Politics & Policy

State Legislatures Work to Protect Infants Who Survive Abortion

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Governor Kay Ivey (R., Ala.) in Montgomery, Ala., May 15, 2019 (Office of the Governor State of Alabama/Handout via Reuters)

Lawmakers in the Alabama state senate have unanimously approved the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a popular piece of pro-life legislation that requires doctors to provide appropriate medical care to newborn infants who survive an abortion procedure.

In the May 17 vote, the bill received not only unanimous support but also the votes of several Democratic state senators. According to an Alabama Daily News reporter, one such lawmaker, Democrat Linda Coleman, described the born-alive bill as an effort to protect newborn babies, saying it is not an abortion bill but rather a right-to-life bill.

The born-alive bill has already passed the Alabama House of Representatives with overwhelming support. Republican governor Kay Ivey is expected to sign the bill into law.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the North Carolina state senate passed its own version of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act on a party-line vote. The bill, S.B. 405, is still under consideration in the North Carolina House of Representatives but it is likely to pass, as Republicans hold a commanding majority in the lower chamber.

During the 2019 legislative session, both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly passed the born-alive bill, but Democratic governor Roy Cooper went on to veto it. Cooper described the bill as “unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients,” even though the law does not place any restrictions on abortion procedures or limit a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina’s state senate successfully overturned Cooper’s veto, but the veto override failed in the state house. If the General Assembly succeeds in this renewed effort to pass the legislation, Cooper is likely to veto it again on similar grounds.

This is the third consecutive legislative session during which Republican lawmakers across the country and at the federal level have attempted to enact born-alive measures, an increasingly popular type of pro-life legislation.

Earlier this year, for instance, South Dakota enacted a born-alive law with the support of GOP governor Kristi Noem, and according to her office, the policy has yet to face a legal challenge from abortion-rights activists.

Opponents of the federal born-alive bill and its state-level iterations typically insist, as Cooper did in 2019, that these laws infringe on women’s rights, despite the fact that the law’s terms require only that doctors care for a newborn after a failed abortion procedure, which evidently has no effect on a woman’s health-care options.

Other opponents suggest that born-alive bills are unnecessary because killing newborn infants is already illegal. That much is true, to be sure. But it is not presently illegal for a doctor to neglect an infant who survives an abortion, an infant who was intended for death just moments earlier. In fact, the slate of born-alive bills cropping up over the last few years came in direct response to a Democratic governor, himself a physician, saying that doctors ought to be allowed to do just that.

Finally, opponents of born-alive bills insist that the laws are unnecessary because infants never survive abortion procedures. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell — currently serving life in prison in part for using scissors to sever the spinal columns of infants he delivered alive in modified abortion procedures — might beg to differ. So, too, might Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden, two pro-life advocates who survived attempted abortion procedures.

Education

Teaching History in Idaho and Texas: What the NYT Obscures

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(DONGSEON_KIM/Getty Images)

Simon Romero has a front-page story under the web headline, “Texas Pushes to Obscure the State’s History of Slavery and Racism.” Subhed: “Texas is awash in bills aimed at fending off critical examinations of the state’s past.” (The print edition carried the headline, “A Push in Texas To Polish Stains Of Race History.”) All of this is an accurate summary of the article. Is the article an accurate summary of the legislative it purports to describe in Texas?

It doesn’t look like it to me.

But first let’s take a detour to Idaho. Romero writes that “Republican-led states seek to ban or limit how the role of slavery and pervasive effects of racism can be taught,” then adds, “Idaho was the first state to sign into law a measure that would withhold funding from schools that teach such lessons.”

The writing is a bit opaque, but presumably Romero means that Idaho’s law withholds funding from schools that teach certain lessons about “the role of slavery” and “the pervasive effects of racism.” The Times doesn’t provide a link to the Idaho law, but its text does not support this characterization. Here’s the key language:

(a) No public institution of higher education, school district, or public school, including a public charter school, shall direct or otherwise compel students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to any of the following tenets: (i) That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior; (ii) That individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin; or (iii) That individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.

(b) No distinction or classification of students shall be made on account of race or color.

(c) No course of instruction or unit of study directing or otherwise compelling students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to any of the tenets identified in paragraph (a) of this subsection shall be used or introduced in any institution of higher education, any school district, or any public school, including a public charter school.

Search for “slavery” in the bill text, and you’ll come up empty. Romero’s description of the bill is simply false.

On to Texas. It is considering a bill that, according to Romero, would “limit how teachers in Texas classrooms can discuss the ways in which racism influenced the legal system in the state, long a segregationist bastion, and the rest of the country.” To Romero’s credit, he offers a link that allows a look at the text of the bill. But that text suggests his description is misleading.

The bill does not bar teachers from saying that racism has a pervasive influence on the state’s and country’s legal system. It does, however, require teachers to present slavery and racism as “deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States.” That is the view that Frederick Douglass famously reached. One may, of course, disagree with it. But affirming it does not amount to obscuring the history of slavery, fending off critical examinations of the past, or polishing stains.

Culture

The Marriage Crisis: A Discussion

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The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles and I discuss the baby bust, the marriage crisis, and how men and women can sort it all out.

Now Progressives Are Whitewashing Anti-Semitic Attacks

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U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump’s attacks on the four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

Ilhan Omar had some interesting things to say about “Benjamin”-grubbing rootless cosmopolitans back in 2019. Though her words precipitated something of a mini-backlash, even then, most Democrats not only refused to denounce her words — the resolution mentioned Alfred Dreyfus and Leo Frank, not the Minnesotan — but they also refused to specifically condemn anti-Semitism. Instead, Democrats passed a watered-down, platitudinous laundry list of all censurable hatreds. “We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America,” explained

‘Temporary’ Protected Status: A Tool for Executive Mischief

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Migrants from Central America, Haiti, and Cuba queue outside the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) to apply for asylum and refugee status in Tapachula, Mexico, May 6, 2021 (Jose Torres/Reuters)

DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced over the weekend that his agency would grant a work-permit amnesty (under so-called Temporary Protected Status) to all Haitian illegal aliens in the U.S.

Haitians who were here at the time of that country’s devastating 2010 earthquake already had this “temporary” (but routinely renewed) status, but Saturday’s announcement reopened the TPS amnesty to all the new Haitian illegals who’ve come in the decade-plus since then. The Federal Register notice, which hasn’t been published yet, will offer DHS’s estimate of how many illegal aliens would benefit, but media reports put the number at 100,000 or more post–2010

Film & TV

Marvel Studios President Blames Insufficient Wokeness, Not Chinese Prejudice, for Dr. Strange’s Tibetan Erasure

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Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange. (Marvel Studios)

I wrote yesterday about the possibility that Marvel Studios, long perched atop the box office, faces a number of headwinds — interrupted momentum, exhausted creative possibilities, troubles with the Chinese market, and others — that might mean its brand has peaked. In the course of doing so, I mentioned that Marvel’s blatant attempt to tailor some of its new releases to the Chinese market had precedent in some of the creative decisions about some of its prior films, including 2016’s Dr. Strange. That movie changed the ethnicity of the Ancient One, a key character, from Tibetan to “Celtic,” with Tilda Swinton in the starring role. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige now claims to be aware that this was a mistake . . . because it was insufficiently woke:

Swinton’s casting, after ten years of films with next to no Asian representation, was especially vexing, since the film still placed her character in Nepal, a South Asian country. Marvel initially claimed it had chosen Swinton to prevent the character from fulfilling an Asian stereotype. Fans called bullshit. Five years later, Marvel head Kevin Feige doesn’t argue. “We thought we were being so smart and so cutting-edge,” he told me in a Zoom interview. “We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”

It’s convenient, given current American cultural conditions, for Feige to make an act of contrition on these grounds. But there is evidence that there was more to it than this. C. Robert Cargill, one of the screenwriters of Dr. Strange, admitted as much:

The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bulls**t and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’ If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… if you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the f**k you’re talking about.”

Cargill also asserts that the character’s racist history, and Marvel’s desire to avoid caricature, played a role. Maybe so. But Feige, in wanting to emphasize insufficient wokeness as opposed to the self-censorship imposed by consideration of the Chinese market, is still being somewhat disingenuous, preferring to blame his own prejudice instead of that of the market he is trying to cater to. And he is being so in a way that may augur ill for the future of Marvel Studios.

