Politics & Policy

Cuomo’s Halfhearted Farewell Apology

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks from the One World Trade Center Tower in New York City, June 15, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting Andrew Cuomo to resign today, or at all, until the final impeachment writing was on the wall. Of course, he ought to have stepped down a long time ago, when the first credible sexual-harassment allegations came out against him, and yet he didn’t, which is why I expected he wouldn’t do so now. Held to his own “believe all women” standard, he should’ve resigned the moment the very first woman uttered an allegation against him.

But even though Cuomo ultimately did the right thing today, he has left no doubt as to whether he did it for the right reasons. As with his intransigence amidst the earlier allegations, he has continued to dig in his heels and insist that he’s leaving office because it’s the best thing for the state government — not because he actually did anything wrong or anything worth resigning over.

In his comments today, Cuomo dismissed the furor against him as “politically motivated” and said that fighting back would cast the state into months of turmoil, which he cannot countenance inflicting on his citizens. To my knowledge, the governor and his defenders have not managed to produce evidence that either the allegations or the blowback was prompted by political opponents, but I suppose labeling it as such is easier than admitting any fault.

To this day, Cuomo has refused to offer a meaningful apology for or even admit to any real wrongdoing. Though he has uttered the immortal phrase “full responsibility,” he maintains that he “never crossed the line with anyone.”

He went on to say that he “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn,” as if there were ever a time at which some of the things he allegedly did and said to women had been acceptable. Perhaps there was a time when it was easier for powerful men to get away with doing and saying such things, but that’s really no defense, especially considering Cuomo’s long-time public insistence on a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual harassment.

His initial apology of sorts, offered back in March, wasn’t an admission of guilt, either. “I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” he offered meekly. Responding to press questions, he added, “I do not believe that I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn’t know that I was making her uncomfortable at the time. I feel badly that I did. I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed.”

And even now, on his way out the door, Cuomo would like to pass himself off as something of a selfless hero, saying that he’s leaving to avoid a political fight — the implication being: a fight he could easily win — and stepping down so he can “let government get back to being government.” I’m no optimist about the future of New York politics, but it’ll be a better government without him around.

Politics & Policy

A Far-Fetched Scenario

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(Unsplash)

Here’s the path that the scriptwriters would choose if we were living in a movie. First, New York trashes its hero governor after he turns out not to be a hero after all. Next comes California, which recalls Gavin Newsom and replaces him with a Republican. Soon after the recall, the 88-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein leaves office and a Republican is appointed in her place. This flips the balance of the Senate to 49 Democrats and 51 Republicans, thereby killing the Democrats’ absurd $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, stalling the Biden presidency completely until at least the midterms, and prompting a besieged Justice Breyer to relax into another four years on the Supreme Court.

Far-fetched? Yes. Completely bonkers? Nope.

Politics & Policy

One Governor Down…

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Governor Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Looks like the walls really were closing in on Andrew Cuomo. Score one for Andy McCarthy.

It’s remarkable that the single most celebrated and media-touted governor in the country in 2020 has resigned in disgrace before September 2021.

But hey, it’s not like the two most celebrated and media-touted governors in the country in 2020 could be driven from office by October, right?

Er, right? 

“If everybody voted, then [California governor Gavin] Newsom would actually be in a safe place right now. But that’s not the way elections in this country work. I think the governor and his team understand that even his supporters aren’t all that excited about him right now,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at three California universities who previously led the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Over the next few weeks, you’ll see him spending less time trying to persuade recall supporters to change their mind, and much more of his time and energy simply trying to motivate his own base to bother to show up,” Schnur said.

At the Orange County Register, columnist John Phillips wrote this morning, “Unfortunately for him, right now he’s the most unpopular governor in America…whose name is not Andrew Cuomo.” I guess that means in a short while, he’ll be the most unpopular governor in America.

Politics & Policy

New York Hasn’t Had a Clean Governor in 15 Years

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The moon, appearing orange due to smoke haze from forest fires, passes the Empire State Building in New York City, July 20, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The last governor of New York to leave office without a scandal was George Pataki, who stepped down in 2006 after three terms (and who, funnily enough, beat Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario, in the Republican wave of 1994).

After that came three Democrats. First, Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after being caught using prostitutes; then David Paterson, who replaced Spitzer, but couldn’t run again in 2010 thanks to his role in a witness tampering scandal; and, finally, Andrew Cuomo, who resigned today after a litany of sexual assault accusations.

That’s 15 years without a governor who made it out clean. What is this? Illinois?

Politics & Policy

Andrew Cuomo Was ‘Institutionalized’ Sexism

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media while visiting the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, which will be partially converted into a hospital for patients affected by coronavirus, March 23, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

During his press conference today, Andrew Cuomo said that, in America, “we have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized.” Astonishingly, he failed to follow this submission with an emphatic, “And I, Andrew Cuomo, am the prime example of that in all of contemporary American politics.”

Whatever happened to “accountability”?

Andrew Cuomo is the three-term governor of the fourth most populous state in the country. He is the son of an extremely famous man who served as governor of New York himself, and the sibling of a CNN host who has routinely used his position to prop his brother up. In pushing back against the charges that have been leveled against him, Cuomo had the help of an organization that was ostensibly created to prevent sexual harassment, as well as of some of the most influential advocacy outlets in all of American politics. As John Podhoretz noted last week, Cuomo’s entire game was his “limitless willingness to use intimidation to get [his] way — and a limitless capacity to intimidate.” For years, Cuomo got away with what he did because people feared him and the machine he represented.

If there is a better example of “culturalized and institutionalized” sexism than this, I’m struggling to find it.

In the same speech he used to announce his resignation, Cuomo and his lawyer pushed back against the allegations, impugned the motives of his accusers and the investigators, argued that Cuomo “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn” around appropriate workplace behavior, touted his political record (like Harvey Weinstein, Cuomo seemed to think that being in favor of gun control is a mitigating factor), and ultimately settled on the idea that he was doing New York a favor by resigning because an impeachment trial would be expensive, time-consuming, and liable to limit the efficiency of the government. At no point, however, did they explain how Cuomo’s actions might have played into the “institutionalized” problems that, even at this late stage, he still seems to believe he opposes.

For a problem to be “institutionalized” or “systemic,” we are told, there has to be a power differential in play. And boy was there a power differential here. As Nicholas Goldberg wrote a week ago in the Los Angeles Times:

of all the revelations in recent months, the story that really struck a chord was published in New York magazine by a reporter who had covered him as governor. She explained that he had often touched her on her arms, shoulders, back and waist without her consent, but that she never believed he wanted to have sex with her.

“He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions,” she wrote. “He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.”

Whatever else he did to other women, this description of him using physical dominance as a form of power and threat — that has the ring of truth.

This dynamic, Goldberg concluded, is in evidence throughout the AG’s report, which describes “a workplace environment of fear and intimidation, where protecting the governor from those he harassed was the goal, rather than protecting those who had been harassed.”

Or, put another way: Cuomo wasn’t some random guy at a bar with an antediluvian approach to women and too much liquor inside him. He was a walking, breathing, conscious manifestation of what people such as him have spent years identifying as the problem. In 2013, Cuomo tweeted that “there should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment,” and promised to “send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.” Instead, he did whatever he wanted, and then used his position to cover it up.

“We have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized,” says Andrew Cuomo.

No, not “we,” matey. You.

U.S.

Cuomo Still Hasn’t Answered for His Biggest Crime

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo might be leaving his post in 14 days after a slew of sexual-harassment accusations, but he has yet to answer for his most egregious wrongdoings. Cuomo is responsible for the deadliest mistake of the coronavirus pandemic when he compelled nursing homes to accept elderly patients who had already tested positive for COVID-19. It’s possible that around 11,000 New Yorkers died because of his actions.

One might defend the governor by noting that health officials were still grappling with COVID at the time — even though others, including media’s archvillain Ron DeSantis had reversed similar nursing-home decisions faster. Yet his office, almost surely with his knowledge, worked to conceal and rewrite the numbers to hide them from adoring Cuomosexuals and the rest of the public. (Cuomo won an Emmy Award “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world” months after the Associated Press had already reported on the discrepancies in New York’s death totals.) Even after Cuomo fully understood the depth of his mistake, and even after he began concealing his ineptitude, the governor was writing a book hailing his own competency (possibly using state resources) that netted him $5.1 million. This is corrupt, sociopathic behavior.

