NR Webathon

Corporate Media’s Silence on the Loudoun Bathroom-Assault Story Is Deafening

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Loudoun county student walkout, October 26, 2021. (Scott Taylor 7 News I-Team/ Screenshot via Twitter)

If you cryogenically froze any news editor in America in 1996, when NRO launched, only to revive him in the year 2021 to ask his opinion of the newsworthiness of the horrible story of rape in a Loudoun County school bathroom, you would undoubtedly be told that the story should be pursued to the hilt.

Setting aside the question of public interest, it has all the ingredients that attract eyeballs: the rape of a minor who was in the care of the state at the time the attack occurred; the explicit connection to a heated political question (should biological boys be permitted to use girls’ bathrooms in schools?); and what looks to be a cover up by the local school board, which was at the time adjudicating that precise question.

The editor in question would be surprised to learn that the story was broken by the Daily Wire, a self-consciously ideological outlet with a fraction of the resources of the major papers, only to be ignored by the papers and cable outlets, with the exception of a few stories noting how the incident was being “weaponized” by one political faction.

The corporate media’s complete lack of interest in the details of the story itself and, even worse, their attempts to obfuscate those details, would appall our zombie editor. If he were interested in following the story, he would rely on the work of National Review’s news desk, which has reported on the fallout at every turn.

In the last few hours alone, our news team has detailed how a juvenile judge in Virginia found the teen guilty of sexual assault, reported on a walk-out at the high school where the teen allegedly committed a second sexual assault after being transferred rather than suspended, and noted that the victim’s father is demanding an apology from the National School Board Association after it cited him as a potential “domestic terrorist” in its letter to the Biden administration requesting federal intervention in local disputes.

Say what you will about the amoral “if it bleeds, it leads” posture of old school editors; I’m confident they would have run a story like this into the ground, regardless of their politics. That particular breed of editor has been rooted out of our major news-gathering institutions, so National Review is stepping up to fill the void. But we can’t do it without you.

Please consider donating to NR’s Fall Webathon so we can continue bringing you the news other outfits find inconvenient.

Media

In 2019 the New York Times Did Extensively Cover China’s Brutal Treatment of the Uyghurs

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Umer Jan, 12, takes part in a rally to encourage Canada and other countries as they consider labeling China’s treatment of its Uyghur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., February 19, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who covers China for Axios, vehemently objects to today’s Morning Jolt newsletter, specifically the contention that, “We know that if the New York Times ran a giant, above-the-fold, ten-part series about the genocide of the Uyghurs, that would kill off the company’s access to the Chinese market for a long time.”

Allen-Ebrahimian was the lead International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reporter for the China Cables, “a trove of highly classified Chinese government documents which revealed the inner workings of China’s detention camps in Xinjiang and the high-tech security state it has built there.”

Over the course of the year of 2019, the New York Times wrote seven front-page stories about Chinese abuses of the Uyghurs: a February 21 article on Chinese authorities turning to a Massachusetts company and a prominent Yale researcher for DNA tracking; an April 4 story on Chinese start-ups building algorithms that are used to track Uyghurs; a May 23 story on China’s “spying state”; a November 24 story on Chinese leaders’ struggling to manage Xinjiang sites swelling with Muslim detainees; a December 3 story about mass DNA collection efforts, a December 29 story on ethnic minority children being placed in boarding schools, and December 31 story on being forced into work programs.

While we can quibble with where the stories were placed on the front page and how much readership there is on a day like December 31, seven front-page stories about Chinese human-rights abuses of the Uyghurs over the course of a year — and three in a single month — is undoubtedly more than any other non-China-focused newspaper in America.

Other pieces were online “interactive experiences” such as this one on surveillance in April 4, 2019, and an expose of “400 pages of internal Chinese documents provide an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region” in November of 2019. (For what it is worth, that expose was not featured on the front page of the New York Times the day it was published.) On December 9, the New York Times podcast “The Daily” focused on China’s detention camps. On December 30, 2019, the paper offered a video presentation on Chinese labor programs. The Pulitzer committee named the Times reporting on China a finalist in 2020.

So it is wrong to contend that the New York Times turned a blind eye to the ongoing human-rights abuses in China, and if what I wrote today’s Morning Jolt created that impression in readers’ minds, I regret it. From where I sit there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of the New York Times, but “they’re afraid to cover the abuse of the Uighurs” is not one of them.

With all of that said . . . these news stories largely came and went without making much of a splash in the busy, often Trump-dominated news cycles of 2019, nor do I think they made much impact on American attitudes towards China. Perhaps I should have been clearer, but I don’t think this is quite the hypothetical “giant, above-the-fold, ten-part series about the genocide of the Uyghurs” that I described. Or perhaps these stories would have gotten more attention if they had been touted as a seven or ten-part series, one after another, day after day, rather than coming out roughly once a month or so. Each article’s revelations could or should have stirred public outrage at the regime in Beijing, but whatever outrage it did generate quickly dissipated, as opposed to a steadily building daily reminder that one of America’s largest trading partner is engaged in an ongoing genocide, and that much of the world — including, reportedly, President Trump — do not think that is worth our concern.

I do think there is a difference between the way the New York Times covers China’s appalling human rights abuses — in depth and with great deal of detail, but intermittently — and the much closer-to-home, much more predictable political fights of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, or Ron DeSantis — a relentless steady drumbeat, with fiery denunciations on the op-ed page almost every day. And considering the consequences of genocide, one might think that ought to be prioritized. But again, it is wrong to contend that the New York Times has been hesitant to cover the ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs.

My perception is that the New York Times’ coverage of China was likely shaped less by what the paper’s foreign news bureaus were doing and more by the paper’s op-ed page running columns like Hong Kong Executive council member Regina Ip’s “Hong Kong Is China, Like It or Not,” Peter Beinart’s May op-ed declaring deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is impossible, and Thomas Friedman’s “if only we could be like China for a day” perspective. But news reporters should not pay the price for what the op-ed page runs.

By the way the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting did go to another team at the New York Times . . . “for a set of enthralling stories, reported at great risk, exposing the predations of Vladimir Putin’s regime.”

Politics & Policy

Manchin Rejects Democrats’ Proposal to Let the IRS Monitor Bank Accounts

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Congressional Democrats have proposed requiring banks to report to the IRS the total inflows and outflows of all bank accounts with transactions of at least $10,000 (after initially proposing a $600 threshold).

But West Virginia senator Joe Manchin says he opposes the proposal at any amount:

Elections

McAuliffe’s Infamous ‘Parents’ Quip Wasn’t a Gaffe — It’s How Democrats Think

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Candidate for Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe speaks during his campaign rally in Dumfries, Va., October 21, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Terry McAuliffe made an extraordinary in-kind contribution to the campaign of his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, when he declared during their debate that, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” In no small part due to that one comment, a governor’s race that looked like a sure thing for Democrats is effectively a toss-up with a week to go.

If Youngkin manages to pull off the upset, most political observers will look at this McAuliffe comment as a turning point in the race. But while many people have portrayed the statement as a gaffe, in reality, all McAuliffe was doing was expressing a view that is held by an overwhelming majority of Democrats. And this is backed up by a new poll from USA Today/Suffolk, which shows a tied race.

At one point the pollsters asked, “Should parents or school boards have more of an influence on a school’s curriculum?” Overall, 50 percent said parents and 39 percent said school boards. But the partisan breakdown is something to behold. While Republicans, 79 percent to 12 percent, said parents should have more influence, the numbers were reversed for Democrats, with 70 percent saying school boards should have more of a say and only 16 percent siding with parents. Among independents, it was 57-32 in favor of parents.

Whether or not Youngkin is able to overcome the huge built-in advantages Democrats have in Virginia and emerge victorious, the competitiveness of the race suggests that Republicans running next year should lean into the idea of giving parents more of a say over their children’s educations. The issue has become even more salient as a result of the teachers’ union-driven school closures that forced parents to become more involved in what their children were being taught in public schools.

Elections

Suffolk Poll Shows McAuliffe and Youngkin Dead Even

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With one week to go until Election Day in Virginia, a new Suffolk poll of likely voters shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin tied at 45 percent.

Recent polls by Emerson and Monmouth have also shown the Virginia gubernatorial race dead even, but in the average of polls, McAuliffe still has a slim lead of less than two percentage points over Youngkin.

PC Culture

Bioethicist Claims Allowing Circumcision Is Sexist

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(Pixabay)

Many bioethicists and progressive politicians want to outlaw infant circumcision — even though it is an essential aspect of Jewish faith and almost as important in Islam. In a few instances, the “intactivist” campaign has taken on explicitly anti-Semitic tropes.

There’s no logic to the campaign. Now, the Journal of Medical Ethics has published a piece decrying circumcision — and making the ridiculous comparison to female genital mutilation to claim that it is sexist to bar FGM while permitting circumcision. From “Male or Female Genital Cutting: Why ‘Health Benefits’ are Morally Irrelevant:”

Western societies cannot coherently continue to maintain that non-Western forms of female genital cutting are ‘categorically unacceptable while endorsing a balancing approach to male cutting’ (p532). Rather, he insists, medically unnecessary genital cutting is ‘intrinsically wrong because it violates the right to physical integrity of the child; thus, the conclusion that genital cutting is wrong as a matter of principle applies equally to boys and girls’ (ibid).

In light of such arguments, which are gaining steam among bioethicists and legal experts, it seems that individuals, groups and organisations—including the AAP and WHO—that categorically condemn all medically unnecessary genital cutting of non-consenting female minors, while simultaneously approving of such cutting of male minors, will need to make up their minds. If they see the former as violating a child’s right to bodily integrity, no matter how slight the cutting and irrespective of parental motivations, religious or otherwise, then they ought to extend this principle across the spectrum of sex and gender and stand up for the bodily integrity rights of children who have intersex traits, as well as those who have male-typical genitalia (including both cisgender boys and transgender girls). That is my own position and I have defended it at length in other publications.

