Sports

Outrageous Video of Male Swimmer Crushing Female Competitors

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Here is video footage of the University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia (formerly Will) Thomas competing against the girls:

No additional commentary is necessary.

Science & Tech

New Study Indicates Omicron Spreads 70 Times Faster Than the Delta Variant

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A person gets a COVID-19 test in Times Square in Manhattan, December 13, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

If, as a new study from the University of Hong Kong suggests, the Omicron variant spreads 70 times faster than the Delta variant, then we’re all going to get it. It’s just a matter of when. The good news is that the study also finds that Omicron doesn’t spread as quickly in human lungs, which means it inflicts less damage:

Dr Chan and his team successfully isolated the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and used this experimental model to compare infection with the original SARS-CoV-2 from 2020, the Delta variant and the recent Omicron variant. They found that the novel Omicron variant replicates faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and Delta variant in the human bronchus. At 24 hours after infection, the Omicron variant replicated around 70 times higher than the Delta variant and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. In contrast, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently (more than 10 times lower) in the human lung tissue than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, which may suggest lower severity of disease.

The bronchus are the two large tubes that carry air from your windpipe to your lungs and back. Rapid reproduction in the bronchus probably results in an infected person exhaling more of the virus with every breath, making the virus spread faster and more widely. Thankfully, the variant’s inability to replicate quickly inside the lungs gives the infected person’s body better odds of overcoming the infection.

If this new variant really does spread 70 times faster than Delta, which was considered twice as contagious as previous strains of SARS-CoV-2 . . . it is going to be extremely difficult for people to avoid being exposed to the Omicron variant. Thankfully, because Omicron isn’t as difficult to fight off in the lungs, the rapid spread won’t be leading to mass deaths, and it should “burn through” populations quickly. That said, if you’re eligible for a booster and haven’t gotten one yet . . . you’re probably going to want to get one as soon as possible. If this variant is going to be everywhere soon, you’re going to want your body to be prepared.

Law & the Courts

It’s Not as Simple as Overturning Roe

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Pro-life demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Washington Post reported yesterday evening that the Democratic attorney general of Wisconsin, Josh Kaul, has said he won’t enforce the state’s existing prohibition on abortion — even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Currently, Wisconsin permits elective abortion up to 22 weeks’ gestation, but it’s also one of several states with an inactive ban on nearly all abortions, a law that was on the books long before the Court created the right to abortion in Roe.

Because that law has never been changed, unless the state were to alter it in the meantime, it presumably would take effect if and when the Court rolls back its abortion jurisprudence, which currently prohibits states from restricting abortion in any meaningful way.

But that doesn’t mean states authorities will choose to enforce the law, and Kaul has indicated that he intends not to do so:

Kaul said the Justice Department is focused on investigating crimes of statewide importance like homicide, sexual assault and arson.

“Diverting resources from those important cases to the kinds of cases that could be brought under abortion ban, which I also believe to be unconstitutional, is not something that I would do as attorney general,” he said.

Kaul said enforcing an abortion ban would undermine public safety.

“And it would result in serious negative health consequences, including potentially the death of women who wanted to seek to exercise what for nearly 50 years been understood to be a constitutionally protected right,” he said.

With this last comment, Kaul is alluding to the oft-debunked falsehood — a favorite of abortion supporters — that pregnant women died by the thousands in illegal abortions prior to Roe. In reality, figures suggest that the number of women who died as the result of an abortion each year before Roe was something closer to 200. Meanwhile, the best data suggest that restricting abortion is far more likely to lead to overall improvements for maternal health.

Research shows that countries such as El Salvador, Chile, Poland, and Nicaragua, which began prohibiting abortion after having allowed it, saw subsequent improvements in maternal-mortality rates rather than increased rates of maternal deaths as abortion supporters claimed they would. Maternal-mortality rates in South Africa, on the other hand, worsened after the country legalized abortion.

A study of 32 states in Mexico, meanwhile, found that laws restricting abortion did not lead to an increase in maternal mortality. Instead, states with more restrictive abortion legislation actually exhibited lower maternal-mortality ratios overall, lower maternal-mortality ratios related to abortion, and lower induced-abortion mortality ratios than in more abortion-friendly states.

Culture

Don’t Let Your Children Hear You Complaining about Your Spouse

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Ben Affleck at the premiere of Justice League in Los Angeles, Calif., November 13, 2017. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

At first glance, I didn’t think Ben Affleck’s comment about his ex-wife Jennifer Garner was a serious enough issue to write about, but apparently it’s getting coverage on CNN:

“[If I were still married to Garner] I’d probably still be drinking. It’s part of why I started drinking . . . because I was trapped,” the Argo director admitted to Howard Stern of feeling unhappy in his marriage to Garner, 49. “I was like ‘I can’t leave ’cause of my kids, but I’m not happy, what do I do?’ What I did was drink a bottle of scotch and fall asleep on the couch, which turned out not to be the solution.”

Affleck and Garner have three children together.

Look, I get it. Marriages are hard work, and relationships are messy. The person you were convinced you were going to live happily ever after with turns out to be much more difficult than you expected. Your wife or husband drives you crazy instead of being the balm in your hard times and the partner you thought you would grow old alongside.

But even if you feel like your spouse or your ex is the devil incarnate, it doesn’t do anyone any good — and it particularly doesn’t do your children any good — to complain about your spouse in way that they will hear or see it. Ways such as an appearance on a major national-radio program.

Kids want to love both their parents, and they instinctively hate and fear being put in a position where they will be forced to choose.

If you want to rage and fume and denounce and curse your spouse and ex-spouse in private away from younger ears, go ahead. Everybody who’s married reaches some point of utter exasperation and disappointment with their spouses.

But for God’s sake — and for your family’s sake! — don’t let your kids hear you letting out all of that negativity. Let your kids see their mom or their dad as their mom or their dad, and build and maintain that relationship on their own terms.

Education

Trying to Restore Intellectual Integrity to Our Colleges and Universities

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To an alarming extent, our colleges and universities are now dominated by professors (and administrators) who are mainly concerned with making students think “correctly” than in showing them how to employ reason. Their objective is not helping them develop their mental capabilities but rather in creating true believers who want to transform America.

In today’s Martin Center article, writer Justin Begley suggests three ways in which professors might change things. He writes, “We need a change on college campuses. The purpose of the university is not to create parroting pundits who are hostile to other viewpoints, it’s to create thinkers who will be future innovators that aid in advancing society. Therefore, we need to promote educational methods that will teach students how to think rather than what to think.”

First, use the “Columbo” method to test for truth.

Second, assign representative literature.

Third, expose students to Oxford-style debates.

This is good advice for those faculty members who aren’t completely on board with the leftist project of churning out ideological clones. Unfortunately, I fear they are a shrinking minority.

Begley concludes, “College is and should be a marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately, the campus has drifted away from the promotion of intellectual diversity in favor of forced intellectual homogeneity. This is not conducive to scholarly advancement or teaching. By applying these three key methods, we can start reforming the campus and make strides in the promotion of truth and diversity of thought.”

World

No, Roger Wicker Didn’t Call for Launching a Nuclear Strike on Russian Forces

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Russian T-72B3M main battle tanks at the International Army Games 2021 outside Moscow, Russia, August 24, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Tucker Carlson has taken to hitting Republican lawmakers over their approach to the Russian military buildup in Eastern Europe. His most recent target is Senator Roger Wicker, who last week said during an interview that President Biden shouldn’t rule out using military force in the event of a Russian invasion. But the kerfuffle seems to be based on a misinterpretation of Wicker’s comments to Carlson’s Fox colleague Neil Cavuto the day before.

Carlson and his guest, former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, last Wednesday citing Wicker’s conversation with Cavuto, accused him of advocating the potential use of nuclear weapons over Ukraine’s sovereignty. “First-use nuclear weapons. Troops on the ground over eastern Ukraine. Is the fate of eastern Ukraine tied to some heretofore unknown core American interest that somehow we’re just not aware of in the Constitution?” said Carlson, introducing a segment about Wicker’s comments.

“This is why it is such a dangerous situation that we are facing, as we are being pushed closer and closer very quickly, as you said, to a hot war, a nuclear war that would destroy the world as we know it,” said Gabbard.

But a closer reading of Wicker’s remarks is instructive. “Military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the Black Sea and that we rain destruction on Russian military capabilities. It could mean that we participate—and I would not rule that out—I would not rule out American troops on the ground,” said Wicker. “We don’t rule out first-use nuclear action. We don’t think it’ll happen. But there are certain things in negotiations if you’re gonna be tough that you don’t take off the table.”

While the Mississippi Republican did call for maintaining the possibility of a U.S. military response, it seemed he was comparing existing U.S. nuclear doctrine in general terms (which, as Wicker states, doesn’t rule out a first strike) to how he thinks the president should talk about Ukraine. It sounded as though he was stating a rule by which U.S. presidents should conduct themselves in negotiations by making a comparison to U.S. nuclear policy — not advocating a nuclear strike.

