Law & the Courts

‘You Forced Me to Do It’ Is an Argument Against the Law

(utah778/Getty Images)

On Twitter, Jonah argues that “whether you think what Biden’s doing is a sincere/legal/noble effort to fight the pandemic or a tyrannical outrage or a cynical media strategy, IT WOULDN’T BE HAPPENING IF EVERYONE WAS VACCINATED. Get vaccinated, ffs.”

Jonah is not making an argument in favor of the legality of the order per se. And he’s right to encourage vaccination. But I must strongly dissent from the logic of this argument nevertheless. If we cherish the law, there can be no “whether” in play here. What Biden did was either legal or it was illegal, and that question is not affected in any way by what I, or others, happen to think about its policy merits, or by whether the people at whom it is being aimed are good or bad. To suggest otherwise is to give the government a permanent hall pass that can be exploited each every time that a sufficient number of people persist in making decisions that it considers unhelpful.

I suspect that this would be more obvious if we shifted the context. It is true, for example, that cops wouldn’t “need” to break into private homes without warrants if there weren’t so many criminals. But it’s also irrelevant. The law is the law, irrespective of the pressures that are put on it. There is almost always a plausible reason for the government to act, which is why we write down the rules and then demand that it stick to them.

Jonah’s argument is defensible if we assume that what Biden has done is legal: “Biden can do this,” we might say, “and the only reason he is doing it is that you have created the circumstances in which he feels he must.” But if what Biden has done is illegal, no similar argument can obtain. To say “Biden can’t do this, but he has to because of you” is to make excuses for tyranny. The word “whether” doesn’t belong here at all.



Once Again: The President Is Not Our National Dad

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his administration’s efforts to increase vaccinations from the White House in Washington, D.C., September 9, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Disturbing as it was to hear Milo Yiannopoulos describe then-president Trump as “Daddy” a few years ago, it’s even more alarming to hear much more mainstream media figures referring to Joe Biden as our new national dad. Thinking of the president as America’s sole controlling authority, in whom all power and decision-making rest, is a confident first step on the road to serfdom. We may speak of “founding fathers” of the past to acknowledge our debt to our predecessors, but it’s a very different thing to frame breathtakingly unconstitutional orders from a sitting president as valid because the president is the head of our family. No, he is merely the temporary head, subject to removal, of one of three branches of government.

A popular podcaster with 175,000 followers on Twitter says:


MSNBC personality Matthew Miller salutes Biden’s latest grotesque overreach (via Twitter) in these words: “Enjoying the angry dad vibes from this Biden speech. He is turning the damn car around.” In another tweet, Miller praised Biden for saying, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin” and “Show some respect” because “Dads know. (Moms too of course.)” In another tweet, Miller said, “Bold stuff. The WH is clearly done messing around and isn’t afraid of the Idiocracy ideologues on the right.” “Messing around,” in this context, means adhering to the Constitution and/or federalism, or admitting that the presidency does not confer supreme power to do anything, even to steamroll over state governments. Jen Psaki and even Joe Biden acknowledged this until recently.

This is a recurring problem whenever a Democrat is president; party voters lose interest in norms, niceties and the Constitution and start to insist that Americans must do whatever the chief executive says because we’re all like a family and a family must have a ruler. A family, of course, is not a democracy. “The president and the First Lady are kind of like the mom and dad of the country,” comic Chris Rock said during the Obama Administration. “And when your Dad says something you listen, and when you don’t it will usually bite you on the ass later on.” I doubt Rock, or many other Hollywood stars, thought they were any under particular obligation to listen to or comply with the urgings of President Trump, or any other Republican president.

Politics & Policy

The Practical Problems with Biden’s Employer Vaccine Mandate

Maria Avila, 38, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Los Angeles, Calif., August 17, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

In our editorial, we addressed the legal issues raised by President Biden’s sweeping mandate that all private businesses with 100 or more employees require workers either get vaccinated, or produce a weekly negative test.  Andrew McCarthy separately argued that the order is fundamentally unconstitutional. Beyond the serious legal and process issues raised by using a rarely invoked OSHA emergency authority to deputize private businesses to prod 80 million Americans into getting vaccinated, there are serious practical questions. And one of the problems with bypassing the typical regulatory process is that those tasked with implementing these requirements will have no opportunity to weigh in on the potential complications.

Just to think of a few complications, under this order, businesses will now have to set up a system for monitoring who has been vaccinated and who has not. They will also have to facilitate weekly testing for those who choose not to be vaccinated, and keep track of the negative tests. Who pays for the tests? What happens in the time that workers are waiting test results? This remains unclear as of now.

Also, what are businesses supposed to do with employees who refuse to get vaccinated and won’t submit to weekly testing? Can they fire those workers? Are they forced to fire those workers?

To take things a step further, how does OSHA intend to enforce this law? Will businesses be forced to submit weekly reports showing that all their workers are vaccinated or have tested negative? Will OSHA officials do spot checks at offices to make sure that businesses can produce records demonstrating that they are in compliance?

And what happens if the federal government comes around to the view that booster shots are required, either in response to new variants or because of waning immunity over time? Will somebody who was considered fully vaccinated at one point still be considered fully vaccinated?

All of these questions, and likely many more, would come up in a normal regulatory review process. Instead, they will have to be worked out chaotically in real time. If the courts allow this order to go into effect, that is.

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Politicization of the Justice Department, Abortion Episode

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2021. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

I fully expected Merrick Garland, as attorney general, to back President Biden’s progressive policies. It is to be expected that the Justice Department will implement the president’s lawful policy objectives — e.g., shifting resources to prioritize civil-rights enforcement over border enforcement. That is not politicization. We may strenuously disagree with Democratic policy, but that is what elections are for. The winning side gets to implement its policies — as long as it does so within the bounds of the law.

The politicization of the Justice Department happens when it seeks to impose the president’s policies (or punish the president’s political opposition) by distorting the law. That is exactly what is happening with DOJ’s absurd lawsuit against the Texas fetal heartbeat law.

It is a shame to see Garland, who was a longtime judge on the prestigious D.C. Circuit federal appeals court, run roughshod over the law of standing — which is of crucial importance to the Justice Department — for no better reason than to boost the president’s political standing with progressives. Garland knows better.

It was just nine days ago that the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Texas law, which bans most abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected (usually at the six-week mark), because the plaintiff abortion providers lacked standing.

The Court reasoned that the providers had no suit. The existence of a case or controversy is the constitutional prerequisite for federal court jurisdiction. Because no state official has the authority to enforce the law, and no plaintiff has tried to enforce it by filing a suit against an abortionist, there is no case or controversy. Since nothing has yet happened, the Court held that there was no basis for a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.

Clearly, abortion providers are much more directly affected by the law than is the federal government. A provider who performs an abortion may be sued under the law. The Justice Department and federal government are in no such peril. Despite being in an even more remote posture than the providers, DOJ speculates that the law is chilling abortionists from providing services, and thus chilling women from seeking to exercise a federal right — namely, the abortion right woven out of whole cloth in Roe.

It is a meritless claim. Absent a concrete, non-speculative injury, a party has no standing to sue. The Justice Department has no such injury.

Moreover, were standing requirements to become lax, the biggest loser would be the federal government. By requiring an actual case, involving someone who has suffered real damages, before a federal court may properly intervene, our system ensures that issues of public importance are decided democratically — at the ballot box, and by elected officials who are accountable to voters.

Without standing rules, every public question would result in the filing of lawsuits by self-appointed interest groups, and the cases would be decided by the courts which are not democratically accountable. That is to say: Government policies would be most vulnerable to legal challenges by people who have not suffered injuries.

The Justice Department, then, is the last institution that ought to be arguing for the evisceration of standing. But this is abortion so, as ever, legal norms go out the window — not to achieve a result but just so Biden can preen that he’s on the “right side” and “doing something.”

The Texas law was ingeniously crafted to make it difficult to challenge before it went into effect. But let’s not pretend legal challenges are impossible — or even difficult — now that the law is in effect. The moment an abortionist performs the procedure — or even before, since the law allows lawsuits against those who aid and abet the procedure — proper lawsuits will be filed in state and federal courts, claiming that the actual effect of the law violates Roe.

There is no basis for DOJ to jump the gun, and no pressing need for it to do so.

White House

Biden’s Unconstitutional Vaccine Mandate

President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Afghanistan, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 26, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I agree with our excellent editorial on Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate. I wish only to reassert an additional, fundamental constitutional objection — the same one I posited, as did Charlie, in connection with Biden’s illegal eviction moratorium. It is unconstitutional.

