Law & the Courts

Fulton Was Heard the Morning after Election Day: Meet the Lawyer Who Argued It While America Was Looking Elsewhere

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I talked with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Lori Windham shortly after the argument. You can listen to our conversation here:

The Supreme Court’s Unanimous Fulton Ruling Is a Victory for Children

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Sharonelle Fulton, a foster mother many times over, gets a win for children and religious liberty at the Supreme Court. (via Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)

I keep thinking of Cecilia Paul. She was one of the foster mothers who poured her heart out to vulnerable children in Philadelphia. She died over the course of the court case that was decided today by the Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling against the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia severed its contract with Catholic Social Services because of Catholic Church teaching on marriage – a position that most Democrats had relatively a half second ago.

O, Cecilia!

Chief Justice Roberts writes today:

CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else. The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.

This is not a case about gay rights, as much commentary going into Pride month has put it. This is a case about children and foster families. Philadelphia’s move was an attack on religious liberty and pluralism. It was a move that did not have the best interest of children and families in mind. And I’m convinced Cecilia Paul died of a broken heart because she could not love as she was accustomed to, knowing the need.

Adults have some fundamental differences these days. We’re not going to come to agreements anytime soon. But can we agree that children should not suffer more than they already are? Let Catholic Social Services serve according to conscience and let there be other choices. We need to learn to live together again, and with the best interest of suffering children as a priority.

You can read the 110-page ruling here.

Congratulations to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on another win. We are blessed to have them. Get to know more about the case, and foster care here.

And God bless Sharonelle Fulton, the plaintiff. Some may have Black Lives Matter signs up on their lawns. She lives it by saving black children’s lives.

The Supreme Court Might Help Us Save Children’s Lives

Cecilia Paul, rest in peace. I have wondered if she’s a patron from Heaven for the vulnerable children in Philadelphia now.

Politics & Policy

Study: Waiting Periods Can Reduce Abortion Rates

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You can read it here. From the abstract:

I . . . measure the causal effects of mandatory waiting periods for abortions, distinguishing between “one- trip” waiting periods that allow counseling and information to be provided remotely and “two-trip” waiting periods that require two in-person appointments. The results suggest that one-trip waiting periods do not have substantial effects on abortions or births. Two-trip waiting periods are estimated to reduce abortions and delay those that still occur, increasing second trimester abortions by 19.1%, reducing resident abortion rates by 8.9%, and increasing births by 1.5%. These effects are larger for young women and for women of color. These effects also are larger in counties that are far from abortion providers and in counties with high poverty and unemployment. These findings support a “burden” rather than a “cooling-off period” interpretation of the findings.

Basically, the paper looks at trends in states that changed their laws, relative to trends in states that didn’t, and finds that waiting periods reduce abortion rates by nearly a tenth — provided the law requires two separate trips to a clinic. However, such laws also delay abortions that still occur, sometimes pushing them into the second trimester.

The reference to a “burden” evokes the Supreme Court’s current rule that no abortion restriction may create an “undue burden” on someone trying to abort a child before viability. In Casey, the Court ruled that a waiting period was not an undue burden; the author of the study is suggesting this might not be the case, depending on one’s definition of “undue.”

I see the findings through a different lens. Frankly, I don’t care whether waiting periods violate the undue-burden rule, because the Supreme Court is reconsidering the standard anyhow; indeed, it’s reconsidering the entirety of its abortion jurisprudence, which has no connection to the actual Constitution. Whatever my uncertainties about which path the Court will take, I am quite confident it won’t expand the undue-burden rule to cover waiting periods.

My takeaway from the study, instead, is this: If the Court overrules Roe and Casey and lets states ban abortion if they wish to, these sorts of halfway measures will decline in importance. But if the Court stops short, rules like waiting periods — which reduce abortions on the margins by making abortion more difficult and nudging mothers to reconsider — will remain an important part of the pro-life toolkit.

Culture

‘Radical Left,’ ‘Fascist,’ Etc.

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Left: image of Che Guevara at a public building in Havana, Cuba, in 2016. Right: Benito Mussolini in the 1940s (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters; Office of War Information / Library of Congress)

In the Middle East, a democratic transfer of power is very, very rare. It’s not as common as it should be in the rest of the world either. I begin my Impromptus today with a reflection on Israel and its lively, even raucous democracy. Do you know that, in Syria, Assad was just “reelected” with 95 percent of the vote? That’s the rule, in the Middle East, and in other regions of the world too.

In today’s column, I also address the GOP and Trump; Western business and China; the cancel culture; Jim Jordan; Andrew Giuliani; music; and more. Something for everyone to love, and hate, I think. Give it a try.

Here in the Corner, I’d like to spend a second on language. Senator Marco Rubio has called his Democratic challenger in Florida, Congresswoman Val Demings, “radical Left,” a “far-Left extremist,” and so on. Demings is an ex-cop and a onetime chief of the Orlando police. She is not what Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, Abbie Hoffman, and the rest of the boys had in mind.

And the thing about calling someone like Demings “radical Left” — what language are you going to have left over for the radical Left? You’ve robbed us of words, of tools, that make sense.

Years ago, a famous columnist called me a “shill for the far Right.” In my response, one of the things I said was, “If I’m far Right, what are you going to call the far Right?”

Then there is the F-word — not “far” but “fascist.” I have been called a fascist ever since I embraced Reaganite views in my late teens and early twenties. People like me are anti-fascist, of course: in favor of limited government, individual rights, equality under the law, a free economy, etc. But this is of no importance to demagogues and ignoramuses.

You recall what Orwell said: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’”

I could tell a number of stories, but will confine myself to one. A friend of mine was having lunch with a famous musician. My name came up, via my friend. The famous guy said, “You mean that fascist?” (My friend defended me.)

I have not reviewed the guy since — not because I’m afraid my views would be colored. I observe “strict separation,” and would praise the devil himself, if the devil played well or composed well. It’s just that, frankly, I don’t want to see him.

Then there is the R-word, the scarlet R for “racist.” I have been called that, too, my whole career — a price for advocating colorblindness, One America, E pluribus unum, and all that liberal jazz. (Liberal in an older sense.) I wrote an essay about this in 2010, for those interested: here.

There are real racists, real fascists, real radical leftists in the world — millions of them. And if you misapply or otherwise abuse those words, you have robbed them of their power. You have, in fact, deprived us of meaningful, even necessary, words.

And just because politicians are boobs and demagogues, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be that way. (There are politicians whose IQ drops about 75 points when they speak in public. In private, they are not boobish or demagogic at all.)

I’m even mindful of words such as “great.” May I quote from a review, written in 2014? I had heard Matthew Polenzani and Kevin Murphy perform Die schöne Müllerin, the Schubert song-cycle:

I had never really thought of [Polenzani] for lieder, frankly — for German art songs. I wasn’t sure how Die schöne Müllerin . . . would go. I knew the singing would be beautiful. But would it be profound, idiomatic, transporting, shattering?

Yes, it was. It was all those things. In fact, it was one of the peak lieder experiences of my life. You know how people use the word “great” in everyday speech? As in “This tuna sandwich is great,” or “That was a great editorial in the paper on Tuesday”? This Schöne Müllerin was great in the sense of: in accord with the highest artistic standards and ideals.

And the piano-playing matched the singing. I can’t say this, as Kevin Murphy’s friend, but it’s still true.

Yup, it was. Remember it well. Anyway, enough words about words. Today’s Impromptus, once more, is here.

Regulatory Policy

Trustbusters Should Be Careful What They Wish For 

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Federal Trade Commission seal is seen at a news conference in Washington, D.C., July 24, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

President Biden’s newly confirmed commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Lina Khan, was promoted to chairwoman of the FTC today. This was somewhat surprising, and not just because Khan will be the youngest chair of the FTC ever. She is also a notable critic of tech monopolies. Her ascendancy signals a growing feeling on the left and the right that Big Tech corporations need to be restrained by the government. But before we herald a new era of trustbusting, we should be careful that the proposed solution isn’t worse than the actual problem.

Khan is well-regarded as a rising academic mind, already an associate professor of law at Columbia University, at just 32 years old. Her influential paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” argued that consumer prices alone were inadequate in assessing monopolistic practices. Josh Hawley, a Yale Law graduate like Khan, has made similar arguments, too. But there are two questions that Hawley and other antitrust conservatives should ask before celebrating Khan’s appointment.

The first is whether breaking up tech companies will actually help consumers. Khan and Hawley both seem to agree that Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft are not overcharging customers. Google has yet to charge for search. While allegations of stifling innovation have sprung up, these charges continue to ring hollow. Every year, new phones roll out with more features, such as curved screens, HD video, 5G, etc. 

While tech companies do purchase other fledgling companies, the successful ones integrate these new companies into a preexisting platform. This model works, and it is one the reasons the United States is a worldwide leader in technological innovation. It seems unlikely that getting the government involved will spur more growth. 

The more important question is whether breaking up alleged monopolies will improve the technological ecosystem for conservatives. Conservatives skeptical of Big Tech are concerned that these monopolies are a threat to political freedoms. But why should we believe that breaking up companies like Facebook will amplify conservative voices?