The way in which Wicker phrased his comments might have opened the door to uncharitable interpretations, but his comments really seem to have broken through because they were shared on Twitter by Aaron Rupar, a progressive Twitter personality and former Vox Media staffer.

Soon after Rupar shared a snippet of the interview on Tuesday, the clip made the rounds online, making Wicker the face of a supposedly insane approach to dealing with Moscow. Rupar, a journalist with a reputation for getting stories wrong, accused Wicker of floating the “idea of bombing Russian military assets — and [saying] he wouldn’t even rule out a nuclear strike.”

Rupar’s reading of the interview seems to have become the premise of Carlson’s conversation with Gabbard the following night, though it’s not clear whether Carlson’s team found inspiration for the segment in Rupar’s tweet.

Asked about the controversy by National Review, Wicker didn’t comment on the issue directly, but he elaborated in a statement on how the U.S should respond to Russian aggression. “Vladimir Putin’s aggression has to be met with a forceful response or it will invite the same questioning of U.S. credibility that followed his attack on Crimea. We should look for creative ways to arm our Ukrainian friends to the teeth and consider forward positioning NATO forces to deter Russia. The world is watching this test of our resolve.”

On Fox, Gabbard called Wicker “insane, a sociopath, or a sadist because he’s saying, let’s go and launch a nuclear attack that would start a war that would destroy the American people, our country, and the world.” But Gabbard couldn’t be more wrong; he clearly didn’t call for launching a nuclear attack. And far from starting a war, those calling for a clear-eyed approach to dealing with Moscow are seeking an effective deterrent to prevent an attack that would spark conflict.

PC Culture

Then, They Came for the Tiki Bars

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(Joakim Carlstrom/iStock/Getty Images)

File this under the category of “finding a reason to be offended and try to destroy something, just because we can”:

But amidst all this supposed fun, there have been lingering questions about the genre. For example, is the whimsical use of Pacific Island terminology and iconography —particularly religious imagery like tiki carvings and moai, Easter Island statues—in these establishments sufficiently respectful of actual Polynesian cultures? And does this lighthearted take on Oceania inappropriately gloss over the more uncomfortable aspects of the region’s history and modern-day reality?

When the cocktail lounge Lost Lake opened in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in January 2015, my sense was that its owners, who are white, were mindful of these issues. While the place was branded as a tiki bar—for example, its website was LostLakeTiki.com—and served the traditional drinks in a beachcomber setting, the decor and drinkware were nearly devoid of tikis.

In the wake of the George Floyd police murder and renewed calls for addressing past and present racial injustices, tiki venues have come under increased scrutiny, with some people arguing that the format may be irredeemably flawed. Leading the charge has been the Pasifika Project, “an organization founded by and created for individuals of Oceanic descent within the hospitality and spirits industry,” which has a reading list of tiki criticism on its website.

“The drinks genre itself is rooted in colonialism and imperialism,” argues cofounder Samuel Jimenez, a Californian of Samoan and Mexican-American ancestry, in a conversation last year on the beverage website Punch. “To me, there’s no way around it. To me, non-appropriative tiki doesn’t exist. It’s not a thing. It can’t be a thing.”

U.S.

Yes, Elon Musk Is a Deserving Time Magazine ‘Person of the Year’

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Check out his replies to Elizabeth Warren in this thread:

U.S.

What a Scam

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On top of everything else, the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” complex is an enormous scam working out very nicely for the people who have made it their life’s work:

Health Care

‘Systemic Ageism’ Blamed for Excess COVID Deaths, Ignored with Euthanasia

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(Pornpak Khunatorn/Getty Images)

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York wasn’t the only government that inflicted blatant harm and unnecessary death on elders during during the Covid pandemic. Quebec did too. From the Toronto Sun story:

“Systemic ageism,” outdated health-care facilities and government reforms contributed to the tragedy that unfolded in the province’s long-term care homes during the first wave of COVID-19, a former Quebec health minister told a coroner’s inquest on Monday.

Réjean Hébert, who is also a gerontologist, told coroner Géhane Kamel that nearly 10 per cent of the province’s long-term care patients died of COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic — a rate five times higher compared to Canada as a whole.

It didn’t start with Covid:

Hébert, who served as health minister under former premier Pauline Marois, said that even before the pandemic there was a tendency to shift health-care resources toward other priorities, leading to a lack of doctors and nurses to care for vulnerable seniors in care homes. As a result, the homes were no longer able to provide acute care, forcing them to transfer distressed patients to hospital, which was “extremely difficult” for those with cognitive impairments, he said.

Hébert also pointed to outdated facilities where patients were subjected to inadequate ventilation and forced to share bedrooms and bathrooms as factors that contributed to Quebec’s high mortality rate.

Now, do you think that this clear warning about the threat to elders caused by “systemic ageism” will be applied as Quebec and the rest of Canada expand access to euthansia among the elderly? Is Putin a friend of Ukraine?

The media will often report in detail and with righteous indignation about varied failings and abuses in health-care systems — such as the drumbeat of criticism often seen against HMOs in the states. But these crucial questions are often forgotten once the subject turns to euthanasia.

I call this phenomenon “Euthanasia Land,” a magical realm of chirping birds and butterflies, where systemic failures in health-care and social policy disappear and life terminations happen only under the most rigorous protective guidelines and by the most deeply caring and compassionate medical personnel.

But Euthanasia Land isn’t real. The crises reported in this story have equal impact on doctor-prescribed death as they do lapses in proper care. They are just far less discussed.

Consider the Canadian woman who was euthanized because she didn’t want to be lonely during Covid lockdowns. She wasn’t allowed family visitors while she was alive, but they were allowed to be with her when her doctor killed her. She wasn’t the only such victim, either. A Canadian government study found that hundreds of people who died by euthanasia in 2019 requested death at least in part due to loneliness and isolation.

But none of that stops the death juggernaut. When these horrors are reported, which isn’t often, they are soon forgotten.

Would it have been too much for the critics of the elder-care in Quebec — and the reporter, for that matter — to connect these crucial dots, and thereby open a vital conversation about how these same systemic problems also impact the provision of euthanasia?

I’ll bet the thought didn’t occur to them because, somehow, it never does.

Fiscal Policy

The Federal Income Tax Is Already Very Progressive

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(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The IRS has released tax data for the 2019 tax year, and they show what IRS tax data always show: The federal income tax is already very progressive.

From a National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) report:

This latest release of IRS data shows that the top 25 percent of earners paid nearly 87 percent of all income taxes in 2019. Lower income earners are largely spared from income taxes with the bottom 50 percent of earners owing just three percent of the national share.

Politicians talk of people paying their fair share in taxes. What counts as fair is subjective, and part of the job of legislatures is to decide how people ought to be taxed. Many congresses over many years have made our federal income tax very progressive, and it remains that way today.

If there were 100 people in the U.S., the one guy in red would pay 39 percent of all income taxes by himself. The four guys in orange would pay 21 percent of all income taxes. That means just five people are paying 60 percent of all federal income taxes for the entire group of 100.

The remaining 40 percent is split among the other 95 people. But even there, it’s still progressive. Fifty of those 95 people are only paying 3 percent of the total.

And before you say, “Income inequality!” the results hold up when accounting for that as well. According to the IRS data, the guy in red makes 20 percent of the income for the group, but he pays 39 percent of the taxes. The 50 guys in dark blue combine for 11 percent of the income, but they pay 3 percent of the taxes.

This is exactly what you’d expect to see from a progressive income tax, which is what Congress has designed. When politicians complain about people not paying their fair share in taxes, it’s reasonable to ask, “Which people?” Is the guy in red not doing his part? The guys in orange? The guys in dark blue?

The 100-people visualization is also helpful in thinking about the broader-based, European-style income taxation that would be necessary to fund the European-style welfare state that some on the left want. To better spread the burden of taxation throughout the group of 100, the guys in gray would need to step up quite a bit. But look how much money they make. Those aren’t the kind of people you want to tax if you want a shot at getting elected.

Democrats know this, which is why President Biden had to promise during the campaign to not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 per year. But look at who that is. That means taking from the one guy in red and taking a little bit from one of the guys in orange to pay for government for all 100. That’s simply not going to work in the long run.

Democrats also run into the problems of what counts as middle-class. They say they don’t want to tax the middle class, but then they talk about a $400,000 income threshold. The middle of the IRS taxpayer distribution, defined as federal income taxpayers from the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile of income, would have an upper threshold of only $87,916. Most people would probably consider someone making, say, $95,000 to be middle-class, but the actual distribution would say that person is above the middle class.

