U.S.

The Spirit of ’76, Etc.

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George Harrison with President Gerald Ford at the White House in 1974 (White House / Gerald R. Ford Library)

On receiving an additional prison sentence of nine years, Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, quoted a line from The Wire (an American TV series of the ’00s). I lead with this in Impromptus today. I further talk about the Meijer family in Michigan. Standardized tests at MIT. Strange doings in politics. Bo Jackson. Hilary Hahn. And more.

Kevin Williamson sends me this clip — marvelous. It’s a scene from The Wire, in which gangsters are holding a meeting, in formal style: They are following Robert’s Rules of Order. When the meeting is concluded, one gangster comments, in approval, “Y’all carried it like Republicans and sh**.”

In an Impromptus last week, I spoke of campuses as “fear societies.” (This is a phrase of Natan Sharansky: “fear society.”) A friend writes,

Jay,

Not sure I would enjoy the college experience today.

In the 1970s, the Poli Sci faculty at the University of Vermont consisted of the biggest bunch of unjailed pinkos and fellow travelers you can imagine. I had no interest in keeping my mouth shut, and no ability to do so.

I never felt picked on or belittled. Sometimes discussions were just batting practice for me; sometimes I got schooled . . .

Full disclosure: I walked the campus in a hand-stenciled Ford ’76 T-shirt.

Another subject, another missive:

Howdy, Jay:

Even many folks who think Putin is a monster had no idea of the depth of Ukrainian resolve. Then again, if you had been a clear-eyed bettin’ man in the spring and summer of 1940, would you have placed it all on a wager that a few brave boys would jump into the cockpits of Spitfires and Hurricanes and hand “Corporal Hitler” his first defeat?

In recent weeks, we’ve been talking about place-names, some of us, and a reader writes,

Do you know about the lake in Webster, Mass.? Lake Chaubunagungamaug? That’s actually the shortened name. The official name is “Lake Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg.” Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger sang a song about it. It’s the most politically incorrect thing in the world.

Boy, is it. Have a listen here (and enjoy the honking accents of Merman and Bolger — she from New York, he from Boston).

Thank you to one and all. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.

Culture

‘Soul-Crushing’ Barbarity Uncovered in D.C. — 110 Dead Babies, Five Who May Have Been Killed Illegally

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A pro-life activist protests outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I did a double-take last week when I saw that, among others, Joan Bell was arrested by the FBI. Bell is no stranger to arrests — she has a long history of going into abortion clinics and offering women a way out. It’s civil disobedience, of course, when she doesn’t leave. “Red Rose Rescues” are what these efforts are called, and Joan is among those I deeply respect who participate. She’s a gentle soul with fierce courage. And the FBI, I am certain, should have more important priorities than seeing her behind bars (again).

One of the others arrested is Lauren Handy, whose apartment was also raided that day. It sounds ghoulishly confusing as the mainstream media tells the story, but as Handy tells it, the barbarity is entirely on the side of the abortion regime we have in America.

As she and her co-activist Terrisa Bukovinac tells it, they were going to sidewalk counsel at an abortion clinic in D.C., the Washington Surgo-Clinic. They had roses in hand ready for the moms, when they saw a medical-waste-management truck. They say they managed to get the driver to give them one of the boxes when they told him what was likely in it — dead babies. They promised to give them funerals if so.

When they finally opened the boxes at her apartment, they found 110 first-trimester babies and five late-term babies.

Of the earlier ones, Handy told The Pillar:

We had some children who were just starting to have their little fingers but, and then we saw some all the way up to early second trimester. There were definitely some who were probably 13 to 15 weeks as well.

One was bigger than the others — “clearly over 30 weeks and completely whole, and his skin pink.”

Did infanticide happen at the clinic? The evidence suggests that could very well be the case in one or more instances in just this one box.

Bukovinac explained:

He was just the most beautiful baby boy and we just lost it in that moment. We were just all kind of holding on being strong, trying to get through this. And then this was just completely shattering emotionally. We were weeping, we were cursing the people that did this to him. It was just soul crushing, to experience.

We named him Christopher X, and we thought there was definitely a significant chance that he might have been born alive.

A lot of late-term abortionists, after around 20 weeks, will use a substance called digoxin to cause a heart attack and kill the baby before they do the dismemberment. But Santangelo doesn’t use digoxin because it’s expensive and he’s lazy, and it’s just easier for him to deliver the baby whole by dilating and then just leave the baby to die.

We opened the next one. This baby was a little girl. She was well past the point of viability. She had one eye open and she was completely intact except for the back of her neck was lacerated. And her skull was collapsed and the brain had been suctioned out, indicating to us a partial birth abortion.

Handy said:

And then the next three. One of the children was still in the amniotic sac and we immediately didn’t want to look too closely at that one because we didn’t wanna burst open the sac. And then the other two were horrifically dismembered.

There are photos. They are graphic. One of the girls was dismembered. Another baby was still in the amniotic sack. These give lies to all “clump of cells” rhetoric and once again expose the evil brutality of abortion.

 

Aborted babies discovered in DC may indicate infanticide after attempted abortions

Handy explained how she reacted — after weeping and cursing:

I just thought to myself —  I’m telling the babies that I’m sorry, and that I love them and I’m so sorry. That I’m sorry I failed them. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t love them enough and sorry that I couldn’t save them and I couldn’t help their parents. And that I was just so sorry.

I felt like a complete and utter failure.

This particular abortionist has said (to Live Action in an undercover video) that he would not provide life-saving care for a baby born alive. If any of these babies were, that’s in violation of the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act. The evidence suggests that there could have been violations of the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.

There is also a video Live Action has put together calling for an investigation. Please be careful about watching it. If you’ve had an abortion, if you’ve recently given birth, if you are in any way sensitive to graphic violence, or suffer from post-traumatic-stress syndrome, I don’t think you should watch it. But some of us have to.

The medical-waste company denies that a box was handed over to anyone and that they collect fetal remains, but the babies came from somewhere.

I have to say, I felt ashamed of myself when I read The Pillar’s interview with Handy and Bukovinac. I’ve been at rallies with both of them. They are with Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, a different kind of abortion group, looking to awaken the consciences of people who aren’t traditionally the leaders of the pro-life movement. They often have drums when some of us are praying outside abortion clinics, with the kind of chants that make New Yorkers do double-takes, not sure what side they are on. The PAAU people tend to look cooler than many of the rest of us. (As opposed to those of us praying the Rosary — some with religious habits.) The diversity is not only refreshing, but challenging.

On a number of occasions, I’ve posted photos of the medical waste boxes much like the ones Handy and Buckovinac saw in D.C. leaving Planned Parenthood in Manhattan. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. I’ve never thought to ask for a box. I never really thought beyond the shock of the scene each time about the fact there could be upward of 100 babies at different stages of development in the boxes.  ­

Handy said in her interview with The Pillar:

Say you see someone drowning in a pool. I mean, for heaven sakes, you don’t go up to the yard and say, “Hey, there’s free help for you and your family. It’s okay, I’m praying for you.”

You don’t do that. You go. You go and get them out of the pool. You can and should help them.

She has my number — I offer help and prayer and make connections when a girl is willing, outside. Sometimes a girl or woman changes her mind. But the rescue crew doesn’t give up on the sidewalk in seeking to help a desperate mother. That’s civil disobedience in the face of an unjust law. We built monuments celebrating such people.

I don’t know if Handy and Bell and others will face jail time. It won’t be the first for either one. But a better country would rally behind those who want to save lives and expose the truth, not seek to caricature and imprison them.

Lauren Handy and the rescuers have the courage of their convictions.

D.C. authorities so far have said they won’t investigate the dead babies, but members of Congress are calling on D.C. and the Department of Justice to do so. Of course, Republican members. This shouldn’t be bipartisan issue. It’s a human one. About the slaughter of innocents and our continuous looking away.

Lord have mercy on us.

Education

Academic Freedom Is Threatened

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(kasto80/iStock/Getty Images)

Academic freedom (like many other aspects of freedom) is under attack in America. More and more, faculty members who don’t perfectly exhibit “wokeness” find themselves in trouble — censored or even terminated.

In today’s Martin Center article, Peter Bonilla of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education examines the threats to academic freedom, using a recent book on that topic as his springboard.

Bonilla begins with one of the book’s cases: “The collection features a first-person account from retired University of Colorado sociology professor Patricia Adler, who was subjected to a Title IX investigation over a popular skit in her ‘Deviance in U.S. Society’ course, in which graduate assistants portrayed sex workers in several different social strata. Even in the absence of a formal complaint, the university removed her from teaching and pressured her to retire, which she recounts in unsparing detail. It’s a fresh reminder of the outrages of the case — and also the fact that the Biden administration is intent on bringing back precisely the sorts of chilling regulations that precipitated CU’s deplorable conduct.”

The central problem, according to Professor Joseph Hermanowicz (who edited the book) is that the principle of academic freedom is not taught anywhere. Bonilla agrees. Students hardly ever hear the case for academic freedom these days. Conversely, they often hear demands for silencing unwanted voices along with authoritarian justifications for doing so.

Writes Bonilla, “Student support for free expression is already spotty, and has been declining for years in a number of key categories, as the latest data from the Knight Foundation show. Students too often arrive at college with a deficient understanding of the basics of the First Amendment, and aren’t likely to have this education supplemented unless they go out of their way to find it. Why should we expect any better when it comes to understanding academic freedom — a doctrine which has some standing in First Amendment law but which has also acquired a set of common-law principles intricately tied to the particular history of American higher education?”

Until we once again teach the principles of freedom, the American education system will continue to churn out throngs of zealous students who don’t want opinions they disagree with to be heard.

Culture

Twenty Five Things That Caught My Eye Today: Ukraine, Erasing Women, the Fearless Babylon Bee & More

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A local resident crosses a damaged street in the southern port city of Mariupol Ukraine, April 3, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

1.

2. Zelenskyy Says Post-war Ukraine Will Emulate Israel, Won’t Be ‘Liberal, European’

However, such measures would not serve to undercut Ukrainian democracy, he added, declaring that “an authoritarian state is impossible in Ukraine.”

“An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. People know what they are fighting for,” he said.

Such language is “not new,” Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky told Haaretz, stating that the Jewish state has “always been a role model for Ukraine, at least in terms of security and self-protection.”

3.

4.

5. Crux: Ukraine’s man in the Vatican says papal trip to Kyiv would be ‘message to end the war’

The possibility of a papal visit to Kyiv, something Francis said was “on the table” while he was in Malta this weekend, came up during the conversation.

“I know that Russia is trying to convey in every possible way, formally and informally, that a papal visit would not be acceptable for them, because it would be a clear sign of support for Ukraine,” he said. “But I’m sure that all the other nations are in support of this idea. I spoke with the newly appointed American ambassador; twice I met with all the ambassadors of the European Union, and all of them expressed their support for a papal visit. And the Holy Father said the visit ‘is on the table’, and this is an expression I had heard over two weeks ago: ‘It is on the table’.”

6.

Continue reading “Twenty Five Things That Caught My Eye Today: Ukraine, Erasing Women, the Fearless Babylon Bee & More”

Business

Musk Aboard

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Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk attends a forum in Hong Kong, China, January 26, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Elon Musk’s first tweet after the Twitter news:

Oh hi lol

Hard to argue with that.

Now he’s joining Twitter’s board.

Reuters:

“I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board,” Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet. “He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term.”

“I for one, am pleased . . . ”

In response, Musk tweeted: “Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months.”

Note, though, that being on the board will preclude Musk making a bid for the company both while he’s a member and for a short time thereafter. Also, having filed the disclosure he was required to make (more on that later) with the SEC on taking his stake in Twitter as a “passive” investor, he would already be blocked from buying new shares for a limited period in the event he changed that status.

