Art

Restoring Notre Dame the Old Way

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The reconstruction site at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Paris, France, July 28, 2022 (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Reuters)

After so many stories suggesting that Notre Dame Cathedral will be modernized, while it is being rebuilt following the 2019 fire that transfixed the globe, this story comes as a great relief and consolation. The Guardian writes about the Guédelon project, a medieval castle that is being built according to medieval techniques of stone and woodcutting. Construction began at Guédelon in 1997 and it has trained many carpenters and other artisans in the exact techniques that can be used to rebuild Notre Dame as it was built in the first place:

“We have 25 years’ experience of cutting, squaring and hewing wood by hand,” he says. “It’s what we [have done] every day for 25 years. There are people outside of here who can do it now, but I tell you they all came here to learn how. If this place didn’t exist, perhaps the experts would have said: no it’s not possible to reproduce the roof of Notre Dame. We [have shown that] it is.

“This isn’t just nostalgia. If Notre Dame’s roof lasted 800 years, it is because of this. There’s no heart in sawmill wood,” he says.

Guédelon Castle receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Now, the people who have worked on it are being contracted by the various firms bidding to rebuild this priceless ornament of Christian civilization. It’s almost as if Providence is at work.

Culture

15 Things That Caught My Eye: The Discrimination against Christians in Egypt, ‘Reproductive Freedom’ in Michigan & More

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1. The Tablet: “Tragic Egypt Church Fire Spotlights Coptic Christians’ Struggle

CAIRO, Egypt — Cries of grief rose, and fingers of blame were pointed in the wake of a tragic fire that gutted Martyr Abu Sefein Coptic Church and claimed the lives of 41 people including 15 children and the church bishop, Abdul Masih Bakhit.

About 5,000 people were gathering on August 14 for Sunday Mass when the fire broke out at 8:30 a.m. inside the small four-story building in Imbaba, a working-class neighborhood five miles from Cairo.

Government officials said the deaths resulted from an ensuing stampede and smoke inhalation. Witnesses told The Tablet the first firefighters didn’t arrive for more than an hour-and-a-half after scores of trapped worshippers had already suffocated to death. As the fire spread to the upper floors, some screaming victims jumped out of windows.

Church officials said the blaze was caused by a short circuit in an air conditioner, but one news wire service reported that witnesses also pointed to a faulty generator. Neighborhood residents rushed to rescue the people inside the church as the emergency response was slow. The children died when they were trapped in a daycare room inside the church as the unchecked blaze engulfed the building, witnesses said.

“The firefighters came after the people died although they [were on] the next street [from] the church,” another witness said. “Even the bodies were laid in the street be- cause the ambulance was slow to arrive. Nobody cares about those poor souls.”

. . .

In a phone call with a local TV station, Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II said the Martyr Abu Sefein Church, like many others, is too small for the number of congregants it serves and urged that authorities allow the building of more churches.

“In Egypt, major disasters mostly afflict the poor. Egypt is a very racist country … Muslims are more secure than Copts, and men are more secure than women and children, while the most vulnerable among Egyptians are those poor Coptic women and children, which is what happened in this poor church,” Mohamed Abou El-Ghar, leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, wrote on his Facebook account on Aug. 15.

Abou El-Ghar criticized the discriminatory and bureaucratic obstacles that prevent building safe churches and called for more equality.

“The constitution clearly states that all Egyptians are equal, which means that Christians have the same rights as Muslims, and because Muslims build their mosques without problems, churches must also be built without problems,” El-Ghar said.

2. Al-Jazeera: “Egypt’s Copts want changes to law after deadly church fire

3. Mustafa Akyol: “Muslims, Too, Can Defend Salman Rushdie’s Freedom

4.  An Aid to the Church in Need: Interview with Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of the Latin Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine:

In the hospital I visited a couple who had lived together for 60 years, we prayed together, and afterwards the husband said it was the first prayer in his life, and it filled him with joy. Three days later I learned he had died. His wife told me that in all those years she had never seen him so happy. She was very grateful. The man was in disbelief all his life but three days before his death, he met God.

5. From Charlie Camosy: “‘Unimaginable cruelty and trauma’ — A survivor of forced sterilization speaks out

Continue reading “15 Things That Caught My Eye: The Discrimination against Christians in Egypt, ‘Reproductive Freedom’ in Michigan & More”

Politics & Policy

No, U.S. Pro-lifers Should Not Look to Canada’s Example

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Pro-life demonstrators hold a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 12, 2022. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade this summer, mainstream media outlets have published many articles analyzing sanctity-of-life issues. Unfortunately, more analysis had not always led to better analysis. Writing for the Daily Beast, Notre Dame professors Susan Osterman and Tamara Kay make an exceptionally poor and unconvincing argument that Canada should serve as an example for U.S. pro-lifers who seek to lower the abortion rate.

Indeed, Canada certainly seems like a very odd country for U.S. pro-lifers to emulate. A 1988 court ruling legalized abortion throughout Canada. In fact, Canada is one of seven countries where abortion is legal on demand for all nine months of pregnancy. Additionally, elective abortions in Canada are publicly funded. Furthermore, several Canadian provinces have laws in place prohibiting protesting or sidewalk counseling outside of abortion facilities.

In their article, Osterman and Kay acknowledge that aspects of Canada’s abortion policy are permissive. However, they argue that because of widespread access to contraception and universal health care in Canada, “Canada had a quarter fewer abortions per women than
in the U.S.”

Unfortunately, the data fail to support the authors’ analysis. The authors state that the U.S. abortion rate is 14.4 per thousand women of childbearing age, linking to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, that U.S. abortion rate figure comes from the year 2010. The most recent CDC data from 2019 indicate that the U.S, abortion rate was 11.4 abortions per thousand women of childbearing age — only marginally higher than Canada’s 2020 abortion rate of 10.1 abortions per thousand women of childbearing age.

Furthermore, other research shows that the U.S. and Canada have very similar abortion rates. This past March, Guttmacher and the World Health Organization released a study that calculated abortion rates in 150 countries. Their data indicate that between 2015 and 2019, the United States and Canada had identical abortion rates. In both countries, the abortion rate was 12 per every thousand women between the ages of 15 and 49. Multiple data sources show that Canada’s abortion rate is largely similar to that of the United States.

A comparison of abortion trends in both countries further weaken Osterman and Kay’s analysis. According to Guttmacher, the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by more than 47 percent since the early 1990s. During the same period, the abortion rate in Canada fell by only a paltry 7.7 percent. It is clear that the U.S. has enjoyed far more success than Canada in reducing the incidence of abortion. As I have often written, an important reason behind the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is that a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term. This nicely shows the effectiveness of pro-life educational, service, and legislative activities.

In their article Osterman and Kay praise the widespread availability of contraception in Canada. However, one reason why Canada has struggled to reduce its abortion rate is that the Canadian rate of unintended pregnancy is increasing. According to Guttmacher, it has increased by more than 19 percent since the early 1990s. Pro-lifers receive a considerable amount of criticism for not being more supportive of contraceptive programs. However, a good body of research shows that efforts to promote contraceptive use are either ineffective at best or counterproductive at worst.

In their conclusion, Osterman and Kay claim pro-choicers will “shift support to a pragmatic strategy that preserves freedom and lowers abortion rates.” However, the data clearly show that the U.S. has enjoyed far more success than Canada in reducing the incidence of abortion. Furthermore, incremental pro-life laws — along with other pro-life efforts — have played a key role in the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate. Furthermore, the reversal of Roe v. Wade opens up some exciting possibilities to do even more to legally protect the preborn. As of mid-September, approximately 16 states will have laws in place protecting preborn children. As always, pro-lifers would do well to stay the course.

Woke Culture

Taking Back Our Institutions

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(Steve Nesius/Reuters)

I have a long investigative piece out today all about Major League Baseball’s (MLB) unseemly support for groups that promote or directly provide sex-change drugs and surgeries for minors. If you’re looking for a Sparknotes-length version, I wrote a long-ish Twitter thread on the highlights (or lowlights) from the piece:

And here’s the full team-by-team breakdown:

I spoke with Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, to get his thoughts on the topic. In the interest of length, we only included a few relatively short quotes from him in this morning’s piece, but I wanted to share a few other insights he provided, as I think they’re valuable.

Roberts rightly noted that MLB’s embrace of far-left transgender groups is “a classic case of institutional capture by the Left,” telling me that the power of left-wing activist groups “has become ascendant in American institutional life, such that the most conservative and traditional of our sports leagues, with the most conservative fan base, is on the brink of going woke.” So how should conservatives respond?

There have been a variety of debates on the Right about the role of government and public policy in confronting the cultural power of the Left. Conservatives of various ideological stripes can disagree in good faith about the extent to which the Right should be using government to wrest control of our institutions away from the Left. But one thing that we should all be looking to harness is the power of organized voluntary action. On that front, Roberts’s suggestion surrounding public-pressure campaigns and fan boycotts seems like a good place to start. The first step, as I wrote in the piece, is “forcing a public reckoning for the MLB’s support for hard-left groups.” 