Even the cutoff for the top 10 percent of taxpayers is $154,589. That’s doing very well, no doubt about it, and is safely above middle-class. But would we consider someone making $154,589 to be rich? He or she has an income higher than 90 percent of Americans.

From a conservative perspective, these data present a different challenge. On the one hand, our federal income tax has a tiny base and punishes success with large redistribution from the rich to the poor. On the other hand, most Americans really don’t pay that much in federal income tax. That’s great! This country overall has a low income tax, and that’s in large part because of conservatives who have fought to cut taxes and keep them low in the past few decades.

Of course, there are other taxes, plus state and local taxes as well, that complicate the picture. But as far as the federal income tax is concerned, the rich are already paying the lion’s share of the tax collections for the country. Most people don’t pay much at all. That’s a huge problem for supporters of big government.

White House

The Greed of Meat Conglomerates

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The White House has gone from denying that there’d be persistent inflation to saying it really was no big deal to, now, blaming it on corporate malefactors who decided to get extra greedy in 2021 when there was no reason for them not to be equally greedy over the last several decades:

Politics & Policy

Make Ticker Tape Parades Great Again: A Conversation with Peter Thiel

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Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley founder and investor, and quite a successful one at that: He co-founded PayPal, was an early investor in Facebook, and started and serves as the chair of Palantir. Lately, Thiel has become more active in politics. He supported President Trump in the 2016 election and has been a force in several House and Senate races in the 2020 cycle.

In this wide-ranging conversation, Thiel discusses his politics, his campaign, and the scourge of totalitarian conformism in the United States and abroad; the problem with “following the science”; where President Biden deserved blame and where he does now; and why cryptocurrency may just save the world.

Recorded on December 7, 2021

Culture

Is a Gingerbread Abortion Clinic Just Denial or Something More Sinister?

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Pro-life demonstrators gather around a speaker ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Kathryn Jean Lopez)

You have to hope that people really have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to abortion when they do something like this.

I get why people are mad and hurt about abortion.

I get why people err on the side of “choice” for the worst-case scenarios.

I don’t get celebrating abortion other than utter denial about the reality of abortion: pitting the mother against the child, brutally killing the child, leaving the mother knowing that what happened was a violence against her and her child.

There are all kinds of hard cases — a woman having to be a single parent is extremely courageous. Giving birth to a child for others to raise is at the heights of self-sacrifice. Doctors routinely make parents feel awful if they fight to bring a child to term who may have special needs.

America will not be healed from the scourge of abortion until we get back to a widespread consensus that abortion is not good. Polls suggest we still have that. But those in leadership have another thing in mind. It’s not the first time the Shout-Your-Abortion mindset brought its darkness to Christmas, but it will always be at the heart of darkness. Christianity, with a Child at the heart of the salvation offered, will always be a threat to the evil of abortion, whatever politicians and others choose to do or not to do for the most vulnerable unborn — and women, who deserve better than abortion.

Politics & Policy

Causation, How Does It Work?

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In Elizabeth Warren’s bizarre quest to blame corporate greed for inflation, she has tweeted that meatpacking companies are “using inflation as cover to raise prices.”

Inflation is defined as a general increase in prices. So, to be clear, Senator Warren is accusing meatpacking companies of using a general increase in prices as cover to increase prices.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that maybe meatpacking companies are just one of many industries that are raising prices, since (by definition) that’s how you get a general increase in prices. Inflation has broadened out, and we’re well past the early summer, when prices in specific markets such as used cars were bringing up the average. And the producer price index is up 9.6 percent in the past year, nearly three percentage points more than the consumer price index. It would be a truly strange move by the greedy corporations to raise their own input prices, too, in a callous bid for more profits.

Now, if every industry is using every other industries’ raising prices as cover to raise prices, then the present inflation is the greatest conspiracy in world history, and Senator Warren should provide us some evidence of it so we can get to the bottom of it.

Religion

Innovation for Tradition

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Just a little treat for liturgical traditionalists — perhaps all Christians. My friend David Hughes recently gave a talk on the restoration of chant to the Western liturgy by Dom Guéranger, the abbot of the monastery at Solesmes. The restoration of the Benedictine Order after the French Revolution was no small feat. And four time the monks have been forcible ejected from their monastery by the government.

Gregorian chant had been simplified after the Council of Trent. But still, even through the storms of the Franco-Prussian War, this monastery found a way to uncover the church’s tradition from manuscripts that were nearly 1,000 years old. There are many lessons for traditionalists of all sorts in this — about the need for innovation, starting small, remaining fixed on beauty and excellence, all while maintaining a certain canniness about present political realities. Hughes was maestro at my own parish and is currently serving at Saint Patrick’s in Waterbury Connecticut.

NRI

Final Call for Applications to the Spring 2022 Burke to Buckley Program

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William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

Calling all mid-career professionals! National Review Institute’s spring 2022 Burke to Buckley Program is headed to New York City, Philadelphia, and, for the first time, Miami!

The Burke to Buckley Program is an eight-week graduate-level series designed for mid-career professionals to gain a deeper understanding of conservative thought and to build a network of talented, like-minded individuals who can assist one another professionally and personally for years to come. Each class will be composed of 20-25 participants who represent a wide variety of professions and industries. Candidates should have between ten and 25 years of professional work experience and ideally be between 35 and 55 years old. This program is not intended for recent graduates or people working in the fields of public policy or politics.

This spring’s program will run from approximately March to May in New York City, Philadelphia, and Miami. Accepted participants will gather over dinner to discuss foundational conservative texts. Each week, an expert (often an NR writer or fellow) will guide the discussion, providing a unique opportunity for participants to engage with, and to learn from, one another. Program topics include:

  • William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism
  • The Founders’ Constitution
  • Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism
  • Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism
  • Mediating Structures between the State and the Individual
  • Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy
  • The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude

Does this sound like something that might interest you, or someone you know? Check out the Burke to Buckley webpage for more information and applications. Apply by December 15!

Capital Matters

Another Day, Another Bad Inflation Number

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell (Al Drago/Reuters)

I’m still pretty confident that inflation will ease off from its current high levels in due course, if not to the levels we were seeing a couple of years ago.

But the term “in due course” is doing quite a bit of work here. Producer prices provided the latest grim set of numbers today.

CNBC:

Wholesale prices rose 9.6% from a year ago, the highest level going back to November 2010.

If November 2010 doesn’t sound too bad, that may be misleading. That was when these data started to be presented this way.

It’s more important to note that, as with the CPI (6.8 percent against expectations of 6.7 percent), these results were worse than expected (expectations had been for around 9.2 percent).

For those looking for some comfort (and it’s not much comfort), there’s this (tucked away at the end):

Excluding food, energy and trade services prices rose 0.7% for the month, putting core PPI at 6.9%, also the largest gain on record. Estimates were for respective gains of 0.4% and 7.2%, meaning the monthly gain was faster than estimates but the year-over-year measure was a bit slower.

Other than the fact that numbers for the “unadjusted” PPI came in worse than expected, perhaps the most interesting (and ominous) piece of data was this:

Demand for goods continued to be the bigger driver for producer prices, rising 1.2% for the month, a touch slower than the 1.3% October increase. Final demand services inflation ran at a 0.7% monthly rate, much faster than the 0.2% October rate and a sign that the services side could be catching up in prices after lagging through much of the recovery.

How that will be affected by Omicron (and, critically, the response to Omicron) remains to be seen.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has described the price increases as “broad based.” That seems fair.

CNBC:

Final demand energy prices jumped another 2.6% in November despite sliding crude prices, while food was up 1.2%. Transportation and warehousing increased 1.9%, while portfolio management spiked 2.9%.

Elsewhere, iron and steel scrap prices surged 10.7%, and a host of others costs including gasoline, fruits and vegetables and industrial chemicals also increased. Diesel fuel costs were down 2.6% for the month, while chemicals and allied products wholesaling declined 1.3%.

The Fed is meeting today and Wednesday. The PPI numbers will add to the pressure for the central bank to signal tomorrow that it is getting out of the QE business earlier than scheduled, something that Powell has essentially already flagged.

The Financial Times (December 12):

During congressional hearings earlier this month, the Fed chair signalled his support for wrapping up the so-called taper “perhaps a few months sooner” than initially planned. Market expectations immediately adjusted, with investors pricing in the first interest rate increase in June, with at least one more slated for later in the year.

More than half of the 48 economists who participated in a recent survey conducted by the Financial Times and the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business said it was “somewhat” or “very” likely the Fed would stop adding to the size of its balance sheet by the end of March.

That may allow for a rate increase as early as the first quarter, which 10 per cent of the respondents thought plausible. The majority, however, say the Fed will move in the following quarter.

The best (and not very controversial) guess is that Powell will give a far clearer indication that end of March is a likely date, although that still seems on the leisurely side to me.

The FT:

White House officials, like most economists, expect inflation to moderate next year, but there is significant uncertainty about when exactly this will begin.