Silicon Valley is overwhelmingly liberal. That isn’t going to change if Google or Microsoft is split up, unless the GOP wants to mandate affirmative action for Republicans in tech fields. If conservatives want the government to enforce speech laws to protect or promote right-wing media, they should be wary. Mechanisms used to mandate the promotion or appearance of certain views can also be used to discriminate against them. Something like this already happens abroad. Governments across Europe and Canada enforce more-stringent hate-speech laws than we have in the States. Instead of getting banned from Twitter, their policies land people in prison.

We also need to be frank about the current state of media in America. At times, it seems like conservatives believe there is no outlet for right-wing media. But Americans are still tuning in to conservatives. The biggest hits on Facebook come from right-wing pages. Tucker Carlson’s show is the largest news show in America. Newsmax recently touted itself as the fourth-largest cable network in America. The mainstream media has a left-wing bias, but this shows the mainstream media isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

The persistent ban of Donald Trump from Twitter and Facebook is deeply concerning. The way Amazon Web Services deplatformed Parler is troubling. However, we should be sure that the cure is not worse than disease. Anti–Big Tech conservatives may find common ground with Lina Khan and the FTC, but before we celebrate bipartisanship, let’s be sure new regulation will actually result in good outcomes. Count me skeptical.  

Woke Culture

You’re Not Woke, So You Can’t Play

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(Augustas Cetkauskas/Getty Images)

The absurdity of American higher education is on display at the University of Oklahoma. As we read in this Campus Reform story, a player on the women’s volleyball team has been kicked off because she didn’t agree with the leftist ideology being force-fed to the team.

So even athletics are now controlled by people who demand conformity to the foolish tenets of diversity and social justice. No matter if you’re a good player — if you think wrong thoughts, you are not wanted.

The player, Kylee McLaughlin, is suing the university for a minimum of $75,000, plus legal fees. Let’s hope this gets to the jury and the jurors decide to let the defendants know what they think about this astounding intolerance. Perhaps some administrator at OU will remember the Oberlin case and settle fast.

Putin Must Watch a Lot of Cable News

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a bilateral meeting with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, after the U.S.-Russia summit, in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

After his meeting with Joe Biden in Geneva, Vladimir Putin held a presser where he adeptly aped some of our partisan hyperbole to deflect attention from his own authoritarianism.

“People are shot and killed every day [in the U.S.],” Putin told reporters when asked about his crackdown on domestic political opposition. “You don’t have a chance to open your mouth and you’re shot dead.” Shooting a person for any reason other than genuine self-defense, despite what gun-controllers might have us think, isn’t sanctioned by the state or supported by any organization in America. Though people are also murdered every day in

History

‘Che’ Guevara Is Long Dead. His Legacy Isn’t

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I was just reminded that this week would have marked Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s 93rd birthday. It is satisfying to remember that the man who said, “We don’t need proof to execute a man, we only need proof that it’s necessary to execute him,” met his karmic bullet-riddled end at the hands of CIA-trained Bolivian operatives in a muddy hut in 1967. Since that day, this racist warmonger has been martyred by the international Left and venerated by socialists and revolutionaries around the world. When I was young, his likeness was all over college campuses. Not that long ago, Robert Redford was charming Fidel Castro with his hagiographic depiction of Che’s life. Yet, even if Jay-Z wears his t-shirt or Castro-apologist Colin Kaepernick carries around his biography, my perception is that there’s been a decline in Che adoration these days, despite a reemerging popularity of socialism in American life.

In any event, his birthday is a perfect time to remember his legacy. Scaled for population, the Guevara police state rivals most tyrannies in history. As Humberto Fontova noted back in 2007, Cubans “qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history, having suffered prison camps, forced labor and torture chambers for a period THREE TIMES as long in Che Guevara’s Gulag as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered in Stalin’s Gulag.” And it is still going.

Sorry, Not Much Just Changed in New York and California

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, N.Y., May 24, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

I find it odd that the New York Times chose to put forth a “triumphant” (Oliver Darcy, CNN), full six-column headline trumpeting: “‘Momentous’: New York and California Open” today. I live in New York City, and it’s pretty hard to identify anything that is different.

In California, the Times actually had to send out a team of reporters to try to find evidence that anything much had changed. So which is it: Huge, “triumphant” six-column-headline news or . . . no actual news at all?

“My colleagues reporting on California’s big reopening found much the same around the state: Depending on where

Culture

Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Abortion & F. Scott Fitzgerald & More

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Children play on a giant rainbow flag as they take part in a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade in Taipei, Taiwan, October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu – RC1844E08460

1. Jeanne Mancini:  Relaxing FDA Restrictions on Abortion Pills Was a Mistake

2. Kelsey Bolar: After Competing Against Transgender Athletes, Mom and Daughter Fight for Fairness in Women’s Sports

“I would have won my first-ever high school track meet if it weren’t for this athlete,” (daughter) Margaret says of her transgender competitor. “It was very disappointing.”

3.  Toddler died of starvation in his car seat after his mom fatally overdosed

4. Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch: Mississippi’s People Should Choose Its Abortion Laws

When it comes to regulating abortion, the nearly 50-year history of court precedent since Roe has not provided clear guidance. Rules based on the viability of the life of the unborn child are fluid. It was long considered impossible for a baby to survive outside the womb before 28 weeks. Now we read with increasing regularity about babies born at 21 weeks who survive and go home to celebrate their first Christmas with their families.

Rapid advances in medical technology have made the benchmark of viability increasingly unstable. If we know anything about the march of science, medicine will not retreat; it will continue to advance. This makes the question before the Supreme Court in Dobbs all the more important: Can the people, acting through their state legislature, establish restrictions on abortion—restrictions that protect legitimate interests of the state—before this uncertain and disintegrating line called viability?

5. Biden’s budget is poised to fund abortion advocacy around the world

Continue reading “Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Abortion & F. Scott Fitzgerald & More”

Education

We Don’t Need Common Core Civics

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Now that I’ve answered their defense of the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) civics initiative, Paul Carrese and James Stoner have come back with a response. Unfortunately, the premise of their piece is mistaken. They say that when it comes to history and civics, my strategy is “Just say no.” Well, no. That is wrong.

I do have a positive strategy. It’s just that it’s entirely different from EAD’s attempted re-run of the failed Common Core. Rather than try to force a national consensus that does not exist, I favor choice and competition through the creation of a genuine alternative to the left-dominated curricula and textbooks currently available to school districts across the country.

I have touted American Achievement Testing (AAT), now actively building a U.S. history curriculum around Wilfred McClay’s superb Land of Hope (with a civics curriculum to follow). This is the way to go. Build a history and civics curriculum that breaks with the dominant leftist textbooks on the market, then offer it for adoption at the local level. Some districts will take it. Others won’t. And that is all to the good.

The mistake Stoner and Carrese make is presuming that a “positive” solution has to be national. That was the error of Common Core, whose key supporters are, not coincidentally, part of the Educating for American Democracy Project. They are the folks who’ve failed to learn from the failures of the past (like the National History Standards debacle). The “bipartisan education reform movement” has miscarried repeatedly, for decades. Why keep digging when you’re already in a hole?

Like the proponents of Common Core, Stoner and Carrese deny that EAD is trying to impose a national solution. That is no more believable than it was with the original Common Core. Simply “aligning” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to EAD, as its backers want, will suffice to impose a single approach to history and civics on the nation. Hair-splitting arguments about what constitutes “curriculum,” “standards,” “guidance,” or “suggestions” are irrelevant. As with Common Core, the national “guidance” in question will be sufficient to take control of the education system in every state. Once it’s publicly declared that NAEP has been aligned to EAD, EAD will be able to endorse or even issue curricula that every teacher in the country will rush to adopt. In fact, EAD is already endorsing curricula. No single group, much less one totally dominated by the left, ought to have the kind of power that would come with “alignment” to NAEP.

Somehow the United States has managed to achieve sufficient agreement on the core ideas of civic education for the greater part of its history, without a national set of guidelines. Federalism works, and it’s needed now more than ever. Imposing a false consensus on a country that hasn’t got a real one is a recipe for still more division. Breaking the leftist monopoly on textbooks and curricula in order to give local school districts a genuine choice is the real route to a solution. Competition will work to pull divergent curricula toward a middle ground more authentically and effectively than an effort to craft false agreement within a totally unbalanced coalition.

The history and civics lesson we most need now is that America has never had nor profited from a national civic education initiative. That is the last thing we ought to seek today. It is an error to believe that the only “positive” approach is national. It has never been, and never will be, so long as our Constitution and our most fundamental civic traditions are in play.

Economics

More Biden Budget Analysis

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Yesterday I noted some analysis of the president’s budget from the center-left Tax Policy Center. Now we have some from the right-leaning Tax Foundation.