Note this too (also from Reuters):

[Musk] will not have a say on the platform’s moderation, what speech gets banned or whose accounts get restored, the source said – a policy that applies to all board members.

One interesting detail from a Daily Telegraph article on Musk’s attitude to free speech:

Just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Musk, who is also chief executive of satellite broadband company Starlink, said he would refuse to block Russian news sources from the service “unless at gunpoint”, adding: “Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”

He noted that he had been asked to do so by some governments, but not Ukraine’s.

It’s worth adding that Musk has been helping keep Ukrainians online via Starlink.

And there was this tweet from Seth Dillon, the CEO of the Babylon Bee:

Musk reached out to us before he polled his followers about Twitter’s commitment to free speech. He wanted to confirm that we had, in fact, been suspended…

But if Musk wants to avoid helping his opponents in Washington (whose numbers, I suspect, will have multiplied), he needs to avoid handing them the weapons with which to attack him.

The Wall Street Journal:

The Tesla Inc. chief executive disclosed his 9.2% holdings in a form investors are required to file when they buy more than 5% of a company’s stock, without planning to seek control. But the notice came several days late. It also didn’t include a standard certification that underscores an investor’s passive status…

In a filing Monday, Mr. Musk reported owning almost 73.5 million shares of Twitter, representing a stake valued at $2.9 billion, based on Friday’s closing price. The disclosure says his ownership of Twitter shares exceeded 5% of shares outstanding as of March 14. Investors whose holdings surpass the 5% mark are required to report their stake within 10 calendar days.

Mr. Musk reported the stake in what is known as a 13G report, a filing reserved for passive investors. Shareholders typically include a certification that says they didn’t acquire the securities to change or influence control of the company that issued them. Mr. Musk didn’t include that statement on his form. Instead, he simply wrote: “Not Applicable.”

Twitter’s announcement Tuesday that Mr. Musk would be named a board member could trigger new disclosure demands. As a director, Mr. Musk may need to explain his plans for the investment on a more detailed form that is filed with the SEC, said Keith Higgins, a former director of corporation finance for the commission…

The SEC also could inquire about Mr. Musk’s self-declared stance as a passive shareholder. He hadn’t disclosed his stake before tweeting dissatisfaction with the company’s content-moderation policies in late March, when he raised the question of whether a new social-media platform was needed. That is the kind of statement activist investors sometimes make when they plan to shake up a company…

Howard E. Berkenblit, a partner at law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP, said regulators could look into those tweets. His statements about Twitter’s speech policies don’t clearly hint at plans to influence or change control of Twitter, Mr. Berkenblit said.

“He is not trying to influence the board or the strategy of the company. That would be his counterargument,” Mr. Berkenblit said. “Like any other shareholder, he is just expressing his opinion. Certainly, the SEC could ask him questions and ask him to defend that.”

Then again, via the New York Times:

Twitter’s announcement on Tuesday [that Musk was join the board] said that other than the agreement that he limit the size of his stake in the company, there were no “arrangements or understandings” between Mr. Musk and Twitter that led to his director role.

“It is theoretically possible” to join a board in a “passive monitoring capacity,” said Joshua Mitts, a professor of corporate law at Columbia Law School. But the presumption is that someone would join a board to effectively exert influence on the company, he said. “It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t try and convince the S.E.C. otherwise, but I think it would be an uphill battle,” Mr. Mitts said.

A lot to watch here.

Economy & Business

Airline Idiocy

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American Airlines aircraft at Miami International Airport in 2011. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

A brief report from the sky:

Airlines are, of course, run by the dumbest people in all of capitalism — about this there is no serious debate — but the new announcements from American Airlines are in a special category: “This flight,” the nice lady says in that sickly sweet recorded Pepto Bismol voice, “is on its way to one of our many destinations.”

Really? This flight is on its way to one of your many destinations? Well, put out a Muppet News Flash! Let me see if I understand the complexities here: A flight, American Airlines is saying, is going to a destination. That is some ground-breaking stuff right there.

What would be the alternative? “This flight is just going to cruise around until we run out of fuel and then land randomly at the first place that looks promising. Good luck!”

An airline is what you get when you give a 7-Eleven wings and a lobotomy.

“We’ll be on the ground in 20 minutes.” I’m sure we will, one way or another.

Politics & Policy

A Cheap Shot from Tom Cotton

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Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) attends a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 2, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

It’s not just Ted Cruz. This afternoon, Tom Cotton said the following in explaining why he intends to vote against Ketanji Brown Jackson:

You know the last Justice Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the case against the Nazis. This Judge Jackson might have gone there to defend them.

You know what? If she had done that, it would have been fine. In explaining why he participated in the Nuremberg Trials — a decision that prompted private criticism from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Harlan Fiske Stone, who considered the ex post facto exercise a “high-grade lynching party” — Judge Robert H. Jackson made it clear that if the Americans “want to shoot Germans as a matter of policy, let it be done as such, but don’t hide the deed behind a court.”

What did that mean in practice? It meant that if the United States was to host a trial, instead of a firing squad, those who were put in the dock would receive a solid defense. It meant that Judge Robert Jackson was confident enough that the evidence would be allowed to prevail that he opposed stacking the deck. It meant that the court was not supposed to say, “they’re Nazis, who cares?” To lambast Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson because she claimed that the accused terrorists she represented were “totally innocent” — yes, even if she was simply copying and pasting objections — is to make a mockery of the rule of law. Perhaps aware of this, Cotton made sure to acknowledge that “it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a lawyer for being willing to take on an unpopular case.” But that’s what he did, over and over and over again, and no amount of throat-clearing could hide it.

World

A Little Context on Europe

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A worker adjusts European Union and U.S. flags at EU Commission headquarters in Brussels in 2013. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

I haven’t had the chance to delve as deeply into David’s subtly titled Eurotrash book yet, but, as the resident Europhile, I do have a few thoughts about Kyle’s review of it.

One: It seems to me that the British National Health Service tells us almost nothing about the various health-care systems of Europe; the Europeans think so little of British health care that there is almost nothing like the NHS in the European Union or elsewhere in Europe. The Germans don’t have a state monopoly system like that, nor do the French, the Swiss, etc. You can say that Great Britain is European, but you’ll have to fistfight Charlie Cooke. As I see it, the NHS isn’t Eurotrash — it’s Anglotrash.

You might not like the health-care system in Sweden, but there are aspects of it that conservatives should be carefully considering: For one thing, it is highly decentralized, something that should be of interest to us as the government share of health-care spending in the United States tops 50 percent. You might not like the Swiss system, either, but there are aspects of it that conservatives should be considering: While it is heavily regulated, it is mostly private, with no “free” government-provided health care.

Two: Most Western European countries do have higher taxes than the United States does. (Many middle and upper-class Americans would pay lower taxes in Switzerland, but it’s an outlier.) However, the tax bills aren’t really all that radically different: Total tax revenue as a share of GDP is just over 27 percent in the United States, as compared to 28.5 percent in Switzerland, 33 percent in Spain, 37 percent in Germany. Significantly higher in Europe, but not exactly shocking. Where the United States and Europe are even closer is in in the much more telling metric of government spending as a share of GDP: 38 percent in the United States, 41 percent in Spain, 43 percent in the Netherlands, 44 percent in Germany. So the United States has similar spending but lower taxes — that being so, it will not surprise you to learn that the United States carries a lot more public debt than most European countries — more than any European country save Italy, Greece, and Portugal. This is where there is a truly radical difference: The United States carries almost twice as much public debt (as a share of GDP) as Germany, well over twice as much as Switzerland or Sweden, and more than three times as much as Norway or Denmark.

Our low taxes relative to spending aren’t economic liberty — they are part of a deeply irresponsible fiscal policy.

Three: I agree that the innovative technology economy is something that Americans should be proud of, and it is a sign of our economic dynamism. But the fact that the United States is home to more of the largest Internet companies would be more compelling if it weren’t for which country is No. 2. China has eight times as many Internet companies in the top 40 (by market cap) as Western Europe does, but I don’t think China is eight times better as a society — I don’t think it is better at all.

Four: On the related matters of culture and life expectancy, “Americans are fat and homicidal” would not immediately leap to mind as my opening line in the case for American superiority.

Conservative anti-Europeanism is something that we should be reevaluating. The United States is going to need broadly likeminded allies in our contest with China, and the liberal democracies of Europe and the Anglosphere are where we are going to find most of them. It would be an ironic tragedy if we let American chauvinism undermine American interests.

Politics & Policy

Hidden Assumptions in the Florida-Bill Debate

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Hillsborough High School students protest Florida’s Parental Right in Education bill in Tampa, Fla., March 3, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Democrats call the education legislation signed by Florida governor Ron DeSantis a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Republicans argue that it’s geared toward protecting the innocence of younger students and parents’ fundamental rights.

Underneath the questions over whether it would prevent homosexual — but not heterosexual — teachers from mentioning their partners in passing is a philosophical debate on the transgender issue.

Those who support heavy-handed school instruction on gender theory — and continued involvement in engaging students with questions about its applicability to themselves — believe these lessons would constitute a process of enlightenment. One that would merely lift the veil for some students who were always this way but just didn’t know it. They think that gender dysphoria is a physical condition caused by a male body hosting a female brain or vice versa.

This attitude is the one affirmed by the medical establishment; the American Medical Association asserts that “empirical evidence has demonstrated that trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity and expression,” while the American Academy of Pediatrics can find “no evidence that risk for mental illness is inherently attributable to one’s identity” as transgender or non-binary.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who hold that gender dysphoria is a psychological phenomenon in which people who are wholly male or wholly female and yet are under the misimpression that they have the opposite brain, or were meant to be the opposite of what they are. An additional component of this understanding of transgenderism is that it’s suggestible, or has a “social contagion” aspect to it. In other words, if you tell kids struggling with mental-health issues that perhaps it’s because they were born with a gender identity opposite their sex, and point to others who have reached the same conclusion, they may very well just accept that as the answer to their problems.

If you hold the former view, which is enforced with zeal by the cultural zeitgeist, you can’t very well support the Florida bill. You’d be withholding the cure to what ails a not-insignificant number of American children.

If you hold the latter view, how could you not support a measure that would prevent the spread of a dangerous misdiagnosis that would not only bring further inner turmoil, but set kids on a “treatment” plan that could leave them sterilized?

Behind all of the debates over whether one side is composed of groomers and the other is indifferent to the suicide rate among transgender youth is this central one. Conservatives should spend their energy winning it.

Religion

North American Martyrs’ Calling for Catholic Priests

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Pope Francis meets with with bishops, priests, seminarians, and catechists at the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, Iraq, March 5, 2021. (Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters)

Recently I was on a Zoom call about a program called Higher Calling, from the Avila Institute. It’s a formation program for men interested in the Catholic priesthood, before they enter a seminary, to prepare them for seminary. I found it extremely encouraging. I find healthy young men who want to be priests encouraging and inspiring. We should be encouraging and supporting them and their discernment. Not only is it noble, holy work when it is entered into with a pure heart and a desire to truly bring Christ to people; it is absolutely necessary.

The pandemic shutdowns made me more convinced of this reality, as we could not be present for Mass, the greatest prayer on earth, which unites Heaven and earth. We could not receive the sacraments. I was present for a Goddaughter’s Baptism via iPad just a half-second before everything shut down. I cried when I finally got to Mass and confession. There are certain things only priests can do and we need to let them know we need them and love them. There’s a lot of evil, too, where humans are. That’s not the priesthood. That’s evil. It’s why we need well-formed seminarians and psychological and medical and mentoring and friendship support for our priests in all kinds of ways.