Media

What the AP Left Out of a Report from Gaza

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Palestinians smoke a water pipe at the site of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza May 23, 2021. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

Although I am not employed by the Associated Press, I thought I’d make some editorial suggestions (adding relevant facts and context) for a brief report that appeared on the front page of my local paper today, under the headline “Gaza fishermen take to water again.” My notes on these passages are in italics.

“The frenzied shouts of an auctioneer at Gaza City’s main fishing port brought a welcome reprieve from the din of gunfire and explosions as life begins slowly returning to normal following 11 days of hostilities between Hamas and Israel” that were solely instigated by Hamas and in which Israel acted defensively.

“Israeli security forces prevented fishermen from sailing during the conflict” to prevent terrorist infiltration from the sea.

“Gazans take pride in their seafood, and the return of fishing buoyed hopes that the ceasefire will hold,” though Gazans know that the ceasefire, and thus their livelihoods, depends on their own leaders’ abstention from further rocket attacks. 

“Meanwhile Sunday, hundreds of municipal workers and volunteers began clearing rubble from Gaza’s streets. The work began outside a high-rise building that was flattened by Israeli warplanes during the early days of airstrikes on Gaza,” which Israel launched in response to rocket barrages on Israeli population centers.

“The recent war saw Israel unleash hundreds of airstrikes across Gaza at what it said were Hamas militant targets” and that clearly were Hamas militant targets; the AP itself shared a building with Hamas militants.

“Hamas and other armed groups fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel, most of which were intercepted or landed in open areas,” Israel having developed the innovative Iron Dome missile defense system to prevent mass deaths among its civilians, which is the specific and explicitly stated aim of Hamas, whose charter seeks the total destruction of Israel. (Also, note that rockets that “land” in open areas were launched to kill.) “At least 243 Palestinians were killed, as were 12 people in Israel,” with an unknown number of Palestinian deaths caused by (a) misfired rockets falling back onto Gazan soil and (b) Hamas’s intentional placing of operations in the midst of its own civilians, including schools, thereby “drawing” the deaths of innocents despite the Israeli army’s efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas uses this tactic to make Israel look as bad as possible in media reports, including those by the AP.

Law & the Courts

Retroactive Relief Loses Again at the Supreme Court

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This morning’s unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Palomar-Santiago, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, illustrates for the second time in a week the difficulty of getting the Court to apply new rules retroactively to help criminal defendants who should never have been in this position if the rule was decided in their favor in the first place. The case is a symptom both of the extended Whac-a-Mole game of deportation and immigrant reentry, but also how harsh immigration law is in practice for those who get into its grip. A Mexican immigrant with lawful permanent resident status was convicted of a DUI in 1991 and deported in 1998 on the basis of his conviction of a deportable crime. He reentered the country, and the immigration authorities located him in 2017 and criminally prosecuted him for illegal reentry. But in 2004, the Supreme Court determined (in another case) that the crime he was convicted of was never a proper ground for deportation. Was Palomar-Santiago guilty of illegally reentering after deportation, or innocent because he reentered after an improper deportation?

In Edwards v. Vannoy, the Court was to some extent on its own in deciding whether its constitutional criminal-procedure decisions applied retroactively to defendants whose time to appeal had run out and were going back to refight their convictions under the new rules. The Constitution is silent on the retroactivity question, and the Justices are divided on the proper source of tradition — or the habeas corpus statute — that authorized them to make decisions retroactive, or not. In Palomar-Santiago, however, even Justice Sotomayor acknowledged that the retroactivity question in the immigration context depends on how Congress wrote the statute — in this case, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The brief eight-page decision, joined in its entirety without additional comment from any Justice, indicates that the Court thought that the answer provided by the AEDPA was clear and should not have been disregarded by the Ninth Circuit:

Defendants charged with unlawful reentry “may not” challenge their underlying removal orders “unless” they “demonstrat[e]” that three conditions are met: (1) they have “exhausted any administrative remedies,” (2) they were “deprived . . . of the opportunity for judicial review,” and (3) “the entry of the order was fundamentally unfair.” 8 U. S. C. §1326(d). The requirements are connected by the conjunctive “and,” meaning defendants must meet all three.

Health Care

Psst! Americans Are Still Averaging Close to 2 Million Covid Vaccination Shots Per Day

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A child rubs his arm after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles, Calif., May 13, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

According to the Bloomberg chart, roughly 4 million Americans received COVID-19 vaccination shots this past weekend. The seven-day average has dipped down to 1.83 million per day, but the U.S. exceeded 2 million shots on Thursday and Friday as well. The number of Americans who are receiving the first dose appears to be on a sustained rise, from 204,000 on May 9, to close to a million on May 18. No doubt a healthy portion of that jump reflects those from age 12 to 15 becoming eligible for vaccinations during that time period.

More than 285 million doses have been administered, an estimated 130 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and 61 percent of American adults have at least one shot. More than 85 percent of those 65 years and older have received at least one dose, and almost 74 percent are fully vaccinated.

Yes, it would have been nice if the U.S. could have sustained that pace of 3 million shots administered per day that it enjoyed for the first few weeks of April. But the country is only down about a third from the peak. But it’s still pretty impressive to see the administration rate continuing to hang round 2 million per day with almost all of the highest-priority Americans and “lowest hanging fruit” complete. Once again, the talk of the U.S. “hitting the vaccine wall” has been vastly overhyped.

Music

On Approaching Bob Dylan

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One further thought on Bob Dylan that didn’t fit in my front-page piece on his 80th birthday is the way in which listeners approach Dylan. It is ironic that Dylan began as a youth-culture icon, because to people coming later to his music, he can be forbidding. Everything about his music — the snide voice, the density of the lyrics, the long attention span demanded by his songs, the deeper themes — runs counter to how young people of my generation (Gen X), let alone young people of later generations, have been conditioned to consume music. That makes him an acquired taste. But because Dylan is popularly associated with the political Left, young people of a left-leaning bent tend to feel somewhat naturally obligated to like Dylan (or at least give him a listen), while young people of a right-leaning bent tend to feel as if they ought to reject him. I had little enough use, myself, for Dylan’s music until I was in my mid 30s. Getting past the image and into the deeper waters is where Dylan is best encountered.

Health Care

No NEJM: Blocking Puberty in Gender-Dysphoric Children Is Not Settled Science

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A medical examination room at a Kaiser Permanente health clinic located in San Diego, Calif., November 17, 2014 (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Certain issues have been deemed by our betters among the elite as undebatable. One is climate change. But the fervor over that issue pales next to the attempt to prevent open debate about the propriety and safety of blocking the puberties of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

This issue matters because the future health, wellbeing, and even lives of children are on the line. That is why a “Perspective” column published in the New England Journal of Medicine is so disturbing. The article condemns Arkansas for criminalizing such interventions in children under 18. Reasonable people can differ on that approach to protecting children. But doing so would require that the authors acknowledge the profoundly unsettled scientific understanding about this issue, and the best approaches to helping such children.

Instead, they cite the “Dutch Protocol” under which puberty is “paused,” “most often between 8 and 15 years of age,” to forestall the development of “unwanted and potentially permanent secondary sex characteristics” as if it was the settled medical approach. Indeed, they call puberty blocking an “essential treatment.” From “Criminalization of Gender-Affirming Care — Interfering with Essential Treatement for Transgender Children and Adolescents”:

Today, prescribing these therapies is coupled with education on the safe use of such medications and with close surveillance for potential risks associated with therapy — for instance, monitoring for changes in bone health in children taking GnRH agonists, for risk factors for blood clotting with estrogen therapy, and for polycythemia with testosterone therapy. With proper monitoring and education, the risks associated with these therapies can be mitigated, and the benefits are substantial: use of hormone therapy is associated with improved quality of life, reduced rates of depression, and decreased anxiety among transgender people.

Wait just a darned minute. Within the last two months, the U.K. and a major hospital in Sweden have stopped providing such “treatments” because of “very low” evidence of benefit. This is from the hospital’s official statement, which I reported here earlier this month:

These treatments are potentially fraught with extensive and irreversible adverse consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis. This makes it challenging to assess the risk/benefit for the individual patient, and even more challenging for the minors and their guardians to be in a position of an informed stance regarding these treatments.

As a consequence, the hospital wisely enacted the following policy:

In light of the above, and based on the precautionary principle, which should always be applied, it has been decided that hormonal treatments (i.e., puberty blocking and cross-sex hormones) will not be initiated in gender dysphoric patients under the age of 16.

For patients between ages 16 and 18, it has been decided that treatment may only occur within the clinical trial settings approved by the EPM (Ethical Review Agency/Swedish Institutional Review Board). The patient must receive comprehensive information about potential risks of the treatment, and a careful assessment of the patient’s maturity level must be conducted to determine if the patient is capable of evaluating, and consenting to, the treatment.