Politics & Policy

Meet New York’s Next Governor, Kathy Hochul

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Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that he will step down in two weeks turns attention to his immediate successor, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Hochul may or may not be the Democrats’ nominee in 2022, as the Democrats’ progressive wing may take another crack at a primary fight. But if you want to learn more about Hochul, I wrote up a profile in March. A sample:

Nobody should mistake Kathy Hochul for a conservative or even a moderate. She is very much a Cuomo- or Schumer-style liberal, who — like Kirsten Gillibrand — found it necessary to pose as a moderate while running in a culturally conservative upstate House district. Like Schumer, Hochul is a tireless traveler, who has kept her face in the local news by trekking around the state while Cuomo ignores her. Like Cuomo, she has enough of a pragmatic streak to remain a target of progressive ire. She got her start as an aide to Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Congressman John LaFalce, and between stints in office served as vice president of government affairs at the Buffalo-based M&T Bank. Before she went statewide, Hochul took some steps that would get her run out of the party today, but has shifted without even the pretense of a principled change of heart…

Politics & Policy

Full Video of Andrew Cuomo’s Resignation Statement

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Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation is seen on a computer screen in Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy’s office at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, New York, August 10, 2021. (Cindy Schultz/Reuters)

Sports

The Colorado Rockies Dinger Affair and the Racism Deficit

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A pile of batting practice baseballs sit on the grass during a workout before a MLB baseball spring training exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., March 8, 2009. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

We just got through yet another moral panic about a racist incident that didn’t actually happen. Sports media were ablaze with claims that a fan in Denver was loudly yelling the n-word at Lewis Brinson of the Marlins as he batted; the leather-lunged fan’s voice was picked up on the national TV broadcast. (An ironic location to be held up as an icon of racism, given that MLB had chosen Denver to replace Atlanta as the host of this year’s All-Star Game in a different lie-based moral panic about voting laws in Georgia.) Unfortunately for the people who jumped all over the story with gleeful eagerness, it turned out that (1) the fan was yelling “Dinger,” the name of the Colorado Rockies mascot, and, for good measure, (2) Brinson actually never heard him anyway.

And yet, before the facts were in, the Rockies had issued an immediate statement treating the event as if it actually happened:

So did Tony Clark, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association (the union):

The indefatigable Drew Holden collected on Twitter some of the more egregious examples of media organizations and commentators desperate to outdo each other in drawing conclusions from this event and calling for draconian punishments before knowing the facts. A few samples:

You get the idea. Why does this sort of thing just keep happening? Yes, it is partly the natural dynamics of outrage-bait on social media, where people jump ugly all the time on stories from every political angle. But garishly racist incidents paraded across media and social media are especially prone to go viral, produce torrents of commentary on what this tells us about the world we live in, then turn out not to have happened. Why?

Consider: What is “racism”? To most normal people, racism is one or both of two things: (1) thinking less of other people because of their race (racial prejudice), and/or (2) treating people worse because of their race (racial discrimination). We’ve spent the better part of the past seven decades building a social consensus that these things are morally wrong and an offense to the American credo of treating individuals as individuals. Racism of this sort remains a real thing, and you can certainly find examples if you go looking. But rather than try to isolate and marginalize racists or bring them to repentance and reform, people who have built their entire personal or political identities around being “anti-racist” clearly feel upset that there are just not enough racist incidents to go around. That leaves such people three options. Option one: Hype up bogus incidents and hope that the hype can outrun the inevitable disclosure of the truth. Option two: Obsess over wholly theoretical linguistic or stylistic offenses like the use of “master bedroom” or over events deep in the past, to the point of spending $50,000 to move a boulder because of a single word in a single newspaper article 96 years ago. Option three: Redefine the word “racism” into something pervasive, all-powerful, unfalsifiable, and incurable — hence, “systemic racism,” “white fragility,” and other aspects of the critical-race-theory project.

The problem with any of these approaches is that people can read and reason and recognize that they are being told something that bears no resemblance to the actual world they live in and see around them. The social consensus, such as it is, against racism has been built because just about everybody over a certain age had seen actual racism in real life and was capable of being persuaded that it is a bad thing that should go away. Shouting “Dinger” at the ballpark is another story entirely.

Health Care

Court Victory for Medical Conscience Because of RFRA

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(Pornpak Khunatorn/Getty Images)

The secular Left wants to coerce doctors into performing abortions and transgender-transition interventions — even when doing so violates the doctors’ own religious beliefs. Toward that end, HHS passed a rule under Obamacare that punished refusal to perform abortions and transgender-transition interventions with fines and other penalties for “discrimination.”

The Trump administration reversed that coercive approach, but Biden’s HHS is again on the hunt for Christian and Hippocratic Oath-believing doctors, seeking to obliterate “medical conscience.” Now, a federal judge has granted a permanent injunction under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protecting Christian doctor plaintiffs from having that rule enforced. From Franciscan Alliance v Becerra (citations omitted):

Here, the RFRA violation, the success on the merits, is all but conceded. No party disputes that the current Section 1557 regulatory scheme threatens to burden Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in the same way as the 2016 scheme: namely, by placing substantial pressure on Christian Plaintiffs, in the form of fines and civil liability, to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures and abortions.

Like before, the current scheme continues to fall short of the “more focused” RFRA inquiry. The government asserts no “harm [in] granting specific exemptions” to Christian Plaintiffs. Accordingly, for these reasons and those laid out in greater detail in the Court’s October 15, 2019, Order, the Court holds that Christian Plaintiffs have shown success on the merits for its RFRA claim because the current Section 1557 regulatory scheme substantially burdens Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in clear violation of RFRA.

The Court ruled that the consequential infringement on religious beliefs constituted sufficient “irreparable harm” for the injunction to issue:

For irreparable injury, the mere “possibility” of injury is not enough. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction.” In the context of RRFA, if a plaintiff demonstrates a violation, that “loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”  Here, Christian Plaintiffs contend that violation of their statutory rights under RFRA is an irreparable harm. The Court agrees and concludes that enforcement of the 2021 Interpretation forces Christian Plaintiffs to face civil penalties or to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions contrary to their religious beliefs—a quintessential irreparable injury…Because the Court finds the permanent-injunction factors weigh in favor of granting an injunction in this instant, the Court concludes that Christian Plaintiffs are “entitled to an exemption” from HHS’s religion-burdening conduct.

A few thoughts:

  1. Why would the government, controlled by the secular Left, try to force doctors to perform abortions or transition procedures? And why would patients want an unwilling doctor to perform them? Primarily because the message communicated when doctors refuse participation is that such acts are sinful and/or morally wrong. That is anathema to the secular Left.
  2. Why won’t the secular Left just leave well enough alone and focus on ensuring access to willing doctors? Both to weaken the power of religious faith in society and to send the message that these procedures are not merely legal, but virtuous.
  3. This salutary court ruling was only possible because of the RFRA, which hangs on by a slender thread.
  4. That is why the Democrat Party is seeking to gut it, for example, in the “Equality Act.” If they succeed, medical-conscience rights will lie in ruins unless the Supreme Court reverses the Smith ruling that laws of general applicability that infringe on religious liberty pass constitutional muster unless targeted at a particular faith.
  5. The Left truly does want to drive pro-life and orthodox religious physicians, nurses, and pharmacists out of health care. And the Left doesn’t care if that results in a significant brain drain. Ideology is all that matters.
  6. The aggressors in this culture-war battle are leftwing bureaucrats — groups such as the ACLU and the mainstream media. These people cannot claim the mantle of civil libertarians any longer.

The RFRA only applies at the federal level. Some states have their own. But it is almost impossible to expand that list because every time a state seeks to protect religious liberty in this way, the woke corporations threaten boycotts and the state’s leaders beat a hasty retreat.

We face a crisis in religious liberty and the collapse of comity. But with the country quickly secularizing, millions of citizens could not care less and our elected leaders are often too cowardly to fight back.

Politics & Policy

Ronan Farrow: Cuomo Called Up Valerie Jarrett, Complaining New York’s U.S. Attorney Was ‘Out of Control’

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Then-White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett in 2014. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

I guess now that New York governor Andrew Cuomo looks doomed, it is safe for every Democrat who’s worked with him to start telling their accounts to Ronan Farrow.

In April, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo placed a call to the White House and reached Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Cuomo was, as one official put it, “ranting and raving.” He had announced that he was shuttering the Moreland Commission, a group that he had convened less than a year earlier to root out corruption in New York politics. After Cuomo ended the group’s inquiries, Preet Bharara, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, issued letters instructing commissioners to preserve documents and had investigators from his office interview key witnesses. On the phone with Jarrett, Cuomo railed against Bharara. “This guy’s out of control,” a member of the White House legal team briefed on the call that day recalled Cuomo telling Jarrett. “He’s your guy.”

Jarrett ended the conversation after only a few minutes. Any effort by the White House to influence investigations by a federal prosecutor could constitute criminal obstruction of justice. “He did, in fact, call me and raise concerns about the commission,” Jarrett told me. “As soon as he started talking, and I figured out what he was talking about, I shut down the conversation.”

According to Farrow’s article, Jarrett was concerned that Cuomo was attempting to influence or interfere with a federal prosecutor, and went to the White House counsel’s office. Lawyers in that office concurred and referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ . . .  informed Bharara, and then nothing else happened. Heck of a job, Eric Holder!

Farrow also finds that Cuomo interfered with the Moreland Commission’s investigation into corruption.

The commission began with a sweeping mandate from Cuomo to probe systemic corruption in political campaigns and state government. However, interviews with a dozen former officials with ties to the commission, along with hundreds of pages of internal documents, text messages, and personal notes obtained by The New Yorker, reveal that Cuomo and his team used increasingly heavy-handed tactics to limit inquiries that might implicate him or his allies. “He did not want an investigation into his own dark-money contributions,” Perry recalled. . . .

Both Perry and Rice said that they had not spoken out until now because Cuomo or members of his inner circle had threatened their careers, and because they had seen his team successfully retaliate against others. “I saw them destroy people,” Perry said. “And I did really fear that it could be me.”