By these estimates, if enacted, the budget — which includes the Biden family and infrastructure plans — would hike spending by $4 trillion over ten years while raising $1.3 trillion in revenue. These numbers shift to $5 trillion and $3 trillion if you count tax credits as spending and toss in a promised $700 billion from better tax enforcement. (The tax credits include Biden’s big payments to parents regardless of whether they work, and the report treats such “spending through the tax code” as a revenue-reducer rather than spending per se.)

America has a population of roughly 330 million, so every trillion dollars represents about $3,000 per person.

The Tax Foundation also estimates the broader economic effects of the tax and spending changes: about 165,000 fewer jobs and 1 percent lower GDP in the long run, for example.

Unlike the previous report, this one doesn’t tell us what percentage of all individual filers would see tax hikes. In terms of broad income groups, though, the top 20 percent would pay more than they used to starting next year, and the top 60 percent would by 2031, thanks to the expiration of the bigger child tax credit in 2026.

Education

Shouldn’t Students Understand the Failures of Socialism?

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Students on the campus of Columbia University, 2009 (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Statist politicians get a lot of zealous support for their plans for an “economic reset” from young Americans. Many teachers and professors view themselves as change agents who need to inculcate socialist notions into the minds of their students. They’ve been alarmingly successful.

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Fabio Rojas argues that it is time to start teaching about the dismal record of socialism. Students hear a lot of Marx and his ideas, but very few ever hear any analysis.

Rojas writes, “In many courses, you will find Marxist theory as a sort of taken-for-granted way of analyzing the social world. The anthology I use for my own courses, Lemert’s Social Theory: Classic and Multicultural Readings, presents about 50 pages of Marx’s writings and some from Engels, but not a single selection offering a critical examination of Marxist ideas. At best, Marx’s ideas might be critiqued as not going far enough, or for focusing too much on class exploitation and not enough on other forms of repression.”

That, Rojas contends, must change. Marxism should be studied, but studied in full — not just a rainbows-and-unicorns depiction. A full study would entail an understanding of how socialism ruins spontaneous economic coordination and about the bad results where it has been imposed.

Rojas states, “It is important to convey to students that the extreme dangers of socialism are ever-present. There is no better example than Venezuela, the Latin American nation that adopted socialist policies in the 2010s during the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.”

Rojas explains how he teaches his students the “warts and all” truth about socialism.

“I want students to understand social theories, like Marxism, in ways that their proponents would admit is faithful, but, at the same time, not let people off the hook. As with any series of policy proposals, we have to ask hard questions and give serious attention to implementations, whether it be the Leninist Soviet state of the 1920s or the Venezuelan government of the 2020s,” he concludes.

Now all we need are faculty who know enough about this subject to teach it properly and for them to be allowed to do so. There aren’t many of them and the academic world is a minefield for those who dare to speak the truth about leftist ideas.

Film & TV

The Breaking of Stephen Colbert

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The recent interplay between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert regarding the possibility of a COVID lab leak was a fascinating example of where their recent career choices have taken them. As Kyle Smith wrote, Stewart showed that part of him is still a real comedian, with the comedian’s eye for the absurd wherever he finds it. Colbert revealed himself to be merely a partisan entertainer whose highest priority (higher than humor or truth) is to make sure his audience never feels like it is taking a justified L.

Stewart was also a partisan entertainer, and did more than his share to make mainstream topical comedy as predictable and stale as right-wing talk radio, but he retired before the audience expectations of total partisan conformity had become entirely crushing. Meanwhile, Colbert forced himself to do night after dreary night of feeble Robert Mueller jokes and it has broken his spirit.

The live audience obviously like Stewart’s material, and gives at most tepid reaction to Colbert’s repeated attempts to rebut Stewart and to throw off Stewart’s comic timing. And above all, Colbert spends the entire segment desperately disassociating himself from Stewart. At one point he cracks that Stewart must be working for Republican Senator Ron Johnson. The message is simple: It doesn’t matter if the stuff you are saying is funny. It doesn’t even matter if the stuff you are saying is true. What matters is you are putting me and my show on the wrong side and that’s a problem.

That’s because Colbert is terrified of his Very Online fanbase. In the wider America, the vast majority either believe in the lab-leak theory or are agnostic on the subject. But for the Very Online Left, the lab-leak theory isn’t about true or false. It’s about in-group vs. out-group, and anyone who volunteers that the lab-leak theory might be true is part of the out-group.

And for the Very Online Left, if you’re part of the out-group, you are fair game for any kind of harassment and condemnation, because they define themselves by their expressions of hatred and contempt for out-group figures (e.g., cops, gunowners, Israel, children in MAGA hats). The Very Online Left is a minority of the country and probably even a minority of Colbert’s own audience, but its overrepresentation in media circles that live on Twitter means they can threaten to make serious trouble for Colbert. Dave Chappelle was willing to face them down, but you have to be willing to take the flak. Colbert, in every word and gesture, desperately tried to pander to Online Left and direct all of their read the rooms, not a good looks, and do betters (as well as any accusations of racism) to Stewart.

It is ironic because, 15 years ago, Colbert was a more original comic than Stewart, but the demands of nightly doses of craven partisanship for year upon year have ruined him.

Religion

Ed Litton Elected Southern Baptist President

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(Pixabay)

If you wanted to read about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) self-destructing in political factionalism or fundamentalist fanaticism, you’re going to be disappointed.

In his presidential address, outgoing President J. D. Greear emphasized the importance of this year’s annual meeting in deciding the direction of the denomination in the long term. He said that he talks about diversity, not to be woke or please people, but because most of the denomination’s growth has been in minority congregations, and he values their leadership in spreading the Gospel. His speech expressed standard Southern Baptist belief about the primacy of the Great Commission and the proper separation between politics and religion. “Anytime the church gets in bed with politics, the church gets pregnant, and the offspring does not look like our Father in heaven,” Greear said.

Messengers chose between four candidates to succeed Greear as president. Georgia pastor Mike Stone is part of the Conservative Baptist Network and represents those who think the SBC is becoming too liberal. Alabama pastor Ed Litton is conservative theologically yet has worked towards racial reconciliation within his church community and was seen as the unity candidate (he was nominated by Fred Luter, the only African-American SBC president). Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been well-known for decades. Randy Adams is Northwest Baptist Convention executive director and was running a long-shot reform campaign.

In the first round of voting, 14,300 ballots were cast, out of 15,678 registered messengers. Stone led with 5,216 votes. Litton came in second with 4,630. Mohler was third with 3,764. Adams was a distant fourth with only 673 votes. Seventeen ballots were disallowed. The rules require a majority vote for the new president to be elected, so the top two vote-getters advanced to a runoff. Mohler and Adams were eliminated and Stone and Litton advanced.

Adams’ elimination was expected, but Mohler’s was more surprising. He has been president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1993 and has a popular podcast on current events. He announced his candidacy in 2019 to run for president in 2020, but the annual meeting was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. He was the first to announce his candidacy for this year’s annual meeting. It seems he was in the position of being some people’s first choice and many people’s second choice, but he wasn’t enough people’s first choice to make it to the second round of voting. Some messengers also may have been uncomfortable with a seminary president serving as convention president as well since the denomination abhors centralized power.

In the runoff, Stone added a little over 1,000 votes, earning 6,278. But Litton was able to gain more, earning 6,834 votes. That means more Mohler voters in the first round supported Litton than supported Stone. Mohler being the more establishment candidate, it seems that a majority of the messengers sympathetic with the establishment in the denomination don’t believe the SBC is becoming too liberal.

While the presidential votes were being counted, the convention debated and voted on resolutions. Resolutions express the sentiment of the convention and are not binding on member churches, entities, or individuals. The resolution votes were much more lopsided than the presidential vote. None of them had to go to paper ballots and all were called from the chair.

Resolution 2 was “On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation.” The subject is the sort of thing that can create division. But it passed overwhelmingly, even though Stone made opposition to critical race theory a cornerstone of his platform and nearly won the presidency. One reason for the disparity between the resolution results and the presidential results is the conscientious wording that the Committee on Resolutions uses when drafting resolutions. Even if you’re opposed to CRT and come into the convention thinking you’re going to oppose anything race-related, once you read the resolution, you see Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message being invoked to “reject any theory or worldview that denies that racism, oppression, or discrimination is rooted, ultimately, in anything other than sin.” When it comes time to vote on that, you vote for it even though you might support Stone’s candidacy. The Committee on Resolutions sifts through a multitude of proposed resolutions, discards bad ones, combines related ones, and distills the sentiment of the convention into language designed to pass.

So in a denomination still reeling from a sex-abuse scandal, the messengers overwhelmingly approved Resolution 5, which says that anyone who commits sexual abuse should be permanently disqualified from the office of pastor. In a denomination where opinions on abortion are among the most impassioned, the messengers overwhelmingly approved Resolution 3, which narrows in squarely on the Hyde Amendment and taxpayer money being used to fund abortion. In a denomination where combating leftist gender ideology can take people many different ways, the messengers overwhelmingly approved Resolution 4, which focuses on the dangers of the Equality Act for religious liberty.