That Higher Calling call happened as the North American Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville, N.Y. — where Jesuit Fr. Isaac Jogues, among others, was killed — was confronting the reality that they don’t have a priest to serve the shrine during its open season (beginning soon and through the martyrs’ feast in late October). The holy grounds are in the diocese of Albany, and they don’t have a priest to spare. So far, within the sound of the cry for help, there has not been a retired priest who has made his availability known. It could be that there are just not enough priests to go around — and this is going to be even more and more of a reality in the years to come.

Here’s the invitation my friend and fellow board member Fr. Roger Landry issued on his Facebook page in recent days:

Attention Brother Priests, especially those who are retired, who are students, or teach with some time off during summer months: The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, NY, where Saints Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil and Jean de Lalande were martyred and Kateri Tekakwitha was born, is looking for priest help during their upcoming 2022 Season (beginning of May through the Feast of the North American Martyrs in October). They have a beautiful, newly renovated house for priests and it’s on a huge, prayerful, quiet grace-laden place. The commitment would be a daily Mass and some daily confessions. The rest of your time is free to pray, read, write, etc. The monthly stipend is similar to a full priest’s monthly salary. I very much have enjoyed my time there. It is also an excellent place to do your retreat if you didn’t mind these basic priestly duties. They’ve love to find a priest who could commit to the whole season but they would be happy to have priests who could commit to one or two week periods. If your schedule would allow, I’d urge you to contact the executive director, Julie Baaki, at julie@ourladyofmartyrsshrine.org. If you’d have any questions, feel free to contact me (fatherlandry@catholicpreaching.com). And please share this with priests you know who might be interested.

It really is a beautiful, quiet, grace-filled place. I go up there as often as a nondriver can manage. I’d go up even more if I know there is Mass there!

Julie Baaki tells the stories of people who make long pilgrimages to the shrine for healing and prayer. Their hearts often ache for a priestly blessing. She wants to be able to provide. As Fr. Landry put it, it would be great to have a priest there from May to late October, but if you have a few weeks, I’m praying God brings one or enough of you to Auriesville, N.Y., this year.

Politics & Policy

Colorado Codifies Abortion Extremism

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A demonstrator holds an abortion flag outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as justices hear a major abortion case on the legality of a Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on abortion doctors, March 4, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Yesterday evening, Colorado’s Democratic governor Jared Polis signed one of the most extreme pro-abortion laws in the country, codifying a supposed “fundamental right” to abortion.

“A pregnant individual has a fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion and to make decisions about how to exercise that right,” the law states. Not only that, but the law explicitly removes the protection of state laws from unborn children: “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of this state.”

The law appears to guarantee a right to any form of abortion at any stage of pregnancy for any reason, not even gesturing at allowing regulations of any kind after the unborn child is developed enough to survive outside the womb. It allows abortion for any reason, including abortions chosen on the basis of an unborn child’s sex or disability diagnosis. It makes it impossible to create health and safety regulations on abortion and removes parental-notification requirements for abortions sought by children.

In signing the legislation — which is truly extreme even by the Left’s standards; only a handful of states have formally declared abortion a “fundamental right” — Polis attempted to pass it off as an effort to keep health-care decisions private.

“In the State of Colorado, the serious decision to start or end a pregnancy with medical assistance will remain between a person, their doctor, and their faith,” Polis said. “Access to abortion and reproductive health care is currently under attack across the nation.” He asserted that the Supreme Court ruling in this summer’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization might jeopardize access to legal abortion care for tens of millions of people, particularly those living in most Southern and Midwestern states.”

This law, not to mention Polis’s dense efforts to defend its extremism, is just one more instance of Democrats walking themselves into a losing situation if and when Roe and Casey are overturned. I wrote an essay for the Washington Examiner magazine last month arguing that, once abortion is handled at the state level rather than by the Court, Democrats will be in a real bind, because abortion on demand throughout pregnancy is deeply unpopular with the American people. Gallup has found that a mere 13 percent of Americans — and 19 percent of Democrats — want abortion to be legal in the third trimester. Yet abortion on demand with no restrictions is precisely what Democratic politicians at the national level have promised to deliver in the event that the Court stops mandating abortion on demand.

Already, every Democrat in Congress — with two exceptions — has cast a vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which not only would codify legal abortion at the federal level but would nullify nearly all state pro-life laws, including those as modest as parental-notification laws. In enacting this new law, Colorado Democrats have joined the ranks of abortion extremists, and they should expect to pay a political price.

Politics & Policy

Ask the Same Question, Get the Same Answer

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) speaks with reporters in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., February 15, 2022. (Jon Cherry/Reuters)

What are voters worried about? Inflation. No, seriously, Democrats say: That’s just a right-wing talking point. We’re not right-wingers. Tell us, what are you actually worried about? “Inflation,” say the voters. “Oh, okay, so you want us to pass another gigantic spending bill that will almost certainly fuel more inflation. Right?”

Politico Playbook, which unintentionally amounts to a daily letter from Mars that rehashes the bizarre thinking of the Democratic political class in D.C., informs us that a focus group brought together voters to ask them what’s really on their minds. They said high inflation and high crime. Since both of those indicators are indeed going very sharply in the wrong direction, the concerns are valid. Politico dismisses them as “a preoccupation.” It adds that

a cottage industry of White House officials and left-wing media critics who talk to each other on Twitter has convinced themselves that the media is responsible for the public’s overwhelming focus on the bad news of inflation rather than the good news of low unemployment and rising wages. The focus groups exploded that bit of Democratic self-deception.

Good news? The Democrats want to talk about “good news”? Only 27 percent of Americans feel the country is heading in the right direction, and that figure has collapsed in the last six months. The Democratic voters in the focus group were in an extremely fearful and depressed frame of mind. There was “ambiguity” about the Democrats’ strategy to focus endlessly on the six-hour Capitol riots that took place 15 months ago. And Politico notes that “it was impossible to ignore” how much the issue of rising crime came up:

A Black man from New York complained about bail reform laws in that state leading to “repeat offenders” who get arrested and released and are “re-arrested in less than 24 hours.” A Black woman in the Philadelphia area wanted something done about gun violence and carjackings in the city by “repeat offenders.”

The Democrats should acknowledge the bad news and convince voters they are the party best equipped to deal with it. Instead they are trying to tell the voters they’re wrong. The problem with that reasoning is that the voters get to . . . vote.

Capital Matters

Trying to Make Sense of the Fed’s Logic

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The Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C., January 26, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

John Cochrane has a new blog post in which he tries to make sense of the Federal Reserve’s reasoning on monetary policy.

He describes the Fed’s inflation-fighting policy so far as underwhelming:

Inflation has been with us for a year; it is 7.9% and trending up. March 15, the Fed finally budged the Federal Funds rate from 0 to 0.33%, (look hard) with slow rate rises to come.

A third of a percent is a lot less than eight percent. The usual wisdom says that to reduce inflation, the Fed must raise the nominal interest rate by more than the inflation rate. In that way the real interest rate rises, cooling the economy.

At a minimum, then, usual wisdom says that the interest rate should be above 8%. Now. The Taylor rule says the interest rate should be 2%, plus 1.5 times how much inflation exceeds 2%. That means an interest rate of 2+1.5x(8-2) = 11%. Yet the Fed sits, and contemplates at most a percent or two over the summer.

He goes on to look at past Fed actions when inflation has been high. The Fed’s hesitance to raise rates now looks strange compared with the ’70s, for example: “In each spurt of inflation in the 1970s, the Fed did, promptly, raise interest rates, about one for one with inflation,” Cochrane writes.

Despite the conventional wisdom and historical evidence, the Fed this time believes that inflation will begin to cool off on its own, with mild increases in the federal funds rate aiding the slowdown. Cochrane pulls directly from the Fed’s economic projections when explaining that. In other words, even though Jerome Powell has stopped saying “transitory,” it seems that the Fed, as an institution, still believes that the current bout of inflation is not the result of bad monetary policy and is instead the result of other factors outside the Fed’s control (supply shocks, pandemic recovery, etc.) that will resolve themselves independent of the Fed’s policy.

Cochrane is not fully convinced of that story, writing, “To my mind, it’s evident that widespread inflation, including wage increases, comes from demand rather than supply, so I see a large fiscal shock.” But even granting the Fed’s interpretation, Cochrane writes, “a one-time shock, no matter its nature, does not necessarily lead to a one-time inflation. When the shock ends, the inflation does not necessarily end.”

Cochrane then goes through some equations from two models of the economy that yield very different results. Under an adaptive expectations model, which is more representative of the conventional wisdom on monetary policy, inflation would continue to increase when the one-time shock is over. Under a rational expectations model, though, inflation would do roughly what the Fed is projecting: cool off on its own with some modest interest-rate hikes along the way. (He shows his work in the post on how this would happen mathematically.)

In Cochrane’s telling, the Fed is rejecting the current conventional wisdom of the economics profession on monetary policy and embracing a different way of viewing the economy. It’s not behaving recklessly or lacking theoretical underpinnings; it is merely using different theoretical underpinnings than most economists have used in recent years.

We have good reason to rethink conventional wisdom on monetary policy. As Cochrane points out, the adaptive expectations model would have predicted a deflationary spiral because of the Great Recession, which did not happen. Further, some economists predicted higher price inflation due to the Fed’s zero-interest-rate policies after the Great Recession, which did not happen, either.

Cochrane concludes:

Bottom line: In the chorus of opinion that the Fed is blowing it, this post acknowledges a possibility: The Fed may be right. There is a model in which inflation goes away as the Fed forecasts. It’s a simple model, with attractive ingredients: rational expectations. There is also a model, more likely in my view, that inflation persists and goes away slowly — so long as we don’t get more bad shocks — because prices are stickier than the Fed thinks, as outlined in my last post. But, the key, inflation does not spiral away as the standard model suggests.  If inflation does not spiral away, despite sluggish interest rate adjustment, we will learn a good deal.

The next few years will be revealing, as were the 2010s.

Cochrane’s post is an example of macroeconomic reasoning done right: relatively simple mathematical models, based on real-world data and economic history, with a heavy dose of epistemic humility. The entire post, with graphs that aid his explanation, is worth your time (link again here).

Politics & Policy

Why Pay Any Attention to Robin DiAngelo?

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Robin DiAngelo is the self-proclaimed expert on the evils of “whiteness” and pulls in huge amounts of money for pontificating on how it oppresses everyone who isn’t white.

In this Minding the Campus essay, Professor Alexander Riley subjects her claims (they don’t even rise to the level of arguments) to serious scrutiny and finds them to be entirely empty.

He writes, “With each of these claims, it turns out, DiAngelo is not offering any useful commentary on whether or not whites have accurate beliefs about how racial categorization and identity work in societies like ours. She is simply lamenting what she considers the unfortunate fact that there exist at least some white people who do not share her ideas on race and how it works.”

DiAngelo must be omniscient to know what every white person really believes regarding race. We know that’s not true, so why accept anything she says?

Suppose that DiAngelo claimed that “all Italians regard opera as the highest art form.” People would scoff and say that nobody could know that, and in fact it’s plainly false. And it wouldn’t avail DiAngelo anything to follow up with something like, “If you dispute my statement, it only proves that you don’t understand Italianness.” DiAngelo’s schtick wouldn’t work on any topic except race, where so many people’s brains have been short-circuited by decades of mind-numbing rhetoric.

Politics & Policy

Biden Admin Push to Isolate Russia at U.N. Can Go Further

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The United Nations Security Council meets to discuss the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, N.Y., March 14, 2022. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The Biden administration is taking a worthy stand against Russian membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council­ — a position that also demands asking why the U.S. isn’t yet going further.