If Andrew Cuomo had been a Republican, and had called up the Obama White House “ranting and raving” and demanding the White House do something about a U.S. attorney who was investigating him, would the Department of Justice have just shrugged and done nothing more than notify the U.S. attorney? Do you think that, just maybe, Eric Holder and his team would have been a little more interested in opening up an investigation and pressing charges for obstruction of justice?

How many free passes did Andrew Cuomo get from powerful people because he was in the right party?

Politics & Policy

‘Rule’

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Greg Weiner has written a typically interesting and insightful essay at the New York Times. It is good reading.

But whoever writes his headlines should be reminded that, as the result of certain events at Yorktown, Americans are governed, not ruled.

Music

Who Would’ve Thought — Hip-Hop Is Offensive

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DaBaby performs during the BET Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., June 27, 2021. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

The entertainment business has progressively grown more and more despicable. The music industry is probably the most egregious offender. Its treatment of the rapper Jonathan Kirk, better known by his stage name, “DaBaby,” is yet another example of how synthetic its moral grandstanding is. 

While performing at the Rolling Loud Miami music festival on July 25, Kirk sparked controversy by yelling the following vulgar remarks to his audience:

[If] you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put a cellphone light in the air. Ladies, if your p**** smell like water, put a cellphone light in the air. Fellas, if you ain’t sucking d*** in the parking lot, put a cellphone light in the air.”

He has such a way with language.

Reasonably outraged, LGBT activists accused Kirk of being homophobic. Ever the astute navigator of controversy, Kirk initially disregarded the backlash and insulted his critics with additional expletives. He also accused the brands who cut deals with him of being racist. Kirk seems to be convinced that his comments could not have possibly been offensive to his LGBT fans, because the gay people who listen to his music are not “nasty” or “junkies.” He had a few more choice words, but I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Somehow, despite Kirk’s impeccable damage control, he was pulled off the lineup for several of his upcoming performances. A series of festivals that are apparently rather important all gave him the boot, such as Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, iHeart Radio, and more. You may not know of the guy, but he is a pretty big deal in hip-hop. His song “Rockstar” spent seven weeks as the No. 1–played song in the United States, according to Billboard Hot 100. And, thanks to a Black Lives Matter edition of the song he released during last year’s unrest, it was even nominated for three Grammys, including Record of the Year.

Are we really supposed to believe that these organizers have denounced “DaBaby” out of genuine concern? He struck a female fan for getting too close to him and regularly raps about consuming drugs and killing people. He says derogatory things about everyone ranging from police to women all the time. Crime and “toxic masculinity” are his brand. The man even deleted his Instagram statement where he apologized more thoroughly. Bad for his street-cred, I presume.

Kirk has a point when he accuses the big brands of insincere advocacy. They were more than happy to stand by him when he was one of BLM’s poster boys. But now that #GeorgeFloyd is no longer trending, turning a blind eye to Kirk’s controversies is no longer fashionable.

Conservatives have been calling out hip-hop culture for promoting terrible ideals and role models for decades. But will progressives admit that? Probably not. That would require admitting that some of their primary supporters are doing something bad. Regardless, the mental gymnastics required to maintain a position of cultural relativism while criticizing DaBaby’s views on the gay community will never cease to amaze me.

Politics & Policy

Are the Walls Really Closing In on Andrew Cuomo?

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Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo speaks at the opening of Pier 76 park in New York, N.Y., June 9, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Andy McCarthy’s legal knowledge exceeds mine by approximately the same extent that the size of the Milky Way (galaxy) exceeds the size of a Milky Way (candy bar), but I’m skeptical of his assertion that “the walls are rapidly closing in on Andrew Cuomo.” Andy thinks that Cuomo is hearing the drumbeats of doom and will soon resign. I think Cuomo is so shameless that he will never resign unless he is guaranteed to be removed via impeachment. I see the walls closing in with such deliberate speed that they will not close this month and maybe not ever. I think the key figures are betting that if they can drag this thing out for four weeks or so, we’ll be into the fall, at which point they can argue, “Look, there’s an election a year away. Let’s let the voters decide.” Cuomo, should he just brazen it out, could be reelected by double digits next year. Do you really think he wants to let Bill de Blasio win? Cuomo would rather drink Gowanus Canal water than give de Blasio gloating rights for the rest of their lives.

Impeachment is in the hands of Democrat and Cuomo ally Carl Heastie, speaker of the state assembly. Heastie could have convened an emergency session and put impeachment on the floor last week if he had felt like it. The leader of the Republican caucus urged Heastie to do exactly that last week. And what is Heastie doing? Well, after seven months of investigation he wants . . . more investigation. Sworn statements from most or all of the relevant parties are in. So, let’s get some more information. Let’s not rush this!

Heastie said it is “abundantly clear” that Cuomo must go, but that’s passing the buck. Cuomo’s fate is largely in Heastie’s hands. Heastie has the votes. So what is he waiting for? “Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible,” he said. “Expeditiously” is a word politicians use when they intend to move as though each foot is encased in wet cement.

I think Heastie thinks that if he can drag this out a bit, after a few media cycles and maybe a crocodile-tear speech by Cuomo acknowledging he hasn’t always respected women as much as he should have, New York’s outrage will dissipate. Heastie doesn’t seem to be itching to take out Cuomo. His Twitter feed is notably lacking in anger with Cuomo or demands that he resign. The speaker has tweeted twice this month, once to grieve for a cousin who died and once to congratulate a high-school classmate on her judicial nomination.

Though it was received as a bombshell, the state attorney general’s report last week merely confirmed and added some details to the stories that everybody had heard, and largely believed, last winter. And what was the reaction? Cuomo still had a 57 percent approval rating among Democrats as of April. Last week, in the immediate wake of the AG report, his overall approval rating was down to 28, and 63 percent of New Yorkers said he should be impeached and removed. Heastie is going to wait and see if those numbers come back to normal after the shock wears off. If they do, the speaker will be able to argue that public support is not sufficiently strong to impeach the governor. His name is Heastie, not hasty.

Science & Tech

Don’t Eat the (Privacy) Apple

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(Pixabay)

Apple recently announced that it would be cracking down on illegal pornographic material housed on its cloud storage. Apple plans to scan iPhones using NeuralHash to identify images of child pornography and then redirect the case to the proper authorities. While the aim of the effort is noble and admirable, the move raises significant privacy concerns for users. The actions of governments at home and abroad show that Americans should demand a hands-off approach when dealing with matters of digital privacy. 

Americans typically have a strong sense of privacy. Nobody wants someone just walking into your house, even if that person has good intentions. Americans have similar sensibilities when it comes to their digital data, too. The vast majority of Americans want laws protecting digital privacy; in fact, 83 percent want such legislation to be passed this year. 

The government, however, is doing the opposite. Numerous outlets have reported that Apple and other tech companies have wilted under pressure from the government to hand over user data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a scathing attack against Apple’s decision in which they explained the changes that are being put into place:

There are two main features that the company is planning to install in every Apple device. One is a scanning feature that will scan all photos as they get uploaded into iCloud Photos to see if they match a photo in the database of known child sexual abuse material (CSAM) maintained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The other feature scans all iMessage images sent or received by child accounts — that is, accounts designated as owned by a minor — for sexually explicit material, and if the child is young enough, notifies the parent when these images are sent or received. This feature can be turned on or off by parents.

Apple, for its part, has told users that it will not hand over their data. In response to a question about privacy, Apple said:

Apple will refuse any such demands [to scan for non-pornographic image data]. Apple’s CSAM detection capability is built solely to detect known CSAM images stored in iCloud Photos that have been identified by experts at NCMEC and other child safety groups. We have faced demands to build and deploy government-mandated changes that degrade the privacy of users before, and have steadfastly refused those demands. We will continue to refuse them in the future.

It’s good that Apple says it intends to refuse future government demands. However, Apple was pressured into this decision, and it doesn’t have an unblemished record of keeping users’ information secure. Tech companies have had numerous breaches that resulted in billions of accounts being compromised. It’s concerning that Apple even needs to stand firm against government intrusion on citizens’ personal privacy. Citizens want more privacy and more Internet security, not less.

Beyond the American government, there are incentives for foreign politicians to pressure Big Tech companies into selling or monetizing consumer data. China, in particular, has used metadata to spy on its own citizens. American citizens aren’t going to get a free pass from foreign snooping. 

It would be nice if American companies had a sterling record of standing up to foreign pressure, especially when that pressure comes from authoritarian regimes. Unfortunately, Xi Jinping has enormous economic influence, and tech companies have been all too willing to change their guidelines for Chinese cash. 

Even though China censored Google Search, which led to Google’s pulling its search engine, Google has still played nice with China. TikTok is operated by China and has been criticized for harvesting users’ biometric data. Apple, for its part, manufactures much of its products in China, and the Chinese Communist Party is willing to pressure the company into doing their bidding. All of this should worry users who care about digital privacy.

American law enforcement wants to track down those who sexually exploit children. They should absolutely do so. However, using “every means necessary” can result in tracking mechanisms that have dire political consequences. Apple’s decision to allow automated scanning of cloud-image data could spark a backlash in favor of greater digital privacy. Let’s hope it does. 

Politics & Policy

Cuomo’s Political Allies Are Facing Their Own Calls for Resignation

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York City, June 10, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Sexual harassment is wrong. You would like to think that there would be a broad, non-ideological, bipartisan agreement on that notion.