Similarly, the U.K.’s National Center for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended against such interventions earlier this year. From the BBC story:

The evidence for using puberty blocking drugs to treat young people struggling with their gender identity is “very low”, an official review has found. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said existing studies of the drugs were small and “subject to bias and confounding”.

“Any potential benefits of gender-affirming hormones must be weighed against the largely unknown long-term safety profile of these treatments in children and adolescents with gender dysphoria,” NICE said.

These findings and recommendations are in profound disagreement with the positive and absolutist assertions in the NEJM article. But the authors never mention them, much less engage with the substance of the controversy. How are readers supposed to grapple effectively with the question if the authors pretend that profound disagreement about the medical propriety of puberty blocking does not exist?

That is unacceptable. The NEJM is one of the most important medical journals in the world. But as I have repeatedly reported here, when it comes to cultural controversies that touch on the medical sector, the Journal has gone all-in woke.

If they ever get around to wondering why so many people don’t “trust the experts” anymore, this is why. Our intelligentsia cannot be relied upon to tell the whole truth or grapple honestly with arguments that cut against their ideological grain.

Health Care

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Violates Her Own Pandemic Restriction

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks by video feed from Michigan on the first day of the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention as participants from across the country are hosted over video links to the originally planned site of the convention in Milwaukee, Wis., August 17, 2020. (2020 Democratic National Convention/Pool via Reuters)

Two shocking news developments up in Michigan! The first is that “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an apology Sunday after a photo emerged showing her at a restaurant with 12 other people gathered around tables pushed together in violation of her health department’s current epidemic order.”

The second piece of shocking news is that Michigan still has epidemic orders barring vaccinated people from gathering around tables in restaurants. The current state limit is six. Clearly, the governor doesn’t perceive much of a threat from vaccinated people gathering indoors in close proximity in groups larger than six.

After a terrible spike in cases in late March and early April, Michigan enjoyed its own steep decline in cases in the past few weeks. The seven-day average for daily new cases is down to 1,258, after being above 7,600 in mid-April. The state’s active cases have dropped to 175,089, after nearly reaching 300,000 in late April. Thankfully, the state never saw a dramatic spike in COVID-19 deaths; the seven-day average for daily new deaths is down to 50; in early May it hit a peak of 72.

The Detroit News notes:

Whitmer has faced a wave of criticism in recent weeks after taking a private flight to visit her father, Richard, in Florida, in March. A nonprofit organization tied to Whitmer’s administration paid $27,521 to charter the flight that carried her to visit her dad but Whitmer paid $855 for a seat.

Whitmer breaking her own coronavirus order comes after California governor Gavin Newsom’s dinner at The French Laundry, and the mayor of San Francisco dining in the very same restaurant the following nightand the Los Angeles County supervisor dining in a restaurant after voting to ban outdoor dining as well as indoor dining, and the mayor of Denver flying off to see family after telling residents to avoid unnecessary traveland Nancy Pelosi visiting a hair salon in violation of local restrictionsand the mayor of San Jose breaking his own restrictions by attending a big Thanksgiving dinner with multiple households present, and the mayor of Washington, D.C., attending a Biden victory party in Delaware after barring all nonessential interstate travel, and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy breaking his own order barring large gatherings

Perhaps one of the lessons that public health experts and future government leaders should take from this experience is that quarantine restrictions should only be enacted and enforced if those making the decisions on quarantine restrictions are willing to live under them as well. Because the American experience from 2020 and 2021 is that many, many elected officials believed that those restrictions were only for the little people.

Education

How Bad a Choice Is Nikole Hannah-Jones?

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

You might think that people should be chosen for university faculty positions only if they have a strong record of teaching and scholarship. You might think that for a prestigious post at a flagship university, that would be all the more true.

That was in the old days. Now, the demands of politics and identity often override academic concerns. The appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to a chair in the University of North Carolina’s journalism school is proof of that. She was the mastermind behind the New York Times’ infamous “1619 Project.” Criticism of that project and especially her contributions have been sharp and non-ideological.

In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson examines this controversy.

A key point is the claim Hannah-Jones made that the American Revolution was mainly about protecting slavery. But she cited no evidence in support of that astounding assertion. Historians of the Revolution were quick to point out that the preservation of slavery had virtually nothing to do with the sparking of the rebellion in 1775.

Robinson writes, “In December of 2019, five historians, led by Princeton Professor Sean Wilentz, wrote an open letter expressing their ‘strong reservations about important aspects of The 1619 Project.’ The signatories were a politically diverse group: Victoria Bynum at Texas State University, James M. McPherson at Princeton, James Oakes at City University of New York, and Gordon S. Wood at Brown University. They called attention to serious factual errors in the project, including its central thesis that the American Revolution was fought to protect the institution of slavery:

These errors, which concern major events, cannot be described as interpretation or ‘framing.’ They are matters of verifiable fact, which are the foundation of both honest scholarship and honest journalism. They suggest a displacement of historical understanding by ideology. Dismissal of objections on racial grounds—that they are the objections of only ‘white historians’—has affirmed that displacement.”

Instead of acknowledging that her history was wrong, which would have pulled the rug out from under the whole endeavor, Hannah-Jones and the Times went into evasions.

It also turns out that members of the Pulitzer committee had strong reservations about awarding their Prize to Hannah-Jones, but were ignored.

Rather than forthrightly confronting the criticism of her work, Hannah-Jones has resorted to evasions, deleting of evidence, and personal attacks. Not what a university should expect of a faculty member.

Robinson concludes, referencing the recent decision to deny her tenure, “Celebrity has a powerful allure. But the record of Hannah-Jones’ journalistic failures is more than enough to disqualify her from being considered for immediate tenure. The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees was right to halt the process and ask serious questions before granting lifelong employment to someone who has not proven herself through her work. In doing so, the board was exercising its proper oversight function, not engaging in viewpoint discrimination.”

Economy & Business

The War on Retirement

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(zimmytws/Getty Images)

In this sharp AIER essay, James Harrigan and Antony Davies explore the federal government’s horribly destructive policies with respect to retirement.

They explain how the government’s initial, supposedly well-intentioned, intervention — Social Security — has inexorably led to a host of subsequent changes that are gradually turning retirement into dependence on the state.

Write Harrigan and Davies, “The War on Retirement shares much in common with an actual war: World War I. A Serbian killed the nephew of the Austro-Hungarian emperor, causing the empire to declare war on Serbia. But Russia was allied with Serbia, and the declaration forced Russia to mobilize. That caused Germany to declare war on Russia, which in turn caused France to declare war on Germany. World War I shouldn’t have happened. It was an unintended cascade of what should have been isolated events. So too the War on Retirement. The government never intended to wage war on retirees, but it has set in motion policies that, collectively, do just that.”

Read the whole thing.

“Progressives” don’t want a nation of independent people. They want obedient supplicants. This is one of their most devastating policies.

Politics & Policy

‘Is a January 6 Commission Wise?’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Maddy discuss the potential formation of a January 6 Commission, the Cuomo family scandal, and Nikole Hannah-Jones’s reappearance in the news cycle. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Politics & Policy

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey Labels Border Crisis ‘Man-Made,’ at NRI Ideas Summit

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Central American migrants wait to be transported by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande River into the United States from Mexico in La Joya, Texas, April 27, 2021. (Go Nakamura/Reuters)

Arizona governor Doug Ducey described the state of the U.S.-Mexico border as “a man-made crisis,” during Friday’s session of National Review Institute’s 2021 Ideas Summit.

While the border has always been an important issue in Arizona politics, Ducey pointed out that Donald Trump’s campaign for president “nationalized the issue” and that his administration’s partnerships with border-state governors “made a real difference” in securing it.

“Where we were in 2020 was dramatically different than where we were before, and then came the Biden administration,” said Ducey.

Ducey explained that while Arizona has acted to shore up enforcement, it can only do so much without federal help, which has not been nearly as forthcoming as it was under Trump. Specifically, Ducey praised the last administration for its crystal-clear messaging as well as negotiation of the “remain in Mexico” and safe-third-nation policies. By contrast, he blasted Biden for either rolling back or getting rid of these, as well as several other important measures.

