Elections

Why Is Mike Lindell Challenging the Presidential Election Results In . . . Idaho?

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My Pillow CEO Michael Lindell speaks as President Donald Trump listens during the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House, March 30, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Mocking Mike Lindell and his nutty conspiracy theories is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, but there’s one detail left out of this story that illuminates how spectacularly around-the-bend the efforts to recount, re-litigate, and disprove the 2020 election results have gone:

Staff from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office visited two Idaho counties last week following receipt of information that alleged statewide manipulation of Idaho’s election results.

“The office of the Idaho Secretary of State takes free, fair, and accurate elections seriously,” says Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, “so when we are presented with allegations that come with specific details which we can examine, we want to do so.”

The document in question, dubbed “The Big Lie” and shared publicly by a website bearing the copyright of Michael J. Lindell, claims that votes actually cast for Donald J. Trump had been switched electronically and recorded as votes for Joseph Biden.

“Once we had the document in hand, we immediately believed there was something amiss,” says Chief Deputy Secretary Chad Houck. “This document alleged electronic manipulation in all 44 counties. At least 7 Idaho counties have no electronic steps in their vote counting processes,” states Houck, “That was a huge red flag, and one we knew we could either prove or disprove fairly directly.”

…Butte County’s official canvas showed 1,202 votes for Trump and 188 votes for Biden. “The actual ballots, upon manual inspection and hand-evaluation in the presence of local representatives from both Republican and Democratic parties, in fact showed exactly the expected 188 marked votes for Biden, not 130 as alleged,” says Houck.

The only anomaly was that only 1406 of the 1415 ballots originally tallied for the county’s canvas were counted, resulting in a lower number of 1193 for Trump compared to the canvased 1202. (The remaining 25 ballots represent other candidates as well as overvotes, undervotes, and write-in ballots.)

The little detail that went unmentioned in that story is that Donald Trump won Idaho, 63.8 percent to Biden’s 33 percent. Trump won 41 of the state’s 44 counties. In terms of percentage margin, Idaho was Trump’s fifth-best state.

Even if you bought into the baseless conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and that Trump won enough votes in enough states to reach 270 electoral votes… what is the point of a Trump supporter looking at Idaho’s vote count and trying to find Trump votes that were undercounted or Biden votes that were undercounted? Trump already won that state, by a lot! What, do they want to revise the record of Trump’s victory to a 65 percent to 30 split? Is the aim to tweak the national popular vote totals by one-tenth of one percentage point?

If there was a nefarious conspiracy in Idaho that switched votes from Trump to Biden . . . that nefarious conspiracy did a really terrible job! What, did half the conspirators oversleep on Election Day?

Romney Leads Letter Opposing ‘Harmful Marriage Penalties’ in Reconciliation Bill

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(ASphotowed/Getty Images)

Led by Utah senator Mitt Romney, a group of 33 GOP senators from across the ideological spectrum sent a letter on Thursday to Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden opposing “harmful marriage penalties” in the congressional Democrats’ reconciliation bill.

“As you know, current marriage penalties occur when a household’s overall tax bill increases due to a couple marrying and filing taxes jointly,” the senators write in their letter. “Unfortunately, despite its original rollout as part of the ‘American Families Plan,’ the current draft of the reconciliation bill takes an existing marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and makes it significantly worse. This is not the only marriage penalty created or worsened by the partisan bill.”

“For example, a couple in 2019 with two children where one parent earns $12,000 and the other $30,000 could pay $1,578 more in taxes if they are married—or nearly 4% of their yearly earnings. The reconciliation bill makes the same family significantly worse off. It could nearly double the marriage penalty, costing the same parents $2,713 if they choose to marry.”

The letter and full list of signatories can be viewed here.

Regulatory Policy

We Need to Revive the Contracts Clause

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(mj0007/Getty Images)

In this Law & Liberty essay, Professor John McGinnis of Northwestern Law School, argues that the eviction moratoria are unconstitutional. Under the Constitution, the states are forbidden to enact laws that “impair the obligation of contracts.” McGinnis rightly says that if a moratorium allowing renters to avoid paying amounts they have contractually agreed to pay doesn’t violate that clause, it’s hard to think what would.

The problem here goes back to the New Deal, when the Supreme Court in 1934 upheld a Minnesota law that similarly interfered with rental housing contracts in Homeowners Association v. Blasidell. That was one of those terrible decisions that tore apart the Constitution because a majority on the Court thought that government had to have new power because of the Depression. It was a bad decision then and it sets a bad precedent.

In an ideal world, the current Court would overrule Blaisdell and revive the Contracts Clause. In an even more ideal world, we’d amend the Constitution so that the federal government is also forbidden to interfere with existing contracts, or to mandate that contracts must be written to suit the sensibilities of politicians.

Politics & Policy

Manchin: Reconciliation ‘Dead on Arrival’ If It Doesn’t Include Hyde Amendment

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/Pool/Reuters)

House Democrats have pushed forward in their reconciliation bill with creating a new “Medicaid-like” program that lacks the Hyde amendment, a measure that generally prohibits federal funding of abortion. But West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a pro-life Democrat, says reconciliation is “dead on arrival” in the Senate if it doesn’t include the longstanding pro-life protection.

Outside of the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday evening, Manchin briefly spoke to National Review:

National Review: Senator, you’ve been very firm on keeping the Hyde amendment on the appropriations bills. Are you concerned about that issue at all in reconciliation—

Manchin: Certainly—

NR: —with this new Medicaid program?

Manchin: Yeah, we’re not taking the Hyde amendment off. Hyde’s going to be on.

NR: In the new Medicaid program?

Manchin: It has to be. It has to be. That’s dead on arrival if that’s gone.

The traditional Medicaid program is funded by appropriations bills that are subject to a 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, so efforts by House Democrats to kill off the Hyde amendment entirely this year are doomed.

But in their reconciliation bill, which only needs a simple majority to pass the Senate, House Democrats propose creating a new Medicaid-like program administered entirely by the federal government for low-income residents in the twelve states that chose not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The new Medicaid-like program lacks the Hyde amendment and would therefore fund abortions for beneficiaries. If Manchin wants to close the so-called Medicaid gap without funding elective abortion, there appears to be an obvious path to accomplish that:

Politico reports that another option under consideration is “allowing low-income adults to get free private coverage through Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces.”

When Obamacare passed in 2010, it subsidized insurance plans that cover elective abortions (and still does), but it also gave states the ability to pass laws applying the Hyde amendment to all of the health-insurance plans offered on respective Obamacare exchanges. None of the twelve states that declined to expand Medicaid offers elective-abortion coverage in their taxpayer-subsidized Obamacare exchanges. So expanding Obamacare coverage in only those states would not result in taxpayer funding of elective abortion.

The House Energy & Commerce bill actually takes this approach to closing the Medicaid gap in 2022 and 2023 but then appears to add abortion funding in the Obamacare exchanges in those twelve states in 2024. As National Review reported earlier this month: 

Because the new Medicaid program in these twelve states wouldn’t be up and running until 2025, the bill would, starting in 2022, make these low-income individuals eligible for Obamacare plans that the government would subsidize to the tune of 99 percent of the actuarial value of medical expenses (up from 94 percent under current law).

Obamacare plans in these twelve states do not currently cover taxpayer funding of abortion — the Affordable Care Act allowed states to prohibit elective abortion coverage in their exchanges — but the House Democrats’ bill appears to do an end run around that prohibition, too, starting in 2024.

The language in the House Energy and Commerce bill is convoluted, but it is hard to see how it isn’t designed to fund abortions in the Obamacare exchanges in the twelve states that didn’t expand Medicaid. The House reconciliation bill would require funding for family-planning services “which are not otherwise provided under such plan[s]” in Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act already requires plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay or cost-sharing, but as HealthCare.gov notes: “Plans aren’t required to cover drugs to induce abortions.” So family-planning services “not otherwise provided” means abortion.

These aren’t the only ways the House Energy and Commerce Committee bill would fund abortion. It also includes funding starting in 2024 for “non-emergency medical transportation services,” which could mean that enrollees could be transported at taxpayer expense for an abortion at any point in pregnancy. And it includes “public health” funding that could be used to train doulas and others to assist or perform elective abortions.

In June, Manchin said that he’s going to support the Hyde amendment “in every way possible.”

Culture

Foster Children in Philadelphia Get Relief from Cruelty; Abortion Doulas; and More

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Sharonell Fulton (Courtesy Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)

1. Philadelphia Catholic Foster Care Agency Can Once Again Help Children After Settlement with City

Finally! Thank you, Becket Fund!

2. Heidi Crowter: I’ll never stop fighting unfair laws for babies with Down’s syndrome

A few years ago my mum, Liz, told me that some people choose to abort babies with disabilities like Down’s syndrome – and it is legal to do so up to birth. This really upset me. Why should people like me be treated differently from other babies, who can only be aborted up to 24 weeks?

I firmly believe that a blood test or scan does not tell the whole picture. I might have Down’s syndrome but I can achieve lots and have a wonderful existence.

3. Woman with Down syndrome loses UK abortion law challenge

Abortion is legal for babies with Down syndrome up until birth.