What an unfortunate number of people believe when they say that is, “sexual harassment is wrong, when it is committed by people I don’t like.” A vivid example:

Roberta A. Kaplan, a nationally prominent lawyer with ties to the governor, resigned from Time’s Up, the organization founded by Hollywood women to fight sexual abuse and promote gender equality.

Ms. Kaplan, the chairwoman of Time’s Up and the co-founder of its legal defense fund, was one of several prominent figures whom the report found to be involved in an effort to discredit one of Mr. Cuomo’s alleged victims, and she has continuing legal ties to a former Cuomo aide accused of leading that effort.

At the height of #MeToo, more than a few voices on the right argued that the “Believe Women” and “Believe All Women” slogans were highly conditional, and would be abandoned the moment a sufficiently powerful or popular Democrat faced allegations of wrongdoing. And by mid-2020, some feminists and some Democrats implausibly claimed they never meant believe all women.

But was it too much to expect that the people who led the charge on #MeToo would not later sign on to efforts to discredit accusers? Wasn’t that exactly what they were decrying at the height of #MeToo?

Time’s Up is not the only institution where members are wondering if the leadership turned a blind eye to Cuomo’s actions.

The New York Attorney General’s sexual harassment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised criticisms of a prominent LGBTQ advocate, who is accused of participating in efforts to discredit the governor’s alleged victims.

That advocate, Alphonso David, the president of Human Rights Campaign, is now facing demands that he resign…

David’s appearances in the report have raised questions about his continued role with HRC from both the political left and right. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who is openly gay, told NPR in an interview that she would not accept support from HRC unless David stepped down. The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ group, also called on David to resign. An attorney for Lindsey Boylan, one of Cuomo’s accusers, told NPR that Boylan plans to sue Cuomo for retaliation and that Boylan could potentially name David as a co-defendant.

People are rarely eager to believe the worst, or turn against, their longtime political allies. But what we’re seeing here is that some of the people who shouted the loudest about standing up against sexual harassment were in fact highly conditional in when and where they would speak out against it.

Sports

How Woke Were the Olympics Really?

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I didn’t watch a minute of them on TV for the first time in years, so I’m not in a great position to say, and I also may be overly influenced by my dislike of the women’s soccer team, but here’s a contrarian take from Paul Mirengoff at Powerline.

Sports

Yes, We Just Had a Racial Crisis over the Colorado Rockies Mascot 

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There’s a moment every day when you wish Tom Wolfe were still with us to catalogue the moral panic, sanctimony, and utter stupidity that characterizes so much of our public life now:

White House

Presidents Cannot Engage in Official ‘Acts of Civil Disobedience’

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Detail of George III of the United Kingdom, 1771, by Johann Zoffany. (Public domain/via Wikimedia)

The Nation’s Elie Mystal explains that he won’t be applying the same legal standards to President Biden as he did to President Trump because he likes what President Biden is doing:

This, I suppose, is exactly the point at which I’m supposed to join the chorus of pundits and chastise Biden for his Trumpian use of executive power and for embracing what is likely an illegal action. The court made itself clear, but the president is going ahead anyway—where have we heard that story before? It would be a perfect, virtue-signaling layup for me to say, “I criticized Trump and now I criticize Biden” because “process matters” and “the ends can’t justify the means.” Then, everybody could bask in the warm glow of my intellectual consistency.

But I just can’t join in the legal tut-tutting. I come from a tradition in which you sometimes have to violate bad laws—by any means necessary. Sometimes you have to do an illegal thing and get rebuked or arrested doing it to highlight the injustice of the system. Cori Bush was interviewed on the steps of the Capitol, and she said, “If you take an ‘L,’ you take an ‘L,’ but at least you tried.” These are the people I come from.

“These are the people I come from,” writes Mystal. But they’re not — at least, not unless Mystal comes from a long line of American presidents. He continues:

What Biden has done in issuing this eviction moratorium is an act of civil disobedience. He and his administration know the law. They know the consequences. They know they’re buying only a little more time for the people they’re trying to help, and they know that, when the court smacks them down, its ruling will be widely framed as a devastating rebuke by a mainstream media class desperate to show that it can be critical of “both sides.” The Biden administration is going to take an “L.”

This is nonsense. Presidents cannot engage in acts of “civil disobedience” in the same way that you or I can, because, among other things, they have been explicitly charged with faithfully executing the law.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Joe Biden said when he was inaugurated:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States

If Joe Biden feels that he can no longer enforce the law, then he can resign. But for as long as he is in office, and for as long as “he and his administration know the law” — as Mystal confirms he does here — he is obliged to “faithfully execute” his oath. There’s no such thing as “civil disobedience” for the president. There is only the law. By inventing absurd justifications for getting what he wants, Mystal is confirming that neither he nor Joe Biden care much about that.

Law & the Courts

So Much for the ‘Crisis’ at the Supreme Court

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

So much for that “crisis” at the Supreme Court. Per FiveThirtyEight:

Marquette University Law School is out with its annual poll on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Americans somewhat or strongly approve of the nation’s highest court 60 percent to 39 percent, making it, per the same poll, the most popular of the three branches of government. However, that approval rating was down 6 percentage points from last year, largely because of a decrease in popularity among Republicans. The public generally perceives the court as a center-right institution: A plurality of respondents (42 percent) rated the court as moderate, while 37 percent rated it as somewhat conservative.

The Democrats’ plan to pack the Court is, and has always been, a disgraceful attack on our system of government (and on the Constitution itself). But, nearly a year after the calls began in earnest, it’s now beginning to look a little farcical. The Court is not “broken.” It’s not “illegitimate.” It’s not “crazy.” It’s more popular than it has been for a while — and it’s getting more popular as time goes by (notwithstanding fluctuations).

Know what’s really unpopular, by contrast? Court packing.

Energy & Environment

Oregon Proposal Would Redefine Breeding as a ‘Sexual Assault’ on Animals

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Bavarian farmers escort cows during the traditional Almabtrieb near Bad Hindelang, Germany, September 11, 2019. At the end of the summer season, farmers move their herds down from the Alps to the valley into winter pastures. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

People wrongly think of the animal-rights movement as a more energetic form of animal-welfare advocacy. It is not. Rather, animal-rights activists intend to eventually outlaw all ownership of animals, a project they recognize as multi-generational.

Often, activists mask their actual intentions. But a proposed Oregon constitutional amendment, currently in the petition-signing stage, illustrates the extent of animal-rights radicalism.

The proposed amendment would essentially criminalize many of the practices required to raise and slaughter food animals. First, it would remove current exemptions in the law for “good animal husbandry” practices that protect ranchers and others from being charged with abuse for injuring an animal. From Initiative Petition 13 (the bracketed sections delete current law, my emphasis):

A person commits the crime of animal abuse in the second degree if, except as [otherwise authorized by law] necessary to defend him or herself against an apparent threat of immediate violence, the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to an animal. [(2) Any practice of good animal husbandry is not a violation of this section.]

The food industry routinely kills animals by mortally injuring them. Other practices such as castration of steers, also would constitute “injury.” By removing the “good animal husbandry” exemptions — and note, “good” practices do not permit abuse — necessary activities of raising animals for food would seem to be criminalized.

And here’s the real kicker. Breeding animals, other than through animal intercourse, would be considered a sexual offense, akin to bestiality:

Section 6. ORS 167.333 is amended to read:
(1) A person commits the crime of sexual assault of an animal if the person:
(a) Touches or contacts, or causes an object or another person to touch or contact, the mouth, anus or sex organs of an animal or animal carcass for the purpose of:
(A) [a]Arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of [a person] either party; or
(B) Breeding domestic, livestock, and equine animals as defined in ORS 167.310; or
(b) Causes an animal or animal carcass to touch or contact the mouth, anus or sex organs of a person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of [a person] either party

This provision would make artificial insemination of a cow a sexual offense because it involves touching that cow’s sex organs with the sperm-containing syringe! It would also prohibit the acts necessary to obtain bull sperm for that purpose.

Why worry about such a radical proposal, Wesley? It’s just the fringe being fringy.

Because we can no longer afford that kind of complacency. In these days where feelings often count more than thought, merely stating you want to stop suffering can be the pretext for implementing profoundly unsound policies. Casting a bright light of public awareness on radical proposals while they are in the embryonic stage is the easiest and best means to keep them from becoming law.

Post Script: Don’t forget the other extreme state-constitutional-amendment-petition drive currently ongoing in Florida to grant “rights” to rivers and other waters. Environmentalism is growing as extreme as the animal-rights movement. Both increasingly pose misanthropic threats in the purposes and/or consequences of their respective proposed policies.

Law & the Courts

Amicus Brief in Dobbs Features 3-D and 4-D Fetal Ultrasounds

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( strelov/Getty Images)

In one of the 80 amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Mississippi in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, three medical doctors obtained special permission to include images of unborn children, including ultrasound images.

The brief was filed by attorney Heather Hacker on behalf of medical doctors Monique Chireau, Grazie Pozo Christie, and Colleen Malloy, as well as the Catholic Association Foundation, where Christie is a policy adviser.

In addition to offering other arguments against the Court’s rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the brief takes aim at the flawed medical science on which the justices based their decisions. It points out that the “viability” standard used by the justices in both rulings is long outdated because newborn infants are able to survive after birth at a much earlier gestational age than was possible when the cases were decided.