“Significant uncertainty” is, in its own bleak way, rather more convincing than “transitory” (R.I.P.).

Note: The figures given for November CPI have been corrected. 

 

Why Must James Bond Be Reinvented as ‘Non-Binary’?

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Cast member Daniel Craig poses during the world premiere of the new James Bond film “No Time To Die” at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, September 28, 2021. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Perhaps the woman who’s running the James Bond franchise is just speaking off the cuff and not ruling anything out, and not signaling an intent to overhaul one of the most iconic characters in the history of movies to comport to woke sensibilities.

James Bond could be a non-binary character in the future, the boss of the 007 franchise has suggested in an interview.

Barbra Broccoli, who co-owns Eon Productions — the production company behind the franchise — didn’t rule this out in a recent interview on the Girls on Film podcast.

The 61-year-old producer said she thinks James Bond should be a man’s

PC Culture

‘The Failure of Latinx

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I wrote about the trajectory of the term “Latinx” today:

. . . a funny thing happened on the way to the Latinx ascendancy — Latinos have rejected the term, at the same time that a big swing toward the GOP among these voters has highlighted the perils of high-handed cultural politics for the Democrats.

“Latinx” may end up being a woke experiment that failed, showing the vast gap between the identity-politics-obsessed progressives earnestly talking to one another in seminar rooms and on social media and the Hispanics in whose name they presume to speak.

“Latinx” is a project cut from the same cloth as the endless extension of LGBTQ, which, as of this writing, is now more properly and comprehensively rendered as LGBTQQIP2SAA.

Economy & Business

 What SALT Deal?

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Senator Joe Manchin’s misgivings aren’t the only thing keeping Biden’s “Build Back Broke” bill from advancing in the Senate — there is also the matter of the massive tax break for blue-state rich people via lifting the cap on State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions. The House bill jacked the SALT cap all the way up from $10,000 to $80,000. Even in high-tax states, you have to be doing awfully well to rack up $80,000 in state and local taxes.

Bernie Sanders wants to cap the deduction at $400,000 of income. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey balked:

This is the only thing the current Senate bill says about SALT.

History

I’ll Be Teaching an Online Course: ‘The Right to Bear Arms: A History’

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Minuteman statue in Lexington, Mass. (flySnow/iStock/Getty Images)

This just a quick heads up to let you all know that, starting in late January of next year, I’ll be teaching an online course on the history of the Second Amendment. I’ll be doing it with a new startup named Chapter, which describes its system as “like a book club, but way more fun.” (You don’t need any special apps; it’s just a website.)

The course will last four weeks, and it will run the gamut, starting in the colonial era and ending in the present day. Because people are busy, everything will be “asynchronous” — that is, you’ll be able to take part whenever you’re free, rather than at times set by me. Here is an outline of the four weeks:

  1. Pre-Revolutionary America: We’ll explore how the right to keep and bear arms came over with the colonists from Britain, before making its way into the heart of American law.
  2. The Founding Era: Why was the Second Amendment added to the federal constitution, and what were the Founders’ intentions in including it? What did militias have to do with a right “of the people”?
  3. Post-Civil War: The Second Amendment took on a new meaning after the Civil War — especially during the era of Jim Crow. You’ll learn how the right to keep and bear arms was changed by the 14th Amendment, and the lengths many states went to in resisting this change.
  4. The Second Amendment today: The Second Amendment has taken center stage in the 21st century, after a long period in which it was largely ignored. We’ll discuss contemporary American jurisprudence, the Heller decision, and the political rebirth of this most fundamental right.

Each week, I’ll provide a reading list (which could be articles, reviews, videos, podcasts, or primary source documents), along with insights and tips on each one. There will be a community forum in which you can discuss each topic, as well as a rolling Q&A in which I’ll answer questions.

The course will start on January 24th, 2022. You can sign up here. Hope to see some of you there!

Politics & Policy

Psaki Is Right; the CBO Score Is ‘Fake’

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a media briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., December 13, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the Congressional Budget Office’s verdict that the Democrats’ Build Back Better Act could add as much as $3 trillion of federal debt over ten years is a “fake score for a bill that doesn’t exist.” This isn’t the first time that the Biden administration has tried to diminish the importance of the CBO score on welfare expansion. In 2017, we were subjected to a slew of concerned columns defending the honor of the CBO from Republican harassment. Suddenly, the CBO is “fake” again.

But Psaki’s not wrong. She’s just not wrong for the wrong reasons.

The CBO forecasts on important bills are rarely in the vicinity of correct. For instance, it estimated that 21 million Americans would get coverage through Obamacare by 2016. Not even close. And as Alan Reynolds once pointed out, the CBO systematically underestimates economic growth as well. From 1983 to 1999, the CBO issued two-year forecasts that added up to a 2.7 percent growth rate, when the real average was 3.7 percent.

Some of this isn’t the CBO’s fault. It underestimates the cost of a bill because it can only measure the numbers it is given. And those numbers are often manipulated. “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” one of Obamacare’s architects, Jonathan Gruber, famously explained. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.”

What we do know is that “Build Back Better” — which, if it passes, promises to be one of the most expensive bills in history – will cost trillions more than “zero dollars,” and it won’t be even close to “fully paid for.” The CBO, in fact, notes that the Dems’ bill includes 10 years of tax hikes to cover just a few years of benefits. Indeed, Build Back Better and other similar expansions of the welfare state create a slew of programs that will not only live on in perpetuity but balloon with unforeseen costs and mission creep. The cost can’t be measured properly.

History

Another Victim of Shoddy Abortion History

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A demonstrator holds a pro-abortion sign as she listens to speakers at a Black Women Take Action event outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., September 15, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In his syndicated column, Steve Chapman writes that abortion has

a spacious place in our history and traditions. In his 2017 book “Sex and the Constitution,” University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone notes that abortion was legal and widely performed in the United States at the time the Constitution was ratified — and wasn’t outlawed for more than a century afterward.

Oddly, I can’t find the “widely performed” claim in the 2017 book; all I see is the observation that “we do not know the precise extent to which people used contraception or abortion” in the 18th and early 19th centuries and the inference that rates of both must have risen over the course of the 19th century.

Chapman may have picked up this idea from a 2018 Stone article that indeed asserted that “[a]t the time our Constitution was drafted, abortion was often relied upon by single and widowed women to avoid the consequences of illegitimate births.” He also asserts there that abortion “was both common and legal.” This article purports to be based on the 2017 book, so it’s not clear where Stone got the idea that abortion was common at the time of the Founding.

We have several reasons for rejecting the idea. As Joseph Dellapenna emphasizes in his own thorough history of abortion, until modern times there weren’t widely available methods of abortion that were effective without putting mothers in serious danger. Birth rates in colonial America were extremely high: Stone himself, in the book, notes that the average family had nine children, which tells against the common use of abortion that he asserts in the article.

And historians who are more careful and trustworthy than Stone, even historians who themselves favor constitutional protection for abortion, have concluded that abortion was a “marginal practice” (James Mohr) that was “rarely employed” (Estelle Freedman). Stone’s book cites the books in which they recorded these conclusions.

Chapman, and his readers, have been had.

For more on this, including why Stone’s claims about the legal status of abortion at the time of the Founding are misleading, read my recent NR article on the historical mythology that sustains Roe.

Fiscal Policy

Climate Policy and Your Pension

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(robertsrob/Getty Images)

It is, I think, suggestive of something that so much “climate action” depends on spending, directly or indirectly, other people’s money without the degree of consent and/or democratic approval that ought to be expected given the sums involved (something, incidentally, that also holds true for the expensive burden that will be heaped on companies and individuals as a result of climate-related regulatory action). This also applies in many areas of finance, not least in the way that investor funds, retirement savings, and monies earmarked for pensions are increasingly being deployed.

And so, via News 10 ABC (WTEN), here’s one example of how that works:

The New York State Common Retirement Fund will invest $2 billion into the Climate Transition Index (CTI) focused on reducing the risks of climate change, announced State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. This is part of the Comptroller’s Climate Action Plan and his goal for of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

“The New York State Common Retirement Fund has been recognized for leading the way with its comprehensive approach to addressing the enormous challenges posed by climate change, as well as investing in the tremendous opportunities created by global efforts to address this crisis,” said DiNapoli.

He’s not wrong, you know. Just the other day Xi Jinping was telling me how impressed he’d been by the lead taken by the New York State Common Retirement Fund (this is not the first time it has been active in this area) to combat climate change. “It is a tremendous example,” he acknowledged: It would lead him to change China’s ways.

Fact check: dubious.

News 10:

The fund will allocate $2 billion within its internally managed public equity portfolio to FTSE Russell’s Russell 1000 TPI Climate Transition Index in connection with the Fund’s Sustainable Investment & Climate Solutions program.

