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters)

There is a tendency in some of the more pessimistic corners of American political discourse to liken contemporary America to the late-stage Soviet Union. This is a ridiculous comparison, for all sorts of reasons. With one exception: The way that the Soviet Union seemed dominated by a gerontocracy of old Communist Party hands (Reagan joked that they “kept dying on” him until Gorbachev showed up) does bear a slight resemblance to the political situation of the United States. Duke University sociology professor Kieran Healy recently shared a striking chart showing the increasing median age for a member of Congress:

The chart shows Democrats being guiltier of this than Republicans. Likewise, a recent Spectator editorial focuses on the older Democrats largely in charge, chiefly President Biden himself, though admitting the counterexample of Trump for Republicans (it could have added Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, now 80, though not markedly changed from 20 years ago in his bearing):

The most powerful person in America not named Joe (no, not you, Kamala) is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who clocks in at eighty-two years of age. How long has Pelosi been around? She’s represented California in the House of Representatives for a fifth of the time California has been a state. Her counterpart in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, is a mere seventy-one years young, and no doubt likes to tease her with his spirited whippersnapping.

Also in the Senate is another Californian, Dianne Feinstein, who first came to national prominence when Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978. At eighty-eight, Feinstein is older than them all, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s starting to show. She reportedly suffers from memory lapses and has difficulty following policy discussions. Until last year, she was the lead Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

Elsewhere we find Dr. Anthony Fauci, face of the government’s Covid response, age eighty-one; left-wing insurgent senator Bernie Sanders, voice of the millennial generation, age eighty; and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who turns eighty-three this month. How is America’s political pulse these days? It’s starting to feel a bit faint.

The Spectator finds it odd that a country so associated with youth and energy seems so dominated by the old. I think some of this is understandable; people are, as a rule, living longer and healthier lives today, and the strong correspondence between age and wealth that has built up enables the instantiation of existing hierarchies of power. Sometimes, this fact is even to be welcomed; the old have throughout history been looked to for their wisdom and experience. The very name “Senate” arises from “senex,” the Latin word for “old.” Conservatives, in particular, ought to have a reverence for what precedes them. As Abraham Lincoln once put it, “What is conservatism? Is it not the adherence to the old and the tried, against the new and the untried?” Often, the old can be more relied upon to serve as transmitters for proper inheritances, and bulwarks against fads and innovations that one should, in fact, resist. Moreover, many of them are great people, whose presence in one’s personal and professional life is to be welcomed.

But in other times and situations, this can get out of hand, as I think it has in modern politics. Much of our gerontocracy seems not to want to perpetuate proper goods but rather its own particular advantages and desires. (See, e.g., how existing entitlement programs steal from the young to give to the old, the former of whom have long, in my experience, ceased to expect any such munificence when we ourselves retire.) NR’s own Yuval Levin, also editor of National Affairs and director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at AEI, grappled with this problem as well in a recent New York Times essay.

Yuval argues, without wishing ill of the disproportionately elder people who dominate our political life, that their age has provided an enduring yet faulty framing for our nation’s self-understanding. As he puts it:

Consider what the country’s modern history looks like from the vantage point of an American born near the beginning of the postwar baby boom. Say you were born the same year as Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Trump, in 1946. Your earliest memories begin around 1950, and you recall the ’50s through the eyes of a child as a simple time of stability and wholesome values. You were a teenager in the early ’60s, and view that time through a lens of youthful idealism, rebellion and growing cultural self-confidence.

By the late 1960s and into the ’70s, as a 20-something entering the adult world, you found that confidence shaken. Idealism gave way to some cynicism about the potential for change, everything felt unsettled and the future seemed ominous and ambiguous. But by the 1980s, when you were in your 30s and early 40s, things had started settling down. Your work had some direction, you were building a family and concerns about mortgage payments largely replaced an ambition to transform the world.

By the 1990s, in your 40s and early 50s, you were comfortable and confident. It was finally your generation’s chance to take charge, and it looked to be working out.

As the 21st century dawned, you were still near the peak of your powers and earnings, but gradually peering over the hill toward old age. You soon found the 2000s filled with unexpected dangers and unfamiliar forces. The world was becoming less and less your own.

You reached retirement age in the 2010s amid growing uncertainty and instability. The culture was increasingly bewildering, and the economy seemed awfully insecure. The extraordinary blend of circumstances that defined the world of your youth seemed likely to be denied to your grandchildren. By now, it all feels that it’s spinning out of control. Is the chaotic, transformed country around you still the glittering land of your youth?

Yuval argues that, as a result of the dominance of something like this narrative in our political life, “our politics is implicitly directed toward recapturing some part of the magic of the mid-20th-century America of boomer youth,” both Left and Right. But he warns against replacing the wistfulness of the elderly simply with the energy and excitement of youth. Useful as those things can be in keeping D.C. and other polities running (the not-joke that Washington is really run by twentysomethings is confirmed by this recent New York Times article), youthfulness brings its own defects. Chief among the imperfections of the young are an impatience with existing forms and institutions, a bias toward novelty, an idealism (in D.C. often West Wing–inflicted) that can jell poorly with reality, and an abiding belief that history began the day they were born. with a concomitant ignorance of history. All such traits help explain why revolutionary movements throughout history have found their most-fervent devotees among the youth, and should make us skeptical of those who sell themselves primarily on their supposed youth or novelty. History — studied properly, not instrumentally — brings humility, another virtue that youth often lack.