The brief also points out that medical technology has advanced to the point of allowing us to capture 3-D and 4-D ultrasound images of unborn children — at most stages of pregnancy a clear illustration of the humanity denied by the Court. In fact, these types of technological advancements have led the medical field to begin treating unborn children as patients in every context but abortion, even developing the capacity for surgery performed on children in the womb.

All of these developments are remarkable enough chronicled as they are in the brief, but the doctors’ contribution is especially notable for its images, which show the reader — to include, hopefully, the justices deciding the case — how far the science of ultrasound has come, what life in the womb looks like at different stages of development, and how recognizably human unborn children are from very early in pregnancy. In other words, the brief illustrates the inescapable reality of the humanity of the unborn, a reality ignored and often outright denied by supporters of abortion and the Court’s abortion jurisprudence.

Politics & Policy

Not ‘Fully Paid For’: Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Allows for $1.75 Trillion in New Debt

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President Joe Biden speaks to reporters as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer escorts him to a lunch with the Senate Democratic Caucus at the U.S. Capitol, July 14, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Despite previous promises that it would be “fully paid for,” Democrats left open the possibility that their $3.5 trillion spending bill would only be half paid for.

As flagged by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the reconciliation instructions for the spending bill allow for up to $1.75 trillion in borrowing.

“It is not possible to draft and score all of the expected policies prior to consideration of the budget resolution,” a Democratic memo explains. “Given that we will not have budgetary certainty for all of the expected policies prior to locking in the reconciliation instruction to the Finance Committee, the Budget Resolution will not require a specific level of revenue, outlay, or deficit amount in its reconciliation instruction.”

Translated from Washington speak, what this means is that if Democrats fall short of raising enough taxes to finance their spending over the course of negotiations, they will just go ahead and issue new debt.

This despite the fact that the U.S. has already spent $6 trillion above its already high budget in response to COVID-19 and that President Biden’s own budget expects debt as a percentage of the economy to smash the World War II record this year. It should be noted that Democrats’ task has been made a lot easier by the fact that the infrastructure bill that Republicans have helped Democrats pass would increase deficits by $256 billion despite prior GOP promises that it would be fully paid for.

Energy & Environment

The Insufferable Hypocrisy of John Kerry

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John Kerry delivers remarks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

In February, Icelandic reporter Jóhann Bjarni Kolbeinsson asked the United States climate czar, John Kerry, if he thought flying in a private jet to Reykjavik in 2019 to pick up the Arctic Circle award for climate leadership was environmentally responsible. Kerry had a dispensation, noting that flying was “the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle.”

This week, the Daily Mail reported that Kerry had flown in a private jet to Martha’s Vineyard — where he owns an $11 million rambler — for Obama’s 60th birthday bash. A State Department spokesperson denied the story, claiming that “Secretary Kerry lives on Martha’s Vineyard, he did not travel there for a party. He took a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, he did not fly commercial or private.” This statement means nothing. No one is accusing Kerry of flying his plane onto a runway at Obama’s compound. Whatever the case, Kerry’s carbon-spewing private jet is busy. He and his family often fly to Sun Valley (where the family has a house), D.C. (ditto), Los Angeles, and sometimes just between Martha’s Vineyard and Boston (another house) — because the Earth isn’t worth the two-and-a-half-hour drive. You can rent a similar plane for around $15,500 per hour.

I’m not much of a classist, but I get why this kind of sanctimony and hypocrisy fuels populist anger. Hundreds of well-heeled, maskless elites get to dance at Barack Obama’s birthday party while schlubs like you are still yelling into your useless masks just to be heard over the din at a supermarket — even though you’re vaccinated.

Marrying into money has its perks, and Kerry is well within his rights to enjoy the remarkable conveniences the modern world affords him. The problem is — as with Obama’s party — that the same people demand you surrender comforts and freedoms for the communal good.

I’m often told this brand of gotcha is irrelevant: Kerry’s flights are trifling in the big picture. Even if Kerry is a hypocrite, it doesn’t change the fact that climate change threatens our lives. Just today, the U.N. released a report starkly warning that climate change is now “code red for humanity,” and it is our last chance to implement policies and wide-ranging reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. (This is the first last chance to save the planet since 2019’s last chance to save the planet.) And Kerry doesn’t seem very nervous about any of it. If the climate technocrats truly believed that climate change was menacing humanity’s existence, they wouldn’t act the way they do, just as if elites truly believed the Delta variant scaremongering they engage in, they wouldn’t be participating in parties with hundreds of their closest friends.

Economy & Business

Blue States Are National Leaders in Unemployment

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(REUTERS/Mike Blake )

A look at the state-by-state breakdown for unemployment stats reveals that the bottom-performing eleven states (counting D.C. as a state) are all run by Democrats and all are continuing the enhanced federal benefit for the jobless, except Louisiana, which ended them July 31. They are:

Louisiana 6.9 percent
Pennsylvania 6.9
D.C. 7.0
Illinois 7.2
New Jersey 7.3
California 7.7
Hawaii 7.7
New York 7.7
Nevada 7.8
Connecticut 7.9
New Mexico 7.9

So which states have the lowest unemployment rate? The top-ten best performers are these:

Nebraska 2.5 percent
Utah 2.7
New Hampshire 2.9
South Dakota 2.9
Idaho 3.0
Vermont 3.1
Alabama 3.3
Kansas 3.7
Montana 3.7
Oklahoma 3.7

All of these states have Republican governors except Kansas (although Vermont’s governor Phil Scott is a liberal Republican). And all of them opted out early of the additional federal employment benefit except Kansas and Vermont.

I’m looking for a good empirical measurement of the degree to which each state was locked down. Any guesses as to whether the most draconian lockdowns are associated with the greatest loss of jobs?

Politics & Policy

North Carolina Bill Would ‘Protect’ College Borrowers

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Politicians are forever looking to pass bills that purport to solve problems, even though those problems are over-hyped.

In North Carolina, there is bipartisan support for a bill that would establish state oversight over the small number of private loan servicers who handle non-governmental student debts. In today’s Martin Center article, journalist Emma Schambach writes about it.

How would this work? “Specifically, the state Commissioner of Banks will be required to create licensing and regulatory systems for student loan servicers which will highlight the responsibilities and prohibited behaviors of those servicers,” she writes.

Almost everybody has heard the stories about students who are drowning in debt, but to what extent are these private loan servicers responsible for that? Doesn’t matter — creating a new state bureaucracy is, for most politicians, a costless way of looking like they care and are doing something. A new system of state oversight will imposes costs on the taxpayers, and bureaucracies have well-known tendencies to perpetuate themselves and grow even if they have little to do.

As Schambach points out, 92 percent of all college borrowing is done through the federal government, which does nothing to discourage unwise and extravagant borrowing. This bill seems very questionable.

Politics & Policy

Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Budget Proposes Biggest Health-Care Expansion Since Obamacare

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Sen. Bernie Sanders during a Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine President Biden’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2022 on Capitol Hill, June 8, 2021. (Shawn Thew/Pool via Reuters)

After Republicans greased the wheels by advancing President Biden’s infrastructure agenda, emboldened Democrats led by Budget Committee chairman Bernie Sanders on Monday went full speed ahead by unveiling a sweeping $3.5 trillion resolution that will require only 51 votes to pass. Among other things, it would mean the largest expansion of government in the health-care arena since Obamacare.

The proposal expands Obamacare in two direct ways. One, it makes permanent a provision in the COVID-19 relief bill that makes insurance subsidies more generous. This will funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to insurance companies. Two, the resolution would create a new government-run health-care program available to individuals in states that chose not to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. This is an effort to get around the Supreme Court ruling, which left the Medicaid expansion up to states.

But the proposal would not stop with Obamacare.

In addition, the resolution would add dental, vision, and hearing benefits to Medicare — the program that is the primary driver of the nation’s debt and that is expected to be insolvent within five years.

The bill would also spend more money on home- and community-based care and vows to reduce prescription-drug costs.

This government expansion comes on top of proposals for universal pre-K, free community college, more student loans, climate spending, and an additional wave of infrastructure spending.

It’s worth noting that every penny that gets spent will have been enabled by the Republican minority.

Sports

The Olympics: Individual Liberty Beats Central Planning yet Again

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A U.S. and a USA Olympic flag are flown at the family home of U.S. swimmer Hunter Armstrong on the day of his Olympic debut at the 2021 Olympic Games, in Dover, Ohio, July 25, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

Some of the greatest Olympic moments have been come-from-behind efforts by the plucky American side against communist regimes, and this year’s games were no different. On one side, you had the Chinese, resurgent with a team almost as large as that at the Beijing Games and focused on acquiring gold medals at any cost. Up until the final day, China led the way in gold by a significant margin. Their dedicated sports schools and gaming of the Olympic’s structure made a compelling case for dominance. 

Opposite them, you had the U.S., beset by aging stars and injuries, both physical and mental. Baton passes were botched, and attainable gold medals were left on the track. The U.S. was drowning in silver and bronze, leading the field in the medal count, but gold was much more challenging to come by than expected. Despite it all, we won in all categories, thanks to phenomenal basketball and volleyball victories in the waning hours of the Games. It’s deeply amusing that a self-consciously individualistic nation could best a collectivist one with teamwork of all things. Freedom of association is a beautiful thing. 

The curmudgeons may grumble about the Games’ many flaws, but where else can we thrash despicable geopolitical foes on their very doorstep? Long live the Olympics.

