Politics & Policy

Will Democrats Sneak Taxpayer Funding of Abortion into Their Reconciliation Bill?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks while signing the continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Congressional Democrats have an abortion problem in their reconciliation bill: Almost all of them would vote for taxpayer-funded health-care programs to cover elective abortions, but West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin supports the Hyde amendment — a measure that prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases in which the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or endangers the mother’s life.

Manchin has called taxpayer funding of abortion a “red line” for him, going so far as to say the reconciliation package is “dead on arrival” if it lacks the Hyde amendment.

So congressional Democrats’ only hope to get taxpayer funding of abortion into the reconciliation bill is to sneak it past Manchin. 

At least one of those attempts appears to have failed. Throughout the summer, Democrats in the Senate and House pushed for a new “Medicaid-like” program that would benefit lower-income individuals in twelve states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The chief sponsor of the proposal in the Senate dodged repeatedly when asked if the new Medicaid-like program would fund abortion. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, insisted earlier this month that “none of the dollars” in the reconciliation bill would be spent on elective abortions. The Washington Post initially reported that Jayapal’s argument was plausible — until House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee admitted what National Review reported all along: The “Medicaid-like” program would be funded outside of the appropriations bill that includes the Hyde amendment. Therefore, the new program would provide taxpayer funding of abortion.

Democrats now appear poised to drop the “Medicaid-like” program altogether and instead plan on making the low-income individuals who would qualify for that program eligible for Obamacare plans that the government would subsidize to the tune of 99 percent or 100 percent of all costs (up from 94 percent under current law).

This is where things get complicated: Obamacare plans in these twelve states do not currently cover taxpayer funding of abortion — the Affordable Care Act allowed states to prohibit elective-abortion coverage in their exchanges — but the House Democrats’ bill could override that provision for those twelve states.

The House reconciliation bill marked up in September would require funding for family-planning services “which are not otherwise provided” under the “essential health benefits” requirement in Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act already requires plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay or cost-sharing, but as HealthCare.gov notes: “Plans aren’t required to cover drugs to induce abortions and services for male reproductive capacity, like vasectomies.” So family-planning services “not otherwise provided” would include abortion, unless explicitly prohibited.

“If they were just trying to do something related to contraception, it would make sense for them to just put the provision in the essential benefits section of the code,” Autumn Christensen of the Susan B. Anthony List tells National Review. That section of the Affordable Care Act says that abortion cannot be an essential health benefit. 

Instead the bill says that any “qualified health plan” must include these unidentified family-planning services “not otherwise provided.” That is the basis of concerns that the new reconciliation bill would override state laws prohibiting abortion coverage and require any “qualified health plan” to cover abortion in Obamacare plans offered to close the so-called Medicaid gap. “They could just put the [family-planning] provision under essential benefits and eliminate the concern altogether,” says Christensen.

National Review emailed a spokesman for the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee in September and again just yesterday to ask whether this section of their reconciliation bill would fund elective abortion, but the spokesman did not reply to either request for comment. 

Counsel to the Democratic majority on the Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed in September that the Hyde amendment does not apply to this provision.

“In Medicaid, the Hyde amendment applies to the language that you just read,” Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers said at the Energy and Commerce Committee markup on September 14. “Does Hyde apply to family planning in the context of the proposed bill?”

“The restrictions and limitations included in the most recently enacted appropriations language would not apply to the provisions under this section,” the counsel to the Energy and Commerce Committee replied. (The relevant exchange begins at about the 9:35:00 mark and ends at the 9:38:00 mark in this video).

There remain other outstanding abortion problems in the House Democrats’ reconciliation bill. It also includes funding for “non-emergency medical transportation services,” which could mean that enrollees could be transported at taxpayer expense for an abortion at any point in pregnancy. And it includes “public health” funding that could be used to train doulas and others to assist or perform elective abortions.

Politics & Policy

Twelve States Sue Biden over Title X Abortion Funding

Xavier Becerra at his Senate Finance Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021 (Greg Nash/Reuters)

A coalition of a dozen state attorneys general have sued the Biden administration over a new policy slated to take effect next month, which will allow abortion providers to obtain federal funding under the Title X family-planning program.

During the Trump administration, officials enacted the Protect Life rule, which required abortion providers to financially distinguish between their provision of abortion and other procedures in order to claim Title X funding. The aim of the policy was to protect pro-life Americans from indirectly underwriting elective abortion through their tax dollars.