As Roberts noted, “The fan base is obviously our biggest ally” in this endeavor — MLB fans tend to be more conservative than NBA or NFL fans, and MLB’s center of gravity traditionally sits in red America. “If we can do a really good job of highlighting this, I actually think the fan base will turn on Major League Baseball,” Roberts said. From there, “We need to find the one or two or three worst offenders among the baseball teams, and we need to say on this night, we’re not buying tickets. We’re not going to this game. . . . The reason that they have these Pride Nights is because the Major League Baseball ownership and managers perceive that it helps in the market. We’ve got to send a market signal, so to speak, that shows that it doesn’t.”

That requires commitment at the grassroots level, but also a coordinated effort by elite conservative institutions to put together a viable movement. “We just need to orchestrate it,” Roberts told me. “We have to do this. It’s just really about saving American culture.”

World

The West Won the Cold War… Right?

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President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1985 summit in Geneva, Switzerland (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

A stray thought that didn’t quite fit in today’s Morning Jolt section about the death of Mikhail Gorbachev is the seemingly blasphemous question of whether the United States, NATO, and the West really won the Cold War.

At first glance, that seems like a ridiculous question. The Soviet Union dissolved, and the Eastern European countries that were de facto servant states to Russia declared their independence. Across eastern Europe, a whole generation enjoyed free elections, more freedom of speech and more civil liberties than their parents ever imagined. The U.S. strode across the globe as the world’s sole remaining superpower. Even on America’s bad days, we still have the world’s largest economy, an extensive network of allies, gobs of diplomatic influence and soft power, the ability to project military forces into any corner of the globe quickly, top-of-the-line innovation and technology, an education system that remains the envy of the world, and roughly 150 million people around the globe who dream of living here, some of whom willing to swim through shark-infested waters for the opportunity. By just about every measure, the U.S. – along with our allies – look like the undisputed reigning heavyweight geopolitical champions of the world.

And yet… Putin-era Russia doesn’t look all that different from the bad old days of the Soviet Union, particularly this year.

The Russian army invaded neighboring territories – not just Ukraine today but Georgia and Crimea in the not-so-distant past. The Russian military operates with horrifying brutality and the deliberate targeting of civilians. In recent years, Russian military forces and like-minded mercenary forces deployed to Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic. Putin wants the de facto restoration of the Soviet Union’s borders through “spheres of influence,” where eastern European countries bordering Russia would be left technically independent but not really capable of defying Moscow.

Just about all dissent in modern Russia is gone; pro-state propaganda dominates all forms of media. If Russians aren’t happy with Vladimir Putin’s vision for the country, they’re awfully quiet about their objections. The American brands like McDonalds and Starbucks in Moscow disappeared after the invasion. Russia is no longer interested in engaging with the West if that engagement requires them to abandon their dreams of an expansionist empire.

As much as the U.S. and its allies tried to isolate Russia, there are signs that ties to China, Iran, and other countries will mitigate the economic effects of sanctions.

Sure, Putin doesn’t think of himself as Communist, but he still endorses complete government control of whatever the state wants or needs in the economic realm. The oligarchs know the price of their luxurious lifestyle is a privilege that flows from their relationship with the president, and maintaining it depends upon their continued loyalty and obedience to him.

The KGB is now the FSB, the hammer and sickle is replaced with the white, blue and red flag or the “Z” symbol, and the old propaganda rag Pravda is less important than RT television. Putin’s Russia has a different style than the Cold War-era Soviet Union, but it remains the same in most of the ways that matter most: totalitarian, brutal, aggressive, expansionist, habitually deceitful, paranoid, devious, and controlled by men whose blood is almost as cold as the country’s winters.

You see a lot of references to a “new Cold War” or “Cold War 2.0” among foreign-policy thinkers. That suggests the Cold War wasn’t truly “won” or resolved but merely went on hiatus for a generation or so.

In light of all that… did we really win the Cold War? Or did we just win the first round?

Politics & Policy

While We’re Impeaching People . . .

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Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)

Charlie calls for the impeachment of President Biden over his unconstitutional student-loan plans, much the same as President Trump should have been impeached over his illegal border-wall funding and over January 6, and President Obama should have been impeached over his unconstitutional DACA order.

Reclaiming the impeachment power would be valuable, as it has been effectively erased by congressional impotence. Ours is a system of checks and balances, and Congress has effectively given up one of its checks on the executive branch by refusing to impeach and convict officials who violate their oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

One other such official is Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who is the one set to execute the illegal student-loan action. It was his office of general counsel that produced the specious bit of legal “reasoning” to justify this action, and it will be he who unilaterally adds about $1 trillion to the deficit without congressional approval.

Cardona would join William Belknap, secretary of war under President Grant, as the only other Cabinet secretary to be impeached. Belknap’s was a fairly straightforward case of corruption, and he resigned in 1876. The House learned that he had resigned and still made it a point to impeach him anyway. The Senate went ahead with a trial and a vote to convict, even though he was already out of office. The vote failed because a sufficient number of senators believed they did not have the power to convict an official who had already left office, but they all agreed he was guilty. It would be nice to see that level of vigor in the legislative branch again.

And then when the impeachment proceedings against Cardona are complete, abolish the Department of Education, which is unconstitutional and unnecessary, and may even be harmful to education in the United States.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: ESG

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Andrew Stuttaford writes about the creatures in the ESG ecosystem:

It is, in other words, yet another creature that flourishes in the ecosystem that ESG has created, staffed by a team who have an interest, naturally enough, in seeing that the demand for their services increases. Its members manage $51 trillion in assets, money that, in many cases, will not be theirs, but will belong to their clients. One wonders what those clients or — where the clients are themselves institutional asset managers — the clients of those clients think of the stance being taken by those to whom they have entrusted their funds, most of whom will have been hired to maximize risk-adjusted financial return. Playing political games with climate policy will do little or nothing to enhance that return and may even reduce it. It won’t do much for the climate either, but that’s a topic for another day.

Read the whole thing here.

Politics & Policy

Do They Hear Themselves?

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Writing in the New York Times, Mary Ziegler frets that abortion restrictions will end up “pitting the interests of fetuses and women against each other.”

If one concedes, as Ziegler here does, that the unborn have interests, then it is abortion that must pit the interests of the unborn against their mothers in the most fundamental and intolerable way.

If our pro-abortion friends are now conceding that the unborn have interests, they are halfway home in spite of themselves.

Education

Teacher Training in the U.S. Is Poor, but Could Be Improved

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To be allowed to teach (in most states), an individual must go through an education-school program where he or she supposedly learns at least the basic elements of pedagogy. Unfortunately, education schools were long ago captured by “progressives” who use them to impart dubious educational theories and toxic philosophies.

In today’s Martin Center article, Sandra Stotsky argues that it needn’t be that way. One major problem she identifies is that education schools attract weak students:

One reason for ineffective professional development is the quality of our teaching force itself. As Jonathan Wai has reported, education majors consistently had the lowest academic aptitude on five independent tests from 1946 to 2014. He concluded, “These data show that U.S. students who choose to major in education, essentially the bulk of people who become teachers, have for at least the last seven decades been selected from students at the lower end of the academic aptitude pool.”

Federal funding to improve education schools has proven to be a failure, Stotsky reports.

What should be done?

Stotsky has a number of recommendations, such as: “States should require prospective teachers of grades five and higher to earn either a master of arts in teaching (MAT) degree in the subject they plan to teach, which typically includes real graduate work in that subject as well as an apprenticeship in the schools, or a master of science (MS) or master of arts (MA) degree in the subject (a common requirement for secondary-school teachers in Europe), followed by an apprenticeship in the schools.”

A great idea — make prospective teachers have command of a body of academic knowledge. Currently, many are weak on content, but have their heads full of approved ideology. That’s not good.

World

John Bolton and a Dangerous World

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John Bolton, then national security adviser to President Trump, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 27, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

In recent weeks, John Bolton has been the target of a murder plot by the Iranian regime. Naturally, we talk about this in the podcast we recorded on Tuesday morning: Go here. Bolton has displayed sangfroid in the face of this plot. Still, the whole thing is horrifying, certainly to me.

As it happens, I know two people who have been targeted for murder by the Iranian regime. The other is Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American journalist and activist. A podcast with her is coming up shortly.

In Tuesday morning’s podcast, Bolton and I talk about Iran’s nuclear program and what to do about it. He is strongly opposed to reentry into the “deal.” He favors a policy of regime change. This is not to say that the United States would commit troops; it is to say that the U.S. would bolster opposition within Iran.

He makes an elementary point about Iran, and one that bears emphasizing, and reemphasizing: Iran under the Khomeinists is not only a state sponsor of terrorism; this Iran is a terror-state.

We also discuss Ukraine: the courage and determination of the Ukrainians; the support of the United States (indispensable); the relative weakness — perhaps surprising — of the Russian military.

Bolton says that Putin may try to “grab the political and diplomatic initiative” and declare a ceasefire — with the ceasefire line the new border between Russia and Ukraine. Europe might go for this, as wintertime is coming, and Europeans will be wanting that Russian gas.

If the United States allows this, says Bolton — if Russia is able to seize Ukrainian territory a second time by force — the negative effects will be many and widespread.

He talks about NATO, and its importance: the difference it makes in Europe and to the security of the United States. Russia has never crossed a NATO border. The Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine concentrated Swedish and Finnish minds, to put it mildly.