Politics & Policy

Conservatives Should Focus on the Reconciliation Package

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes questions at her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Some conservatives are troubled by the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is almost sure to pass the Senate early this week, citing concerns about the climate provisions and the potential for cronyism and the $256 billion of additional deficit spending it would create.

It would be nice if at least as much energy on the political right was spent on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, a different bill that would expand and create social and climate programs.

The two are linked, with House speaker Nancy Pelosi promising not to consider the infrastructure bill until the Senate also passes the reconciliation package. But some conservatives are making too much of this, misreading the politics. If the infrastructure bill fails to pass the Senate, it’s not as if President Biden or Speaker Pelosi would suddenly give up on their ambitions to expand and create social programs and policies to curb climate change.

Similarly, some conservatives have made too much of recent comments by Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), who indicated that they wouldn’t support the reconciliation package unless the Senate passes the infrastructure bill. These comments were made in the context of bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure, and were likely aimed at pressuring Democratic leadership not to lose patience with the negotiations and move on to the reconciliation package. If Republicans were to tank the infrastructure bill, we shouldn’t expect Sinema and Manchin to shut down the reconciliation package.

Here are some of the items in the reconciliation package:

  • A five-year extension of the monthly child allowance
  • Tax incentives for clean energy and climate-friendly vehicles
  • A universal pre-kindergarten program
  • Around a quarter of a trillion dollars for child care
  • A huge expansion of community college and Pell Grant funding
  • A paid family and medical leave program, among other provisions.

To fund this, Biden would hike taxes on individuals and businesses, along with increasing the deficit.

Any one of these spending items should spark robust public debate. Policy experts should make recommendations. Congressional hearings should be held. White papers and op-eds should be published. Advocacy groups should lobby. Any one of these items should capture the policy debate.

Instead, the president’s stated plan is to ram them through on a party-line vote, with little debate or discussion.

In calling for the return of the Tea Party, Philip Klein notes that “the opposition to [Biden’s] sweeping agenda is practically nonexistent.” I’m not sure we need the Tea Party back, but Klein is right about the startling absence of opposition to the president’s massive ambitions for social and climate policy.

Which brings us back to the unfortunate decision in some parts of the political right to focus so much on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and so little on the reconciliation package. The former isn’t perfect. The latter is much worse. Where’s the debate? Where’s the opposition? Where’s the outrage?

Keep your eye on the ball, conservatives. Republican-on-Republican political attacks are captivating. But they aren’t the main event.

Republicans are unified in opposition to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, and perhaps because of this are treating it as an afterthought and focusing more on their intraparty divisions over the infrastructure package.

This is a mistake. If they want to reduce its size and scope, the GOP should be rallying public opinion against the reconciliation bill.

Law & the Courts

Argument Recap: D.C. Judge Holds Hearing Considering Challenge to New CDC Moratorium

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The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C, June 14, 2021 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A hearing was held this morning on the renewed CDC eviction moratorium before Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, the district judge who previously concluded that the original moratorium was illegal. The lawyer for the landlords came in hard, telling Judge Friedrich that the new moratorium had been “apparently issued in bad faith,” and “admittedly” without legal authority, for the improper purpose of “shifting the blame to the courts” for shooting down the moratorium. The Justice Department’s response was comparatively lame — the DOJ attorney admitted that the new moratorium would still be illegal under the judge’s decision on the old moratorium, given that Judge Friedrich had previously found that the CDC lacked statutory authority. DOJ also admitted that the new moratorium covers at least 80 percent of the nation’s counties, and is thus still, in practice, a nationwide moratorium.

The real action in the hearing was on the question of which of the decisions in the prior case were binding on Judge Friedrich. DOJ sought to thread one needle, arguing that her previous decision was not “law of the case,” a doctrine in which a court will typically not reconsider its own decisions on the same issue in the same litigation, because this is a new order. On the other hand, DOJ argued that the D.C. Circuit’s decision in the prior case, which found that the CDC moratorium was legally authorized, was binding precedent, while the Supreme Court’s refusal to act was not. The attorney for the plaintiffs (national, Alabama, and Georgia landlords) argued that the D.C. Circuit’s opinion is technically not binding precedent within the Circuit because it was an emergency decision by a motions panel, but that Judge Friedrich should consider Justice Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion together with the votes of four Justices who wanted to strike down the moratorium as evidence that a majority of the Supreme Court considered the moratorium illegal. The plaintiffs also emphasized how Joe Biden has admitted that the new moratorium was basically just for the purposes of delay and without legal basis.

Judge Friedrich, a Trump appointee, asked pointed questions of both sides on these points, and seemed hesitant to go against her own appeals court on technical grounds, but did not entirely show her cards, and took the case under consideration without clear guidance of when she will rule.

Culture

What Pro-Lifers Can Learn from a Paper on Pregnancy-Help Centers

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Pro-life demonstrators outside the Supreme Court during the March for Life in 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Last week, Alexandra DeSanctis had a Corner post covering an important new study that appeared in the journal Plos One, analyzing the effect of pregnancy-help centers. Although the number of such centers has increased significantly in recent years, these organizations tend to receive scant attention from scholars.

The researchers who conducted this study evidently are skeptical of pregnancy-help organizations. One researcher is affiliated with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, which supports legal abortion. Additionally, the authors claim, with no evidence, that pregnancy-help centers provide “inaccurate information” about the risks of abortion. Even so, the results of the study indicate that women who visit pregnancy-help centers are less likely to obtain abortions and more likely to continue pregnancies. This is good news for pro-lifers.

Indeed, a closer look at the study provides some important insights of interest to pro-lifers, particularly those who support pregnancy -help centers. Through online ads, the researchers who conducted this study were able to survey more than 800 pregnant women who were considering obtaining an abortion.  About 13 percent of these women reported visiting a pregnancy-help center, enabling the researchers to compare the group of women who visited a center to the group of women that did not. This provides some insight into what makes abortion-vulnerable women more likely to seek assistance from a pregnancy-help center in the first place.

The two cohorts of women were fairly similar demographically. African Americans were less likely than the average woman to report a visit to a pregnancy help center, while Asian Americans were more likely. However, these differences were relatively slight. Furthermore, the two cohorts were similar in terms of age, education level, gestational age of their unborn child, geographic region, and religiosity.

Interestingly, women who did not identify with a particular faith tradition were actually slightly more likely to visit a pregnancy-resource center than women who reported adhering to a particular faith. The two groups of women were also similar in terms of whether they’d had a previous abortion and whether they’d given birth previously.

But there were also some notable distinctions between the two groups. One key difference is that women who lacked health insurance were more likely to visit a pregnancy-help center, suggesting that the services offered attract women who lack access to health care. Another difference is that women reporting higher levels of decisional conflict about obtaining an abortion were more likely to visit a pregnancy-help center.

But overall, the differences between the two cohorts were not as dramatic as one might expect. In fact, the results indicated that about 47 percent of women who visited a pregnancy-help center were at the lowest of the three levels of decisional conflict, demonstrating that pro-life pregnancy centers interact with a wide range of pregnant women, including some who feel fairly certain about wanting to obtain an abortion.

Another important, if unsurprising, finding was that proximity to a pregnancy-help center had an effect on results. Women who lived less than five miles from a center were likely to report a visit than women who lived farther away. Similarly, women who lived far from an abortion facility were more likely to seek assistance from a pregnancy-help center.  This illustrates that efforts by pro-life activists to launch pregnancy-help organizations in underserved areas can have a positive effect, as well as that pro-life efforts to close abortion facilities likely have been effective.

Most important, the researchers were able to analyze how visiting a pregnancy-help center affected pregnancy outcomes. They found that only about 30 percent of women who visited a pregnancy-help center obtained an abortion, as opposed to about 50 percent of women who did not report a pregnancy-center visit.

One nice feature of the study is that the researchers held constant decisional conflict, so we know that even among women who reported high levels of conflict about whether or not to obtain an abortion, the visit to the pregnancy-help center made them more likely to choose life. Multiple statistical models, holding a range of factors constant, indicated that a visit to a pregnancy-help center significantly increased the likelihood that a woman would carry her pregnancy to term.

According to Heartbeat International’s Worldwide Directory of Pregnancy Help, the number of organizations that offer assistance to pregnant women increased by approximately 86 percent between 1988 and 2015. Many states are finding creative ways to assist pregnancy-help centers through grants and tax credits, among other means. The results of this study should encourage pro-lifers, as it offers statistical evidence that pro-life efforts to build durable organizations devoted to assisting pregnant women are bearing fruit.

The results demonstrate that pregnancy-help centers are saving thousands of preborn children and sparing countless women from a lifetime of regret.

Impromptus

At Your Service

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A view of the Old City, Salzburg (Jay Nordlinger)

I’m going to get to Alaska in a moment, but that picture, above, is of Salzburg — about which I have a journal today. From which I have a journal? In any case, the article is here. I’ve been writing Salzburg journals — along with other journals — for about 20 years now. They’re not for everyone. But they’re for some — and it’s a pleasure to write for the some (so to speak). Today, I have observations social, political, and artistic. Plus a slate of photos, as usual.