Shortly after taking office, Biden announced that his Health and Human Services Department would begin working to undo the Protect Life rule, and that reversal is scheduled to take effect in early November. The move has drawn a lawsuit from twelve states, led by Ohio, arguing that funding abortion providers through Title X is a violation of federal law.

“You can’t ‘follow the money’ when all the money is dumped into one pot and mixed together,” Ohio attorney general Dave Yost said. “Federal law prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion — and that law means nothing if the federal money isn’t kept separate.”

Joining Ohio in challenging the new policy are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia. The suit, filed in the southern district of Ohio, alleges that allowing abortion providers to obtain Title X funding violates a prohibition on public funding of abortion in the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970.

Under the Trump-administration policy, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, declined to make the required financial separation and forfeited about $60 million that it typically receives each year from Title X. Most of the group’s federal funding, which amounts to about half a billion dollars annually, comes in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.


The Latest Poll News from New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy takes part in a regional cannabis and vaping summit in New York, October 17, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

As I discussed yesterday, the New Jersey governor’s race should be getting more attention, hasn’t been polled much lately, and contains some warning signs for Democrats looking down the road at 2022. It remains very much a long shot for Republican Jack Ciattarelli, however. The newest Monmouth poll confirms both the warnings for Democrats and the steep hill that faces Ciattarelli.

The good news for the Democratic incumbent, Phil Murphy, is that Monmouth has him up eleven points, 50 percent to 39 percent. (There are actually a range of turnout scenarios with Murphy up between eight and 14 points, but eleven is the pollster’s best estimate.) That is down from a 16-point lead in August and a 13-point lead in September in the same pollster’s surveys, but it is still a comfortable lead with under a week to go. Unlike the wide spread among independents for Ciattarelli in the Emerson poll, Monmouth’s crosstabs show Murphy trailing by only a point (41 percent to 40 percent) among independents, still a five-point swing from 2017. Murphy’s job approval of 52 percent to 39 percent suggests an incumbent likely to win. If Murphy wins by low double digits, that would be a reassuring outcome for Democrats in this environment.

The bad news for Democrats? Joe Biden. In a state Biden carried by 17 points just a year ago, the president’s approval rating is six points underwater, with 43 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. He’s 16 points underwater with independents (37 percent to 53 percent). He’s 14 points underwater with voters under age 35, usually a Democratic stronghold (38 percent to 52 percent) — the geriatric president’s worst showing with any age group, although he is behind with all the other age brackets, too. Twenty-four percent of black voters and 33 percent of Hispanic, Asian, or other nonwhite voters in New Jersey disapprove.

Murphy’s huge edge in spending and his ability to keep invoking Donald Trump in a deep-blue state has kept Biden from dragging him down too far. Other Democrats a year from now may find that a harder act to pull off.

White House

‘Loudoun County Blues’


This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Michael discuss the uproar in VA, the White House’s ridiculous ‘gender strategy,’ and much more. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Politics & Policy

Lucy and the Football on Capitol Hill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the House of Representatives vote to impeach President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, December 19, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As mentioned on today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, the constant delays and pushed back deadlines from Democrats on Capitol Hill are somewhat amusing if you’re a conservative who doesn’t like the runaway spending of the Build Back Better bill, and prefers delay to the passage of any gargantuan liberal wish-list legislation. But progressives and Democrats must feel like Charlie Brown, with Lucy always yanking away the football, over and over again. Every week or so, Democratic leaders declare they’re close to unveiling a deal… and then the negotiations hit another snag.

This afternoon Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared, “an agreement is within arm’s length, and we are hopeful that we can come to a framework agreement by the end of today.” Over in the House, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he thinks Democrats are “very close” to agreement on the reconciliation package.

And who knows, maybe this time their expressions of confidence will be true. But we’ve got several more steps in this process. The negotiators have to unveil their compromise – first the “framework,” then the actual legislative language. As Politico noted this afternoon, “Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is on the Finance Committee, laid out a detailed menu of revenue options that sounded like the kind of conversation legislators have at the beginning of the process, not the day it’s all supposed to be wrapped in a bow and presented as a final agreement.”