4. Gloria Purvis: Abortion is integral to upholding systems that oppress women. That’s why I support the new Texas law.

5. The long five minutes: Abortion doulas bring comfort during a complicated time

On the first day of training, a doctor had come in, a chic, funny woman who walked through the mechanics of the procedure, passing around medical instruments: a tenaculum, metal dilators. On the second day, they went over a list of neutral phrases and topics for if they found themselves not knowing what else to say: “It is almost finished.” “You’re so strong.” “Are you watching anything good on TV?” Ask what patients were planning to have for dinner — they wouldn’t have eaten since the night before. Talk about their kids. Patients who already had kids loved talking about their kids.

….

From the back of the room, Grace half-raised her hand.

“A doula is water,” she said.

“Explain that?”

“Taking the shape of whatever role is needed,” Grace explained. “Like water.”

From the whiteboard, Lindsey nodded. “If someone getting an abortion calls it a baby, it’s a baby,” Lindsey said. “If she calls it a fetus, it’s a fetus. If she doesn’t say anything, don’t talk about it.”

She turned and wrote on the whiteboard: “A doula is water.”

….

If I had an abortion I would be ending a life, one question read.

“Death can exist without it being murder,” a doula replied, explaining how she could agree with the “life ending” statement but still believe in abortion. “I can love animals and still eat meat. I can do this kind of work because of these gray areas.”

6. [A Desperate] China [After Years of Forced Abortions] Restricts Abortions to Force Women Into Having More Babies

Between 2014 and 2018, Chinese doctors performed an average of 9.7 million abortions a year, according to the country’s National Health Commission. That’s an increase of 51 percent over the previous five years before the relaxation of China’s one-child rule governing family size in 2015.

Prior to that, Chinese couples were faced with difficult choices under the country’s strict one-child policy, which normalized gender-based abortions and sterilizations. Abortions were also largely considered to be undercounted during that era. According to 2020 census figures released in May 2021, males account for 51.27 percent of China’s 1.34 billion people.

On Sunday, China also did away with three other laws related to family planning that were created during China’s one-child policy era said to reflect what is perceived as a challenge of the country’s falling birth rate. Reuters reports that the laws optimize a “fertility policy” meant to “promote long-term balanced population development.”

Continue reading “Foster Children in Philadelphia Get Relief from Cruelty; Abortion Doulas; and More”

Fiscal Policy

Taxing Unrealized Capital Gains: A Bad Idea That Just Won’t Die

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(alfexe/Getty Images)

Vampires are — so the stories go — extremely difficult to kill, and so it’s somehow appropriate that the same is true, but in reality, of predatory tax proposals.

The Wall Street Journal

President Biden expressed support for a proposal under consideration in the Senate to place an annual income tax on billionaires’ unrealized capital gains.

The potential tax increase, being pursued by Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), would be among a number of tax provisions that Mr. Biden is seeking to pay for a proposed $3.5 trillion spending plan that encapsulates much of his first-term agenda. It is an alternative to some administration tax ideas that have flopped in Congress, and it would generate money from the wealthiest sliver of Americans, whose incomes can be a fraction of their wealth.

It is not unknown for a tax to begin life by being levied on “the wealthiest sliver of Americans,” but, over time, for it to catch more and more people in its web. As I wrote in March in response to a wealth tax proposed by (surprise!) Elizabeth Warren:

When a “permanent” income tax was introduced after the passing of the 16th Amendment, there were not many victims, and they didn’t suffer much. Less than 1 percent of the population paid income taxes at the rate of only 1 percent of net income. I understand that changed.

Back to the WSJ:

The idea is that for billionaires only, annual gains in wealth would be treated as income. So under current law, someone whose net worth rose to $22 billion from $20 billion and sold nothing would have no income. Under Mr. Wyden’s proposal, that person would have $2 billion of taxable income.

One challenge for the proposal is that it would need to deal with losses, and the prospect of the government sending large checks to billionaires is politically unappealing. Lawmakers could allow deductions for annual losses while also imposing limits on those deductions or allowing them to carry forward to offset gains in future years.

Mr. Wyden has been working on the idea of annual taxes on unrealized gains for several years, and its adoption would mark a significant change to U.S. tax law that would redefine taxable income for a few hundred people. It would affect billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett.

There is no official revenue estimate yet, but a similar proposal targeted at a larger group—the top 0.1% of households—would raise about $750 billion over a decade, according to a 2019 estimate from tax professors Lily Batchelder and David Kamin, who are now both senior Biden administration officials.

So the first hint of the future extension of such a tax is already there. The Wyden proposal affects a “few hundred” people, but the Biden administration contains two academics (it’s always worth remembering that class warfare is primarily managed from within the elite) who had already proposed something similar for the top 0.1 percent of households, still a tiny number, but the ratchet has to start somewhere.

The authors of the WSJ report (Ken Thomas and Richard Rubin) highlight other practical difficulties with such a tax:

The proposal would be very difficult for the Internal Revenue Service to implement and enforce, partly because of the challenge of valuing illiquid assets, said Andrew Moylan, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. The resulting revenue stream could be volatile, and the proposal could make it harder for founders of large companies to maintain control….

The system doesn’t need to be perfect in addressing every complexity, and policy makers should focus on making it easy to administer and hard to avoid, said Ari Glogower, a tax law professor at Ohio State University.

“You want to design a system that’s going to raise revenue and avoid the most substantial gaming opportunities,” he said.

Translation: We need to stick it to the taxpayer.

There are plenty of other objections to taxing unrealized capital gains and, writing back in 2019, David Bahnsen responded to an earlier, broader (“millionaires and billionaires” were to be targeted) Wyden proposal with a thorough demolition job here.

I’d add this to what David had to say. A tax on an increase on unrealized (and, of course, possibly ephemeral) gains is only on the most stretched of interpretations a tax on income. In reality it is a tax on wealth, and one thing that wealth taxes do is redefine the relationship between the individual and the state. To be sure, it is “only” a tax on a portion of a wicked billionaire’s wealth, but (to repeat myself) the ratchet has to begin somewhere.

As I tweeted here:

A wealth tax is a sophisticated, lighter touch derivative of feudalism, but the core of it is the same: The state (“the king”) has, theoretically, a call on everything you own.

That’s not where we should want to be headed.

Politics & Policy

The Reconciliation Bill Is Unprecedented in Every Way

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United States Capitol Building (rarrarorro/Getty Images)

There was a time not very long ago when political parties never would have entertained the idea of jamming through any massive, generational reform legislation without some form of buy-in from the other party. Democrats claim that the filibuster and the imaginary threat of “minority rule” has compelled them to use (really, abuse) the reconciliation process. In the days before the Obamacare vote forever changed the Senate, nearly every major post-war reform bill easily passed the 60-vote threshold: The Civil Rights Act got 73 votes in the Senate, Medicare and Medicaid got 68, the Voting Rights Act had 77, the Clean Air Act passed with 73, Reagan’s 1981 tax-reform bill got 89, the 1996 welfare-reform bill had 74, No Child Left Behind got 91 votes, and the PATRIOT Act had 98, just to name a few.

Certainly, this is not to contend that, simply because a bill can attract bipartisan support, it is all good. But the idea that government can’t function with the filibuster is a notion debunked by history. It is true that the filibuster stops a party that is intent on governing unilaterally and steamrolling half the country using a razor-slim, fleeting majority. Which only means the filibuster is working. And if the ideological chasm between the parties is too wide to forge compromise, then it’s not the time for Washington to be passing wide-ranging generational legislation, anyway. Nothing in the Constitution says you have to pass big, transformational bills.

Indeed, Democrats used the filibuster over 300 times during the Trump years to stop Republicans. (Unlike the Dems’ agenda bill, the 2017 Republican tax cut clearly was a budgetary concern — though they should have refrained from passing it using reconciliation.) Now Democrats want to run the country using a simple majority in an evenly split Senate. And, as they did with Obamacare, they are now negotiating only with themselves. Back in 2009-2010, moderate Democrats, of which there were many more, all caved under pressure. Most of them lost their seats over the next few years. Joe Manchin represents a state that Donald Trump won by 69 percent, and Kyrsten Sinema hails from a state that Joe Biden won by a mere 11,000 votes. The idea that their constituencies — or ones in Montana or the exurbs of Pennsylvania — are clamoring for a massive government expansion written by socialist Bernie Sanders is risible.

The consequence of Obamacare was the loss of a thousand seats nationally, and, perhaps, the presidency of Donald Trump. I’m not sure what the cost will be for altering American governance in this manner with a single bill corruptly crammed through the budget process, but it will, almost surely, make American politics worse in every way imaginable.

Politics & Policy

Senator Manchin: ‘I Cannot — and Will Not — Support Trillions in Spending’

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counter-terrorism operations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 28, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has just put out a statement that serves as a sequel to his recent Wall Street Journal piece. “While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation,” Manchin notes, “I cannot — and will not — support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces.”

As it should be, that “brutal fiscal reality” is clearly weighing on Manchin:

Every Member of Congress has a solemn duty to vote for what they believe is best for the country and the American people, not their party. Respectfully, as I have said for months, I can’t support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March. At some point, all of us, regardless of party, must ask the simple question — how much is enough?”

In particular, Manchin points to our unsustainable entitlements, and to the risk of inflation:

What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity. Suggesting that spending trillions more will not have an impact on inflation ignores the everyday reality that America’s families continue to pay an unavoidable inflation tax. Proposing a historical expansion of social programs while ignoring the fact that we are not in a recession and that millions of jobs remain open will only feed a dysfunction that could weaken our economic recovery.

What does Manchin want to do? He wants to ensure that:

any expansion of social programs must be targeted to those in need, not expanded beyond what is fiscally possible.