If, on the other hand, they see it as permissible for parents to authorise medically unnecessary genital cutting for children who have a penis, regardless of the reason and whether or not meaningful health benefits are expected to accrue, then they ought to extend this principle back across the spectrum to children who have a vulva, while deciding on the precise type or extent of genital cutting they are willing to tolerate in this regard.

A little sanity please. FGM is not required by any religion of which I know, at least in the formal sense. It is more a cultural custom than an explicitly religious requirement. For example, it is my understanding that FGM appears nowhere in the Koran.

In contrast, infant circumcision — I won’t use the woke terms deployed by the author instead of “boys” and “girls” — is commanded explicitly in Jewish scripture.

Second, circumcision is inclusive; that is, it is a religiously essential act that ushers the baby boy into his faith and traditions of his forebears. FMG, even of the pin-prick type, is discriminatory, a means of demonstrating the inferiority of girls. In its more extreme manifestations, it is designed to stifle normal sexual response as a means of oppression.

Third, the best time to circumcise is in infancy before nerves connect and maturation makes the surgery far more complicated and risky. Moreover, boys don’t remember it. FGM usually takes place during girlhood, when it will be remembered, often imposed without anesthesia.

Barring circumcision would more stifle a Jewish boy’s autonomy rights by depriving him of an essential part of his becoming part of the Jewish community. The only choice for the boy wanting to be fully included into Judaism would be to do it in adulthood, when the surgery would be far more complicated and risky.

Finally, circumcision in infancy has mild health benefits for the future man — to the point that the American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits “justify” leaving the choice with parents. And remember, the AAP is not exactly conservative, for example, supporting puberty blocking for children with gender dysphoria. There are zero health plusses for FGM.

Articles like this one are aimed, ultimately, at attacking religious freedom and imposing a utilitarian secularist cloak over all of society. Indeed, there are already attacks on Kosher and Halal meat — for example, it is barred in parts of Belgium and New Zealand because activists believe the means of slaughter is inhumane. The rite of circumcision is also in activists’ crosshairs. That is why we see the continuing effort to blur the crucial moral distinctions between it and FGM.

Culture

Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Sudan, Hong Kong, Dobbs, & More

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1. BBC News: Sudan coup: Military dissolves civilian government and arrests leaders

Large numbers of protesters are on the streets of the capital demanding the return of civilian rule, BBC Arabic’s Mohamed Osman reports from Khartoum.

More protesters are expected to join the crowds after calls for action by political parties and professional unions, our correspondent says. Doctors have refused to work at hospitals and institutions under military rule, except in emergencies, he adds.

One demonstrator, Sawsan Bashir, told AFP news agency: “We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back and the transition is back.”

2. Daily Wire: Amnesty International To Close Its Hong Kong Offices, Citing New National Security Law

The group pointed to the new national security law put in place by the Chinese government as the reason for the closure. The group noted that the law “was enacted on 30 June 2020. It targets alleged acts of ‘secession’, ‘subversion of state power’, ‘terrorist activities’ and ‘collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security’.”

3.  Bloomberg: Hong Kong Convicts Second Person Under National Security Law

Ma Chun-man, 31, a former food delivery worker, faces as many as seven years in prison after being found guilty on one count of incitement to secession by District Court Judge Stanley Chan. He had denied the charges.

The two national security trials held so far have both handed down convictions and focused heavily on the defendants’ use of political slogans, adding to fears that freedom of speech is being eroded in the former British colony despite being guaranteed in the security law and the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. 

4. Sherif Girgis: There is no middle ground in the Mississippi abortion case. The court must overrule ‘Roe.’

5. New York Times: The Around-the-Clock Prayer Effort to Save the Haiti Hostages

Mrs. Petersheim, a mother of six, thought especially of the small children in the group, possibly hungry and definitely restless. So, each morning now she wakes up at 2:45 a.m. and prays for practical matters: that they will not experience hunger, that they will not be hurt or abused, for sleep and privacy and hygiene.

“We do believe God is in control,” she said. “When Daniel was put in the lions’ den, there was nothing logical about him coming out alive.”

As the hours tick by, and families wait for news, Mennonites across North America are seeking resolution in the way they know best: prayer. That is why some divided the day into 30-minute prayer slots, to ensure that no minute goes uncovered.

6.  DC assistant chief: I was told “have an abortion or be fired”

Dickerson, who is part of a $100 million lawsuit filed against the department by current and former female Black officers, said when she became pregnant as a young police cadet, she was told she had to have an abortion to keep her job.

“When I was 18-years-old as a police cadet, I was told I had to have an abortion or be fired from the MPD cadet program,” Dickerson said. “Wow. My choice to have a baby was personal and it should’ve been mine alone and not for an employer ultimatum.”

7. Kristan Hawkins: Pro-Abortion Students Hate Who They Think Pro-Lifers Are; I Spoke At Wellesley And We Found Common Ground

Universities were once bastions of diversity of thought, but Wellesley now signifies the total intolerance rampant on university campuses worldwide. Just weeks ago at Oxford University in England, vicious pro-abortion students destroyed an innocuous pro-life display and threatened peaceful pro-life students. Shortly before that, pro-life students at Exeter University in England allegedly received death threats as pro-abortion students lobbied to shut down their group.

But in speaking with Wellesley’s pro-abortion students during the question-and-answer period of my speech yesterday, it was clear that they hated their warped misconceptions of the Pro-Life Generation, not what we actually believe. For example, when I alerted pro-abortion students of their school’s record of failing to support pregnant and parenting students by forcing student mothers out of campus housing, they agreed with me that this was shameful behavior. And when I informed them that my organization founded the Standing With You initiative a decade ago to ensure that pregnant and parenting college students are protected and served, their preconceived notion that ‘pro-lifers don’t care about women’ was decimated. 

8. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan: Human Rights Begin in the Womb

When the law allows vulnerable life to be destroyed, forces health care workers to do it against their consciences, and demands that our tax money subsidize it, what message are we giving about the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of life?

When those potent forces pushing the abortion agenda will not allow any thoughtful consideration of any reasonable limit on a right to take the tiny life of a pre-born infant, even up to the moment of birth, where do we go?

9. Charles C. Camosy: Pro-life movement at a crossroads, facing new challenges

Richard M. Doerflinger: In my own family, my older brother Eugene was in a car accident in 1967, leaving him in what doctors called a “vegetative state” they said was permanent. One doctor even told my mother that she should forget she had a son, which was the wrong thing to tell this family. We figured out how to care for him at home, and my mom kept talking to him as though he could hear her – until one day he started answering. He lived another 40 years, residing later in a good nursing facility near us so we could have him over on weekends and take him to Mass on Sunday.

10. Madeleine Kearns: Baby doomers: why are couples putting the planet ahead of parenthood?

The tragedy of this position is that this anxious generation’s fears are largely unfounded. Children born today are likely to have longer and better lives than those in any other era. They’ll be better educated with fewer health worries, and have more rewarding work than previous generations could have dreamed of. Just a century ago, a third of children wouldn’t make it to their fifth birthday. Now the global child mortality rate is 4 percent. Parents today spend twice the amount of time with their children as they did 50 years ago. Air quality is better now than it has been at any time in living memory.

It’s easy to lose sight of this progress when the focus of the government is on the horrors that await us in the future. Just this week, the Environment Agency released its new message: ‘Adapt or die’, it’s in the same apocalyptic vein as Greta Thunberg’s approach — constant talk of worst-case scenarios, and demands that everyone ‘panic’. The obsession with doomsday might grab headlines, but it’s wasted energy that does nothing to solve the issues we might face from climate change.

11. 

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13. Naomi Schaefer Riley: How this Oklahoma ranch is using nuclear families to upend the foster care system

Peppers Ranch tried something different. In 2009, after extensive studies, the leadership decided to move to a family model, offering couples who were already licensed to do foster care in Oklahoma the opportunity to move to Peppers Ranch. There they could live in one of the newly built houses, paying only a couple of hundred dollars in rent and receiving a small stipend in addition to what the state offered for foster care, if they were willing to open their home to at least five foster children. Today, there are 16 homes on the property (with plans to build a few more over the next few years), all more than 3,000 square feet. The typical home has four bedrooms, a large living area and an industrial-size kitchen and pantry. The more recent homes even have hookups for two washers and dryers as well as larger garages in which families can park their super-size vans. The entire community has an annual budget of about $1.5 million, all from private donations. In addition to money, locals also donate furniture, clothing and other necessities. Hundreds of volunteers help maintain the grounds and run programs for the kids.

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World

Enes Kanter’s Criticism of Pro-China Companies

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Enes Kanter in New York in 2017. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter has come out swinging against the Chinese Communist Party, in recent days making the most of his platform to skewer Beijing’s repression of Tibetans and Uyghurs and to question Xi Jinping’s rule. On Sunday, he wore shoes emblazoned with the message “Free China” to a game.

This afternoon he opened a new front in this campaign, targeting a prominent U.S. enabler of China’s mass atrocities, Nike, which has faced allegations of working with suppliers complicit in Uyghur forced labor:

In the video he posted, Kanter points to the disconnect between Nike’s professed commitment to social justice at home and its refusal to substantiate its denials of reports linking it to China’s industrial slave-labor system.

As others have noted, Kanter has long been an outspoken opponent of authoritarianism, and his criticism of the party is only surprising insofar as the NBA’s extreme deference to Chinese sensibilities — read: its bottom line — is concerned. But Kanter’s repeated statements suggest that there’s little chance of the league walking back his criticism of China in the way that it did when Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

Over the coming weeks, Kanter might see fit to pick up where Morey left off. Already, anti-CCP human-rights advocates of all stripes, including Hong Kong’s Nathan Law, have lauded, and amplified, his statements.

In addition to Nike, Kanter should consider focusing on party apologists closer to home. There’s plenty to be said about other American corporations that have toed Beijing’s line and otherwise have remained silent in the face of grave human-rights atrocities.

Then, there’s the matter of Joseph Tsai, the executive vice president of Alibaba and owner of the New York Nets. Tsai has unapologetically backed Beijing’s position on Hong Kong, most recently telling CNBC that Beijing’s enactment of the repressive national-security law in the city “stabilized” the situation.