Then the various factions within the Democratic caucus have to decide whether they can live with it, or whether they think that if they threaten to withhold support, they can get one more round of concessions from the other side. Most notably, if the reports of the bill being $1.75 trillion over 10 years are accurate, the question is whether the House Progressive Caucus feels like they’ve given away the store. There are currently 220 Democrats in the House, and 212 Republicans, with three vacancies. Assuming the Republicans are unified and no one is absent, the Democrats can lose just four votes – otherwise the vote would be a 216 to 216 tie. And then there’s the question of whether any of the Senate Democrats have any cold feet.

The Democratic majorities are likely to pass something; the consequences of failure are so dire that the holdouts are likely to climb on board to some version eventually. But right now, it would be foolish to assume a deal will be worked out before President Biden heads to Europe for his big climate summit.

Capital Matters

Savings and Incentives


Yesterday, the New York Times had a piece that included this paragraph about why inflation should be cooling down soon:

They point to calculations by Mark Zandi, a Moody’s Analytics economist, that suggest Americans who have left the labor force will begin flocking back into the job market by December or January, because they will likely have exhausted their savings by then.

Isn’t that a round about way to admit that inflation was in part the product of COVID-relief packages? Another way to say this: Isn’t this a soft admission that the decrease in aggregate supply, which most blame for the current inflation, may also be partly caused by the policy responses to COVID? I will point to this post by Tyler Cowen that asked a question about the role played by the relief packages.

As an aside, it is an interesting statement coming the same Zandi who predicted last year that ending unemployment insurance would mean that “unemployment will remain in double-digits until well after the pandemic is over.” Now he talks about workers “flocking back into the labor market” when they have exhausted their savings, which are in part a product of those benefits.

Finally, considering the debate over more payments to families in order to reduce poverty, I will note that this statement by Zandi seems to mean we shouldn’t count on it. Hoover Institution’s John Cochrane sums it up well:

Economists bemoan “hand to mouth” consumers with little savings. Consumers get some savings, thanks to checks from feds. Do they start to “build intergenerational wealth?” No, promptly quit jobs until savings are gone again.

In the end, it’s always bad incentives that get you.


Blinken Wants to End Taiwan’s U.N. Exclusion

Lotus Lake, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Eurasia / Robert Harding / Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for other countries to support Taiwan’s participation in U.N. agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization, in a statement yesterday. “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system is not a political issue, but a pragmatic one,” said Blinken, citing the country’s “world class” COVID response and other accomplishments.

The message marks what might be the highest level of public U.S. support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.N. in recent years, and it follows a bilateral meeting between U.S. and Taiwanese officials on the topic that took place last week.

“Never before have we seen the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the peaceful resolution of cross-strait disputes being highlighted” at major international gatherings, James Lee, Taiwan’s de facto U.N. ambassador, told National Review last month.

Taiwan was booted from the U.N. after the General Assembly voted in 1971 to hand the seat of “China,” which the Republic of China had occupied, to the mainland’s communist government instead. In the decades since, the Chinese Communist Party has succeeded in forcing the U.N. secretariat to interpret that resolution as accepting Beijing’s claims over Taiwan, despite the fact that nothing in the resolution actually prevented Taiwan from holding a seat under a different name.

China’s diplomatic pressure campaign intensified after the election of Tsai Ing-wen to Taiwan’s presidency in 2016. Tsai, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, is perceived by Beijing as pro-independence. In the years since, China has blocked Taiwan from participating in WHO meetings as an observer, as it had done before, and likely pressured the U.N. to bar Taiwanese passport holders from entering U.N. grounds.

Lee contended that his country’s exclusion from the WHO resulted in millions of deaths during the COVID pandemic. Taiwanese officials attempted to warn the organization about reports coming from China at the outset of the pandemic, but their messages were not posted to its intranet system.

The Blinken statement echoes a speech that Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., delivered on the final day of the Trump administration. “I believe the time is right for the nations of the world to stand as one in opposition to efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan,” said Craft, citing China’s success in blocking the country from ICAO, WHO, Interpol, and the U.N. headquarters. However, the January 19 speech was largely overshadowed by the political chaos that followed the election and the January 6 Capitol riot.

Blinken’s statement doubles down on what Craft said about the country’s exclusion and goes a step further by explicitly encouraging “all UN Member States to join us in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community.”

The Biden administration has taken a promising step here, and it should work vigorously to place Taiwan’s exclusion at the center of its engagement at the U.N. As the Biden administration considers implementing a strategy to confront China’s malign U.N. influence, promoting Taiwan’s participation should be a major component of its approach.