How about the American Right? Will it stick with NATO? Will our Right support Ukraine, in its fight to stay alive against the expansionist dictatorship next door? These are other topics of our conversation.

Taiwan, too, is on our agenda. Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan did not create tension with China, says Bolton; it revealed the existing tension. Thus, it was a “teaching moment,” says Bolton — a teaching moment for the American people. We need a big national debate on China and Taiwan, he says. In Bolton’s view, it is now time to ditch a policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Americans should be apprised of the threat posed by China and of the relation between Taiwan’s independence and our security.

Staying in the Far East, we discuss the Koreas. The U.S. is currently engaged in military exercises with our South Korean ally. President Trump canceled these, calling them “war games,” as Bolton says. Trump thought they were needlessly provocative of the North Koreans. Bolton points out that North Korea never stopped its own “war games.” He explains, in some detail, why joint exercises between our forces and South Korea’s are important, for the sake of deterrence and peace.

John Bolton is a lawyer, as well as a diplomat and national-security analyst. He worked in the Justice Department. And he has had a career of handling classified documents. In our podcast, we talk about the recent FBI search at Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach.

The former president spent 18 months refusing to turn over the documents in question to the National Archives, says Bolton. And these are not Trump’s personal documents, but rather the property of the U.S. government. And some of the documents are very highly classified.

“What we need to do is let the legal process play out,” says Bolton. Some Democrats say Trump should be prosecuted immediately. But they don’t have nearly enough information to go on, says Bolton.

He continues, “My advice to everybody is, calm down and let our system of due process work here.”

On television, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, said that, if Trump is prosecuted, “there will be riots in the street.” According to Bolton, Graham should have gone on to say, “And I would condemn that violence, and I urge everyone who’s upset about this search to stay calm and stay within the parameters of our legal system.”

Bolton adds the following: “If you don’t like an outcome in our legal system and you decide that violence is the answer, you’re overthrowing the Constitution. You get due process in the United States. You’re not guaranteed a win.”

We end our podcast as we began it: with Iran, and with the murder plot against John. I recall Barbara Bush: “I believe in God and the Secret Service, in that order.” She said she thought the Secret Service was the best agency in the U.S. government. Bolton has Secret Service protection now, as he did when he was in the White House. “If you’re not safe with the Secret Service,” he says, “there isn’t any safety.”

He immediately pivots to what he regards as the larger issue: “The important thing here, however, is to make sure the regime in Iran doesn’t think that this kind of approach” — murdering former or present officials, murdering U.S. citizens on American soil — “can succeed with the United States.”

As always, John Bolton is very interesting, very well-informed, and very frank. Again, for our podcast, our Q&A, go here.

Politics & Policy

Poll: Youngkin Job-Approval Rating Hits 55 Percent

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Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election-night party in Chantilly, Va., November 3, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

A new poll by Roanoke College shows GOP governor Glenn Youngkin’s job-approval rating ticking up to 55 percent in Virginia, while President Biden’s job-approval rating is at a dismal 39 percent in a state he carried 54 percent to 44 percent in the 2020 presidential election.

The Roanoke poll finds that most voters in the state disapprove of overturning Roe v. Wade, but the decision hasn’t hurt the pro-life governor’s standing. Youngkin said he’d push for a 15-week limit on abortion in the state, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother. But he has also said he’d sign an earlier limit on abortion if it made it through the state legislature. “Any bill that comes to my desk I will sign happily and gleefully in order to protect life,” Youngkin said on June 28. Republicans control the House of Delegates, but Virginia Democrats have a narrow 21–19 majority in the state senate. One moderate Democratic state senator has expressed support for at least a 20-week limit on abortion, and the AP reported in February that Democrat “indicated a willingness to join with Republicans in a long-shot procedural move to try to bring it to a floor vote.” GOP lieutenant governor Winsome Sears would cast any tie-breaking vote in the upper chamber.

Science & Tech

The Self-Driving Car Will Change More Than You Think

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In response to Self-Driving Cars? Pass

Luther argues against self-driving cars as a symptom of safety-ism that is not, as of yet, quite that safe; Rich argues against fearing the transformative future; Kevin argues that we are not going to be given a choice in the matter, and that self-driving cars will be imposed as yet another form of social control.

Self-driving cars are indeed worth viewing with skepticism during the transitional period when they are not fully or reliably self-driving and are sharing the road with human drivers. My own argument about the long-term future is that we have not yet fully understood the transformative potential of a world made entirely of self-driving cars, either Rich’s futurism or Kevin’s justified paranoia. I wrote a long piece in 2014 walking through 17 ways that society would change if we switched to driverless cars, and there is plenty to love, and plenty to fear: changes to car design, insurance, accidental deaths, military preparedness, disaster readiness, privacy, policing, radio programming, the drinking age, the job landscape for non-college men, the mobility of the disabled, and economic inequality.

Sports

Aaron Judge Could Become the Yankees’ Home-Run King, but Records Still Matter

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New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) watches hits his 50th home run of the season against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., August 29, 2022. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

In response to If Aaron Judge Gets to 62, He Should Be Considered the True Home-Run King

Records are more important to baseball than to any other sport, for a variety of reasons that include the game’s stability and tradition and the fact that batting records in particular reflect batter vs. pitcher competition. The game has maintained something resembling consistent rules and enough offense/defense balance continuously since the 19th century to make fans feel as if it is a reasonable argument, as it would not be in football or basketball, to compare today’s records with those of the 1950s or 1920s. The importance and comparability of records is why we argue about the game’s most impressive records, why it is controversial but important to count the records of the Negro Leagues during the period that the game was segregated, and why Ichiro Suzuki isn’t American baseball’s hit king, but something comparable.

Hardly any record is more prestigious than the single-season home-run record. Yankees fans are understandably protective of the Yankees’ hold on the record, which was broken by Babe Ruth in 1919 (with the Red Sox, with 29 home runs in a 138 game schedule), 1920 (with 54 in a 154 game schedule), 1921 (with 59), and 1927 (with 60), and by Roger Maris in 1961 (with 61 in a 162 game schedule). Ruth, for his part, averaged 54 homers per 162 games for a 12-year period from 1920 through 1931, in which he also hit .357. Aaron Judge is now threatening to break the team records of Maris for a full season and maybe Ruth for a 154 games, and that is a thing worth celebrating.

Phil has a fair argument that all the over-61 homer seasons should be regarded with a very large grain of salt. Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999, averaging 63 homers per 162 games for a 7 year stretch from 1995–2001), Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999, 64 in 2001, averaging 62 homers per 162 games for a 4 year stretch from 1998–2001), and Barry Bonds (73 in 2001, averaging 61 homers per 162 games for a four-year stretch from 2000–03) all used steroids.

For my part, while it’s totally fair to brand McGwire, Bonds, and Sosa as especially egregious cheaters, the reality is that baseball has always been a game in which people cheated and got away with it, so we shouldn’t really go down the rabbit hole of weighing which kinds of cheating matter more, and we wouldn’t if Bonds hadn’t gained such a huge advantage from steroids. It’s not as if Ruth, who almost certainly corked his bat, was a stickler for the rules. If Judge beats Maris and Ruth, he becomes the Yankees home run-king, and he can claim some bragging rights for doing it cleaner — and in a much lower-scoring environment — than the muscleheads of the late ’90s and early aughts. But the record is still the record.

Politics & Policy

Abortion Cowardice Just Makes Blake Masters a Normal Politician

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Blake Masters at a “Unite & Win Rally” at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., August 14, 2022. (Gage Skidmore)

In response to Blake Masters Is Still the Pro-Life Choice

Kevin argues that Blake Masters has disqualified himself because he’s a coward and flip-flopper on abortion; he cites Donald Trump as an example of a Republican politician with a late-in-life conversion on abortion of dubious sincerity, although Trump (for all his other flaws) ended up being an unyielding friend of the pro-life movement in office. Michael argues that Masters is still more pro-life than his Democratic opponent — by a mile — and cites Mitt Romney and George W. Bush as examples of Republican politicians with late-in-life conversions on abortion of dubious sincerity. In Romney’s case, he claimed two conversions, one in the early 1970s from pro-life to pro-choice, the other in the late 2000s in the other direction. As I noted during the 2012 primaries, “his explanation of how he became a pro-lifer over the stem cell issue (oddly, an issue on which many pro-life Mormons are not on the pro-life side) is less personal and less convincing than his prior narrative of how a family experience led him to be pro-choice. The dual conversion narrative leaves both positions sounding hollow and insincere: St. Paul only went to Damascus the one time.”

Of course, both Kevin and Michael are right. Kevin is right that Masters is a calculating politician, rather than the brave BUT HE FIGHTS warrior he claimed to be in the primary; Michael is right that your typical establishment Republican is also a calculating politician, and yet, that nearly any Republican is better on life than just about every Democrat. And all of us were right that Republicans across the country needed to be thinking through long in advance how to respond if the Dobbs case resulted in the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which was entirely foreseeable in 2021, but which few Republicans (Masters included) seem to have planned for.