There is no general federal health-care power. The constitutional exhortation for Congress to “provide for . . . the general Welfare of the United States” (art. I, sec. 8) is not an open-ended authorization. Ours is a federalist system, the states presumptively govern their internal affairs, and Congress’s power to provide for the general welfare is cabined by its enumerated powers.

The relevant one here is the power to regulate interstate commerce. Indeed, the government presumes to regulate medical care, extensively but only indirectly, by regulating health insurance. That this is an interstate market cannot be denied, even if the government’s regulatory targeting of it is largely pretextual – i.e., progressives are more interested in dictating (and eventually rationing) medical treatment than in the insurance market.

Even under the unjustifiably wide berth the Supreme Court has given Congress’s pretextual invocations of commerce power, especially since the New Deal, the justices nevertheless declined in the 2012 Obamacare ruling to approve a mandate to buy medical insurance. That is because the Constitution only permits Congress to regulate ongoing interstate commerce, not to coerce people into engaging in such commerce.

A vaccine is not even commerce, much less interstate commerce.

As I conceded during the eviction-moratorium controversy, because of the hash the Supreme Court has made of the Commerce Clause, the core question of whether the federal government — not just the president or an executive bureaucracy, but the federal government through congressional legislation — has the regulatory power it is claiming routinely gets short shrift. But it should not.

To put it starkly, if the president may order a medical mandate because the federal government (and not the executive, mind you) is supposed to provide for the general welfare, then is there anything the federal government may not do? Is there anything left of the federalist principle that states are sovereign regarding their internal affairs? Absent the assurance of that principle’s vitality, the Constitution would never have been ratified.

The Supreme Court seemed to drift close to this principle in its eviction moratorium opinion a couple of weeks ago. Noting that the regulation of landlord-tenant transactions is traditionally a state-law matter (as is the imposition of vaccine mandates, our editorial explains), the justices asserted that when federal action “intrudes into an area that is the particular domain of state law,” Supreme Court jurisprudence requires “Congress to enact exceedingly clear language if it wishes to significantly alter the balance between federal and state power[.]”

Again, I believe that is a second-order issue. Since we are talking in these federal mandate cases about a power Congress does not have, it shouldn’t matter how clear its language may be. Obviously, though, if Congress and the federal government had the power that Biden intends to invoke, then OSHA — to avoid administrative-law requirements — would not need to dust off the moribund Emergency Testing Standard that, as our editorial notes, has not seen the light of day in the nearly 40 years since its last rejection by the courts.

Politics & Policy

Terry McAuliffe Campaigns at Abortion Clinic in Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in Charlottesville, Va., August 16, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe made a campaign stop at an abortion clinic in Charlottesville on Thursday:

The abortion facility, Whole Women’s Health, advertises that it performs abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Here’s how one maternity website describes the development of a baby at 15 weeks of pregnancy: “Your baby is looking more like a little person, with eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nails, hair, and well-defined fingers and toes. If you could see inside your womb, you’d catch your baby sucking a thumb, yawning, stretching and making faces!”

Virginia has a very permissive statute that allows abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Premature infants born as early as 21 weeks have survived their stays in the neo-natal intensive care unit.

The Whole Woman’s Health facility in Maryland performs abortions up to 22 weeks, so why does Whole Woman’s Health stop performing abortions at 16 weeks in Virginia? “A big part of our holdback for our Virginia clinics is that our doctors who we work for don’t want to go past 16 weeks,” a spokesperson for Whole Woman’s Health spokesperson tells National Review in a phone interview. “So obviously they’re our providers, and they kind of dictate it because there aren’t very many abortion providers in the world.”

In Terry McAuliffe’s view, the law should go much farther than what abortion doctors at the Virginia clinic he visited are willing to do.

In 2019, McAuliffe called a radical abortion bill sponsored by Delegate Kathy Tran a “common sense bill.” Tran’s bill would allow a single doctor to abort a baby in the ninth month of pregnancy if the doctor said it was for mental-health reasons. McAuliffe is now portraying himself as a supporter of the status quo on abortion laws in Virginia, but he would not say on Tuesday if he’d block Tran’s bill if it landed on his desk, and he’s pushing for an amendment adding a right to abortion in the state constitution that would accomplish what Tran’s bill sought to accomplish and much more.

Law & the Courts

Advocates of Vaccine Mandates Are Twisting American History

Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull (John Parrot/StockTrek Images/Getty Images)

In the Washington Post, Timothy Bella suggests that George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were both fine with vaccine mandates, so you should be too.

This is a little misleading.

Bella is correct to note that George Washington reluctantly imposed a vaccine mandate in 1777. But he did so on troops in the Continental Army, in the middle of revolution, ten years before the U.S. Constitution was written. That Washington did this tells us that he believed that a volunteer military could be forced to be vaccinated. But it tells us nothing at all about whether Washington believed that everyone could, let alone about what Washington’s view would have been on the legality of a mandate imposed by the states or the federal government within a legal order that did not yet exist. It is true, as Bella quickly adds, that “a 1905 decision by the Supreme Court upheld mandatory vaccinations”  — albeit in a case that pertained exclusively to the the police power of the states, and not the federal government. But George Washington doesn’t enter into that, either — not least because, at that point, he had been dead for 106 years.

Bella also tries to recruit Benjamin Franklin to his cause, writing that:

there is a long history of mandatory immunizations supported by American leaders. Benjamin Franklin supported inoculation against smallpox constantly in his Philadelphia newspaper. In his autobiography published posthumously, Franklin said he had “long regretted bitterly, and still regret” that he had chosen to wait to inoculate his 4-year-old son, Franky, who died of smallpox. John Adams and Martha Washington were also immunized against smallpox.

These two claims don’t connect. Benjamin Franklin’s writing shows that he did, indeed, strongly “support inoculation.” But neither Bella’s own piece, nor the piece he links to in this excerpt, say anything at all about “mandatory immunizations.” Instead, the pieces correctly note that, unlike his brother and his wife, Franklin “had long advocated inoculation as a ‘safe and beneficial practice'” and that he was critical of those who opposed it — including his own wife. Unless we are supposed to believe that Benjamin Franklin believed that everything of which he approved should be mandated — spoiler: he did not — then this claim, too, must fall.

In coming days, all three of these claims — Washington, Franklin, and Jacobson — are going to be used to justify Joe Biden’s illegal federal order. Americans who wish to keep their constitutional system intact should note that not one of them even intersects with that question.


Boris Johnson Hikes British Taxes to Highest Since World War II


Margaret Thatcher must be rolling over in her grave.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has just abandoned two of his flagship pledges from his 2019 election campaign and dramatically raised taxes.

In order to cover the unexpected costs of the pandemic to the National Health Service, the earnings tax levied to pay for the NHS will rise to 13.5 percent, up from 12 percent. A further 2 percent tax will apply to all earnings above 50,000 pounds ($69,000) a year. Working people with a pension will also pay the tax for the first time ever.

The tax, which the Conservative Party used to describe as a tax on jobs, will also be levied on employers. Taxes on dividends will also rise by 1.25 percentage points on dividends. All this is a triggering warning that Britain’s economic recovery could be aborted.

Johnson explained his tax and spending binge by saying that, “I accept that this breaks a manifesto commitment, which is not something I do lightly. But a global pandemic was in no one’s manifesto.”

Several members of Johnson’s cabinet also warned of the political fallout. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons reminded the Express Newspaper that in his successful 1988 campaign for president, George H. W. Bush had promised “Read my lips: no new taxes.” But in 1992, his percentage of the vote fell from 54 percent to 37 percent despite presiding over the end of the Cold War and the successful Iraq War. “Voters remembered those words after President Bush had forgotten them,” Rees-Mogg glumly recalled.

The Half-Baked Immigration Response to 9/11

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official checks a bag at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, May 17, 2017. (Joe Penney/Reuters)

The 9/11 attacks were, at their heart, a failure of our immigration system. The 9/11 Commission staff report on the killers’ exploitation of immigration and border weaknesses (which the report called “terrorist travel”) started with these words: “It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country.”

As a result, a wide variety of steps were taken in the wake of 9/11 to make it harder to violate immigration laws. But because any tightening of our system intended to exclude or catch terrorists will inevitably


Another ‘Red’ State with the Education Blues


The Martin Center recently published an article on the severe “wokeness” problem at Oklahoma University.   Today, we feature a depressingly similar piece focused on Idaho. Despite the state’s strong conservative inclination, the forces of “progressivism” have invaded its universities, seeking to turn them into purveyors of social justice instead of knowledge.