If you’re interested in a sportscast — a podcast devoted to sports — I have one, here: with two of my regular gurus, David French and Vivek Dave. We cover the waterfront, or a good stretch of it. This includes the Olympics. Should PGA Tour stars be there? Should NBA stars? Is amateurism merely quaint? And how about the issue of transgenderism? If you have a male body — should you be competing in women’s sports? We also talk about Tom Brady, Shohei Ohtani, and other phenomena.

A week or so ago, I wrote,

All of my life, I have seen churches — church buildings — turned into something else. It is so good — so unusual, so refreshing — to see “something else” turned into a church.

I then quoted an Associated Press report, which begins,

A popular strip club that once beckoned customers off a busy highway leading into Anchorage is now a church offering salvation — instead of temptation — thanks to a daughter of a former exotic dancer.

Such “good, heartening news,” I said. A reader now writes,

Jay,

Commuting to my job in Anchorage, I ride a bus past the former strip club that is now a church. The funny thing is, I didn’t know the strip club had become a church until reading about it in your Impromptus. Thanks for the local-news update! The place was a blight as a strip club and remained one as an unused building for a few years afterward.

I neglected to write you a while back, but here I am and I want to say that I enjoyed your writing about Robert Service’s poetry [here]. I didn’t know that Reagan was a fan [big-time, like most boys and young men his age]. As a kid growing up in Alaska with a grandfather and great-uncles who prospected and mined gold and silver, I enjoyed Service’s writings, and so does our whole family. I have visited the cabin where Service lived and worked in Dawson City. Small and cozy.

A destination to remember, that cabin.

World

The Afghan Army That Biden Said Was ‘More Competent’ Keeps Surrendering and Fleeing

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Newly freed Taliban prisoners greet each other at Pul-i-Charkhi prison, in Kabul, Afghanistan May 26, 2020. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

President Joe Biden, July 8:  “It’s a silly question.  Do I trust the Taliban? No. But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.”

The New York Times, this morning: “In a matter of days, the Taliban have overtaken six provincial capitals in a land offensive that has led many local officials to abandon their posts and flee the cities they administer. . . . The scale of the humanitarian crisis is likely to grow in the coming days and weeks, especially as the Taliban extend their reach over more territory.”

Whether you support U.S. withdrawal or oppose it, our policy should be based upon a clear-eyed assessment of what is happening and what is most likely to happen — and our leaders have an obligation to level with the American people about the consequences of our actions. The Afghan army is not “better trained, better equipped, and more competent in terms of conducting war,” as the president claimed one month ago. It was an absurdly unrealistic assessment then, and it is an absurdly unrealistic assessment now. It would be nice to blame a speechwriter, but the president’s assessment of the Afghan army came when Biden spoke off-the-cuff. It is difficult to believe that Biden’s intelligence briefings are telling him that the Afghan army is “more competent in terms of conducting war” and likely to hold off the Taliban.

Biden also pledged July 8, “we are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.” Are we? Or is this just happy talk designed to make the withdrawal look like a wiser and safer decision than it is?

It is fair to wonder how much the president really knows what is going on.

White House

The Man in Charge at the White House

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Republicans have taken to referring to White House chief of staff Ron Klain as “the prime minister.” A New York Times profile suggests, with winks and nods, that Klain is the man actually in charge of the administration headed by a famously befuddled near-octogenarian. “He’s kind of the guy behind the curtain,” says Republican senator John Thune. If Biden’s mind has a tendency to wander, Klain is the man who steers him back in the direction Klain wants him to go:

White House officials who have seen their dynamic say Mr. Klain is expert at keeping discussions with Mr. Biden focused on specific actions, which is not always easy, given the president’s habit of verbal meanderings.

A typical exchange, White House officials say, is for Mr. Klain to suggest something along the lines of, “Sir, we’re recommending that you make these three calls” — unless Mr. Biden pre-empts him by declaring his own intent to make the same calls.

Klain certainly appears to be far more focused on business than President Let’s Call a Lid.

He presides over a series of morning meetings with top White House aides — one with the president’s senior advisers, another with the extended senior staff. He sends emails in bursts, with numbered bullet points and capitalization for emphasis. (Colleagues describe his email voice as “emphatic.”) He tries to be in the Oval Office at 9:30 a.m. or so, when the president receives his intelligence briefings.

Politics & Policy

After Infrastructure Surrender, Republicans Deserve to Lose

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after the Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, June 22, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Republicans have helped put President Biden several steps closer to passing his top legislative priority in voting multiple times to advance an unnecessary and costly infrastructure bill that will pave the way for Democrats to pass their multi-trillion dollar social agenda. This is a pathetic surrender that has been built on a mountain of lies.

Republicans who voted for this monstrosity claimed that the infrastructure bill they negotiated would be fully paid for. It isn’t. They claimed it would narrowly focus on traditional infrastructure such as fixing roads and bridges. It doesn’t. They claimed it would help convince moderate Democrats to abandon Biden’s larger bill. It won’t.

Republicans have voted for a bill that will add to the deficits at a time when debt as a share of the economy is on track to break the World War II record this year, according to Biden’s own budget. And at a time when inflation is on the rise.

When a party is in the minority, their primary job should be to block the majority party from enacting bad policies as they work on building their own agenda. Far from satisfying this basic requirement for a modern political party, Republicans have been complicit in helping grease the wheels for Democratic efforts to transform every aspect of American life — on health care, child care, college, the environment, and so much more. To make matters worse, they have done so in the service of a president who just this week had his administration issue an order that the Supreme Court had already indicated was illegal, that Congress did not act on, and that he acknowledged had no legal basis. Biden has given the middle finger to Republicans, and Republicans have effectively responded with two thumbs up. 

This is a reckless and irresponsible action from a policy perspective and malpractice from a political perspective. If Republicans lose big time in 2022, they have nobody but themselves to blame.

Here are the 18 Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who voted with Democrats to advance this monstrosity:

Politics & Policy

Lockdowns, the Elite Left, and the Poor

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Actions speak louder than words.

We constantly hear from the “progressives” that they are all about helping the poor, which they invariably want to do by expanding the scope and power of the state. But do they really care about the poor, or is that just one of their excuses for expanding the power and scope of the state?

In this AIER essay, John Tamny argues forcefully that it’s the latter. The devastation the COVID lockdowns have inflicted on the poor (here, and even more in other countries) reveals the hypocrisy of all the talk about concern for the poor.

He writes, “Members of the [left] have for so long carried themselves as compassionate, as filled with love for those with the least. 2020-21 loudly revealed how empty their posturing is, and seemingly has always been. The world’s poorest were rushing toward starvation and poverty by the hundreds of millions as a consequence of countries like the U.S. taking a break from reality, yet the American left were adamant that any movement away from lockdowns was irresponsible, and the stuff of freedom-loving mouthbreathers from red states.”

Read the whole thing.

Maybe, just maybe, poor people will grasp the reality that leftist policies and programs, from lockdowns to minimum-wage laws to welfare are really about helping wealthy leftists feel good and maintain power, not about helping the poor to better themselves.

Sports

After the Olympics

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Bryce Deadmon of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the men’s 4×400 meter relay at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, August 7, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The 2020 Olympic Games have now concluded — in August 2021. After being delayed an entire year, they were, in fact, ultimately held in Japan. The United States came out ahead, both in the gold-medal count and far and away in the number of gold medals. Whether you care about the Olympics or don’t (paging Kyle Smith), America’s victory is worth celebrating.

These games took a circuitous path to completion. The coronavirus continued its reign of uncertainty, first forcing the games out of their planned timetable, then depriving events of spectators. This undoubtedly required adjustments from first-time and veteran competitors alike, in terms of altering training schedules, dealing with new competition environments, and more. The triumphs secured in spite of these obstacles earn a heightened significance in such circumstances.

At times, the domestic discussion of happenings at the games made it appear as though America’s fortunes had plunged into doubt. You can find National Review‘s coverage of the games here, including all of the various takes on Simone Biles’s temporary withdrawing of herself from competition. It is not exactly unusual for the Olympics to take on a political character, in terms of American politics as well as international relations. Past Olympics have seen starker examples in both domestic and foreign dimensions. But the modern media environment can seem to make things more charged.

But whatever your thoughts on these matters, most American athletes are, it turns out, proud to represent their nation in the games. There is certainly something worthwhile, in the abstract, about a venue to determine who in the world is the best at a given athletic pursuit. Yet even though John Lennon’s insipid anthem was, regretfully, present at the opening ceremonies, and even though the games are meant as a venue for international comity, let’s be real: The athletes at these contests represent their respective nations’, and compete on behalf of the same. They are in it for themselves, yes, at least in part. The pursuit of individual glory must be present, to some degree. But there is more to the Olympics than that.

It is quite easy for athletes and spectators alike to get caught up in the Olympics while they are under way. But there is always an after. After some Olympics, venues, built for the one-time affair in the host nation, are abandoned, never to be used again, ghostly reminders of what was. (Sometimes, they can even turn ghastly; the podium of 1984’s Sarajevo Winter Games was later used as a staging ground for executions.) But it’s the athletes who make the games, and our thoughts turn more naturally to them. Some made their debuts in Tokyo this year, experiencing for the first time the thrill of that unique competition. Others were returning. And others were at their last Olympics, whether they knew it or not.