All the while, Tsai, who obviously has his fortune on the line as he courts the Chinese government, has hidden behind his philanthropy work, including by standing up an outfit dedicated to supporting the Asian-American community. (Among other things, The Asian American Foundation, has provided funding to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit group that has condemned certain anti–Chinese government policies as “anti-Asian.”)

So far, Tsai has faced minimal criticism for his obvious support of the Chinese regime. Kanter can shine a spotlight on the obvious inconsistency between Tsai’s posturing as an advocate of social justice and his role in justifying the authoritarian policies of a totalitarian regime.

Kanter has his work cut out for him. Although Washington’s turn against China is in full swing, mainstream corporate and cultural institutions are far behind, and they stand vulnerable to undue foreign influence. With any luck, Kanter’s advocacy can make a difference.

Religion

Interview with an American Exorcist — Join Me with Monsignor Stephen Rossetti

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I don’t mean to interrupt your lighthearted celebration of Halloween, but when I see demons and other dark decorations, I do find myself in cautionary mode. There’s a new book by a priest in Washington, D.C. — Monsignor Stephen Rossetti — whose ministry involves dealing with the reality of evil. You can join our virtual discussion Tuesday at noon Eastern time. RSVP here.

Politics & Policy

In Virginia Rally, Obama Misleads on Culture War

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Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe fist bumps former former President Barack Obama during his campaign rally in Richmond, Va., October 23, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Glenn Youngkin’s last-minute surge is ruffling all the right feathers. The Virginia gubernatorial candidate’s beleaguered Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe — whose campaign has been pulling out all of the stops in a desperate bid to fend off the Republican insurgency — went so far as to bring Barack Obama to a Saturday rally. The former president wasted no time letting the audience know exactly what’s at stake in the November 2 election:

We don’t have time to be wasted on these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage, the right-wing media’s pedals to juice their ratings. And the fact that [Youngkin is] willing to go along with it instead of talking about serious problems that actually affect serious people? That’s a shame. That’s not what this election’s about. That’s not what you need, Virginia. Instead of forcing our communities to cut back at a time when we’re just starting to recover, we should be doing more to support people who are educating our kids, and keeping our communities safe.

Apparently, the very same things are also at stake in New Jersey. Here was Obama later that same day, at a campaign rally for Governor Phil Murphy’s reelection bid:

We don’t have time to waste on phony culture wars or fake outrage that the right-wing media is peddling just to juice up your ratings. We should be building on the progress we’ve made, not tearing it down. That’s not what this election is all about. That’s not what you need, Jersey. So instead of forcing schools to cut back, we should be doing more to support the people who are educating our kids.

As far as left-wing canards go, this is a two-fer. First, the idea that conservative cultural concerns — like, say, whether male students who are credibly accused of assaulting their female peers should continue to have access to girl’s bathrooms if they claim to be transgender — aren’t “serious problems that actually affect serious people.” Second, that the Right is always the aggressor in the culture war: In Obama’s framing, the culture warriors in Virginia are not the progressive educators who have pushed critical race theory–influenced curricula and transgender ideology in kids’ schools, but the parents and concerned citizens who are protesting these reforms. If progressivism is always on the “right side of history,” as the former president often liked to claim, then the steady march of cultural liberalism is inevitable; it is not until indignant right-wingers push back that such debates become the “culture war.”

Obama and McAuliffe know as well as anyone that new hot-button issues such as CRT and gender ideology in schools are a losing issue for Democrats — and, if the GOP plays its cards right, a winning one for Republicans. Education — a proxy for culture-war issues on everything from masks to CRT — is one of the top concerns in the Virginia race, and the latest polls show McAuliffe dangerously underwater on the question. Voters have traditionally viewed Democrats more favorably than Republicans on schools, but a new Cygnal poll out today shows McAuliffe trailing Youngkin by more than 16 points with parents of K–12 children.

Youngkin’s surge has coincided with his willingness to modify the old blue-state GOP campaign handbook on cultural debates, at least within the realm of education. When he kicked off his campaign with a more conventional culture war–averse approach — emphasizing jobs, taxes, and the other standard “kitchen table” issues that the GOP has long seen as the route to victory in Democratic-leaning constituencies — he was five points underwater. But as Virginia public schools have become a national battleground for cultural debates surrounding curricula and gender, Youngkin has leaned in to the fight. Now, the GOP is within spitting distance of the governorship for the first time in years. Whether or not Youngkin manages to pull it off, Republicans across the country could learn a thing or two from his strategy.

Media

The Facebook PsyOp Continues

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Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 5, 2021. (Jabin Botsford/Pool via Reuters)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the campaign against Facebook launched by Frances Haugen. I thought it was a liberal psychological operation aimed at getting Facebook to censor more conservatives and hire more American intel operatives.

This has been building, successively, ever the twin shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump. “Make no mistake, 2016 will never happen again,” wrote historian Niall Ferguson at the time.

And it didn’t! Social-media networks promoted false stories that made Donald Trump look bad relentlessly. And they outright censored true stories that made Joe Biden look bad. Zuckerberg gave millions to the cause of Democratic victories.

Now, of course, the phrase “liberal psyop” is the sort of thing that would cause me to walk away from anyone who uttered it. But what else could you call that dramatic rollout on 60 Minutes, in the Wall Street Journal, and immediately into Congress?

And that’s what it is. The Democrat-aligned Washington PR firm that is handling the “Facebook Whistleblower” is getting money for this campaign from liberal mega donor Pierre Omidyar. That’s the man who funds The Intercept, and a constellation of organizations associated with Never-Trump conservatives.

We’re currently on to phase No. 2, “The Facebook Papers,” which is leading Twitter’s trending topics as I write this. You can read through and all you’ll find is that many progressive Facebook employees and executives objected strongly to conservatives’ using Facebook during an election year, and argued for more censorship and intervention against them, only to be rebuffed by the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. There’s no attempt to situate these in the broader problem of social-media radicalization, which played a role in the 2020 riots that swept the United States, or that plays a role in social contagions such as the transgender phenomenon.

There is also almost no attempt to understand or distinguish what people do and say that is merely made visible by Facebook, from what people do and say because of Facebook’s design and algorithms.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether people fall for this attempt to recreate an institutional liberal stranglehold over media.

The Economy

Boring Regulation Fixes Are the Way Out of the Supply-Chain Crisis

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Shipping containers are unloaded from ships at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex in Los Angeles, Calif., April 7, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

When something causes nationwide problems, it’s tempting to look for a nationwide response. The current supply-chain crisis is indeed causing nationwide problems, and many have looked to the Department of Transportation and other federal authorities for a solution. There don’t seem to be any on offer.

Now that he’s back on the job, Pete Buttigieg’s McKinsey instincts must be kicking in as he tries to craft a perfect plan to put the supply chains back together again. The truth is that there’s not much the federal government can do about many of the important issues. The problems we currently face cannot be eliminated by spending a bunch of money or ordering people to act differently.

What can help, however, is allowing people to make higher stacks of shipping containers.

That’s what the city of Long Beach did over the weekend. The city’s zoning regulations limit how high containers can be stacked on top of each other in storage yards. Those limits are two stacked containers or eight feet in height. The city said it will be waiving those regulations for at least the next 90 days, allowing four and sometimes five stacked containers.

It’s possible that this zoning regulation is reasonable in ordinary times as an aesthetic concern, but it’s certainly not reasonable right now. The waiver of the regulation was spurred, it seems, by the actions of the CEO of Flexport, Ryan Petersen. Flexport is a freight forwarder that was founded in 2013 as a tech start-up. Petersen toured the Port of Long Beach and concluded in a Twitter thread that the bottleneck was container storage.

Here’s the situation: Containers can’t be loaded and unloaded because they can’t be moved. Ordinarily, at an import-driven port like Long Beach, a truck arrives with an empty container and trades it for a full container. Right now, there are lots of empty containers in the United States. The containers were filled with imports from East Asia and need to go back to East Asia to be filled again.

But the Port of Long Beach was not taking empty containers because it had nowhere to put them. If trucks showed up with nothing, they could take a full container away. But they couldn’t trade an empty container for a full one.

Since trucking companies couldn’t get rid of their empty containers, they piled up at storage yards. Once the storage yards were full, trucks couldn’t take any full containers because they had nowhere to put them. So the port terminals were full, and the storage yards were full, and things were at a complete standstill.

Lifting the container-stacking regulations means that the storage yards are no longer full. That will allow trucks to take full containers out of Long Beach again since they will have somewhere to put them. Once enough full containers get out of Long Beach, the port will be able to accept empty containers again, and the containers can begin circulating as they should.

Petersen suggested other ideas, such as creating a temporary container yard on government land and having trains and barges run shuttles back and forth between Long Beach and other nearby transportation hubs. These ideas should get a hearing. The goal is to get containers out of Long Beach so they can start circulating again. People who work in this field know what to do with containers once they get them, but that doesn’t matter if all the containers are stuck in one place.

This waiver isn’t a total solution. There are no total solutions. The waiver is a smart policy, though, based on the facts on the ground to help fix a specific problem that was causing a container standstill. These are the kind of fixes that will get us out of this mess. Not some nationwide strategy from a task force or a directive from the secretary of transportation.

Religion

Jeffrey Sachs Appointed by Vatican

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Economist Jeffrey Sachs during an interview with Reuters in 2016. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Pope Francis has appointed development economist Jeffrey Sachs to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Sachs is a professor at Columbia University who became almost synonymous with the “shock therapy” approach to privatization in the Soviet Union. He’s criticized the Biden administration for supposedly overstating Chinese abuse of Uyghur Muslims. He’s also infamously in favor of population control — having championed initiatives to “greatly reduce fertility rates in poor countries.” Needless to say, this is an unusual appointment for a Catholic Church that still believes that abortion and artificial contraception are sinful.

According to a report on this appointment by Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register, the chancellor of the Academy, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, explained Sachs’s unusually close relationship with the Vatican in recent years, by saying: “He integrates the magisterium of the Church and of Pope Francis into economics by putting the human person and the common good at the center.”