“By using the Climate Transition Index, the fund will have an investment tool that incorporates a robust data-driven approach to invest in corporations that are ensuring their businesses are ready for the low-carbon transition and stand to perform well in the years ahead,” said DiNapoli.

It may also be buying into a green bubble by buying into this index at this point.

Bloomberg Green (September):

The rapid pace of growth in green investing raises the prospect of a bubble that could burst further down the road, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Price-to-earnings valuations for clean energy companies are high and more analysis is needed to understand how green investing is playing out in the credit market, the Basel-based institution said in its quarterly report published on Monday.

History indicates that assets related to fundamental economic and social change may experience a significant price correction after an initial surge of interest, according to the BIS analysis, which took as its example 19th-century railroad stocks and the dot.com bubble…

To be sure, opinions can differ on the wisdom of a particular investment. Where there should be no disagreement is that the purpose of investing this type of money should be to generate maximum risk-adjusted financial return for those whose money it is, or those who money it will be, and, in the case of public pension funds, with the financial interest of the taxpayers who are often underwriting all or part of the pension liability firmly in mind. The one exception ought to be where those whose own monies (whether actual or potential) is on the line choose to sacrifice some return for other ends.

As for (financial) climate risk, it’s worth taking a look at this piece by John Cochrane for Capital Matters, and for more on games with pensions, check out Richard Morrison, also writing in Capital Matters, just today:

Economic policy is changing fast in Washington, and your retirement account may soon experience the whiplash. One of the best policies enacted by the previous administration was a rule that made it clear to the people who manage pension funds that, when selecting investments, they need to prioritize returns for beneficiaries instead of pursuing their own political agendas. Unfortunately, Joe Biden’s Department of Labor is currently in the middle of repealing that rule. This effort, while obscure to the average American, is part of a much larger effort to redefine the world of saving and investing to permanently serve progressive policy goals. That should alarm not just conservatives, but anyone who wants to be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement someday.

U.S.

Wally World

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(Chinnapong/Getty Images)

After initial sea farings in the mid 90s, National Review’s cruise program quickly hit its stride — ever-growing contingents numbered 300 and 400 conservative passengers (the peak — 794!) for the typical week-long floating conference. A consequence of this success meant the need to have more worker bees on hand to engage in daunting customer service. Howard Moses, founder of the Cruise Authority, and overseer of all these expeditions from the Caribbean to Alaska, the Baltic to the Mediterranean, had an inspiration: He’d bring along his dad.

And so Wallace Moses, a.k.a., Wally and Big Wally, came into the life of National Review, and for a decade or so of voyages he was a fixture — a beloved one. Wally was big indeed, maybe six-foot-three, built like he had played linebacker in college. Coming from deep Georgia, he possessed a classic Southern-fried accent, heard through a loud bass accessorized by an infectious laugh. He oozed charm and friendship, and in his native gregariousness told many a marvelous tale while his large mitts worked their way through packs of Marlboros. And then there was Wally’s age-belying youthfulness — many thought he was Howard’s big brother.

What Wally Moses was . . . was a man’s man (and it seemed the women’s too; because the strapping Southerner was handsome to boot). Put the package together and one was tempted cast him à la Foghorn Leghorn (but one never really did, if only because of the infamous rooster’s game-playing and duplicity). And what Wally was was admired, and loved (as Jay Nordlinger rightly and wonderfully remembers).

It was not unimportant that, although Wally was no employee of NR, he de facto represented it to friends, subscribers, and supporters. This he did this with ease and wisdom, even a sense of authority. And prudence. (Fun fact: The Moses clan grew up neighbors of Jimmy and Billy and Miss Lillian, and their affinities, rarely raised but for private conversation, leaned thataway.)

The dynamics were this: You sailed with NR once, odds were that you’d sail again, so over the years Wally came to be a recognized and friendly face. Often too, a friend. He could do more than share a tale or a laugh: An entrepreneur who endured years of running and growing a small empire of women’s clothing stores (the man could tell deadly serious stories about the crushing effects of shoplifting), Wally if asked to would disclose to NR cruisers contemplating ideas of retail their pitfalls and realities. He bore the scars.

But whatever the reasons he found himself engaged with customers, Wally did it well, and to the benefit of NR. My opinion: We have a great indebtedness to him. If it matters, and it does — Bill and Pat Buckley were fond of him.

The day came when Wally’s turn at pop-helping cruise work ended, his new and lovely wife Joanne and he finding happiness in their beautiful home in Albany, in traveling (sans duties), and in boating on a lake or in the Gulf of Mexico or in Alaska’s waters, to the detriment of the vicinity’s fish. He could wield a pole, and loved to.

On occasion we’d chat, usually with Howard handing over a phone, and there came the instant thrill of hearing that wonderful laugh and being in Big Wally’s presence, even if only via the ether.

As November ended, so did Wally’s happy life. Those Marlboros caught up with him — still, it took 83 years. A long time that, in which he shared a special bonhomie with countless people. He mattered to us. A lot. To our dear pal Howard and his sister Alissa, to her husband David, our paisan and the other force at the Cruise Authority, to Wally’s wife Joanne and to the grandchildren he loved so much, you have our sympathies and condolences, personal and institutional. NR shares both in your sadness, and in the knowledge that Wally Moses was a special and very good man, and a friend we will miss sorely.

Education

There Is No ‘Conservative Case for CRT’

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An anti-critical race theory sign is held at a Loudon County School board meeting in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Washington Post published a piece this morning by contributing columnist Gary Abernathy, ostensibly one of the Post’s right-leaning voices, arguing that “there’s a lot for conservatives to embrace in critical race theory.” It’s the latest in the budding subgenre of “the conservative case for [insert X left-wing policy here] think pieces: “the conservative case for the Democratic Party,” “the conservative case for Roe v. Wade,” “the conservative case for ditching the Electoral College,” and so on. But it is in a league of its own when it comes to the sheer absurdity of its line of argument, which operates off of a surprisingly shallow understanding of both CRT and conservatism. (Note: The Post capitalizes “white” and “black”; quotations from Abernathy here will duplicate this style for the sake of accuracy in quoting, not to endorse it.)

Abernathy argues that “conservatives should consider that maybe [the Left] has a point” about CRT because “many conservatives pride themselves on being grounded in logic rather than emotion,” and “logic dictates that something as historically obvious as the impact of slave labor on the success of our nation should be acknowledged and more comprehensively taught, along with the fact that our legal, governmental and economic institutions were crafted, intentionally or otherwise, to favor White people.” He does not elaborate on which of today’s American institutions unfairly favor whites, or by what standard he’s judging the unfair privileges they bestow. He simply asserts that “logic dictates” it is so.

Certainly, many on the left would agree with that assessment. But many on the right don’t; conservatives tend to be skeptical of claims that disparate outcomes — the social-justice Left’s favorite metric to cite as proof of discrimination — are inherent evidence of injustice. Abernathy frames his argument as addressed to the Right, but makes no attempt to actually engage with these conservative critiques of CRT. Nor does he even make any reference to basic conservative principles beyond the fact that “many conservatives pride themselves on being grounded in logic rather than emotion.” In other words, it’s not entirely clear why Abernathy thinks conservatives should support CRT, beyond the fact that he wants them to.

There are many reasons to object to CRT from a conservative perspective. It is a corrosive racialist ideology that undermines American institutions, it teaches citizens to categorize one another on the basis of race, and it presents a dark and twisted view of U.S. history. Most of all, however, the doctrine’s view of the individual as a mere “ensemble of the social relations,to use Marx’s language, is fundamentally contrary to the conservative understanding of the human person, portraying citizens as helpless conduits for faceless power structures rather than as sovereign agents. 

Abernathy waves all this away by suggesting that “critical race theory should be welcomed in schools” so long as it occurs “within a curriculum that stops short of sermonizing to today’s white Americans or force-feeding politically driven solutions.” Arguments like these are difficult to take seriously. How might one teach an ideology that explicitly categorizes different races as “oppressors” and “oppressed” without “sermonizing to today’s White Americans”? And how would one avoid “force-feeding politically driven solutions” with an ideology that is explicitly Marxist and revolutionary, views everything as inherently political, and rejects the freedom of expression that is so crucial to liberal education?

You can’t. And it’s exceedingly odd for anyone — let alone a conservative — to pretend otherwise.

Politics & Policy

Go Figure, It Turns Out That Enforcing Vaccine Mandates Is Difficult!

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A woman holds a placard as people march to protest against New York City’s COVID vaccine mandate in New York City, October 25, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Lo and behold, it turns out that proposing and announcing a Covid-19 vaccine mandate is a lot easier than actually enforcing one.

As our Dan McLaughlin has been tracking, vaccine mandates have hit a lot of obstacles in court. OSHA awaits a decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on challenges contesting the legality of the President’s orders. A judge enjoined the mandate on federal contractors. And until next year, unvaccinated federal workers will be given “counseling and education” urging them to get vaccinated – not suspended or fired.