Author Anna Miller of the Idaho Freedom Foundation writes, “Although Idaho has Republican supermajorities in both state legislative bodies, Republican state board members are part of the education establishment. Amid public backlash against the politicization of the education system, the board has claimed all allegations are ‘unfounded’ while simultaneously endorsing CSJ advancement — and denying that that is what it is doing.”

This is the same approach we have seen in many other places — smuggle lots of leftist ideology into the curriculum and, when caught, say that it is nothing to complain about. Miller is blowing the whistle.

“The ideas behind both DEI and CSJ,” she writes, “emphasize that American society is irredeemably racist or sexist, group identity must transcend individuality, and equity must be celebrated while meritocracy stigmatized. The two cannot be divorced. DEI is simply the mechanism by which CSJ is applied to universities by implementing policies attempting to overturn supposed systems of oppression.”

In other words, these initiatives are about planting the seeds of leftist belief in students. Citizens of Idaho shouldn’t put up with it.

Miller concludes that the state legislature needs to wake up: “The more Idaho’s legislature wakes up to the threat of the establishment, the more they will object and try to stop it. This is what the establishment most fears and wants to avoid. A wide-awake legislature should starve the board of public funds until its leadership commits to reforming institutions of higher education.”

Health Care

What Is Biden Thinking?


Biden’s announcement of his plan to finally end the pandemic via a series of dubious mandates lacked an essential ingredient: some description of an end state. It also included something that should never have been in it — a statement of open hostility to millions of Americans it is aiming to mollify and persuade.

The best data we have shows that many unvaccinated people are persuadable — but probably not persuadable by announcing that you are going back on your word about mandates, and you want the federal government to use employers to accomplish the task. Once you say that the vaccine reduces your chances of hospitalization to one in 160,000, you cannot rationally say that you are breaking your former promises to “protect” the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. You’ve already argued they are protected.

I’m sure it was cathartic to announce this, and perhaps the White House has a plan for defending it in the courts or turning it to political advantage when courts reject it. But, this is legally dubious and bullying, and it will lead to a massive backlash. I don’t know if we’ll see the kinds of protests that have rocked France and other European countries on this matter, but we may.

Law & the Courts

‘Evaluating the Police Shooting of Ashli Babbitt’


Geoffrey Alpert, Jeff Noble, and Seth Stoughton are the authors of Evaluating Police Uses of Force, an excellent guide to the topic that I reviewed last year in these pages. Now, over at Lawfare, they have a thorough breakdown of what we know about the Ashli Babbitt shooting — a difficult case that has played out, politically, the opposite way that most controversial police shootings do.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing. But for a taste, here’s the thrust: “Applying the typical legal framework, we have serious reservations about the propriety of the shooting. We also have some doubts about whether the typical legal framework is the right one to apply.”

Economy & Business

Ramming Through the $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Package Is Unpopular


Axios reports on a No Labels survey:

Six in 10 Americans favor the call by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for a “strategic pause” on Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending plan, according to new polling by the bipartisan policy group No Labels shared with Axios.

Senator Manchin described the strategic pause in his September 2 Wall Street Journal essay:

Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions. I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.

Another reason to pause: We must allow for a complete reporting and analysis of the implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next. Such a strategic pause will allow every member of Congress to use the transparent committee process to debate: What should we fund, and what can we simply not afford?

I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.

A little over half of independents and 48 percent of Democrats in the survey support the strategic pause. So do 64 percent of respondents in suburban areas, a key group of voters in the 2022 midterm elections.


Politics & Policy

What the ATF Needs


The Senate decided that the ATF does not need a director such as David Chipman, an ideologue and an activist. The Senate is right.

What does the ATF need? I wrote about this earlier in the summer:

The federal role in the firearms trade, properly understood, is not trivial but limited. The federal government has a legitimate role to play in the import and export of firearms, in interstate commerce in firearms and ammunition, and, perhaps most important, in policing and prosecuting interstate criminal enterprises involved in the illegal trafficking of firearms. With the exception of that last issue, the ATF’s business should be almost exclusively a matter of ensuring, for health-and-safety purposes, that commercially available firearms and ammunition subject to ATF jurisdiction meet minimum quality standards, that ammunition is manufactured to the proper technical specification, etc.

The agency should not be policing the design of firearms based on assumptions about the behavior of gun owners. To the extent that that is legitimate, it is a statutory matter rather than a regulatory one. The issue for the ATF should be whether the product functions as it is designed to, not whether the ATF approves or disapproves of that design on political grounds.

It is an important job. I nominate Charles C. W. Cooke.

White House

Biden Tells Nation’s Governors He Will ‘Get Them Out of the Way’

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Delta variant and his administration’s efforts to increase vaccinations from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., September 9, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden is so rigorous about sticking to (slowly) reading off his prompter and ducking reporters’ questions that everything in his messaging depends on what is being written for him.

And the stuff that’s being written for him is bone-chilling stuff. Today he suggested the decisions of the nation’s elected governors must be stamped out by Joe Biden. The president today showed authoritarian, even autocratic, tendencies.

Do I exaggerate? Like Presidents Obama and Trump before him, Biden has repeatedly expressed the idea that should Congress not act the way he prefers, he thereby gains special license to legislate via executive order. Today he baldly stated state governments were a hindrance to the executive branch’s ability to work its will on the American people.

“If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said, shredding the concept of federalism.

Whoever wrote this frightening speech was, I suspect, thinking of Bill Clinton’s 1992 convention speech in which he referred back to the spat between Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan:

A President ought to be a powerful force for progress. But right now I know how President Lincoln felt when General McClellan wouldn’t attack in the Civil War. He asked him, “If you’re not going to use your army, may I borrow it?” And so I say, George Bush, if you won’t use your power to help America, step aside. I will.

Not for the first time, a Democrat sought to bring the aura of wartime emergency, and all of the powers that may come with it, to a non-urgent moment. But Clinton’s remark was merely a defense of big government as a solution to people’s problems. In the mangled version that Biden’s speech writers came up with, the federal government is not merely about helping people, it should overstep the boundaries of the Constitution to overrule and nullify actions of duly elected state governments. It was an amazing revelation of where the Democratic party’s instincts lie today: there is one authority that decides all questions from Juneau to Miami, it is in Washington, D.C., and it sits in the Oval Office. Here’s someone who knows something about the issues at stake:

Biden on Vaccine Mandates, October 2020: You Couldn’t Enforce That

President Joe Biden discusses his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda at the White House, August 11, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

In mid-October 2020, in an ABC News town hall in Pennsylvania in the heat of the presidential campaign, Joe Biden was asked by George Stephanopoulos about imposing a vaccine mandate. He said there wasn’t authority to enforce that, and that the president would simply have to convince governors and mayors to do so:

STEPHANOPOULOS: And once we get it, if it is safe, if it is effective, will you mandate its use?

BIDEN: The answer is, depending on how clear there’s — vaccines, they say, have a very positive impact, and they are going to affect positively 85 percent of the American public. There’s


How Bundling Amnesty into the Reconciliation Bill Could Polarize Immigration Policy

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) participates in a news conference on immigration at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 18, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Major legislative changes to immigration have in modern times typically involved large, bipartisan coalitions. The 1924 immigration act establishing national quotas, 1965’s Hart-Celler Act (which in many ways laid the foundation for the current immigration system), the 1986 amnesty, and the 1990 expansion of legal immigration all got big congressional majorities.

Democrats’ current effort to insert a major immigration-reform component (including a mass amnesty) into the reconciliation bill threatens that tradition. The Senate parliamentarian is due to hear arguments from Republicans and Democrats about including these immigration provisions in reconciliation under the “Byrd rule.” A parliamentarian ruling that sweeping immigration reform could be included in the reconciliation process could permanently transform the dynamics of immigration policy, making it even more polarized and potentially adding to the dysfunction of the immigration system.

Applying the Byrd rule is an arcane process involving a number of variables. Over the summer, Christopher Jacobs argued that most big-ticket immigration policies would fail Byrd-rule tests for reconciliation, and Ramesh Ponnuru specifically doubted the applicability of reconciliation to an amnesty measure. Proponents of using reconciliation for immigration reform have focused on two key tests: whether a provision has an effect on federal expenditures or revenue, and whether that effect is “merely incidental” to the other policy consequences of that provision. They argue that amnesty would have significant fiscal effects and that these effects are not merely incidental.