During a showdown at the U.N. Security Council this morning Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s U.N. ambassador, elaborated on her recent announcement that the U.S. would seek Russia’s removal from the Human Rights Council. A vote expelling Russia might take place as soon as this week.

“Given the growing mountain of evidence, Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose, whose very purpose, is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is it the height of hypocrisy — it is dangerous,”  she said, referencing the mass killings in Bucha. “Russia is using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights.”

Russia’s continued presence on the body is dangerous, and it does serve as a propaganda instrument.

China does this, too. And so do the continued memberships of Cuba, Venezuela, and a number of the council’s other authoritarian members.

The Biden administration, reversing a Trump-era decision to shun the council over its persistent singling out of Israel and role in promoting authoritarian countries’  propaganda agendas, pledged to seek meaningful reforms of the council. Removing Russia from the body would be a significant first step toward making good on that promise — but only a first step. Staunch proponents of meaningfully reforming the council advocate overhauling its fundamental rules and membership criteria, so as to bar egregious human-rights abusers from eligibility for membership in the first place.

Thomas-Greenfield’s comments this morning also explain why the U.S. could be well-served to seek Russia’s expulsion from the U.N. Security Council as well.

She almost certainly did not mean to imply that, and changing that body’s composition is a much tougher political lift.

But by Thomas-Greenfield’s logic, Russia’s continued presence on the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow wields a veto against just about the only binding proposals that the U.N. is capable of advancing, also ought to become a target.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the Security Council ahead of Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks, compared Russian war atrocities in occupied parts of Ukraine to the actions of other terrorist organizations. He told U.N. members that they “need to act immediately” to reform the Security Council.

It took the Biden administration a month between a suggestion by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in early March that Russia could not remain a member of the Human Rights Council and Thomas-Greenfield’s announcement yesterday. How long will it take to come around to supporting a campaign to remove Moscow from its Security Council seat?

Elections

Vance’s Position Is Popular

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J.D. Vance poses for a portrait near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 27, 2017. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

John McCormack reports that senate candidate J. D. Vance (R., Ohio) and populists like him are sideways of public opinion on Ukraine.

He cites a February poll showing that 80 percent of Republicans thought Biden wasn’t tough enough on Russia, and only 2 percent thought he’d been too tough. Fair enough.

But tough isn’t a policy. Like all generalities, Republicans respond in a partisan way to questions like this. They are expressing disapproval of Joe Biden. And this is a kind of sleight of hand at work. The relevant question about Ukraine is: What are you going to do about it?

The consistent message of Vance is that he doesn’t want Americans to fight in the war in Ukraine. You might respond that currently we’re not fighting in that war. But in a recent debate, two of Vance’s primary opponents, including the current poll leader Mike Gibbons, committed themselves to the policy of setting up a no-fly zone in Ukraine, led by Europeans, our NATO allies. If Russia responded by attacking these allies, we would be obliged under Article V of NATO to treat it as an attack on us.

There were some polls showing that upwards of 70 percent of Americans supported a no-fly zone until you told them what it entails. Subsequent polling showed that respondents changed their mind when informed that a no-fly zone meant shooting down Russian planes. Here’s Aaron Blake explaining it in WaPo:

In a separate YouGov poll for the Economist, the pollster got at this in a different way. It asked two questions of its entire sample:

  1. “Do you think each of the following courses of action is a good idea or a bad idea?” and then, two questions later,
  2. “Should the U.S. military shoot down Russian military planes flying over Ukraine?”

In this case, there was a more significant difference and a drop in support. While Americans favored the undefined no-fly zone 40 to 30 percent — similar to the other poll — they actually opposed shooting down Russian planes 46 to 30 percent. Fully 28 percent of people who say they want a no-fly zone also don’t want to shoot down Russian planes (which a no-fly zone would, in all likelihood, entail).

Unsurprisingly, in his debate, Vance explained that shooting down Russian planes is exactly what a no-fly zone means when contesting the issue with his opponents.

More recent polling shows that Americans support tough economic sanctions on Russia, keeping troops in NATO, and accepting thousands of Ukrainian refugees. But a minority of 35 percent support military action if it risks the possibility of nuclear conflict with Russia. Sixty-two percent “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose military action in light of these risks. Now, certainly military action that risks nuclear conflict with Russia is a “tough” policy, but you’re not going to convince me that four in five  Republicans support it. Vance’s position sounds like a majority position to me.

There’s an underhandedness to the technique Vance’s critics use. Hawks intuitively understand that their position of getting the U.S. heavily and directly involved in the Ukraine war is deeply unpopular. Another poll showed that 72 percent of Americans want America to have “no role” or a “minor role” in the Ukraine conflict. Only 26 percent took the hawkish position that the U.S. should play a major role.

So they don’t tell you what policy they think is correct with any specificity. They just sell their leadership as a “tough” policy (80 percent among GOP), and attack Vance on behalf of candidates who do want to impose a no-fly zone (30 percent), which would mean the U.S. playing a “major role” (26 percent) in the conflict. It’s dishonest.

World

The Price of Winning

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Walter Russell Mead runs through the various options in Ukraine, and his analysis of what it would take to truly defeat Putin isn’t very encouraging:

The first option, helping Ukraine win, is the most emotionally appealing and would certainly be the most morally justifiable and politically beneficial, but the risks and costs are high. Russia won’t accept defeat before trying every tactic, however brutal, and perhaps every weapon, however murderous. To force Russia to accept failure in Ukraine, the Biden administration would likely have to shift to a wartime mentality, perhaps including the kind of nuclear brinkmanship not seen since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. With China and Iran both committed to weakening American power by any available means, a confrontation with the revisionist powers spearheaded by Russia may prove to be the most arduous challenge faced by an American administration since the height of the Cold War.

Politics & Policy

What Gun Restriction Would Biden Pass That Isn’t Already the Law in California?

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“We must do more than mourn — we must act,” President Joe Biden said on Sunday’s shoot-out in downtown Sacramento that killed six. Biden called on Congress to ban ghost guns, pass “universal” background checks, ban assault weapons, and repeated the lie that gun manufacturers have special immunity from liability.

California already has “universal” background checks. It has “red flag” laws and domestic-violence gun confiscation (often, without any real due process). It has an assault-weapon and magazine ban, deputizing citizens to enforce them. California has safe-storage laws and a ghost-gun ban. The state has a firearm-sales record and the strictest gun-dealer regulation in the nation. It empowers local authorities to further regulate firearms but not to deregulate. It has raised the allowable age even to buy a shotgun or rifle from 18 to 21. In most municipalities, concealed-carry permits are almost impossible to get. California is home to 111 laws — not counting the thousands passed in cities and counties — that restrict “the manner and space in which firearms can be used,” according to Boston University School of Public Health. “California has the strongest gun laws in the United States and has been a trailblazer for gun safety for the past 30 years,” says Giffords Law Center. The only thing California hasn’t done is outright ban semi-automatic weapons, which is where all these incremental restrictions are meant to lead.

Culture

Saving the Peace of the World with Mary Rice Hasson

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Mary Rice Hasson speaks at a conference. (Screenshot via Franciscan University of Steubenville/YouTube)

This month marks a decade of Mary Rice Hasson’s work at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (which, by the way, I have always thought is the coolest think-tank name, which tells you a little about my coolness). If you don’t know Mary, she is one-half of a powerhouse couple. Her husband, Seamus “Kevin” Hasson is the founder of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. They’ve raised kids and a religious-liberty movement. And as Seamus is in retirement — one forced by Parkinson’s — Mary is still the loving wife and mother that she has always been, but also that kind of motherly force we need in the public square. She is a great encourager and connecter, especially for Catholic women intellectuals. And she stands athwart the evil of gender ideology not only yelling Stop!, but imploring the protection of children from abuse. She has confidence that the teachings of the Catholic faith — in no small part on how sexual morality offers freedom and joy to men, women, and families.

Here at National Review and the National Review Institute, we have a very personal interest in Mary’s work — she’s the Kate O’Beirne Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, doing her work in honor of my dear friend and mentor and our former longtime Washington Editor at NR (and president of the National Review Institute in another of its iterations). I miss Kate every day (I know I am not alone in this), and it gives me some consolation that Kate loved Mary and would love her continuing perseverance for the good.

Mary and Seamus were honored by the Catholic Information Center in 2015, and Mary talked at the time about how women can change a culture. And, in the spirit of Kate O’Beirne’s Women Who Made the World Worse (which also had a lot of gratitude in it), about the damage liberal feminism has done to the culture and the family, Mary said:

We Catholic women have a secret weapon: we don’t have to be like feminists pretending we’re doing it all by ourselves. We embrace complementarity. We value — and count on — the collaboration of men and women. And that is a secret weapon, because we need the voices and the talents of both men and women in order to make a difference in the culture. Women must be brought to the foreground — but not just for strategic reasons, that is, because women are half the population or because we need women speaking to women or because women can shape the most effective messaging for women.

Women must be front and center in evangelizing the culture because, as a Church, we must live that truth of complementarity. We believe that there’s something of value created when men and women work together, and we know that the Church needs us — men and women — to witness to the love of God in a powerful way, together. And the world needs that witness from us as much, if not more, than it needs the actual work that we do.

John Paul II wrote of women’s specific sensitivity towards the human person. That sensitivity, that focus on relationships, is one reason why women are particularly called to shape the culture. Relationships are so central to the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis calls us to create. And it’s within the culture of encounter that evangelism will flourish.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, consider Mary Hasson as encouragement. Women can have lots on their plate — even the suffering of a painful disease in the family — and still fight for truth and virtue, most importantly in how they live their daily lives. Policy matters, but good policy starts in looking at Truth in the everyday.

Thanks be to God for good people like the Hassons in the world — and even in the public square.

World

Iran Can Stall until It Gets What It Wants

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Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2021. (EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via Reuters)

Despite widespread outcry about the IRGC’s FTO designation, despite billions in sanctions relief for the world’s leading sponsor in terror, and despite Russia’s (granted) demands for protected trade with Iran, the Biden administration has yet to walk away from the weaker, more dangerous revival of the JCPOA.

On Sunday, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the agreement was “close” and that “the ball is in the US court” after Iran sent its final “proposals” to negotiators. The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said the Iran delegation will only return to Vienna “to finalize the nuclear agreement.” “If Washington answers the outstanding questions, we can go to Vienna as soon as possible,” he said during a press conference. 

Negotiations in Vienna were paused in March for what seemed to be obstruction by Russian demands. But since then, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that the U.S. granted Russia a “written guarantee” that there would be “reliable protection for all projects and activities envisaged” in the impending deal. According to reporting from Bloomberg, the State Department would not sanction Russian “participation in nuclear projects” with Iran.

Iranian demands are the final barrier. Tehran wants the IRGC, one of the world’s most prolific supporters of terrorism, to be delisted as an FTO. It’s underscoring that demand with a request for a guarantee that the deal will remain in place after the Biden administration. 

This is smart; fully knowing that the Biden administration cannot enact a permanent treaty, this is Iran’s bid to get some extra goodies in the final days of consideration. As of now, any deal passed by the Biden administration would be an international agreement, not a Senate-approved treaty, meaning it could be repealed by a future administration

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told National Review that, “When Iran insists it needs more guarantees it is not looking to ditch four decades of ‘death to America’ for a Senate resolution.” Instead, Iran is looking for “more sanctions relief, a quest for a sweetener or signing-bonus, and more importantly, a way to sow discord in America’s Iran policy.” 