Biden’s tenure as president has so far been notable for the surge of migrants at the southern border, enticed by these policy changes as well as Biden’s softer rhetoric on the issue of illegal immigration. As Jim Geraghty has noted, the administration has scrambled to address the crisis even as it downplays it, erecting hastily built facilities, relocating staff while still promising to deport fewer people. In March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 170,000 at the Southwest border. At one point, staff at holding centers on the border were refusing access to media and even members of Congress, spurring rumors of cramped, unsanitary conditions inside.

In April, Governor Ducey deployed the National Guard and declared a state of emergency.

Ducey was blunt in justifying the decision, saying “it’s become evidently clear that Arizona needs the National Guard, and the White House is aware of that. Yet, to this day, there has been no action from this administration, and it doesn’t look like they are going to act any time soon. If this administration isn’t going to do anything, then we will.”

Politics & Policy

Oh, Look, Biden’s Breaking Another Bunch of Campaign Promises

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President Joe Biden holds his first formal news conference in the East Room of the White House, March 25, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

As a conservative, I’m fine with the fact that President Biden’s upcoming proposed budget will not include a public option for health care, a proposal to cut prescription-drug costs, raising the estate tax, or the forgiveness of a significant amount of student debt. (A president’s proposed budget and what actually gets spent in any given year are rarely more than distant cousins, anyway.)

But as a person who thinks that the entire American debate around what the government ought to do is thoroughly dysfunctional in large part because candidates aren’t willing to level with voters about what is realistic and possible . . . I’m not all that cheered to see Biden abandoning of another bunch of promises. It’s just further evidence that the stances that presidential candidates take while running have only the loosest and vaguest connection to the decisions they’ll make in office.

This comes after Biden dropped his opposition to Nord Stream 2 and broke his promise to not hold children in detention centers, his promise to send out $2,000 stimulus checks, his promise to establish a national commission on policing, or to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, or to punish the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, or his promise to end the use of standardized testing in schools . . .

It’s tough out there for a presidential candidate who isn’t willing to be Santa Claus, or who’s willing to utter the dreaded words, “We can’t afford it,” “We’re not even close to a consensus behind that idea,” “That’s not the government’s job” or, “Based on our long experience, if the federal government tried to do that, it would louse it all up.” Because there’s always some other candidate out there willing to say, “Yes, we can,” “I alone can fix it,” or to “make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.” On the campaign trail, everything looks easy.

The playbook for presidential candidates is clear: promise whatever it takes to anyone in order to win the nomination and the general election, and then after you’ve won, figure out which promises you actually intended to keep.

Health Care

Rebekah Jones Admits She Was Never Asked to Delete COVID Deaths in Florida

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Rebekah Jones during an interview with WPTV News in 2020 (Screengrab via YouTube)

On Twitter last night, Rebekah Jones confirmed the central case within my long piece on her deception: That she was not, in fact, asked to delete COVID deaths in the state of Florida. In a now-deleted tweet, Jones wrote: “Deleting deaths was never something I was asked to do. I’ve never claimed it was.”

But Jones has claimed it. Indeed, she’s literally claimed it, as this also-deleted tweet clearly shows:

This claim — that Florida’s deputy secretary of health, Dr. Shamarial Roberson, told her “to delete cases and deaths” — is at the heart of her case. That she now insists that she never made it is extraordinary.

Jones has made the claim that she was instructed to edit the raw data over and over again. In February, she reiterated that “Roberson asked me to change numbers and delete records to present a rosier picture of Florida’s pandemic than reality.” In April, she repeated her claim that “Roberson asked me to go into the raw data and manually alter figures.”

This week, though, Jones inadvertently confirmed that she did not, in fact, have the ability to do that. As part of the 10,000 word screed Jones wrote after my piece was published, she linked to a snippet of code that shows clearly that her dashboard did not interact directly with the state’s database, but instead utilized Excel files that other people at the Florida Department of Health had put on a network drive.

Or, put another way: Jones confirmed this week that she has been lying about the role she played in the department. And, once she’d done that, there was nothing that she could do except to back off her main claim. No direct access to the database means no ability to delete data from the database. No ability to delete data from the database means no claim that she was asked to delete data from the database. No claim that she was asked to delete data from the database means no scandal.

Game over.

World

The European Parliament Kills China Trade Deal

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (left) and European Council President Charles Michel attend a news conference following a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brussels, Belgium, June 22, 2020. (Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters)

The controversial EU-China trade deal approved by the European Commission in December was torpedoed yesterday by the European Parliament.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) would have opened the door to greater European investment in Chinese markets, but after it was signed last year, it faced criticism for neglecting to take a stronger stand against Uyghur forced labor.

Top EU officials, responding to those complaints, trotted out a ridiculous response, essentially saying that they would take Beijing at its word. “China has committed to effectively implement [International Labor Organization] Conventions it has ratified, and to work towards ratification of the ILO fundamental Conventions, including on forced labor,” they said, despite ample evidence that the Party continues to engage in forced-labor practices. In April, German chancellor Angela Merkel praised the agreement for its “mutual market access and reciprocity” and “legal certainty and transparency.

Now, the 599–30 vote for a resolution freezing further consideration of the CAI, which would have needed approval by the EU Parliament, effectively reverses those officials’ decision to overlook Beijing’s bad behavior.

Ironically, the Chinese Communist Party only has itself to blame, as its decision to impose sanctions on several European politicians (including five MEPs), researchers, and nonprofit organizations spurred this European repudiation of its conduct. That move was a response to the EU’s participation in a multilateral push to sanction Chinese officials spearheaded by the U.S.

Adrian Zenz, a leading global expert on the Party’s Uyghur concentration camps who was sanctioned by Beijing, called the vote “akin to a death sentence” on Twitter.

“[Members of European Parliament] demand that China lift the sanctions before they consider the agreement, ‘without prejudice to the final outcome of the CAI ratification process,” said a press release from the EU’s legislative body, adding that it will also take the Party’s human-rights abuses into account during any future deliberations on the agreement. The European parliamentarians also called for a new “toolbox” of measures to ban products made with support of foreign subsidies and forced labor, strengthen foreign-investment regulations, and defend against Chinese cyberattacks.

With top EU officials still relatively oblivious about the Party’s human-rights abuses and attempts to subvert democracy around the world, the EU Parliament has stepped into the breach.

Law & the Courts

How Can They Think They Are Allowed to Do That?

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Why does the mayor of Chicago think that it’s all right for her to announce that she won’t talk with journalists who are the wrong skin color?

Well, I’m afraid that one of the many bad results of the Supreme Court’s penchant in the past for carving out exceptions to the laws against racial discrimination has been that — no matter how much the Court thinks it has qualified and limited those exceptions — it is assumed by most people that they are much broader than they are. In contracting, employment, and education, the Court has carved out such exceptions, and we see PC racial discrimination in those areas to a much greater extent than I’m sure the Court intended. More broadly, it’s assumed that any woke discrimination raises no constitutional or legal problem.

Political and corporate and academic leaders do not automatically assume that they cannot engage in racial discrimination: The contrary seems to be the case. Coca-Cola and the mayor of Chicago and just about any university are some of the many examples.

Perhaps the only way for such leaders to change their assumptions is for the Supreme Court to overturn the exceptions it has created. In the meantime, here’s hoping that lawsuits are filed in the lower courts to ensure the limited exceptions to the bans on racial discrimination remain limited.

Politics & Policy

Recycled Roe v. Wade Polls Continue to Mislead

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., July 2, 2020 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which involves a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. This marks the first time since the Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that it will consider the constitutionality of a gestational-age limit on abortion.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media spin machine went into overdrive after the news broke. One common refrain in much of the coverage has been that the ruling in Roe enjoys broad public support. Articles from CNN, the Washington Post, and Roll Call cited polls suggesting that Roe v. Wade is popular with most Americans.

In the Wednesday edition of his New York Times newsletter “The Morning,” David Leonhardt delved into public opinion on abortion and cited recent polls by Gallup and Pew Research Center, which indicate high levels of public approval for Roe. But Leonhardt also acknowledged that many incremental pro-life laws, including limits on second-trimester abortions, tend to be popular among Americans as well.

Leonhardt included survey data from Gallup indicating that a significant percentage of Americans think abortion should be legal only in a few circumstances, and he noted that there is a contradiction here.

“Even as most people say that they support the ruling, most say they favor restrictions Roe does not permit,” Leonhardt wrote.

But in fact, there is no contradiction here. There are two straightforward reasons why Roe v. Wade often polls well. First, most polls on the Roe fail to inform respondents that the decision effectively legalized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, a status quo few Americans support. In fact, some polls, like a 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, even confuse respondents by claiming that Roe v. Wade established a constitutional right to an abortion “at least in the first three months of pregnancy.”