Anyway, if you thought that at least the Vatican itself could use its own institutional power for promoting Catholicism, rather than the same old global power-elite nonsense, you were mistaken.

Politics & Policy

As the Economy Crumbles

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How bad are things getting? Very bad, writes Jeffrey Tucker in this Brownstone Institute essay.

Years of government meddling in the spontaneous order of the market are now producing a perfect storm of empty shelves and people who either have been forced out of work or prefer to sit around collecting federal money.

Tucker wrote, “It doesn’t matter how bad it gets. Our leaders will never admit failure. They will look at the disaster they are creating and call it success. This is what is truly chilling about the unfolding issues: they do not believe it is a crisis.”

Could we be in a replay of the Great Depression? The “lesson” that most Americans learned from the depression, however, was the wrong one — the leftist notion that things were bad because capitalism had failed and we needed government intervention to save us. What if we could teach people the right lesson this time, namely that the problem is government intervention itself?

We must try.

Fiscal Policy

If You’re Looking for a Good Primer on Why Taxing Unrealized Capital Gains Is a Bad Idea . . .

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. . . after Janet Yellen’s comments this weekend, David Bahnsen did a great one a couple of years ago.

Elections

If McAuliffe Underperforms Polls the Way He Did in 2013, He Will Lose to Youngkin

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Candidate for Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe speaks during his campaign rally in Dumfries, Va., October 21, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

If Terry McAuliffe underperforms polls to the same degree he did back in 2013, then Glenn Youngkin is going to be the next governor of Virginia.

During his successful run for the governor’s mansion eight years ago, McAuliffe led challenger Ken Cuccinelli by six points in the final Real Clear Politics average. Yet the race ended up being closer, with an actual margin of just 2.5 points — meaning that McAuliffe did 3.5 points worse than polls expected.

With just over a week to go, Youngkin is within 1.8 points of McAuliffe (the two most recent polls showing a tie). Barring a late change in the average after this week’s final polls are taken into account, a comparable underperformance by McAuliffe next Tuesday would be enough to put Youngkin over the top.

My general impression of the race is that Youngkin has run a really strong campaign by focusing on issues such as parental control of schools, while McAuliffe’s main strategy has been to try to tie Youngkin to Donald Trump. McAuliffe has also suffered from Joe Biden’s cratering approval ratings in the state. It could be that Democrats have too strong of a built-in advantage in Virginia at this point, and that could save McAuliffe. But it should no longer be considered a big surprise if Youngkin pulls it off.

Wait, How Many Coincidences Does the Natural Spillover Theory Require?

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Security personnel stand outside Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, February 3, 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

As we contemplate how the COVID-19 pandemic began, let’s add up all of the strange and unusual pieces of information that, in the eyes of the lab leak skeptics, are complete coincidences.

Politics & Policy

Responding to the ‘Social Darwinist’ Canard

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One of the most commonly heard objections to those of us who espouse limited government (the “night watchman” theory) is that we are “social Darwinists.” Allegedly, we delight in the demise of the poor who just drag the species down.

Writing for AIER, Robert Wright has a terrific response. Here’s a key sentence: “The next time somebody accuses you, or your political party, or your ideological affinity group, of Social Darwinism, tell ‘em you want to help the poor to thrive by supporting policies that increase productivity and that allow people to help the unfortunate through charity, insurance, and other voluntary mechanisms.”

Read the whole thing.

Culture

A Sense of Shame, Etc.

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Former secretary of state and retired general Colin Powell (second from right) attends the unveiling of his bust in the Circle of Firsts at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., September 6, 2014. (U.S. Army / Handout via Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I have a variety of subjects, as usual — a big variety. I begin with fatal accidents (such as the one on the movie set last week). I also touch on China. And populism. And the Houston Astros. (Should their cheatin’ ways be forgotten?) Moreover, I ask the question: What’s the most beautiful city — big city — in America? The other day, Riccardo Muti said Chicago. (He is the music director of the CSO, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.) I say Chicago is No. 2. (The “second city,” again?) In today’s column, I invite readers to answer the question — to submit their nominations.

I write a little about Bernard Haitink, another conductor, who passed away last week. But frankly, where obits are concerned, I forgot about Colin Powell. I’d like to mention one thing about him, here on the Corner.

He is the only public figure I know of who spoke of shame. “This country has lost a sense of shame,” he’d often say. “We need to restore a sense of shame.” I think he was spot-on in this. Our politics and our culture are marked by shamelessness. Indeed, people take pride in their shamelessness. They boast of it, they swagger around. Those with a sense of shame are often dismissed as softies. This is crazily wrong.

In today’s Impromptus, I also bring up a superb column by Max Boot: “The BDS movement shows its hypocrisy by boycotting Israel but not China.” He writes,

Sally Rooney doesn’t want her new novel published in Israel, but her bestseller “Normal People” was published in China by a publishing house with close links to the tyrannical Communist regime. That bespeaks an inexcusable double standard.

Here on the Corner, I’d like to say that Max reminded me of Stephen Hawking. A little Googling took me to a piece I wrote in 2015: “Hung Up on Israel: An explanation for the sincere.” Let me quote:

In 2013, Stephen Hawking accepted an invitation to attend a conference in Israel honoring Shimon Peres. Hawking is the British physicist, as you know. He is one of the most famous and most admired men in all the world. Peres is an Israeli statesman and dove. Under pressure, Hawking changed his mind about going to Israel, saying he needed to respect the BDS movement.

A glance at his travel record is illuminating. In 1973, Hawking went to the Soviet Union. In 2007, he went to Iran. The year before, he had gone to China, where, according to a state news agency, he was “treated to a Hollywood-style reception.” Hawking said, “I like Chinese culture, Chinese food, and, above all, Chinese women. They are beautiful.”

Israeli women are pretty hot themselves. And they don’t live in a one-party police state with a gulag. Nor does Israel imprison Nobel peace laureates, such as Shimon Peres. China does.

Okay, let’s have a piece of reader mail — but it’ll take some explanation. In an Impromptus earlier this month, I spoke of bad behavior, on the part of the American public. Service employees are reporting that people are impossible — worse than they’ve (we’ve) ever been. “What is responsible for the current behavior?” I wrote.

The pandemic, people say. I agree — but would put it toward the bottom of the list: after politics, the partisan media, and the social media.

Quite possibly, people are acting now, in person, the way they act on social media.

Then too there’s the general breakdown in civilization. Ha, let’s not forget that!

A reader writes,

Good morning, Mr. Nordlinger,

I am behind on my Impromptus reading, “lagging the fight,” as we used to say in the fighter-pilot community (F-16).

Anyway, within your bullet on the rudeness of the American customer, you ponder its origin. . . .

Might I suggest that your cited explanations merely catalyzed the seeds that had been planted by their parents years ago? When parents do not terminate tantrums in Walmart, when parents genuflect to every demand of their child, when parents bend and bow every reed of life to the satisfaction of the child’s schedule, how are we to expect a restrained and civil sort of person when the hellion becomes an adult? We are reaping the whirlwind of unparenting.

Our reader adds, “So I do not get further behind, please sign me up for your Impromptus.” Done. And today’s edition, again, is here.

Education

The AAUP Comes after the University of North Carolina

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Nikole Hannah-Jones on CBS This Morning in 2019. (Screengrab via YouTube)

The American Association of University Professors purports to represent the interests of the faculty, but, like almost everything related to higher education, it has been taken over completely by the far Left.  The AAUP now represents the faculty the way the ACLU upholds civil rights — very selectively.

Recently, the AAUP announced that it is going to investigate the University of North Carolina. The pretext for this investigation is the Nikole Hannah-Jones affair, where the university didn’t immediately give the so-called scholar tenure. That became a rallying point for leftists eager to demonize “racism” anywhere and everywhere.

But as the Martin Center’s Jenna Robinson observes in today’s article about this, there has already been widespread investigation into this matter. The AAUP has a much wider agenda here.

She writes, “Thus, the investigation will go far beyond the Hannah-Jones incident. According to AAUP’s press release, the report will also cover ‘the influence of the gerrymandered state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees’ and ‘how the use of political pressure has obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system.’ In short, the AAUP will be looking into all the things it doesn’t like about the UNC System: namely, its conservative Board of Governors and Board of Trustees, their statutory authority to oversee faculty appointments, and the Republican-controlled legislature that appointed them.”

The composition of the committee charged with this investigation is revealing.  It consists entirely of left-wing zealots. Not a single person who might take a relaxed view of the way UNC is run.

Take the issue of faculty hiring. The AAUP professes concern over “litmus tests” that might exclude radicals like Hannah-Jones. Robinson responds, “But to anyone paying attention, it’s clear that the AAUP has it backward. It is faculty hiring committees (not the Board of Governors) who are now instituting political litmus tests reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy—in the form of required ‘diversity statements’ from job and tenure candidates. And the new segregationists can be found amongst faculty and administrators who promote separate resources and activities for different ‘affinity groups.’ One recent instance made headlines at Appalachian State University, where a ‘black male’ housing initiative was paired with a Black Panther course.”

This is nothing more than an effort at pushing UNC further into complete politicization.

Politics & Policy

Did Fauci Fund Abusive Animal Experiments?

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Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Reuters)

Anthony Fauci is in the thick of it again. This time, he is accused of funding animal experiments with beagles that sure seem to be abusive. From The Hill’s “Changing America” story:

House members, most of whom are Republicans, want Fauci to explain himself in response to allegations brought on by the White Coat Waste Project that involve drugging puppies.

According to the White Coat Waste Project, the Food and Drug Administration does not require drugs to be tested on dogs, so the group is asking why the need for such testing.

White Coat Waste claims that 44 beagle puppies were used in a Tunisia, North Africa, laboratory, and some of the dogs had their vocal cords removed, allegedly so scientists could work without incessant barking.

Leading the effort is Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), writing a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) saying the cordectomies are “cruel” and a “reprehensible misuse of taxpayer funds.”