Teaching History in Texas, Ctd.

(gorodenkoff/Getty Images)

In previous writing about the controversy over a Texas law on the teaching of history, I have insisted on a distinction between a teacher’s telling white students that they should feel guilty about racial injustice because they are white and a teacher’s causing some white students to feel such guilt as a by-product of teaching them about racial injustice. The first seems to me worth avoiding and condemning, unlike the second. Moreover, I think the Texas law, while flawed, observes this distinction: It forbids teaching that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race” (emphasis added).

The chairman of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, Rep. Matt Krause, sees things differently. Two days ago he sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency demanding, among other things, information from school districts about any “books or content” that may “contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” It’s an overreach. Teachers and school districts should not be pressured into making curricular decisions based on the fear that they might inspire the wrong feelings in some students, and students should be prepared for the possibility that knowledge and exposure to other points of view will make them uncomfortable.

It may be relevant that Krause is running to be the state’s attorney general.

(h/t Jane Coaston)


Enchantment, Disenchantment, and More

Hot-air balloon flying over the city of Albuquerque, N.M. ( Lauren Haslett / Getty Images)

Today on the homepage, I have a first, I think: an Impromptus that is all-photos (with captions and a speck of commentary, true). “Snapshots of America,” it’s called. See what you think: here.

Speaking of America: I had the following item in a column on Monday:

What is the most beautiful big city in America? (I know that “big” is subject to debate.) Recently, Riccardo Muti, the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, called Chicago the most beautiful big city in America. I would put it No. 2, behind San Francisco. (You have to overlook the fact, for the moment, that San Francisco is a sty, owing to bad government. Think of the city in proper condition.)

I invited readers to answer the question for themselves: What’s the most beautiful big city in America? I have received many answers, and they are varied, as you can imagine.

Let me give you a quick blast:

San Francisco is No. 1, and has always been my favorite place to visit — though, the last time I was there, a few years ago, the place smelled like a urinal in a gas-station bathroom. It was quite overwhelming.

Yup. Anyway, thank you to all correspondents. I will publish a healthy number of responses later. For today, just one more, please: a hymn to Albuquerque. Santa Fe tends to get the attention — the glory, the praise — when it comes to New Mexican cities. But a correspondent of ours wants to sing of Albuquerque. (In 2014, I did a “New Mexico Journal,” touching on both cities.)

All right, here we go:

Hello, Jay,

I loved your ruminations on beautiful cities in the U.S. and agree wholeheartedly on your choice of San Francisco as No. 1. I haven’t been there since 1993, but I will never forget how breathtakingly beautiful I found it when visiting. Almost impossibly so. I hope the ship can be righted in local government there one of these days, because it’s too beautiful a place to be allowed to go to seed.


In response to your invitation for strong (or weak!) opinions on cities, I’d like to offer a very humble vote for the place where I was born and raised: Albuquerque, N.M. I haven’t lived there full-time since 1997, but most of my family is still there, and I get back often. And I’ll be the first to admit that crime is terrible, the public-school system is in need of dire help, and local government is dependably incompetent. . . .

But the city itself — and, more specifically, the land on which it is built — is as gorgeous as you can find, in my opinion. The downtown skyline is nothing much to speak of, but it doesn’t have to be. On the east, the city is bounded by mountains rising up to 10,600 feet, which tumble gracefully to the south as far as the eye can see.

The city, a high-desert tan, is bisected by the Rio Grande. The Bosque (woods) that accompanies the river is lush and beautiful, and provides a streak of green to break up the brown of the desert.

On the west, mesas rise up and culminate in a series of dormant (we hope!) volcanoes. The view from the peak of the mountain is unparalleled, especially looking west at sunset, and the view from the west is equally gorgeous, especially when the sun begins to set and the mountains turn a bright pink — “sandía,” as in “Sandia Mountains,” means “watermelon” in Spanish — before fading to a serene purple.

The sky is big and vast, and the sunsets are spectacular for their panoply of color and their duration. In the right conditions, you get a shifting palette of fiery golds and reds, and blue, pink, green, and yellow pastels, like something out of a Maxfield Parrish painting, for an hour or more.

I’ve lived in central Virginia for the last 24 years, and while it has its share of breathtaking beauty, I get homesick often, even after so many years away. Even when I hear my parents and friends lament all that’s been going wrong in Albuquerque, I still love the place with all my heart.