Second, most polls on Roe fail to inform respondents that a reversal of the ruling  would not ban all abortions but instead would return abortion policy to the states. If survey firms were clearer about both the policy effects of Roe and the implications of its reversal, public support for Roe almost certainly would decline.

Supreme Court decisions about controversial public-policy issues often are influenced by public opinion. As a result, for the next year, pro-lifers should not be surprised to find media outlets touting polls that claim to show the popularity of Roe. The pro-life movement must be prepared to fight back against this assertion. Better-worded and clearer surveys most likely would demonstrate considerably lower levels of support for Roe and current U.S. abortion policy.

Since many professional survey-research firms tend not to ask respondents about incremental pro-life laws, pro-life groups should commission their own polls on the subject. In particular, surveys about 15-week abortion limits, such as the Mississippi law at stake in the case, would be welcome. Such polls would illustrate that many of the pro-life laws prevented by the ruling in Roe and subsequent abortion cases such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey enjoy the support of a majority of Americans.

‘Woke’ Values Boomerang on Coca-Cola

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A driver delivers Coca-Cola products to stores in Boston, Mass., in 2008. (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

The world’s largest beverage company has come down from the virtue-signaling sugar high it got by becoming “Woke Coke.”

Consumers and distributors have forced it to sound a partial retreat from its role as a combatant in such left-wing culture wars as the battle against election-integrity laws.

An expose of Coca-Cola’s “diversity” training revealed it was using highly provocative slide presentations focused on the race of its employees. The company’s high-profile support for “social justice” causes has people wondering why it lobbied to weaken a bill banning U.S. firms from relying on Chinese forced labor. Now, consumer groups are holding the soft-drink

Law & the Courts

If Roe Goes

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Today’s column:

For the first time since 1992, the end of Roe v. Wade is a real possibility. Back then, the Supreme Court defied widespread expectations by sticking with the 1973 ruling’s core holding that legislatures could not prohibit abortion. A lot of Republican politicians were relieved because they thought that a reversal by the court would have caused a political backlash. (They lost the next election anyway.)

The circumstances are different now, as a Supreme Court with six Republican-appointed justices takes up a case about Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. If the conservative justices think that Roe should go, they could hardly have found a more propitious time from the perspective of the pro-life movement. . . .

The Silliness of the Epidemiologists

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Kate Sullivan Morgan and William Morgan, who relocated with their children from San Francisco so their children could attend school in-person, walks their sons to the schoolbus in Austin, Texas, March 12, 2021. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/Reuters)

The New York Times has been surveying epidemiologists about their behavior during the pandemic and reporting the results, presumably so the rest of us can use these knowing experts as a guide. Instead the paper has revealed how incredibly risk-averse and ridiculous epidemiologists are. Indeed, a minority of them still seem to be in full-on crazy lockdown mode even as The Science reveals certain situations to be safe and vaccines eliminate most other risks.

Earlier this month, for example, the Times asked which activities these folks either had done in the past 30 days, or would be willing to do if necessary. Eight

Politics & Policy

Could Higher Ed Learn Something from Scuba Instruction?

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In a typical college course, the student is graded (and almost always passes, usually with an A) and then forgets most of the material. Much expense of time and money for little lasting gain.

Now consider the training that people who want to do scuba diving have to go through. It’s repetitive, with a single focus on mastering the things you need to know if you’re going to do something that’s dangerous. It works. There are very few diving injuries.

In today’s Martin Center article, Preston Cooper of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity compares the two learning experiences. He’s been through both college and scuba certification and writes, “The certification process couldn’t be more different from traditional higher ed. When a life is on the line, the material must be accessible and memorable. Not so for a college class.”

If scuba were taught like college, Cooper says, many divers wouldn’t come back.

The big difference is that scuba training, and many other kinds of learning-by-doing, ensures that the student really knows something, whereas college classes don’t. True, there is signaling value in getting through college courses — that you’re able to manage yourself in a learning environment. But it’s a very inefficient way of doing that. Internships and apprenticeships are better.

Cooper concludes, “Professors are understandably wary of rote repetition, but it’s often the best way to learn, as high employer demand for apprentices and former interns demonstrates. Colleges and universities could learn something from trade schools, whether they teach advanced manufacturing or scuba diving.”

My view is that we would have much more in the way of scuba-type learning and less college if the federal government had not started to subsidize the latter.

The Economy

‘Pay Workers More’

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In the labor market, employers’ demand for workers is booming, but the number of workers who want jobs is growing at a sluggish pace. This is evident in economic statistics. In addition, it is easy to find anecdotes about “labor shortages,” with businesses reporting that they want to hire workers but are unable to find enough people who are willing to work.

Skeptics of labor shortages often argue that businesses should simply raise wages if they can’t find enough workers. Complaints about how hard it is to find workers are perennial, and normally I’m sympathetic to that argument. But in this instance it must contend with the fact that wages grew at a very rapid pace — an 8.7 percent annual rate — between March and April.

Employers were raising wages — and it wasn’t enough.

 

 

Politics & Policy

Lori Lightfoot, Woke Machine Boss

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Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Ill., March 26, 2019. (File photo: Joshua Lott/Reuters)

In response to National Association of Black Journalists: ‘Cannot Support’ Chicago Mayor’s Exclusion of White Reporters

Judson’s denunciation of Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to be interviewed only by journalists of color is thorough, and apt. I have little to add of my own, other than that I was reminded of Christopher Caldwell’s recent cover story for the magazine on the pernicious concept of “equity.'” In deconstructing equity, the Left’s new replacement for equality, by which government action now ostensibly must proactively enforce not simply equal treatment before the law but rectify existing disparities that are always, ipso facto, proof of lingering racism, Caldwell explains how such an approach is likely to return to machine politics. His prime example was . . . Lori Lightfoot:

In a funny way, we are returning to a politics that is pre–civil rights, or perhaps even a politics typical of the old big-city Democratic machines before the Progressive era. “You’ve got to use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office,” Lori Lightfoot said . . . in April as she explained how she runs Chicago. “People now know they can’t come to talk to me about anything related to our city, and particularly not our economy and innovation, without telling me what their plan is for equity and inclusion.”

Lightfoot seems not to understand what Teddy Roosevelt meant when he called the presidency a “bully pulpit.” Like a lot of Northeastern patricians of his day, he used the adjective “bully” to mean great, or perhaps jolly good. The bully pulpit is the opposite of what Lightfoot describes. She means the smoke-filled room. And she seems to assume that Roosevelt is referring to bullying, to giving people who want to do business with the city the third degree. “Tell us what your track record is in supplier diversity,” she explains. “If you are walking the walk, you won’t have trouble telling your story.”

There is no doubt that pressuring people into using black vendors would help some black businessmen, at least the politically connected ones. Kim Janey claims that Boston spends $2.1 billion “to do business” in a year and that less than 1 percent of that goes to black and Latino businesses. But what makes such an ethnic spoils system less suitable to today than it was to the world of a century ago is civil-rights law. The political “arena” in which different ethnic interests used to contend over turf — the Irish lodge against the Italian block committee — is no longer neutral. Today some ethnic groups’ interests are considered legitimate, others’ not. There are no checks and balances in discussions of equity, because whites’ interests can be attacked racially (by “people of color”) but not defended racially.

Here, thanks to a policy animated by this spirit, you end up with a political figure asserting dominance over those who are supposed to hold her accountable. She is presuming to dictate the terms on which she herself will be covered by the media. She is challenging them, instead of letting them challenge her. It’s an old-fashioned aggrandizement of power, dressed in new garb. But it should be understood and treated no differently.

Media

National Association of Black Journalists: ‘Cannot Support’ Chicago Mayor’s Exclusion of White Reporters

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Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a science initiative event at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, July 23, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

To be clear, the headline above cuts to the chase. The National Association of Black Journalists’ statement couches its critique in otherwise complimentary language toward Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent actions and statements. But the message is clear: the mayor has the right diagnosis, and the wrong prescription.

At issue is the mayor’s rather stunning decision to only grant interview requests from journalists of color, on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of her inauguration. This frustrated some members of the Chicago press corps. Far from reconsidering, the mayor and her team dug in, on Twitter and in a detailed letter to reporters.

The NABJ board, in a lengthy statement, called it a “bold move,” which it indisputably is. Here’s what else the NABJ said (emphasis added, in bold):

It appears to serve to underscore her desire to draw attention to the racial disparities in local newsrooms and political coverage. The mayor notes that she is disturbed about the overwhelming white Chicago press corps covering city hall. While her social media posts and subsequent letter have been eyebrow-raising to some, it shines a needed spotlight on the call for a greater commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion across the media industry.