Masters has not disqualified himself from your general-election vote by his current stance on abortion, or by his visible retreat from his previous rhetoric on the issue. But he has disqualified the credibility of a lot of people who claimed that Masters was somehow a braver man than Mark Brnovich, who withstood far-more-difficult tests from both parties without buckling. It turns out that Masters is not so different from ordinary Republican politicians, after all.

Elections

Blake Masters Is Still the Pro-Life Choice

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Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks during former President Donald Trump’s rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Ariz., July 22, 2022. (Rebecca Noble/Reuters)

It seems fair for pro-lifers to worry when politicians seem to be moving in the wrong direction.

Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona ran in the Republican primary as a no-compromise pro-lifer. His website used to say he was 100 percent pro-life, and supported a personhood amendment. That verbiage has disappeared, and now he has put out an ad saying he favors a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

For this, Kevin Williamson declares him unsupportable. That’s understandable. It’s better to have consistency in the right direction.

Was this position applied back when George W. Bush was campaigning for the presidency and responded to specific questions about a pro-life constitutional amendment by saying, “The Republican Party should maintain its pro-life tenor“? (Seemed like cowardice to me.) Or saying that he wouldn’t commit to a pro-life running mate? Mitt Romney had once campaigned for a Senate seat by preposterously claiming he was more pro-choice than Ted Kennedy. Was he deemed unsupportable in 2012 because of his flip-flopping on the issue? I only remember that he wasn’t supported enough to win.

The primaries are over. One Senate candidate in Arizona supports the Dobbs decision and supports federal restrictions on abortion that a majority of Americans support. The alternative does neither. It’s good to punish cowardice, but I also really would like to see Republicans control the Senate next year.

World

About Gorbachev

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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during an interview in 1999 (Alexander Natruskin/Reuters)

Mikhail Gorbachev is a world-historic figure, and I cannot do justice to him in a brief post. But I have recalled a couple of interviews — one I did with Condoleezza Rice in 1999, and one I did with Lech Walesa in 2010.

Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union — the one who presided over its dissolution — died today at 91.

Maybe I could excerpt my piece on Rice, in 1999:

Conservatives, Rice maintains, “underestimate Gorbachev’s role” in the conclusion of the Cold War: “The Soviet Union might have been weak internally, but when people say, ‘Well, he had no options’ — oh, he had options! He had 390,000 troops in Germany. He could have provoked a tremendous crisis over the Berlin Wall.” Gorbachev did take repressive steps in the Baltics, but, “for some reason, he always pulled up short of using maximum force, and we should all be very grateful for that.”

Have a little more, because it furnishes food for thought:

Conservatives, Rice summarizes, underestimate the importance of Gorbachev; liberals underestimate the importance of Reagan; and “they all underestimate the importance of George Bush,” her old boss. Is this Rice the analyst talking or Rice the loyal staffer and friend? “Well, ask yourself,” she replies: “Was it inevitable that Germany unified on completely Western terms, within NATO; that Soviet troops went home, with dignity and without incident; that American troops stayed; that all of Eastern Europe was liberated and joined the Western bloc? No, it was not inevitable — and that leaves a lot of room for statecraft.”

I believe that is right.

In 2010, I asked Walesa about the Nobel Peace Prize that went to Gorbachev in 1990. (Walesa had won the prize in 1983.) Remember, he is an electrician and union leader — in addition to a statesman — and his language can be direct and earthy. Said Walesa, “Gorbachev had the instruments of rape, and he did not use them.” In other words, Gorbachev had the brute power to suppress rebellion, as his predecessors had done, but he refrained from using it.

(The exception to this is the bloodshed in Lithuania, which took place in January 1991, a month after Gorbachev received his peace prize. Soviet troops killed 14 people and injured about 140.)

Continued Walesa, “Every male has the instrument of rape. Should we all be awarded Nobel prizes for not raping?” A good question, and a cheeky one. Still, this “not raping” was extremely important.

PHOTOS: Mikhail Gorbachev

The Soviets killed in Berlin in 1953. They killed in Budapest in 1956. They killed in Prague in 1968. Mikhail Gorbachev refused to follow suit. He had almost 400,000 troops in Germany, as Rice said. They did not stir. They were not ordered to stir.

Gorbachev, like Pharaoh (for a while), “let the people go.” In the process, he “lost” the Soviet Union. Many Russians, and others, hate him for this. Vladimir Putin is one of them. I say, we — we the world — were damn lucky.

World

R.I.P. Gorby, the Man Who Watched Others Tear Down the Iron Curtain

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Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (left) and Swedish Ambassador Sven Hirdman listen to former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev (right) during a reception in the Swedish embassy, December 10, 1998. (Reuters)

Mikhail Gorbachev was born in 1931 and was old enough to remember the suffering of his family during World War II and the great Stalinist purges, in which one of his grandfathers was tortured and another executed. Many obituarists will focus on his tentative reforms of the Soviet Union, and rightly so. He allowed more political freedom in elections, though less than any of us would recognize as legitimate. He reestablished relations with the Vatican, eased up on official state atheism, and conducted successful arms treaties with the United States. He broke the taboos on talking openly about Russian history and the quality of life in the Soviet Union.

But all this was not enough to save Russia from the collapse.

In this space, it is important to state clearly that Gorbachev’s dull optimism and his dull passivity was turned into the end of the Soviet Union by more nimble statesmen like Hungary’s prime minister Miklós Németh, and German chancellor Helmut Kohl, with big assists from forward-seeing activists like Poland’s Lech Walesa and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Németh first and Kohl later would present one fait accompli after another to the cautiously optimistic Americans (Bush and Secretary of State James Baker) and the dithering and overwhelmed Gorbachev. The statesmen and political movements of Central and Eastern Europe wanted to get into Western political structures like NATO and the European Community faster than the White House or Brussels wanted to accept them. Some obituarists will claim that Gorbachev tore down the Iron Curtain. No. The end of the Soviet Union and reunification of Germany as a full NATO member was a stampede through a door that Gorbachev was unwilling to bolt shut again. But his optimism and passivity in the face of fast-moving events prevented these days from becoming the bloodbath that history would lead us to expect during a European security realignment. With the exception of Lithuania, most Soviet member states were allowed to escape peacefully. This was a miracle, and Gorbachev can be thanked inasmuch as his awareness of his and Russia’s then limitations allowed the Cold War to end without going hot again.

But Gorbachev’s weakness also set the stage for our impasse today — a Russia that is too much a gangster state to be within a European security structure, and too large a menace to be peacefully left just outside of it. Gorbachev utterly failed to get enforceable promises that NATO would begin to stand down as the Warsaw Pact fell apart. In trying to hold what was left together, Gorbachev presented an opportunity for Boris Yeltsin and the new Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk to bury what was left of Gorbachev’s authority, and set the stage for the longer-term estrangement of Kyiv from Moscow.

Gorbachev was a truly overwhelmed leader. That turned to the advantage of Eastern Europe, but it was a disaster for Russia.  He was a man whose own appointed men plotted a coup against him, and he left the Soviet Union not only broke, but the Russian Federation utterly prostrate. His successors were a drunkard chancer who turned the country over to criminals and vultures, and then a hardened KGB man who saw all these events as calamities. We reaped the good fruits of Gorbachev’s reign decades ago. Now we are also tasting some of the rotten ones. May God have mercy on him and us all.

PHOTOS: Mikhail Gorbachev

Science & Tech

Yes, but Am I Paranoid Enough?

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In response to Self-Driving Cars? Pass

Luther Abel says “no” to self-driving cars; Rich Lowry says “yes.”

Kevin Williamson says these two guys are both positively Panglossian optimists if they think the social engineers of the future are going to give them a choice about it.

Wait until you tell your car to take you to someplace the Man thinks you shouldn’t be going, and it replies, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Energy & Environment

An Unsustainable Energy-Price Surge

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(Eric Thayer/Reuters)

There are anecdotal reports of energy bills going up five- or sixfold in the U.K. and Ireland.

From the U.K.:

From Ireland:

If these giant increases are at all general or continue to rise as the weather changes in even a handful of European countries, we are going to see governments fall like dominoes throughout the winter.

We may have to come to grips that Antony Blinken isn’t quite ready to match up to Vladimir Putin in a high-stakes geopolitical contest. So far, Russia’s energy war is beating the U.S.-dollar war:

From the WSJ:

Russia pumps almost as much oil into the global market as it did before its invasion of Ukraine. With oil prices up, Moscow is also making more money.

Demand from some of the world’s largest economies has given Russian President Vladimir Putin the upper hand in the energy battle that shadows the war in Ukraine, and has confounded the West’s bid to cripple Russia’s economy with sanctions.

Sports

62*

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In response to If Aaron Judge Gets to 62, He Should Be Considered the True Home-Run King

Phil, I’m totally with you on Judge and 62. I didn’t realize until I wrote about this a little while ago, by the way, that Maris actually got to 60 with fewer plate appearances than Ruth.

* It’d be the real record. 

U.S.

Passive Travel? Yes, Please

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Traffic on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2011. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

In response to Self-Driving Cars? Pass

Luther writes:

“Driving is independence, and the idea of mandated deference to a machine mind is repugnant. I’ll decide how I wish to take a corner, how quickly to accelerate, and my route to the cottage up north — slowing down to take in the creeks and sights at leisure. If I wanted to travel passively, I’d take a bus or a train.”