“Our investigators show that Fauci’s NIH division shipped part of a $375,800 grant to a lab in Tunisia to drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hungry sand flies so that the insects could eat them alive,” White Coat Waste told Changing America. “They also locked beagles alone in cages in the desert overnight for nine consecutive nights to use them as bait to attract infectious sand flies.”

A few points:

  • This is highly political, so we have to be sure the experiment is being accurately described.
  • Sometimes beagles and primates are used in medical experimentation because, legally, large animals must be used in tests before humans.
  • That doesn’t mean every experiment with animals is necessary or proper. The harm that seeks to be alleviated is part of the equation, but so is the suffering caused to the animals. For example, a recent experiment in which male rats had uteruses transplanted so they could give birth — while surgically connected to female rats — was classic animal cruelty.
  • There had to be other ways to test the drug’s ability to combat infection than by letting dogs be bitten repeatedly by insects.
  • Note, it was not carried out in the USA but in Tunisia. This could be an example of what my friend William Hurlbut calls “outsourcing ethics” — that is, paying for experiments overseas that would be considered morally wrong here. It is notable that the rat experiment referenced above was conducted in China.

It’s too early to make a final judgment about this. But questions should be asked and answers required if the U.S. funded these tests. Also, whether any U.S. drug companies or universities were involved is a critical question.

World

State Department: Whoops, We Just Found a Lot More Americans Who Want to Leave Afghanistan

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President Joe Biden speaks as Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens during a Cabinet meeting at the White House, July 20, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Biden, August 31: “We believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave… For those remaining Americans there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”

White House chief of staff Ron Klain, September 5: “We believe it’s around about 100. We’re in touch with all of them, who we’ve identified, on a regular basis.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, September 13: “As of the end of last week, we had about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told us that they wish to leave the country.”

Briefing with an unidentified senior State Department official, September 27:  “With respect to the number of [American citizens] and [legal permanent residents] that are ready to go, it’s – I would say, in the vicinity of 100.”

CNN, Friday: “The State Department informed congressional staff Thursday that it is in touch with 363 US citizens in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave, two sources familiar with the call told CNN… More than 200 US citizens have been evacuated with the help of the US government since August 31, according to the State Department, meaning that upwards of 400 Americans have sought US help leaving the country in the nearly two months since the military withdrawal.”

So all along, the administration’s public estimates were roughly one quarter of the actual number of Americans who were actually still in the country and trying to get out.

The administration claims that the number is fluid because of the number of Americans who thought they wanted to remain in Afghanistan, and enjoy all the benefits and joys of living under the Taliban, but who later changed their mind and now want to leave.

 

Law & the Courts

A Telling Anecdote from Clarence Thomas

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As of Saturday, Clarence Thomas will have served as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court for 30 years. To commemorate the milestone, the Heritage Foundation held an event on Thursday at which Thomas spoke. Among the anecdotes he shared was this exchange with the late Antonin Scalia:

He [Scalia] invited me to go to the Kennedy Center with him, cause he said ‘Clarence, you like classical music?’ I said, ‘Oh I sure do.’ He said, ‘Come to the Kennedy Center.’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, but I don’t like people who like classical music.’

Laughter from both storyteller and audience alike followed.

There are hundreds better suited to discuss Thomas’ legal legacy to date, as well as that which he might accomplish in the days to come. I’ll point out the obvious, though: Clarence Thomas is one of most remarkable men to ever sit on the bench, and not just because of his first-rate mind, but because of his humility. A humility that can perhaps only be achieved through the kind of adversity he’s faced — first as a child born into poverty, and then as the target of, as he deemed it, a nationally televised “high-tech lynching.”

Few have swum further upstream against the current, and fewer still have kept their sense of self and perspective while doing so.

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Choice on Children

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The Democrats want monthly checks for parents, subsidies for child care, and paid family leave all to be in their giant spending bill. Senator Joe Manchin says they can only have one of the three. Cue the debate:

The Times quoted a sociologist who argued that paid leave was necessary for “changing gender norms both at work and at home.” Another sociologist backed making child care cheaper for parents because it “would likely pull more women in the workforce.”

Sending checks to parents, as the proposal to expand the tax credit for children would do, does not directly advance those objectives.

I argue in my column today that it’s that very quality that makes the checks a better idea than the other two proposals. It doesn’t try to change gender norms or pull (or push) mothers into paid work; it leaves families in charge.

Meanwhile, here’s an analysis from Jordan Weissmann of Slate of how “the bill quickly seems to be degenerating into a pricey heap of policy trash.” Short version: Manchin and Sinema won’t let the progressives get all of their programs fully funded, and the progressives won’t choose among the programs, so they’re going to “pass lots of half-baked legislation on a temporary basis.”

Law & the Courts

30 Years of Justice Clarence Thomas

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas participates in taking a new family photo with his fellow justices at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 1, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Allow me to add a few words to our celebration of 30 years on the Supreme Court for Clarence Thomas. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Justice Thomas in the spring of 1992, when he was freshly on the Court. Thirteen of us from Holy Cross College were in D.C. for our “semester in Washington” program (I was an intern for my then-congressman, Ben Gilman), and wrote to Justice Thomas as a fellow Crusader. He graciously met with us for 45 minutes, was at turns funny and still a bit raw at his mistreatment by the Senate the previous fall, and posed for individual pictures, in which you can marvel at my early-1990s eyeglasses:

I have had occasion in the years since to write a great many words about Justice Thomas and his jurisprudence, which may finally be coming into the peak of its influence on the Court this term. Two of those articles have been particularly comprehensive, and summarize what I could hope to contribute to this commemoration. At the end of the tempestuous 2014–15 term of the Court, best recalled for the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision, I wrote a deep-dive cover story in the Weekly Standard reviewing at length Thomas’s major opinions that term and the philosophy they embodied:

Like a medieval monk preserving Western culture through the Dark Ages, Thomas soldiered doggedly on, carrying the largest writing workload on the Court, pressing his point in cases small and large, sometimes at odds with his conservative colleagues, often alone. Perhaps history will never return to the path he is marking, but no one can say we weren’t warned . . .

Clarence Thomas is an affable man, if one who does not forget his scars, and by all accounts he gets on well enough with his colleagues. But given that few of them other than Scalia bother responding to his lone opinions, one wonders if some of them look at him a little funny—“that guy who keeps going on about the Constitution.” He is known to prefer the company of almost anyone to the company of his fellow judges and lawyers; he meets more often than any other justice with groups of visitors to the Court and travels the country in his RV during the Court’s recesses. But that distance makes him uniquely suited among the justices to look at this country not from the perspective of a member of the judicial high priesthood, but as a citizen ruled by it . . .

Thomas’s opinions this term form a coherent whole, one that places no trust in institutions—in the wisdom of judges, the expertise of bureaucrats, or the evenhandedness of either—but depends instead on clear, written rules and structural checks and balances. And his philosophy, while grounded in the same principles as our Constitution itself, should not surprise us. Thomas is not so far removed from his upbringing in segregated Georgia that he cannot remember what it was like to live in a place and time in which the government was staffed and run by people who had no intention of treating you fairly.

Two strategies are available to a citizen confronted by such a government. One is to keep for himself as large a space as possible free of the government, in which to exercise true liberty. The other is to insist on the punctilious observance of the letter of the law. The whims of administrative agencies and the discretion of judges to fashion new rights and rules according to their own policy preferences threaten both of these strategies, to the detriment of whomever the people in power regard as beneath their concern. It is perhaps a supreme irony, but a fitting one, that the man most concerned with keeping alight the flame of these old concepts of liberty and dignity is the justice of the Supreme Court who grew up under a government that wished to accord him neither liberty nor dignity.

In 2019, for National Review, I reviewed Myron Magnet’s book Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution:

Picture Clarence Thomas as a legal Indiana Jones, dodging slings and arrows to rescue a valuable and powerful relic from the wrong hands after it fell into undeserved obscurity. That’s the thesis of Myron Magnet’s new book. . . . [The book is] a potboiler, briskly surveying how our founding charter went missing, what impelled Justice Thomas to go looking for it, and what he unearthed. At the end of the journey, the reader will be forgiven for suspecting that the original Constitution will nonetheless be consigned to a dusty corner of a government archive while the capital’s top men insist they can do better without it . . .

Will Thomas’s rediscovery of the original Constitution be in vain? His opinions often attract little support or even response from his fellow justices. He writes for posterity, and 20 percent of President Trump’s appellate-court nominees have been former Thomas clerks. Living constitutionalists, in Thomas’s words, overturn precedents until “they get what they want, and then they start yelling ‘stare decisis,’ as though that is supposed to stop you.” By contrast, even conservative judges who hold the line against new inventions often blanch at rolling back old precedents, however rootless. But the original, written and amended Constitution doesn’t belong in a museum.

Happy anniversary to our greatest living justice.

Law & the Courts

BREAKING: Supreme Court Sets November 1 Oral Argument on Texas Abortion Case

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Abortion supporters and pro-life advocates demonstrate on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Washington, D.C., January 24, 2011. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a major challenge to Roe v. Wade, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi case that will be argued December 1. It has already once turned away a request to rule immediately on S.B. 8, the Texas abortion law that allows private individuals to file “private attorney general” civil damages lawsuits rather than enforce its abortion restrictions through government action. The latter decision was based largely on the Court’s skepticism of the procedural hurdles to the lawsuit looking to enjoin the Texas law.

Since then, the Justice Department under Merrick Garland has filed its own lawsuit to stop the Texas law. That lawsuit, as I have discussed, has its own problems, but the Court today ordered an aggressive briefing schedule and an emergency argument on November 1. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the decision not to enjoin the law in the interim.

There are three things going on here. One, the justices would clearly prefer to hear the Dobbs case in an orderly and deliberative fashion and grapple with the momentous decision whether to overturn, entrench, or rewrite and limit Roe in the spring. But events keep forcing them to take up the Texas case first. I will still be surprised if the Court decides the Texas case in any way that shows its cards on the outcome of Dobbs, but if you are worried that Chief Justice John Roberts and others, especially Justice Brett Kavanaugh, may lack the courage to overturn Roe, the worst-case scenario is that they get cold feet in the Texas case, presented as it is under more adverse circumstances.