Despite a recent coordinated effort to tout the fiscal benefits of a “path to citizenship,” much advocacy for amnesty (especially for categories such as people illegally brought to the United States as minors) has not emphasized dollars and cents but instead an ethical obligation to some vision of America. The headline for the immigration page on Joe Biden’s campaign website was “The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants” — not “The Biden Plan for Using Immigration to Affect the Federal Balance Sheet.” Proponents of amnesty and expanding legal immigration have portrayed these issues as fundamental questions of American identity, not finances.

By setting a precedent to include an amnesty measure in a reconciliation bill because of its fiscal effects (which are regarded as non-incidental), the parliamentarian could very easily be setting a precedent for making vast changes to immigration policy through reconciliation. For instance, a ten-year moratorium on certain immigration categories could also be eligible for reconciliation under this precedent — after all, severely curtailing legal immigration could also affect the federal budget. Whether or not such a decision would be good policy, the fact that it could be included shows how allowing an amnesty through reconciliation opens up many cans of worms.

And here’s an especially big can: Imagine a Democratic Congress does pass an amnesty through reconciliation, and then Republicans pick up a trifecta by the 2024 elections and use reconciliation to cancel or pause this amnesty in 2025. They might pass a law saying that immigrants who received “permanent resident status on a conditional basis” or some special visa through the 2021 reconciliation act were ineligible to transition to “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” or U.S. citizenship after the passage of the 2025 reconciliation bill. Or they might place a 30-year waiting period for amnestied immigrants to transition to U.S. citizenship. Or they could do a host of other things.

On a policy level, this could lay the groundwork for massive civil disruption and all-out legal warfare. One Congress removing millions of people from a path to citizenship that has been granted by another Congress could ignite a firestorm. Past amnesties have avoided this risk by receiving considerable bipartisan backing, and the filibuster means that any amnesty modification would have to garner 60 votes in the Senate (which practically removes an amnesty reversal from the realm of possibility).

In weighing arguments about including immigration in the reconciliation bill in 2021, the Senate parliamentarian is also making a decision about the future dynamics of U.S. immigration policy. Shoehorning transformative immigration reform through reconciliation in an unprecedented way could further polarize immigration policy.

Politics & Policy

It’s a Shame When a Catholic University Grad Grows Up to Adamantly Defend Legal Abortion – and Expansion

Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe speaks at the North America’s Building Trades Unions 2019 legislative conference in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia and current candidate for the same job, visited an abortion clinic as a campaign stop today. Xan and John have talked about his abortion extremism today.

I note this because the crassness of campaigning at an abortion clinic is horrific. Babies die in abortion clinics. “Reproductive freedom” is legal abortion.

I was outside an abortion clinic in New York today, and “freedom” isn’t the word that comes to mind when describing what I saw. Girls I saw walking in and leaving didn’t look like they were exercising freedom. They were sad and scared and resigned. The pressure to have an abortion – especially in a place like New York City – is tremendous.

I also want to apologize on behalf of graduates of the Catholic University of America. (Both McAuliffe and I fall into that category.) Some of us went there because we wanted further formation in the faith. We wanted to be adults in the world who demonstrate in our lives what the Catholic Church teaches (‘demonstrate’ was the verb Cardinal Wilton Gregory used yesterday in reference to Joe Biden – noting that he doesn’t demonstrate Catholic teaching in his abortion position; this was in response to a reporter’s question). We’re all going to do that imperfectly. But Joe Biden has become more extremist with age, a reality that should have us praying for him.

Whenever I stand in front of an abortion clinic to pray, it’s in penance. That we Catholics haven’t been a united front against abortion and for women and children and families, embracing them with resources, is a scandal we are going to answer for. Thank you to everyone who has labored in the vineyards of the pro-life movement for years, loving women and walking with them. More of us need to, immediately.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an initiative called Walking with Moms in Need. There are programs that have launched in response in Texas here and here worth checking out.

By the way, here’s something from the FAQ of that abortion clinic’s website:


How soon can I have sex after an in-clinic abortion?

You can have sex as soon as you feel ready.

Well, there you are — in case you had any doubt we use abortion as birth control in America. If we actually cared about women and girls, we’d point out that they deserve better than having sex with men and boys who have made no commitment to them and who are not interested in being fathers, only using them for sexual gratification — and worse. Also, the clinic’s website says that “most people don’t have any problems after their abortion. Recovery is usually quick and easy.”

Many women will tell you life after abortion was torture. If you need help healing — however recent or many years ago your abortion(s) might have been — there are people who will help you.

Politics & Policy

Good Riddance, David Chipman

David Chipman testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, September 25, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Here’s a snippet of Joe Biden’s statement on the withdrawal of David Chipman’s nomination as the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF):

Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have made clear that they intend to use gun crime as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it. That’s why they’ve moved in lockstep to block David Chipman’s confirmation, and it’s why they side with gun manufacturers over the overwhelming majority of the American people in opposing commonsense measures like universal background checks.

Chipman was ideologically, temperamentally, and professionally unsuited for the job of running the ATF — which is a law-enforcement agency, not a place for anti–Second Amendment advocates to circumvent Congress on gun policy. Yet, that’s exactly what Biden had in mind. After all, what does “commonsense measures like universal background checks” have to do with Chipman’s job? Nothing.

And, as Charles points out, Chipman’s nomination wasn’t killed by solely Republicans, but Democrats. Biden is accusing Angus King (who caucuses with Dems), and likely Joe Manchin and Jon Tester, and perhaps others, of siding with gun manufacturers over “the overwhelming majority of the American people.” Fortunately, unlike Chipman, these senators answer to their constituents in Maine, West Virginia, and Montana, not the activists at Giffords.


Twenty Five Things that Caught My Eye Today: An Afghani Christian’s Plea, Mexico Legalizes Abortion & More

Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Victor Mancillal/Handout via Reuters)

1.  An Afghani Christian pleads for help

He says the Taliban executed his father. And his brother. Now, they are hunting for him.

“Please do something,” he wrote in a plea to CNA.

He is a young Afghan, one of countless thousands still desperate to escape his country.

He is a doubly marked man. First, because he briefly worked for the U.S. military and other allied forces. Second, because he is a Muslim convert to Christianity. That is a capital crime in Afghanistan.




5. The Telegraph: Pandemic prompts surge in family breakdowns and foster-care referrals

6. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Foster Care Works

It might seem obvious that children reported for maltreatment are more likely to be in danger, and that removing them from dangerous situations reduces their likelihood of death. But a growing chorus of activists argues that the child-welfare system is unnecessary and harmful. The upEND movement, for instance, proposes repealing all mandatory reporting laws. The authors of the group’s recent manifesto note, “Reporting families to family policing systems opens the door for increased policing and surveillance, and ultimately begins the process through which families experience harm, trauma, and punishment.”

The magical thinking offered by these advocates flies in the face of what we know about families reported for maltreatment. They are not simply the targets of a racist system that wants to punish poor minority families. Maltreatment, particularly in young children, is dangerous. And neglect, far from being a byproduct of poverty, is often the result of substance abuse or mental illness. 

7. Carter Snead: Critics of Texas’s convoluted abortion law have a point. The solution is to overturn Roe v. Wade.

8. Salvatore Cordileone: Our duty to challenge Catholic politicians who support abortion rights

Continue reading “Twenty Five Things that Caught My Eye Today: An Afghani Christian’s Plea, Mexico Legalizes Abortion & More”


September 11, 20 Years Later

A view of Manhattan, N.Y., near sunset on September 11, 2001. (Brad Rickerby/Reuters)

I can’t quite wrap my mind and heart around the anniversary. Parts of the day and days around that Tuesday morning seem so vivid; others blurry, but not distant.

I was asked, so I wrote a reflection here.

What I didn’t mention was that later in the day I learned why Barbara Olson was on a plane to California. She was going to be on Politically Incorrect, Bill Maher’s show at the time. I had actually been booked for the same show, but had to cancel for a family medical situation (that was by then resolved). Now, I wouldn’t have been flying out of D.C. but New York, so it was not so much that I could have died that day, but had I stayed booked for the program, her life may have been spared. Of course, someone else would have likely died in her place. Years past, as we pray for all those who mourn, and the eternal souls of those who died and family members and friends who have since joined them, it’s an added layer of how fragile life is, how devastating hatred is, and how our lives are so much more intertwined than we realize. I don’t think the pandemic has resulted in making that lesson sink in. As we take some at times draconian measures against COVID-19, we forget that each and every one of us will die, and we don’t know when. Love well!