A few days ago, Amtrak announced it will need to reduce service in January unless more employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Pentagon has found that while the vast majority of troops have gotten their shots, a sizeable number have refused:

Military leaders have few options to address the dissent other than to hope that, as waiver requests are denied, more troops will choose to fall in line. The alternative, the Pentagon has said, is to purge the ranks of those failing to meet requirements, though some of those roughly 40,000 service members opting out had already planned to leave the military.

In New York state, some municipalities have declared they will not enforce the governor’s edict that all establishments must require vaccinations or masks. And Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer turned some heads when she declared that the federal employer vaccine mandate is a problem: “I know if that mandate happens, we’re going to lose state employees. That’s why I haven’t proposed a mandate at the state level. Some states have. We have not, we’re waiting to see what happens in court.”

As of this morning, 484 million Covid-19 vaccine shots have been administered, and 202 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and 239 million have received at least one shot. Lots of Americans were willing to get vaccinated, and would urge others to do so. But the public support for firing unvaccinated workers appears pretty thin — and so far, most judges seem pretty unconvinced that this is a legitimate and Constitutional expression of government authority.

Politics & Policy

Dr. Oz and the Swedenborgians

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A geographical-religious note about the entry of Dr. Mehmet Oz into the Pennsylvania Senate race. Oz has little personal connection to Pennsylvania, though he took his medical degree and an MBA from Penn. (Harvard undergrad; he’s a quack, but not a slacker.) When Oz decided to run for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, he moved (notionally) to the town of Bryn Athyn in Montgomery County, a nice little town that is, among other things, the world center of the Swedenborgian religion — or Swedenborgian cult, as many Christians would characterize it. Doctor Oz is a Muslim, but one who has at least one foot in the Swedenborgian cult, as he makes clear in this 2007 interview.

Dr. Oz’s weakness for quackery and hoo-haw is not limited to faddish medical pseudoscience, as it turns out. A cult-adjacent celebrity crackpot with no practical experience: Dr. Oz may be the perfect Republican candidate for our time. Sean Hannity’s excitement already is palpable.

Law & the Courts

White Evangelicals and Abortion

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Signs at the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

David French writes:

There’s powerful statistical evidence that white Evangelicals aren’t really that committed to the legal pro-life cause.

Majorities don’t want to ban abortion. Majorities don’t prioritize abortion. Indeed, there’s strong evidence that “white evangelical Republican support for Donald Trump is based more on immigration policy than his view of abortion.”

As a pro-lifer myself, I wish every demographic group made the right to life a political priority. But I think David is selling his fellow white evangelicals short here.

His statistical evidence consists of a link to a thread from a scholar who points out (for example) that in a March 2018 survey, 80 percent of the group did not want all abortions to be illegal. I’d note, though, a few points that reduce the force of this observation. First, 54 percent believed abortion should be either completely illegal or “very difficult” to obtain. Second, many of the “very difficult” group are probably thinking of abortions in cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life. People who believe such abortions should be legal are almost always, and justifiably, considered pro-lifers. (This was the stated position of the last three Republican presidents, for example.) Third, what’s our comparison group? In the same survey, only 31 percent of all respondents believed that abortion should be impossible or very difficult to obtain. If my math isn’t mistaken — and I was, admittedly, a history major — that means white evangelicals were 74 percent more likely than the average respondent to take the relatively pro-life positions. Obviously that number would be even higher if we compared white evangelicals to the population excluding them.

The scholar also notes that only 30 percent of white evangelicals think restricting abortion should be the “highest priority.” That is, again, a much bigger number than the whole sample generates (18 percent).

PRRI’s August 2019 survey gives us more comparative data. Sixty-five percent of white evangelicals in that survey believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. A few religious groupings had a slightly higher number — Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses — but there is no question that white evangelicals are the largest group with such a strong anti-abortion lean. Only 42 percent of white Catholics, 52 percent of Hispanic Catholics, and a pathetic 37 percent of my fellow other Catholics fit the category.

My guess on the last set of findings David highlights, meanwhile, is that it mainly tells us that if by now you are a white evangelical Republican who is pro-choice, you don’t prioritize abortion very much.

Suffice it to say that without the relatively strong support of white evangelicals for the pro-life position, its strength in American culture and politics would be radically diminished. Those of us who hold pro-life convictions would be completely marginalized — and surely not on the verge, instead, of overturning Roe v. Wade. This non-white, non-evangelical pro-lifer is grateful.

Law & the Courts

Dobbs and the Supreme Court’s Self-Interest

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The main argument supporters of Roe are currently making is that reversing it would undermine the Supreme Court. In Bloomberg Opinion, I argue that there’s a sense in which they are right — but cutting down the Court to something closer to its constitutional dimensions would be a good thing.

Religion

The Bell Tolls for Notre Dame Cathedral

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The National Heritage and Architecture Commission in France has greenlighted at least some of the hideous proposals to modernize Notre Dame Cathedral as part of the renovation effort following the 2019 fire, the New York Times reports.

There is potent symbolism in this dumbing down of religion in an increasingly secular country and the continued vandalism of our shared cultural inheritance. What’s most disappointing is that these proposals were made by the diocese of Paris.

The 100 or so French public figures put it well in their letter published in Le Figaro: “Notre-Dame de Paris: What the fire spared, the diocese wants to destroy.”

Politics & Policy

No Surprise — District Judge Rules in Favor of Racial Preferences at UNC

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The Wilson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, August 18, 2020. (Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

Students for Fair Admissions has sued a number of universities over their admissions policies that give large advantages to applicants who happen to fit into certain racial classifications. Their case against Harvard is awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court to grant cert or not. And back in October, federal judge Loretta Biggs ruled in favor of the University of North Carolina in SFFA’s suit against it.

I write about that ruling in today’s Martin Center article.

SFFA never had a chance with this Obama appointee, who declared that UNC ought to be doing more to bring about “diversity.” She is completely on board with the notion that “diversity” is purely a matter of ancestry rather than individuality.

All that Judge Biggs needed to ground her decision was a “showing” by UNC that it was reaping the educational benefits of diversity (that is the magic phrase that must be uttered in these cases, thanks to Justice Lewis Powell in the Bakke case). The evidence consisted of a few former students saying that they learned from students who were different while enrolled. But those same students might also have learned from the students who were rejected because of their ancestry.

Moreover, it’s plain that UNC, Harvard, and other institutions don’t really care about anything except having what they regard as sufficient minority percentages, since they do nothing to seek “diversity” in aspects of life where there is real controversy in America. They don’t look to admit students who would add differing points of view regarding religion or philosophy. If they were actually concerned about crafting student bodies where the students would learn from and about each other, they’d seek out students who are deeply religions and others who aren’t religious at all, students who have military backgrounds and others who are anti-militarists, students who believe in omnipotent government and students who are libertarians, etc.  The “educational benefits” claim is just a smokescreen for administrators pursuing their notions of “social justice.”

White House

Veterans Group: The White House Admitted They Left Most Special-Immigrant Visa Holders Behind

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Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan October 5, 2021. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Matt Zoeller, co-founder of No One Left Behind, met with White House officials who are coordinating the resettlement of Afghan allies.

Zoeller wrote on Twitter last night that he was told from August 15 to August 31, the U.S. evacuated 86,000 Afghans. Out of that group, 5,000 were U.S. citizens, 3,5000 were green-card holders, or legal permanent residents, and 3,000 were on special immigrant visas (SIV). The nonprofit group Association of Wartime Allies estimated that as of August 15, roughly 88,000 Afghan SIV holders needed to be evacuated — meaning that the overwhelming majority of SIV holders were left behind.

The remaining 71,000 or so evacuated Afghans were “humanitarian parolees,” who qualified because they “have a compelling emergency and there is an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit to allowing [them] to temporarily enter the United States.” SIV holders were supposed to be given top priority, because their past work as interpreters or other roles for the U.S. military made them the top targets for Taliban retribution.

Unfortunately, there is some evidence that the U.S. government security vetting for the Afghans who did make it out was slipshod, disorganized, and insufficient:

An internal memo, drafted by Republican aides to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who visited U.S. military bases used to process Afghans domestically and overseas, said that certain standard steps for refugees, such as in-person interviews and document verification, were skipped or delayed. The memo, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, was prepared ahead of a closed-door briefing from Biden administration officials for committee members, including Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), the top Republican on the panel.

Those without paperwork or identifying biometric or biographic information were allowed to give their own names and dates of birth for entry into U.S. government tracking systems, an additional source of concern, the memo said. The screenings also didn’t include an assessment of the individual’s ties to the U.S., it added.

Ten evacuees who made it to the U.S. have been detained because they are national security risks, an administration official told lawmakers in the Tuesday briefing, according to a person familiar with the matter. It wasn’t clear how they were determined to be security risks.