Iran expects its lingering demands to be met, a reasonable risk calculation after observing Malley’s concessionary approach.

To excuse its concessions, the Biden administration has engaged in some damage-control optics. But that’s all they are: optics. 

For instance, it sanctioned an individual and a handful of companies associated with the IRGC’s ballistics program after the recent strike in Erbil. But, as I’ve written, without continual and comprehensive pressure, these narrow sanctions will be “one step forward, and four steps back.” 

It is also arguing that even if the IRGC is removed from the FTO list, “The IRGC will remain sanctioned under US law and our perception of the IRGC will remain,” according to Robert Malley at a conference in Doha. To legitimize this move, it has opted for a pinky-promise, asking Iran for a public written guarantee of good behavior. Iran won’t even do that; it offered a “private side letter.” 

And we’re still at the table.

The rising bipartisan resistance to the deal is telling. In the past, the Iran deal has been a partisan issue. Now, Taleblu sees “promising bipartisan signs on Capitol Hill.”

A bill introduced by Representatives Ronny Jackson (R., Texas) and Stephanie Murphy (D., Fla.) would require the Biden administration to report to Congress on how U.S. sanctions relief benefits Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. The Keeping Israel Safe From Iranian Proxies Act calls for an annual report that details the  “military capabilities of Iran-backed entities and the impact of lifted sanctions on such capabilities, prohibit the availability of Federal funds to such entities, and for other purposes.”

Another bill, presented by Republican congressmen Brian Mast (R., Fla.) and Scott Perry (R., Pa.), would thwart the Biden administration’s plan to delist the IRGC as an FTO by requiring the White House to seek congressional approval. This isn’t the first bill to demand accountability to Congress; Representative Andy Barr (R., Ky.), in conjunction with Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), introduced the Iran Nuclear Deal Advise and Consent Act of 2021 last April to cut off federal appropriations for the JCPOA unless the administration seeks Senate approval of the deal as a treaty, per Article II of the Constitution. 

Just weeks away from a bomb, Iran will continue to stall, waiting for Biden to give it everything it’s asking for.

It can afford to wait. 

As reported by the Wall Street Journal in March, Iran has a shadow finance system consisting of “foreign commercial banks, proxy companies registered outside the country, firms that coordinate the banned trade, and a transaction clearinghouse within Iran” that finances it with tens of billions of dollars despite U.S. sanctions. The Biden administration isn’t likely to address sanctions violations anyway; it has overlooked Iran’s elicit oil trade with Venezuela, for instance. 

“So long as Iran does not believe Washington has a credible plan-B, it has every incentive to stall and ask for more,” shared Taleblu. And we don’t have a plan B; the Biden administration is dead set on striking an Iran deal, no matter how weak.

Law & the Courts

Ted Cruz Is a Hypocrite on Public Defenders

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) questions former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who is President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 23, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo /Pool via Reuters)

On Sunday, Ted Cruz told Fox News that one of the reasons that he opposes the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court is that she was a public defender. “Public defenders,” Cruz said, “often have a natural inclination in the direction of the criminal.” “Their heart,” he added, “is with criminal defendants.”

From this, one must conclude that Ted Cruz has a “natural inclination” toward state laws that ban dildos.

A few years ago, when Cruz was Solicitor General of Texas, he filed a brief in defense of a state law that banned sex toys. Among other things, that brief insisted:

that Texas, in order to protect “public morals,” had “police-power interests” in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.” There was a “government” interest, it maintained, in “discouraging…autonomous sex.” The brief compared the use of sex toys to “hiring a willing prostitute or engaging in consensual bigamy,” and it equated advertising these products with the commercial promotion of prostitution. In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz’s office declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.”

When asked about this, Cruz explained on TV that:

I spent five-and-a-half years as the solicitor general in Texas, I worked for the attorney general. The attorney general’s job is to defend the laws passed by the Texas legislature. One of those laws was a law restricting the sale of sex toys, which is a stupid law. Consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.

Which was the correct answer. If we are to have a legal system that allows people, institutions, and governments to defend themselves against charges of illegal conduct — and we should have that system — then we are going to have lawyers who defend their clients to the best of their ability. It doesn’t matter whether the defendant is popular, whether the institution is sympathetic, or whether the law is a good one — none of that is the point. The point is that an adversarial legal system requires advocates who will relentlessly press their case, and, in so doing, force the other side to prove its brief to a high standard. There is nothing wrong with people who are willing to become solicitor generals and defend laws they dislike, or with people willing to become corporate lawyers and defend companies they disdain, or with people who are willing to become public defenders and defend clients they suspect are guilty, and to suggest otherwise betrays an unthinking and opportunistic illiberalism.

For some reason, Ted Cruz seems to believe that the very act of becoming a public defender indelibly marks a person as being intrinsically favorable toward accused criminals, but that Ted Cruz’s having chosen to be a lawyer for the government for half a decade did not indelibly mark him as a statist.

Funny, that.

 

Politics & Policy

WSJ Poll Shows Public Support for 15-Week Abortion Bans

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Pro-life protestors hold a demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., November 1, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters )

Last week, the Wall Street Journal released a national poll finding substantial public support for laws protecting preborn children after 15 weeks’ gestation. The poll surveyed 1,500 registered voters in March and found that 48 percent favor a law that would “ban abortions after 15 weeks,” with an exception for the health of the mother. Forty-three percent expressed opposition to such a law.

The polling results broke down among fairly predictable partisan lines. Seventy-five percent of self-identified Republicans supported a 15-week ban, while only 21 percent of Democrats indicated that they would support it.

This recent poll adds to a body of data suggesting that Americans support legally protecting preborn children after 15 weeks’ gestation. For instance, two out of three polls conducted by Marquette University Law School since last September show that such laws enjoy majority support. A 2021 Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that 56 percent of respondents felt that the Supreme Court should either limit abortions to 15 weeks gestation or reverse Roe v. Wade altogether. Furthermore, six Gallup polls conducted since 1996 found that at least 65 percent of Americans think abortion should be “generally illegal” during the second trimester.

The Court is currently considering the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Given the salience of this case, it is surprising that several prominent polling firms including Gallup, Rasmussen, and Pew Research have failed to ask specific survey questions about 15-week abortion limits in the past twelve months. Surveys inform public debate about policy issues, and Court decisions can be influenced by public opinion. The results of this recent poll showing some support for pro-life laws after 15 weeks is good news for pro-lifers.

Elections

The Left’s Bad Advice for Democrats

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My new column:

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t think Joe Biden is doing well as president. Inflation is out of control. His administration appears to lack any viable plan to control border crossing. The president’s gaffes alternate between the amusing and the alarming. The Democratic Party seems headed for a pasting this November.

But things could always be worse — and they would be if Biden listened to his left-wing critics. . . .

Culture

Chris Rock and the Truth about Abortion

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Chris Rock in his 2018 Netflix special Tamborine (Netflix via YouTube)

The media care about Chris Rock for obvious Oscar-related reasons. He was in Atlantic City this weekend, and Philadelphia magazine noticed he said something that the audience didn’t like:

The only time the audience seemed to collectively cringe was when Rock decided to tackle the tricky subject of abortion. He mocked the notion of a “safe abortion,” noting that a “safe abortion is an abortion where only one person dies, I guess?” As for his own stance on abortion, Rock joked that he’s not pro-choice but “pro better choice.”

This isn’t the first time Chris Rock has been seemingly critical of abortion during his comedy routine. In 2005, a writer for Slate dubbed him “The William F-ing Buckley of stand-up.” (Referring, of course, to National Review’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr.) He would joke that he goes to abortion rallies to pick up women because they use abortion as birth control, essentially. (With much uglier language.)

Also:

Rock’s abortion bit is an attack on women for the frivolous manner in which they decide whether or not to keep a child. “When a woman gets pregnant, it’s a choice between the woman” — here Rock pauses, a mischievous grin barely restrained — “and her girlfriends.” From there: “One girlfriend goes, ‘Child, you should have that baby — that man got some good hair. . . .’ And the other girlfriend says, ‘Child, why we even talking about this — ain’t we supposed to go to Cancun next week? Get rid of that baby!’ ” And that, Rock says, “is how life is decided in America.”

The writer commented at the time:

The assumption is that women who get abortions are frivolous and irresponsible rather than poor and desperate, as a liberal might have it. Not much there to offend a conservative’s sensibilities

Rock actually seems to suggest both the men and women could be making better choices. Yes, there are women who are desperate. And, honestly, there are young people who don’t really know there’s another way than having sex whenever the opportunity arises. Education and the culture says that’s what they are going to do and so tries to keep them from becoming pregnant, but since there’s abortion, there’s no real downside to recklessness.

Chris Rock’s comedy is obviously crass and not something I’m sitting down to listen to anytime soon. But I do pray that his uncomfortable-to-liberal-audiences bits make someone think.

Politics & Policy

No, Nikki Fried, Florida Is Not a ‘Blue State’

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(Pixabay)

There really is no end to the baffling nonsense that Florida’s agriculture secretary, Nikki Fried, is prepared to say in public. Here’s her latest:

This is just tosh. It’s fine if Fried thinks that Florida should be a “blue state,” or if she’s working to make it a “blue state,” or if she believes that, by running for governor, she is likely to alter its future. But Florida, as it actually currently exists, is less of a “blue state” than it has been for a quite a long time. Can the Democrats win here? Yes, they can. First, though, they’ll need to own up to their delusions.

In October of last year, Florida announced that it was home to more registered Republicans than registered Democrats for the first time in its history, and in the six months that have followed that announcement, that gap has grown by another 100,000 people. Florida went for the Republican candidate in the last two presidential elections, has two Republican Senators, has a House delegation of 16-11, has voted for the Republican gubernatorial candidate in every election since 1998, and has chosen a Republican majority in the state legislature every two years since 1994. Six of the state’s seven State Supreme Court nominees have been appointed by Republicans; the state’s constitution bars an income tax and requires any new taxes or fees (or an increase in existing ones) to be passed by two-thirds vote of each chamber the legislature; its largest city by area (Jacksonville) has a Republican mayor, as does its most famous city (Miami); and its most recent claims to fame were bucking the 2018 Democratic wave and going out on a limb against COVID-19 excesses.

“Blue state”? Sure.

Education

Resisting Trans Activists’ Assault on Parental Rights

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Hillsborough High School students protest Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill in Tampa, Fla., March 3, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Today on the homepage, Ryan Mills has an excellent report on a mom’s fight to save her daughter from transgender indoctrination at school. Fortunately, the mother had some success. Ryan reports that after a long, difficult struggle and outrageous meddling from the school, she

found her daughter in the kitchen talking with her dad. “She was like, ‘You know, Mom, I’m really sorry. Affirmative care really messed me up. They really made me hate you and Grandma. I know that you love me, and you just want what’s best for me,’” Theresa said. “She’s just a completely different kid.”

Not every family is so lucky, however. Ryan reports that:

 The [family’s] lawsuit, filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and the national Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), is one of a growing number of legal challenges popping up across the country pushing back on school districts with policies that shut parents out from decisions regarding kids’ gender identification at school. Similar lawsuits are being brought in states including CaliforniaFloridaMaryland, and Virginia.

Across the country, parents are being shut out of critical decisions relating to their own children’s mental health by school personnel who are neither authorized nor qualified to administer such interventions.

Their stories are a reminder of why laws such as Florida’s Parental Rights in Education are so important: The Florida bill states that schools “may not discourage or prohibit parental notification of and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.”

However, lawsuits against school districts are possible, even without laws such as Florida’s. That’s because parental rights are rooted in the United States Constitution. In Troxel v. Granville (2000), the Supreme Court declared that the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.