Two, the asymmetry of how the Court handles emergency stay requests is on full display. Justice Sotomayor argues that “every day that S. B. 8 remains in effect is a day in which such tactics are rewarded. And every day the scheme succeeds increases the likelihood that it will be adapted to attack other federal constitutional rights.” But it has often been the case in, say, gun-rights cases that laws violating constitutional rights get left in place until the Court hears them. Abortion cases have regularly been given special treatment, which is why you hear so much howling when the Court leaves a law on the books for just a few weeks.

Three, the justices may be sensitive to criticisms of emergency decisions made without full briefing and argument — the so-called shadow docket. It is inevitably the case that the Court has to act in more summary fashion when it is asked for emergency relief. And it is entirely defensible for the Court to turn away cases and requests for relief without hearing them in full; it does that every week when it denies petitions for certiorari. It is a fairer argument that the Court should not grant affirmative relief — enjoining a law more than temporarily — without a fuller hearing, especially on questions of national significance. The fact that the Court is adding this case to the argument docket plainly shows that the justices want to make a public show of giving Merrick Garland his day in court.

Elections

‘The VA Governor’s Race’

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In this short and snappy Editors episode, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the VA governor’s race, the reconciliation bill, and more. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Fiscal Policy

Americans Should Be More Upset about Infrastructure Inefficiency

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Rush-hour traffic in Washington, D.C., in 2016. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The national debt is out of control. Some people used to be pretty upset about that, and politicians have tried to make an issue out of it. But most people don’t get that worked up about it. Both parties have now realized that, and they’ve both promised to not reform entitlements, which are the drivers of the debt. So the debt keeps going up and the few budget hawks that are still around are left wondering, “Why is nobody else upset about this?”

It’s an interesting question, one that people interested in politics ask themselves fairly regularly. The same things don’t upset everyone. Many libertarians get very upset about the very real injustices that result from occupational licensing. Occupational licensing reform is fairly bipartisan, and many regulations (1,000 hours of training to be a hair stylist, for example) are indefensible barriers to entry that hurt the people they purportedly help. Most people see that when it’s explained to them. But it’s hard to whip up a frenzy about occupational-licensing reform because although most people agree, they also don’t really care that much.

On issues like the debt and occupational licensing, there’s a straightforward explanation: They’re problems that affect other people. The debt affects future people, our older selves and people who haven’t been born yet. Occupational licensing affects people who want to enter specific industries, groups of people too small to make a majority on their own. (The people who already have licenses don’t support reform, in many cases, because they benefit personally from the status quo.) People tend to get more worked up about issues that directly affect them.

That’s not to call those people selfish. Most people don’t follow politics for a living, and they don’t care much about the details of specific policy issues. There’s nothing wrong with that. People have finite bandwidths to care about issues, so it makes sense to care first about issues that directly affect them. It’s a form of minding your own business, something we could probably use a bit more of these days.

Yet there’s one issue that directly affects just about everyone that very few people get upset about: Construction projects taking forever.

Of course, people get upset about them when they’re sitting in traffic. But they don’t get upset about them at the polls. It’s rare to see a politician running for office making an issue out of construction that never ends.

Unlike other issues, such as unemployment or gas prices, the government actually has control over construction projects on infrastructure that it owns and operates. There are actually few things the government has more control over. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of policy ideas circulating to fix these problems. Brian Riedl, for example, wrote a sketch of a four-point conservative plan for NR back in April.

Finishing construction projects faster would make people’s everyday lives better in ways that most political issues don’t. Even taxation, the fundamental issue that everyone cares about, doesn’t make your commute miserable every single day.

In developing countries, construction projects are a major political issue. The Indian transportation minister has made a promise to build 100 kilometers of highway per day. That’s a longshot, and the Indian government’s M.O. is overpromising and underdelivering. But India did actually build 37 kilometers of brand new highway per day last year. They set a world record by laying 2,580 meters of four-lane highway in 24 hours. It’s probably much easier to build fast at Indian standards, and Americans should expect better quality for their highways. But the wealthiest country on the face of the earth should be able to build better highways at least half as fast as India.

It’s a national disgrace that a rail tunnel that took two years to build in the 1870s will take up to twelve years to replace today. There are children entering kindergarten this coming school year who were not yet born the last time one 22-mile segment of I-66 in Northern Virginia wasn’t under construction. To add insult to injury, these marathon projects are overpriced to begin with and often come in over budget. So not only are they making it harder for you to get around for years, they’re also wasting your money.

It says something about the American people that we find time to get outraged over any number of social media-fueled controversies that rarely last longer than 48 hours, yet we are generally complacent about our government making travel unnecessarily difficult for years at a time. This country used to be able to pull off marvels of engineering in less time than it takes to repair one stretch of highway today. Our gross infrastructure inefficiency is a sign of national decline, and if Americans continue to be complacent about it, it will not be reversed.

Culture

Safetyism Isn’t about Snowflake Students, but Timid Leadership

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Oren Cass and the good folks at American Compass started chatting with me about “safetyism” — an ethic that seems to be spreading throughout American institutions and culture. Here’s the basic idea:

In a society where safety is the highest value, people will discover that asserting a claim of unsafety is the most effective way to coopt institutional and state power. Authorities will not only gravitate toward actions that minimize risk, but also run away from making decisions of their own lest the power of victimhood be turned on them. In a culture without shared values beyond “avoid hurt,” risks become impossible to assess or accept against a claim that someone may be harmed, sapping our appetite for exercising judgment in the face of inevitable tragedy and loss. Thus, the safety imperative undermines conservatism and the common good not because it advances some “woke” agenda, but because it enforces through legal and social concepts of liability an absolute preference for harm reduction over the many other values—from liberty and fairness to tradition and hierarchy—that human flourishing requires as well.

The essay touches on passive-aggressive Yale students, the total obscuring of human responsibility for public-health-policy decisions, the necessity of risk in building a flourishing culture, and a republic that can confront the challenges of the 21st century. Check it out here.

National Review

What You Missed Last Night

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) speaks at the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner Gala in Dallas, Texas, October 21, 2021. (Grant Miller Photography)

Yesterday evening in Dallas, the National Review Institute hosted its annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner Gala honoring three men who have made immeasurable contributions to American conservatism: Eugene Meyer and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and Adam Meyerson of the Philanthropy Roundtable.

All the remarks offered during dinner were encouraging, but I was especially glad to hear Leo’s affirmation of originalism and his repudiation of the idea that this legal philosophy ought to be amended somehow so that judiciaries will deliver conservative policy victories presently out of reach. As he put it, one of the most important parts of originalism is the belief that the judiciary ought to be constrained to its proper constitutional role, which precludes judges from imposing their own views through their rulings, whether or not we agree with the outcome. It is the job of the elected branches of government to deliver the policy changes conservatives want, not the job of unelected judges, and conservatives would be misguided to push for such a strategy.

It was such a blessing to be back in person with friends old and new. As great as modern technology might be in some ways, attending a black-tie gala via Zoom doesn’t have quite the same feel as gathering in a room together. It was also the occasion for my first trip to Texas — and I’ll conclude with a shout-out to my kind Uber driver, who insisted on giving me a tour of Dallas on my way out of town. Judging from his thorough narration, just about every major American company has its headquarters or a major office of some kind in Texas, which I can’t say is too surprising.

Culture

Through an Immigrant’s Eyes

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An illustration of the Declaration of Independence against the backdrop of an American flag (smartstock/Getty Images)

Get to know Mark Haidar, a computer engineer and tech entrepreneur in Dallas. I have done a Q&A podcast with him, here. We met at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Haidar is a Presidential Leadership Scholar, affiliated with the Bush Center and other presidential centers. He is one of the people featured in George W. Bush’s recent book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. Haidar has an amazing story to tell, and important things to say.

His family is Lebanese, but had to flee in 1982, with the outbreak of war. They went to Kuwait, where Mark was born. When Mark was four — by the way, his original name is “Mahmoud” — they went back to Lebanon.

The family was very poor, like many. One of Mark’s sisters froze to death at five months old. The country was beset by fighting of various types.

One day, two employees of the United Nations came to Mark’s school. This was “the day that changed my life,” says Mark. They brought with them two computers — by which Mark was fascinated. “Obsessed,” he says. He wanted to learn everything about computers he could. Out in the world, he felt relatively helpless. Behind a computer, he felt empowered. It was the only thing in his life he could control. “Computers do exactly what you tell them to do,” he says.

He found something called “Encarta.” This was an early Microsoft encyclopedia. He began reading about the United States and discovered the Declaration of Independence — which excited him. He knew, in his core, it was true: Human beings have rights that no man or system can negate.

Thereafter, he had a tradition. Every time he got a new notebook in school — like a spiral notebook — he would write in it the words “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This might be remembered in our debate about Thomas Jefferson and related debates. Lots of Americans are cynical about the American founding. People on left and right — progressives, “post-liberals,” et al. — have transcended it (or so they think). Yet our founding, and the Declaration of Independence in particular, retains the power to light people on fire, the world over. Light them with righteous and true fire. To them, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not a cliché. It is not a joke. They don’t scoff or roll their eyes. For them, it is radical, revolutionary, and true.

Think of Mahmoud Haidar, a poor kid in Lebanon, struggling to survive. Old Jefferson spoke to him, across the centuries.

As a teen, Mahmoud learned English (as well as French). He learned it mainly through those two sublime teachers, The Simpsons and Seinfeld.

In 2006, as bombs fell during the Second Lebanon War, he made a dangerous escape from the country, eventually reaching Detroit, where he furthered his education.

At a gas station, to pay for school, he worked from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He made 8 dollars an hour — which suited him fine. He ate at a Taco Bell on McNichols Avenue. You could get a Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito for 89 cents. He had two of those a day, and a woman who worked in the restaurant made sure they were stuffed nice and fat, just for him. He reasoned this way: “I can work for one hour and eat for four days.” In Lebanon, you had to work a lot harder — a lot longer — than that, for basic nourishment.