Then there is the issue of Americans left behind. Roughly one month ago, Task Force Pineapple said it knew of five American citizens who wanted out but who couldn’t leave, the September Group knows of seven, Project Exodus says it knows of nine, and Task Force Argo’s database includes 45 American citizens and 116 green-card holders — although no one knows if these groups’ lists overlap. On November 3, Foreign Policy reported that the State Department believes as many as 14,000 U.S. legal permanent residents remain in Afghanistan.

I’m afraid my reader nicknamed Samaritan doesn’t have a lot new to report, and the meager updates he has are not good. One of the former employees he’s trying to get, out, a civil engineer is continuing to hide with his family. This civil engineer reported that his friend, a doctor, was beaten and killed by the Taliban shortly before Thanksgiving. The civil engineer and his family are scrounging for food as their savings run out.

Those with green cards have heard that they can’t get through passport control or immigration in Afghanistan, because the Taliban will yank them out of the line. The land borders remain closed. “The only way to get these guys out is through an unconventional airlift extraction, which are not happening at the moment,” Samaritan told me.

It would be easy to blame the U.S. State Department for the colossal failure to prioritize the evacuation of those who had SIVs, but most front-line State workers did the best they could in overwhelming circumstances. No one in the U.S. government had prepared to get 88,000 or so people out of a war zone, with a collapsing central government, with only one airport. (President Biden says he doesn’t remember his military advisers urging him to keep 2,500 troops in the country. Biden also claimed his advisers told him that there was not much value in keeping Bagram Air Base open.)

Last month, Politico checked in with State Department employees involved in the evacuation, and found that some who worked on the evacuation said the harrowing experience of being unable to help so many desperate people “broke a lot of people.”

Interviews with more than half a dozen State Department employees in addition to government officials and advocates, as well as a review of internal administration emails POLITICO obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the desperation and disorganization that consumed frontline State Department employees. As they feverishly attempted to assist Afghans and Americans stranded in the war-torn country and fielded a crush of calls and emails — the inbox where the State Department directed Afghans to send Special Immigrant Visa applications crashed at least once — officials say they were unclear of their own authorities and what policies they were allowed to employ to help evacuate people. It all triggered mental health issues for some staffers, from which some are still attempting to recover, months later.

Their stories are a testament to the U.S. government’s lack of preparedness for the cratering security situation, even as President Joe Biden pushed through his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by Aug. 31.

“This experience broke a lot of people, including me,” a second State Department official said. “We were all getting inundated by personal requests to help specific people from everyone we’ve ever known or worked with. And we were powerless to do anything, really. Feeling like you’re supposed to be the government’s 911, but knowing the call for help didn’t go very far beyond you was extremely demoralizing.”

The evacuation of U.S. forces from Afghanistan went about as badly as it possibly could. Even beyond the terrorist attack at the airport that killed 13 American service members, American citizens, and green-card holders were left behind, the overwhelming majority of Afghan allies who were supposed to be evacuated were left behind, the ones who did get out included at least a handful of people who were security threats, and the State Department employees who tried to do the most to get people out were left traumatized by the experience.

On December 6, State Department spokesman Ned Price said:

In our engagement with the Taliban, we have made very clear to them, and we made clear to them before they took over Kabul, and certainly after, including last week when Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West met with a senior Taliban delegation, that we would be looking to the Taliban’s conduct in key areas, and that includes in human rights, that includes in terms of their counterterrorism commitments, that includes in terms of providing safe passage to Americans, LPRs, and to others who wish to leave the country.

Culture

Elon Musk Says Have More Children

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SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks at a news conference after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off on an uncrewed test flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., March 2, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Elon Musk, father of six and a billionaire, has said that “One of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate and the rapidly declining birthrate.” He told the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council:

So many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite. Please look at the numbers. If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.

This is certainly true of Western civilization, where declining birth rates are already significantly below the replacement rate. If only the climate-obsessed baby doomers would listen!

Impromptus

Touchy Subjects

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A scene outside the Plaza Hotel in New York City, December 2021 (Jay Nordlinger)

My Impromptus column today begins with transgenderism in sports — and moves on to other touchy subjects: racial and sexual hoaxes; paganism around guns; etc. You want touchy? I got touchy. I also have some language, courtesy of a reader — who introduced me to the word “niblings.” This is a “gender-neutral” way of saying “nieces and nephews.”

I’m afraid that, by the time I’m outta here, I won’t be able to understand my fellow Americans at all. Even now, I have to explain half my idioms to the people around me. (I think I got a good number of them from my grandparents.)

What is the greatest restaurant name of all time? Kevin Williamson informed me of it — and I discuss it in my column. (Spoiler alert.) What are some other great restaurant names? If you’d like to share one or two or more, please write me at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

Today’s column ends with some photos, of Christmastime New York, one of which is at the head of this post.

Okay, let’s have some mail. My Impromptus of last Thursday had an item on abortion. A reader writes,

I am an abortion absolutist. I think abortion should be outlawed except when it’s a question of balancing lives. . . . I knew a young lady years ago who was pregnant and found out she had a brain tumor. Her doctors recommended an abortion. She refused. She gave birth, then fought for life, HARD. She lost eventually when her son was two. Hard choice, and if she had made the other, I couldn’t have faulted her. I strongly respected her, though, for making what she knew was potentially, maybe even likely, a sacrificial choice.

Bottom line for me, abortion is the death of a human being. Without a strong cause, I believe that this death is murder. And this is the problem. Not everyone agrees with me. If they did, abortion would not even be an issue. We would recoil from it in horror. So, I accept the victories I can get, and I make the arguments I can that will save lives.

If Roe is overturned, I will celebrate and mourn at the same time. Celebrate because some states will move to save lives, but mourn because others will not. In the meantime, I will try to keep making my arguments, remembering that the people on the other side don’t feel what I feel, don’t see what I see. At least not yet. And I will remember that this does not make them evil people.

Want something lighter? Here it is. In that column of mine last Thursday, I had a little item about squirrels. Foreigners in Central Park are fascinated by them. Every day, they bend down to photograph them. Conclusion (not that you have to be Sherlock Holmes to draw it): They must not have squirrels at home.

I got several notes about this subject, including the following:

Your item reminded me of my own great-grandfather, who took his wife on an anniversary tour of Europe back in the 1920s. He kept a diary that I have treasured.

They were awed by many magnificent sights, but one mention struck me in particular. They were in London, I believe, and he wrote about the swarms “of a certain variety of large gray dove.” It took me a second to realize he was talking about pigeons. He didn’t know pigeons?! But I can imagine that the winged rat of the big cities would be uncommon in their small Ohio village.

Wonderful. And thank you to one and all. Again, today’s Impromptus is here.

Education

Don’t Ban Woke School-Library Books, Balance Them

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(pcess609/Getty Images)

I can’t think of a more encouraging development than the national movement of parents pushing back against woke education. Nothing can beat parents organized to halt the erosion of core American ideals like freedom of expression or equality before the law. Thankfully, a record of early successes is rapidly building a larger movement to take back our schools.

Yet a crusade on the rise always risks overreach. Lately, some parents and public officials fighting woke education have considered pulling books from the shelves of public-school libraries. That isn’t always inappropriate, even for strong defenders of free speech. Libraries serving K-12 students legitimately take criteria like age-appropriateness and community standards into account when it comes to explicit sexual material. Because those lines are notoriously difficult to draw, battles over sexually explicit school library books are sure to play out for years.

Bracketing the issue of age-appropriateness and explicit sexual content, however, I want to suggest that the best way to deal with woke school library books is not to ban them, but to balance them. If Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist is on your school-library shelf, don’t ban it. Have your library buy a copy of John McWhorter’s Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, instead. If your school library has a copy of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, have it order a copy of Heather MacDonald’s The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe. And so on.

It’s true that a public K-12 school is not a public university. Public universities stock their libraries with books representing multiple points of view. They also grant professors freedom to conduct classes in their areas of expertise as they see fit. All this is on the theory that college students are old enough to choose their schools, their courses, and then decide for themselves the truth or falsity of the various perspectives they encounter. Public K-12 is different. Students are essentially a captive audience, and are young enough to be swayed by teachers who indoctrinate. That is why state laws barring certain content from K-12 teaching are permissible to begin with.

Nevertheless, preparing the young for mature citizenship means exposing them to contrasting perspectives. The pernicious new educational practice of “action civics” allows biased teachers to draft whole classes into after-school political protests for course credit. I’ve argued that instead of forcing students into one-sided after-school political advocacy, schools ought to return to the tradition of high-school debate. That’s where students learn to take both sides of current controversies, which builds respect for all. Ensuring that our K-12 libraries are stocked with books that offer arguments on both sides of our most controversial public-policy issues is very much in the spirit of high-school debate, and entirely appropriate to K-12.