Anyway, my reflection is here, in case it’s helpful in any way to anyone, as we remember.


Don’t Overlook Barbara Boxer’s Short Stint Lobbying for a Chinese Surveillance Firm

Then-senator Barbara Boxer speaks during the Politicon convention in Pasadena, Calif., in 2016. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak has written a buzzy column featuring an interview with former senator Barbara Boxer. The longtime lawmaker, who retired in 2017, offered her thoughts on abortion, the filibuster, and the Supreme Court, as well as details about her life in retirement. “Thank God for Siri,” she told Barabak, who penned the very sympathetic profile about her post-Senate life.

What goes totally unmentioned in the piece is Boxer’s short stint last year as a foreign agent representing a Chinese video-surveillance firm implicated in mass atrocities.

The Daily Caller reported in January that Boxer registered to represent Hikvision, which was blacklisted by the Trump administration for its complicity in the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of Uyghurs. According to the filing she registered with the Department of Justice, her role would have been to “provide strategic counsel” to the company.

Presumably, Boxer’s expertise would have helped Hikvision to navigate the Trump-era regulatory minefield that barred U.S. entities from doing business with it. But Hikvision is no ordinary company. IPVM, a video-surveillance firm, has documented Hivision’s extensive complicity in developing the mass-surveillance state with which Beijing has orchestrated a genocide of Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. This includes, among many other things, Chinese government contracts with Hikvision to supply video-surveillance systems in the region’s concentration camps and the “Integrated Joint Operating Platform” used throughout the region.

So, naturally, her registration was a small scandal. Boxer registered as a foreign agent on January 8. After word got out, the Biden inaugural committee refunded a $500 donation by saying the donation violated its rules against taking money from foreign agents. Then, on January 12, Axios reported that Boxer would resign; she explained in a statement to the outlet:

My intent in agreeing to provide strategic advice to the company was based on my desire to help make them better in every way and preserve American jobs. However, due to the intense response to my registration, I have determined that my continued involvement has become a negative distraction for the effort so I will be deregistering.

Just a week after Boxer resigned, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a determination that the Chinese government is perpetrating crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang, a decision that his successor, Antony Blinken, swiftly endorsed. Well before that determination was implemented, Beijing’s Xinjiang atrocities were common knowledge and written about in frontpage stories.

Yet despite rising awareness of the Chinese Communist Party’s global assault on international order and human dignity, still too many former lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — lobby for firms linked to Beijing’s military buildup and human-rights abuses. Money knows no partisan affiliation. Boxer deserves credit for deregistering, but she hasn’t expressed any regret for attempting to work with a firm complicitity in ongoing atrocities.

That disgraceful incident should be a permanent part of her legacy, too, and a prominent part of a profile of what she’s done in private life.


Biden Administration Official: The Taliban Are Cooperative, Flexible and Businesslike

Taliban forces stand guard in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

The Biden administration is going to get a lot of grief for this portion of a statement from U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne, and they deserve every last bit of it:

The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA. They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step.

There’s one scenario where the administration’s constant ludicrously generous public statements of the Taliban make sense, and that’s if the Taliban has communicated their willingness to harm or detain Americans in Afghanistan, and the Biden administration is buttering them up. As Will Rogers once said, “diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

If this bit of public praise for the Taliban is not being offered with metaphorical or literal guns to heads, and the administration really thinks it does any good to sing the Taliban’s praises to the world, then this is just one more abject humiliation of the United States, brought to you by this president and this administration.


Let Us Soften Our Hearts toward One Another — And Support Adoption!


Mona Charen’s words should be read and be a rallying cry:

It would be far healthier for our society if citizens were asked to debate and decide these matters for themselves, in their own states, without the help of nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. These are exactly the sort of issues that free people must grapple with if they want to be considered self-governing. Nearly every poll on abortion has found that most Americans favor legal abortion in the first 12 weeks and oppose it (to varying degrees) thereafter. Polls asking whether Americans support Roe are useless because few know what it says.

If Americans are somewhere in the mushy middle, the two political parties have arrayed themselves at the extremes.

The past five years have demonstrated the dangers of excessive polarization. We are tearing each other apart over mask mandates, for God’s sake; how well-equipped are we to debate and discuss an issue that is even more emotionally volatile? Progressives are certain that conservatives don’t actually care about life, but only want to limit women’s options. Conservatives are convinced that progressives are heartless hypocrites, ready to ignore the humanity of unborn babies even as they fret about the climate or immigrant children at the border. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe and Casey, or limits their scope, the ball will be back in the citizens’ court.

I’m not optimistic that compromise or mutual understanding is possible on this issue, but let me offer some personal recollections that may help. My husband and I, as adoptive parents, were active in adoption charities and advocacy for many years. Adoption brings together people from both sides of the abortion divide. We met Hillary Clinton and Mary McGrory, a fierce liberal columnist who was on Nixon’s enemies list, at adoption events, as well as former Republican congressman and House majority whip Tom DeLay. He and his wife had raised three foster children.

I was honored to help Erica Pelman launch In Shifra’s Arms, a Jewish charity dedicated to helping women who experience crisis pregnancies. ISA was clear from the outset that its goal was to help women, not to lobby about changing laws. There were pro-choice and pro-life women on the board, united in the desire to let women know that they were not alone. ISA provides counseling, cash assistance, material support, and referrals to other resources including government programs, religious institutions, and adoption agencies. The assistance is provided throughout the pregnancy and for the first year of the baby’s life.

An Alan B. Guttmacher survey on women’s reasons for having abortions noted that more than one third of the women in the study had considered placing their children for adoption but rejected it because they believed it was “morally unconscionable” to give a child away. It seems highly doubtful that the seven million Americans who are adopted would agree. An estimated 1 to 2 million couples are waiting to adopt children. In 2018, there were about 619,000 abortions.

Most people are shocked to learn that there’s even a registry for couples waiting to adopt Down Syndrome babies.

Adoption is a loving alternative to abortion. Perhaps we can begin to listen to and hear each other if we start there.

Give Mona some link love here. And if you haven’t already, consider supporting a women’s care center in the state of Texas today.

White House

Biden’s ‘New Strategy’ on COVID-19 Is Just the Old Strategy with Another Mandate

President Biden departs after delivering remarks on the August Jobs Report at the White House in Washington, September 3, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden’s “new strategy” for dealing with COVID-19 apparently consists of requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated. Earlier, federal workers could opt out and submit to regular testing for the virus.

But in a country where 208 million Americans have at least one dose, and 75.2 percent of all American adults are vaccinated, one wonders if the effects of this action will even be noticeable. There are about 2.1 million federal workers; if they’re vaccinated at the same rate as U.S. adults, that means about 1.5 million are already vaccinated, and  about 500,000 federal workers will get vaccinated because of this new order. That will help, but the effects will not be easily discernible in a country with more than 330 million people.

If the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2,  is going to become endemic – that is, around for a long time – that provides an opportunity to alter our message. It would mean admitting we can’t mask, social-distance, capacity-restriction and quarantine and our way out of this pandemic. Avoiding the virus is not really a long-term strategy, if it ever was. Just about everyone will run into it at some point.

And that offers an opportunity to change the messaging. If everyone is going to run into the virus sooner or later, how prepared do you want your body to be? Yes, if you’ve had COVID-19 before, your immune system is probably well-prepared to fight off another infection. But there are some indications that natural immunity from a past infection, coupled with the additional protection of the vaccination adds up to “super immunity” that protects against all variants. That sounds really appealing!

Instead, it appears the Biden approach is to encourage “get vaccinated or you’re fired” policies as far and wide as possible, and hoping that social and economic pressure gets roughly 13 percent of American adults to accept a vaccine that they have insisted, passionately and vehemently, they do not want.

After yesterday’s Morning Jolt, I heard from a reader who concurred that the cacophony of public health advice and sometimes conflicting restrictions and rules have prompted segments of the public to tune out all the messaging.

I’m a county official in a red state in the West. I recently met with our county health department, the heads of the local hospitals, and several doctors.  To say the messaging they were pushing is problematic is understating the issue by orders of magnitude. We are having ER capacity issues and trying to figure out ways to head a few folks off at the pass…increase vaccination uptake, early monoclonal antibody treatments, etc.  If we can keep 10 percent of the ER admissions out of the hospital, we are in pretty good shape. Not great, but long term sustainable….