Luther, my friend, you must not have experienced the mind-numbing nature of most Americans’ commute:

When I lived in Manhattan, I had a 30- to 35-minute subway ride into NRHQ from our apartment in South Harlem. Now, I didn’t major in math or anything, but if you multiply 30 minutes x 2 commute legs per day x 5 days per week, you get 5 hours per week. I spent that time reading books — actual works of literature — not scrolling Twitter or checking email, mostly because you can’t get service down in the subway.

That five hours per week allowed me to read a book every week or two (depending on the book). Just from my commute! These days, in Tulsa, Okla., even though I work from home, I still have to drop the boys off at school. Round trip in rush-hour traffic? About an hour. Sometimes I do this twice in one day (don’t tell Rich and Ramesh). That’s more than five hours per week (and usually more like six or seven) that I’m not doing anything remotely productive.

Give me that passive travel, Luther — and a good book.

When I worked in the West Texas oil fields after college, we’d work 14 straight days (or nights). I’d often get off the hitch at 6 p.m., jump in the Jeep and head northeast like a bat out of hell — in the pitch dark. It’s a six-hour drive back to Norman, Okla., from the Permian, mostly down windy country roads with sketchy signage and nonexistent centerlines. It’d have been better for everyone involved if I had been sleeping rather than slamming Red Bulls and pinning my eyes back to stay awake.

Sign me up for passive travel, Luther — and a necessary nap.

When I was at The Basic School at Quantico, muster time for field exercises could be set as early as 0300. Tara and I lived down I-95 in Fredericksburg, Va. For a 0300 muster time, my alarm would go off at 0145. I’d chug my coffee and drive bleary-eyed up the interstate, cursing my fate the whole way.

Sign me up for passive travel, Luther, my friend — and an extra 30 minutes of shut-eye.

The days of self-driving cars are coming. And I, for one, am just fine with that.

I love to drive — in the mountains, or on my way to the lake, or up the Pacific Coast Highway on a motorcycle. But my daily commute? Just tell me where the autopilot button is.

World

Mikhail Gorbachev Enters History

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Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, August 23, 1991. (Alexander Natruskin / Reuters)

The death of Mikhail Gorbachev is a reminder of the contingency and moral complexity of history, and yet, of the need for moral clarity. Gorbachev was a tyrant, raised to power in a tyrannical system, ruling over millions who wanted no part of his rule and were given no say in the matter.

His empire covered nearly half the world, from Berlin to Vladivostok. He sought to reform that tyranny, in order to make it more powerful and effective. Had he been dealt the hand that history dealt Leonid Brezhnev, he may well have made the same decisions. His handling of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was far from admirable. And yet: Gorbachev made his country politically and economically freer, and he was willing to make peace with the United States on terms that were realistic about his position of weakness, rather than spiraling down the rabbit hole of belligerent denial that has characterized so many tyrants.

In the end, he went out of power relatively peaceably, presiding over the least bloody collapse of a tryannical empire in world history. He lived to a ripe old age in a world made vastly better without that empire.

PHOTOS: Mikhail Gorbachev

In his day, he was hailed as the true hero of the end of the Cold War. Time magazine made him “Man of the Decade” for the 1980s, one of the most embarrassing of the media’s “Gorbasms.” We have enough distance now that it is safer to grudgingly acknowledge that his adversaries had much more to do with how things ended: Ronald Reagan most of all, but with the help of Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Helmut Kohl, George H. W. Bush, and others.

But we should not be grudging ourselves. The most important fact of all is that, on the biggest questions of his career, Gorbachev chose the paths of less conflict, less bloodshed, and more liberation. These were decisions of statecraft that required prudence, courage, unblinking realism, and even a certain amount of humility. For that, history should remember him fondly, not as a victor but as a man who accepted defeat with grace. R.I.P.

Science & Tech

A Pass on Self-Driving Cars?

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In response to Self-Driving Cars? Pass

Luther, I’m sorry but I don’t believe you! If self-driving cars become so good that they are widely accepted (and I think it’s going to happen), I bet you are going to end up availing yourself of an utterly transformative boon to human convenience, productivity, and — yes — safety.

There were things that people romanticized about traveling by horse, steamboat, and train as well, but at the end of day almost everyone took up automobiles, and the same is going to be true of the next great advance in the technology of travel.

Elections

Only One Side Should Want to Make Everything about Trump, and It’s Not Republicans

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I wrote the other day how Trump getting raided by the FBI is a very bad reason to support him for the GOP nomination in 2024. 

Ben Shapiro put basically the same point more pungently in this excellent thread yesterday:

Elections

Here Comes Herschel

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Despite everything, I kind of think Herschel is going to win in Georgia.

Here’s an encouraging new poll that has him slightly ahead.

Politics & Policy

Biden Is Having It Both Ways on the Pandemic

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President Joe Biden speaks about his administrations’ plans to forgive federal student loan debt during remarks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 24, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Biden administration seems to be mighty confused about the status of Covid-19. Just months ago, we were “out of the pandemic phase.” Suddenly, the public-health emergency is back on in full force. 

Or, perhaps, the pandemic is being switched on and off, on paper anyway, on the basis of political expediency. Stranger things have happened. 

As is now well-documented, President Biden premised last week’s student-debt “cancellation” on the shaky legal rationale that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROS) Act of 2003 (a post-9/11 measure initially intended for those impacted by “war or other military operation”) affords the executive branch “sweeping authority” to reduce or eliminate student debt during times of “national emergency.” Conveniently, an Education Department memo determined that the “present” pandemic fits this description.

Yet when Biden tried to rescind the pandemic-era policy allowing for illegal border crossers to be expelled under what’s known as Title 42 in April, the CDC downplayed any lingering public-health concerns in the move. 

And last year, when the administration tried to extend the eviction moratorium, it exploited the CDC’s statutory authority, § 361 of the Public Health Service Act, once again emphasizing how the outbreak necessitated unprecedented measures. Yet a month earlier, in a July 4 speech, Biden had declared mission accomplished in beating the pandemic.

What gives? The coronavirus is not Schrödinger’s cat, simultaneously dead and alive. And if the pandemic remains an ongoing calamity, does that mean Biden has failed to deliver on his chief campaign promise? The president either has to accept defeat or admit that he has been acting outside the law to achieve his political aims.

Which is it?

The Economy

Mixed Signals: Best Buy, Consumer Confidence, and Jobs

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People walk past a Best Buy store in New York, N.Y., November 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Best Buy’s second-quarter numbers reinforce the story that it had previously signaled and that many retailers have been telling: Consumers are tightening their belts.

Although the numbers were a little better than expected, that was only of limited comfort (fundamentally speaking: the stock is up as I write).

From the Wall Street Journal:

Comparable sales, those from stores and digital channels operating for at least 12 months, fell 12.1% in the quarter ended July 30 compared with the same period last year. Sales declined in almost all product categories, with the biggest drops in computing and home theater, the company said.

One twist: Many retailers have been hit by excess inventories. They “overbought” because of fears of supply-chain disruptions and then were hit when consumer demand was weaker than expected. This was not a problem for Best Buy, but its CEO indicated that the company has to face the reality of a marketplace where its competitors are having to shift their excess inventories.

Best Buy faces a glut of discounted inventory from competitors, though its own inventory levels are healthy, Chief Executive Corie Barry said on a conference call Tuesday. Spending on consumer electronics is likely to normalize later in the year, she said, “but I hedge that just because there is so much inventory that’s in the marketplace right now,” and the consumer environment is uneven.

By definition, quarterly numbers are backwards looking, but the company does not expect things to change much in the third quarter.

The retailer, which was one of several major chains to warn over the summer of a pullback by consumers, said Tuesday that comparable sales and operating profits would drop at similar rates in the fall quarter.

Part of the weakness in consumer demand can be attributed to people’s spending on experiences (travel and so on, after a couple of years under Covid house arrest), rather than on discretionary purchases, but that that doesn’t account for all these shortfalls. There’s little doubt that many consumers are hurting.

Then again (via Reuters):

U.S. consumer confidence rebounded more than expected in August after three straight monthly declines, with vacation intentions rising to an eight-month high, a potential positive signal for consumer spending.

The Conference Board said on Tuesday its consumer confidence index rose to 103.2 this month from 95.3 in July. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index climbing to 97.7.

The survey’s present situation index, based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, climbed to 145.4 from 139.7 in July. Its expectations index, based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions, increased to 75.1 from 65.6 last month.

Surveys should always (IMO) be taken with a pinch or two of salt, but some have suggested that falling gas prices might help explain consumers’ greater cheer. That’s plausible enough, and the political implications of that might be worth noting. The Conference Board’s Lynn Franco is not, however, ready to pop the champagne:

“August’s improvement in confidence may help support spending, but inflation and additional rate hikes still pose risks to economic growth in the short term.” (My emphasis added.)

Feeling gloomy again? Check out job openings.

Bloomberg:

US job openings rose unexpectedly in July after a sizable upward revision to the previous month, underscoring persistent tightness in the labor market as employers compete for a limited supply of workers.

The number of available positions edged up to 11.2 million in the month — topping all estimates — from a revised 11 million in June, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed Tuesday.