The messengers really do take their jobs seriously, and the convention leadership did too. Over the hours of debate and convention business, there were only a few moments where isolated voices were yelling from the floor, and President Greear quieted them quickly. The maintenance of basic decorum in a room of 15,000 people for hours of parliamentary procedure (with apparently faulty air conditioning in Tennessee in the summer) was remarkable.

Avoiding self-destruction is a pretty low bar, however, and the SBC isn’t out of the woods. The distrust between the messengers and the Executive Committee is still a major problem, and it remains unsolved. The close margin in the presidential elections suggests there are still divisions to work through. Litton’s work is cut out for him, and his two-year term will be crucial to the future of the denomination.

World

Scientists Call for Investigation into Journals That Dismissed Wuhan Lab Theory

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Workers in protective suits stand at a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, China, April 11, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

One aspect of the growing support for an investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s potential role in COVID-19’s origin is the way in which certain scientific journals laundered the arguments made by those who had an interest in diverting attention from the lab-origin hypothesis.

Pro-China ideologues and well-regarded medical researchers with an apparent interest in ensuring that U.S.–China cooperation on coronavirus research continued worked with prominent medical journals, such as the Lancet, to cast the idea as a conspiracy theory that inflames anti-Asian sentiment.

Now, as wider acceptance of the lab-leak theory has taken hold, scientists are calling for a congressional investigation into the tangled web of journals, researchers, and others who sought to muddle the debate about the deadly disease’s origins.

Voice of America spoke to Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist and outspoken lab-leak proponent, and Nikolai Petrovsky, a professor at Flinders University in Australia, about prominent medical journals’ rejection of articles that didn’t fit the supposed scientific consensus before the lab-leak explanation went mainstream:

Scientists skeptical from the start of the natural-spillover theory, including Petrovsky, Ebright and a so-called Paris Group of scientists, which drafted two open letters on the origins of coronavirus, say an inquiry into the role of major science journals is in order. Much of the focus has been on The Lancet and Nature but other leading  journals have come under criticism, including Science, an academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“This pandemic has exposed just how vulnerable our scientific institutions including our academies, universities and scientific journals are to politicization and covert influence,” says Petrovsky. “At the same time as exerting undue influence over Western journals, China is launching hundreds of its own journals over which it will have direct control and are offering easy routes to publication and incentives for scientists to publish in them,” he adds.

“An inquiry by Congress into this might be a good first step although this is also a much broader international issue, that should ultimately involve an international effort to fix these problems,” he told VOA.

Petrovsky says he and others faced tremendous hurdles in getting published papers casting doubt on the natural-spillover theory. He says if a rare paper was initially accepted for consideration, it fell at the second stage when it was sent to reviewers to consider its merits and would then be rejected. “Almost all the scientific community, from which reviewers are selected, had been indoctrinated by the misleading and heavily manipulative early Lancet and Nature Medicine commentaries that suggested any questioning of the origins should be seen as an attack by conspiracy theorists from the extreme right,” he says.

The worry expressed by Ebright and Petrovsky in the article is that these publications’ business interests in China prevented a fair reckoning with a theory that has cast the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in a negative light. These concerns are not unwarranted: As VOA notes, the publisher of Nature and Scientific American censors articles considered sensitive by the Party.

Ebright told National Review in April that leading figures associated with the Lancet’s COVID commission propagated the false idea that there was a scientific consensus on the disease’s origins. “No such consensus existed then. No such consensus exists now.”

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee already are investigating one such researcher, Peter Daszak, chairman of the commission’s subcommittee on COVID’s origins, and his organization, EcoHealth Alliance. On April 18, they sent Daszak a request for documents, though that request centers on grants issued by the National Institutes of Health and not Daszak’s contribution to the scientific debate.

Given the egregious way in which a clique of researchers created the widely accepted false impression that the lab-leak explanation is a kooky conspiracy theory, the public deserves answers, and Congress should help answer the question of whether deference to Beijing’s political sensitivities shaped editorial decisions about global public health during a devastating pandemic.

Politics & Policy

Blinken Wanted Tough Nord Stream 2 Sanctions, WaPo Reports

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 14, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via Reuters)

The Washington Post broke the inside story of the Biden administration’s decision to waive sanctions on key players involved in constructing the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline (the project’s corporation and its CEO):

The State Department, in a position backed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his deputy Wendy Sherman, and Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, recommended a raft of U.S. sanctions intended to block the pipeline, without waivers for the company or chief executive, said officials familiar with the decision.

Biden, backed by top aides on the National Security Council, disagreed, arguing that the move would inflame relations with Germany, a key ally that views attempts to block the pipeline as a violation of its sovereignty. With the pipeline over 90 percent complete, White House officials viewed the project as a fait accompli that was not worth jeopardizing the U.S.-Germany relationship over. . . .

The debates on Russia policy within the Biden administration stem from different outlooks on how to produce a more productive relationship with Russia.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan and his deputy, Jon Finer, have emerged as a powerful duo in moving the administration toward a flexible and calibrated approach to dealing with the Kremlin, said officials familiar with the matter. The NSC’s senior director for Europe, Amanda Sloat, is seen as a careful steward of the U.S.-Germany relationship, a partnership that loomed large in the Nord Stream 2 wavier decision given the U.S. desire to enlist Berlin in a democratic coalition against China.

As an administration official told the Post, these internal debates do not seem to have translated into bitter divides within the administration. Blinken has since loyally defended the administration’s move before Congress, expressing the view that the pipeline is a fait accompli whose significance pales in comparison with that of the need to maintain U.S.-German ties.

The report sheds just a bit more light on the internal debates that have yielded a Russia policy that, at this time, places a premium on accommodating the Merkel government, while alienating allies such as Ukraine and Poland.

Education

Step Up to Restore a Sound American Civics

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(Thinkstock)

Stanley Kurtz has replied to our call for conservatives to improve civics and history education with just another rallying call to man the barricades. He still can’t bring himself to give a fair account of the Educating for American Democracy report and the Roadmap it sketches for improved civics; he concedes he won’t even try, given his conviction that the report we helped to produce will be used to inflict leftist civics in classrooms across the country. We encourage conservatives to read the EAD documents for themselves and form their own judgment, but we owe a response to his preferred focus on political battles and his preferred strategy to “Just Say No” to any national reform efforts.

What happened after the United States Senate passed by 99–1 a resolution in 1995 repudiating the National History Standards that had been developed with grant money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Education? Conservatives won a victory in stopping federal endorsement of a document that mentioned George Washington only once and Joseph McCarthy or “McCarthyism” 19 times. But looking back from the perspective of a quarter century later, no one can claim that patriotic history and civics teaching was the outcome. Instead, these fields came to be seen as the source of toxic controversy, to be stripped of funding and avoided by serious students. Most teachers, principals, and district leaders have run for cover amid this culture-war approach to civics reform, avoiding genuine improvements and letting students receive a deficient preparation for informed and engaged citizenship.

In his rejection of our call for a shared American plan to restore serious education in history and civics to the top tier of the national curriculum, Kurtz seems intent on re-enacting the recent past without either a careful consideration of the documents he is attacking or a constructive suggestion for how public schools might be led to develop an alternative to the drumbeat of progressive critique. Unlike the 1994 Standards, the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap does not pretend to be a comprehensive curriculum; instead, it is a guide to curriculum development by local authorities and teachers. As we explained (and Kurtz ignores), it includes much that conservatives can point to as worthy of inclusion in any civics or history curriculum — from study of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the ideas that lay behind them, and recognition of America’s religious heritage, to appreciation of our technical and economic achievements — as well as endorsement of an honest reckoning of the wrongs committed in our past.

What Kurtz particularly objects to is the inclusion in an appendix of a mention of “action civics,” and the involvement of some of its proponents on the committee that wrote the report. We don’t think such a mention constitutes an endorsement, though we concede it is not a repudiation; how relegation of an idea to an appendix is somehow proof of its overwhelming importance in a comprehensive national report escapes us. Our thought was to recognize the importance of active learning in any practical field — we note that even the 1776 Commission Report allows (at p. 40) that some forms of participatory learning can deepen a sound civics education — and there is nothing in the report that green-lights such practices as giving credit for teacher-directed political activism, something we equally deplore. To borrow a phrase from James Madison, “a skillful individual in his closet” can invent a world entirely to his liking; but as anyone who has ever fashioned a compromise with political opponents can attest, one has to accept things one would rather not in order to gain what is worth achieving.

Kurtz thinks we miscalculate in working together with liberals and progressives to outline what American students ought to study and know; that is, what basic facts they ought to master and what kinds of questions they should learn to ask and begin to answer. He is convinced we are being snookered; thus, he once again expends many more words on an elaborate political plot by the Left than actually reviewing the EAD documents. Somehow he takes our agreement with his critique of action civics as our admission we’ve been duped as charged. So let us clarify again: We applaud the recent action of citizens and school boards to push back against so-called “antiracism” indoctrination, and, as teachers ourselves, we find such “training” to be demeaning and ill-advised. But we also reiterate that the real battle is for the hearts and minds of America’s teachers, who are, in our experience, sick and tired of being given minute-by-minute curricular plans on the one hand, but also find the readily available alternatives to be partisan and so inadequate to their responsibility to teach all the students in their classes. We think the Roadmap can appeal to them, sketching the topics they ought to touch upon in their classes and calling forth the development of curricular materials they can use to inform themselves and their charges. Kurtz instead ignores this predominant spirit in EAD while also overlooking the current round of damage he is provoking, revving up controversy in state legislatures in ways that push teachers into a defensive crouch and further stigmatize any serious civics education.