And he believes that:

our tax code should be reformed to fix the flaws of the 2017 tax bill

Unlike many of his colleagues, however, he thinks that:

the amount we spend now must be balanced with what we need and can afford — not designed to reengineer the social and economic fabric of this nation or vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.

Manchin finishes with a warning:

If there is one final lesson that will continue to guide me in this difficult debate ahead it is this: America is a great nation but great nations throughout history have been weakened by careless spending and bad policies. Now, more than ever, we must work together to avoid these fatal mistakes so that we may fulfill our greatest responsibility as elected leaders and on a better America to the next generation.

Manchin is correct. Let’s hope that, when it comes to it, he sees fit to follow his own advice — which, given present circumstances, would require killing the bill completely.

Media

Washington Post Misleads on Abortion Laws around the World

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Pro-life and Pro-Choice demonstrators stand in front of the Supreme Court during a pro-life rally in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2004. (William Philpott/Reuters)

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published a feature piece comparing abortion laws in the U.S. to those around the world, arguing that “many states have moved to restrict access as global abortion laws become more liberal.”

But the authors (two graphics reporters, one intern, and one staff writer, for what it’s worth) ignore key context and misstate several facts that undermine the argument they’d like to make — which is, of course, that pro-lifers are trying to move the U.S. backwards while countries around the world make “progress.” (Never mind the question-begging involved in the article’s assumption that unlimited abortion is a desirable form of societal advancement.)

First and most important, the article misrepresents the status quo on abortion in the U.S. The authors do not divulge that, because of Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings, most state efforts to regulate abortion are struck down before they can ever take effect. This reality severely neuters the article’s claim that “in some parts of the United States . . . it’s gotten harder” to obtain an abortion. Thanks to Roe, this really isn’t the case.

Meanwhile, the article states that, in the U.S., “abortions after fetal viability are rare, even if they are not outlawed.” In reality, the best estimates suggest that there are about 12,000 post-viability abortions in the U.S. each year, which amounts to more than the annual number of gun homicides. This might be “rare” compared to the 900,000 or so total abortions in the U.S. each year, but it’s hardly rare in any serious sense.

Finally, the article’s argument rests on the claim that a number of countries recently have made it easier to obtain an abortion legally. This is undoubtedly true, but not in the way the Post suggests.

“Just this month, Mexico’s supreme court ruled to decriminalize the practice. Argentina’s Senate legalized abortion in December. Meanwhile, New ZealandThailand and Ireland have all taken steps to ease abortion restrictions in recent years,” the authors write.

But if you read the articles linked in each case, you find that not a single one of those countries has legalized abortion past 20 weeks’ gestation, and most curb it far earlier.

Despite the court ruling in Mexico, there are plenty of states in  the country where abortion remains entirely illegal, and in the ones where it is permitted, it is only legal up to twelve weeks’ gestation. Both Thailand and Ireland legalized abortion for any reason only during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. In Argentina, the recently enacted bill allows abortion only during the first 14 weeks. And New Zealand moved to permit abortion only during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. All of these facts are easily discernible merely by following the links the Post includes in its story.

Rather than proving that the U.S. is restricting abortion while a series of countries liberalize their abortion laws, the Post has exposed the ignorance and laziness of its reporters — as well as the unfortunate reality that the U.S. remains one of just a few countries, including China and North Korea, to permit abortion on demand after the unborn child can survive outside the womb. 

Art

Always Look for the Graces

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(Kathryn Jean Lopez)

There’s a beautiful exhibit open through this coming Sunday, October 3, at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in lower Manhattan. It’s called Portraits of Grace: Honoring Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Honestly, though, it’s really giving thanks to God. The photos, curated by photographer Jeffrey Bruno, show His presence throughout the dark days of the coronavirus. In the midst of the suffering, there was light — doctors and nurses caring for patients in such grueling situations — priests and sisters being the arms and feet of God during the pandemic. Teachers making sure children could get back to some semblance of normal school. People worshipping God, knowing He has a plan when it doesn’t at all seem apparent what it is. I’ve walked through it a few times, and sat and meditated on some of the images. We’ve been through a strange time together — and it continues — and instead of getting mad we can help acknowledge the suffering but also the graces. More time with family, less time traveling. How many fathers have managed to eliminate an every-weekday commute? Mothers, too. Now is the time to reflect on how the coronavirus pandemic has made us stronger and more reflective and humble. If it hasn’t, consider it a choice to make.

If you are in the area, you will be inspired and challenged by spending some time at the exhibit, drinking in the graces. Information here.

Full disclosure: The National Review Institute is a co-sponsor of the exhibit. With thanks to the Sheen Center for hosting it and Sheen board member Amanda Bowman for spearheading it. Cardinal Dolan hosted a private opening for the exhibit earlier this month. For some of this thoughts on the pandemic and moving forward, check out this interview with him from earlier this year.

And there’s a work in progress associated website here.

Politics & Policy

Cotton Hits House Democrats for Voting for Right to Kill Premature Infants before Birth

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Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 28, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Reuters)

On Wednesday, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket,” Arkansas GOP senator Tom Cotton blasted House Democrats for voting almost unanimously on September 24 in favor of a bill that would enshrine in federal law a right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy:

Maybe this entire hearing is to distract from the radical law that just passed the House of Representatives last week—the most extreme pro-abortion measure to ever pass the Congress. Now, the Democrats over there, all but one of them whom voted for it, argue that this bill merely codifies Roe v. Wade. Oh, if only that were so, Roe v. Wade though wrongly decided at least acknowledged, at least acknowledged, our people’s legitimate abiding interest to protect innocent life, before a child is born.

The law that passed in the House of Representatives, though, last week allows abortion to occur up until the very moment of birth—40 weeks or even beyond, displaying a grotesque indifference to the most vulnerable kinds of human life.

I remember when my son was in the NICU, it was adorned with photos on the wall matching on the one hand a small child that had been born at 30 weeks or 28 weeks or even 23 weeks, sometime so small it was held in the palm of a doctor. To the picture of that child at age 5 or 7 or 11, riding a bike, performing in a ballet, running through a field of flowers, all of whom would have been subject to the most grotesque and abusive kinds of abortions under the bill the House of Representatives just passed.

A National Review editorial explained last week how extreme the congressional Democrats abortion bill is: 

H.R. 3755, the deceitfully named Women’s Health Protection Act, would invalidate nearly all state laws limiting and regulating abortion, including many health and safety regulations designed to protect the lives of women.

The legislation is nothing short of an act of barbarism: It would create an absolute right to abort a child before “fetal viability” — that is, according to the Act, when a baby born would likely survive outside the womb — and it would prohibit states from protecting life after viability until birth if a lone “health care provider” determines the “continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk” to the mother’s life or “health.” The bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate has acknowledged the legislation “doesn’t distinguish” between physical and mental health, and the text of the bill explicitly instructs the courts to “liberally” interpret the legislation. There can be no doubt that courts would broadly interpret “health” as Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe, defined health: “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age. . . . All these factors may relate to health.”

Congressional Democrats have for decades introduced bills that would “codify Roe” — the legislation was long-known as the Freedom of Choice Act, but it was renamed and revised as the Women’s Health Protection Act in 2013. Before Friday, however, the legislation had never been put up for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House or Senate. “We haven’t been able to codify [Roe] because we never had a Democratic pro-choice majority with a Democratic president,” Pelosi said at a press conference on Thursday. Pelosi’s claim was transparently false: When Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama took office, they each had Congresses controlled by Democrats who generally supported legalized abortion. Pelosi claimed otherwise to cover up the real reason that the bill never came to the floor for a vote: It was seen as politically poisonous and too extreme for many “pro-choice” Democrats.

Don’t Underestimate Democratic Desperation on the Spending Bills

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz) greets Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) as he arrives for a bipartisan meeting on infrastructure at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A dynamic at play in the seemingly endless negotiations on Capitol Hill is that if Democrats fail to unite behind either of their massive spending bills, the consequences of that failure are likely to forcibly unite them later on.

Right now, the prospects look grim for Democrats. President Biden and Speaker Pelosi are “scrambling” to save the infrastructure bill, in the words of the Washington Post.  The New York Times warns, “if Mr. Biden cannot find a way to address [Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema’s] concerns, while also assuaging progressives and persuading them to support his infrastructure bill, he could see

Culture

Protect Thanksgiving from the Irish

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(Nattakorn Maneerat/Getty Images)

An Irish political party put this tweet out, proposing the addition of a new “bank holiday” to the Irish calendar, landing on a November Monday:

Because of their history of emigration to America and the power of American media beaming across the world, the Irish are somewhat Americanized already. But lines need to be drawn. Thanksgiving is the greatest national holiday, period. And I’ve welcomed my own Irish family to join us for it in America. But, this idea of adopting an ersatz Irish Thanksgiving is offensive.

I hate this idea for many reasons.

1) I hate it because it has now turned me against “cultural appropriation,” which is normally healthy.

2) I hate it because this is transparently an attempt to create something for retailers in Ireland, where for years, there has already been something like a “Black Friday” promotion in November. In America, Black Friday grew out of the holiday, it wasn’t the cause of the holiday. It would be ironic if the “spiritual nation” of Ireland adopted it for the lucre, when the commercial Republic of America saw it only as an outgrowth of a day dedicated to thanking God.

3) The Irish already have something of a tradition of holiday shopping done on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This brings them in line with other European Countries. Build out from there.