There were about two jobs for every unemployed person in July, up from 1.9 in June. Some of the largest increases in vacancies were in retail trade, and transportation, warehousing and utilities. Arts, entertainment and recreation also posted more openings from the prior month…

The JOLTS data precede Friday’s monthly jobs report, which is currently forecast to show the US added about 300,000 payrolls in August. Economists are expecting the unemployment rate to hold at 3.5% — matching a 50-year low — and for average hourly earnings to post another firm advance.

This will, I reckon, increase the chances that Powell goes for a 75-bp hike next time around (which is already my guess carefully considered prediction), even if employment tends to be a lagging indicator.

But we are in strange territory. Look at the labor-force participation rate, still below pre-pandemic rates, something hard to square with talk of a tight labor market. Where have those workers gone?

Maybe Best Buy’s CEO summed it up best:

The company withdrew longer-term guidance laid out in March for full year fiscal 2025 as sales declined this year more than expected, executives said. “The current macro backdrop has changed in ways that we and many others were not expecting,” Ms. Barry said. The company plans to share further financial expectations once the operating environment stabilizes, executives added.

Translation: No one really knows what is going on.

Science & Tech

Self-Driving Cars? Pass

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A fleet of Uber self-driving cars at a technology demonstration in September 2016. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Jordan McGillis recently wrote a piece for NRO about the advantages of self-driving cars. While I share some of his views about the likely improvements in traffic safety, the idea of fundamentally altering our relationship with cars is one that I find repulsive.

McGillis writes:

As happens around 100 times each day in America, a car’s human driver had caused a fatal collision. Due to distraction, inebriation, incapacitation, malice, or just plain incompetence, human drivers caused collisions resulting in the deaths of more than 40,000 people in the United States last year, the highest number of roadway fatalities recorded in more than a decade according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics. With 2021’s troubling uptick, the cumulative number of Americans killed by motor vehicles has climbed to well over 4 million since we first put cars on our roads over a century ago. In 94 percent of roadway collisions, the NHTSA says, drivers are to blame.

Self-driving cars offer hope that this seemingly endless series of tragedies might come to an end (or something close to it). Where human drivers succumb to physical and psychological weakness by nature, self-driving cars are immune.

These numbers are tragic. However, figuratively removing humans from the driver’s seat cannot be the solution. 

Giant metal contraptions zooming around at 70 miles per hour are inherently dangerous, some would say gloriously so. But the driver should always be the primary controller of the vehicle’s progress. She decides when to turn, how fast to go, and the route to take. Safety technology such as lane-keep assistance, emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control are estimable, all the more so because they vastly curtail the driver’s flaws to which Jordan points. 

My car can mitigate a crash’s damage to me through crumple zones and braking. Adaptive cruise and lane-keep ensure that a commute through Iowa is less draining. Blind-spot monitoring and backup alerts keep us from harming others behind or beside us. And each of these technologies revolves around the driver, not vice versa. 

Driving is independence, and the idea of mandated deference to a machine mind is repugnant. I’ll decide how I wish to take a corner, how quickly to accelerate, and my route to the cottage up north — slowing down to take in the creeks and sights at leisure. If I wanted to travel passively, I’d take a bus or a train. Imagine having mandatory self-driving on a Hellcat . . . egad! 

To wrest from the driver the act of piloting is to pass liability on to another entity. If a crash occurs, I’d like the person responsible to be present, rather than my having to call some Palo Alto toll-free number to complain that I had a fender bender with someone who was sitting in one of the company’s self-driving cars. Ambiguity in liability is an avenue best detoured.

But I’m not a Luddite. Self-driving would be an attractive option for a long trip out West, and it would afford people with disabilities a previously unknown freedom of movement.

Being the driver in New Mexico was a bummer because one’s eyes shouldn’t stray from the road to take in the stark wonder. Turning on autopilot to snap a photo would have been brilliant — but only ever as an option, not a paternalistic requirement. 

Driving is dangerous, yes. Not to be trite, but living is dangerous. We have plenty of technologies that improve traffic safety without involving a replacement for the human driver. So I’ll pass on the safety-ism and mandatory proliferation of self-driving cars.

Education

Pay Up for the Damage You’ve Caused, Oberlin

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Oberlin College (Wikimedia Commons)

Back in 2016, a case began when administrators from Oberlin College aided students in defaming Gibson’s Bakery, unjustly smearing it as racist. Eventually, the jury sided with the plaintiffs, ordering Oberlin to pay a large damage sum — $36 million.

Just as you’d expect, Oberlin fought on and on, hoping to find an appellate court that would overturn the jury. But it now appears that the case is done, since the supreme court of Ohio declined to entertain its last appeal. Legal Insurrection has the details here.

This is good news. College officials across America should be thinking about reining in their own woke zealots before they land in similar situations.

Culture

If Aaron Judge Gets to 62, He Should Be Considered the True Home-Run King

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New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge bats against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn., June 8, 2022. (Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

Last night, Aaron Judge blasted his 50th home run, continuing his incredible 2022 campaign. It’s highly debatable whether Judge will actually break Roger Maris’s Yankees and American League single-season record of 61 home runs.

On the one hand, he’s now on pace for 63 home runs, and seems to have recovered from a short-lived August drought. This year, he had twelve home runs in the month of May, eleven in June, and 13 in July. Back in his rookie season, he went on a late-season tear, and ended up with 15 post-August homers. So, it would by no means be a major stretch for him to get to 62.

On the other hand, Judge has slipped slightly behind Roger Maris’s 1961 pace (who had 51 one home runs after the same 129 team games). Also, Judge is likely to take some days off before the playoffs and he was intentionally walked twice last night, and if other teams pitch him the same way, he could be deprived of a sufficient number of at bats.

The bottom line is, it’s equally plausible that Judge could have a home run slump in September, or end up soaring past Maris.

While the final tally of his season is very much up in the air, one thing that we should broadly agree on is that if Judge does get to 62, he should be considered the all-time single-season home-run leader, because he would have had the most ever for a clean player.

Looking back, in over 100 years since the start of the live-ball era, there have been only eight seasons in which a player hit 60 or more home runs, and six of them occurred during the peak of the steroid era (1998-2001). This is clearly not a coincidence, and while those seasons cannot be excised from the record books, among fans, Judge should be acknowledged as the real all-time leader if he gets to 62.

The one counter-argument could be made is of course the asterisk applied to Maris’s home-run record, because Ruth hit 60 back when the season was 154 games and Judge, like Maris, would have a 162-game season with which to work. So, silencing the asterisk crowd would require him to get to 61 before the last eight games of the season, which would be more difficult, but not impossible.

Either way, the numbers of those who cheated should be discounted.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Buyback Tax

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Jon Hartley of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity writes against the stock-buyback tax in the Democrats’ reconciliation bill:

As the buyback tax becomes law, expect companies to move away from buybacks, and instead start issuing more dividends which has a lower tax rate, but remains a slower and more inefficient route to return cash to shareholders through regular recurring dividends on a quarterly basis (perhaps non-recurring special dividends will become more popular). Ultimately, this all just means those smaller, growing, and more innovative companies will likely have to wait longer to receive reinvested cash from the dividends of large companies which are being discouraged from issuing cash through buybacks.

Read the whole thing here.

Science & Tech

‘Anything Goes’ Reproduction Gathers Steam

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(gorodenkoff/Getty Images)

Medicine isn’t just about wellness and curing illness anymore. It is also a central resource facilitating lifestyle enablement and the fulfillment of subjective personal desires. Cosmetic surgery — as distinguished from restorative procedures — is an obvious example.

At least cosmetic surgeries are on the patient’s dime (or tens of thousands of dollars). But the full armamentarium of medicine’s techniques are increasingly being brought to bear to help people surmount biological realities — as in the transgender issue, and most particular, in having children.

With regard to the latter, we have gone from IVF — which already often involves morally dubious “extras” such as aborting “excess” implanted embryos (euphemistically known as “selective reduction”), the exploitation of poor surrogate mothers as “gestational carriers,” eugenic embryo selection, and women way past child-bearing age giving birth — to ever-expanding reproductive techniques that push boundaries to the breaking point. Now, the U.K.’s “we never say no” Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority is on the verge of allowing even more radical procreative and genetic manipulations. From the Bioedge story (quoting The Guardian), they are:

  • Lab-grown eggs and sperm. This is still not possible in human beings, but it has been achieved in mice. An American company, Conception, is already working on creating egg cells from stem cells to help infertile women conceive. Its founder, Matt Krisiloff, is gay and believes that a successful technology would enable gay couples to have their own children. “This could become one of the most important technologies ever created,” says the company website.

  • Human genome editing. Currently this is not permitted and public opinion opposes it. However, if efficacy and safety issues can be resolved, legislation should be amended to accommodate changes in the germline [meaning that whatever edits are made, they will flow down the generations].

  • Three-person baby IVF. British legislation was amended in 2015 to permit mitochondrial donation – but two techniques were permitted. The HFEA wants to liberalise this.

  • Synthetic embryos. These are embryo-like structures which are produced from stem cells. Legislation should permit these.

We have moved very quickly from “I want a baby,” to “I demand the right to have the baby I want,” from, “We would never manipulate embryos beyond 14 days,” to making embryos from scratch and bringing them even into the fetal stage for manipulations and experimentation with no time limits at all.