This past weekend, the New York Times made much of a story out of Texas. In October, supposedly following up on the new Texas law barring teacher advocacy of critical race theory, a member of the Texas State House sent out a letter listing about 850 books. The letter called on K-12 schools to identify and review the books to see if they contained any “material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” Opponents of woke education ought to avoid this sort of overreach.

The legislator’s request was not justified by the new law (which was based, in part, on model legislation that I authored). In the first place, the new Texas civics law does not bar teaching that makes students feel uncomfortable because of their race or sex. That would give any offended student a curricular veto. Instead, the law bars teaching children that they should feel discomfort because of their race or sex, as CRT treatments of “Whiteness” often do, for example. Second, with one exception, the Texas law does not bar the presentation of any given concept. Instead, it prevents teachers from inculcating CRT-based ideas of collective racial guilt. In other words, CRT-based ideas can be discussed, so long as they are not taught as truth. So, for example, a comparison and contrast of Ibram X. Kendi’s CRT-based ideas with John McWhorter’s critique of CRT would be fine. That’s why having both books in the school library would make sense. (The Texas law rightly prevents teachers from “inculcating” the core claims of the 1619 Project, but then goes too far, in my view, by effectively barring even a discussion of the 1619 Project.)

In short, the new Texas civics law provides no basis whatever for mass recalls of library books. Even books that advocate the very CRT-based concepts barred by the law can still be used, if they are presented alongside contrasting perspectives, rather than presented as true.

Scattershot recalls of hundreds of library books, presumably under consideration for banning, is neither good policy nor good politics. Our woke elites are only too eager to paint parents pushing back at woke excess in our schools as intolerant book-burners. Why not turn the tables by reviewing school libraries for leftist advocacy books, then balancing them with a more conservative point of view? Keep leftist political books, then dare your opponents to ban the new conservative books you’ve ordered. I hope both sides hesitate to ban. The end result would be school libraries filled with both points of view — a big win, as far as I’m concerned.

No doubt, the children’s and young adult book markets are dominated by entries with a leftist bias. There are conservative alternatives, however. The Goldwater Institute recently held an event on a series of children’s books that fights back against the woke cultural trend. I’ve seen lists of conservative books for young adults as well. Some enterprising individuals and groups should put together a list of conservative, non-woke, or anti-woke books for children and young adults. Parents and school libraries could work from those lists.

This is largely unexplored territory. Are most school libraries filled with books like Kendi’s? I really don’t know. If your school library isn’t particularly political, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest rushing to stock it with conservative-leaning policy books. On the other hand, if your school’s civics teachers focus on current events, and have stuffed their school library’s shelves with woke tracts, let the balancing begin.

The new Texas civics law does say that civics teachers who choose to discuss controversial current events should strive to do so from “diverse and contending” perspectives. That isn’t a mandate for school libraries, but it certainly does offer a reason for school librarians to stock up on competing public-policy books. (And no, the Texas law’s provision calling for a balanced exploration of current public-policy debates does not mandate the teaching of Holocaust denial or flat Earthism.)

In short, it is legally unnecessary, substantively ill-advised, and politically foolish to ban woke school-library books. Setting aside the challenge of determining age-appropriate sexual content, don’t ban woke books, balance them.

Politics & Policy

Bernie’s ‘Build Back Better’ Bill Is Unpopular in New Hampshire

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden orders ice cream with New Hampshire State Senator Martha Fuller Clark (left) during a campaign stop at Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream in Portsmouth, N.H., July 12, 2019. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

This morning’s New Hampshire Journal brings us an update on the Democrats’ “Build Back Better” bill, which Senator Bernie Sanders insists is “overwhelmingly” popular :

If Buttigieg is counting on the Build Back Better plan to give Democrats a bounce, he may be disappointed. Despite having the backing of all four members of the state’s federal delegation, a narrow majority of New Hampshire voters oppose it (45-52 percent.)

And 55 percent of Granite Staters believe an additional $2 trillion in federal spending will make inflation worse, while just 9 percent agree with Biden administration officials that it will decrease inflation. Another 20 percent say it will have no impact and 16 percent aren’t sure.

As it happens, the Biden administration is “overwhelmingly” popular in New Hampshire in much the same way as is the bill:

A new New Hampshire Journal poll finds a jaw-dropping 70 percent of New Hampshire registered voters believe the country is on the wrong track. That may explain why [Biden is] underwater with Granite Staters by -14 points, with a 43 percent favorable/57 percent unfavorable number.

In the country at large, BBB has an “overwhelming” 41 percent support. In West Virginia, where Joe Manchin remains uncommitted, it is supported by an “overwhelming” 26 percent of voters.

It’s a dud. Kill it.

Politics & Policy

‘A Letter to Send to Venues That Exclude the Unvaccinated’

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In this letter, GMU economics professor Don Boudreaux seeks to persuade people who make such decisions that there is no reason to demand either proof of vaccination or the wearing of masks. Neither does any good, so stop with the theatrics.

Health Care

Bioethicists Okay Human Extinction to Eliminate Suffering

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(solarseven/iStock/Getty Images)

These days, anti-humanism is as thick as molasses among the intelligentsia. That includes an ongoing conversation in bioethics whether — all things considered — human extinction would be a fine thing because of the suffering that never coming into existence would avoid.

Example: A few months ago, Oxford professor Roger Crisp opined that we might not want to stop a huge asteroid from hitting the Earth. From “Would extinction be so bad?”:

Consider the huge amount of suffering that continuing existence will bring with it, not only for humans, and perhaps even for “post-humans”, but also for sentient non-humans, who vastly outnumber us and almost certainly would continue to do so. As far as humans alone are concerned, Hilary Greaves and Will MacAskill at the University of Oxford’s Global Priorities Institute estimate that there could be one quadrillion (1015) people to come – an estimate they describe as conservative.

These numbers, and the scale of suffering to be put into the balance alongside the good elements in individuals’ lives, are difficult to fathom and so large that it’s not obvious that you should deflect the asteroid. In fact, there seem to be some reasons to think you shouldn’t….

Perhaps one reason we think extinction would be so bad is that we have failed to recognise just how awful extreme agony is. Nevertheless, we have enough evidence, and imaginative capacity, to say that it is not unreasonable to see the pain of an hour of torture as something that can never be counterbalanced by any amount of positive value. And if this view is correct, then it suggests that the best outcome would be the immediate extinction that follows from allowing an asteroid to hit our planet.

Crisp equivocates a bit at the end, writing, “I am not claiming that extinction would be good; only that, since it might be, we should devote a lot more attention to thinking about the value of extinction than we have to date.” Good grief. Is the issue really debatable?

Not to be outdone, writing in response to Crisp in the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog, University of Calgary professor Walter Glannon shrugs his big brain at the prospect of us being gone. From “A world without us”:

We cannot predict the sort of lives future people would have because we do not know the sort of world they would inhabit.  But the circumstances described above make it difficult to be optimistic. Regardless of the hypothetical value or disvalue of these lives, possible people are not deprived of anything if they do not come into existence.

We have an obligation to collectively act to prevent or reduce the suffering that present and future humans will actually experience. This depends on controlling natural habitats, deforestation, carbon emissions and other processes.  Future actual people have the same rights and interests in avoiding suffering as present actual people.  The extent of suffering may provide a pro tanto reason to prevent them from existing.  Even if there is no such reason, merely possible people do not have these rights and interests because they do not and will not exist.  If we become extinct, then the world will go on without us and will be good or bad for no one.

Why do ivory-tower discussions like this matter? Because these nihilists are teaching the society leaders of tomorrow, those who will exert tremendous influence over future public policies and cultural attitudes. With our supposedly best minds suggesting that human extinction could be desirable, is it any wonder why so many of our young people seem to be despairing?

Moreover, the utter terror of suffering is pathological and leads directly to evil and/or terribly wrongheaded utilitarian policies such as eugenics and social Darwinism. It is also the moving force behind the euthanasia movement, which seeks to eliminate suffering by eliminating the sufferer. Avoiding suffering is also the central philosophical core of the transhumanism quasi-religion, which seeks to create a corporeal immortality by instilling a new eugenics with very sharp teeth.

So, what should be our attitude toward suffering? It should not be utopian scheming. Nor, to be sure, should it be indifference. Rather, we have a human duty to mitigate each other’s suffering, to love and “suffer with” each other — which is the root meaning of compassion. And we can harness our own suffering to grow and become better individuals.

In this regard, for my Humanize podcast, I recently interviewed the quadriplegic Christian evangelist and disability rights activists Joni Eareckson Tada, who unexpectedly took a deep dive into this very issue, and in a very intimate and personal way. Regardless of faith issues, her attitude toward — and personal response to — her own deep suffering is much healthier than the nihilism that has grown so dark within utilitarian bioethics that some don’t reject the prospect of human extinction out of hand.