Although we cannot support the tactic, we applaud the mayor’s sensitivity to the lack of diversity among the people who cover city government. Historically, America’s elite political units have been led by predominantly white reporters and managers. Too often Black journalists are not given the opportunity to join political teams. 

While the mayor has every right to decide how her press efforts will be handled on her anniversary, we must state again, for the record, that NABJ’s history of advocacy does not support excluding any bona fide journalists from one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, even if it is for one day and in support of activism. We have members from all races and backgrounds and diversity, equity and inclusion must be universal. However, the mayor is right in pointing to the fact that Black and Brown journalists have been quietly excluded from a number of access points over the years. We know first hand it is painful and unhealthy for our communities.

The caveat-packed statement looks like the true product of a committee, but one can discern the gist, that she’s raising a valid point in completely the wrong way. (How very Trumpian.)

The debate in Chicago is heated. As Isaac Schorr noted yesterday, one city reporter who is Latino pulled out of an interview over this policy. A local NABJ leader was less critical. In her letter, Lightfoot sought to contrast the diversity of the city government against that of the press corps, which she lamented was “practically all white.”

“Many of them are smart and hard-working, savvy and skilled. But mostly white, nonetheless. Indeed, there are only a handful of beat reporters of color in the City Hall press corps. While there are women of color who sometimes cover my administration, there are zero women of color assigned to the City Hall beat. Zero. I find this unacceptable and I hope you do too.”

She went on to issue a “challenge” to newsrooms to hire more reporters of color for the city-politics beat, as well as institute a sort of racial buddy system: “If you only have a white reporter covering City Hall, make sure there’s a person of color working with them as well.”

The diversity of the city press corps is a real concern that those media outlets, collectively, should address. But if we can plainly state what’s happening here, we can appreciate that Lightfoot made an objectively poor decision.

The mayor of a major city is granting interviews on the basis of race. It’s that simple.

Why not on the basis of sexual orientation? Or religion? Or disability? Or economic background? Or educational attainment? The slope gets slippery. It is incumbent upon all institutions to strive for better representation, but it is not the role of an elected leader to enforce this by excluding those in the fourth estate who do not check her boxes.

The dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University told the Tribune the mayor’s move seemed like a “stunt.”

Because it is one.

Science & Tech

Your New Phone Plan

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Do you know what really irritates me about my iPhone? It doesn’t work on the moon. If I’m on the moon, then no calls, no texts, no maps. You might as well be . . . well, on the moon, gosh darn it.

Thank goodness someone is on the case.

Politics & Policy

DeVos, at NRI Ideas Summit, Rips Teachers’ Unions over School Closures

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Rich Lowry speaks with Betsy DeVos at NRI’s Ideas Summit on May 20, 2021.

At National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit on Thursday, Secretary Betsy DeVos defended her record at the Department of Education while critiquing her successors in the Biden administration.

In a wide-ranging discussion with National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry — who called her a “courageous, principled, and effective public servant” — DeVos touched on a number of subjects including school closures, Title IX, critical race theory, and student debt.

Diagnosing why so many schools remained closed during the pandemic even while the research and experience of other countries made it clear they were not a significant driver of transmission was easy for DeVos: “It all falls at the feet of the teachers’ unions and all of their allies.”

Castigating them as “defenders of the status quo,” DeVos identified these groups’ motivations as “money, resources, and control.” As an example, she pointed to teachers in Los Angeles refusing to go back to work until unrelated (and far-fetched) progressive political priorities such as police abolition were achieved. She also argued that closures have made educational disparities worse, as low-income students have fewer options when they’re forced into a subpar virtual education.

On a brighter note, DeVos believes that Americans are waking up to the deleterious impact teachers’ unions have on the educational system and think the unions are nervous, citing American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten’s “circling back” and pretending that she is and always was for reopening.

“Too little, too late,” said DeVos, who touted the fact that ten states have started or expanded school-choice programs in the first half of 2021.

Critical race theory and the 1619 Project were also targets. The Biden administration’s push to include these ideas and materials in curricula across the country is “very disturbing,” according to DeVos. “This last year has revealed to a lot of families across the country what their kids have actually ben taught,” she observed, suggesting that engagement on the local level will be imperative to pushing back.

Lowry deemed DeVos’s reforms to Department of Education guidance relating to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act perhaps the most notable accomplishment of her tenure as secretary. DeVos concurred, calling them “hugely important.” “We knew this was going to be something that was tough, but necessary” she explained, panning the Obama administration’s discarding of due-process rights for those accused of sexual assault on college campuses as “insidious.”

The Biden administration is trying to roll back DeVos’s reforms, but because she went through the proper administrative rule-making process, she doubts that it will be successful.

Expressing her disagreement with the Biden administration’s support for “free” college, DeVos described America’s public K-12 education system as “at best . . . middling” and submitted that to make higher education more like it would be to hinder innovation in the industry.

“Two out of three people in this country haven’t gone to a four-year college or university,” she reminded the audience, urging them to consider that there are “lots of good opportunities that don’t require a traditional four-year” degree program. She called subsidizing the wealthiest and most privileged third of society “fundamentally wrong.”

As for solutions to the growing student debt problem, DeVos proposed less-stringent accreditation standards to drive competition and provide students with more options. She also spoke to the importance of keeping them informed and ensuring they understand the costs of college as well as how much the average graduate from every program earns.

Asked how she dealt with the flood of vitriolic attacks against her, DeVos shrugged.

“To be very honest, it did not bother me personally at all,” she responded, going on to say she was “very comfortable” knowing she was doing her best for students across the country.

“K-12 education is the least disrupted industry in our nation, and it must be disrupted for the future of our country and for the future of individual kids.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE IDEAS SUMMIT, CLICK HERE

Sports

Brace Yourselves: Tim Tebow Is Coming Back to the NFL

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Tim Tebow, quarterback of the University of Florida Gators, greets fans after a game in 2009. (Pierre DuCharme / Reuters)

After six years away, Tim Tebow is returning to the NFL, at least for a little while. After weeks of speculation, today the Jacksonville Jaguars officially signed the former star college quarterback, expecting to use him as a backup tight end. During his somewhat successful brief run with the Denver Broncos, and significantly less successful run with the New York Jets, Tebow attracted an extraordinarily impassioned fan base and similarly impassioned critics for his open displays of religious faith.

A lot of time has passed since then, and during that time, Tebow spent five years in baseball with the minor-league teams of the New York Mets. More than a few NFL commentators have scoffed at the idea that a 33-year-old quarterback who has never played an NFL game at tight end really represents the best option at that position for the Jaguars, who are coming off an abysmal 1–15 season.

Some commentators contend it’s a publicity stunt of sorts, reuniting Tebow with his old college coach, Urban Meyer. A team that just drafted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in this year’s draft really shouldn’t need publicity stunts, but the Jaguars may be a little more eager to get butts in the seats than the average NFL franchise.  In 2019, the Jaguars had the NFL’s steepest decline in their attendance average, just under 60,000 on average in a stadium built to seat 67,000. That put them 27th in attendance in a 32-team league. On paper, the Jaguars had the second-highest attendance in the league last year . . . but every team operated under capacity restrictions because of the pandemic, and 13 teams had zero attendance.

In Tebow, the Jaguars are gaining a well-known player with his own diehard fan base and deep roots in their hometown; Tebow competed at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville and Nease High School in Ponte Vedra. Florida Gators fans over in Gainesville will always love him for delivering a national championship and may well become more interested in following the Jaguars.

It is fair to wonder just what a 33-year-old former quarterback can do for the Jaguars at the tight-end position. Then again, the tight ends currently on the team are a bunch of no-names – Chris Manhertz (twelve career catches),  James O’Shaughnessy (88 career catches in six seasons), and today the team also signed Luke Farrell, their fifth-round draft choice in this year’s draft. Most teams carry three tight ends on their roster, and there’s usually another spot for one on the practice squad – developmental players who practice with the team but aren’t active for regular-season games. If signing Tebow is indeed a publicity stunt, one can fairly ask just how much the Jaguars are giving up by indulging in it. Are they cutting a marginally better player or relegating him to the practice squad, in order to enjoy the fan interest that Tebow brings? It’s not likely that Tebow would be bumping the next Travis Kelce out of a roster spot.