The genius of American constitutional democracy has been to provide a way — partly through formal institutions, partly through cultural practices — for citizens who deeply disagree about the most serious questions of justice and the common good to settle their differences well enough to be able to live together, leaving one another room to be free and diverse but able to act for a common purpose when that is needed. We think that restoration of constitutional knowledge and also of traditional civic virtues is such a purpose and that we ought to have the courage to work together to achieve it. The time has passed for simply saying “no.”

TCI Runs Out of Gas Thanks to Yankee Institute

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Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford (f11photo/Getty Images)

Herewith, a deserved shout-out to the liberty-loving think tank, Yankee Institute for Public Policy, overseen by the indefatigable Carol Platt Liebbau, for its diligent David role in stopping the Goliath of TCI during the Connecticut legislature’s just-ended 2021 session. (Warning: The nefarious undertaking might raise its ugly head in a forthcoming legislative special session.)

TCI is shorthand for the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional compact — the brainchild of climate-change foes — that describes itself as 13 “Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from

Religion

Annual Meeting Shows Low Trust in the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee

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A Methodist church in Tennessee (Cindy Robinson/Getty Images)

Going into the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting, one of the biggest questions was how much the messengers assembled would trust the SBC Executive Committee.

If this morning’s business in Nashville was any indication, the messengers have answered, “Not much.”

On June 11, just four days before the start of the annual meeting, the Executive Committee announced that it was hiring an outside firm to investigate its handling of sexual-abuse allegations within the denomination. After weeks of hearsay back-and-forth and the release of recorded conversations, an independent investigation is the right move. The question is whether the convention believes that the Executive Committee–initiated investigation is sufficient or if a more-independent investigation is needed.

The Executive Committee exists to handle the affairs of the denomination between annual meetings. The SBC is ultimately run by the messengers assembled at the annual meeting. No hierarchical structure exists beyond the local church. The Executive Committee is beholden to the messengers, and all of its recommendations must be approved by full convention votes.

The Executive Committee, aware of that procedure, ordinarily only brings recommendations to the floor that it knows will pass. It brought nine recommendations to the floor this year. The first sign that something was up was on Recommendation 4. That recommendation included a revision of the Executive Committee’s mission statement that read, in part, “The SBC Executive Committee seeks to empower churches to prioritize, elevate, and accelerate the vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ.” A messenger, Spence Shelton from Mercy Church in Charlotte, introduced an amendment to change the wording of that part of the proposed mission statement to say, “The SBC Executive Committee seeks to serve churches as they prioritize, elevate, and accelerate the vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ.”

This may seem like word games, but the messengers took it very seriously. Shelton argued, “We are a bottom-up, not a top-down convention of churches. . . . The churches empower the Executive Committee to serve us, they do not empower local churches to do that mission.” Shelton was greeted with applause. The amendment was adopted without objection before the recommendation passed.

That was a slap on the wrist. The response to Recommendation 7 was a full rebuke. That recommendation included proposals to increase the Executive Committee’s oversight of the finances of SBC entities. The entities are given significant independence within SBC governance, and entity has its own board of trustees to oversee its operations.

Brian Sandifer, a messenger from Indian Head, Md., spoke first against the recommendation. He pointed to a provision of the recommendation that would give the Executive Committee power to escrow funds for an entity if the entity does not comply with the Executive Committee’s procedure. Sandifer argued that provision ultimately would transfer the “power of the purse” from the entity trustees to the Executive Committee. Vance Pitman, a messenger from Las Vegas, added that an organization subject to an investigation into mishandling sex abuse should not be given more power: “With so many questions that are unanswered right now, I think it seems obvious to me that it’s not the right time to allow expanded powers of the Executive Committee and allowing them the privilege to escrow funds.” Both Sandifer and Pitman were greeted with loud applause by the convention.

The SBC’s six seminaries are each entities. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke on behalf of all six seminary presidents against the recommendation. He was greeted with the loudest applause yet. When it came time to vote and the chair asked for the votes in favor, there were audible laughs in the convention hall as hardly anyone raised their ballots in support of Recommendation 7.

The vote on Recommendation 8 was too close to be called from the chair. Messengers cast paper ballots, and the results will be announced at a later time. Having to resort to paper ballots on an Executive Committee recommendation would have been notable on its own had it not been overshadowed by the nearly unanimous rejection of Recommendation 7.

Messengers’ trust in the Executive Committee seems to be low. Pastor Grant Gaines introduced a motion that specified a very wide-ranging sexual-abuse investigation to be overseen by a task force appointed by the SBC president, which is constitutionally separate from the Executive Committee. Whether that motion will be approved by the convention is yet to be seen, but if the low trust in the Executive Committee that was demonstrated this morning is any indicator, the motion has a good shot.

Culture

‘Hanks, but No Hanks’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss Biden’s performance at the G-7 summit, the woke scolds coming for Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ellie Kemper, and more. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Politics & Policy

Don’t Weaken the Filibuster

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The sun sets behind the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C., November 6, 2018. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

Over the past week, some pundits have warmed to a 55-vote threshold for cloture in the U.S. Senate (compared with the current requirement of 60 votes). Writing for the Washington Post, Greg Sargent brought in a former Robert Byrd aide to outline the benefits of such a change, and, this past weekend, New York Times columnist (and longtime National Review contributor) Ross Douthat endorsed the proposal.

Douthat offers a succinct and thoughtful overview of the case for shifting to 55 votes for cloture:

Then more broadly, beyond just the Senate rules, the idea of 55 percent as a threshold for dramatic reforms sets a plausible target for both parties to hit, as they try to break out of gridlock and create more durable majorities.

Under polarized conditions the days of 60-percent landslides aren’t coming back, nor (save under emergency conditions) are the days of sweeping, 70-Senate-votes bipartisanship. But expecting our political parties to legislate like New Deal or Great Society Democrats with margins like John F. Kennedy in 1960 doesn’t seem like the wisest idea either.

Maybe there’s a middle ground. In a country so large, diverse and deeply divided, a system that encourages the two parties to aim for 55 percent instead of 51 percent, whether in the Senate or on the presidential hustings, might work against polarization and toward consensus without expecting our divisions to magically disappear.

Douthat sees a new 55-vote cloture requirement as a way of placing limits on the rule of 51 percent while also creating a narrower threshold for consensus so that ambitious pieces of legislation can be passed.

Whatever the merits of the case for lowering the threshold for cloture to 55 votes, an essential question for any proposal to reform the filibuster is how this change would happen: through the regular order of the Senate (which requires two-thirds of voting senators to support cloture on a rules change) or through the nuclear option (which ignores those rules).

From the perspective of institutional credibility, using the nuclear option to change the threshold for cloture — whether to 55 votes or a bare majority — is itself a destructive act. When Robert Byrd supported reducing cloture from two-thirds of senators voting to three-fifths of the whole Senate in the Seventies, he did so through regular order, not through the nuclear option.

Furthermore, using the nuclear option to reduce cloture to 55 votes almost certainly starts the clock for the elimination of the filibuster entirely. If 51 votes can unilaterally reduce the threshold for cloture, why, then, should a majority allow any limits on its power? No doubt aware of the institutional consequences of any use of the nuclear option, Joe Manchin has insisted that he will not use the nuclear option to change the Senate’s rules on the filibuster.

Whether Republicans should work with Democrats through regular order to support reducing cloture to 55 votes is another question, though there are reasons to be doubtful of that course of action, too. At the moment, it seems unlikely that 17 or so Republicans would sign on to an effort to weaken the filibuster.

The current threshold for cloture encourages the Senate to focus on areas in which there is broader consensus. As recent as George W. Bush’s time in office, presidents could regularly assemble bipartisan majorities to pass big-ticket items. The one-two punch of the Iraq War and the financial crisis arguably helped fracture American politics, and politicians post-2008 often leaned into polarization. Yet, even in a polarized time, the Senate remains capable of getting to 60+ majorities. With 68 votes, it passed a massive industrial-policy bill — the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act — just last week. The First Step Act passed the Senate with 87 votes in 2018, and a transformative revision of the nation’s education laws passed the Senate with 85 votes in 2015.

Tellingly, many of the significant bipartisan bills passed by the Senate in recent years have passed through regular order, which encourages buy-in from a range of stakeholders. Efforts to circumvent the normal give-and-take of the Senate — by the majority leader “filling the tree” to block amendments, for instance — and impose parliamentary discipline on the Senate have helped stiffen the institution. It remains unclear that the norms of parliamentary polarization fit the political infrastructure established by the U.S. Constitution. Especially in a time of narrow and quicksilver political majorities, recovering the Senate’s institutional muscle-memory grows even more important.

Elections

Nikki Fried Update

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Official Photo of Nikki Fried (State of Florida/Wikimedia Commons)

Since we last checked in with Nikki Fried’s conspiracy-theory heavy gubernatorial campaign, the candidate has delivered . . . well, pretty much exactly what one would expect. Per Florida Politics, Fried is not exactly setting the world on fire:

The $214,832 collected by the committee Florida Consumers First was significantly less than what was raised by political committees linked to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

The committee Friends of Ron DeSantis raised more than $7.5 million in May, while the committee Friends of Charlie Crist raised more than $1.2 million. Crist also raised $323,963 for his campaign account, reports filed Thursday show.

Meanwhile, Fried has been caught selling different messages to English-speaking voters than to Spanish-speaking voters:

Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, a rising star among state Democrats who hopes to defeat Governor Ron DeSantis next year if she wins the primary, sounds like a tried and true progressive on her English-language website.

She touts being an advocate for criminal justice reform, taking on the NRA, and fighting to protect the environment.

But as of Friday, all of that was missing from her Spanish-language website.

Asked about the discrepancy by Newsweek, Fried’s team quickly added the language in Spanish and fleshed out her biography on the page within two hours of the initial request for comment.

At some point, it might be time for the press to retire the “rising star” language. She’s not. She’s fading — and fast.

Politics & Policy

DeSantis Should Veto SB 146

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

Florida SB 146, a bill on “civic literacy education” taught via “civic engagement activities” has been passed by the Florida legislature and sent to Governor DeSantis’s desk. Unfortunately, SB 146 contains no protections against politicized “action civics” and will easily be used as a wedge to import protest civics into Florida. As if that weren’t enough, although the Florida Board of Education has just approved new academic standards barring critical race theory (CRT), SB 146 creates an opening for the insertion of CRT into Florida’s education system. DeSantis should veto SB 146 and return next year with a civics bill that contains the necessary protections against protest civics.

I wrote about the original version of SB 146 in March. At that time, the bill would have made a way for the importation of leftist protest civics into all of Florida’s schools. The good news is that the Florida House struck that language and substituted provisions less likely to politicize the entire Florida school system. The new version of SB 146 sets up two special programs for “civic engagement” and limits them to select participants instead. Nonetheless, those programs, especially the second one, are headed for politicization.

The first program established by the revised SB 146 is a “civic literacy practicum.” This “practicum” or extra-curricular “project” is quite similar to a politicized action-civics project in structure. Instead of extra-curricular political protests or lobbying, however, the “civic literacy practicum” described in the bill is apolitical. Here, the danger is that the listed activities might someday be supplemented by others that would allow for political protests and lobbying.

The second “civic engagement” program established by the revised version of SB 146 is far more dangerous. The bill sets up a “Civic Engagement Citizen Scholar Program” at the “Center for Civic Engagement at the University of South Florida.” The bill also instructs the University of Florida to contract with the YMCA’s “Youth in Government” program. In this case, everything depends on whether the University of South Florida and the YMCA’s Youth in Government program stay clear of politicized action civics.

While both entities may do some good work, there are huge danger signs as well. The national YMCA’s Youth in Government program has jumped on the CRT bandwagon. The main site, for example, contains a link to the YMCA’s “Unlearning Systemic Racism” program. (That link is broken, but here’s a link to the YMCA’s “Unlearning Systemic Racism” page.) True, the Florida Board of Education has barred CRT from classroom instruction. That ban would not apply, however, to extra-curricular “civic engagement” activities in a special program set up by legislation. In short, despite Florida’s recent bar on CRT, SB 146 clearly makes a way for CRT to enter civic education in Florida.

Consider also the Twitter feed of the Florida YMCA Youth in Government program. It touts the YMCA Changemakers Institute, which provides avenues for student political activism in areas such as “Climate Action & Sustainability,” “Gender Equity & LGBTQ Rights,” “Racial Equity & Justice,” etc., all displayed on a rainbow flag. I must have missed the sections on activism in defense of religious liberty, free speech, and Second Amendment. This is classic, left-biased action civics. Of course, the Florida YMCA Youth in Government twitter feed speaks with eager anticipation of SB 146, since it promises to fund such politicized activism under the guise of “civic engagement.” SB 146 would even allow participants in advocacy through the YMCA Youth in Government program to earn undergraduate credit for their political protests.

It’s also of note that the YMCA is a major supporter of the Civics Secures Democracy Act, and no doubt other similar bills whose priority criteria favor politicized action civics. If one of the four big federal bills providing grants for action civics should pass, the University of South Florida’s Center for Civic Engagement and the YMCA Youth in Government Program will likely be major beneficiaries. This would enable them to greatly expand their activities, and would almost certainly push both entities even further in the direction of politicized action civics (with a healthy dose of CRT in the mix). It’s hardly surprising that the Florida YMCA Youth in Government Program touts the largest of the federal bills on its Twitter feed.

To prevent this sort of politicization — precisely what Florida’s governor and Board of Education oppose — DeSantis needs to veto SB 146. Instead, he should consider supporting legislation along the lines of my model bill with the National Association of Scholars, which would prevent the takeover of civic education by ideologically partisan political activism. Texas has just passed such a bill, and another like it has just been introduced in Ohio. And if, in the future, Florida wants to set up special internships in government outside of ordinary classroom activities, any bill doing so should contain provisions that explicitly bar political protest and lobbying from state-sponsored civics programs.

In short, SB 146 presents a test for Governor DeSantis. Signing this bill would authorize and fund precisely the politicized and radical activism he has pledged to remove from Florida’s education system. I don’t doubt that few of Florida’s legislators realized this when they voted for SB 146. That is the problem. Politicized protest civics hides under soothing labels such as “civic engagement.” Now that the governor knows what’s at stake, he needs to veto this bill.

Health Care

End Organ-Transplant Discrimination against People with Developmental Disabilities

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(cyril martin/Getty Images)

An important and bipartisan bill has been filed in Congress to end organ-transplant discrimination against people developmental disabilities. Authored by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R., Wash.) and Katie Porter (D., Calif.), the Charlotte Wood Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act (H.R. 1235) would:

A covered entity may not, solely on the basis of a qualified individual’s mental or physical disability—

(1)deem such individual ineligible to receive an anatomical gift or organ transplant;
(2)deny such individual medical or related organ transplantation services, including evaluation, surgery, counseling, and postoperative treatment and care;
(3)refuse to refer the individual to a transplant center or other related specialist for the purpose of evaluation or receipt of an organ transplant;
(4)refuse to place an individual on an organ transplant waiting list, or placement of the individual at a lower-priority position on the list than the position at which the individual would have been placed if not for the disability of the individual; or
(5)decline insurance coverage for such individual for any procedure associated with the receipt of an anatomical gift, including post-transplantation care if such procedure would be covered under such coverage for such individual if not for the disability of the individual.

This is an important issue of human exceptionalism. Each and every one of us is equal and should be treated equally. Developmental disability in and of itself should never be a bar to receiving proper medical care based on invidious notions of “quality of life,” or other such excuses for abuse or medical neglect.

But what if the patient would be unable to properly perform post-transplant care requirements? I mean Wesley, we don’t want organ transplants that fail, right?

The bill makes a provision for that potential. But it also provides that if the patient would have the needed assistance to provide that care, the disability cannot be the basis for disapproving organ-transplant eligibility.

A father of a child with Down syndrome explains why this legislation is necessary in Slate:

If my daughter’s heart had not healed when she was a baby, she could have been refused an organ transplant based on her intellectual disability. Currently, only 26 states have laws in place that explicitly prohibit this discrimination. Despite federal protections such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, there remains an alarming rift between what the law requires and what medical professionals practice.

In a study from 2008, 85 percent of organ transplant centers surveyed considered disability when deciding if a patient should be on an organ transplant list. Forty-four percent of centers said they would deny an organ transplant to a child with some level of neurodevelopmental disability.

In our profoundly divided era, it seems to me that this bill is legislation that people from all ideological perspectives can support. Yet, the bill is given only an 18 percent chance of passage. If that is true, it is a telling indictment on our country. But I believe that once people learn of the bill’s existence, chances of passage will increase exponentially.

I hope you will join me in urging your Member of Congress to support H.R. 1235.

World

‘Trillions for Domestic Spending, Not a Cent More for Defense’

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I wrote today about the incoherence at the heart of Biden’s China policy:

Joe Biden isn’t known for his austerity, except when it comes to the nation’s defense.

As part of his welcome emphasis on competition with China, the president cajoled reluctant European countries at the G-7 summit into releasing a statement critical of China, on top of the announcement of an infrastructure program meant to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

That’s all fine as far as it goes, but a glaring omission from Biden’s campaign is a defense budget that reflects the growing challenge from Beijing.

Indeed, Biden justifies almost any increased domestic spending as designed to check China’s ambitions, at the same time he neglects what is most needful to keep China from dominating its region and waging war on our allies or perhaps the U.S. itself.

If we can deter China from taking Taiwan with subsidies for electric cars, Biden is inarguably the Churchill of his time.

If we can counter China’s defense buildup with more funding for affordable housing, Biden deserves to take his place beside Alfred Thayer Mahan or George Kennan as a great strategic thinker.

Law & the Courts

Subtraction by Addition

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Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer arrives at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

At the Free Beacon, Kevin Daley makes the case that the retirement of Justice Breyer, and his replacement with a “young progressive stalwart,” might actually make the Supreme Court more conservative. The key point:

Breyer’s unique judicial approach makes him an effective emissary to his conservative colleagues, helping the left salvage victory from the brink of defeat in cases big and small. It’s unclear whether his eventual successor will be as effective at building consensus or turning broad questions into narrow ones.

It’s always hard to tell how these things will turn out. But one has to wonder whether, in her quieter moments, Justice Kagan would agree. She’s already somewhat isolated, and the addition of another Sotomayor-esque colleague would likely serve to make her more so.

The Economy

Infrastructure Strategery

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Politico has an update on the dealmaking process. There is an interesting dynamic at play.

Some Republicans hope that if they sign on to a deal, they can keep the price tag down. The deal would fund normal “hard” infrastructure such as highways, and would avoid raising taxes. This would leave only the trickier topics — things like clean energy and child care, funded by big tax hikes — for later. Democrats might have trouble cobbling together a unanimous vote in their caucus to pass what’s left of Biden’s plan.

Many Democrats, however, are expecting to pass a bipartisan bill and then pass a partisan one later (through the reconciliation process, which avoids a filibuster). For example, Bob Casey claims “we’re going to have to have an agreement among us that we do both.”

Obviously, Republican cooperation will be pointless if the Democrats proceed to enact through reconciliation everything the GOP rejected in the bipartisan deal. This will give the Democrats points for bipartisanship without forcing any actual compromise.

The man himself, by which of course I mean Joe Manchin, is being coy about where he sees things going after a bipartisan deal. The current bipartisan proposal is for roughly a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending, though only about half of that is new money. Much of the cash is repurposed from unused COVID-relief funds.

Culture

Standing Athwart Space

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I guess that last fund-raiser went pretty well.

World

Satire, But . . .

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From the Babylon Bee: “Dems shocked, disappointed to learn that new Israeli prime minister will still be a Jew.”

Trade

First, Assume Lots of Boats

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Ships and shipping containers at the port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., January 30, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

There’s an old joke about an economist and an engineer who fall into a deep hole together. As the engineer is devising ways to get out of the hole, the economist says, “Don’t worry, I’ll get us out. First, assume a ladder.”

Mocking economists for assumptions in their theories has been around as long as economics has been around. Many of the assumptions are unrealistic on purpose. The assumptions exist to demonstrate things in theory, not to perfectly describe the world around us. The theory of perfect price competition, for example, assumes there are no transactions costs. In the real world, of course, there are always transactions costs. But the point of the theory of perfect price competition is to demonstrate how the prices of goods would behave in a perfectly competitive market. Thinking about transactions costs would muck that up, so economists assume it away. There are other theories that deal with transactions costs, and they assume away other things that would muck up looking at transactions costs.

Economic theory demonstrates that there are gains from trade when countries specialize in producing goods for which they have a comparative advantage and trading for other goods. That’s impossible to object to in economic theory. But that doesn’t mean those benefits are automatic in the real world. On the contrary, it takes a lot of work.

The economics-textbook case for free trade, to paraphrase the joke, starts with, “First, assume lots of boats.” The economics-textbook case for free trade doesn’t say anything about how the trade will actually happen. It doesn’t say anything about free-trade agreements or shipping companies or port authorities or longshoremen. The purpose of the theory is to demonstrate that there are gains from trade when countries specialize in producing goods for which they have a comparative advantage and trading for other goods, assuming that trade is possible.

That’s not to sell the economics-textbook case short. It’s an extremely powerful and counterintuitive insight. It’s not obvious that there are gains from trade, and those gains are potentially enormous. We’d be foolish to dismiss the theory.

The theory, however, is only a starting point, not the end of the conversation. How well the real-world results approximate the theoretical results depends on lots of people doing lots of work.

Rachel Premack wrote an article for Business Insider yesterday titled “Why the world is in a shipping crisis.” How much of a crisis? The Drewry World Container Index, which measures the going price for a shipping container, is about 300 percent higher today than it was one year ago. The price increases are even higher on some important routes. Shanghai to Genoa is up 449 percent from last year, and Shanghai to Rotterdam is up 524 percent.

The global shipping industry is still behind from the pandemic and likely will be for quite some time. Premack writes that when the pandemic started, shipping companies started canceling sailings. The massive cargo ships are only profitable when they’re pretty much completely full, so it’s better for the shipping companies to have fewer full ships than have more partially full ships.

Canceling a sailing has huge ramifications because, basically, boats are really slow. It takes about three weeks for a cargo ship to go from Los Angeles to Shanghai. If you have a cargo ship sitting in Los Angeles that’s scheduled for Shanghai and the shipping line decides to cancel the sailing, that stinks for people trying to ship things out of Los Angeles and for people trying to receive things in Shanghai. But it also stinks for people trying to ship things out of Shanghai because the people running the Shanghai port were planning on that boat being in Shanghai in three weeks. Now that it won’t be there, three weeks’ worth of containers are going to pile up on the docks at Shanghai. It’s fine, they can wait for the next one, you might think. It’s not that easy, though, because every boat is scheduled to be full, and there already are containers waiting on the dock scheduled for the next boat. The people running the port in Shanghai can try to find another boat to put it on, but the closest available boat might be a week away, and then that boat won’t be somewhere else it was expected to be, creating a new problem for the people expecting that boat three weeks in the future, on and on and on. At the start of the pandemic, shipping lines were canceling about 20 percent of their scheduled sailings, and we’re still feeling the reverberations from that.

Now that the economy is recovering, people are buying more stuff again. The latest piece of evidence that the Biden administration is wrong to pursue more stimulus spending is that American ports are jammed with boats as Americans buy more stuff than ever. Premack writes that the Port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in America, set a new first-quarter cargo record this year, and the Port of Long Beach, the second-busiest port in America, set a new monthly record in May. There’s so much traffic that some boats are waiting longer to be unloaded at their destination ports than it took them to cross the Pacific, she writes.

But wait, there’s more. Two critical shortages make the problem even worse. Premack writes that there’s a shortage of longshoremen in the U.S. When boats do arrive, there aren’t enough workers to unload them. The second shortage is even more fundamental: containers. Premack writes, “Import volume from China via ocean shipping is up 54% year-over-year. Exports have only ticked up by 4.4%. That means lots of containers are leaving Asia, but not enough have been returning there.” Shipping companies need to send empty containers back to Asia to be filled, but remember, they can’t operate profitably unless the ships are nearly completely full, so they can’t send back many empty containers. Premack writes that the imbalance in containers could persist well into 2022.

Essentially, right now there are not enough ships and not enough containers to move more goods than ever before and not enough workers to load and unload them. That’ll send up shipping prices 300 percent, you better believe it.

Economic theory informs us of the gains of trade and specialization. But it’s much easier to see the lines move on a graph than it is to see a container of electronics move from Shanghai to Los Angeles. As we’re seeing right now, what’s elegant and simple in economic theory is chaotic and complex in the real world. Debates over free trade are usually concerned with economists or politicians. Those debates matter, but they usually assume lots of boats. It’s in the execution that we cash in on the theory.

Dissatisfaction with high prices provides opportunities for entrepreneurs. We’ve seen it before in the shipping industry. In the 1950s, Malcom McLean pioneered the modern system of shipping containers. According to historian Marc Levinson, the average price of shipping cargo was $5.83 per ton in 1956. On McLean’s first containerized ship, the price was $0.16 per ton. Containerization is the top unsung hero for making our current standard of living possible, and it happened because an entrepreneur saw a chance to undercut his higher-priced rivals through better organization.

Do we have another McLean out there?

History

Hanks and Tulsa

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Charlie, I am perfectly willing to believe that Tom Hanks had not heard about the Tulsa massacre until reading an essay about it last year in the New York Times, but — doesn’t the guy from Bosom Buddies still watch television, from time to time?

Because the most-watched new television series of 2019, Watchmen, was in no small part about those events. An average of more than 7 million people watched each episode. It made a huge star out of Regina King (who is putting her success to good use).

It would be better if Americans learned more of their history from sources other than sci-fi series about giant space squids or whatever, to be sure. But I’ll bet there are more Americans under 35 who could tell you what happened at Tulsa than who could tell you what happened at, say, the Battle of New Orleans.

(My apologies to Charlie if that last item brings up a sore memory.)

Once Again: Everyone Opposes Rank Majoritarianism

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(jaflippo/Getty Images)

Jonathan Chait tries once again to cast Rand Paul and Mike Lee’s entirely mainstream skepticism toward unchecked majoritarianism as something sinister and unusual. The ideas that Paul and Lee have expressed, Chait writes, are common on the Right, and, indeed, “are not identified solely with the most extreme or Trumpy conservatives,” but “have frequently been articulated by conservatives who express deep personal animosity toward Donald Trump and his cultists.”

Yeah, they have. And do you know who else is skeptical of unchecked majoritarianism?

Everyone.

Chait takes specific aim at Rand Paul’s claim that the Jim Crow era shows the need for counter-majoritarian elements within the system. “Absurd,” he writes,

is the notion that “Jim Crow laws came out of democracy.” Southern states attempted to establish democratic systems after the Civil War, but these governments were destroyed by violent insurrection. Jim Crow laws were not the product of democracy; they were the product of its violent overthrow.

It is narrowly true that, in the wake of the Civil War, violence was used to suppress black votes, which resulted in the election of white governments by a reduced electorate, which resulted in those governments imposing Jim Crow — although I presume that Chait does not really believe that if the Southern states in question had allowed everyone to vote we wouldn’t have needed the 14th and 15th Amendments, given that Jim Crow laws were passed in multiple states where white citizens significantly outnumbered black citizens while only three states had a black majority. But this is hardly a solid case against minority protections per se.

How, I wonder, does Chait account for the counter-majoritarian decisions that his own side strongly favors? The anti-abortion laws that Roe v. Wade overturned were not the product of state governments being “destroyed by violent insurrection.” They were the product of democracy. The laws that protected traditional marriage were not the product of state governments being “destroyed by violent insurrection.” They were the product of democracy — and, in several cases, popular referenda. The laws permitting school prayer were not the product of state governments being “destroyed by violent insurrection.” They were the product of democracy.

All of these laws were swept away despite that democracy. Why? Because they were held to be in violation of the Constitution’s protection of minority rights. (In my view, these cases were incorrectly decided, but my objection is to the specifics of those cases rather than to the existence of judicial review). If Jonathan Chait were to call up a Democratic senator at random this afternoon and ask whether he thinks that this was a good thing, that Democratic senator would likely end up sounding very much like Rand Paul. I wonder: Is that an indictment of the Democratic party, its voters, and the broader progressive movement? Or does it only work the other way around?

Economics

Center-Left Think Tank: Biden Budget Would Hike Taxes on More Than Half of Filers

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As I’ve pointed out before, Joe Biden’s promise not to raise taxes on “anyone” making less than $400,000 doesn’t square with his actual plans. For example, his big hike to corporate taxes would, in part, be borne by workers, as well as by investors whose earnings put them below the cutoff.

The center-left Tax Policy Foundation has some new estimates out today, based on Biden’s recent budget, that make this point well.

If you look only at individual income and payroll taxes in 2022, the hikes don’t start kicking in until roughly the promised income level (though the analysis groups together everyone making between $200,000 and $500,000). But when the estimates include the burden of other major taxes, particularly corporate taxes, an incredible 60.7 percent of all “tax units” see their taxes go up.

Don’t take this too far: The burden will be much higher on the rich than on the poor, and this doesn’t include the benefits of the resulting spending, which will be directed largely toward poorer Americans. Biden’s budget would certainly redistribute income downward.

But you can’t hike corporate taxes through the roof and pretend no one making less than $400,000 will pay more. And some argue that these taxes impose a bigger burden on workers than the Tax Policy Center assumes.

Hat tip to Donald Schneider. And see a more Biden-favorable take on the results from the center’s own Howard Gleckman here.

Economy & Business

Unintended Consequences of a Minimum-Wage Hike

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Sheets of $1 bills on a light table at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., November 14, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

As I discussed in a piece earlier this year, hiking the minimum wage can cause a number of unintended consequences. The most obvious, and most studied, is that employers might buy less labor when labor is more expensive. Yet employers can respond in other ways too — such as cutting benefits or making jobs more demanding.

Today, Mark Perry points us to an interesting study of an anonymous “chain of fashion retail stores” with locations in Texas and California. The data run from 2015 through early 2018; the minimum wage was $7.25 for this entire period in Texas, but started at $9 and rose every year in California.

Interestingly, as the minimum wage crept up in California relative to Texas, stores in the Golden State did not measurably reduce the number of employee hours they paid for. What they did, instead, was to spread those hours around: hire more workers, but have each employee work fewer hours.

What’s the advantage of doing this? Well, as the authors note, “workers have to work at least 20 hours per week on average to be eligible for retirement benefits and work at least 30 hours per week for employer-sponsored health insurance based on the [Affordable Care Act].” They estimate that stores can save roughly a quarter of the cost of the higher wages simply by getting out of contributing to these benefits.

On top of that, workers’ hours became less consistent week-to-week, presumably because the stores wanted to be more careful paying for hours when work became more expensive.

As I put it before, a minimum-wage hike is a simple policy with extremely complicated consequences, and thus runs a far bigger risk of backfiring than most realize.

Health Care

Redefining Death

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A proposed change in the law would make organ procurement easier. That’s a bad reason to make it, I argue at Bloomberg Opinion.

Death can’t be denied but it can be edited.

In 1981, the Uniform Law Commission proposed a model law for the determination of death. It says that individuals have died when they have experienced an irreversible end to either their respiratory and circulatory functions or their brain functions. Most states have adopted this definition, and the rest adopted it in substance if not precise wording.

The commission is now considering whether the definition should be revised. One proposal has been gaining influence, but has dangers that ought to keep it from prevailing. . . .

Books

Were The ‘Dark Ages’ Dark?

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Here are two thoughtful essays, both worth your time, that question the viability of our conventional historical understanding of a Medieval “Dark Ages” followed by an Early Modern “Renaissance:”

The first, written for Aeon by Henrik Lagerlund, a professor of the history of philosophy at Stockholm University, is called “What Renaissance?” which you can read here.

The second is a book review by Brad S. Gregory for Law & Liberty of Seb Falk’s “The Light Ages,” a history of medieval science, which you can read here.

 

 

Politics & Policy

CRT Invades the Law Schools

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(utah778/Getty Images)

For many years, law schools have been moving away from teaching the nuts and bolts of our legal system and toward what Professor Charles Rounds of Suffolk Law School calls “bad sociology, not law.”  I have spoken with veteran lawyers who wring their hands over the fact that so many graduates have had their heads stuffed with dodgy theories but have difficulty with legal fundamentals.

Things are getting worse, as critical race theory invades the law schools. On her Dissident Prof blog, Mary Grabar has posted an excellent piece by Professor Matthew Andersson on the harm of CRT.

Andersson writes, “CRT, along with BLM, is a pleading tool: a position taken up by an organized — or more accurately by an incited — coalition of individuals and institutions opportunistically advancing a synthetic complaint in the public forum, especially through media, universities, and government organizations. These are needed to create the impression that their argument has an historical basis and  possesses moral weight. The sufficiently articulated demands can be seen as a path to both social and legal relief through remedies of financial damages and restitution, and through policy that codifies its demands and interests — despite any constitutional violations.”

This “pleading tool” is one that will do a great deal more damage to our concepts of equality under the law.

Read the whole thing.

Politics & Policy

Media Outlets Mislead on Gallup Abortion Survey

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Planned Parenthood employees look out from their building, St. Louis, Mo., June 4, 2019. (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)

Last week, Gallup released new polling data on sanctity of life issues, and in their coverage, many mainstream media outlets have attempted to argue that there has been an increase in public support for legal abortion.

As Alexandra DeSanctis noted here at NRO last week, the new Gallup survey found that 47 percent of Americans think abortion is “morally acceptable,” a record high. A number of media outlets, including The Hill, the Independent, and Forbes have focused on this particular finding in their coverage of the poll.

However, it is worth noting that the percentage of Americans who find abortion “morally acceptable” increased by only three percentage points from the previous Gallup poll on abortion, conducted in May 2020. What’s more, this latest survey asked a number of questions about life issues, and considered as a whole, the data suggest a great deal of stability in public attitudes toward abortion. For instance, the same Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Americans identify as “pro-life,” which equals the average “pro-life” sentiment over the past five Gallup surveys.

Additionally, the survey found that since 2019, there has actually been a slight decrease in the percentage of Americans who want to see the Supreme Court uphold Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Americans report believing that abortion should either be “illegal” or “legal in only a few circumstances,” which is broadly consistent with previous Gallup polling.

It’s worth noting, too, that Gallup conducted this survey prior to the release of President Biden’s proposed budget, which did not include the Hyde amendment and thus would allow federal funds to directly underwrite elective abortion procedures. Since polls tend to find that taxpayer funding of abortion is unpopular, even among Democrats, it is possible that there has been a slight increase in pro-life sentiment since this was conducted.

As a result of the upcoming Supreme Court case considering a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, life issues will be especially salient this year. As a result, media outlets and survey research firms are likely to conduct numerous polls on abortion, and shifts in public opinion can affect both legislation and court decisions. Given that reality, some journalists and commentators will continue to spin poll results to give the impression that public support for legal abortion has increased. But pro-lifers should not be misled. A substantial number of polls from a variety of research firms show that public attitudes toward abortion have been largely stable over the past few decades, and there tends to be strong support for both the Hyde amendment and a wide range of incremental pro-life laws.