Land of Enchantment indeed. This letter is signed “Matt Freeman, a New Mexican in Charlottesville, Va.”

Wherever you happen to be — Tampa, Tipperary, or Timbuktu — have a great day. And, again, today’s Impromptus — that strange little photo gallery — is here.

The U.S. Effectively Surrenders in the Argument about the Origins of COVID-19

Outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, February 3, 2021 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The World Health Organization has proposed 26 scientists for a new group to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as future outbreaks. Unfortunately, as a letter from U.S. Right to Know lays out, some of the 26 proposed scientists have glaring conflicts of interest. One scientist is a subcontractor on a 2020 multi-million-dollar NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance.

A second scientist signed a letter in The Lancet, orchestrated by Dr. Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, arguing that the SARS-CoV-2 lab-origin hypothesis is a conspiracy theory. A third claimed that a lab-leak origin of SARS-CoV-2 is a “typical conspiracy theory.”


Finally — Alumni Groups Enter the Battle against Higher Education’s Degradation


Alumni groups have been mostly quiet in the fight over higher education. They have been MIA as the “progressives” took over their institutions and turned them into training grounds for activists who want to transform America. Maybe, however, that is changing.

So reports Jay Schalin in today’s Martin Center article. He writes, “on Sunday, October 17, the formation of a new organization was announced in the Wall Street Journal. This organization is called the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA); its members are reform-minded alumni at five prestigious institutions: Princeton University, Davidson College, Washington and Lee University, Cornell University, and the University of Virginia.”

The will to fight shown by the formation of AFSA seems to be sparking similar moves among the alumni of other schools. Schalin continues, “At colleges and universities all around the country—more than just the five original members of the AFSA—dissident alumni groups are forming. If they can all find each other and join together, they may be a powerful new force in academia to fend off the predations of the woke and the statists. That is the great hope for AFSA, that they can become the source of pressure that puts the brakes on academia’s perpetual drive toward politicized dogma and tyranny.”

Let the counterattack begin.


Democrats Obscure Their Stand on Voter ID, with Help from the Press

An election worker checks a voter’s drivers license in Charlotte, N.C., March 15, 2016. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Last week the Democrats pushed a bill they presented as a “voting-rights compromise” designed to get Republican votes. They got none. Twice in recent days the Washington Post has published op-eds arguing that the filibuster needs to be ended or weakened to overcome this unreasonable Republican opposition. What this coverage does not mention is that the supposedly moderate bill would wipe out state voting laws that have strong support from the public.

Those laws require that voters present photo identification. The law that Democrats are pushing would forbid states from requiring photo identification in federal elections. Instead, states would have to accept (for example) utility bills, fishing licenses, and sworn written statements with a witness.

This feature of the bill was the first item that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell mentioned to justify his rejection of it, saying it had the “same rotten core” as previous Democratic election bills.

Proponents of the legislation have, by contrast, drawn little attention to this provision. The Center for American Progress didn’t mention it in its write-up. The Brennan Center merely alluded to it.

News outlets didn’t shed much light on the identification issue, either. It came up only in vague form in ABC’s report: The bill included “sweeping election law changes, including voter ID requirements.” The New York Times misdescribed the bill, saying it would “mandate that voters provide some form of identification before casting a ballot.” Vanity Fair ran a rant about the Republican opposition to the bill that relied on that false Times account. (Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, not surprisingly, had a better grasp of the bill, writing that it “permits states to decide whether to require voter identification, but broadens the list of acceptable IDs for states that choose to require them.” Vox also got it right.) The Washington Post didn’t mention it at all. All three of those last outlets quoted McConnell’s “rotten core” statement and so should have been at least aware that Republicans had objected to the voter-ID portion of the bill.

We may infer that Democrats remain dead-set against photo-identification requirements for voters, that they know it is not a winning political stand for them, and that much of the press will help minimize their vulnerability. It would have been exceedingly strange if Republicans had supported a bill that forbade states to adopt a policy that they think is wise and that is also popular. But a lot of consumers of political news wouldn’t have understood that point, either.

Politics & Policy

When Did Mark Zuckerberg Become Public Enemy No. 1?