In his report, Ryan further lays out the political and legislative landscape for protecting parental rights from transgender ideologues. We need reporters like Ryan to puncture the prevailing trans-activist narrative and to expose their vicious assault on parental rights.

If you appreciate the trans-skeptical reporting and analysis we do here at National Review, please consider donating to our webathon.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: IRS Woes

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Daniel Savickas of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance writes about why the IRS’s track record should make us hesitant to grant it more power:

Once a return is filed, the bad news continues for lower-income filers. Publicly available data show that the IRS disproportionately targets poorer communities for increased audit scrutiny. Shamefully, this scrutiny is also heavily directed at minority communities. The IRS neither denies nor repudiates these trends. In fact, IRS commissioner Charles Rettig has described auditing poor Americans who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit as “the most efficient use of available IRS examination resources.” Now, the IRS has more resources to keep struggling Americans in the crosshairs.

Rettig and the IRS further rationalize these practices by claiming it is easier to audit disadvantaged communities. It costs less, requires fewer staffers, and takes up less time because these particular demographics do not have the resources to fight back with any seriousness. Simply put, the IRS is a bully with the entire apparatus of the federal government (and billions of taxpayer dollars) at its back.

Read the whole thing here.

Politics & Policy

Everything Good Is Biden’s Doing, Everything Bad Is Others’ Fault

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Jennifer Rubin (PBS News Hour via YouTube)

Is the state of the economy Joe Biden’s fault/doing? Jennifer Rubin thinks that it is, but also that it isn’t, depending on how the specific matter reflects on Joe Biden and where the reader is in her piece.

Rubin concedes that “a president cannot claim to have rescued the economy but bear little responsibility for inflation.” But, apparently, this rule does not apply to Jennifer Rubin. Thus, when she is touting job growth, it’s “the Biden economy,” but when Rubin is lamenting inflation, she is obliged to explain that, “if we want to play the blame game, we should start with the Federal Reserve, whose mandate is to control inflation.”

As for Biden’s “spending plan”? That “contributed a tiny sliver of the 7.9 percent inflation rate,” and yet it alone is is responsible for preventing “extended high unemployment,” keeping “thousands of businesses” open, saving “millions of Americans” from eviction and “millions of kids” out of poverty.

Rubin conclusion is worthy of Harry Houdini. She writes that “Biden’s economic record” — this refers to the good things that are happening — “is extraordinary,” but that it is “marred by inflation” that isn’t Biden’s fault. Happily, though, all is not lost, for “if the Fed brings down inflation without driving the country into a recession,” then its responsibility for the issue will disappear, and its achievement will be transferred to “Biden’s economic record,” which then “may be viewed as one of the most successful in history.”

Law & the Courts

Mitt’s Mistake

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Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) in his office at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

I happen to think Mitt Romney is a pretty good member of the United States Senate. Disagreements aside, he brings ideas and a unique kind of independence to the job.

Especially disagreeable, in my estimation, however, is the statement he’s released announcing that he will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

In a world where members of both parties crossed the aisle to support each other’s nominees to the bench, it would be an eminently reasonable decision and rationale. In this one, it’s malpractice. Democrats have for decades waged war on Republican nominees, with consequences both political and personal. Only three Democrats — each representing one of the reddest states in the nation — voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch in 2017. A year and change later, only West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who faced a reelect bid a month later, voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. The rest of the Democratic Caucus participated in the evidence-free smearing of Kavanaugh as a gang rapist.

Manchin’s political motivation for supporting Kavanaugh was made plain when he declined to vote for Amy Coney Barrett two years later. With room to breathe between then and his next stint on the ballot, Manchin regressed to the mean. Not a single Democrat backed Barrett.

All this just in the last few years — forget not the hell Democrats inflicted upon Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Miguel Estrada.

But this is not meant as an argument for revanchist scalp-trading. I join Andy in his arguments against smearing Judge Jackson. And while I would not vote to confirm her — I doubt she will interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning, which is the job — I’m not riled up by Romney choosing to extend some courtesy to the president by making qualifications and temperament the basis of his decision, rather than judicial philosophy.

I am disappointed, though, by the combination of his decision and explanation. Taken together, they provide political cover not only for the nominee, but for the idea that Democrats’ universal opposition to Republicans’ nominees can be justified by some logical reasoning. What Romney writes is fine, but there is no reason why he should not have tacked on an explainer noting the contrast between his decision and Democrats’ conduct, dating all the way back to Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden’s behavior in 1986 during the Bork hearings.

Speak to their lies. Make note of the inhumanity of what they did to Clarence Thomas, and the tragic ramifications of Dick Durbin’s rejecting Miguel Estrada — explicitly on the basis of his race. Review the complete lack of evidence available to so much as suspect Brett Kavanaugh of being a sexual predator, much less indict him as so many of Romney’s colleagues did in 2018. Speak to Amy Coney Barrett’s accomplishments and brilliance.

Without observing the difference in how the two parties’ nominees are treated, Romney is at best helping Democrats make the argument that while his conscience allows him to vote for Jackson, theirs simply won’t (ever) let them cross the aisle. At worst, it suggests to the public that Democrats nominate reasonable jurists who even some red-state Republicans can support, while Republicans nominate radicals that their opponents cannot bring themselves to get behind.

If Romney wants to be the bigger person on the judiciary, that’s okay. But without a little medicine to go with the sugar, there will be no change in behavior from his less generous colleagues.

World

25 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Ukraine, Sandra Bullock and ‘Adopted’ Children, & More

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A local resident walks near a destroyed apartment building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

1.

2. BBC News: The Ukrainian mother who had to bury her own son

3. 

4.

Continue reading “25 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Ukraine, Sandra Bullock and ‘Adopted’ Children, & More”

World

Study: Chinese Doctors Executed Prisoners by Organ Removal

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A soldier facing the Tiananmen Gate stands guard outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, in 2016. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

China has been reliably and repeatedly accused of killing Falun Gong and other political prisoners for their organs.

Now, a paper just published in the American Journal of Transplantation — one of the world’s most respected medical journals — lays out a convincing case that Chinese doctors are not only harvesting from executed prisoners, but that organ removal was often the means of execution.

First, they explain how killing by organ retrieval violates the “dead donor rule.” From “Execution by Organ Procurement: Breaching the Dead Donor Rule in China:”

A core value in medical ethics is the principle of ‘do no harm,’ famously captured in the Hippocratic Oath. This principle motivates two widespread professional medical prohibitions: the dead donor rule (DDR), which forbids the procurement of vital transplant organs from living donors, and the injunction against physician participation in executions.

But in China, almost all organ donations come from prisoners, raising the worry that the organ-removal surgeon was also the executioner. To discern whether this abhorrent practice is happening in China, the authors reviewed published papers by Chinese organ-procurement surgeons. They focused on heart and lung “donations” and found that 71 papers published between 1980 and 2015 involved cases that pointed to organ removal as the cause of death because a proper “brain death” determination could not have been made (my emphasis):

The 71 papers we identify almost certainly involved breaches of the DDR because in each case the surgery, as described, precluded a legitimate determination of brain death, an essential part of which is the performance of the apnea test, which in turn necessitates an intubated and ventilated patient. In the cases where a face mask was used instead of intubation—or a rapid tracheotomy was followed immediately by intubation, or where intubation took place after sternal incision as surgeons examined the beating heart—the lack of prior determination of brain death is even more apparent

Apart from the timing of intubation around BDD, there are two other indications of problematic BDD in the papers. These are: (1) establishing venous lines for introducing heparin around intubation time, and (2) injecting heparin intramuscularly. If the donor was a genuine brain-dead patient, venous lines would already have been established before BDD as part of antemortem treatment—they are never established just before organ procurement. The reference to intramuscular injection of heparin suggests that the donor had no peripheral venous lines before surgery and may even have been ambulant. This is consistent with eyewitness testimony about organ procurement from prisoners but it is not consistent with standard procurement procedures in brain dead donors.

Oops. There’s no such thing as a perfect crime.

Interestingly, perhaps indicating a guilty conscience, Chinese doctors ceased writing such papers after 2015:

There are several potential explanations for this. The most benign is that the reform program indeed ceased the use of prisoners, and thus these abuses. Alternatively, it may be because grassroots human rights activists and researchers exposed DDR violations in September 2014, and PRC officials are attentive to international perceptions. Instructions to state-managed medical journals to cease publishing such details could have been issued, and this could explain the absence of such admissions past 2015.

Another indication is the continuing short waiting times for organs in China:

In the medical literature, China is thought to be the second-largest transplant country in the world as measured by absolute transplant volume, behind the United States. According to human rights researchers however, China performs even more transplants than the United States (which reported over 39 000 in 2020).

PRC hospitals continue to advertise transplant waiting times of weeks, whereas wait times in the United States are measured in months and yearsHospitals continue to advertise organs to transplant tourists with websites in English, Russian, and Arabic. Chinese authorities now say they will be performing 50 000 transplants by 2023—allegedly all from voluntary donors. If this transpires, China will be operating the most successful and rapidly growing voluntary transplant program in the world.

To all of that, I would add that a country that engages in genocide and the enslavement of Uyghurs is not going to be overly concerned with medical ethics.

Oh yes. It is worth noting that some utilitarian bioethicists have suggested that with the legalization of euthanasia that organ removal be allowed to be the means of causing death. They would object, I assume, to killing prisoners in this manner because there would be no assurance of consent. And there is no indication such barbarism actually happens in the West.

But wrong is wrong. Doctors killing people by removing their organs is plain wrong regardless of the circumstances.

Media

Jon Stewart’s Incoherence

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Comedian Jon Stewart speaks at a news conference following a Senate vote on the Never Forget the Heroes Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 23, 2019. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Jon Stewart’s three-on-one debate with conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan last week has received a lot of attention, largely because of the fallout from the segment, which focused on the question of “systemic racism” in modern America. Sullivan, understandably upset about the debate’s utterly unfair setup, penned an ex post facto Substack column excoriating Stewart’s arguments. Stewart subsequently responded with a snide Twitter thread arguing that Sullivan “wasn’t ambushed,” and that “any damage incurred was self-inflicted.”

NR’s Isaac Schorr and Brittany Bernstein ably detailed the series of events in this morning’s news column. To see how condescending, bad-faith, and utterly intellectually vapid Stewart and his guests are throughout the segment, I’d recommend watching the entire thing yourself:

I’d just add one quick point: Beyond the fundamental unfairness of scheduling Sullivan to debate a contentious topic against one ideologically hostile host, two ideologically hostile guests, and an ideologically hostile live audience, Stewart’s argument itself was completely incoherent. He simply asserted that America was white supremacist and that systemic racism was a “terrible, terrible illness” that pervaded the country. In lieu of any argument for why, he substituted condescending eye rolls, smirks, and insults. (As did his guests.)

When challenged to explain why today’s America is systemically racist, Stewart hand-waved about abstract “systems.” When pressed for details — “I’d like you to explain exactly what they are,” Sullivan asked — Stewart pointed to instances of historic discrimination: Jim Crow, redlining, and racial exclusion in New Deal programs.

A nuanced point about the lingering effects of past discrimination, and about contemporary America’s moral obligation to remedy them, is a worthwhile discussion to have. But that’s entirely different from saying the systems that exist today are racist. Stewart couldn’t point to one that was. Armed with a home-court advantage and the smug self-assurance that can come only from being a progressive commentator in an ideologically uniform elite media, he didn’t feel like he had to. Joseph Goebbels was infamously quoted as saying that “if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.” That’s clearly the case with the fundamental lie that America is a racist country, which is now accepted in our elite institutions as an indisputable fact. But the utter flimsiness of the argument becomes apparent as soon as its proponents are challenged to defend it.