Moreover, because very potent political forces are behind these moves, we can expect society to also have to foot the bill as we stride triumphantly toward the dystopia prophesied in Brave New World. Concomitantly, medical professionals who may object could be forced to provide these services or be charged with discrimination. When the moving forces in society become feelings and exercising the subjective will, government will exist to both guarantee access and throttle moral resistance.

How we will ever control medical costs in the face of these increasingly extreme biotechnological techniques is beyond me. How we will further family stability as we are encouraged to surmount natural limits via ever more radical approaches to manipulating our bodies and designing our progeny, is even further beyond my ken. How we can maintain a true “society” when the only commonality among us is “anything goes” is outside the parameters of my comprehension.

Markets

Stock-Market Sell-Off: Feature, Not Bug?

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Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2022. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

Speaking in Jackson Hole, Fed chairman Jerome Powell poured cold words all over the recent market rally.

Bloomberg:

“Restoring price stability will likely require maintaining a restrictive policy stance for some time,” Powell said Friday in remarks at the Kansas City Fed’s annual policy forum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy.”

He said lowering inflation to the 2% target is the central bank’s “overarching focus right now” even though consumers and businesses will feel economic pain. He reiterated that another “unusually large” increase in the benchmark lending rate could be appropriate when officials gather next month.

I’ll stick with my guess of 75 bp for that next move.

And the market did what, in all probability, Powell had hoped, selling off fairly sharply.

Writing for Bloomberg, Jonathan Levin explains:

Neel Kashkari, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, just said what markets have long suspected but what active central bankers haven’t dared to admit: Markets need to go down — in fact, that’s the point of the Fed’s interest-rate increases and marathon jawboning. And that was the objective of Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s annual speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which triggered the worst equity market selloff since June.

Here’s Kashkari’s quote to Bloomberg’s Odd Lots podcast with Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway:

“I was actually happy to see how Chair Powell’s Jackson Hole speech was received,” Kashkari said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Odd Lots podcast on Monday, reflecting on the steep drop after Powell spoke. “People now understand the seriousness of our commitment to getting inflation back down to 2%.”

On one hand, the sentiment is obvious. Since early in the year, it’s been clear that buoyant markets ran contrary to the Fed’s stated objective of fighting inflation. The central bank has crude tools, and one of them is to curb the demand side of the supply-demand equation by making people feel a little poorer, as I wrote in March when the Fed was starting its interest-rate campaign. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Bill Dudley, who served as president of the New York Fed, shared that view in his piece “If Stocks Don’t Fall, the Fed Needs to Force Them.”

It’s worth quoting this passage from Dudley’s article:

In contrast to many other countries, the U.S. economy doesn’t respond directly to the level of short-term interest rates. Most home borrowers aren’t affected, because they have long-term, fixed-rate mortgages. And, again in contrast to many other countries, many U.S. households do hold a significant amount of their wealth in equities. As a result, they’re sensitive to financial conditions: Equity prices influence how wealthy they feel, and how willing they are to spend rather than save.

The wealth effect can work in both directions.

I suspect that Powell may also have been concerned that the market’s recovery might have been a sign that his anti-inflationary message was not resonating in the way that it should, a problem as the management of expectations is an important inflationary tool. Read the sections in Paul Volcker’s autobiography dealing with his early months in office and you can see that he had somewhat similar worries after seeing the market response to his initial anti-inflationary efforts (although in that case markets — deeper into an inflationary era — were underwhelmed rather than complacent: The dollar fell “and the price of gold hit a new record”). This played no small part in Volcker’s pivot to the far tougher approach he unveiled on October 6, 1979.

The market paid attention, and eight days later the author of a piece in the New York Times was referring to “the great crash of 1979.”

This was, incidentally, no relation to The Crash of ’79, an enjoyable financial thriller (if I recall correctly: It’s been, uh, a while) by Paul Erdman, a former banker who had begun his career in fiction in a Basel prison with, if he is to be believed, a little help from a French safecracker, but that’s another story.

World

‘Joy and Sorrow, Pride and Fear’

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Ukrainian service members install a national flag on Snake Island, Odesa Oblast, Ukraine, in a handout picture released on July 7, 2022. (Press Service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces / Handout via Reuters)

On August 24, Ukraine’s independence day, I e-mailed a Ukrainian friend, to wish her well — and to wish her country well. She answered, “Such joy and sorrow, pride and fear.”

• On Independence Day, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, returned to Ukraine, to stand with that country, as it is under assault by Russia. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, awarded Johnson the country’s Order of Liberty.

Said Johnson, “If we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood.” He also said, “What happens in Ukraine matters to us all.”

Yes, it does (whether people know it or not).

• Nicholas Burns is the U.S. ambassador to China. On Ukraine’s independence day, he assembled the ambassadors to China from all 30 NATO countries. They stood in front of the American embassy, with the Ukrainian flag, in a show of support.

Good.

• A report by Edward Wong in the New York Times:

The U.S. State Department and Yale University researchers said Thursday that they had identified at least 21 sites in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine that the Russian military or Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists are using to detain, interrogate or deport civilians and prisoners of war in ways that violate international humanitarian law. There were signs pointing to possible mass graves in some areas, they said.

Bruno Maçães commented,

Concentration camps and mass graves have returned to Europe. If this does not shake you to the core, nothing ever will.

My impression is, relatively few are shaken to the core, or shaken at all.

• From Reuters:

Russian rockets struck a passenger train in a station in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 50 more, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

(Full article here.)

Yes, Ukraine and Russia are engaged in a war. But Russia is clearly a terror-state. Every Ukrainian knows it. Not a few Russians know it too.

• A headline from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: “Ukraine Claims Breakthroughs Made Against Russian Forces In Southern Offensive.” Article here.

It is amazing that the Ukrainians are still standing, six months after Russia launched its full-on assault. It is amazing that Ukrainian forces are making even a little progress against Russia. Few could have predicted this, back in February.

The courage and determination of the Ukrainians are astounding. And the support of the United States: crucial.

For Ukraine, America is indeed the “indispensable nation,” after Ukraine itself.

I maintain, as I have said before, that Americans should take pride in this. Many of us do not, I realize. But I hope that many do.

• You know, the Ukrainian cause ought to be right up our nationalists’ alley. The Ukrainians are struggling to keep their nationhood, their independence, their sovereignty. They are fighting for their very right to exist. They are doing all they can to fend off a behemoth neighbor, which is trying to re-subjugate them, re-colonize them, absorb them back into empire.

Our nationalists ought to be the Ukrainians’ biggest supporters. And yet . . .

• The name of Maksym Butkevych is one to know. Last month, Valerie Hopkins of the New York Times wrote,

Maksym Butkevych made his name in Ukraine as a journalist and human rights activist . . .

At the end of June, he was captured by Russian forces while fighting for Ukraine, and his hard-earned reputation became a potentially dangerous liability.

Russian propaganda began bragging about Mr. Butkevych’s detention almost as soon as he was captured . . .

I was moved by the words of the prisoner’s mother, Yevheniia Butkevych. She said her son had been a pacifist — but that changed on February 24, when Russia sent missiles into Kyiv and other cities and towns across Ukraine.

That very day, Maksym, who was 45, joined up.

Mrs. Butkevych quoted her son as saying something like this: “I will leave my human-rights work for a while because now it is necessary, first and foremost, to defend the country. Because everything I have worked on for all these years, and everything we have all worked toward, is under threat.”

I understand Maksym Butkevych very well. And I admire him tremendously.

• Another name to know — that of Yevgeny Roizman. He was mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, from 2013 to 2018. But he is a critic of the war — therefore, he has been arrested.

For a report in the Washington Post, go here.

• I wish to end these notes by recommending two pieces. The first is a historical-geographical essay by Norman Davies, the venerable British historian (b. 1939). It is on the complicated, and important, history of Russia and Ukraine. I would also like to recommend — when don’t I? — a column by Daniel Hannan. This one is headed “Why Putin Must Lose.” And it concludes as follows:

The Soviet Union was never held properly to account for its atrocities in Poland, the Baltic States, or, later, its Comecon satellites because it was never formally defeated. Russia, as its designated successor state, was given a fresh start. Let us not repeat that mistake. Putin must be seen to lose, and justice must be seen to take its course.

World

China and Russia to Conduct Naval Drills near Disputed Islands over Japanese Protests

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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning (center) takes part in a military drill of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. (Stringer/Reuters)

Joint military drills involving Russia, China, and several other countries are poised to begin on September 1, spanning Russia’s far east and the Sea of Japan. The AP reported new details of the planned exercises today, citing statements from Russia’s ministry of defense.

The exercises come as top Chinese and Russian officials have in recent months celebrated their newly minted “no limits” partnership. The announcement of this year’s drills, called Vostok, and the Chinese defense ministry’s statement that it would send troops to take part in it, attracted a significant level of attention given that context. In addition to China, Belarus, Syria, India, Nicaragua, and others are sending forces to participate in the drills.

The Russian defense ministry said the Russian and Chinese navies plan to “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity and support for ground troops in littoral areas,” according to the newswire service.