In any event, Mahmoud “Mark” Haidar has founded or co-founded several companies and has several patents. He has risen — and risen — in a very short time.

Toward the end of our podcast, I ask him whether he is worried about America, his country — worried about it socially and politically. He is. There are 17 tribes in Lebanon, he says. He watched tribalism destroy that country. “Once you start putting your tribe over your country, the construct of your country ceases to exist.”

Again, you will want to get to know this remarkable person: Our Q&A is here.

Education

We Can and Must Fight Back against Speech Intolerance on Campus

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The campus of Yale University ( Benyapha Soomhirun/Getty Images)

For decades, the Left has pretty much had its way on our college campuses, particularly when it comes to speech. Administrators have been intimidated into giving in when our Red Brigades demand that people they dislike be silenced. Any absurd reason such as “he makes us feel unsafe” suffices.

The good news is that there is a counter-attack building.

One organization that is part of the counter-attack is the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), headed by Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins interviews her.

About BPC’s main project, she says, “The Campus Free Expression Project works with campus leaders to develop policies, programs, and curricula that make for a welcoming environment for robust intellectual exchange. We’re really concerned that colleges prepare students to be able to have conversations across principled disagreements and to work constructively with people with whom one might have a very different point of view. That’s why BPC was interested in starting this project and the spirit in which we’re undertaking this work.”

The main problem is that a sizable minority of students feel perfectly justified in launching nasty, often ad hominem attacks against anyone who dares disagree with them. As a consequence, a high percentage of students report that they are hesitant to speak up when controversial topics arise.

But BPC is working to change that. Pfeffer Merrill states that,”Ronald Crutcher, who just finished his term as president of the University of Richmond and serves on BPC’s Academic Leaders Task Force, hosted two series, the Sharp Viewpoint Series and “Spider Talks”— spiders are the mascot of the University of Richmond. Among the many speakers he hosted were pairs like Robby George and Cornel West, two scholars who are friends but who really disagree with one another, and who, in their conversations, model how people can have serious conversations with people who understand the world in a really different way.”

Good luck to BPC for challenging the thought police.

Health Care

An OSHA Cover-Up Feeds Vaccine-Conspiracy Theories

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A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site in New York City, January 29, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Anti-vaccine propaganda and conspiracy theories are not something the government can successfully control, but the government can absolutely make them worse by acting as if it has a bias toward covering up the side effects or adverse reactions to vaccines. OSHA is doing precisely that by announcing on its website that it has suspended reporting requirements that normally would cause employers to report adverse reactions to the vaccine. From the FAQ section of OSHA’s website (emphasis mine):

Vaccine Related

The recording requirements in question are not specific to COVID, or to vaccines in general; the lengthy, highly detailed rules “require employers to record and report work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses,” and they apply to all manner of injury and illness that could potentially be classified as work-related. For example, the rule on “occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials” alone runs over 7,500 words and includes detailed requirements for employers to offer Hepatitis B vaccinations and “Information on the hepatitis B vaccine, including information on its efficacy, safety, method of administration, the benefits of being vaccinated, and that the vaccine and vaccination will be offered free of charge.”

It would be one thing if OSHA decided, as a general, ongoing matter, that paperwork requirements deterred employers from offering or requiring vaccinations and that the government should therefore not overload businesses with such requirements. That is an entirely reasonable, pro-business, pro-vaccine approach to take. But that is not what OSHA has done here, or why it has done it. The rule is not being changed; OSHA is just declining to enforce it for one specific vaccine. This alone is typical of how the administrative state exercises power: Never relinquish power on any general principle, but retain the discretion to be selective in order to play favorites and keep the citizenry dependent upon official favor. Also, the official explanation says specifically that OSHA’s first concern is the “appearance of discouraging workers” — it says right there in black and white that the federal government is afraid that people won’t get the vaccine if the usual rules for reporting side effects and other adverse reactions are followed. We’re all familiar with government coverups, but normally, one does not announce them formally in advance.

We have already seen plenty of mismanagement of public expectations for the benefits of COVID vaccination, particularly the whipsaw between public-health officials treating vaccination as a passport to freedom from COVID (hence, mandates and show-your-papers requirements), then continuing to tell vaccinated people to wear masks as the media breathlessly hypes “breakthrough” infections. All of this seems designed to degrade public trust in the vaccines, which are one of the great miracles of the modern American system. We should not fear truthful information about adverse reactions to the vaccines; there will always be some of those, and any system for collecting adverse reports will always also include people claiming reactions that may not actually be connected to the medicine they received. Openly announcing that the government is suspending the usual rules in order to avoid knowing things about the COVID vaccine is a terrible idea. It will only feed the hysteria of the anti-vaccine movement.

Media

Medical Journals Have a Bad Case of Ideologyitis

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(Sergey Tinyakov/Getty Images)

I guess sticking to medical science is boring for the editors of the world’s foremost medical journals. Once-august publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet are infected with a bad case of woke politics — let’s diagnose it as “ideologyitis” — and increasingly devoting their pages to political screeds and ideological advocacy pieces. They promote politically progressive policies such as critical race theory, transgender movement agendas, gun control, and harsh approaches to stifling global warming.

The Lancet is really into the global-warming hysteria, publishing pieces “to drive transformative changes in all sectors of society” by urging governments to deploy heavy-handed approaches to the global-warming cause which would include attacks on the meat industry or enforce supply constraints that would dramatically raise energy prices. A recent Lancet article argues (emphasis added):

The urgent challenge of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest presents an opportunity to drive transformative changes in all sectors of society. Well designed actions to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could bring major benefits for health, by both reducing the health risks of climate change and delivering multiple benefits to human health and development (co-benefits).

Modelling studies estimate that many millions of premature deaths could be prevented and GHG emissions greatly reduced by phasing out fossil fuels, thereby reducing air pollution, and by encouraging active travel, increasing use of public transport, and shifting to sustainable and healthy diets. Further benefits could accrue from efficient, well ventilated housing and from efforts to develop net zero health-care systems. There is also great potential to achieve health and climate benefits from nature-based solutions, including green space in cities, reforestation, and reduced deforestation and agroforestry. However, these potential benefits will only be realised by addressing key barriers and challenges.

The idea is to treat climate change as a public-health emergency similar to COVID, thereby allowing for the deployment of coercive policies to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050 — meaning that they would not end for decades, if ever, because we will never get to a world without some carbon emissions:

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in support for public health action in many countries. Further, health professionals have become mobilised to support climate action. To build on this momentum, the research community should harmonise approaches to assessing and modelling the health benefits, co-benefits, and trade-offs of climate action—eg, use of standardised, consistent timescales and metrics so that research is more useful for policy and practice. All nations should include health in their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, including quantitative estimates of the health benefits of climate action.

Meanwhile, a different article published by The Lancet at the same time urges attacks on the meat industry:

Key related areas also must not be neglected, notably food systems. The food sector accounts for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and food systems are inextricably entwined with climate change at every level of production and consumption, including livestock and agriculture, land use, and the health co-benefits of better diets. This year, the first climate famine has been documented in Madagascar, with more than 1·14 million people in a state of famine. In September, 2021, the UN General Assembly Food Systems Summit defined raising awareness of food systems and transformation of diets as key goals for the health of both people and the planet.

With these journals increasingly devoting their limited space to ideological tracts, that would seem to mean less attention devoted to articles dealing with actual science. And perhaps less funding to support true medical research. That’s both jurisdictional imperialism (by bringing what are primarily non-medical issues under the health-policy umbrella) and a potential stifling of medical advancement.

Bottom line: Until these journals get out of politics and return to their actual purpose of informing the medical sector about new treatment modalities and research results full time, trust in public-health policy will continue to erode.

Health Care

What Happened: Dr. Jay Bhattacharya on 19 Months of COVID

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From the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya has been on the front lines of analyzing, studying, and even personally fighting the pandemic. In this wide-ranging interview, Dr. Bhattacharya takes us through how it started, how it spread throughout the world, the efficacy of lockdowns, the development and distribution of the vaccines, and the rise of the Delta variant. He delves into what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we got really wrong. Finally, Dr. Bhattacharya looks to the future and how we will learn to live with COVID rather than trying to extinguish it, and how we might be prepared to deal with another inevitable pandemic that we know will arrive at some point.

Recorded on October 13, 2021

Education

Historians Misquote and Misrepresent Texas Civics Law

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(Drazen Zigic/Getty Images)

Critics of Texas Senate Bill 3, which prevents critical race theory–based indoctrination, continue to mischaracterize the law. In a new low, two historians, president of the American Historical Association, Jacqueline Jones, and executive director of the American Historical Association, James Grossman, go the usual misrepresentations one better by misquoting the text of the law. These historians and others make three key mistakes: 1) the law does not require the teaching of Holocaust denial; 2) the law does not prevent teaching that slavery was a crucially important aspect of American history; 3) the law does not prevent any teaching that makes students feel uncomfortable.

I am the author of model legislation that inspired some of the core language of Texas S.B. 3. To be clear, S.B. 3 reworks a similar law passed a few months previously, adding provisions that I have publicly and energetically opposed. That said, the particular provisions at issue here remain close to those offered in my model legislation.

The attack on S.B. 3 by historians Jones and Grossman is based on a misquote. According to Jones and Grossman, S.B. 3 “requires that K–12 teachers present ‘opposing viewpoints’ on ‘widely debated and controversial’ issues.” They go on to suggest that “historical issues” are best understood as having “different angles of vision,” rather than “opposing sides.” They warn that “we cannot, and should not, expect teachers to offer ‘opposing’ views on the essence of either slavery or genocide.”

Baseless attacks like this greatly misrepresent the text and meaning of S.B. 3 and continue to sow confusion about the law. First, the law does not demand the presentation of “opposing viewpoints” on “widely debated and controversial issues.” What S.B. 3 actually says is that a teacher “who chooses to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs” shall, “to the best of the teacher’s ability, strive to explore that topic from diverse and contending perspectives” (my emphasis).