Then again, successful franchises don’t horse around with bringing in players just to generate headlines and fan curiosity. They just have the best 47 players suit up on game day and count on a competitive performance on the field to generate fan interest. And while small, there is an opportunity cost in enabling Tebow’s comeback bid. A less-famous rookie or undrafted free agent might be able to improve considerably in a year or two, while the 33-year-old Tebow probably doesn’t make much sense as part of the Jaguars’ long-term plans.

And it’s hard to see how Tebow can have more than a marginal short-term influence on the Jaguars’ attendance. In all likelihood, Tebow’s best-case scenario is that he’s the backup tight end for this year, and maybe next year. How many fans will buy a ticket or tune in, just to watch Tebow block or play special teams?

There’s one other angle that’s probably at work here. Head coaches like to bring in “their guys” – players whom they’ve coached before, who know the coach’s expectations, systems, game plans, and philosophies. Every time Bill Parcells coached a new team, a handful of players from his previous team followed him through free agency or trades. Urban Meyer thinks the world of Tebow, and he undoubtedly sees his old college quarterback as the ultimate good locker-room influence, the kind of player who leads the team emotionally and mentally, even if he isn’t the most gifted physically. And who knows, maybe it will work.

Either way, sports radio will have plenty to talk about for the rest of the year. And much like another NFL player whose on-field achievements were overshadowed by the political culture war surrounding him, a lot of people who don’t really follow the NFL will suddenly have strong and loud opinions about who the Jaguars backup tight ends should be.

NRI

Join Now: NRI’s Virtual Ideas Summit

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Rich Lowry speaks with Betsy DeVos at NRI’s Ideas Summit on May 20, 2021.

Join us! The 2021 Virtual Summit is now streaming live from National Review Institute’s Patron Retreat at The Greenbrier. Today’s speakers include former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Rich Lowry, Douglas Murray, Kevin Hassett, and more!

Click here to register. The confirmation email will have the link to join the show.

No, Kamala Harris, the COVID Crisis Is Not an ‘Opportunity’

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks after the Derek Chauvin verdict at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

America has endured remarkable hardship over the past year-plus: in the toll of coronavirus itself, in the social and economic costs of lockdowns and restrictions, and in the political disruptions caused by both. We have only just begun to return to normal life, and to restore some of what has been lost over the past year — that is, what can be restored. It ought to be a time of recuperation, and of patience.

Unless you’re Vice President Kamala Harris. In a speech yesterday, Harris said she sees an opportunity in America’s emergence from coronavirus:

As we emerge from the pandemic, I

Media

For Your Listening Pleasure

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A quiet corner in Central Park, May 2021 (Jay Nordlinger)

If you’re podcast-minded, I have a couple of links for you: Here is a Q&A with Marvin Kalb; here is a Music for a While, whose subject is spring (songs and arias about).

Marvin Kalb, as you know, is a veteran broadcast journalist. For 30 years, he worked for CBS and NBC. He was the last of the “Murrow Boys” — hired at CBS by Edward R. Murrow himself. In the 1980s, Kalb was host of Meet the Press. For the last many years, he has hosted The Kalb Report, which originates at the National Press Club.

I will write at some length about Kalb and his career later. For now, however — in addition to linking to the podcast — I’d like to tell you this: Marvin Kalb was born in 1930, to immigrant parents in New York. The Depression was very, very hard. I realize this is not news: but I think one may forget how bad it was. We have our challenges now, of course — the pandemic and all. People lament Zoom education. But the Depression — oh, my.

Kalb did graduate studies in Russian and Russia at Harvard. There were two professors important to him — one quite senior, the other quite junior, not much older than Kalb himself. The senior professor was Michael Karpovich (1888 to 1959); the other was Richard Pipes, who had escaped Poland shortly after the invasion of Warsaw. Kalb and Pipes would be lifelong friends.

(For my appreciation of Pipes, published after his death in 2018, go here.)

In due course, Kalb went to Moscow for CBS — and this is the subject of his new memoir, Assignment Russia: Becoming a Foreign Correspondent in the Crucible of the Cold War. We talk about this and various other subjects in our podcast. Again, here. What Kalb has to say is highly interesting and even, at times, moving.

The heading of my latest Music for a While is “Spring, Sprung, Sung.” Look, I know it’s pretty hot in many places, but the official first day of summer is not until June 20. So I think it’s still okay to celebrate spring. From time immemorial, poets have written about spring, and musicians have sung it. In my new episode, the poets include Nashe (Thomas Nashe, not Ogden Nash), Banville, and Cummings; the composers include Saint-Säens, Rachmaninoff, and Hoiby; and the singers include Callas, Vishnevskaya, and Ella.

I think you’ll like it, a lot. Again, here.

Culture

American Community Life through the Years

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The American Enterprise Institute released a report by Lyman Stone last month on the replacement of American community life. Anyone interested in the country’s standing reserve of social capital (or lack thereof) would benefit from reading it.

Law & the Courts

Senate Democrats Say Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision Won’t Change Their Views on Court-Packing

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The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., August 29, 2020 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

“Looming decisions on abortion and guns fuel calls from left to add seats to Supreme Court,” reads the headline at the Washington Post

The report includes predictable calls from left-wing activists who already supported Court-packing, but what’s most interesting is that the Post‘s story doesn’t include any comments from any congressional Democrats that the case has changed their views on packing the Supreme Court: 

As aggressive as some on the left have been in embracing court expansion, many members of the Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill have, like Biden, been reluctant to endorse dramatic structural changes. The fact that the fate of the Roe decision could be at risk as early as next year has done little to alter that dynamic, even among supporters of access to abortion.”

Democratic New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen tells the Post that the case involving Mississippi’s ban on most abortions late in pregnancy hasn’t made her reconsider her own opposition to Court-packing.

The Post story broadly confirms my own reporting on the homepage

West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin is firmly opposed to expanding the number of Supreme Court justices under any circumstances. Arizona Democratic senator Mark Kelly would also oppose packing the Supreme Court even if Roe were overturned, according to Kelly’s spokesman.

When California senator Dianne Feinstein was asked last month if a decision overturning Roe would cause her to support Court-packing, she told National Review: “Well, I think anything is possible. But is it likely? No, because there’s such a history, and I think the Supreme Court as a body has been historically remarkably appreciated and admired by this country.”

“Liberal push to expand Supreme Court is all but dead among Hill Dems,” read the headline at Politico.

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced the big news that it would hear a case involving Mississippi’s ban on late abortions — those occurring after 15 weeks of pregnancy — with exceptions for when the mother is experiencing a medical emergency or when the unborn child has an abnormality that means the child could not survive outside the womb.

But there’s little sign the abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has moved the needle on Court-packing among congressional Democrats.

Asked Tuesday in the Capitol if the outcome of the Dobbs case would change his views of Court-packing, Maine senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said: “I don’t think so.”

“My question is: Where does it stop?” King told National Review. “Democrats add three seats; Republicans add four more. Pretty soon you have a 100-person unelected third-chamber of the legislature.”

“I don’t think that any particular case is going to move people one way or the other,” New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez told National Review on Tuesday, when asked if the Dobbs case would change his colleagues’ views on Court-packing. […]

It is, of course, very likely that there will be saber-rattling from Democratic activists and members of Congress about Court-packing in the coming months in the run-up to oral arguments this fall in the Dobbs case.

But the reason to think that Democrats wouldn’t actually respond to a decision overturning Roe by passing a bill to pack the Supreme Court rests more on cold logic than it does on the Democrats’ stated skepticism and opposition.

Major Supreme Court decisions declaring a constitutional right to abortion — Roe and Doe and Casey — are assertions of judicial supremacy and exercises of “raw judicial power.” Packing the Court effectively ends judicial supremacy on the matter of abortion because it effectively ends judicial supremacy on every matter — those rights the Constitution actually protects as well as those rights invented out of thin air by five or more members of the Court.

Politics & Policy

The Imaginary Ghost-Gun ‘Loophole’

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Guns are sold inside of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Stroudsburg, Penn., February 28, 2018 (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

ABC News reports that “House Democrats to introduce legislation aimed at closing gun loopholes:”

Eight House Democrats are set to introduce gun legislation on Wednesday in an effort to close existing loopholes and prevent mass shootings, according to a statement obtained by ABC News from the office of Representative Val Demings, (D., Fla.) one of the bill’s sponsors.