Yuval’s preferred solution for a new dominant narrative of our national life would elevate Gen X’ers to supply a civic center between the excitation of the young and the regurgitation of the old. You’d think I, at 28, would resist such a self-interested call by a Gen X’er, but I do not. Younger Millennials and certainly Gen Z still have some maturation to do before they can properly assume control of national life. Gen X seems well positioned to steer it next.

If, that is, older generations ever get out the door.

Politics & Policy

Reminder: There’s An Easy Way to Avoid Constantly Litigating Details of January 6


“Did he or didn’t he grab the steering wheel of an SUV to try to join a mob marching toward the U.S. Capitol?” shouldn’t be a question that Republicans should want to ask or think about going into 2024. There’s a very easy way to avoid it, of course — nominating any of the many potential candidates who don’t have the vast and ever-growing baggage of Donald J. Trump.


Trump and the SUV

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla. February 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

I have to say I’ve been skeptical of the Trump SUV story since I first heard it. Maybe Cassidy Hutchinson did hear this story from Ornato, or legitimately believes she did, but I just don’t get how you grab the steering wheel from the back seat of a presumably quite large SUV. Andy, as usual, has been all over the various aspects of this story, so read his latest if you haven’t. Here’s the Washington Post account, and a relevant snippet:

Trump denied trying to grab the steering wheel, calling Hutchinson’s testimony “’sick’ and fraudulent.” Ornato and Engel were not asked about the incident when they testified to the committee, the person briefed on the Secret Service testimony said. . . .

Three agents who accompanied Trump on Jan. 6 are disputing that Trump assaulted or grabbed at Engel and/or the steering wheel, according to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with their accounts. The three agents, Engle and Ornato are also willing to testify under oath to the committee about their recollection of events on Jan. 6 in the Secret Service vehicle, the two people said. The three agents do not dispute that Trump was furious that the agents would not take him to the Capitol.

If the committee has helped blow up Hutchinson’s credibility by not doing due diligence on this proverbial too-good-to-check story that’s not central to anything it’s trying to prove, it is political and investigatory malpractice of the first order.

Science & Tech

Where Are the Aliens? Are They Evil?

People watch the skies during a UFO tour outside Sedona, Ariz., in 2013. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

In May, Congress made a fitful, unsatisfying attempt to reveal what the government knows about what we are now calling “unidentified aerial phenomena,” but which used to be known as UFOs. It already seems to have been forgotten about, alas. But others continue to ponder the possible implications of extraterrestrial life at a more theoretical level.

At Reason, Ron Bailey reports on an article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society by astrobiologists Michael Wong and Stuart Bartlett that attempts to answer the question that has baffled scientists (who tend to discount virtually all “evidence” that is offered as proof of extraterrestrial life): Where are the aliens? First formally pondered by Enrico Fermi, the conundrum, now stylized as the “Fermi paradox,” wonders where all the aliens in our galaxy are if they are sufficiently advanced to travel the stars. My favorite “solution” to this is the “Zoo hypothesis,” which posits that humanity is deliberately insulated from interstellar goings-on because we are insufficiently advanced. Wong and Barlett offer two different explanations: Their civilizations either grow so large and complex as to become unsustainable, or those in charge of said civilizations realize their unsustainable course and restrain it, thereby stalling the kind of development that would beget spacefaring. As Bailey puts it, “No alien visitors to Earth have been detected because they either destroy themselves or they choose to stay quietly at home.” He is right to note a kind of xeno-Malthusianism to this.

But if another study is correct, even if we do encounter some extraterrestrials, we might not need to be that worried about them. Vice reports on a paper by Alberto Caballero, a Ph.D. student at Vigo University in Spain, that attempts to estimate the number of potential hostile extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. His conclusion:

Caballero concludes that the probability of a hostile alien race invading Earth is low—very low. “The probability of extraterrestrial invasion by a civilization whose planet we message is, therefore, around two orders of magnitude lower than the probability of a planet-killer asteroid collision,” which is already a one-in-100-million-years event, he writes in the paper.

He also said that there is likely fewer than one malicious extraterrestrial civilization in the Milky Way that has also mastered interstellar travel, which would make them a so-called “Type 1” civilization.

Caballero makes what he admits are some “questionable” assumptions in his paper, basing it on Earth’s history and how life is known to exist; another world’s history or other forms of life could confound his findings.

At any rate, for now, it’s all just speculation. Unless (or until?) the next UAP hearing reveals unexpected information — or an unanticipated guest.


‘Their Statesmanship Looked Beyond the Passing Moment’

(RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images)

Happy Fourth of July! In celebration of this holiday of holidays, Rich, Charlie, Michael, and Andrew discuss various facets of this occasion for The Editors. The conversation largely revolves around the Revolution itself, and comparisons between it and other revolutions over the centuries. Rich quotes a moving Frederick Douglass line from his “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech, and Charlie uses it to explain what the Founders’ goal was — and was not. Listeners are also treated to interesting facts about Revolutionary-era figures — both the prominent and the under-appreciated — from this tumultuous and crucial moment in our history.

Our editors also touch on the theory that the U.S. is heading for a civil war (spoiler: It’s not) and wrap up with a meaningful discussion of America’s enduring strengths. 

Celebrate this Fourth with fireworks, beer, games, and this very patriotic Editors episode.