This provision is specifically meant to apply to discussions of current events and widely debated public policy controversies in social-studies classes. Many social-studies teachers discuss current events in class. In fact, S.B. 3 actually requires them to do so. (That requirement is one of the provisions I oppose.) Clearly, current-events discussions in social-studies classes can shade over into one-sided treatments of hot-button controversies such as immigration, crime, federal spending, abortion, election laws, and a host of other issues. The new law merely indicates that in case of such discussions, teachers should strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending points of view.

Use of the word “strive” (i.e., “try”) is deliberate. This provision is largely aspirational. It sets a goal of balanced discussion of hot-button contemporary controversies, without dictating precise parameters for such discussion. Essentially, it calls on teachers to avoid abusing their authority by imbuing students with their personal political views.

Jones and Grossman omit the crucial text that makes all this clear. They put the words “widely debated and controversial” in quotes, which omits the crucial word “currently.” They also cut off the passage without including “issue of public policy or social affairs.” Their premise is that this provision of the law applies to “historical issues,” when the opposite is the case. S.B. 3 neither requires nor forbids the teaching of diverse and contending perspectives on the causes or consequences of, say, the War of 1812. This provision calls on teachers to explore diverse perspectives on widely debated current public policy controversies.

I haven’t seen any dueling newspaper op-eds or cable-television battles lately over either the reality or the horror of the Holocaust. The existence and horror of the Holocaust are the very opposite of widely debated and currently controversial issues. On the contrary, the Holocaust is an event from the past upon whose reality and horror there is wide social consensus. It is silly to claim that S.B. 3 requires the teaching of Holocaust denial when it does nothing of the sort.

Jones and Grossman also falsely claim that S.B. 3 prevents teachers from treating slavery and racism as “central aspects of our past, with a lasting impact.” That is not true. They object to the provision that prevents teachers from inculcating the idea that, “with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”

Nothing in that provision prevents teaching that slavery and racism are “central aspects of our past,” or that they have had “a lasting impact.” Certainly, our failures to live up to our founding principles have been centrally important to our history. What the provision cited by Jones and Grossman would prevent, and what it was designed to prevent, are claims such as those made by the 1619 Project, that our founding principles are a sham, that slavery is America’s true “origin,” and that out of slavery and racism “grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.” The 1619 Project teaches that slavery and racism are America’s truest and deepest values and that our official founding story is essentially a pious fraud. Undoubtedly, some scholars agree with this. The people of Texas have every right to differ.

This brings us to the claim by Jones and Grossman that parents and administrators ought to accept the judgment of teachers who are “certified in pedagogy and age-appropriate instruction” and should adopt as well “a curriculum consistent with professional scholarship.” The notion that legislators ought to defer to teachers certified at education schools permeated by critical race theory is absurd, as is the idea that “professional scholarship” in today’s academy is free of political bias. (For more on the bias of the history profession and the curricula it generates, go here, here, and here.) S.B. 3 is a welcome sign that Americans have seen through false claims of neutral and professional scholarship and are finally pushing back against the bias of the academy.

Lastly, Jones and Grossman pick up on another common bogus attack on S.B. 3, although only briefly and implicitly. They suggest that the bill bars any teaching that causes student “discomfort.” That is false.

You can see a more elaborate version of this argument in this recent column from Michael Gerson. According to Gerson, the Texas bill forbids the teaching of “any ‘concept’ that causes an individual to ‘feel discomfort guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.’” Gerson leaves out critical language here. The law does not forbid teaching that causes discomfort on account of an individual’s race or sex. Instead, it forbids teaching that students ought to feel discomfort. To quote the text, the law prevents schools from inculcating the concept that “an individual should feel discomfort . . . on account of the individual’s race or sex.” This prevents teachers from telling students that they bear guilt or blame for, say, their so-called white privilege. It would not, however, prevent teachers from introducing the historical material floated in Gerson’s column, even if that made some students uncomfortable.

The absurd attacks on attempts by Texans to prevent indoctrination in the latest leftist nostrums continue. These attacks almost always mangle and misrepresent the actual text of the law in question. Parents need to stay strong in the face of false claims by biased academics, not to mention the Biden administration’s intimidation tactics. The battle against politicized education continues. Here’s hoping that the 2022 state legislative session will be a banner year.

The Economy

Why Not Just Put Freight on Planes?

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A container ship operated by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) is docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., January 14, 2011. (Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

With America’s major seaports clogged with ships full of goods, it’s not unreasonable to ask why shippers don’t just use planes instead. Ships are old-fashioned and slow, and many Americans probably didn’t realize how dependent we still are on them before the shipping crisis put it in the headlines. Airplanes are faster and more modern, plus they aren’t limited to coastal destinations.

Air freight and ocean freight are not as close substitutes as you might think, though. Here are some reasons why.

The biggest reason is economies of scale. Ships are much larger than planes and the more cargo you pack on one ship, the cheaper each individual piece of cargo is to ship. To give perspective on the scale, recall the Ever Given, the container ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal. It’s 1,312 feet long. That’s over five times as long as a Boeing 747-8, one of the largest widely used cargo planes in the world. The Ever Given is 192 feet wide, which is nearly ten times wider than the cabin of the 747-8.

The difference in scale really shows when you measure in freight, though. The unit of measure for ocean freight is 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. It’s a measure of volume based on the space a standard 20-foot-long container takes up. Air freight, on the other hand, is measured in kilograms. One TEU can contain tens of thousands of kilograms of freight. The Ever Given can carry 20,000 containers. You can see how ocean freight scales up orders of magnitude faster than air freight.

Ocean freighters are also used exclusively for ocean freight. Though purpose-built cargo planes exist, most air freight is shipped in the cargo holds of passenger planes. (The reduction in passenger flights during the pandemic caused major problems for the air freight industry, and some airlines began shipping freight in passenger cabins to keep revenue coming in.) If you want to ship a large amount of air freight, you have to charter your own plane, which adds another huge cost.

Packing air freight is also more difficult than packing ocean freight. There are challenges in packing an ocean container, but they pale in comparison to packing an airplane. Air freight is loaded onto a pallet, called a “cookie sheet,” which is packed as tightly as possible in a warehouse, then wrapped in plastic and secured with bungie cords and rope. This process is much less standardized than filling an ocean container, and it’s extremely important to get it exactly right. If the contents of the pallet shift during flight, it can cause the plane to crash. Packing ocean freight does not demand that level of precision, and mistakes don’t carry that level of consequences.

Those extra costs and hassles mean air freight is used sparingly. About 90 percent of all shipments are by ocean. The obvious case when air freight is worthwhile is when speed is the primary concern. Goods shipped by ocean are also more likely to be damaged than goods shipped by air, so delicate items like electronics and designer clothes are often shipped on planes. Above all, air freight is used for items that are expensive since the revenue they bring in will compensate for the higher shipping costs.

But with the price of ocean freight soaring, the gap between air and ocean freight prices has narrowed. According to a Journal of Commerce article from July, “Before COVID-19, the average price of global air cargo was 12 times more expensive than sea shipping, but in May that dropped to 6 times more expensive.” It’s still much more expensive, just less so than it usually is.

That decrease in the price differential means air freight has become worthwhile for more shippers than normal. According to the Financial Times, “With factory lines in the US and Europe relying on the timely arrival of parts and components, and manufacturers suffering from depleted inventories, no premium seems too much to pay to cut the journey time from Asia from the weeks it takes by container ship to a matter of days by plane.” More shipping by air means those prices have gone up as well, with year-over-year increases of 70 to 100 percent on some routes. That’s nothing compared to the 1,000 percent increases on some shipping routes, but airlines are still struggling to keep up with the surge in freight.

Shipping prices aren’t set by shipping companies. They are determined on a global market based on economic forces. That determination process takes into account real factors, such as the capacity of airplanes and ships. Because of those real factors, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the price of air freight could ever be cheaper than (or even close to) the price of ocean freight in absolute terms. But the price of shipping by air relative to the price of shipping by sea has declined, so more companies are using air freight than before. Air freight will never be a replacement for ocean freight, though, and it’s not feasible to just use more planes and solve the shipping crisis.

Health Care

Texas Welcomes Unvaccinated Organ-Transplant Patients Refused Care in Colorado

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(cyril martin/Getty Images)

How bizarre has the vaccine controversy become? Colorado hospitals are refusing organ transplants to COVID-unvaccinated patients because if they catch the disease, they would have a 30 percent chance of dying due to weakened immune systems caused by the anti-rejection drugs recipients must take.

Never mind that refusing the transplant — after the patients have waited years for their turn — would have close to a 100 percent chance of death.

Now, Texas is welcoming those patients to come to the Lone Star State for their transplants. From the Fox News story:

“Here in Texas, vaccines remain voluntary and never forced,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office told Fox News in a statement. “Anyone being denied critical, life-saving organ transplants is welcome here in Texas, where one’s rights and freedoms are always protected.”

Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Republican, told Fox News he was happy that Texas hospitals have, for now at least, “chosen to put patients before politics.”

“It seems too many in the medical profession have forgotten their oaths,” Cain said.

Meanwhile, the Niklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation, based in Grand Prairie, Texas, is offering to help people like McLaughlin and Lutali find housing while they await organ transplants in Texas.

So, which state really cares about the well-being of these very ill patients? Clearly, Texas.

But don’t expect the usual media suspects and critics to give the state credit. That would interfere with the false narrative that rejecting mandates is akin to killing people, even though Colorado’s transplant refusals more aptly fit that description.

PC Culture

Netflix Bends, but Doesn’t Break (Yet)

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Netflix has given ground in the Dave Chappelle war, with the company’s co-CEO saying he communicated poorly in his defense of the show and the company welcoming an employee walk-out in protest. The good news is that Netflix still stands by featuring Chappelle — for now. Meanwhile, the walk-out was notably small and ridiculous and featured this scene worthy of a Monty Python skit.

Sports

Enes Kanter Is the Hero We, or at Least the NBA, Needs

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He released a forceful video denouncing China’s treatment of Tibet:

And, of course, the Chinese government immediately responded.