As I’ve noted before, in Washington “loophole” is almost always a euphemism for some perfectly legal thing that Democrats have decided they want to regulate. Who doesn’t want to close a loophole, right? The media regurgitates this language, creating the impression that some unforeseen ambiguity is undermining existing law. This is rarely the case. Sometimes, in fact, the opposite is true. When gun-control advocates talk about closing the “Charleston Loophole” by expanding background check time limits from three to ten days, they are attempting to alter parts of existing law already negotiated at the time of passage. Democrats may dislike the three-day waiting period that protects gun owners, and they may one day change it, but it is not by any definition a “loophole.”

Moreover, neither Demings nor ABC News offer any evidence that regulating “ghost guns” — a scary-sounding, but largely meaningless, designation like “assault weapon” (or now, the even more chilling “concealable assault rifles”) — would do very much of anything in preventing mass shootings. “Ghost gun” typically refers to firearms made by hobbyists who buy 80-percent finished receivers and then finish the gun themselves. The majority of mass shooters pass background checks. There are very few incidents in the past decade I could find involving homemade weapons — and most of those firearms would have been illegal to make anyway. Criminals have a far easier time obtaining a gun without any serial number than buying expensive parts and building one.

Over the past few years, there have been numerous pieces written about the rise of “ghost guns.” In most of them, unskeptical journalists allow law-enforcement officials to make rather improbable claims. The ambiguity of the phrase “ghost gun,” it seems, allows gun-control advocates to conflate homemade guns with firearms that have had their serial numbers removed (which is illegal.) Last year, for instance, the Special Agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division told ABC News that “almost half our cases we’re coming across are these ‘ghost guns.'” Does anyone really believe that over 40 percent of guns used in Los Angeles crimes are homemade? (Not to mention that the story notes that most gun kits aren’t even legal California.)

The ghost-gun scare is about “doing something.” Which usually means inhibiting law-abiding gun owners, and doing nothing about the underlying problem.

Does Joe Biden Think He’s Done Enough to Placate Progressives?

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Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden talk during the Democratic primary debate in Charleston, S.C., February 25, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I chatted with our old friend Jonah Goldberg on his podcast Tuesday, and Jonah shared the theory that President Biden and his team around him had spent 2020 preparing to run an executive branch where their ambitions were reined in by divided government – and they’ve been trying to catch up and adapt since the Georgia runoff election returns came in.

“My friend A.B. Stoddard makes the case, I was once completely convinced on, that they [the Biden team] never planned on having control of the Senate, and so they made up a lot of this stuff,” Jonah said, about 45 minutes

Education

New Tool for States to Block Action Civics and CRT

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(Wavebreakmedia/Reuters)

At the initiative of state senator Ryan Maher (and with implicit encouragement from Governor Kristi Noem), legislators in South Dakota have introduced a new tool designed to prevent the feds from forcing action civics (invariably leftist protest and lobbying) and Critical Race Theory (attacks on “whiteness,” “Eurocentrism,” etc.) onto schools. The device, a legislative “letter of intent,” would help prevent leftist education bureaucrats from accepting federal grants with strings requiring action civics and Critical Race Theory, before the legislature and the governor have had a chance to consider laws that would bar those practices.

Many state legislatures have adjourned for 2021, or are nearing the end of their sessions. While some states have passed bills barring the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12, most have not. Only Texas to date has advanced a bill (based on this model) that would bar both action civics and Critical Race Theory from K-12. That is important because the big federal bill that would use grants to force Critical Race Theory on the states would do the same for the pernicious practice of action civics. Should the federal Civics Secures Democracy Act (or other similar federal bills) pass before the end of the 2022 state legislative session, education bureaucrats could effectively commit a state to federal grants with strings requiring both action civics and Critical Race Theory, before legislatures and governors have had a chance to act.

Politically, it is exceedingly difficult for a governor to block state applications for juicy federal grants. President Obama managed to push Common Core on states using Race to the Top grants, well before legislators or governors had a say. The same could happen with action civics and Critical Race Theory, especially since even red-state education bureaucrats tend to be far to the left of voters. Bureaucrats will eagerly apply for grants that politicize the schools before state legislatures can act.

Noem set the stage for pushback against this state of affairs when she became the first officeholder in the country to sign the 1776 Action pledge to bar action civics and Critical Race Theory from schools. Taking his cue from Noem, state senator Ryan Maher has hit on a way to prevent education bureaucrats from pre-empting democratic decision-making. South Dakota’s Joint Committee on Appropriations (JCA) has a well-established practice of issuing letters of intent even after the formal ending of the legislative session. While such letters do not have the force of law, they express the intent of a powerful appropriations committee and pointedly note that future appropriations will hinge, in part, on the state bureaucracy’s willingness to heed legislative intent.

At Maher’s initiative, the JCA has now issued a letter of intent telling state bureaucrats to refrain from applying for federal grants in history or civics “until after the South Dakota legislature has had an opportunity to address and act upon legislative initiatives related to these topics in its 2022 Legislative session.” The letter goes on to note that the legislature wishes to consider bills that would bar both action civics and Critical Race Theory next year. The letter also cites the new Biden rule giving priority to federal grants that feature Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project, and cites as well grants under the pending federal Civics Secures Democracy Act or the Civics Learning Act.

The conclusion of the letter is of particular interest, since it says that the South Dakota Department of Education “should continue to consult with JCA before it applies for any federal grants in the areas of American history or civics education in the years ahead.” That is a breakthrough directive that could help thwart the federal government’s attempts to force its own education priorities on the states. Leftist state education bureaucrats end-running legislatures is how we got Common Core, and how we may soon get action civics and Critical Race Theory. It’s encouraging to see South Dakota legislators moving to reassert control over their state’s education system, all in the wake of Noem’s pathbreaking pledge.

Even in ruby-red South Dakota, the press refuses to play it straight. Despite the fact that the JCA voted to approve the letter of intent by a margin of 16-1, the local Argus Leader’s account of the letter is largely a platform for its opponents. Democratic representative Linda Duba of Sioux Falls, the only vote against the letter, tells the Argus Leader that it’s not the legislature’s job to inject itself into education. Duba is wrong. State legislative abdication on education is how we got the disastrous Common Core (of which Duba is a fan). It’s long past time that legislators stopped giving biased education bureaucrats a free pass. Duba goes on to deny that Critical Race Theory is about indoctrination, claiming instead that it pushes students to “think about all sides.” Maybe Duba should take a look at Illinois, where Critical Race Theory forces progressive politics on both teachers and students.

After extended quotes from Duba, the Argus Leader adds material from another opponent of the letter of intent, Democratic senator Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls. Nesiba defends action civics by praising practices such as school field trips to observe the legislature. This is entirely off-point, since legislative bars on action civics only affect requirements for political lobbying and advocacy. If you want to see what action civics would really do to South Dakota, have a look at the state’s draft Social Studies Standards, filled with tendentious, politicized, left-biased action-civics exercises that have no proper place in the public schools. Nesiba even seems to want to subject his fellow legislators to Critical Race Theory training so they’ll see the light. How open-minded of him.

The South Dakota letter of intent warning state bureaucrats to avoid federal grants in history and civics is a model for other states. If your state legislative session is over or winding down, this is for you. The Biden administration’s new rule, combined with priority criteria written into the proposed federal civics bills themselves, make it clear that Democrats will use federal grants to force leftist action civics and Critical Race Theory on every state and school district in this country. Emboldened by Kristi Noem’s pathbreaking pledge, South Dakota is pushing back. Other states take note.

World

What It’s Like When the Rockets from Gaza Are Coming: VIDEO

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Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, May 12, 2021. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Rehovot, Israel — When rocket sirens sound in Beersheba, Israel, residents have one minute to run for shelter. Preferably the shelter will be a safe room, but residents may have to make do with the stairwell of their building, and on the street one may have to run into the nearest store. 

Such it was when I arrived in Beersheba today to visit relatives: rocket sirens sounded about five minutes after I got off the train, and I ran into a nearby clothing store at the base of a tall building.

While I couldn’t see outside the field of vision delineated by the store’s open-air entrance, it seemed as if Iron Dome projectiles intercepted rockets fired from the Gaza Strip directly above the building where I sought shelter. The force of the mid-air explosions shook the building, and the glass rattled in storefronts on the opposite side of the street. While I and several other people congregated in the back of the store, two women moved to the entrance as the booming died down and apparently began discussing the price of a pair of jeans.

After waiting several minutes to avoid any shrapnel potentially falling from the sky, I and several others began to emerge from the store. Noticing that I was looking around at the clothes, the cashier turned to me and asked, Do you want to buy something since you’re here anyway?

Once I stepped outside I caught the smoke trails of the rockets directly overhead:

After filming, I went on to meet relatives at a nearby café. No more volleys were fired during my visit to the city.