At one point during the program, Stewart remarked to Sullivan: “Andrew, you’re not living on the same f***ing planet we are.” That, at least, is true. But the planet that Sullivan lives on is a lot saner than the one inhabited by Stewart and his co-hosts.

World

U.S. to Seek Russia’s Removal from U.N. Human Rights Council after Mass Killings

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U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield holds a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York, March 1, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Russia’s mass killings of Ukrainian civilians in the city of Bucha has persuaded the Biden administration to seek Moscow’s removal from the U.N. Human Rights Council after a monthlong delay.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters in Romania today that she would press for Russia’s suspension from the global human-rights body over the massacre.

“I am immediately returning back to New York to do two things,” she said, during a press conference following a meeting with Romanian prime minister Nicolae Ciuca. “One: I will take this to the Security Council tomorrow morning and address Russia’s actions firmly and directly. Two: In close coordination with Ukraine, European countries, and other partners at the UN, we’re going to seek Russia’s suspension from the U.N. Human Rights Council.”

The Human Rights Council has faced persistent criticism for giving an international platform to human-rights-abusing regimes, including Russia, China, and Cuba. The dictatorships that hold membership in the body often use their status for propaganda purposes and to advance criticism of Western countries intended to deflect from their own human-rights records.

In early March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a videotaped address to the body, questioned how Russia could be allowed to remain a member, given its invasion of Ukraine “while committing horrific human-rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering.”

Despite Blinken’s suggestion that Russia shouldn’t remain a member, U.S. officials declined to work to expel Russia during the first month of its invasion of Ukraine.

Last Monday, a bipartisan group of senators, including Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, the top lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged the Biden administration to seek Russia’s expulsion from the council.

“Swift action must be taken to show the world the United States and our allies will not stand for indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks on civilians and democracies,” they wrote in a letter to Thomas-Greenfield.

Asked on Friday about the letter, a senior administration official told reporters that the U.S. was “reviewing” Russia’s participation at the U.N.

Removing Russia from the council requires a two-thirds-majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly. While that’s typically a near-insurmountable bar to clear, the U.S.-led push is “guaranteed to pass,” according to Hillel Neuer, who leads the watchdog group U.N. Watch.

Neuer tweeted that only a few countries are expected to vote against the resolution and that countries that decline to support it but don’t vote No won’t be counted against the required two-thirds threshold.

While the U.N. secretary-general’s office weighed in against an effort to remove Russia from the council late last month, warning against “setting a dangerous precedent,” there’s little that it can do to prevent a vote on the matter.

At this stage, removing Russia from the Human Rights Council is a largely symbolic measure, but it could well pave the way for a broader campaign resulting in Russia’s further isolation from other international bodies.

World

Ukraine’s Civil Society Fights against Russian Victimization

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Ukrainian volunteers weave camouflage nets for the Ukrainian army in the shelter of the public library in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 1, 2022. (Mikhail Palinchak/Reuters)

The wonderful Jillian Kay Melchior (an NR alumna) is reporting from Ukraine (Lviv) for the Wall Street Journal:

Elsewhere, civilians have gathered to weave camouflage nets by hand for soldiers on the frontline. They cut short and long strips of fabric, which they call “butterflies” and “snakes” respectively, and tie the ribbons to nets. Each takes a day or longer to complete. In Uzhhorod, I saw mothers and their young children working on them in the town square. In Lviv, volunteers told me they bless each finished net by singing the national anthem over it.

“The front can’t exist without its backside, without civil society,” says Sofiya Filonenko, 47, who fled the eastern port city of Berdyansk on the first day of war. Now in Lviv, “I see that everybody is doing something, something useful. Everyone wants to be active. . . . I don’t want to identify myself as a refugee. I’m not a victim. I think I’m actually not weak but strong, active, and I think of me as a volunteer, so I do everything I can to make our victory closer.”

The war has displaced as many as 1 in 4 Ukrainians. In the early weeks, families in western Ukraine took in those forced to flee. Workers at schools, libraries, gymnasiums and other institutions converted their spaces into makeshift shelters. Internal refugees I interviewed said they fear becoming a burden, so they have thrown themselves into volunteering.

One of them is Serhii Hnylytskyi, 48, who fled Kharkiv with his wife and daughters. The women have continued to Germany, but with few exceptions Ukrainian men 18 to 60 are prohibited from leaving the country. Mr. Hnylytskyi volunteered in Lviv to help new arrivals from the east. Since our interview, he has returned to Kharkiv to help clear rubble. “Someone helped me, and I am helping someone else,” he says. “That’s the way it is.”

The Ukrainian volunteers I interviewed said their civic work wards off despair and boosts national morale. Soldiers at the frontline can rest assured that someone is looking after their wives and children.

Today’s volunteer movement began to form in 2014, after the pro-Russian then-President Viktor Yanukovych responded with brutality to young protesters gathering in Kyiv’s Maidan Square to demand political and economic integration with Europe. The demonstrations swelled as violence galvanized the public.

Kyiv residents brought protesters food, fuel for fires, and tires to build barricades. Doctors and nurses feared injured protesters would be arrested if they showed up at hospitals, so they formed makeshift clinics. The protests culminated after Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014, but by then dozens had died after riot police opened fire into the crowd. In the weeks that followed, Vladimir Putin invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea.

By that point, Ukrainian civilians felt emboldened. Some Maidan alumni joined volunteer battalions to fight in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Some donated money, bought medical and military equipment, and ferried it to the front line. Others focused their efforts on rooting out corruption and promoting democratic reform in Ukraine.

Ukrainians have spent the past eight years strengthening their ability to govern themselves, and a vibrant civil society is proving to be a significant advantage in the war against Russia.

PC Culture

A Conservative Radio Station Bows to the Left-Wing Mob

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Vice President Kamala Harris and House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) look on ahead of the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2022. (Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters)

A little over a month ago, the Spectator’s Amber Athey posted a tweet mocking Kamala Harris’s State of the Union outfit:

As Athey details in The Spectator today, the tweet was “a UPS joke, featuring the company’s now retired slogan,” referencing the fact that “Harris wore a chocolate brown business suit that was panned on social media — some users compared her to a Hershey’s chocolate bar, while others wondered why she wore the same color as her chair.”

But after a backlash instigated by left-wing activists, Athey was unceremoniously terminated from her position at WMAL, an ostensibly conservative radio station that hosts nationally syndicated voices on the right such as Dan Bongino, Mark Levin, and Ben Shapiro. Athey explained the series of events in her Spectator piece:

I was officially hired at WMAL, which is owned by Cumulus Media, this past fall as one of three female co-hosts of O’Connor & Company, the morning drive radio program.

On March 9, I co-hosted the show alongside my friend Larry O’Connor, just like I normally do on Wednesday mornings. It had been nearly a week since the social media meltdown over my Kamala tweet, and none of us at the show had a feeling that anything was amiss.

Later that afternoon, just before 4 p.m., I received a call out of the blue from Jeff Boden, the vice president of Cumulus Washington, D.C, and Kriston Fancellas, the vice president of Human Resources.

They told me that the tweet I sent about Kamala was “racist” and that subsequent follow-ups defending myself and making fun of the efforts to cancel me were unacceptable. I had violated the company’s social media policy, they said, and I was terminated effective immediately.

They did not have the courtesy to offer me an opportunity to defend myself, nor did they speak to anyone at the program before handing down their decision.

Despite multiple appeals, during which company officials admitted that the perception of racism was more important than whether or not my tweet was actually racist, the company has refused to reverse its decision. Meanwhile, my image and bio is still being used on the WMAL website and social media channels to promote their programming. I am racist enough not to be paid, but not so racist that my likeness cannot be affiliated with the station, apparently.

The cowardly move would be shameful if it had been undertaken by any institution — but it is made all the worse by the fact that WMAL is supposed to be a conservative station, and presumably caters to a primarily conservative listener base. “This incident has destroyed the integrity and reputation of WMAL and Cumulus as hosts of conservative content,” Athey writes. “We spoke frequently about the dangers of censorship and cancel culture on our program, and yet here they are bowing to the mob. If I can be fired for making fun of the vice president’s outfit, every single host on a Cumulus station is in danger of losing their job at a moment’s notice. Political commentary is worthless if it can’t be used to speak truth to those in power without fear of professional consequences.”

Amen.

Culture

Bruce Willis, Jeff Jacoby, and the Intense Pain of a Loss of Words

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Bruce Willis in Glass (Universal Picures/Trailer image via YouTube)

In late October/early November 202o, I had a mysterious eight-day struggle with debilitating migraines. I wound up in an ER for some of the worst of it. Everyone seemed to think I was being a drama queen until a neurologist came and said to a crowd of medical staff: How long has this woman been suffering without any relief? Hours, with bright lights, loud noises, and Covid all around, as it happened. But I couldn’t communicate any of that. I was alone and at the mercy of anyone who cared to pay attention — or not. Eventually I was given medicine that would relieve the symptoms. I considered it a miracle drug because it made it possible for me to offer a brief eulogy for a dear friend the next night. I had my doubts when it hurt too much to do anything but what you might imagine. I share this because as scary as it was — I was even taken in an ambulance — I’m grateful for it. It was a window into the intense suffering that people endure. If the pain didn’t subside, I would have blown a column deadline, missed a web event I was moderating, and not been able to give an albeit inadequate remembrance of my friend Andrew Walther. I’m grateful the medicine helped me get through the next day and it didn’t flare up again after the following afternoon.

In the days after, I became aware of people I work with in various ways who have this kind of unpredictable suffering flare up on a regular basis. If she says she has a migraine, I promise you she is not being overly dramatic. And my understanding is women can often develop them a little later in life. Goodness.

I was reminded of all that reading Jeff Jacoby’s beautiful and personal reflection on what Bruce Willis is facing — having had to retire from acting. He writes:

Aphasia is a disorder that robs people of their basic communication skills. It affects the area of the brain that controls language and the ability to speak, write, or understand words. Aphasia can make it impossible to remember the names of common objects or to verbalize even simple thoughts. People with aphasia may know exactly what they want to express yet be unable to articulate the words they need. They may find themselves at a loss to make sense of even the simplest written words. For anyone inflicted with aphasia, the experience can be distressing, excruciating, disorienting, or frightening. But for someone whose livelihood and persona are based on words — like an actor, a broadcaster, or a writer — aphasia is uniquely nightmarish.

When H.L. Mencken was stricken with aphasia in 1948, his friends and loved ones “were stunned by the grotesque irony of it,” wrote Terry Teachout in his biography of the towering critic and journalist. “All he could do now was sign his name, scrawl an occasional one-sentence note full of misspelled words, and recognize the names of people he knew when he saw them in the paper.” Only with difficulty could Mencken still make himself understood. He was devastated by the realization that his career was over. Above all, he was shattered by the fact that he could no longer read, and he began referring to himself in the past tense, as if he were already dead.

It isn’t only strokes that can cause aphasia. The disorder can come on gradually because of a brain tumor or a degenerative condition. It can also occur in temporary episodes brought on by seizures or, as I have reason to know, by severe migraine headaches.

I have been getting migraine attacks since I was 8 or 9 years old and am only too familiar with the pain, nausea, and partial blindness that accompany them. The very worst attacks, the ones I have always found especially alarming, also cause transient aphasia. I suddenly find that I cannot summon basic words. I am unable to understand the meaning of anything I try to read and struggle to string together even the simplest sentences. Fortunately, these episodes of aphasia usually retreat within two or three hours, but they are intensely disquieting while they last. In the back of my mind there is always the panicky thought: What if this time the symptoms don’t subside?

Once I was in the middle of a live TV interview when a migraine attack began and my words started to slip away from me. I recall trying to say something about “journalists,” but it kept coming out as “nerjalists.” On another occasion, the aphasia struck as I was taking questions from an audience after a speech. I had no trouble understanding the questions, but when I tried to formulate answers, the words kept slipping out of my grasp. The next day, I called the organizer of the event to apologize, and she rebuked me for not telling the audience what was happening at the time. “They would all have understood,” she said. (She was right: I had been speaking to a doctors’ group.)

Disturbing as such experiences can be, they are nothing next to the ordeal of someone like Willis, who is undergoing the gradual disappearance of the language and speech gifts that have been at the center of his public life and who knows they won’t be coming back. Willis leaped to fame in the 1980s, when he co-starred in the ABC comedy-drama “Moonlighting.” He portrayed the wisecracking private detective David Addison alongside Cybill Shepherd, who played his beautiful partner, Maddie Hayes. The plotlines were fine, but what made the show such a hit was the dialogue — playful, sparking, witty, arch, with lines that overlapped and threw off an endless shower of will-they-won’t-they double entendres.

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” says David in one episode.

“Open up,” replies Maddie. “I’ll put ’em back.”

Tragically, there is no one now who can put back the words that Willis is losing. Aphasia is cruel to all of its victims, but I can’t help thinking that the torture is worst for those who spent a lifetime making their name with words. My heart goes out to Willis and to all who find themselves deprived of the language they always took for granted. May they be compensated for their awful loss with the love and support of all who care for them.

All those people who write columns, who entertain us — have a regular presence in the public square — they are human. And every human struggles. We forget this about our neighbor, we forget this about the people who are on our screens day in and day out, and in debates about what may or may not be a Christmas movie (Die Hard).

I’ve read Jeff Jacoby for decades and had no idea the pain he lives with. Most of us have seen a Bruce Willis movie or two and had no idea until last week what he was suffering. We usually have no idea.

Maybe the reminder can nudge us to be a little kinder to one another. And also, to appreciate one another — and say “thank you” a little more. 

After a migraine attack, it might be a little consolation to read a note from a reader who shares a few words of gratitude for a column you appreciated. He doesn’t write for such things, but it can help the human being attached to the byline. Same goes for actors, teachers, parents, the person delivering your mail, and the list goes on, if we start to really think about it. The non-transactional life is worth living.

Please click on and share Jacoby’s column here.

World

Mass Killings in Bucha, a Suburb of Kyiv

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Volunteers prepare to put the body of a civilian, who according to residents was killed by Russian soldiers, in a van carrying body bags, in Bucha, Kyiv Region, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. (Stringer/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal documented the carnage Russian troops left behind as they withdrew from the Kyiv suburbs last week. The Journal’s report from Bucha, where Ukrainians are discovering corpses of civilians strewn across the city, conveys the sheer horror of Russian-perpetrated war crimes just being unearthed:

“There are six dead people in my yard,” said a woman. “They were buried because we were not allowed to take them somewhere.”

Onto a rise past a grassy basketball court, a row of bodies was visible in a hole in the ground through a slit in a concrete carapace, eight or nine torsos wrapped in plastic, faces newly lifeless, yet to gray in decay.

A man looking on said that he and others had found a woman dead behind her bullet-riddled apartment door.

Down the road from city hall, behind St. Andrew’s Church, a hole held a pile of bodies, thrown any which way. From the dirt tossed upon them appeared an elbow, a knee, the sole of a running shoe. One body was wrapped in a plastic shopping bag, white with red roses.

The WSJ also published gruesome images of the scene: an incinerated corpse, Ukrainian volunteers moving bodies in plastic bags, the bodies of an elderly couple buried partially by Russian troops.

The Journal’s dispatch is only one report from the area, and other horrors have yet to be fully accounted for. The number of people executed by Russian forces is in flux, though early reports said that some 280 people were buried in a mass grave.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, surveying the aftermath on a visit to Bucha yesterday, said that Russia’s actions amounted to “genocide,” a call that Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed. President Biden, speaking to reporters this morning, rejected that label but said that Russian president Vladimir Putin should face trial for war crimes.

Already, revelations of the mass killings are spurring some renewed action by Western countries, including some European countries’ expulsion of Russian spies and a U.S.-led campaign to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Ukrainian officials say what they really need are weapons with which to liberate Russian-occupied territory. As more Russian atrocities are unearthed, transferring tanks, planes, and other weapons requested by Kyiv might become more politically feasible.

And more Russian atrocities are certain to be unearthed, as bodies are found in cellars and other sites where Russian forces murdered ordinary people.

Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said on Ukrainian television today that despite the horror of what took place in Bucha, the death toll in the city of Borodyanka, another Kyiv suburb, is even worse.

Politics & Policy

WATCH: Alexandra DeSanctis Exposes the Feminist Pro-Choice Lie in Notre Dame Debate

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Alexandra DeSanctis debating at Notre Dame, March 29, 2022. (ND Studios/Screenshot via Youtube)

National Review’s resident pro-life expert Alexandra DeSanctis recently did something many view as impossible these days: She participated in a civil debate over a controversial topic on a college campus.

My colleague debated feminist attorney Jill Filipovic on the resolution “Legal Access to Abortion Is Necessary for the Freedom and Equality of Women” at the University of Notre Dame, DeSanctis’s alma mater.

Though both women have said they wish the topic of abortion were not even up for debate — albeit for wildly different reasons — the pair partook in a civil exchange of ideas.

DeSanctis’s remarks begin 43 minutes in and conclude a few minutes past the one-hour mark. Below are some highlights.

DeSanctis forcefully called out the big pro-abortion lie:

For those of you who follow the abortion debate, you know that some form of tonight’s resolution is, by far, the most common defense of abortion. I cover this issue all the time, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard an abortion supporter say, “I think it’s just great to kill unborn children.” No. What do they say instead?

“Women need this.”

I think that’s a devastating lie. Women need so much more than abortion could ever hope to offer. Abortion is like trying to put a tiny little Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

Still, DeSanctis worked to find a common ground with Filipovic, who is also a CNN opinion writer and freelance journalist. In doing so, she refutes the oft-repeated lie that it is the pro-abortion side that cares about women:

It might surprise you to hear it, but I agree with some of what Jill said in her opening remarks. I agree with her that countless women find themselves in difficult circumstances that can make it seem like abortion is a solution.

It is an undeniable reality that women get pregnant and men don’t. That means that women face unique obstacles as a result of pregnancy and childbearing. I agree with that entirely. That reality is important. And I agree with Jill that women should be able to control their own bodies and decide when to have children.

But DeSanctis paints a clear picture of what abortion is and is not — adeptly noting where the two perspectives diverge:

But Jill and I disagree about what abortion is. If “controlling your body” means you have the right to end the life of a human being developing inside you, that’s where we have to draw the line. If “deciding when to have children” means you can kill a child you’ve already conceived because it’s not the right time for you, that’s where we have to draw the line.

Where Jill and I disagree is when she claims that, because women face the unique obstacles of pregnancy and childbearing, that means we need abortion. Women who face obstacles to their freedom and equality need all sorts of things, many of which Jill and I would probably agree on — but none of those things are found in the ability to kill our own children. No real freedom or equality or control of our own decisions can be underpinned by an act of violence.

Abortion supporters would have women believe that abortion is a means to an end, that in order to be a good feminist and a high-achieving woman who steers her own ship, you must be able to terminate unwanted pregnancies. But DeSanctis pushed back during the debate, arguing how deeply anti-feminist and disingenuous that argument is:

Think about how deeply anti-feminist that is, to tell women that they can only be free and equal relative to men if they participate in violence. If you’re a woman in the corporate world, they say, you’ll never have any hope of climbing the ladder and reaching the corner office unless you have the right to control your own body, by which they mean committing an act of violence. If you’re a woman with two kids and expensive bills, you’ll never be a good mother unless you can control your reproduction and do away with your third child. If you’re a pregnant mother whose husband or partner or family won’t support her, you have no hope of surviving unless you commit an act of violence.

DeSanctis says what every pro-lifer knows, and every abortion cheerleader would prefer to ignore:

Abortion is an easy way out for a society and a culture that is deeply anti-woman. These women need real solutions. If there are women out there who feel like they can’t pay their bills or care for their children or succeed in the workplace or participate in relationships on equal footing without resorting to an act of violence, they need assistance and support and, frankly, love. They need a community that supports women. They need a partner who loves them. They need people who walk with them. They do not need abortion.

World

Notes on Hungary

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán addresses supporters after the announcement of the results of their parliamentary election in Budapest, Hungary, April 3, 2022. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

I’ll have something more to say later this week on the reelection of Hungary’s Fidesz government, led by Viktor Orbán. But just some observations.

National conservatism will produce national results. Until Russia’s war on Ukraine displaced all other issues of salience, Poland’s Law and Justice government was routinely lumped with Hungary’s as among the “backsliding democracies.” Namely, because they were passing socially conservative legislation and reforms that blunted the power of logrolling progressive institutions.

But the Polish public and the Hungarian public actually feel differently about the war. Poland is far more confrontational about Russia and their position is somewhat closer to that of the United Kingdom. In very general terms, the Polish public’s view is that Russian aggression must be confronted. The Hungarian public’s view is that Hungary cannot embroil itself in conflicts in which it will not be the final arbiter. A cursory familiarity with the last century of their respective histories suffices to explain this difference.

Hungary did not block the EU’s sanctions on Russia — but, like Germany, it will not cut off the gas and nuclear energy it buys from Russia. Although they came close to patching up last year, Hungary and Ukraine have had recent conflicts over national-identity issues. Hungary extended some citizen-like privileges to the Hungarian-speaking minority in Ukraine. And Ukraine temporarily banned the use of Hungarian in school instruction before reversing itself.

Hungary attracts outsized international attention — left and right — as a proxy over domestic social wars. In this election, Orbán and his leading opponent both advertised their social conservatism. The results of a series of LGBT ballot referendum are pretty startling.

That kind of result, showing that even opposition voters are overwhelmingly socially conservative, should warn off progressives that Hungary isn’t going to transform into Belgium overnight, at least not democratically.

The leader of the six-party amalgamated opposition bloc, Péter Márki-Zay, had the support of international liberals but spent much of the campaign advertising that he was a social conservative, and never seemed to find an issue that divided the Fidesz coalition. On social issues, he presented “an echo not a choice.” And on other issues, the party — which united former Jobbik voters with socialists — had little hope of presenting a coherent alternative on governance.

As far as I can tell, none of the international observers have alleged electoral fraud — only “unfairness” in gerrymandering and media coverage. More on that in the future.

Culture

Florida’s Much-Smeared Parental Rights Bill Is Popular, Even among Democrats

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Florida’s much-smeared Parental Rights in Education bill bans “classroom instruction” on “sexual orientation or gender identity” from kindergarten through the third grade. The law also states that schools “may not discourage or prohibit parental notification of and involvement in critical decisions affection a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” And that parents are not to be blocked from “education and health records created, maintained or used by the school.”

No brainers, on both counts. Which is presumably why the bill’s ideological opponents have preferred to construct a “Don’t Say Gay” straw man to attack it. Not once does the word “gay” appear in the bill’s text. Meanwhile, “sexual orientation” includes heterosexuality as well as homosexuality.

Nevertheless, as the media continue to spread activist lies, Americans presented with the bill’s actual language support its provisions by a two-to-one margin. A recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies found that 61 percent of people said they supported the law, compared with 26 percent who opposed it. The bill also gained the support of 55 percent of Democrats.