As I explained to them, when I meet someone who speaks Spanish, I always end up shouting when I repeat myself, to make sure they understand what I am saying.  It hasn’t worked yet but that’s probably because I’m not yelling loud enough.  I followed that up with asking if maybe they could help us change the messaging here. They are just yelling louder and most folks are just tuning them out.  It was like pulling teeth to get them to understand.  I’m hopeful we can make some progress.

The U.S. government could change its messaging to, “everyone’s going to get exposed to this virus eventually, so prepare yourself with a vaccination.” But instead, Biden would prefer, “get vaccinated or you’re fired.”

Abraham Lincoln on Why You Should Get a Job

The Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

To what David Harsanyi and Charlie Cooke have said, let me just add the wise words of Abraham Lincoln in a series of letters to his stepbrother, John D. Johnston. Here is Lincoln in December 1848, when Johnston was 38 years old, widowed, and had seven children to support; Lincoln refused to give him money except as a match to wages Johnston earned himself:

Your request for eighty dollars, I do not think it best, to comply with now. At the various times when I have helped you a little, you have said to me “We can get along very well


Study: Ivermectin ‘Exhibits Efficacy’ as Therapeutic for COVID

(tab1962/Getty Images)

I stay out of the media wars about which therapeutics for COVID work, which don’t, and which are quackery. If it ever comes to having a personal stake in that question, I will trust my doctor.

But I couldn’t help notice the screeching media hysteria about people supposedly taking a horse deworming medicine called Ivermectin — without mentioning it has a human version — and the false stories of ERs so stuffed by people suffering adverse side effects from the veterinarian medication that other patients couldn’t be treated. The inexcusable baloney was launched by Rolling Stone and amplified by the usual left-wing suspects, such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Well, a recently published study found that ivermectin exhibits efficacy against COVID! That’s the clear import of the title: “Ivermectin: a multifaceted drug of Nobel prize-honoured distinction with indicated efficacy against a new global scourge, COVID-19.” Look at the findings, as stated in the paper’s abstract:

In 2015, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, in its only award for treatments of infectious diseases since six decades prior, honoured the discovery of ivermectin (IVM), a multifaceted drug deployed against some of the world’s most devastating tropical diseases. Since March 2020, when IVM was first used against a new global scourge, COVID-19, more than 20 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have tracked such inpatient and outpatient treatments.

Six of seven meta-analyses of IVM treatment RCTs reporting in 2021 found notable reductions in COVID-19 fatalities, with a mean 31% relative risk of mortality vs. controls. During mass IVM treatments in Peru, excess deaths fell by a mean of 74% over 30 days in its ten states with the most extensive treatments. Reductions in deaths correlated with the extent of IVM distributions in all 25 states with p < 0.002. Sharp reductions in morbidity using IVM were also observed in two animal models, of SARS-CoV-2 and a related betacoronavirus. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains. [Emphasis added.]

And consider the conclusion:

We believe that the evidence to date supports the worldwide extension of IVM treatments for COVID-19, complementary to immunizations. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, as reviewed [, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains.

IVM has been safely used in 3.7 billion doses since 1987, well tolerated even at much greater than standard doses and used without serious AEs in the three high-dose COVID-19 treatment studies noted above. In the current international emergency of COVID-19, with mutant viral strains, vaccination refusals and potentially waning immunities over months presenting new challenges, IVM can be an effective component of the mix of therapeutics deployed against this pandemic. [Emphasis added.]

People should only take strong medicines if prescribed by their doctors, of course, but good grief!

What a debacle for journalism. From now on, maybe the usual media suspects will think twice before slamming medicines because they think the story (or rumor they heard) somehow shames “the deplorables” they so despise.

Ha, Wesley! Who are you kidding? This episode was about fighting the culture war, not reporting about the epidemic.

Film & TV

Back to The Matrix: Trailer Out for Fourth Matrix Movie

Still from The Matrix Resurrections. (Warner Bros. Pictures/Screengrab via Youtube)

One of the more unexpected sequel announcements of recent years was the news of a fourth entry in the Matrix franchise. The first movie, released in 1999, was and remains a fairly entertaining combination of dorm-room-level philosophizing, cool-looking special effects, and well-choreographed action. There are some entertaining moments in the two sequels that followed, but . . . for the most part, they weren’t great. And, more relevant for sequel purposes, they seemed to end the story of The Matrix: Neo (Keanu Reeves) had ‘died’ defeating the rogue program that had taken over the fake world of the Matrix, and the machines trapping humans in that fake world while trying to kill them in the real one had relented.

But . . .

Anyone who had the misfortune of making it through the end of The Matrix Revolutions knows that Neo’s ultimate fate had been left slightly ambiguous. And that ambiguity apparently left enough room for a sequel, The Matrix Resurrections, to be released in December of this year. A trailer for it just came out:

The choice of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplaine as backing music for this is perhaps the most inevitable accompaniment in trailer history, given the Matrix movies’ obsession with pills and distorted reality and whatnot. Beyond that, though, what we seem to have is a classic ‘reset’ scenario, often used by sequels released long after the movie that preceded them. That is, to justify their existence, such movies must somewhat undo the resolution achieved by a prior entry (or series) and resubmit beloved characters into familiar travails. If this trailer is any guide (which it may not be), Reeves’s Neo, now going by his original name of Thomas Anderson once again, is still alive (or alive again?) but has forgotten who he is (or was?), thanks to a steady diet of reality-suppressing blue pills (as opposed to the reality-uncovering red). Amusingly, one scene appears to show peoples’ obsession with digital devices keeping them unaware of the fact that reality itself is digital. The Matrix Resurrections is likely to show Anderson becoming Neo (again). “After all these years, to be going back to where it all started . . . back to the Matrix!” as one character in the trailer metafictionally asserts.

Whether this movie is more than just a rehash or a nostalgia trip (Reeves is not the only actor from the original trilogy to return; he’s not even the only actor performing a character thought killed to be returning), and whether it actually proves novel and good enough to be worth doing remain to be seen.

Law & the Courts

Opposing Roe Isn’t about Religion

Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen speaks at a protest against anti-abortion legislation at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2019. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

Supreme Court writer Linda Greenhouse has a New York Times column this morning indulging in the lazy argument that those who favor pro-life policies wish to impose their religion through the law. Because of pro-lifers we are, in short, “lurching toward theocracy.”

“Republican politicians used to offer secular rationales for their anti-abortion zealotry: They claimed that abortion hurt women or that abortion procedures demeaned the medical profession,” Greenhouse writes, adding,

I could go on with this list, but these examples are sufficient to raise the question for those of us not on board with the theocratizing of America: Who let God into the legislative chamber?

The answer is that we did. Our silence has turned us into enablers of those who are now foisting their religious beliefs on a country founded on opposition to an established church.

She enumerates the Catholic justices on the Court, and while she notes that two of them voted the way she would have preferred on the Texas Heartbeat Act, she fails to acknowledge that this undercuts her case. She admiringly cites former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who pioneered the incoherent notion that a politician could “personally oppose” abortion because of his religious beliefs while prudently refusing to “impose” his own morality on the populace. This argument makes no more sense now than it did when Cuomo debuted it in 1984.

For one thing, all laws impose some vision of morality. Laws against theft, murder, and slavery similarly echo the theology of several major religions — and are based on a certain notion of right and wrong, ie., morality — yet few would oppose those laws on the grounds that they improperly inject religion into public life. This argument rarely arises in the context of any law other than those regulating abortion, and it would be dismissed out of hand if it did. It functions merely to silence abortion opponents without addressing their actual arguments.

Meanwhile, only ignorance or intellectual dishonesty could explain Greenhouse’s refusal to acknowledge that the central arguments against Roe v. Wade and legal abortion are not religious in nature and are shared by any number of non-religious Americans. Roe is an anti-constitutional travesty. It’s bad law. Legal scholars across the political spectrum and with divergent views on abortion have said as much. Arguments in favor of striking down the Court’s groundless and unworkable abortion jurisprudence have nothing to do with religion.

Likewise, one need not be religious to acknowledge biological reality: The unborn child is a distinct, living human being. Abortion therefore is an act of violence. It is a procedure that, when successful, kills that distinct, living human being. It should be obvious that attempting to restrict or abolish such a procedure does not require imposing God or religion on other citizens; it doesn’t even require belief in God.