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., October 23, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

This week, Facebook is experiencing a media gang-tackle the likes of which we have rarely seen. The Associated Press sternly announces, “The Facebook Papers represents a unique collaboration between 17 American news organizations, including the AP. Journalists from a variety of newsrooms, large and small, worked together to gain access to thousands of pages of internal company documents obtained by Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower.”

But the “four revelations from the Facebook Papers” that the Financial Times touts (link at Ars Technica) seem… fairly mundane, compared to the accusations that Facebook swung the 2016 election, idled as Russian propaganda brainwashed Americans, provided fertile ground for extremist movements, and so on.

The first revelation is “Facebook is often accused of failing to moderate hate-speech on its English-language sites but the problem is much worse in countries that speak other languages.” That’s not good news, but that’s not really why Americans who are angry at Facebook are so upset with the company. You would have to look far and wide to find Americans who are up in arms because the company isn’t doing a good enough job of rooting out hate speech in Burmese or Arabic dialects.

The second revelation is “news feed ranking is more influenced by people who share frequently than those who share and engage less often, which may correlate with race. That results in content from certain races being prioritized over others.” But if you build a system that prioritizes the posts shared by those who share the most often, you have no guarantee that each demographic will choose to share posts with equal frequency. The only way for Facebook to balance this out would be to prioritize posts shared by minority users, a sort of affirmative action for Facebook posts.

The third revelation is “according to a March 2021 note by a group of researchers, the company takes action on only as little as 3 to 5 percent of hate speech and 0.6 percent of violent content. Another memo suggests that it may never manage to get beyond 10 to 20 percent, because of it is ‘extraordinarily challenging’ for AI to understand the context in which language is used.”

It would be preferable to know just how these researchers define “hate speech.” As for the failure of artificial intelligence to understand context, this is again not good news, but not necessarily surprising. Back in 2018, Facebook set up a policy of blocking ads with nudity… and banned a tourism campaign for the Belgian city of Flanders, because it featured nude paintings from a Rubens museum. (I guess you could say the anti-nudity policy is… Baroque-en.)

The fourth revelation is “memos show that the company switched off certain emergency safeguards in the wake of the November 2020 election, only to scramble to turn some back on again as the violence flared. One internal assessment found that the swift implementation of measures was hindered by waiting for sign-off from the policy team.” It’s hard to begrudge Facebook “switching off certain emergency safeguards in the wake of the November 2020 election” because the election was over. And once again, one department at a company slowing down the decision-making of another department is not good, but it’s also not particularly surprising.

When you set up a system where any user can register an account for free and start posting to his heart’s content, catching offensive, objectionable, or harmful content is always going to be a game of whack-a-mole. When the system grows so large that the number of users are in the billions, no administrator is going to be able to review, evaluate, and judge the appropriateness of ever post of every user with any sense of speed.

An online social media network is a tool, just like a hammer, a computer, or a gun. What impact that tool has on the world is determined almost entirely by who uses it and for what purpose.

Because social media networks can be used by anyone, you’re going to find bad people using those networks. Social media companies undoubtedly bit off a lot more than they could chew when they initially declared that they were not media companies, and not responsible for what gets written on their sites – that they were no more responsible for the content of what is posted than bricklayers and bathroom stall makers were responsible for what graffiti is written on their work.

If you give the whole world a blank canvas, some people will create great art, some people will doodle, some will draw stick figures and some will write profanities and others will create horrible, hateful stuff. Sooner or later, these companies were going to censor somebody, because someone was going to come along who was so terrible, indefensible, unjustifiable and irredeemable that the companies would feel compelled to say, “no, we didn’t set up this network so something like that could find an audience.” Way back in 2008, Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations discussed online pro-anorexia groups. The world is full of nutjobs, weirdos, extremists, lunatics and people who hold all kinds of strange, abhorrent, repulsive and taboo beliefs. When your company puts out a welcome mat to the world, some of those weirdos are going to come in with the rest.

Robby Soave at Reason argues the Facebook papers represent “a Big Fat Nothingburger” and concludes, “The social media site is unsafe because there’s too much content that the mainstream media and the government would prefer users not see. They’re upset that the person in charge of deciding what belongs on Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg and not Joe Biden—and no amount of handwringing about addictive platforms or monopolistic practices can disguise the fact that the site is losing popularity with young people, and increasingly looks like a dying star.”

Spending a lot of time on social media may well have some unhealthy consequences. But it’s hard to believe that Facebook is some sort of unique societal menace, while Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and the rest are just fine and dandy. (A much fairer and consequential criticism of Facebook is the evidence that the company knows its subsidiary Instagram is a toxic influence in the lives of many teenage girls, and doesn’t seem to care.)