Recent Russian naval activity is already ruffling feathers in Tokyo, as Japanese officials have objected to the maritime portion of the drills since they will take place around the Kuril Islands, which are Russian-administered but also claimed by Japan.

Earlier this month, the Japanese defense ministry said 14 Russian naval ships entered the Sea of Japan from the Pacific Ocean, according to USNI news. Japanese maritime self-defense-force ships followed the Russian vessels.

While Japanese officials lodged a protest with Moscow about the plans to drill near the Kuril Islands, they were not able to dissuade them from moving forward with that aspect of the exercises.

Moscow’s envoy to Tokyo flatly rejected Japan’s complaints, according to TASS.

“We have every reason to be concerned about reinforcing the defense potential around the Kuril Islands, and on the Far East direction in general,” said Mikhail Galuzin, Russia’s ambassador to Japan late last month. “Accordingly, this is being done, including by holding such events as the ‘Vostok 2022’ strategic military exercise. Of course, the requests of the Japanese side, the demarche of the Japanese side was rejected as groundless and pointless.”

Although India is participating in the exercises, it will not be joining the naval portions due to the Japanese objections, the Deccan Herald reported. Both countries are part of the Quad partnership, a multilateral arrangement with security, diplomatic, and technological components.

Russia and China have both claimed that the latest iteration of the multinational exercises is not a response to recent international events, such as the heightened tensions surrounding Taiwan.

Over 50,000 troops, 140 aircraft, and 60 warships will play a role in Vostok 2022. Reuters, however, reported that these figures are a fraction of the scale at which the exercises took place in previous years, largely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Culture

The Weirdest Country in the World

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An alligator at a zoo in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2015. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

This headline just in from the Washington Post: His emotional support animal is an alligator. They sleep in the same bed. The Post reports:

Joseph Henney’s emotional support animal WallyGator goes with him almost everywhere, from the grocery store to walks in the park. They hug each other and sleep in the same bed. WallyGator is an alligator.

“When he turns his nose toward you, that means he expects a kiss,” said Henney, 69, who goes by Joie (pronounced “Joe”) and lives in Jonestown, Pa., about two hours from Philadelphia. “He’s super sweet-natured.”

The two watch television together on the couch, and when Henney takes him to the farmers market, WallyGator gives hugs to shoppers — as long as they are okay with being that close to a 70-pound reptile with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth.

Only in the U S of A. This has always been a nation of eccentrics and kooks, dating back to its beginnings as a country settled by religious outcasts who were too weird for the Old World. Not coincidentally, that’s also why we live in the greatest country in the history of the world. As I noted on Twitter in response to the Post story, “we live in the weirdest country in the history of the world, filled with the most insane people in the history of the human race, and it’s absolutely amazing.”

God bless America. 

Media

Another Silly Media Hit against Blake Masters

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Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks during former President Donald Trump’s rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Ariz., July 22, 2022. (Rebecca Noble/Reuters)

On Sunday, Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for Arizona’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, posted an entirely innocuous joke on Twitter:

The tweet — itself delivered in an obviously not-very-serious tone — was clearly poking fun at the focus on diversity at the Federal Reserve in a moment of severe economic woes.

Record-breaking inflation is, in fact, a much more serious issue than the number of LGBT people of color that the Fed employs. But the New York Times ran a completely humorless piece today, titled “Blake Masters, a G.O.P. Senate Candidate, Links Fed Diversity to Economic Woes” — subtitle: “The sarcastic barb from Mr. Masters, which was widely condemned, was in response to a report of increased diversity at the Federal Reserve” — dedicated to reporting on the apparently controversial nature of the sentiment.

Of course, the only figures that I’m aware of who “widely condemned” the tweet were other journalists and pundits at left-wing outlets. If there were others, the Times doesn’t mention them. (All it notes is that “Mr. Masters was swiftly condemned by some as dismissing the value of diversity”). As with so many “[X] thing a Republican said causes controversy” reports in the legacy media, the “controversy” that the Times is reporting on is only a controversy among progressive journalists.

But more to the point, the entire premise of the piece — that Masters was arguing that the Fed’s increased diversity caused the economic downturn — is patently absurd. The Times itself actually implicitly contradicts itself on this front. The first sentence of the piece argues that Masters’s tweet “suggested . . . that the nation’s economic struggles were connected to increased gender and racial diversity in Federal Reserve leadership.” Two paragraphs later, the article argues that “his opinion aligned with some of his fellow Republicans, who also criticized the focus on diversity at a time of high inflation.” Those are two wildly different things, actually: Suggesting that diversity is causing an economic recession, and arguing that diversity is a silly thing to focus on in the midst of a recession, are not the same. The Times isn’t just writing entire pieces about a tweet — it’s writing entire pieces about a controversy over a tweet that only occurred within a very small, insular subset of Twitter.

Politics & Policy

Val Demings’s Abortion Incoherence

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Rep Val Demings (D., Fla.) speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 29, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/Reuters)

In an interview with CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede yesterday, Representative Val Demings, the Democratic nominee to take on Marco Rubio in Florida’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, stated that she supported “abortions up to the point of viability.” But when pressed about when, precisely, the point of viability happens, Demings demurred. It was an instructive interchange: 

Demings: I support abortions up to the point of viability. And as a former police detective . . . who investigated cases of rape, incest and sexual abuse . . . for Marco Rubio to think that there should be no exceptions [to abortion bans] . . . is disgraceful.

DeFede: “I wanna — I just wanna — when you say point of viability, is that 24 weeks in your mind? I guess I just, I really do want to try to get a specific . . .

Demings: “You know, and let’s not forget the healthcare portion that is involved in reproductive rights. Um, women should have the opportunity to counsel with their doctors. And their doctors, in the privacy of that doctor’s office, should be able to make that decision. A doctor can tell us all what the point of viability is. But that’s my position. That I support a woman’s right to an abortion up to the point of viability.”

So which is it, congresswoman? Does your support for abortion rights end after the point of viability — i.e., would you support restrictions on abortion after the point of viability — or do you support women and doctors being able to decide when viability occurs? If it’s the latter, then Demings is essentially endorsing unrestricted abortion access, so long as the “decision” about “what the point of viability is” can be made “in the privacy of that doctor’s office.” Running in an increasingly red state, Demings has made the calculated decision to stress that her support for abortion ends “at viability.” But “viability” doesn’t mean anything if there’s no concrete legal definition of when it actually occurs. 

The host didn’t press Demings for more specifics, but her line of argument falls apart upon two seconds of reflection. Think about the framework Demings is using, as applied to any other political issue: I support a ban on fracking on public lands — but it’s up to the oil companies, in the privacy of their own boardrooms, to decide what “public lands” are. I support gun rights up to the point of assault rifles — but gun owners should have the opportunity to counsel with their gun manufacturers, and their manufacturers can tell us what an “assault rifle” is. I support restricting low-skilled immigration, but the migrants attempting to enter the country are really the ones who should get to decide if that classification applies to them.

This is not how functional laws work. In order for a law to actually be a law, it has to mean something. This was the fundamental incoherence of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s infamous “mystery” line in Planned Parenthood v. Casey — “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Well, no. To have liberty, you need laws, and to have laws, you need some kind of shared consensus about the “concept of existence.” We cannot each decide for ourselves what the law means — that is the essence of anarchy. One would think that Demings, who touted her history in law enforcement just moments before arguing that “viability” is whatever we make of it, would know better.

Watch the clip below:

 

Woke Culture

My Dear Wormwood, on the Matter of DEI Training . . .

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It was not without some anxiety that I learned that you have encouraged the patient to attend the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” training offered by his employer.

Admittedly, at first blush the training promises seemingly limitless occasions to promote divisiveness, resentment, strife, and obloquy. Indeed, the “implicit bias” component alone presents infinite opportunities for mischief: Everyone is racist and can do little or nothing about it? Inspired!

Nonetheless, my anxiety sprang from the inescapable fact that most sentient beings almost instantly discern the training to be utter nonsense. If, for example, racism is indelibly imprinted upon the subconscious, then no amount of DEI/implicit-bias training will eradicate it. Consequently, all but the most obtuse would dismiss the “training” as sheer cant embraced only by intellectual lemmings, and thus, a setback for our overall enterprise.

But fortunately, I recalled that the patient has a graduate degree in the humanities from an Ivy League school — and, therefore, my anxiety receded to insignificance. Accordingly, please continue in your endeavor, and perhaps suggest the patient attend a Critical Race training as well.

In my next letter, dear nephew, I shall address the contemporary imperative of “identity.”

(Apologies to Mr. Lewis.)

The Disingenuous Effort to Normalize Biden’s Illegal Student-Loan Plan

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President Joe Biden leaves following a meeting with White House officials in an auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I was out last week and as I’ve been catching up on the news, I’ve been struck by the incredibly disingenuous effort by liberals to normalize President Biden’s illegal student-loan forgiveness handout. This piece, by the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman, is particularly egregious, as he uses one flawed analogy after another in an attempt to make it seem run-of-the-mill for a president to hand out a half-trillion dollars’ worth of benefits without congressional approval to reward a favored political constituency in the run-up to an election.  

“At the most basic level, loan forgiveness isn’t novel or even unusual,” Waldman writes. “Our