Greenhouse is far from the first commentator to insist that opposition to abortion stems from a desire to impose one’s faith on others. It’s a highly unoriginal argument most often advanced by zealous abortion-rights activists, who disparage their opponents in lieu of defending their own position — and Greenhouse should know better than to indulge in it.

Politics & Policy

‘The Real Biden Presidency Emerges’


I wrote today for Politico on where Biden stands:

Not too long ago, supporters imagined Joe Biden might be the next LBJ, and perhaps they were right — just not how they thought.

Biden bears no resemblance to the Lyndon B. Johnson who entered office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 with a 75 percent approval rating and over the next couple of years passed a raft of historic legislation. No, if there’s any comparison it is to the LBJ who by 1967 had seen his approval rating dip underwater in a deeply riven country.

After a lot of happy talk over the past half-year, the real Biden presidency has emerged. It is not a colossus bestriding the political universe, rather a middling administration, at best, that will have trouble imposing its will even on its own party in Congress.

White House

Senate Democrats Force Joe Biden to Withdraw His Pick for ATF Director

David Chipman speaks during an interviee by KVUE ABC in 2019 (KVUE ABC/via YouTube)

Joe Biden’s bad summer gets worse. Per Politico, the president is planning to withdraw his nominee to head up the ATF, David Chipman:

The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to three sources close to the process.

Chipman is currently a senior policy advisor to Giffords, a gun control group, and faced an uphill battle to Senate confirmation as President Joe Biden’s point person on firearms regulation.

As Politico notes, Biden’s pick proved unacceptable to his own party, let alone to Republicans. Senator Angus King of Maine opposed him, as, it seems, did Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Much of the commentary around this selection has focused on how difficult it is to find an acceptable choice for ATF chief in the current era. Indeed, as Politico notes, “the Senate has confirmed only one ATF nominee, in 2013.” Given this, though, one suspects that it might have been advisable for the White House to pick someone who isn’t an outspoken gun-control loon who is disliked by his own colleagues.


Economy & Business

Belated Happy Labor Day: Union Guy Gets a Seat on Ex-Im Board


I just realized that President Biden tapped Owen Herrnstadt to serve on the board of directors at the Export-Import Bank. Herrnstadt is chief of staff to the president at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).

That’s not just a union seat, that is a Boeing seat on the board with IAMAW representing some 22 percent of Boeing employees. Some 35 percent of Boeing employees are in a union.

Many of us over the years have referred to Ex-Im as the Bank of Boeing since the manufacturer is Ex-Im’s favorite domestic beneficiary. It was just a matter of time before Boeing formalized the relationship with a seat on the board.

Now, I cannot wait to hear how Herrnstadt will rationalize the bank’s continuing to throw money at a large corporation that raised $25 billion on private capital markets in April 2020 — just as the pandemic was unfolding — while small businesses were going through the headache of applying for a PPP loan.

Hernnstadt’s nomination is another win for the big guy.

Health Care

DeSantis vs. Dr. Fauci

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

The latest skirmish in the blue media vs. red state wars started when Florida governor Ron DeSantis had the temerity to suggest that vaccination against COVID-19 should be a personal choice. As I wrote over on the home page, the blue media promptly rolled Dr. Anthony Fauci out to contradict the governor.

The governor was in Pensacola promoting a state program that provides monoclonal antibodies (such as Regeneron) to sick Floridians for free, a program that deserves much more attention than it has gotten. (Video of the event is here; I wrote about the promise of Regeneron and similar therapeutics almost a year ago).

The governor was answering a question about businesses requiring vaccine passports. His answer is worth reading in full. Here is a roughly corrected transcript of what he said (apologies for any mistakes):

Vaccine passports. One, I’m vaccinated. I’m offended that someone would make me show something just to go to a restaurant or just to live life. And there’s a lot of people who have already recovered from Covid who do have immunity. You actually are saying, me with a Johnson & Johnson shot can go in, but someone who’s recovered from Covid and probably a stronger immunity, they can’t go in? I’m sorry. That is anti-science.

I also don’t want two classes of citizens. We have some people in our communities who just made the decision, [that] this is something that they’re not going to do. So what, you’re going to write them out of society? They’re not going to be able to go show their face? And some of these places that have vaccine passports – because the little kiddies are ineligible for vaccine — some of them are saying if you’re under 12, don’t even come in.

And it’s also the case that as much as I am happy to see vaccinated people get good protection against hospitalization, it definitely has been good, the fact is it is spreading regardless of vaccination. That’s just the reality. The theory behind the vaccine passport is: Okay, if you force everyone to have it in order to kind of live in society, then you’ll be able to basically just nuke Covid. We know that that’s not the case.  You know [you have] very, very high vaccination rates, you still have big waves. So, it just doesn’t make any sense.

And my view is, we got to protect people’s ability to live their lives. I don’t want a biomedical security state in which are we constantly having to do this just to be able to live everyday life. At the end of the day, the vaccines have helped people ward off severe illness. And we obviously worked very hard to distribute it. At the end of the day, though, it is what somebody, it’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else because we’ve seen the data on this. And so the theory behind it, I think has gone totally up in smoke.

And I also just think that there’s been huge mistakes made along the way with some of these authorities lecturing people about this. I can tell you there’s a lot of folks that when they hear that uh if they’re on the fence that pushes them in the other direction, that is not the way that you do it. And what I try to do is just give the data, give it honestly, I’m not going to sugarcoat it and I’m not going to tell somebody something that that is not true based on the data, just because I want them to behave in a certain way.

A lot of these folks, they tell these noble lies because they want you to behave in a certain way. And so they don’t give the whole truth.

Then, referring to the state’s ongoing efforts to publicize the availability of monoclonal antibodies as an early treatment for potentially severe COVID-19 disease, the governor says:

You look at the fact that we’re even having to do this with this early treatment. That should not — we’re happy to do because we want to help — but this should have been something that was screamed from the rooftops from HHS and CDC since last December. Can you imagine if 100 percent of Americans knew that this was something that was available? You know how many people we would have kept out of the hospital? You know how many people that would not have died over the last nine months? That’s just a fact.

And we’re obviously correcting that in Florida and we’re actually helping other states too, because we put a lot of emphasis on it. You know, I look at that and I wonder why if you have an effective treatment — I mean this treatment was used on an experimental basis to the President of the United States in October and very effectively — why would you not be talking about it? And I think one of the reasons that … some didn’t think that they should talk about it is because they didn’t want people to think, okay, maybe you don’t need to get vaccinated, maybe you just get the treatment. And they worry that people would take that message. And my view is, you know, we’ve never said it’s either-or. We think that they complement each other. But if someone does do that, that’s not a reason to not give them the full information. That’s not a reason [not] to provide this, you know, for everybody.

So, you know, I think some of the stuff with the vaccine passport, I mean it’s an overreach. It’s too intrusive. And at the end of the day, my philosophy is, as governor, my job is to protect your individual freedom. My job is not to protect corporate freedom. That is not what I’m here for. I mean, we have a good business climate, we have everything, but this idea that businesses can just do whatever they want and invade your privacy and doing all that. No, I’m not signing up for that. I’m signing up for protecting your freedom and making sure we have a society in Florida where people can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.

And that’s what we’re doing by protecting against these mandates and making sure that that’s done based on what people believe is best for them and their families, but not something that’s imposed either by government or in some respects, in some instances by very, very powerful private entities.


TikTok Is Evil

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Last summer, The Onion published an article with the ingenious headline: “Teens Flock To New App Where They Just Enter Own Personal Data Into Form.” I think about this article a lot these days, particularly when the social-media app TikTok is in the news. At 28, I’m not that old (yet), but I’ve already reached an age when I simply do not (or refuse to) understand some of the newest technology. But, as best as I can understand it, TikTok is an app that enables people to create and share short videos. It is popular among Zoomers, the generation that follows my own, which is itself a reason not to trust it. But there are also reputable reports that the app is compromised by the Chinese government.

Despite these defects, the Biden administration saw fit to use TikTok to promote coronavirus vaccination (to be sure, a worthy goal), despite the superior alternative of using a . . . shall we say . . .  generous interpretation of public-health and national-security powers to resurrect Vine, the similar, homegrown social-media app killed by Twitter a few years ago and still fondly remembered by many. Team Biden essentially promoting TikTok (by paying its most-popular users to promote vaccination) is quite the executive whiplash from this time last year, when the Trump administration made an effort to force ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, to sell the app, first to U.S.-based Microsoft, then to Oracle. President Biden — who, at age 78, is probably even less capable of understanding TikTok than I am — backed off of this effort earlier this year.