What does seem to be a factor is that Facebook is the most popular social media network among older people — and older people tend to skew conservative and vote for Republicans, which suggests some of the ire directed towards Facebook is really an ire at the types of people most likely to be using it.

Note the project’s title, “The Facebook Papers,” is no doubt attempting to evoke the “Pentagon Papers” and “Panama Papers.”

(Did you notice that in the multiple batches of “The Panama Papers” that were released, American news audiences largely yawned? As I noted at the time, there weren’t that many Americans named in the Panama Papers, and the ones that were mentioned had fraud indictments or other reasons to hide their assets from prying eyes of investigators. If the Icelandic Prime Minister is hiding his money, that’s really an issue for Icelandic law enforcement and Icelandic voters to address. Regarding the more recent release of the “Pandora Papers,” maybe it’s something of a scandal that former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair is using offshore accounts to shield assets from taxes. But is anybody surprised? And is anybody really surprised that Jordan’s King Abdullah II or associates of Vladimir Putin do the same? Did anybody think this crowd was an all-star team of financial and ethical rectitude?)

One other odd wrinkle: All of the news institutions that are participating in this massive expose of the alleged evils of Facebook… have Facebook pages.

Film & TV

Dune Sequel Confirmed for 2023

Timothée Chalamet in Dune. (Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

In my review of Denis Villeneueve’s excellent Dune, I noted that the film was billed as Dune: Part One even though it was not yet guaranteed that there would be a part two:

The true way to experience Dune, as Villeneuve has adapted it, would be to see both parts at once, Lawrence of Arabia–style, as I hope to do one day.

Alas, we must live in the present, unlike those with the spice. And it is no sure thing that there will be a Dune: Part Two. I certainly hope there will be, otherwise what Kyle Smith aptly described as “the longest prologue ever made” will have essentially been for naught. So, even though this Dune will leave you wanting more, do yourself a favor and experience it in the theater. You’ll enjoy it, even as a nonfan (not that I would know what that’s like) . . . and you’ll help ensure that we get to experience Villeneuve fully capture the greatness of Dune.

It’s true that Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff did say the following just before Dune‘s release:

“Will we have a sequel to Dune? If you watch the movie you see how it ends. I think you pretty much know the answer to that.”

But it has now been confirmed: Dune: Part Two has been greenlit by Warner Bros. and Legendary Studios. Per Deadline:

I[n] what comes as no surprise, the sequel for Dune finally has been greenlighted for a October 20, 2023 theatrical release with director, producer and co-screenwriter Denis Villeneuve returning.

The key word here is theatrical. We understand that a key point of negotiations between Legendary and Warner Bros was that Dune: Part Two would be given a pure theatrical window; no day-and-date HBO Max release plan is in the mix for this cinema spectacle.

The exclusive theatrical-release window is great news, as it will encourage more people to see it in a movie theater, where Villeneuve intended it to be seen, and where I found Dune: Part One so enthralling. And there’s a chance its box office will improve without the home-viewing option, at least at first, and with the added presence of home-viewers who eschewed the theater this time around. So let the countdown to October 20, 2023, begin.

Bless the Maker and His water.

NR Webathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Suffolk Poll Shows McAuliffe and Youngkin Dead Even


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

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

PC Culture

Bioethicist Claims Allowing Circumcision Is Sexist


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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




Enes Kanter’s Criticism of Pro-China Companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Politics & Policy

In Virginia Rally, Obama Misleads on Culture War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Facebook PsyOp Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jeffrey Sachs Appointed by Vatican

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

As the Economy Crumbles


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

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

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

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

We must try.

Fiscal Policy

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Responding to the ‘Social Darwinist’ Canard


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

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

Read the whole thing.


A Sense of Shame, Etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A reader writes,

Good morning, Mr. Nordlinger,

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

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

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

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


The AAUP Comes after the University of North Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Did Fauci Fund Abusive Animal Experiments?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few points:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Law & the Courts

A Telling Anecdote from Clarence Thomas

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

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

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

Laughter from both storyteller and audience alike followed.

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

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

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Choice on Children


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

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

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

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

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

Law & the Courts

30 Years of Justice Clarence Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy anniversary to our greatest living justice.

Law & the Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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