All will certainly be taking some measure of well-deserved race after the games. After the rush of it all, it is, for many, quite the comedown for it to be suddenly all over, for the thing to which all of one’s efforts were geared for years to be at an abrupt end. Post-Olympic depression is real, and it’s understandable even to non-Olympians: Surely many of us have endured a long, intensive labor and seemed adrift upon its completion. Many of these competitors will continue on after this, taking part in the various other contests that occur between games. For whether stung by failure or assuaged by victory, there is something in the human spirit that pushes them onward, toward some ineffable goal. In this, again, these competitors, trained to the peak of their given pursuits, have something in common with us mere mortals.

Something to remember, perhaps, as we await 2024.

Media

The Media Didn’t Make Andrew Cuomo a Monster, They Just Enabled His Narcissism

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) winks while speaking from the One World Trade Center Tower in New York, June 15, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

An important point, midway through Peggy Noonan’s most recent column:

When a woman whose bare back he was stroking grabbed his wrist and removed his hand, he remarked, “Wow, you’re aggressive.” He then asked for a kiss. He had an air of entitlement: He was taking what was his. Many of the events described in the report occurred after the pandemic had raised his profile to that of public hero. Politicians are never so dangerous as after a triumph.

Andrew Cuomo was a creep, a lech, and a nut for a long while, long before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. But months and months of off-the-charts adoring press coverage unleashed his narcissism and worst impulses, as I tried to emphasize this week.

And it is important to remember during all this, while the pandemic had “raised Cuomo’s profile to that of public hero,” Cuomo was not actually a hero. New York always ranked at or near the top in cases and deaths per capita, from the start of the pandemic to today. Cuomo’s decisions on forcing infected patients back into nursing homes and assisted-living facilities was colossally consequential. And plenty of us who were not under Cuomo’s spell saw it from the start. The gap between the grand illusion of Cuomo and reality was illuminated by David HarsanyiPradheep ShankerKyle SmithKathryn Jean LopezMairead McArdleZachary EvansTobias HoonhoutBrittany BernsteinThe Editors, a bunch of others I’m forgetting, and, ahemmemultiple times. The counter-evidence to the heroic governor narrative was there, if you were willing to look. But a lot of people who think of themselves as servants of the public interest never wanted to look.

Sure, you can allocate some blame to the Trump administration, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, population density, the fact that mass transit operated normally through much of the crisis and that no one thought to deep-clean and disinfect the subway cars until May 2020. But to media voices utterly entranced by Cuomo’s tough-guy persona in his daily briefings, none of the data mattered. They had found their hero.

“No one does it like Andrew Cuomo,” swooned Jennifer Rubin in July 2020, raving that Cuomo was “brutally honest and entirely pragmatic,” and that he had taught the country, “Take responsibility. Don’t grandstand. Operate on facts.” All of this was written while the Cuomo administration was covering up nursing-home deaths. No wonder Andrew Cuomo thought he was untouchable.

But no one in the national media did more to promote the idea that Andrew Cuomo was the hero of the year than his brother Chris, anchoring a show on CNN’s primetime, the same man that we now know was helping draft the governor’s responses to the sexual-harassment allegations.

Many members of the media like to believe they “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” standing up for underdogs and calling out bullies. Their record indicates they afflict the already afflicted — consider the scornful treatment of Janice Dean — and serve the comfortably malignant.

PC Culture

Anti-Racism Reaches Its Most Ridiculous Low Yet: $50,000 to Move a Rock

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A demonstrator carries an “End Racism Now” sign during a demonstrate against police brutality in Baltimore, Md., May 2, 2015. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

On Friday, the University of Wisconsin at Madison struck a blow against racism in today’s America. No, who am I kidding? It paid $50,000 to move a rock from one campus to another because of a word written about the rock in a newspaper article almost a hundred years ago:

Chamberlin Rock, on the top of Observatory Hill, is named after Thomas Crowder Chamberlin, a geologist and former university president. Students of color on campus say the rock represents a history of discrimination. The boulder was referred to as a derogatory name for Black people in a Wisconsin State Journal story in 1925. The derogatory term was commonly used in the 1920s to describe any large dark rock. University historians have not found any other time that the term was used, but they said the Ku Klux Klan was active on campus at that time, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

That’s it. That’s the whole case for doing this. There isn’t, so far as I can tell, any complaint with Chamberlin, whose profession as a geologist makes a 42-ton boulder an appropriate memorial. There is nothing about anything that has been said or done since 1925. All this is about just one reference in a century-old newspaper clipping, which someone must have gone to great lengths to locate in order to claim that current black students at UWM walk around feeling oppressed by a 1925 edition of the Wisconsin State Journal. We are told that the rock’s relocation was funded by private donations, so at least the taxpayers of Wisconsin are not on the hook, but consider how few worse ways there are to spend $50,000 in today’s America — money that presumably was raised from university donors. The boulder will still sit on university property.

This attitude is hard to parody:

Juliana Bennett, a senior and a campus representative on the Madison City Council, said removing the rock signaled a small step toward a more inclusive campus. “This moment is about the students, past and present, that relentlessly advocated for the removal of this racist monument,” she said. “Now is a moment for all of us BIPOC students to breathe a sigh of relief, to be proud of our endurance, and to begin healing.”

Relentlessly advocated for moving a rock. Truly, a sign of well-placed priorities. How sincere is any of this? As I noted the other day, consider taking the same preposterously attenuated bar for declaring a current-day thing to be racist, and apply it to the single institution in the United States most responsible for perpetuating slavery and segregation for a century and a half — something none of these activists would dream of doing.

None of this is about justice or tolerance. It’s about power. The more ridiculous the demand, the more it shows your power when it is granted. The absurdity is the point. One can only assume that the next demand will be for the university to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring.

Health Care

Rebekah Jones, Propaganda Tool of the Chinese Communist Party

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Rebekah Jones during an interview with WPTV News in 2020 (Screengrab via YouTube)

The Chinese Communist Party, writing through its propaganda organ, the Global Times, is now using one of the many falsehoods that have been spread by former Florida DOH dashboard designer Rebekah Jones in order to cast aspersions on the integrity of the United States and claim that COVID-19 originated in America, rather than in China. In a piece published this morning, the Chinese government suggests that:

Florida, a new COVID-19 epicenter of the US where the seven-day average cases rose to a record high of more than 18,000 in early August, is causing public concern due to its serious epidemic situation and the lack of transparency on its early cases – especially in the case of 171 early patients’ data that was deleted and hidden.

People in Florida complained about the hiding of information on early local cases, which are now widely believed to have emerged earlier than the state’s officially reported patients – and even earlier than the virus outbreak in China’s Wuhan.

Further, the Global Times claims that:

the Florida government stayed secretive about its epidemic information. It didn’t explain why there had been a possible local spread of COVID-19 prior to the Wuhan outbreak, or why it deleted the data of the 171 early patients, US media reports said.

Worse still, the government attempted to silence those who wanted to get to the truth. It fired then data analyst Rebekah Jones, who refused to manipulate the data in May 2020, and raided her home later that year.

“State police came to my house and took all my hardware and tech,” Jones wrote on Twitter on December 8, 2020. The police pointed guns at her and her kids, Jones added.

The claim that there was a “lack of transparency on its early cases – especially in the case of 171 early patients’ data that was deleted and hidden” is one of Jones’s most egregious lies. In June, writing in these pages, Matt Shapiro not only explained in great detail why this is false per se, he also demonstrated why the numbers that Florida collected do not in any way suggest that COVID-19 “emerged earlier than the state’s officially reported patients – and even earlier than the virus outbreak in China’s Wuhan”:

From the start, Florida made this impressively detailed data set available to everyone — even to reporters. And this, really, is where the story starts. In May 2020, reporters from the Miami Herald downloaded the data and searched specifically for the earliest dates in the “Event Date” field, which were listed as December 2019. They took this to imply that COVID had been spreading in Florida months before any case had been recognized or recorded in the Unites States. Falsely sensing a scoop, the Herald began sending inquiries concerning this “discrepancy” to the Florida Department of Health.

Naturally, the Department of Health found many of these inquiries impossible to answer, given that the correct response is no more satisfying than “well, the data are messy.” Some of the December “Event Date” variables were the result of data-entry mistakes. Some reflected chronically ill or elderly patients who had been exhibiting “COVID symptoms” — which, again, for the DOH’s purpose here, means basically any symptom of illness — for many months before being diagnosed. And some were the result of no “Event Date” being recorded at all (this is known as a “null” value), which prompted the system to default to an “earliest possible date” option of “12/31/2019 4:00:00 PM.”

To this day, you can download Florida’s case-line data and see 21 cases of COVID that, despite having been identified between March 2020 and December 2020, feature a December 2019 “Event Date.” To anyone who understands data, these results are clearly the product of the system having assigned a non-null default value when no data has been entered. To the Miami Herald, however, these results hinted at scandal. Even now, when its reporters know beyond any doubt that their initial instincts were wrong, the Herald continues to tell its readers that these entries serve as “evidence of community spread potentially months earlier than previously reported.” This is not true.

Alas, a whole host of American newspapers ran with this story long after it was clear that it was based upon a lie — which is why, in addition to featuring the opinions of such disinterested experts as “a virologist from Wuhan University,” the Global Times’ story is able to including supporting quotes from outlets such as the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, and the Tallahassee Democrat, all of which helped to launder Jones’s conspiracy theory into the mainstream.

Well, congrats, guys! This time, quite literally, you’ve earned your reputation as just one small step above Pravda.