At any rate, I still don’t trust TikTok. And a recent report in the Wall Street Journal provides ample reason to believe that this app might be a tick worse even than the other apps and platforms so prevalent in modern life. For “How TikTok Serves Up Sex and Drug Videos to Minors,” the Journal created some bot accounts on TikTok to get a sense of how the site’s algorithm worked:

An analysis of the videos served to these accounts found that through its powerful algorithms, TikTok can quickly drive minors—among the biggest users of the app—into endless spools of content about sex and drugs.

TikTok served one account registered as a 13-year-old at least 569 videos about drug use, references to cocaine and meth addiction, and promotional videos for online sales of drug products and paraphernalia. Hundreds of similar videos appeared in the feeds of the Journal’s other minor accounts.

TikTok also showed the Journal’s teenage users more than 100 videos from accounts recommending paid pornography sites and sex shops. Thousands of others were from creators who labeled their content as for adults only.

Still others encouraged eating disorders and glorified alcohol, including depictions of drinking and driving and of drinking games.

What makes TikTok particularly insidious is that it takes the monitoring-learning function of other apps and websites, which “learn” about users by what they actually click on, to the next level:

An earlier video investigation by the Journal found that TikTok only needs one important piece of information to figure out what a user wants: the amount of time you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or re-watch, the app tracks you.

Through that one powerful signal, TikTok can learn your most hidden interests and emotions, and drive users of any age deep into rabbit holes of content—in which feeds are heavily dominated by videos about a specific topic or theme.

The whole article is worth reading. TikTok claims to be actively moderating its content, but the sheer volume of content available, as well as its growing user base, complicate its efforts. And even a less lewd TikTok is still an app designed to entrap users, particularly younger ones. Fortunately, the choice is always theirs — and, if not theirs, then that of parents or others in their lives — to stop using. As for me: I have no intentions of ever starting in the first place. And not just because I don’t understand exactly what TikTok is.

Economy & Business

Re: You Should Definitely Get a Job

Job seekers at an employment center in San Francisco, Calif., November 20, 2009. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

I just want to second what David Harsanyi said: Go and get a job, you ridiculous slackers.


‘Did Texas Go Wrong on Abortion?’


Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and MBD discuss the uproar over the Texas heartbeat bill, the ridiculous commentary on Ivermectin, and Joe Manchin’s latest play. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.


Poll Finds Plurality Support for the Texas Heartbeat Act

A young pro-life demonstrator holds a sign at the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A new survey out yesterday from Rasmussen Reports has found that a plurality of Americans supports the Texas Heartbeat Act.

The poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters across the country on September 5 and September 6 and found that 46 percent of respondents said they support the Texas law. Forty-three percent, meanwhile, oppose the law, while 11 percent remain undecided on the question.

In 2019, when a number of states passed heartbeat bills that, like the law in Texas, protected unborn children after a heartbeat could be detected, some polling suggested that a slim majority of Americans was supportive of such laws — especially after learning that a heartbeat could be detected as early as six weeks’ gestation.

Rasmussen Reports also found that a plurality of Americans (46 percent) would rather have laws governing abortion determined by state governments than the federal government. Plurality support for state governments setting abortion policy held consistent across all age demographics, among both men and women, and among both white and black respondents. About a third of respondents said they’d prefer the federal government to decide.

Fiscal Policy

Schumer Going ‘Full Speed Ahead,’ Unclear Where

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) takes questions as he discusses the Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., August 11, 2021. (Gabrielle Crockett/Reuters)

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said today that he’s going “full speed ahead” on Democrats’ proposed spending package. In addition to the $550 billion in new spending from the bipartisan infrastructure package, Schumer supports spending another $3.5 trillion.

“Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion” was the headline on West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s September 2 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, so Schumer is going to run into some problems.

“We’re going to work very hard to have unity, because without unity, we’re not going to get anything,” Schumer said. He’s certainly right about that, but they can’t have the requisite unity without Manchin.

Democrats plan to pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which means it would only require 50 senators plus Vice President Harris to pass. “Only” 50, but that’s not easy — every Democrat in the Senate needs to vote for the bill for it to pass. That must include Joe Manchin, who isn’t particularly interested in pleasing anyone outside his roughly R+40 state. His voters don’t want to give Democrats their entire agenda in one massive bill.

Manchin’s op-ed is unremarkable. Its opening sentence — “The nation faces an unprecedented array of challenges and will inevitably encounter additional crises in the future” — is the kind of thing a college freshman writes when he’s trying to make a word count, and there’s not a single memorable line in the whole thing. Manchin doesn’t have to put together a flashy argument. His stance boils down to the shortest sentence in his op-ed: “I disagree.”

That’s his right. He’s a United States senator. He gets to disagree. And with the current partisan composition of the Senate, his disagreement is an insurmountable problem for Chuck Schumer.

The problems for Democrats don’t end there, either. All the focus is on the Senate, but after special elections, the Democrats’ House majority is tiny. If three House Democrats defect, they can’t pass legislation.

If there’s one thing politicians love doing, it’s spending other people’s money. Schumer is likely betting that impulse will eventually take hold and Manchin will be forced into submission. The Democrats have put their entire agenda into the reconciliation bill; if Manchin and other moderate Democrats in Congress are at all sympathetic to their own party, they’re unlikely to ultimately vote against the bill.

But as it stands currently, they have hang-ups, and Manchin’s hang-ups are the first priority. Schumer’s comments today signaled that he doesn’t take Manchin seriously. As long as he doesn’t, though, discussions of the reconciliation bill are purely academic. It’s not going to pass without Manchin’s vote.

Schumer can say he’s going “full speed ahead” all he wants. He currently does not have the votes to go anywhere at all.


Why Do U.S. Travel Restrictions Punish the Most Vaccinated Countries?

President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 18, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

A reader pointed out the perfect illustration of the utter absurdity of the Biden administration’s travel restrictions. Iceland has about 277,000 adults, who make up about 75.5 percent of the population; 73 percent of Iceland citizens are fully vaccinated. Iceland may well be the most vaccinated country in the entire world.

Iceland, of course, is on the Biden administration’s list of countries where entry is restricted. Malta, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, San Marino, France and Ireland are all pretty high, with at least 69 percent of all citizens fully vaccinated… but they’re all on the Biden restricted list.

A whole lot of countries are competing for the title of least vaccinated country on the globe, among them the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, South Sudan, Chad, Haiti, Turkmenistan, and Cameroon. None of those countries are on the Biden administration’s list of countries where entry is restricted.


Terry McAuliffe Has Always Been an Abortion Extremist

Then-Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe arrives at the election night rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Fairfax, Va., November 7, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

In a 2001 interview, Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told host Chris Matthews that he supported elective abortion, without a single restriction, throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

“Are you for abortion rights all the way down the line?” Matthews asks McAuliffe, who interrupts the host to respond, “Yes.”

The old interview footage shouldn’t be especially surprising to anyone following McAuliffe’s current gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. In a WVTF radio interview on Monday, the former Virginia governor again implied that he supports abortion without a single legal restriction.

“People on the other side of this issue say, ‘Are there any limits? Like in 2019 there was this controversial Kathy Tran bill that seemed to open the door to abortion right up to the moment of birth,” the host noted. “Is that a bright line? Are there any boundaries that you could see for restrictions on any kind of abortion?”

“Terry McAuliffe, as governor, as I was before, will be a brick wall to protect women’s individual rights,” McAuliffe responded. Just a few years ago, McAuliffe said in another interview that he would’ve supported a heinous bill in Virginia that would’ve legalized abortion up to the moment of birth, including during labor, with no limits, as long as a doctor certified that it was necessary.

As our own John McCormack reported in a piece on the homepage earlier today, McAuliffe refused to tell National Review at a Tuesday press conference whether he would veto permissive abortion legislation in Virginia as governor. From John’s piece:

“I support the existing laws on our books,” McAuliffe told National Review when asked if his position on vetoing Tran’s bill has changed. “The one change I would like to see as governor — and I’ve already talked to [Democratic state] Senator McClellan about it — I want to see a bill sent to me that would enshrine Roe v Wade in the [Virginia] constitution.”

Here’s the short clip of McAuliffe’s 2001 interview with Matthews: