Politics & Policy

Will Biden Still Want Masked Americans Beyond His First 100 Days?

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President Joe Biden replaces his face mask after speaking about the implementation of the American Rescue Plan at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

We’re coming up on Biden’s 100th day. A week ago, I observed that we were coming up on the threshold of when Biden said Americans would no longer need to wear masks as a precaution against COVID-19.

Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days,” Biden said in December, repeating the request to Americans, and the encouragement to governors and mayors to keep state and local mask requirements in place.

Biden’s 100th day in office is next Friday, April 30. Do you think he’ll say, “Okay, the 100 days are over. It’s okay to take your masks off now”? Or do you think he’ll backtrack and say Americans need to wear their masks for another period of time? Until Memorial Day? Until Independence Day? Until Labor Day?

Tomorrow, Biden is expected to “announce new CDC guidance on whether vaccinated people need to wear masks outdoors, though the final language of the expected announcement is still unclear.” I suspect Biden will interpret any loosening of the masking guidance as honoring his “just 100 days” pledge.

But there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that vaccinated people can interact with each other with minimal concern.

First, if you’re fully vaccinated, your immune system is as prepared as it can get to fight off this virus. And as I’ve been pointing out since the study came out, vaccinated people carry much smaller viral loads when they do get infected. This doesn’t make transmission impossible, but it makes it much rarer.

Second, outdoor transmission was pretty rare, even before people were vaccinated. The Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded earlier this year, “five studies related to SARS-CoV-2 transmission found that less than 10 percent of reported transmission occurred in outdoor settings, less than 5 percent of cases were related to outdoor occupations, and the odds of transmission or super-spreading are much lower outdoors.” Outdoor air currents are apparently enough to really disrupt the way this virus floats around when expelled from the nose or mouth.

Third, masks help, but they’re not the end-all and be-all that so many people seem to think they are. I’ve been pretty pro-mask throughout this pandemic, but keep in mind the “pro-mask” CDC study found that after 100 days of mask mandates, the daily COVID-19 death growth rate in mask-mandated counties was 1.9 percentage points lower than that of counties without mask mandates. That’s a difference, but not a gargantuan one.

And there’s no getting around the fact we’ve had some runaway mask hysteria in this country over the past year. When a Slate article declaring it is no longer necessary to wear masks outdoors spurs a response of, “You have blood on your hands. You should feel ashamed,” it is clear we’re dealing with something closer to superstitious hysteria, not scientific analysis.

Currently Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington require masks outdoors, usually with a provision that they are required when six feet of social distance is not possible. A few states require them even when social distanced outdoors.

Add it all up, and it doesn’t make much sense for vaccinated people to wear masks around each other – and it certainly doesn’t make sense for vaccinated people to wear masks around each other outdoors. Biden could say that tomorrow. Or he may make only the smallest and most begrudging moves towards an unmasked America.

The New House and Electoral College Are Bad News for the Midwest and California

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(xxcheng/Getty Images)

The Census Bureau this afternoon released the state-by-state population figures from the 2020 census that will be used to determine the new number of seats in the House of Representatives, and with it, the Electoral College. Let’s look at some winners and losers.

Winner: American democracy. There were real fears that the Census numbers would come in too late to be practically applied to draw new district lines in the House, which could have set off all manner of trouble. Fortunately, while the time frame is a bit more compressed than usual, there should be ample time for states to draw

Politics & Policy

Map: Change in House Seats After 2020 Census

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( gguy44/Getty Images)

On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau announced changes in the number of House seats apportioned among states as a result of the 2020 population count, which found that on Census Day (April 1, 2020), there were 331,449,281 people in the United States. That was an increase of 7.4 percent over the 2010 Census.

Because the increase was not uniform among the 50 states, seven House seats will shift among 13 states. Here is a map illustrating those changes. Texas, gaining two seats, was the big winner, while California lost a seat for the first time ever.

 

Film & TV

Oscar Ratings Crater, Hit Another Record Low

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An Oscar statue stands in the red carpet arrivals area in preparation for the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., February 8, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Everyone knew this was coming, given how pathetic the ratings were for the Golden Globes and the Grammys, but even so, the viewership numbers are a shocking disaster for the Academy Awards broadcast. After last year’s rock-bottom viewership hit 23.6 million and the top award went to a Korean film, Parasite, the average person hadn’t even heard of, this year’s Oscars went full woke. You never go full woke . . .

Ratings crashed 58 percent off last year’s abysmal viewership, down to 9.85 million Americans. Let that sink in: In a nation of 330 million, not even ten million Americans watched the Oscars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ strategy of embracing diversity as a supposed means to bring in younger viewers has proven a complete failure: Ratings were down even more for young adults. In the 18–49 demographic, ratings crashed 64 percent. The star power is gone. The glamour is gone. The public interest is gone.

The Oscars always had problems but in the last decade they’ve become turgid, sanctimonious, predictable, joyless, and boring, not to mention bitter and negative about the country that has created so much splendor and wealth for the lucky few who get to appear onstage at the ceremony. Every year, its top honor goes to a cinematic op-ed destined in most cases to be quickly forgotten rather than an enduring and meaningful piece of entertainment.

The Academy needs to completely rethink the direction it is going in if it wants to salvage any viewership or cultural relevance whatsoever. Like many other institutions, it has mistaken Twitter mobs for the voice of the people and allowed itself to be guided by the former at the expense of heeding the latter.

Politics & Policy

Would the Cops React the Same Way to a Potential Stabbing If It Involved White People?

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One of the claims last week was that cops were quick to shoot in Columbus because it was a wild melee involving African-American teens. Well, here is a roughly comparable case earlier this month from Oneonta, N.Y., involving — as far as I can tell — white people (there is a photo of the man who was shot and killed, Tyler Green, in this story).

There is an effort to kick the knife away from Green after he falls, but otherwise it plays out very similarly to Columbus — it all happens very fast, and when Green disregards orders to drop the knife and is a threat to a child, cops shoot him without any Hollywood-movie attempt to fire at his extremities.

Here is the video (warning: it’s graphic):

Politics & Policy

Connecticut Female Athletes Will Appeal Judge’s Dismissal of Trans Sports Dispute

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A federal district court ruled to dismiss the legal challenge of four Connecticut female athletes, who were suing their state’s athletic conference for allowing males (who identify as girls) to compete in girls’ athletic events. The female athletes’ legal team has stated that they intend to appeal this decision.

Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys are representing the athletes, emphasized the injustice in a statement:

Since 2017, boys have consistently deprived Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti of honors and opportunities to compete at elite levels. Mitchell, for example, would have won the 2019 state championship in the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition, but because two males took first and second place, she was denied the gold medal. Soule, Smith, and Nicoletti likewise have been denied medals and/or advancement opportunities.

Culture

Poll: Americans Dislike Diversity Requirements for the Academy Awards

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An Oscar statue stands in an outdoor shopping center located next to the Academy Awards venue as preparations for the ceremony continue in Los Angeles, Calif., February 7, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

A new national poll commissioned by the Daily Wire suggests that a plurality of Americans oppose the Academy Awards’ new “representation and inclusion standards” for the Best Picture Oscar award.

Announced last September, the new inclusion policy requires that a film meet two out of four standards crafted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to be considered eligible for a “Best Picture” nomination or award. (You can read the full list of standards here, but be forewarned, you may never be able to unroll your eyes.)

This new survey, conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of the Daily Wire, polled more than 1,000 American adults and had a 3 percent margin of error. The sample was split evenly among political viewpoints, with 35 percent identifying as Democrats, 32 percent identifying as Republicans, and 33 percent identifying as Independents.

About two-thirds of respondents said that “films should solely be judged on their artistic merits” when being considered for the Oscars, while 24 percent of respondents said “diversity should be a significant factor” in the decision-making process.

After being shown the inclusion rules from AMPAS, a plurality (50 percent) of respondents said they oppose them, including 32 percent who said they “strongly oppose” them. Thirty-five percent said they favor the rules, and 13 percent said they “strongly favor” them.

Respondents were fairly evenly divided on the question of how the new policy will affect the quality of films: Thirty-nine percent said the rules will make films worse, while 33 percent said they would make films better. About one-third of respondents said they aren’t sure what affect the rules might have on film quality.

But respondents to the poll were largely agreed on two major points. About three-quarters of Americans said that award winners “should avoid making political speeches and comments.” That included majorities of Democrats, non-white Americans, and respondents who planned to watch the Oscars. Only 29 percent of respondents agreed with the view that “award winners should make political speeches and comments.”

Meanwhile, only 11 percent of respondents said they would definitely watch the Academy Awards presentation, and 22 percent were likely to watch it. About three-quarters of Republican respondents indicated they were not likely to watch the program, and 63 percent of them cited the show’s increasingly political tenor as their main reason.

Just 22 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “The Oscars are too white” as a reason for disliking the program.

Health Care

More Signs of an End to the COVID Era?

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Crowds return to Washington Square park as the pandemic restrictions begin to ease in New York, March 25, 2021. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Well, as respectable liberal opinion has gathered itself to recognize what the science has shown for a year — outdoor transmission of COVID is rare — we are getting hints that the CDC will revise its guidance on outdoor mask mandates. Dr. Scott Gottlieb is lobbying for this change in the WSJ.

And now the president of the European Union has indicated that vaccinated Americans should be able to travel to Europe this summer. There’s a lot of talk about building a kind of international vaccine-recognition system. This is going to be weird and impractical. Are customs agents going to check your easily forged American vaccine card? How long will vaccination status grant one travel abilities? What about kids? There are thousands of questions that stand in the way of tourism industries that desperately need American travelers.

One hopes we’ll realize that vaccine uptake by itself is obviating the need for further COVID infrastructure.

Politics & Policy

Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger Boosted Racism by Embracing Racists

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Margaret Sanger in 1931 (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)

Margaret Sanger is finally getting some of the brickbats she is due. Even the head of Planned Parenthood recently acknowledged that Sanger’s actions and associations were blatantly racist.

But there is a pushback among some progressives who admit she may have been an outright eugenicist — but so many were in those days, don’t you know, as if that were an excuse. But at least she wasn’t an actual racist!

That’s the take of Politico’s Bill Scher, writing in RealClearPolitics. He waves off her embrace of eugenics (quoting historian Thomas C. Leonard) because it was “mainstream; it was popular to the point of faddishness; it was supported by leading figures in the still-emerging science of genetics; it appealed to an extraordinary range of political ideologies, not least to the progressives.” So, yes she was “ableist,” but not racist!

When you see all the evidence that Sanger rejected white supremacy, opposed discrimination and worked to overcome segregation, it’s easier to show how such statements are taken out of context. But when Planned Parenthood inaccurately suggests Sanger was a racist, putting statements in context becomes much harder. That doesn’t just damage Sanger’s reputation, it damages the efforts to prove the past and present goals of the reproductive rights movement are not intrinsically racist.

Well, that depends on how the term is defined. Certainly under current understandings of racism, she would easily qualify for the dreaded designation.

None other that Edwin Black, author of the authoritative history of the eugenics movement, War against the Weak, blasted Sanger for her close association with blatant racists. Black is an admirer of Sanger’s push for birth control, but as a historian with integrity, he admitted she enabled racism. Here are some excerpts. Get this, from page 127 (my emphasis):

Sanger was an ardent, self confessed eugenicist, and she would turn her otherwise noble birth control organizations into a tool for eugenics, which advocated mass sterilization of so-called defectives, mass incarceration of the unfit, and draconian immigration restrictions.  Like other staunch eugenicists, Sanger vigorously opposed charitable efforts to uplift the downtrodden and deprived, and argued extensively that that it was better that the cold and hungry be left without help, so that the eugenically superior could multiply without competition from “the unfit.”  She referred repeatedly to the lower classes and the unfit as “human waste” not worthy of assistance, and proudly quoted the extreme eugenics view that human “weeds” should be exterminated.

And this from page 133:

Sanger surrounded herself with some of the eugenics movement’s most outspoken racists and white supremacists. Chief among them was Lothrop Stoddard, author of The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy.  Stoddard’s book, devoted to the notion of a superior Nordic race, became eugenic gospel.  It warned, “‘Finally perish!’ That is the exact alternative that confronts the white race . . . . If white civilization goes down, the white race is irretrievably ruined. It will be swamped by the triumphant colored races, who will eliminate the white man by elimination or absorption. . . . We now know that men are not and never will be equal.”

We are known by the friends we keep, no? If one welcomes a pernicious racist as a valued colleague into one’s movement, if one happily hangs out with such a person, the defense that she was not “personally” racist rings as hollow as a Jack O’ Lantern pumpkin.

Black sums up on page 135:

Even though Sanger was not a racist or an anti-Semite herself, she openly welcomed the worst elements of both into the birth control movement.  This provided legitimacy and greater currency for a eugenics movement that thrived by subverting progressive reforms to achieve its goals of Nordic racial superiority and ethnic banishment for everyone else.

Sanger enabled racists.  Sanger gave them respectability. Sanger befriended them. Sanger viewed them as valued colleagues. Her wicked social Darwinism would have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on minority communities.

These days, that equals racist. Bottom line: Sanger rejected human exceptionalism and the intrinsic equality of all of us. That is indisputable and without defense. She deserves all the scorn she is finally receiving.

Culture

Bill Maher Blasts Young Progressives: ‘The Problem Is That Your Ideas Are Stupid’

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Bill Maher (HBO/YouTube)

On HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, Maher showed once again that he is the only late-night comic who is willing to say things his liberal audience probably doesn’t want to hear. In the course of lavishing praise on President Biden, whom he described as sharp, effective, and leading “the most transformative administration since FDR,” he blasted young people for being skeptical of Biden and also for being stupid in general:

America’s a young country [that doesn’t grasp] the most fundamental tradeoff. You’re beautiful when you’re young, wise when you’re old . . . if, as they say, you learn something new every day, it stands to reason that someone who’s logged 10,000 more days is gonna be in general a little wiser. . . . Biden is the right man for this moment precisely because he is old. You know why advertisers in this country love the 18 to 34 demographic? Because it’s the most gullible. Yeah. A third of people under 35 say they’re in favor of abolishing the police. Not defunding. But doing away with a police force altogether. Which is less of a policy position and more of a leg tattoo. Thirty-six percent of Millennials think it might be a good idea to try Communism. But much of the world did try Communism. I know Millennials think that doesn’t count because they weren’t alive when it happened. But it did happen. And there are people around who remember it. Pining for Communism is like pining for Betamax or MySpace. So when you say, ‘You’re old, you don’t get it,’ get what? Abolish the police and the border patrol and capitalism and cancel Lincoln? No, I get it. Problem isn’t that I don’t get what you’re saying, or that I’m old. The problem is that your ideas are stupid. If you say, ‘Let’s eat in the bathroom and s**t in the kitchen,’ yeah, that’s a new idea. But I wouldn’t call it interior design. You think someone 80 is hopeless because they can’t use an iPhone? Maybe the one who’s hopeless is the one who can’t stop using it. You think I’m out of it because I’m not on Twitch? Well, maybe I get Twitch, but I just think people watching other people play video games is a waste of f***ing time. Twenty percent of Gen Z agree with the statement, ‘Society would be better off it all property was owned by the public and managed by the government. And another 29 percent don’t know if that’s a good idea. Here’s who does know: Anyone who wasn’t born yesterday.

Law & the Courts

Freedom for What?

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

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments today in AFPF v. Rodriquez. It’s a case arising from the state of California’s requirement that non-profit organizations disclose their donors to state officials. The state finds itself opposed (as litigants or amici) by a staggeringly diverse array of non-profits — from libertarians to progressives, from pro-life groups to NARAL, from CAIR to the Human Rights Campaign. But as William Haun and Daniel Chen note today at Law & Liberty, the case raises questions that run well beyond the importance of anonymity to the very nature of what has come to be called the freedom of association.

Haun and Chen’s essay, which draws on an amicus brief in the case that they helped author for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is profound and illuminating. And at its core is a question about the basic character of the rights protected by the Bill of Rights, and of the purpose of such protection — a question worth taking even further than they do.

The term “freedom of association” has often been part of how we think about some of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that term is not itself in the text of the amendment. That text reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What we find here is a set of activities that are protected from the reach of the legislator. But what holds this set of activities together? What is the underlying, unifying good being protected?

The question is not as simple as it seems. You might say that this is about protecting civic engagement in a republican polity. But surely the first freedom — the freedom of religion, which is doubly protected — doesn’t simply fall into that category, even if the others do. You might think it’s about core individual rights. But the right to assemble and the freedom of the press aren’t exactly rights accruing to individuals, and I would argue that the freedom of religion is also incoherent as a purely individual right (though of course not everyone’s religion is as communal as my own).

The freedom of association has emerged as one way to think about some of the most important sorts of activities grouped together in the text. And over time, sometimes thinking of the First Amendment in tandem with the 14th, the courts have developed a further level of differentiation of those activities, which distinguishes a right to “intimate association” and a right to “expressive association.”

The right to intimate association protects familial and other very close communal settings. But the right to expressive association has come to encompass most of the circumstances in which it would make sense to describe First Amendment rights as involving a right of association. It is a particularly pertinent precedent for the case the Court is hearing today because the concept of expressive association first really emerged in the Court’s jurisprudence in the 1958 case of NAACP v. Patterson, in which the Court ruled against an Alabama law that required the NAACP to disclose its membership list.

And yet, as Haun and Chen note, the term “expressive association” suggests a very limited conception of what the rights grouped in the First Amendment really protect. To say that the freedom of association is in essence a freedom of expression is to imply that what citizens require in order to be free is a means of expression. This would be not only a radically incomplete understanding of freedom, but also an inadequate account of the logic of the Bill of Rights. The often underappreciated freedom to assemble begins to suggest why that is. As Haun and Chen put it:

This case provides the Supreme Court with an ideal opportunity to reground free association in the Assembly Clause and recognize that assemblies do not simply allow individuals to express themselves. Rather, they form citizens in the virtues that make and sustain self-government.

The freedoms protected by the First Amendment, in other words, guard the sorts of practices and institutions necessary to form the sorts of people our society requires. This is an insight that runs very deep, all the way to an anthropological assumption at the root of the conservative approach to political life. The assumption is that human beings start out crooked, imperfect, and unformed — prone to vice or sin — and so that we all need to be morally formed before we can be capable of freedom. That formation is what the core institutions of any society are for, and why they’re needed. That need is particularly acute in a liberal society like ours, because liberalism demands an extraordinary degree of responsibility and judgment, and yet liberal institutions by themselves do not necessarily produce people capable of those virtues in that degree. To produce such people requires the cooperation of liberal and pre-liberal institutions in society — political institutions, yes, but also (and more so) familial, communal, religious, educational, social, and cultural institutions.

The freedoms laid out in the First Amendment serve in part to protect our institutions and traditions of formation — to enable the development of the capacities we require to be responsible human beings and citizens. To describe what these institutions let us do as “expressive” is to overlook the anthropological assumption that underlies most of these institutions, or to reject it in favor of a shallower view. There is, after all, another kind of anthropology in which a liberal society could try to root itself. This view suggests that the human person is born ready to be free, and requires only liberation from the impositions of oppressive social strictures and some means for self-expression.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that the dispute between these two views of the nature of the human person is the question at issue in our culture wars, now and pretty much always. So it is no coincidence that in our time, when our culture wars are particularly intense and divisive, the institutions of moral and civic formation — family, religion, the school, the university, the press, the legislature, and more — find themselves mired in controversy and their basic character and sources of legitimacy demeaned and undermined.

The question of whether what the freedom of association protects is the capacity for formation or the capacity for expression is therefore a very serious question indeed. And it also forces us to consider the goals underlying the Bill of Rights, because our Constitution is itself unavoidably formative in part. The rights we recognize ourselves as possessing and the institutions built to guard them shape our understanding of who and what we are as individuals and as a people.

In fact, this formative potential proved important in persuading the father of the Constitution to come around to the value of a bill of rights in the first place. James Madison was originally suspicious of proposals to attach a bill of rights to the new Constitution, or at least dismissive of the need for doing so. But as Michael Zuckert argues in a wonderful recent essay, Madison came around to see the value of a bill of rights, and to champion its enactment when the new federal congress was ready to abandon the idea, because he came to understand its importance as more than just words on a page. Parchment barriers would never be enough to restrain an assertive majority. But the Bill of Rights is more than parchment. When he proposed the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights in the House, on June 8, 1789, Madison said:

It may be thought all paper barriers against the power of the community are too weak to be worthy of attention. I am sensible they are not so strong as to satisfy gentlemen of every description who have seen and examined thoroughly the texture of such a defence; yet, as they have a tendency to impress some degree of respect for them, to establish the public opinion in their favor, and rouse the attention of the whole community, it may be one means to control the majority from those acts to which they might be otherwise inclined.

The people shape the Constitution, but the Constitution also shapes the people. So the Bill of Rights is not only a function of a set of assumptions about what a free society involves, it is also a means of formation of the kinds of people a free society requires.

The rights often grouped under the rubric of the freedom of association are particularly worth understanding in this light, and that understanding should suggest to us one crucial underlying purpose of that freedom. We should think of these rights not only in terms of expressive association but also in terms of formative association. They protect our society’s capacity to form free people, who are after all the essential precondition for a free society. Even the freedom of speech, let alone those of religion, assembly, petition, and the press, needs to be understood in part as a freedom to engage in those activities that enable us to become the kind of people necessary for self-government — and indeed for human flourishing under the conditions of an ordered liberty.

Wherever the Court comes down on the particular issue before it today, this broader understanding of the purpose of the freedoms guarded by the First Amendment should inform our sense of what it takes to be genuinely free people, and why the liberal society requires more than liberalism for its preservation.

World

Never Tell John Kerry Anything

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Then–secretary of state John Kerry speaks about the Iran nuclear deal during an event in New York City, August 11, 2015. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Buried fairly deep in the New York Times’ story about a leaked tape that shows Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, describing a rivalry with a powerful and widely revered military leader, Qasem Soleimani:

Former Secretary of State John Kerry informed [Zarif] that Israel had attacked Iranian interests in Syria at least 200 times, to his astonishment, Mr. Zarif said.

Was it official U.S. policy to inform the Iranian government — most certainly not an ally — about the covert military actions of the Israeli government — most certainly an ally? Was this an Obama administration initiative designed to win over the Iranians by spilling the beans on the Israelis, or was this John Kerry freelancing and just blurting out whatever he had been told in his classified briefings?

Just what was the objective of telling the Iranian government this? (The Iranians probably suspected the Israelis in all 200 or so cases, anyway.)

Economy & Business

Women’s Workforce Participation in the Pandemic

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Herewith, two charts summarizing important aspects of how the pandemic and associated lockdowns and social distancing affected women differently than men.

This chart shows workforce participation rates for women and for men for each month since February 2020. The rates are scaled relative to February 2020. So, for example, the value for women of around 94.5 in April 2020 means that women’s participation in the workforce was 5.5 percent lower in April than it was two months earlier, in February.

It’s immediately clear that women were hit harder than men when the lockdowns began. The surge of economic activity over the summer equalized rates for men and women, but as the pandemic wore on the gap reopened.

Fortunately, that gap is almost closed, with both male and female workforce participation rates about three percent lower than February 2020. Three percent is a lot, but my expectation is that that gap will continue to close over the next several months.

Now check out workforce participation for women with children in the graph below, made by economists at Moody’s.

Women without kids are less than one percent below their February 2020 workforce participation rate. Women with kids have made essentially no progress over the past year.

All the more reason to get schools and child-care facilities opened everywhere.

Education

The Pseudo-Scandal Over a UNC Chancellorship

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Students walk at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., September 20, 2018. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

In North Carolina, there’s a furor over the recent selection of Darrell Allison as chancellor of Fayetteville State University, one of the UNC system institutions. The “progressives” are howling mad and perhaps that’s a good sign.

In today’s Martin Center article, Jay Schalin looks into the controversy.

One complaint coming from the leftists is that Allison lacks academic experience and doesn’t have a Ph.D.

Schalin’s riposte: “Much of the work on campus that requires some academic expertise is handled by provosts and deans; the president largely manages people and money. What the job needs is high-level organizational and communication skills, both of which Allison would have developed over the years, given his background. While Allison has not been directly employed in academia, he is no stranger to the world of education, having spent the last 16 years working for school choice and charter schools as the North Carolina President of Parents for Educational Freedom and, more recently, as a director with the American Federation for Children. He has also gained insight into higher education by serving on the board of trustees of his alma mater, North Carolina Central University, and on the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors (BOG).”

He points to the fact that there have been highly successful higher-education leaders who did not come up through the academic ranks, such as Mitch Daniels at Purdue.

Moreover, not having been steeped in the culture of higher education could be a very good thing, Schalin argues. “Mandating that top administrators can only serve if selected or approved by academics increases the danger that academia will remain locked forever in an endless loop of narrow conformity. Those who spend their entire adult lives in academia and move up in the hierarchy tend to share a common set of beliefs that is often at odds with the rest of society; reform and rejuvenation will not come from inside the academy.”

Indeed so. The “progressives” who delight in using our education systems as training grounds for people who share their vision don’t want to lose their hold on power.

Schalin rightly concludes, “The fact that his appointment was legal and ethical according to both statute and tradition does not matter to the left. The academic zeitgeist is moving away from universal principles to power relations. Allison’s appointment—and the attempt to delegitimize it—should be viewed in that light.”

Law & the Courts

Knives, Guns, and Shots to the Leg, Cont’d: An Officer’s View of One Case

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Bodycamera footage showing Ma’Khia Bryant swinging a knife before being shot by Columbus Police. (Screengrab from The Hill/YouTube)

Having watched body-cam footage of the shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, I find it right to conclude — as some of my colleagues at NR have done — that Officer Nicholas Reardon had no reasonable option but to open fire and could not have been expected to aim for Bryant’s legs. Bryant, wielding a knife, was lunging at another woman who was very close to her, and the entire episode, from lunge to firearm discharge, happened in just a few seconds. I don’t know how Reardon could have protected Bryant’s probable victim from death or grave bodily injury by aiming at Bryant’s legs. (If you watch the footage and change “legs” to “leg,” the unreasonableness of the expectation becomes even more patent.) I have never been a lawyer or a policeman, but such are the impressions of this lay observer.

Part of what’s so difficult about discussing police uses of force, however, is that most of the terms and phrases with which we describe them cover a wide range of cases. There are many ways to wield a knife, and many contexts in which to fire at a knife-wielding person.

I would suggest that, as a way of perceiving the reality of these ambiguities, you consider watching video footage of the 2012 police shooting of Milton Hall in Saginaw, Mich. Hall also had a knife, but the confrontation happened in glacially slow motion compared with the events that led to Bryant’s death. I myself always feel a strong aversion to watching people get killed, as a matter of respect for the dead and because of my feeling that one might not wish to have one’s worst experiences witnessed unnecessarily. So I also offer a description of the shooting, from an article I wrote for The Atlantic’s website a few years ago about the elasticity of use-of-force standards:

On July 1, 2012, Milton Hall, a homeless man with a history of mental illness, stole a cup of coffee from a convenience store in Saginaw, Michigan. The store’s clerk called 911. When an officer arrived, Hall produced a knife with a three-inch blade and threatened her with it. She called for backup and seven other officers soon joined her, one of them with a police dog. They formed an arc around Hall and aimed their firearms — pistols and a rifle — at him. The standoff continued for several minutes, with the officers repeatedly asking Hall to put the knife down and Hall repeatedly refusing. Finally, Hall, still wielding his knife, began to walk toward the police dog and the K9 officer. After he had taken a few steps — three, by my count, as I watch video footage from a patrol car’s dashboard camera and available on YouTube — the officers shot Hall to death in a volley of 47 bullets.

From later in the article:

I asked Chris Gebhardt, a former lieutenant with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., and later a SWAT-team leader in Utah, what he thought. “The officers had a K9 there,” Gebhardt answered. “Release the dog and let it do its job.” By choosing instead to open fire, he explained, “they have basically said that a dog’s life is more valuable than a human’s.” Indeed, in the moments immediately before his death, Hall seems mainly to have been confronting the dog. Michael Thomas, Saginaw County prosecutor at the time, conceded as much when he announced at a press conference that he would not file charges against the officers. (Hall’s mother later sued the city and the officers for wrongful death and received a settlement of $725,000.) “This dog handler and this dog in particular seem to be what [Hall] was directing his attention to,” Thomas said.

Thomas emphasized that, according to two witnesses, “the police dog and the police-dog handler” were two to three feet away from Hall at the closest point. But they could not have been equidistant from him, since the dog stood between the handler and Hall. As the video makes apparent, the handler began to walk the dog backward as Hall approached, maintaining his distance from Hall; and when the shots were fired, Hall was clearly more than two or three feet away from the dog. Thomas’s failure to acknowledge any of these facts supports Gebhardt’s observation that the dog’s life was considered more valuable than Hall’s. (Thomas did not respond to an email or a voice message requesting comment.)

Today, I’d like to present the full set of comments by Gebhardt from which I extracted the quotations above, because they include a remark about the possibility of shooting at one of Hall’s legs that I didn’t include in the article. Gebhardt emailed me:

Milton Hall is a sad case. The officers had a K9 there. Release the dog and let it do its job. They have basically said that a dog’s life is more valuable than a human’s. Milton obviously had some mental instability but that does [not] make him a lesser human. Critical Thinking applied to his case would have caused a two man team to approach him. One with a TASER and another with lethal cover. Get close enough to use the TASER. If he approaches with the knife, then shoot. Also, from that distance and with that many officers, including one armed with a rifle, why not apply a tactical shot from the rifle to his leg? Rifles are insanely accurate and he was not dancing around much. It is an easy shot. Give me 30 minutes with any shooter and I’ll have them dialed in to take that shot. These officers were only thinking one thing: if he doesn’t drop that knife, I’m going to shoot him.

I don’t deny that reasonable people, civilians or police officers, might disagree about the practicality of taking a shot at Hall’s leg, along with other aspects of Gebhardt’s analysis. But this is a perspective worth considering, from someone who has direct experience of these tremendously difficult situations — as most of us mere scribblers never will.

Another perspective I heard at the time came from Mark Fancher, an attorney with the Michigan ACLU, who noted that police dogs can do tremendous damage to a human being and believed that deescalation techniques might well have made a fatal or injurious confrontation unnecessary.

World

A Great Anti-Trafficker

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People walk past a brothel in Amsterdam, April 3, 2019. (Yves Herman / Reuters)

Donna Hughes is an exceptional person, someone I have admired for many years. She is an academic, a feminist, an activist — a great foe of human trafficking, prostitution, porn, and all the rest of it. I have done a Q&A podcast with her, here.

She is a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island. As her bio says, she is “one of the founders of the academic study of human trafficking.” In 2016, she started a publication called “Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence.”

Donna Hughes grew up on a farm in central Pennsylvania. In college, she majored in animal science. Later, she earned a Ph.D. in genetics. Indeed, she taught genetics for a while.

But she had a strong and growing interest in feminism and women’s issues. In her hometown, she volunteered at a rape crisis center. She saw a lot and learned a lot. Ultimately, she dedicated her life to this terrible subject of violence against women.

In our podcast, she stresses that sex trafficking is a form of violence. Legal prostitution, she considers “legalized abuse.”

She talks about how girls and women are recruited into prostitution. (Donna has no time for such euphemisms as “sex work,” and neither do I.) Social media make recruitment a lot easier, unfortunately. And once you get in, it’s hard to get out. Donna met someone along the way who said, “Trying to quit prostitution is like trying to quit the mob.”

After prostitutes “age out,” they often become recruiters and pimps themselves. It is the life they know, the life they are trapped in.

The work that Donna Hughes does is very important — invaluable — but it is also very difficult. For one thing, you are immersed in cruelty, depravity, and horror. But Donna speaks eloquently about one silver lining of the work: “It brings you into contact with the absolute best people in the world.” Donna has many foes, but also wonderful allies. “I get to meet some of the most courageous and moral people in the world, who aren’t afraid to look evil in the eye and say no.”

In recent days, Professor Hughes has been embroiled in controversy. You might say that her entire career has been an embroilment in controversy — but she really set the cat among the pigeons when she published a piece called “Fantasy Worlds on the Political Right and Left: QAnon and Trans-Sex Beliefs.” “A tsunami hit,” as she puts it in our podcast.

Donna has a scientific background, as you know. She says that people cannot change their sex. As you also know, she disdains euphemisms — words and phrases that fuzz up reality. Take “top surgery.” No, we’re talking about a double radical mastectomy. “People who menstruate.” Oh, come on.

By the way, CBS News published a headline on Saturday: “New CDC guidance recommends pregnant people get the COVID-19 vaccine.” (Article here.) That word “people” strikes some of us as creepy.

Donna Hughes maintains that girls are being seduced and exploited by the trans-gender movement the same as they are by the “sex industry.”

When her article was published, petitions circulated, calling for her to be fired. The administration of her university denounced her to the press. The head of her program denounced her to students. And so on and so forth.

But Donna Hughes is no violet, and she has stood tall. You will want to meet her, hear her: again, here.

Law & the Courts

‘Shoot ’Em in the Leg’

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Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 17, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters)

Representative Karen Bass (D., Calif.) trotted out a well-worn platitude while discussing police reform on Fox News Sunday.

Channeling President Joe Biden, Bass seemed to suggest that police shouldn’t be trained to shoot to kill, and asked why officers confronting a potentially life threatening situation don’t just “shoot him in the leg.”

She stressed that police should receive more “de-escalation” training, which is fair enough, but once a police officer feels he needs to fire his weapon, the opportunity to de-escalate has probably passed.

While Bass was speaking in general terms, the question about police reform was put to her in the context of the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting. Had the Columbus officer who fatally shot Bryant opted to shoot her in the leg instead, there’s a decent chance that the knife she had drawn back would have found its target.

As Dan McLaughlin has explained, Bass’s advice is terrible for reasons not worth repeating here. I’ll only note that it should concern everyone that the woman put forward by Democrats to help lead police-reform negotiations seems to believe that “shoot ’em in the leg” is useful advice for police officers.

It’s the kind of “solution” politicians specialize in: It sounds like a great idea unless you think about it for more than 30 seconds. And it has to make you wonder whether Bass has ever spoken to a police officer about police reform.

World

Biden and the Armenian Genocide

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In front of the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., after President Joe Biden recognized the Armenian genocide, April 24, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Bravo to President Biden for finally using the word “genocide” in commemorating the Armenian Genocide. (President Reagan referred to “the genocide of the Armenians” a few months after taking office, in a commemoration of the Holocaust, but neither he nor his successors ever did again until today.) I’ll resist the temptation of “even a stopped clock” snark and commend the president unreservedly for doing the right thing.

The reason for our government’s longstanding reluctance to describe the Ottoman Turk regime’s actions as genocide (the word was literally invented to describe the Armenian Genocide) was the need to placate Turkey during the Cold War. Turkey so desperately clings to the lie that no genocide occurred (claiming, accurately but incompletely, that there was a war on and people died on all sides) because without the extermination of the Armenians, and the remaining Greeks and Assyrians in Anatolia, a Turkish national state could not really exist in its current form. In other words, while today’s Turkish Republic did not perpetrate the genocide, it is the direct product of genocide, in a way that is unique in the bloody, nasty course of human history — fundamentally different from Europeans overwhelming the Indians in the Americas, or the Romans in Gaul, or the Bantu in central and southern Africa, or even the Turks themselves pouring into what we now call “Turkey” after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

So while the Turks’ sensitivity on the subject has a certain logic to it (unlike the ChiCom insistence on “one China”), the dissolution of the Soviet Union freed us from having to cater to them. But we persisted, seeking Turkey’s help in our expeditionary wars in the Middle East. Under President Erdogan, however, Turkey has become what can only be described as an enemy of the United States. Our “alliance” with Turkey, based on the now-all-but-meaningless NATO Treaty of 1949, is a fiction, given Erdogan’s support for and employment of jihadists in Syria, Palestine, Azerbaijan, and Libya, among other reasons.

It does not detract from Biden’s move to note that it was the culmination of a process caused by Turkey’s growing hostility toward the United States. In 2019, for instance, President Trump was still unwilling to use the G word for the usual diplomatic reasons, but congressional Republicans had had enough of Turkey’s antics, and virtually all of them joined Democrats to pass the first-ever resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.

What’s likely to be Turkey’s response? Panjandrums like John Kerry told us for decades that moving our embassy to Israel’s capital city would result in disaster. It didn’t. The same people told us that describing a defunct regime’s actions as genocide would likewise be disastrous. It won’t.

Religion

Something Beautiful for Marriage and Hope

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The family behind Witness to Love, a successful, inspiring, growing marriage-mentoring ministry (Courtesy of the Verret Family)

Friday was my first board meeting as a new board member for Witness to Love, a marriage ministry that uses a mentorship model. I’ve been a fan since 2014, when they were just really getting started – their ten-year anniversary is this year. It’s been amazing to watch their growth, and more so, it’s been so beautiful and inspiring to see how people have been so blessed by it. When so much can look so bleak, what a gift it is to see something that works, a humble yet bold and successful ministry that helps people, meets needs, and started around a family kitchen table. Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret are the founders, and goodness their love is a love for the Church. They really are about love and renewal and the Christian mission. Their family is such a beautiful reminder that God has not given up on us, even if we would if we were God.

Check it out here. And if you are a pray-er, please pray for the mission, because goodness do we need healthy families. And the beautiful thing about Witness to Love is it’s not just the engaged couple who benefits, but the mentor couple.

Something encouraging out there!

Religion

Reading Scripture Keeps Hope Alive: If Saul Could Become St. Paul, Why Do We Worry So Much about Everything?

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Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City (Kathryn Jean Lopez)

The first reading at Mass today was the conversion of St. Paul. They just happened to need a reader at the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral where I was in lower Manhattan, and goodness, what a gift. To be able to read those awesome words in such a majestic place! (The Gothic Revival church was the original cathedral for Catholics in New York, until the current Midtown cathedral opened in 1879.)  Anyway, I’d recommend reading the reading from Acts, even if you’ve read it many times, especially out loud, if you can.

If God could make of Saul, St. Paul, anything is possible. For Christians, Easter continues, and is an amazing invitation to let ourselves be changed even in some small way as Paul was.

Also, as some of you know, the persecuted Church is very close to my heart. And in a renewed way today, I couldn’t help but think how close Paul must be to them from Heaven as an intercessor, having been on both sides of Christian persecution.

National Review

Remembering Kate the Great

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Kate O’Beirne in Ephesus (National Review)

Today’s the fourth anniversary of the death of Kate O’Beirne, dear friend and mentor to a number of us at National Review. She was former Washington editor and then National Review Institute president. I first met her when I was an intern at the Heritage Foundation. (Our first conversation may have been in the ladies’ room closest to Government Relations there.) Anyway, she was amazing, and I’m not alone in missing her every day. I still want to hear what clever take she would have on something or another. But mostly I miss her physical presence. I miss praying with her in churches around the world. I think the most beautiful time I had with her and her husband, Jim, was at Mary’s House in Ephesus — where John is believed to have lived with the Blessed Mother after the crucifixion of Jesus.

I don’t think I could ever forget my last moments in her presence, which has made me even more convicted about the need to protect life at the end, and why the separation people had to have from their loved ones dying this past year has been so cruel. (I don’t know if it could have been handled differently, but it was one of the violences of the coronavirus pandemic.) I also feel in my being like it is today, the glory of the moment I learned she had just died – I was as Mass and the Alleluias were resplendent, and such a consolation in the agony of knowing she’d never be with us in the same way again. If I make it to Heaven, I look forward to the reunion. And goodness, one cannot help but to grow in gratitude remembering what a gift it was to imperfectly love and be loved by her. I hope she is in the presence of the Father, knowing His gaze perfectly. Maybe in prayer, she can share Kate’s Take (I think that was a column we ran on NRO for a while — I’m just remembering as I write!) on the gaze of God the Father.

If you did not have the blessing of knowing Kate, you can read about her here.

Immigration

Immigrants and Education

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The idea of an “America First Caucus” in the House has been shelved. Henry Olsen says good riddance to it. In the course of his denunciation, he draws attention to a statement that was supposed to accompany the group’s founding, which includes the line, “An important distinction between post-1965 immigrants and previous waves of settlers is that previous cohorts were more educated, earned higher wages, and did not have an expansive welfare state to fall back on when they could not make it in America and thus did not stay in the country at the expense of the native-born.”

Olsen doesn’t linger on the point, but this statement is mistaken. As Pew Research noted a few years ago, immigrants “are better educated than ever, due in part to rising levels of schooling in many of the countries they came from and an influx of high-skilled workers to the U.S. in recent years, especially from Asia.” A report for the Center for Immigration Studies from around the same time concurred with this assessment but explained that from 1970 to at least 2000, immigrants’ education level relative to U.S. natives had dropped. The gap shrank, however, from 2007 to 2017.

Our immigration policies aren’t particularly well-suited to our economic needs. But today’s immigrants have significantly more schooling than those of yesteryear, just as you’d expect considering global trends in education.

Law & the Courts

The Supreme Court Puts More Teeth in the Appointments Clause

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(Leah Millis/Reuters)

One area of law that the Roberts Court has taken seriously is the structural Constitution: the Appointments Clause, the separation of powers, and the administrative state. There is a lot of work to be done in restoring the proper constitutional balance, and Chief Justice John Roberts himself has too often shied away from strong remedies for violations, but there is reason for optimism that the Court will not just sweep these issues under the rug over the next few years. The unanimous result yesterday in Carr v. Saul, with a majority opinion written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, is another small but positive step in that direction.

Carr involved an Appointments Clause challenge to Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who conduct hearings for the Social Security Administration on whether individuals were entitled to disability benefits. The Court’s 2018 decision in Lucia v. SEC ruled that ALJs of the Securities and Exchange Commission were “Officers of the United States” who could constitutionally only be appointed by the president, the courts, or the head of a department.  The SSA’s ALJs were similarly appointed, so they were potentially subject to the same challenge. But Social Security disability hearings are typically not high-powered court proceedings; before Lucia, many claimants had not thought to raise a constitutional challenge under the Appointments Clause. Thus, a whole lot of people had their benefits decisions made by ALJs who were unconstitutionally appointed. Could they still object after the fact? The Constitution’s text and history say nothing about the question, so the Justices had to rely on judge-made practical rules about when objections could be preserved in the appellate process.

Expanding on a plurality decision from 2000, Sims v. Apfel, which involved requirements for raising issues before the SSA’s Appeals Council, the Court unanimously agreed that Appointments Clause challenges can be raised later than the ALJ hearing, with only Justice Stephen Breyer expressing some modest hesitancy about the outcome. As Justice Sotomayor noted, quoting Sims, SSA hearings are “inquisitorial rather than adversarial.” Justice Thomas, joined by Justices Gorsuch and Barrett, agreed — “Hearings are so informal that lawyers, briefs, and even attendance are often optional” — and would have ended the decision there. The rest of the Court, however, took an even broader view that did not depend on the particular nature of the SSA process: It would be futile to require raising constitutional challenges before ALJs, both because they are ill-equipped to decide constitutional questions, and because they had no power to order a remedy if they agreed that their own appointments were invalid:

This Court has often observed that agency adjudications are generally ill suited to address structural constitutional challenges, which usually fall outside the adjudicators’ areas of technical expertise. . . . It makes little sense to require litigants to present claims to adjudicators who are powerless to grant the relief requested. . . . Petitioners assert purely constitutional claims about which SSA ALJs have no special expertise and for which they can provide no relief. . . . The SSA’s administrative review scheme at no point afforded petitioners access to the Commissioner, the one person who could remedy their Appointments Clause challenges. Nor were the ALJs capable of remedying any defects in their own appointments. After all, there were no Commissioner-appointed ALJs to whom objecting claimants’ cases could be transferred, and the ALJs could not very well have reappointed themselves.

Music

R.I.P., Jim Steinman

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Jim Steinman — the fantastic songwriter who brought us theatrical, bombastic, and often lengthy hits ranging from “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” — passed away this week. It’s depressing news for those of who scoff at the idea that rock music could ever be “overblown,” too absurd, or too far over the top.

The great tragedy of Steinman’s career is that more of his prime wasn’t spent working with Meat Loaf, as the two complemented each other perfectly. After 1977’s Bat Out of Hell and a little-noticed follow-up (Dead Ringer), they didn’t do a record together again until 1993’s spectacular Bat Out of Hell II, and they soon parted ways once more.

Meat Loaf sang numerous Steinman songs on other albums, mostly tracks from other projects Steinman had been involved with — but it was never really the same. Nor was Braver Than We Are, from 2016: The two were working together again, but mostly on old material, and Meat’s voice had understandably deteriorated by that point.

Both artists have had successes on their own. Steinman’s songs have fueled the careers of everyone from Air Supply to Celine Dion, while Meat Loaf had some great tracks with other songwriters. But they were always best together.

May Steinman rest in peace.

Update: Rolling Stone has a long, emotional interview with Meat Loaf about Steinman’s passing and the obstacles that kept them from working together more.

Media

The Washington Post ‘Reports’ on Biden Policy to Let Men into Women’s Shelters

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President Biden participates in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wis., February 16, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

In a news article yesterday evening, Washington Post reporter Tracy Jan — who covers “the intersection between race and the economy” — managed to pack an impressive number of left-wing talking points into a mere 700 words.

The article was intended, it seems, to report on news that President Joe Biden will withdraw a Trump-administration Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposal that would have allowed homeless shelters to serve individuals based on their biological sex. Instead of describing the policy accurately or acknowledging the entirely reasonable intention behind it — chiefly, to protect the safety and privacy rights of women — the Post presents progressive arguments as if they were fact.

Consider the article’s title: “Biden administration withdraws Trump-era proposal to allow homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender people.”

It is a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact, that allowing a shelter to serve biological women constitutes “discrimination” against those who identify as transgender. Absent ideological bias, a reporter would point out that there are circumstances when a homeless shelter might reasonably serve only biological women, such as when a shelter is designed to house victims of domestic abuse or sex trafficking.

Though the Trump-administration’s proposed rule did not suggest that biological men who identify as women pose a particular risk, the administration offered anecdotes suggesting that vulnerable women might rightly fear that some men would exploit gender-identity policies to enter single-sex spaces.

For instance, the administration cited a lawsuit in Anchorage, Alaska, where city officials used gender-identity regulations to force a local women’s shelter to house biological males who identified as women. Trump’s proposed rule also noted a civil complaint from nine homeless women in Fresno, Calif., who alleged that a local homeless shelter “enabled sexual harassment because a biological male who self-identified as a female entered a homeless shelter and showered with females.”

Reading the Post’s article, one would have no idea that these things ever took place. Instead, Jan describes Trump’s proposed policy as an “attempt to roll back civil rights protections,” accusing the administration of “accommodating only people whose sex assigned at birth matches those served by single-sex homeless shelters.”

This phrasing mirrors a similarly biased news report in CNN last month, in which a news writer claimed that “it’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.”

The Post’s article includes a single quote from Ben Carson, defending the proposal he shepherded at HUD, alongside several quotes from Biden officials and another from a self-proclaimed “transgender advocate.” Meanwhile, Jan presents uncritically a Biden official’s assertion that it would be “inappropriate, traumatic and intrusive” to require an individual to share their biological sex before being admitted to a shelter.

Determined to expose herself as an ideologue, Jan goes on to describe the initial Obama-administration policy — which compelled all homeless shelters to serve individuals based on self-described gender identity rather than biological sex — as an effort to “take into account the difference between actual and perceived gender identity and clarified that sex-based discrimination could be motivated by perceived nonconformity with gender stereotypes.”

These sorts of assertions, far from clarifying anything about the policy debate at hand, are unmoored from scientific reality and better suited for opinion columns than for news article. At the Post, it’s getting harder to tell the difference.

Politics & Policy

How FDR Won the War Over the Courts

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt circa 1933 (Library of Congress)

Charles Lipson makes the point that the failure of FDR’s court-packing plan to become law did not stop him from winning “the much bigger struggle to ratify his New Deal initiatives as constitutional.” He believes that the threat of Court-packing was crucial to this victory. That’s the subject of considerable scholarly debate; I’ve offered some reasons for skepticism.

Lipson’s account, though, reminded me of something else worth mentioning: The main way FDR won the war was by making appointment after appointment to the Supreme Court. Lipson laments Wickard v. Filburn, the 1942 decision upholding federal regulation of a farmer’s growing of wheat for his own farm animals. Of the eight justices who unanimously decided that case, FDR had appointed six. All six were appointed after the defeat of the Court-packing plan.

Lipson suggests that FDR had so many opportunities to make nominations because conservatives retired once his intimidation broke the back of the Court’s resistance to the New Deal. Maybe so — although it’s worth noting that three of the “four horsemen,” as the conservative bloc of justices were nicknamed, had died before Wickard.

But let’s bracket off the question of whether the Court-packing threat aided FDR’s judicial project. Even if it was a useful tactic, it wasn’t the main reason he won. When a party wins three presidential elections in a row and controls Congress by large margins, it’s going to have a good shot at reshaping the Supreme Court.

If Democrats achieve that kind of political dominance in this decade, they will win our era’s judicial wars, too. The failure of Court-packing in the 1930s should be at least somewhat reassuring to conservatives. So, even more, should be the lack of similarity between the 1932 and 2020 elections.

The Embarrassing Attacks on Senator Tim Scott

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Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) speaks in Washington, D.C. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

There’s a certain kind of political observer that becomes not only frustrated, but consumed by the existence of black conservatives. It’s an angry club with no partisan allegiance, and it has come out in full force after it was announced that Senator Tim Scott would be delivering the GOP response to the speech President Biden will make to a Joint Session of Congress next week.

First, a few characters from the grifter, vice-signaling right made their displeasure known. Dave Reaboi lamented Scott’s selection by calling it “so typically GOP—’hey, let’s get a black guy to push back on the Left’s assertion

Politics & Policy

Victor Davis Hanson on the Ruining of America

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The “Field of flags” on the National Mall in front of the Capitol building ahead of inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2021. (Allison Shelley/Reuters)

In his famous The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith observed that “there is much ruin in a nation.” What he meant was that a successful country can withstand quite a bit of bad governance because its basic institutions are sound and the people resilient.

True, but the ability to withstand bad governance is not infinite. In this article, Victor Davis Hanson reflects on the wrecking ball that the Biden administration has unleashed on us.

Among other reasons for fear, Hanson writes, “Our public schools and colleges are systematically downplaying meritocratic curricula and substituting ideological, racial, and cultural litmus tests. Admissions now often hinge as much on race, gender, and ethnicity as on quantifiable achievement. The First Amendment and Fifth Amendment, covering free speech and due process, have vanished from most college campuses.”

Read the whole thing.

American leftists used to be content to siphon away some of the productivity of our mostly free society to lavish on their pet projects and constituencies. But within the last couple of decades, they have mostly been replaced by people so consumed with hatred against everything that’s part of our tradition that they desire to tear it all down. Unless they are stopped, our future is bleak.

Impromptus

‘Just a Skosh!’

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Jordan Spieth at the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., on April 9, 2021 (Mike Segar / Reuters)

My Impromptus today has a variety, as the column is supposed to do. It begins with the question of workers — the “working class” and “working-class values.” What are those values, by the way? Marco Rubio is one politician who speaks of “working-class values.” How did they differ from middle-class ones? Upper-class ones? General, true-blue, four-square American ones?

Does everyone in each “class” agree? Or are people more like . . . individuals, with their own thoughts, their own likes, their own dislikes?

Another subject in my column today is lefty parents and their leftier, or woker, children. What a drag it must be to consider yourself a good “progressive,” lifelong, only to have your son or daughter consider you Archie Bunker (if your son or daughter knew who Archie Bunker was).

Okay, let’s have some mail, re past writings.

Toward the end of my piece on TV theme music, I wrote, “Obviously, I could go on and on, having left dozens of worthy themes unmentioned. (Scores of them, you might quip.)” I was not doing a complete list, or drawing up a directory. I was basically writing an essay, using some themes as examples.

Yet the mail came — mail of the kind that said, “How could you have left out . . .?” I would say the themes most often cited, as having been left out, were those to Star Trek, Dragnet, and Batman.

Then there was “If I Owned a Sports Team: One man’s fantasy.” Let me quote one response, real quick:

I would argue that the atmosphere you describe — the atmosphere you fantasize about — exists already, for the most part. I’m talking about Nebraska Cornhuskers football. We clap for the opposing team when the game is over, win or lose. The stadium has been sold out for nearly 400 games in a row. No alcohol is sold. The fans are engaged.

Our reader links to an article — this one: “ESPN analyst wowed by Husker fans.”

In an Impromptus, I wrote of initials that were once associated with one thing that are now associated with something else. Take BLM. Bureau of Land Management? No. How about STD? Short-term disability? No. (By those initials, most people mean “sexually transmitted disease.”)

A reader writes,

You have reminded me of a teacher of mine. He was a Cistercian monk from Hungary who taught classes in sacred music. He had a deep, slow voice, and a thick accent. In the first class of the semester, he gave us some of his biography. The standout tidbit was, “I received my STD in Rome.”

As it turns out, these initials can also mean “Doctor of Sacred Theology” (or “Sacrae Theologiae Doctor”).

Heh.

At the Masters this month, Jordan Spieth cried out, “Just a skosh!” I had never heard the expression — never heard the word “skosh.” As I mentioned in my column, it means “a little,” “a smidge.” Many readers wrote to point out the origin of the word. I will quote from Merriam-Webster:

The word skosh comes from the Japanese word sukoshi, which is pronounced “skoh shee” and means “a tiny bit” or “a small amount.” The Japanese word was shortened by U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan after World War II. Later, in the Korean War, a small soldier was often nicknamed “Skosh.”

This year, a Japanese player, Hideki Matsuyama, won the Masters. So — Japan and Japanese are in the air, somehow.

Thanks once more to all readers and correspondents, and, again, today’s Impromptus is here.

Economics

Biden Wants Rich Investors to Pay Truly Insane Tax Rates

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As Zachary Evans notes, Biden has a proposal in the works that would approximately double the capital-gains tax for wealthy investors, those making more than a million dollars a year. Including an existing 3.8 percent surcharge on investment income, these folks would face a rate of about 43 percent. Add in state taxes and the rate goes even higher. A version of this idea was previously part of the president’s campaign, so it’s not shocking news, but stocks tanked in response anyway.

One point to add: The capital-gains tax has always interacted poorly with the corporate tax, which Biden also wants to hike, from 21 percent to 28 percent. Combined, the two proposals lead to downright insane tax rates.

Basically, corporate profits are taxed before they can be paid as dividends* or reinvested to grow the company, so capital-gains taxes are a second layer of taxation. If profits are taxed at 28 percent at the corporate level, and then rich investors lose 43 percent of what they earn, that works out to a 59 percent “integrated” rate. That’s one high rate, even if it applies only to rich people who invest in corporations.

See this Tax Foundation piece for some similar math, including state taxes, on Biden’s campaign plan.

* “Qualified” dividends are taxed at the capital-gains rate, and the campaign version of Biden’s plan included them in its hike of the capital-gains tax. As the New York Times notes, however, the leaked details are not explicit as to whether this is still the case.

Education

The Academic Wreckers Target Music

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I have read that when Isaac Stern went to China in 1976 to play a recital, no working piano could be found in Beijing for his accompanist. Chairman Mao’s anti-western zealots had ruined them all.

That same spirit of mindless wrecking is alive and well in academia today. Classical music is under attack for being “oppressive” to people of color. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor David Lewis Schaefer calls out this lunacy.

He writes, “As reported in The Post Millennial, ‘woke’ professors at Oxford University are advocating a ban on the use of sheet music as well as an end to the curricular focus on classical European composers—lest the institution continue to be complicit in ‘white supremacy.’”

Even musical notation is guilty. Supposedly, it helps perpetuate colonialism.

The curriculum for music students needs to be changed because it “centers white European music.” As we all know, the music of Bach causes distress to students of color.

Pushing back against the “woke” wreckers, Schaefer refers readers to Frederick Douglass. “The game of expunging every aspect of so-called Eurocentrism,” Schaefer writes, “is one that can be played without end. In this connection, however, it is worth considering, by way of contrast, an 1849 essay called “The Destiny of Colored Americans” by the great ex-slave, abolitionist, and post-Civil War agitator for civil rights Frederick Douglass, in his periodical The North Star.”

Douglass utterly rejected the idea that emancipating black people required overthrowing Western culture.

Schaefer concludes by quoting from a paper submitted by one of his students, a young man who is interested in music. “Additionally, if sheet music is white supremacy, then successful black composers like André Thomas, Rosephanye Powell, Ysaye Barnwell, and Andraé Crouch would also be complicit. There is a place in the university to learn about different musical traditions across the world that don’t use notation, but saying that sheet music is a form of white supremacy is just ridiculous.”

The “woke” academics are being ridiculous, but are too absorbed in their self-righteousness to see it.

Media

‘Crisis’ at Politico

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Things that have recently been described as “crises” in Politico: Empty retail space. Threats to the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. Widespread wage cuts. The condition of rural America. A cyberhack of the federal government. The decline in the size and morale of the Capitol Police. Climate change. The drug epidemic. The position of the Spanish monarchy. The coup in Myanmar. The state of child care.

Things that are not to be described as crises in Politico: The “present situation” at the southern border, which “does not fit the dictionary definition.”

Politics & Policy

The Only Appropriate China-Related Earth Day Message

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Former Xinjiang University president Tashpolat Teyip, left, at the University of Paris in an undated photo. (Nury Teyip)

A panel of lawmakers, which was formed by Congress to issue reports on violations of human rights carried out by the Chinese party-state, has an Earth Day message. It is seeking “the unconditional release of environmental researcher & former Xinjiang University President Tashpolat Teyip.”

As the Biden administration hosted a virtual Earth Day summit Thursday with dozens of world leaders, including Chinese Community Party general-secretary Xi Jinping, who spoke at the meeting, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) tweeted a reminder of Beijing’s abhorrent human-rights record. “UN experts & members of the int’l scientific community have expressed alarm over his disappearance & incommunicado detention,” read the tweet posted by the panel’s account.

According to the CECC’s Political Prisoner Database, Teyip had been sentenced to death after he was swept up in a broader crackdown on Uyghur intellectuals in 2017. He stands accused of being “two-faced,” which, according to the CECC, is “a term Chinese officials use to refer to ethnic minority cadres who pretend to support the Chinese Communist Party.” Party officials have also accused him of corruption.

The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, a website edited by sociologist Darren Byler, took a deeper look at the charges against Teyip in 2019, finding only that the university president was a devoted father and husband with profound scholarly achievements in his field. Those who knew him were confused to learn that he’d been detained and speculated that he had perhaps been targeted for starting meetings with a Uyghur greeting, before proceeding in Chinese.

The author of the piece, a Uyghur scholar writing pseudonymously, remarked on the strange nature of the entire episode, and Teyip’s total erasure from public records:

As recent reporting has shown, being Uyghur and taking pride in Uyghur language and heritage itself is enough to demonstrate “disloyalty” to the Party. But still, is such “disloyalty” deserving of the death penalty? Articles that praised Tiyip’s achievements are now being systematically deleted from the internet.  His name and legacy are being erased, even from the list of presidents of Xinjiang University. Ironically, Sheng Shicai, the Guomindang leader who ruled Xinjiang from 1933-1944, who was described as one of the most evil traitors by the Communist Party, is still listed as a president of the school from 1942-1944. Yet, there is now no trace of Tashpolat Tiyip’s name.

“A geographer who received international acclaim for his environmental research, Teyip also received Chinese state media approval for his work,” reads his description on the CECC portal. It might confuse some people to hear that the Xinjiang authorities detained and sentenced to death an esteemed academic with no apparent political involvement, but such arbitrary and capricious exercises of authority are commonplace in the region and across China.

The CECC’s annual report lists a number of additional cases of harassment of environmentalists by the Chinese authorities, stating that although government officials continued to speak about taking action on the environment, “pollution remained a challenge due in part to authorities’ topdown approach to environmental problems, uneven enforcement, transparency shortcomings, and the suppression and detention of environmental researchers and advocates.”

The commission seems eager to ensure that the dominant Earth Day narrative on China — that the U.S. must seek cooperation to avert environmental catastrophe — not drown out the brutal nature of a regime that detains environmental leaders as part of its mass atrocity campaign against ethnic minorities.

The White House has pursued a two-pronged approach to its engagement with China that has featured condemnations of Beijing’s abominable human-rights record, including the brutal crackdown in Xinjiang, in tandem with diplomatic outreach to Beijing on climate change.

A number of experts have warned that party officials would only make genuine concessions on carbon emissions if the U.S. ceded ground on human rights, Taiwan, and other issues. Responding to those concerns, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has pledged that he would not let other issues be “held hostage” during his climate negotiations. But the Chinese foreign ministry has stated that Washington should not expect to “wantonly interfere in China’s internal affairs” while “demanding China’s support in bilateral and global affairs.”

Ahead of the summit, Kerry traveled to Shanghai for talks with his Chinese counterpart last weekend. The joint statement from their meeting noted a number of commitments on environmental issues, but it made no mention of human rights, nor of Teyip’s case.

Media

Is There Something Worse Than Getting Saved from Being Stabbed?

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That’s the question raised by this CNN segment, where the anchor, talking to “anti-racism” guru Ibram X. Kendi, seems to suggest that the only trauma suffered by the girl in pink in the Columbus shooting video was being right next to the girl who was shot. This was a tragic situation all around, and no doubt wrenching and traumatizing for everyone, but it’s worth noting that the girl in pink was about to be stabbed by the girl who was shot:

Science & Tech

That’s Not Science!

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Please, President Biden, don’t make me defend Earth Day:

There’s a weird way a certain mid-wit brain conflates Nature with Science. You see it on online forums where people post pictures of a breathtaking cyclone and caption it: “I Effing Love Science!” No, you are awed by Nature. Science is something else.

Earth Day was instituted to celebrate and promote efforts at conservation and environmental protection. Lately, it has been used almost entirely as an occasion for promoting efforts to stop or reverse climate change. But, at least while my kids are young, the schools seem to use it as an occasion for nothing more offensive than a coloring book with pictures of blue skies and rich, dark brown soil.

I think what bothers me about the way Nature and Science are popularly mixed up is that it is connected to the even more serious conflation of knowledge with authority. The conclusions of science can inform our decisions, but for the most part they cannot, by themselves, direct them. And yet, it’s a very popular superstition that somehow “allying” yourself to the scientific method, or scientific endeavors, grants a person special authority on moral and political matters.

Politics & Policy

Conservatives Need to Help Families — Join Us for a Debate on How This Tuesday

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Angela Rachidi, Scott Winship, Ramesh Ponnuru, Robert Stein, Michael Brendan Dougherty, and Kathryn Jean Lopez discuss conservative family policy.

Earlier this month, in the New York Times, Ross Douthat wrote this:

To restrict abortion in a just and sustainable way, to reduce both the personal hardship of parenting and the incidence of illegal abortion, you probably need some kind of policies like Romney’s plan no matter what the consequences for work incentives or single motherhood. More unintended births to poor women in the near term are a necessary price of pro-life victory — with the lives of the babies themselves the reason that price is very much worth paying.

He’s absolutely right. It’s not sufficient to want to end Roe, defund Planned Parenthood, and all the rest. We have to find ways to support families.

I’m absolutely for private, faith-based solutions — as anyone who contributed to my birthday fundraiser for the Sisters of Life knows (you still can, by the way, here). But government polices have to be family friendly, and what is more important than for the government to recognize the family as the treasure it is? We don’t frequently treat them this way, but parents are doing the most important work in the world, and they need to be valued for that fact. They need to have a shot. So many families struggle, and conservatives have to figure out a better way to help them. Families should be at the heart of a conservative approach to policy — policies that we can get somewhere with despite our current environment.

Not everyone is coming at this from the same vantage point, though, even among conservatives, so I’m grateful we’re going to debate what conservative family policy should look. Please consider joining us virtually.

Angela Rachidi and Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute will talk about freeing markets to help families and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru and economist Robert Stein support a greater expansion of tax credits that won’t add to the deficit. National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty will moderate the discussion. And I’ll be introducing it as an initiative of the NRI’s Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society.

It’s Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., Eastern time. Sign up here.

Immigration

An Alternative View of Immigration Reform

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Former-president George W. Bush speaks in New Orleans, La., in 2015. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

One of the most interesting features of the United States of America is the pronounced tension that often exists between the country’s interests and its values. No other country measures itself against such a clear and lofty definition of its own national character as we find in America’s founding documents. Bereft of this propositional identity, other nations are free to pursue their own naked self-interest on the world stage without appearing hypocritical. They cannot contradict their stated principles of conduct because they have no stated principles of conduct to contradict. For this reason, Lord Palmerston was able to say of his own country, Great Britain, that “we have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” 

The United States doesn’t have this luxury. Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al. bound their successors to a higher and more complicated calling by authoring and signing the documents they did. During the subsequent centuries the United States has always had to reconcile the conflicting impulses of its founding values and its conventional interests when faced with political and economic challenges. (Dan Carlin talks through how this tension manifested itself in a fascinating way during the Spanish–American War in this episode of his fantastic Hardcore History podcast.)  

It’s striking that neither the Left nor the Right is able any longer to wrestle with this tension in a productive way on the subject of immigration. For a long time, the American Left has displayed an admirable but myopic and often ill-thought-through devotion to America’s historic character as a nation of immigrants and a refuge for the downtrodden of the world. They are very good on the values question, but they often leave the question of America’s interests — in the form of border enforcement, effective bureaucracy, and orderly procedure — unanswered. 

During George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans in Washington tried to do justice to values and interests alike where immigration was concerned and to bring them to a principled and workable rapprochement. Rank-and-file conservatives were not interested and the proposals failed. 

Earlier this week, President Bush took to the media circuit to address the topic of immigration once again. It dovetails well with his new book of portraits, painted by the former president himself of various American immigrants. As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru summed up in his column for Bloomberg Opinion on Bush’s recent immigration tour, the former president’s views haven’t changed much during the last 14 years: 

Bush thinks the U.S. should grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants who grew up here, and allow other undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship if they meet conditions such as learning English. He wants a “modernized” asylum system that accommodates legitimate refugees faster while preventing abuse.

To stop illegal immigration, he would both strengthen border enforcement and promote economic development among “our neighbors.” Temporary work programs would expand if he had his way, as would legal immigration “focused on employment and skills.”

Ramesh notes that conservative distrust in the federal government’s ability and/or willingness to enforce existing immigration laws stands in the way of support for immigration reform on the right. He concedes that the former president’s proposals for beefing up enforcement “go part of the way toward” addressing that issue, but Ramesh then proceeds to make an exclusively interests-based case for immigration restrictionism, a case that takes no account of historic American values on the issue. “Why shouldn’t people on the bottom rungs of the economy,” he asks, “native-born Americans and immigrants alike, worry that an influx of newcomers will undermine their position?” He also laments Bush’s alleged failure to explain “why, if we need more high-skilled immigrants, we have to raise the total level of immigration instead of changing its composition. What’s in it for the people who are already here?” From a nakedly economic perspective, Ramesh notes that “the standard answer is that it makes us richer overall,” but he doubts that this is actually the case. 

As far as America’s economic interests are concerned, the argument that high-skilled immigrants are a significant economic boon to the country doesn’t deserve the kind of casual dismissal Ramesh gives it. The economist Michael Clemens, for instance, has argued persuasively that restrictions on international labor movement amount to leaving “trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk.” 

But the question of economics is only incidental to the matter at hand. The real issue I would take with Ramesh’s column, and with a similar piece written by our editor in chief Rich Lowry earlier this week, is the absence of any reckoning with America’s historic self-image. Rich writes that “the party’s old consensus on immigration is no longer sustainable.” But “sustainable” in what sense? Is it no longer morally sustainable? Or civically sustainable for the social fabric of the country? Or is it simply unsustainable in terms of the base alloy of electoral calculation? To be sure, politics is the art of the possible, and public opinion constrains what can be accomplished, but it’s not the way of the American statesman always to be a prisoner of the Machiavellian “is.” “Ought” must have its day in the sun as well, else what are America’s founding documents but empty “parchment guarantees”?

It may be the case that Republican voters doubt the integrity of attempts to offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but it’s nevertheless true that their doubts are unfounded on both principled and practical grounds, at least as far as President Bush’s proposals are concerned. His call for “a gradual process in which legal residency and citizenship must be earned,” by requiring “proof of work history, payment of a fine and back taxes, English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and a clean background check” is not only morally right but practically inevitable. Right now, illegal immigrants, many of whom have contributed admirably to American life after one inexcusable but — from their perspective — understandable violation of the law, are bereft of the legal protections that accrue to citizens and to legal immigrants. Consequently, they’re often at the mercy of predatory and unscrupulous employers, human traffickers, and worse. Americans won’t stand for any kind of mass prosecution or deportation of these illegal immigrants, either, who are already in the States. Once again, it’s neither ethically conscionable nor practically realistic. At the end of the day, something like what President Bush is proposing is both just and inevitable.

It’s perfectly legitimate for the United States to apply precisely the same kind of self-interested calculus to the matter of immigration as every other country does. But Americans can’t eat their cake and have it. If America is going to pursue a nakedly restrictionist immigration policy, let’s dispense with all the talk of shining cities on hills and last best hopes of Earth. And, while we’re at it, we can scrape Emma Lazarus’s words off the plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  

Politics & Policy

North Dakota’s Governor Burgum Sells Out on Sex-Exclusive Sports

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Gov. Doug Burgum (R., N.D.) speaks to delegates in Grand Forks, N.D., April 7, 2018. (Dan Koeck/Reuters)

On Wednesday, the Republican governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum, vetoed a bill stating that “a public elementary or secondary school may not knowingly allow an individual of the opposite sex who is enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school to participate on a school-sponsored athletic team that is exclusively for females or exclusively for males.” The definition of sex for the bill’s purposes, the drafters wrote, is “based solely on an individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

The bill received overwhelming support in the state’s GOP-controlled legislature (69–25 in the House and 27–20 in the Senate). But Burgum argued that the bill was unnecessary to begin with, claiming that the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) “already has regulations in place for participation in sex-separated interscholastic contests by transgender students.”

That is not true. NDHSAA regulations state that “transgender boys” (i.e., biological girls) “may compete in a contest for boys but is no longer eligible to compete in a contest for girls” and that “transgender girls” (i.e., biological boys) can play in boys’ teams “but may not compete in a contest for girls until completing one calendar year of documented testosterone-suppression treatment.”

This policy is unacceptably confusing and unjust as it undermines sex-based sports by legitimizing the false assumptions of gender-identity ideology; creates a double standard between the boys’ and girls’ teams; risks the safety of biological females (who declare transgender status) allowing them in boys-only teams and environments; and, worst of all, actively encourages hormonal interference for biologically male minors (who declare transgender status).

Similar to the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, it would seem likely that Governor Burgum is either ignorant or indifferent to the issue at hand here. And similar to Noem, he deserves to be held accountable for such a disappointing capitulation and misuse of his veto powers.

Politics & Policy

Unemployment in Red and Blue States

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in Miami Beach, Fla., April 8, 2020; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) speaks during a news conference at a vaccination site in Brooklyn, N.Y., February 22, 2021. (Al Diaz, Seth Wenig/Reuters)

A lot of different factors – including a multitude of federal and state policy decisions – go into a state’s economic health in general and its unemployment rate in particular. Even partisan control of a state may not tell us everything we need to know, given that some states have long-entrenched policies passed by a party that is presently not in power. Massachusetts and Maryland, for example, are still very much blue states in policy terms despite their Republican governors.

That said, state governors and the current state legislatures have had an outsized role in handling state responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. And a year after states began locking down, this much is clear: states with unified Democratic governments have significantly higher unemployment, on average, than states with unified Republican government. States with divided government fall in between. When we break down the BLS seasonally-adjusted unemployment figures for March, 2021, the pattern is striking:

Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have unemployment rates of 7% or higher, a full point above the national average of 6%. Not one has a Republican governor, and only two (Louisiana and Pennsylvania) have Republican-controlled legislatures. The other ten all have unified Democratic governance. By contrast, twenty states have an unemployment rate of 4.7% or lower; sixteen of those have unified Republican governments, one (Vermont) has a Republican governor, and two (Kansas and Wisconsin) have Republican legislatures (Minnesota has a Republican state senate). Maine is the only unified Democrat-run state in the country with an unemployment rate below 5%. The average Republican-controlled state has a 4.5% unemployment rate, more than a point below the national average, while the average Democrat-controlled state (including D.C.) has a 7.2% unemployment rate, more than a point above the national average. The average state with divided government falls in the middle, at 5.3%. (These are unweighted averages). The divide among states with divided government is less dramatic: 5.2% for states with Democratic governors and at least one Republican-controlled legislative house, 5.6% for states with Republican governors and at least one Democrat-controlled or equally-divided legislative house (in Alaska, the Democrats’ only foothold is divided control of the state house of representatives).

Elections matter, and they matter more in a crisis.

World

Iran and China among Countries Elected to U.N.’s Commission on Status of Women

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks virtually during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly New York, September 22, 2020. (United Nations/Handout via Reuters)

Both Iran and China were elected to the United Nations’s Commission on the Status of Women yesterday, the former with 48 and the latter with 43 out of a possible 53 votes. The purpose of the commission is to promote “gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Here’s an excerpt from Amnesty International’s 2020 report on Iran’s treatment of women:

Women continued to face entrenched discrimination in law, including in relation to marriage, divorce, employment, inheritance and political office. The “morality” police and vigilantes, enforcing the country’s discriminatory and degrading forced veiling laws, continued to subject millions of women and girls to daily harassment and violent attacks amounting to torture and other ill-treatment. Several women’s rights defenders remained in prison for campaigning against forced veiling. The authorities failed to criminalize domestic violence, marital rape, early and forced marriage and other gender-based violence against women and girls, which remained widespread. The legal age of marriage for girls stayed at 13, and fathers and grandfathers could obtain permission from courts for their daughters to be married at a younger age. According to official figures, about 30,000 girls under the age of 14 are married every year. The authorities failed to take steps to end impunity for men who kill their wives or daughters and to ensure accountability proportionate to the severity of these crimes.

Human Rights Watch adds:

A married woman may not obtain a passport or travel outside the country without the written permission of her husband. Under the civil code, a husband is accorded the right to choose the place of living and can prevent his wife from having certain occupations if he deems them against “family values.” Iranian women, unlike men, cannot pass on their nationality to their foreign-born spouses or their children.

Uyghur women held in concentration camps in the People’s Republic of China continue to endure horrors few could conceive of without reading about them. From National Review‘s editorial:

The torture endured by these Uyghur women included rape and torture with electric batons, in addition to other unspeakable acts of sexual violence. At one point, a teacher forced to work in the camps recounts witnessing the gang rape of a 20- or 21-year-old girl perpetrated before an audience of 100 detainees; the authorities subsequently punished anyone with visibly distressed reaction. Such atrocities aren’t the work of individual sadists, but are deliberate and systematic, as dictated by China’s foul totalitarian regime and Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping.

State-imposed sexual terror is not limited to the millions held in camps:

The BBC report shows how rape is wielded in the camps as a weapon against the Uyghurs as a people. It’s also been used in Uyghur homes, where under a Party program, Han Chinese men are sent to live with and share the beds of women whose husbands have been detained. And in June, it was revealed that the Party is engaged in a systematic campaign to forcibly sterilize Uyghur women and abort their pregnancies.

United States ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has yet to condemn, or even comment on the election of either of these states to the commission. One hopes that she will do so eventually with the moral clarity it demands, rather than the uncompassionate humility with which she has approached her job so far.