4) I hate it because it’s giving every Irish mid-wit on Twitter a chance to say that Thanksgiving “celebrates colonialism.” Shut up. This is as dumb as saying a trad seisiún at an Irish pub is about killing Danish or English immigrants. Actually, I better not give Irish mid-wits ideas. Trad seisiúns are cool.

5) I hate it because it reminds me that America has lost its swaggering confidence. If the French can pull their diplomats over a submarine deal, this tweet alone should be the cause of a naval blockade of Ireland until Fine Gael desists.

6) I hate it because they are missing that the genius of Thanksgiving is that it falls on a Thursday. What morons Fine Gael are.

National Security & Defense

Why Did Biden’s Justice Department Send a Russian Cybercriminal Back to Moscow?

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Then-Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow in 2011. (Alexander Natruskin/Reuters)

Another example stirs the question of, “When Does the ‘Tough on Russia’ Part of Biden’s Presidency Start?”

The U.S. released a high-profile Russian cybercriminal from its custody this week, at least a year before his prison sentence was expected to finish, handing him over to Russian authorities despite long resisting Moscow’s efforts to retrieve him.

Current and former officials said they were surprised by Mr. Burkov’s release by U.S. authorities, especially given how aggressively the Justice Department had sought his extradition from Israel. Senior Justice Department officials have said that Russia relies on bad-faith requests to extradite its citizens arrested abroad on hacking charges and then either releases them or prosecutes them with light sentences.

…Mr. Burkov was widely seen as a valuable asset to Moscow, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. Many Russian hackers have ties either to the Kremlin or to Russian oligarchs and can be forced into working for an intelligence service if they are brought home to Russia, which was likely a factor in Russia’s interest Mr. Burkov, former officials have said. Mr. Burkov also was believed to possess detailed knowledge of the Russian cybercriminal world that would be valuable both to U.S. and Russian authorities, former officials said.

Hey, remember when President Biden promised to get tough with Russian hackers? Remember when Biden boasted, “I made it very clear to [Vladimir Putin] that — that the United States expects, when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it’s not — not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is”?

When the U.S. has a Russian cybercriminal with time left on his sentence, and chooses to ship him back to the Russian government, does that qualify as getting tough? Or is this a concession that is part of some sort of behind-the-scenes deal between the administration and the Russian government?

The Wall Street Journal notes that FBI deputy director Paul Abbate said at an intelligence conference earlier this month, “there is no indication that the Russian government has taken action to crack down on ransomware actors that are operating in the permissive environment they have created there.”

Politics & Policy

New Guttmacher Report Downplays Pro-Life Progress

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Rossi Maloney, aged 2, who featured as a ‘No’ campaign poster child after his mother Emma Maloney credits the 8th Amendment for saving his life after an unplanned pregnancy, holds a Pro-Life poster in Dublin, Ireland May 23, 2018. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute released a report with new state-level data on pregnancies and desires surrounding pregnancy. In the report, Guttmacher emphasizes that, in almost every state, a plurality of pregnancies occurred either at the desired time or later than desired.

According to the report, unintended pregnancies represented fewer than 50 percent of pregnancies in all states. Between 2012 and 2017, the unintended-pregnancy rate dropped in a majority of states, though the exact magnitude of decline is difficult to determine, because the report does not provide 2012 data on unintended pregnancies for eight states, including populous ones such as Arizona, California, and Florida.

The report contains some data of particular interest to pro-lifers, though Guttmacher downplays it. First, it provides some insight into why conservative states have low abortion rates. Interestingly, overall rates of unintended pregnancy are only slightly lower in right-leaning states than in left-leaning states, but in conservative states, women are much more likely to carry unintended pregnancies to term.

In the 15 states that voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in the past six elections, approximately 45 percent of unintended pregnancies resulted in an abortion. In the 20 states that voted for the Republican presidential nominee in the past six elections, meanwhile, only about 23 percent of women with unintended pregnancies had an abortion. This major difference could be the result of several factors, including pro-life laws, the number of pregnancy-help centers available, or existing pro-life sentiment.

More important, the report adds to the body of research finding a long-term reduction in the percentage of unintended pregnancies that end in an abortion since the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2017, approximately 44 percent of all unintended pregnancies ended in abortion. Since 2008, the percentage of unintended pregnancies resulting in an abortion has ranged between 40 percent and 44 percent. Meanwhile, according to previous reports from Guttmacher, in the 1980s more than half of unintended pregnancies were aborted, and as recently as 1994, 54 percent of unintended pregnancies resulted in an abortion.

The fact that fewer unintended pregnancies end in abortion today demonstrates that pro-life educational, service, and legislative efforts have been effective in protecting preborn children.

Even though the new report provides state-level data on the resolution of unintended pregnancies, it fails to provide national data. (I used state-level data to calculate the overall percentage of unintended pregnancies that resulted in an abortion.) The report also fails to provide historical data on the resolution of unintended pregnancies; the interested reader must obtain this information from previous Guttmacher reports.

As an institution, Guttmacher favors contraception access, and the group frequently argues that reductions in the U.S. abortion rate are the result of increased contraception use. However, the long-term reduction in the percentage of unintended pregnancies that end in abortion clearly illustrates that pro-life efforts play a large role, too. Overall, it is sad, but not surprising, that Guttmacher would downplay data suggesting that pro-life efforts are essential in America’s long-term abortion-rate decline.

The Eviction Moratorium Has Been Over for a Month — with No Eviction Wave

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Eviction notice for an apartment in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2009. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Washington Post story from yesterday begins:

When the Supreme Court decided to strike down a federal ban on evictions in August, lawmakers and housing experts mentioned a slew of devastating metaphors — cliff, tsunami, tidal wave — to describe the national eviction crisis they saw coming. One month later, however, many of those same authorities find themselves wondering: Where is the cliff?

Where, indeed? Lawmakers didn’t merely use strong figures of speech. One of them camped out on the steps of the Capitol to share in the plight of the soon-to-be-evicted. That lawmaker, Cori Bush of Missouri, used the E-word to describe the problem,

NRI

We’re Headed to Dallas!

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

National Review Institute’s Eighth Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner will be on October 21 at the Fairmont in Dallas, Texas. I, along with many of your NR favorites, will be in attendance.

This year, NRI will honor Leonard Leo and Eugene Meyer (the Federalist Society) with the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Political Thought and Adam Meyerson (former president, the Philanthropy Roundtable) with the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty.

We hope you will join us and even consider sponsoring. We anticipate a night of good cheer, with dinner, dancing, and cocktails! (If London Breed can do it, so can we!) To register, please click here.

Education

The Case for Rationality

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In this essay on Quillette, Harvard professor Steven Pinker makes the case for rationality. People need to follow reason, rather than emotions or superstitions.

His discussion is flawless, and I was particularly struck by this passage:

Instead of feeling any need to persuade, people who are certain they are correct can impose their beliefs by force. In theocracies and autocracies, authorities censor, imprison, exile, or burn those with the wrong opinions. In democracies the force is less brutish, but people still find means to impose a belief rather than argue for it. Modern universities—oddly enough, given that their mission is to evaluate ideas—have been at the forefront of finding ways to suppress opinions, including disinviting and drowning out speakers, removing controversial teachers from the classroom, revoking offers of jobs and support, expunging contentious articles from archives, and classifying differences of opinion as punishable harassment and discrimination.

Precisely. That is how the Left has subverted our entire education system — by infiltrating it with people who prefer to censor and punish anyone who disagrees with them as opposed to making arguments based on reason.

Education

Wokeness Invades America’s Seventh-Largest University

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What is our seventh-largest university? It’s Arizona State. Of course, almost no college or university is able to keep the evils of leftism out these days because administrators are mostly in sympathy with its aims.

In today’s Martin Center article, Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute writes about the way “wokeness” has invaded ASU.

For example, a new hire in the music department is committed to teaching “social justice” more than music itself. Butcher writes, “In July, Arizona State University officials hired a music professor to train K-12 music teachers, emphasizing that the new professor is a specialist in critical race theory. Music instruction is secondary—the university’s press release announcing the new hire stresses that the instructor wants to give future music teachers ‘reliable tools beyond teaching the music,’ and she is committed to ‘progressive work’ on how the issues of ‘race, class and culture impact educational equity in music education.’”

No doubt the university could have hired any number of professors who don’t think that music must be politicized, but it chose one who does.

Over in the law school, there is now a course on “Critical Race Theory,” which merely fills the heads of students with crazed theorizing rather than legal knowledge.

And back in January, Butcher notes, “ASU’s biannual RaceB4Race Symposium focused on critical race theory and literature and foreign language studies. One of the presenters said, ‘We have to be taught to pursue radical equity,’ which in critical parlance means that some institution or system would force equal outcomes for individuals, regardless of individual choices. Even in classical language courses and premodern studies, educators are to push students to achieve ‘systemic change.’”

Systemic change, yes; knowledge, no.

I like Butcher’s conclusion: “If ASU wants “to be welcoming,” the university should encourage the pursuit of truth, not skew every course with a perspective based on skin color.”

Politics & Policy

Goodies for Unions in the Reconciliation Bill

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People protest in support of the unionizing efforts of the Alabama Amazon workers, in Los Angeles, California, March 22, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

There’s a new report out by James Sherk, formerly a labor economist at the Heritage Foundation and a labor policy adviser in the Trump White House, about Democrats’ union-related proposals in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Democrats are using the budget-reconciliation process, which is supposed to be about taxes and spending, to pass a wish list of long-standing pro-union demands.

On September 17, I wrote about the bill’s tax break for union members, which makes it easier for people to give money to organizations that disproportionately help elect Democrats. But there’s more than that for the unions in the bill.

Sherk finds that the bill would ban all-staff meetings to discuss unionizing. If employees consider unionizing, it’s normal for employers to call an all-staff meeting to discuss potential drawbacks from doing so. Unions have long opposed such meetings because they give employers an opportunity to dissuade their employees from unionizing. Unions would still be able to reach employees in all the ways they are currently allowed to, including getting the names and addresses of employees and going to their homes to sell unionization. Democrats are attempting to slant the playing field toward unions by preventing employers from meeting with employees.

The bill would also increase funding to the Labor Department to enforce “misclassification” of workers as independent contractors, Sherk finds. Many gig-economy workers are independent contractors, which means many work the hours they want to and don’t have a fixed schedule, a valuable perk. Independent contractors can’t unionize the same way employees can, however, so as independent contractors become a bigger part of the workforce, unions’ pool of potential members shrinks. We saw the change to independent contractors’ status play out in California already with AB 5, which was passed and then quickly reversed for large portions of the workforce. We don’t need it at the national level.

Sherk finds that the bill has a tax credit that applies only to electric cars produced with union labor, which undermines any claim to its being about the environment, since nonunion electric cars would have the same carbon emissions as union ones. He also finds that the bill would prohibit companies from lockouts, which are the opposite of strikes, thereby denying them important bargaining leverage over unions.

Despite all these goodies for unions, nothing in the reconciliation bill would change the fundamental calculus for workers: Joining a union isn’t really worth it for most people in the 21st century. Sherk points out that “union job losses drove the entire net decline in manufacturing jobs” between 1974 and 2019. Nonunion manufacturing employment actually went up during that period. Union membership has been declining steadily since the ’70s across the board — through Democratic and Republican administrations, with and without right-to-work laws, and no matter how the economy is performing.

The world has largely passed unions by, and they haven’t grasped that most workers no longer need them. Or maybe they have, and they’re just trying to extract the last few benefits they can from their favored political party, tucked away in a 2,465-page bill.

Law & the Courts

SCOTUS Preview Event This Friday

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The Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

You’re invited to join National Review Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation as they join forces once again for an annual preview of the coming Supreme Court term. The event will include a panel discussion with three of our nation’s top Supreme Court litigators: Noel Francisco, partner, Jones Day; Tom Goldstein, partner, Goldstein & Russell, P.C.; and William Jay, partner, Goodwin Procter LLP. NRI president Lindsay Craig will serve as host, and Anastasia Boden, senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, will moderate.

Will the Court rule that the Second Amendment protects a right that extends beyond the home? Will the Court uphold a state’s abortion regulation that directly challenges Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey? Will the Court take up a case involving Harvard’s admissions practices that discriminate against Asian-American applicants? Will eviction moratoria, vaccine mandates, and other COVID-19 issues continue to flood the Court’s emergency docket? And how will the Court shift as the three newest justices settle into their roles? The next Supreme Court term has all the makings of an explosive, blockbuster term; our expert panel will weigh in on all of these questions and more.

This virtual event will take place this Friday at noon Eastern. Register here.

PC Culture

MacArthur and ‘High-Risk’ Ideas

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In response to The Absurdity of Ibram X. Kendi’s Receiving a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Jack, you invite me to repeat a story I never get tired of telling, because it is illuminating.

From the Wall Street Journal:

[T]he Atlantic was sponsoring a panel about marginalized points of view and diversity in journalism. The panelists, all Atlantic writers and editors, argued that the cultural and economic decks are stacked against feminists and advocates of minority interests. They made this argument under the prestigious, high-profile auspices of South by Southwest and their own magazine, hosted by a feminist group called the Female Quotient, which enjoys the patronage of Google, PepsiCo, AT&T, NBCUniversal, Facebook, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, and Deloitte.

We should all be so marginalized.

If you want to know who actually has the power in our society and who is actually marginalized, ask which ideas get you sponsorships from Google and Pepsi and which get you fired.

We could add Netflix to the list.

Either General Milley or Bob Woodward Is Lying

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 28, 2021. (Patrick Semansky/Pool/Reuters)

Both General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kenneth McKenzie, CENTCOM commander, told the Senate under oath today that they recommended the United States leave 2,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Joe Biden lied to George Stephanopoulos — or couldn’t recall — when he said that every military leader concurred with his method of withdrawal, which left 13 troops dead and hundreds of American residents stranded. (It’s a shame that media outlets stopped featuring those presidential-lie tickers when Trump lost, because Biden is racking them up at an impressive clip.)

There’s more to the

Politics & Policy

The Absurdity of Ibram X. Kendi’s Receiving a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

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Ibram X. Kendi on CBS This Morning in 2019. (CBS This Morning/via YouTube)

The Washington Post reports that this year’s recipients of MacArthur Foundation “genius grants” have been announced. Among the 25 fellows given a $625,000 grant over five years to pursue what the Post headline and one recipient describe as “high-risk, high-reward work” is Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi, the best-selling author of How to Be an Antiracist, apparently meets the MacArthur Foundation’s description of a person possessing “outstanding talent.” He will now have the organization’s largesse to pursue his own “creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.”

The Post article almost curiously buries the news of Kendi’s fellowship, as though the paper is slightly embarrassed to reveal it. It would be easy to understand why. Over the past few years, and especially since last summer, Kendi’s anti-racist campaign has been wildly successful — for him. He has formulated a worldview at once superficial and polarizing — society is so beset with systemic racism that only large-scale discrimination on behalf of groups identified as oppressed can fix it; and meanwhile, if you oppose anything he believes or proposes, you are a racist — and has used it to establish himself as one of the most important and influential figures in the U.S. today.

The idea that Kendi is in any way a risky figure, or that his work needs financial support, is ridiculous. Last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave $10 million to Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, Kendi’s academic perch. In September, Fairfax County, Va., public schools paid $20,000 for a one-hour speech by Kendi. This is a little lower than his typical one-hour speaking fee of $25,000, according to the Washington Free Beacon (whose reporting on Kendi has been sterling). In January of this year, he made a deal with Netflix, which agreed to adapt two of his books as programs for the streaming service. In July, the Free Beacon reported that Amazon spent thousands of dollars giving Kendi books to Virginia-area schools. Not to mention that his books have been best-sellers. He is not exactly cash-starved.

Even if you agree with Kendi’s worldview, which I most certainly do not, it is absurd to pretend that he is some marginal figure in desperate need of cultural or financial support. He sits in judgment practically atop the commanding heights of our culture, separating the antiracist from the racist. His receiving a MacArthur grant should obliterate any notion that these awards are meant to support risky, unconventional, or marginalized figures, unnamed legions of whom were doubtless passed over in Kendi’s favor. And it should affirm the notion that the MacArthur Foundation, like so many other institutions of society captured by the Left, now exists merely to perpetuate its desired vision for the country. There’s a word for that, but it’s not “genius.”

National Security & Defense

‘More Quickly Than We Had Anticipated’

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U.S. Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. briefs the media at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., March 13, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Joe Biden’s top military advisers confirmed this morning that they uniformly recommended that the president keep a force of at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. This contradicts not only the comments he made in an August 19 interview but also one of the central pillars of the administration’s defense of its withdrawal.

“No one said that to me that I can recall,” he told George Stephanopoulos in response to a question about whether he had received advice to leave troops in the country.

It is, of course, the president’s prerogative to buck what he considers to be bad advice, but the problem is that he denied receiving that advice, contrary to what Generals Frank McKenzie and Mark Milley testified earlier today. “I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. Those are my personal views,” said McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command.

In addition to that, their testimony amounts to the most conclusive public debunking of claims made by Biden and his top aides that they simply had not expected such a swift Taliban takeover to result from the withdrawal.

Consider the president’s August 16 address in the immediate aftermath of Kabul’s fall to the Taliban. Blaming America’s Afghan allies, a move that garnered significant criticism at the time, Biden claimed that his team had simply been caught flat-footed:

We were clear-eyed about the risks.  We planned for every contingency.

But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

So what’s happened?  Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.  The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

Those remarks contradicted contemporaneous reports that intelligence assessments predicted the Taliban would swiftly take the country. On August 17, national-security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a non-denial of those reports at the daily White House press briefing: “I’m not actually familiar with the intelligence assessments you’re describing.  But I also don’t want to get into specific intelligence products. And one thing I will not do from this podium or anywhere else is talk about what a different component of the interagency did or didn’t do.”

But the generals’ testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee provides more evidence that the president was made aware that a swift Taliban takeover would result from his decision.

“I also have a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government,” McKenzie said during his testimony today.

While the generals were careful not to reveal details from their discussions with the president, they were clear that Biden had received and considered all the advice that they offered.

Confirming he was present when General Scott Miller, who served as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan until July, made that same recommendation, McKenzie later said, “I’m confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to him very thoughtfully.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s claim about the Afghan government folding more quickly than expected has become a key feature of the administration’s defenses of the withdrawal.

“Nothing I or anyone else saw indicated a collapse of the government and the security forces in eleven days,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told House lawmakers this month.

That narrow assertion might technically be true, but top military leaders are now on the record saying that they advised that such a collapse would inevitably happen.

Economy & Business

Drinks Are on Me

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(alfexe/Getty Images)

All I would add to the posts by Phil, David, and Dan is that I am really, really looking forward to not having to pay federal income taxes any more. Historically, I’ve been obliged to pay federal income taxes in order to help pay for the things that the federal government likes to do. Now that government spending costs “nothing,” however, there’ll obviously be no need to collect any money from me at all, will there?

Which is great. Drinks are on me.

World

Ground Being Prepared for Death on Demand in the Netherlands

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Behind a section of graves at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia, excavation is visible for an expansion of the cemetery on Memorial Day, May 31, 2021. (Dominic Pino / National Review)

Once killing is defined as an acceptable response to suffering, there are few natural stopping points in the steady expansion of legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide. Requiring a diagnosed medical condition still retains some heft. But it isn’t logical, since the ultimate issue is suffering, not its causes.

These days, even that boundary line is growing more blurry — particularly in countries that have fully swallowed the euthanasia hemlock — which is why a new study published in Population Health is cause for alarm. It appears to be an early gambit to remove the medical requirement from the Dutch law altogether.

The study finds that some Dutch people commit suicide “in the absence of a medical condition.” Obviously. But if euthanasia is merely a medical “treatment,” wouldn’t that finding call for increased efforts at prevention in such cases?

Ah, but that’s not how this issue works. Once in for a penny, in for a pound, because euthanasia changes mindsets to think of death as a positive when it is wanted (and even if it isn’t in some cases). The sheer force of gravity unleashed by such laws pushes society logically toward accepting a process of continually expanding access to death for nearly any nontransitory reason. In other words, suicide becomes a liberty issue.

That shift in thinking is evident in the study’s discussion. Note how the authors of the study conclude their findings (my emphasis):

Estimating the frequency of suicide or intentionally ending one’s own life is influenced by definitions and information sources. Few people who had intentionally ended their own life requested PAD [physician assisted death], especially those suffering from solely psychiatric diseases and those without a medical condition. Possible explanations may be the wish to take one’s own responsibility, a disturbed relationship with one’s own physician, the fear of provisional detention or an awareness of patients about the (in)conceivability of physicians to grant requests for PAD under the Dutch PAD law in certain situations.

PAD in the Netherlands is embedded in the medical domain as it is presently understood in Dutch law. This raises the question how to address the desire to die from people whose wish to intentionally end their own life is not rooted in a medical condition and therefore fall outside the medical framework of assistance in dying.

“How to address the desire to die” — posed as a question — sure seems like an invitation for authorities to begin thinking about removing the requirement of a medical condition as a predicate to being euthanized.

Germany is already there, by the way. A few years ago the country’s highest court conjured a fundamental constitutional right to suicide — and to give or receive assistance therein — without regard to illness, or indeed, any reason whatsoever. The court ruled (again, my emphasis):

The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . .

The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.

In other words: death on demand.

The Dutch are heading there too, as are other Western societies — including ours — just some more quickly and others more slowly. We are all sinking into nihilism quick sand. Unless we change our collective mindset, it is only a matter of “when.”

Politics & Policy

More Trouble for Kristi Noem

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during Republican National Convention in Washington, D.C., August 26, 2020. (RNC via Reuters)

The Associated Press is reporting that South Dakota governor Kristi Noem called a July 27, 2020 meeting with her daughter and the head of the state’s real-estate Appraiser Certification Program — as well as the agency head’s direct supervisor and the South Dakota labor secretary — soon after Noem’s daughter had been denied a real-estate-appraiser license for failing to meet “minimum compliance with national standards.” Then, a few months later, Kassidy Noem Peters, 26, was a certified real-estate appraiser. The AP writes:

Just days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor and the state labor secretary.

Noem’s daughter attended too.

Kassidy Peters, then 26, ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint Bren filed against the department. Bren, 70, ultimately left her job this past March after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint.

Exactly what transpired at the July 27, 2020, meeting in the governor’s office isn’t clear. Noem declined an interview request and her office declined to answer detailed questions about the meeting.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a longer piece about problems with corruption in Governor Noem’s office, primarily concerning her close relationship to powerful business with a long record of far-left social-policy advocacy — some of which it had financial stake in. In light of this, her decision in March to veto a bill that would have banned biological men from competing in women’s sports seemed suspect. But I also touched on allegations of nepotism during her first term as governor:

Although Noem has been governor only since 2019, her office has already been the subject of ethical scrutiny on multiple occasions. One of the first four employees she hired for her transition team in 2018 was her daughter, Kennedy Noem, still a student at South Dakota State University at the time of her hiring. Over the course of the two years she worked for her mother, Kennedy enjoyed more than $17,000 in raises — from $40,700 to $57,912 — at the taxpayers’ expense, including a 12 percent wage boost in the midst of a wage freeze that Noem had imposed on all other state employees in December 2020. That, paired with the fact that Kyle Peters, the husband of Noem’s older daughter, took a $60,000 salary in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development from the beginning of Noem’s term through June of this year, prompted a Republican state senator to introduce an anti-nepotism bill aiming to bar state officials from hiring relatives.

As always, we should let all of the facts come out before rushing to judgment. But it doesn’t look great for Noem. And there’s already evidence that, at the very least, she might be less concerned about ethical lines when it comes to her family. 

It doesn’t help that Noem’s office is choosing a very odd line of spin on the whole affair. The AP reports:

Fury, the governor’s spokesman, cast the episode as an example of how Noem “won’t allow bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of South Dakota’s sustained economic growth.”

“Having more quality appraisers in the market will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down,” he said.

I guess that’s one way to put it.

MSNBC’s Steve Benen Thinks His Readers Are Fools

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President Joe Biden speaks about coronavirus vaccine booster shots at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Over at MSNBC, Steve Benen of the Rachel Maddow show and blog has an article with a title and subtitle that announce right up front that it is asking its readers to believe something ridiculous:

Why Biden says his plan costs ‘nothing’ (and why he’s right)
When the president insists the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan will cost “nothing,” he has a point. It all comes down to net and gross costs.

This is a reference to Biden’s “American Families Plan,” or “Build Back Better Act,” or whatever new name they roll out every few days as if they are smuggling a deposed dictator

Energy & Environment

Why Is The New Yorker Fantasizing about Eco-Terrorism?

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The September 24 episode of the New Yorker Radio Hour podcast is titled: “Should the Climate Movement Embrace Sabotage?

It’s actually pretty easy to answer that question:

“No.”

Economy & Business

Psaki’s Continued Assault on Economic Reality

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki now claims that it would be “unfair and absurd” for companies to increase costs on consumers in response to higher tax rates proposed by Democrats.

The way the Biden administration talks about economics isn’t only transparently dishonest, it’s embarrassingly juvenile. Economic realities aren’t predicated on “fairness.” Perhaps in the progressive Shangri-La where a $3.5 trillion bill is “free” and throwing trillions into the economy helps lower inflation one has the luxury of pretending that taxes do not pass through to consumers. Companies are in the business of making a profit — and the bigger the profit the better. Otherwise, they do not exist.

This is how the economy grows. This is how jobs and technologies are created. These are the realities, unfair or not. Democrats have adopted a — sorry, I’m not sure how else to put it — fascistic notion that businesses exist to participate in the “common good” as dictated by the state (when they run it). If this had been the case over the past century, many of the great efficiencies and technological comforts you enjoy would probably not exist.

This rhetoric is an outgrowth of the extraordinarily stupid idea that “free” college and “free” health care exist. These are the same people who tell you there will be no serious trade-offs when greening the economy and artificially spiking energy prices. Good and services do not spring forth from the ether without costs simply because voters are big fans of windmills and community college.

The 2017 tax reform brought U.S. corporate taxes in line with most OECD nations. The Democrats’ proposal would likely create a corporate-tax rate that would amount to the highest among all advanced economies, and the largest tax increase since 1968. Now, if you believe that slower economic growth is worth the price of expanding government programs that’s one thing. But consumers and workers — higher corporate tax rates can also mean fewer workers, the scaling back of workforce, or cutting back the salaries and benefits of employees — of every economic stratum foot the bill. And there is nothing “absurd” about it. It’s just reality.

White House

Say, How Is Joe Biden’s Memory These Days?

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President Joe Biden answers questions from reporters after speaking about coronavirus vaccines at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Back on August 19, President Biden insisted none of his top military advisors warned against withdrawing from Afghanistan on his preferred timeline, and that none of them wanted the president to keep about 2,500 troops in the country.

Today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Central Command General Frank McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley both said they had recommended President Biden maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. McKenzie said he had also warned that a full withdrawal would lead inexorably to the collapse of the Afghan forces and government.

Back in August, Biden told George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.

BIDEN: No, they didn’t. It was split. Tha– that wasn’t true. That wasn’t true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?

BIDEN: No. Not at — not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops. They didn’t argue against that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no one told — your military advisors did not tell you, “No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that”?

BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall.

The simplest explanation is that Biden simply lied. But there is that possibility that Biden genuinely does not remember what his military advisors recommended a few months ago, on one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency.

If the president insists he did not lie in the George Stephanopoulos interview, is it now acceptable to ask if Biden can remember what he is told in briefings?

White House

When Does the ‘Tough on Russia’ Part of Biden’s Presidency Start?

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President Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden pledged to get tough with Russia, boasting that he had “served as a founding member of a Trans-Atlantic Commission on Election Integrity to fight back against Russia’s attacks on Western democracies.” Shortly after taking office, Biden called Vladimir Putin and, in the White House’s characterization, “made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies.” And in March, Biden promised Putin “will pay a price” for Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

But as president, Biden’s actions towards Putin and Russia haven’t always been so tough or uncompromising. The Biden administration did enact additional sanctions in April and offered statements of support and more funding for Ukraine. But even when announcing sanctions, Biden was quick to emphasize that he wants to avoid any larger conflict with Putin. “I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so, to be — I chose to be proportionate. The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia.  We want a stable, predictable relationship… Throughout our long history of competition, our two countries have been able to find ways to manage tensions and to keep them from escalating out of control.”

And on other fronts, the administration has demonstrated an eagerness to soothe tensions with Putin. Biden almost immediately accepted Putin’s offer to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for five years, dropped U.S. opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline making Europe more dependent upon Russian energy exports, declined to pursue Putin’s personal wealth through sanctions, increased U.S. imports of Russian oil, and canceled the Keystone Pipeline. Despite Biden’s promise to restore U.S. alliances, leaders in Europe are fuming about a variety of policy snubs from Biden and accuse the president of being disloyal to the Transatlantic alliance.

And the president did not mention Russia at all in his recent address to the United Nations.

Melinda Haring, the deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, wrote earlier this month that the U.S. is governed by “an administration that decidedly wants to ignore Russia.” Ignoring Russia does not constitute getting tough with Putin!

And now we learn that the Biden administration wanted to use Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as part of the “over-the-horizon” approach to terrorism threats in Afghanistan – making U.S. counterterrorism operations dependent upon Russian cooperation.

The Pentagon’s top military officer discussed with his Russian counterpart an apparent offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his military’s bases in Central Asia to respond to any emerging terrorist threats in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised the subject at the request of President Biden’s National Security Council staff in his meeting last Wednesday with Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, the U.S. officials said.

Gen. Gerasimov was noncommittal during the Helsinki meeting, the U.S. officials said. A Kremlin spokesman declined to comment.

The Russian military has forces stationed at the 201st Military Base in DushanbeTajikistan, and drones and helicopters stationed at Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan.

On paper, U.S. military forces operating from those bases would prove advantageous; Dushanbe is 280 miles from Kabul and Kant is 653 miles from Kabul, while Al Udeid air base in Qatar is almost 1,000 miles from Kabul.

But the problem with stationing U.S. forces on Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is that it would make U.S. counterterrorism operations in the region dependent upon Russian cooperation. Vladimir Putin or his successor would be able to pull the plug at any time, giving him enormous leverage over America’s ability to respond to terrorist threats in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Running U.S. counterterrorism operations from Russian bases also seems like a really good way to ensure that Russian intelligence knows everything that the U.S. is doing on those bases.

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Minions Take Aim at Income-Share Agreements

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What if college students were able to find people who would provide the funding for their college educations in return for a share of their earnings after graduation? Taxpayers wouldn’t have to bear the cost of defaults, and we would have some market discipline in higher-education finance, as funders would be careful not to waste their money on unserious students and silly degree programs.

This mode of funding, called Income Share Agreements, has started to catch on, but as Beth Akers of AEI writes here, the Biden administration, through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has decided to target the fledgling industry.

This isn’t at all surprising.  The administration is crammed with statists. They don’t want market discipline creeping into higher education. They want it to be “free” and to do as much as possible to inculcate leftist notions into students.

Politics & Policy

Eric Adams Has a Novel Excuse

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Conservative-minded New Yorkers (which, in New York City, includes some fairly liberal folk) have generally been reassured by Eric Adams winning the Democratic mayoral primary, given that the alternatives were so much worse, and Adams — as a former cop — seems at least to recognize that having a police force is useful. He can’t be worse than Bill de Blasio.

But it is helpful to be reminded now and then that Adams may be an improvement, but he is still bad. Specifically, he is a product of the cartoonishly corrupt Democratic Party of Brooklyn. So, when he gets caught telling one story about where he lives for the purposes of election law, and a different story to the IRS, benefiting both ways, this is the kind of excuse we get:

Adams pointed to the stress and devastation that his accountant, Clarence Harley, experienced in losing his own home. “He came to me when he reached the point of his homelessness, and he stated: ‘I’m under a lot of pressure, I’m going through some difficult times, and I understand you have to fire me,’” Adams said when asked about the filings. Adams said that firing the man when he was facing homelessness would have been hypocritical, so he kept him on as his accountant even while Harley was living in a homeless shelter. “And because of that, it may have caused him to make some bad decisions,” said Adams.

I suppose Adams could have told us he lied to his diary or ate too many Twinkies, but blaming his homeless accountant for getting his home address wrong is . . . something.

Elections

Donald Trump Says ‘Georgia Must Replace’ the ‘Disaster’ Brian Kemp, and Stacey Abrams ‘Might Be Better’

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Former president Donald Trump attends a rally in Perry, Ga., September 25, 2021. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

Donald Trump, at his rally on Saturday in Georgia, told his supporters not only that Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, was “a disaster” and that “the people of Georgia must replace” him, but even that the arch-progressive Democrat Stacey Abrams “might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think. Might very well be better.”

He threw in potshots at Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and Arizona governor Doug Ducey. Tell me again how this is at all helpful to Republicans or to conservative governance. Abrams would be a disaster for both in Georgia in ways too numerous to recount, and as of now, she and Kemp are the likeliest contenders in next year’s gubernatorial election. Nothing good can come of convincing Republicans in Georgia to stay home or, worse, vote for Abrams.

In one sense, of course, Trump and Abrams really are kindred spirits, united by their common tactics and refusal to accept the legitimacy of election losses and their shared enmity for Kemp and Raffensperger (Abrams recently tried to get Raffensperger deplatformed from a speech on election subversion at UC-Irvine). But plainly, the real motive here is Trump’s bitterness and refusal to move on, eleven months later, from last November’s election.

The defense offered by Trump’s devotees is that he was joking. Now, Donald Trump does do a lot of joking riffs, and his critics have often tended to be overly literal about things that his rally-going fans understand as jokes. But while Trump was indeed speaking in the jocular tone common at his rallies, there are a couple of problems with just dismissing this as harmless comedy. One, as a rule, you should not tell people in politics how to vote unless you are willing to have them believe you. Two, the extended and bitter nature of Trump’s rant against Kemp — a lengthier version of things he has been saying for months — leaves no doubt whatsoever that he means to tell people that Kemp is bad and should be defeated. Three, you have to wonder what Trump’s defenders think a “joke” is. At the risk of explaining the obvious, if Trump said at a rally that Biden was 400 years old, that would be a joke in the tradition of political jokes — it tells a political truth (Biden is really old) in terms that are literally false (Biden is not actually 400 years old), but it’s not a lie, it’s a humorous exaggeration. The audience knows it’s an exaggeration, so they laugh at the joke, but they also get the point.

Is the humorous exaggeration here Trump actually endorsing Stacey Abrams? Sure. But the political truth the joke communicates is that Trump wants Brian Kemp to lose to Stacey Abrams, and he wants it so badly that he is willing to tell an audience of Georgia Republicans, “Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s okay with me.” The obvious intent and likely effect of this, as Kemp tries to turn the page on 2020 and focus on next year’s re-election campaign, is to harden the willingness of Trump’s most passionate followers to withhold their votes from Kemp, and perhaps, in some cases, vote for Abrams out of raw spite. This is not speculation; let us recall what happened on January 5.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Control of the U.S. Senate was on the line, but many Georgia Republicans — at least some deterred by Donald Trump’s loss — stayed home rather than cast ballots in January’s runoffs. Their absence at the polls helped swing Georgia and the Senate to the Democrats. Over 752,000 Georgia voters who cast ballots in the presidential election didn’t show up again for the runoffs just two months later. . . . More than half of the no-shows were white, and many lived in rural areas. . . . The AJC’s analysis found that the drop in turnout was most severe in northwest and South Georgia, areas where Trump held rallies, in Dalton and Valdosta, to bolster support for the state’s Republican senators.

The Washington Post:

Republicans across Georgia stayed home, helping Democrats flip two Senate seats … turnout in Republican strongholds dropped by more. . . . Across conservative North Georgia, the state region where only about seven percent of people are Black, Republican David Perdue, whose Senate term expired Sunday, won by 48 percentage points, the same as in November. But it was a weaker showing in votes because turnout dropped, by more than any other region the state. . . . Just to the south in the most heavily Democratic heart of the Atlanta metro area, where Blacks are a majority, turnout dropped the least, and so Atlanta gained influence in this runoff.

Erick Erickson, here and here:

What we are seeing in Georgia right now is that the GOP voters are not showing up and the Democrat voters are. The GOP reliably got over 50% of the vote in the combined legislative races for congress, state house, and state senate in November. Those voters are not showing up. Over three-quarters of Republicans who voted said they think the November election was stolen. The President’s campaign actually went on the air in Georgia in the last few days to tell Republicans that November was stolen. The Georgia Republican Party Chairman has been all over TV and the internet telling voters the November election was stolen. Turns out Republican voters took it all seriously. . . .

There were signs all over North Georgia saying “don’t vote”. If you went up 75 from Atlanta to Adairsville, GA there was a big sign when you got off the interstate that said, “They’re going to steal it again. Don’t vote.” Republicans in the state internalized the stolen election nonsense and cost themselves two Senate seats.

Five Thirty Eight:

It’s hard to overstate how precedent-shattering this election was. Going into 2020, it was a political axiom that Democrats always fared worse in runoff elections than in the general; Republicans had improved on their margins in seven out of the eight previous runoff elections in Georgia history. . . . GOP turnout seems to have been down.

That worked out so well in January 2021. It may cost the nation literally trillions of dollars. Why not try again?

Lest you doubt my assessment of Trump’s remarks this weekend, you can watch the whole thing here and read a full transcript here. I’ve provided a lengthy excerpt below to make the context crystal clear:

When Stacey Abrams says, “I’m not going to concede,” it’s okay.” No. When Stacey Abram[s] says, “I’m not going to concede,” that’s okay. No problem. Oh, she’s not going to concede. She’s not going to concede. Of course having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think. Might very well be better. But when she says that, no problem. When crooked Hillary Clinton says, “Don’t ever concede,” but she conceded. Of course, I got her at three o’clock in the morning. There was something going on there. . . . But she conceded. She probably regrets it, but I never conceded, because I saw what was happening and I can’t do it. I can’t do it, because I have a commitment to you, and I can’t do it. . . .

Now the people of Georgia must replace the RINOs and weak Republicans who made it all possible. In particular, your incompetent and strange … there’s something wrong with this guy. Your secretary of state, Raffensperger. Raffensperger. I’m telling you, I think there’s something wrong with him. And we give him so much. Could you look at this? Could you look at that? Election integrity. Could you? And sometimes, “Yes, I’m going to look at.” Nothing ever happens. Raffensperger. Something really strange with him. Your terrible lieutenant governor who’s no longer running because he knew that he wasn’t doing a job. He was going to lose. And your RINO governor, Brian Kemp, who’s been a complete disaster on election integrity, a complete and total … And I’m not looking to say that. I’m not looking to say that. He’s been a complete and total disaster on election integrity. If you go in with a complaint about election integrity, you get investigated instead of investigating a crooked election. It’s the craziest . . .

And Stacey Abrams, who still has not conceded, and that’s okay. Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s okay with me. She still has not conceded, but we had, just so you understand, we had the most incredible rallies, the most incredible rallies. And I said, “Brian, you’re going to win.” “Oh, I don’t think so.” “No, you’re going to win. I’m telling you.” And he ended up winning by like two points, right? And then when I called him about election integrity, it’s like, “I’m sorry, sir. I can’t do that.” I said, “No, no.”

Yeah, actually, it was very interesting. I called my people. I said, “We got to find out what happened with this election, because there’s something wrong with this election,” as you obviously know, and by, other than the fake news, has been covered pretty good. But if these guys would come back, young guys, “Sir, we spoke to Governor Kemp. Sir, he will not do anything on election integrity.” I said, “No. Just call him again.” I mean, maybe he never got the message. They come back the next day, “Sir, Governor Kemp won’t do anything on election integrity.” Remember we wanted to call a special election, so that we could go, Marjorie, into election integrity. What is wrong with that? And he said, ‘No, we won’t.” And I think the governor is the only one that can call it.

And he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it. So when these guys, they’re young and nice guys, they came back, they said. “He won’t do it.” So I said, “Let me handle it. This is easy.” I got this guy elected. One thing has nothing to do with the other. One thing has nothing . . . there’s no quid pro quo. You remember that word from the fake Ukraine deal. The fake Ukraine . . . We had Russia, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine. They were both fake deals. Okay? I got impeached twice on fake news, but I said to these young people, “Let me handle it.” I was going to show them how good I am. “Let me handle it. I’ll call them up.” I said, “Brian, listen. You have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election and let’s get to the bottom of it for the good of the country.”

Let’s get to the bottom of it for the good of your state. Let’s go election integrity. What could be better than that? “Sir, I’m sorry. I cannot do that.” I said, “Whoa.” I said you cannot do that. And that’s why . . . Let me tell you, this guy’s a disaster. He’s a disaster. They ignore . . . and just, he’s been a real horrible. . . . I could have anybody else. . . . You have another bad one, by the way. You have another bad one, Ducey in Arizona. He’s another beauty, but not as bad as what you have here. Not as bad. They ignored monumental evidence of rampant fraud. We’ve all seen the video of ballots being pulled out from under the tables after kicking out all of the observers. Remember that? Based on a made-up story of “Sir, there’s a major water main break clean out.” Water main break that never happened.

Remember they said, “Water main break, everybody get out.” And then the people came back in, and they were stuffing, stuffing, stuff. But supposedly caused the vote counting to be shut down for hours and hours. So everyone was out except for these people that were on tape. In addition, Brian Kemp, Raffensperger, and your state leaders surrendered Stacey Abrams. They totally surrendered to her. I think he’s afraid of Stacey Abrams. I don’t understand that. Stacy, you have a great team. Okay?

Fiscal Policy

New Jersey Will Pay the People Who Have Been Paid Not to Work to Return to Work

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks at Monmouth Park Sports Book in Oceanport, N.J., June 14, 2018. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The New York Post reports:

Unemployed New Jerseyans who return to work could get a $500 bonus in their first paycheck under a state program unveiled Monday.

The “Return and Earn” program aims to curb labor shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Ah, “labor shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Anything in particular that led to them?

Small businesses have been hit with a shortage of workers amid the pandemic, with critics laying the blame on enhanced COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

So, to be more precise: The problem in New Jersey is that the federal government has been paying people not to work — a problem that New Jersey intends to counteract by . . . paying people to work instead.

Top men, our leaders. Top men.

Blaming the Border Patrol Worked Out Well for Biden and Harris

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President Joe Biden speaks prior to signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law as Vice President Kamala Harris stands by in the East Room of the White House, June 17, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

At the risk of sounding even more cynical than usual, I suspect the Biden administration sees the entire public controversy over the nonexistent “whipping” of Haitan illegal immigrants as a resounding success.

The sudden reversal on the part of Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is the tell. Appearing with U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz in Del Rio on September 20, Mayorkas initially expressed skepticism that any border patrol agents had whipped Haitian migrants. “To ensure control of the horse, long reins are used, but we are going to investigate the facts to ensure that the situation is as we

Politics & Policy

Congressional Spending Negotiations That Feel Caught in an Endless Loop

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, December 19, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

For the better part of the past year, those who watch Capitol Hill have obsessively tracked a long-running battle to enact a gargantuan expansion of federal spending. Week after week, Congressional correspondents offer breathless updates that some leader of some faction of Democrats has put out a new proposal, or drawn a new red line, or is boasting that she has the votes to defeat the bill.

When Democrats only hold 220 seats in the House, and only 50 seats in the Senate, then any faction is likely to have sufficient votes to tank either spending bill, unless a significant number of Republicans sign on.

A handful of moderates, like senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and a few in the House of Representatives, want a gargantuan expansion of federal spending, but not the biggest one possible. Manchin has even floated the idea of passing just the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework” — the allegedly moderate infrastructure spending bill that is “only” about $1 trillion this year — and leaving the other massive spending bill – referred to as the “multitrillion-dollar social policy bill” in some progressive circles – until 2022. At the beginning of September, Manchin proposed a “strategic pause” on massive spending bills, lamenting, “Democratic congressional leaders propose to pass the largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation, crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises.”

The progressive wing of the Congressional Democrats want what they want, and they want it now. Some, like Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, contend that Democrats should simply ignore the Senate Parliamentarian when she rules that proposals like a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants does not fit in a budget bill that can be passed through reconciliation. But it’s not going to work that way, and the Democrats do not have the votes to eliminate the filibuster for legislation in the Senate. Thus, they need to pass the massive expansion of spending through reconciliation, which means all provisions must be budget-related.

Progressives realize that they’re nearing the halfway mark of a two-year window for passing massive pieces of legislation. Purple state and purple district Democrats aren’t going to get any braver as Election Day 2022 gets closer. And while there’s still a lot of road ahead, midterm elections usually go badly for the president’s party – and President Biden’s job approval rating is lousy. For Democrats who dream of a massive and far-reaching expansion of the federal government, either they get this done in the next few months, or they don’t get it done for many years.

The good news for those of us who aren’t enthused about any of these massive spending bills is that the clock is working against Democrats. Any delay makes keeping a coalition of at least 218 Democrats – actually 217, because the House has three vacancies right now – together harder.

The bad news is that when faced with the prospect of passing nothing, all of the hardening factions within the Democratic party might decide they can live with half a loaf, and conclude that passing the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework” and some less expensive version of the “multitrillion-dollar social policy bill” would still count as a big win. (Clearly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden just want to sign something and to take a victory lap.)

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Problem in One Paragraph

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) speaks before signing legislation passed by the House during an enrollment ceremony to memorialize the people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Fla., on Capitol Hill, June 16, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The New York Times reports that:

Ms. Sinema of Arizona has privately told colleagues she will not accept any corporate or income tax rate increases. But recent discussions by Senate Democrats about adding a carbon tax to the bill to both combat climate change and help replace that revenue have run up against concerns raised by three House Democrats from Texas. In a letter to Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, they expressed their opposition to several provisions in the bill aimed at combating climate change, and also came out against increasing a minimum tax on overseas income from U.S. companies above where it was set in 2017.

The Democrats have other challenges, of course. But this one is neatly indicative of their problem overall. They can’t lose a single vote in the Senate; they can’t lose more than three votes in the House; and yet there exist profound disagreements as to what the party should do — and how. In normal circumstances, this would lead to the swift realization that radical change should be off the table. But these are not normal times, alas.

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