Politics & Policy

Going Deep


I think Jonathan V. Last might have slightly misunderstood my point about legitimacy, writing:

My buddy Kevin Williamson had a line yesterday kind of poo-pooing the idea of legitimacy, saying “legitimacy” is magic.

Except that I think this is true. Legitimacy is magic.

. . . And the Magic is, like any other norm or tradition, so obvious that we can be fooled into thinking it doesn’t matter. Right up until the moment it’s broken, at which point we realize how important it was.[block]

Perhaps I failed to make myself clear. I do not pooh-pooh (I trust JVL meant to include the “h,” otherwise we simply are not talking about the same thing!) the idea of legitimacy; to the contrary, I argue in the piece that irresponsible claims about illegitimacy are corrosive to our democratic processes and institutions. Here is the full paragraph:

This requires some intellectual plasticity. For example, if 50 percent + 1 of U.S. voters choose Joe Biden in the imaginary national presidential election in November but Donald Trump wins the non-imaginary election in the Electoral College, then there will be riots predicated on the notion that Trump’s reelection under such circumstances was illegitimate because the imaginary process is legitimate and the actual process is illegitimate. How is that possible? Because “legitimacy” is magic. “Democracy” in this context is crudely construed to mean “the majority gets what it wants,” and partisans rely on such crudeness when it suits them. But such crude majoritarianism is only blessed when it produces the desired results. If the nation’s sodomy laws had been put up to a vote on the day Lawrence v. Texas was decided, a large majority of Americans would, if the polls of the time are to be believed, have voted to uphold those laws. They were bad laws, but they were neither undemocratically nor unconstitutionally enacted, and their survival was not incompatible with the legitimacy of the Supreme Court — in fact, the Court’s nullification of those laws was itself an illegitimate use of its power, however well-intended.

Legitimacy roulette is a dangerous game in which each side spins the cylinder in the political revolver and then points it at the collective head of the American people. Beyond the spelling question, I do not think Jonathan and I disagree here.

Energy & Environment

Pope Supports Classifying ‘Ecocide’ as an International Crime

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a mass at the monument to Mary Queen of Peace in Port Louis, Mauritius, September 9, 2019. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

The ecocide movement seeks to make environmental despoliation an international crime that can land the perpetrator — usually depicted as a corporate CEO, but also government leaders — into the dock at The Hague. This proposed “fifth crime against peace” would be deemed an evil equivalent to genocide and ethnic cleansing.

I have been warning that the ecocide movement — along with its first cousin, “nature rights” — has been gaining steam within establishment circles. And now, the Pope has lent his considerable prestige to support the movement. From an article on the ecocide movement in The Guardian:

Another big visibility boost to the campaign came last November when Pope Francis, addressing the International Association of Penal Law in the Vatican, declared ecocide a “sin” and called for it to become a “fifth category of crimes against peace” at the international level. . . .

Earlier this month (3rd September) he received a special eco-delegation from France in the Vatican palace, which included Stop Ecocide Advisory Board member Valérie Cabanes, who was able to personally urge Pope Francis to build on last year’s call by using his diplomatic and spiritual influence with global leaders and the Catholic community worldwide. Francis described his own “ecological awakening”, declaring that “we cannot make compromises if we are to live in harmony with nature”.

That’s very alarming. Ecocide does not even require actual pollution. Here is the definition:

Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.

Note that “peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants” is a very broad term that is not limited to human beings. Rather it includes everything from grass, fish, and insects, to mice, snakes, and people.

Moreover, diminishment of “peaceful enjoyment” would not require actual pollution, but could mean a declining supply of forage or a loss of foliage caused by almost any use of the land, perhaps even simple urban growth. Add in the global-warming element and you have the potential for criminalizing almost all large-scale uses or development of the natural world.

Make no mistake. The point of ecocide is degrowth, which the radicals hope to achieve by criminalizing large-scale enterprise. For example, a mock trial in the courtroom of the English supreme court a few years ago found two hypothetical Alberta tar sands CEOs guilty of the crime because they brought forth oil from shale. (Never mind that the oil-shale contracts all include a remediation clause and require companies to post large bonds to guarantee that the land will be restored.)

Apparently, the Vatican agrees in the goal of reducing economic vibrancy. Again, from the article (quote by Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, coordinator of the sector on “Ecology and Creation” at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development):

“A change of our lifestyles personally and collectively has to begin with a moral awakening, an ecological conversion. We need a true conversion of the heart. We need to examine our unsustainable patterns of consumption. We need to become aware that our addiction to excessive quantities of goods, comforts and services come at the cost of despoiling the atmosphere, forests and oceans, and exploiting the world’s poor,” Fr. Joshtrom says. “Otherwise, we will keep on deceiving ourselves with a bit of recycling and greenwashing while the planet and the poor continue to languish.”

The best way to help the poor is to increase prosperity and allow areas of the world rich in resources to exploit their bounty.

With the Vatican on the side of ecocide extremists, look for the movement to make great strides in coming years — particularly, I fear, if Joe Biden wins the presidency.


‘Republicans Pounce’ Coverage Is Toxic to Government Accountability

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks at the DNC in Milwaukee, Wis., August 19, 2020. (Melina Mara/Reuters)

Politico: “Rather than act as an attack dog or savvy politico who helps amplify Joe Biden’s message to combat President Donald Trump, [Democrats] say, [Wisconsin governor Tony] Evers instead has allowed Republicans to cast him as weak and ineffective.”

Hmm. Evers is “allowing” Republicans to “cast him as weak and ineffective.” It couldn’t possibly be that he is actually is weak and ineffective, right? Why, it almost sounds like Republicans are pouncing on a governor doing a lousy job.

The prevalence of “Republicans pounce” headlines is probably underappreciated for how damaging they are to good government. You’ve seen plenty of them before. “Republicans pounce on Minneapolis plan to dismantle the police.” Biden sexual assault claim divides Democrats as Republicans pounce.” “Republicans call for independent investigation into Cuomo’s nursing home policy.”Ocasio-Cortez Team Flubs a Green New Deal Summary, and Republicans Pounce.” “Hillary Clinton Calls Many Trump Backers ‘Deplorables,’ and G.O.P. Pounces.”

People in government are human beings, which means that at least once in a while — if not more frequently — they’re going to screw up. The new website to buy health insurance doesn’t work, the guns sent to the cartels in Mexico don’t get tracked, veterans die waiting for treatment from VA hospitals, the OPM computers aren’t secure, the recovering coronavirus patients sent back into the nursing homes turn out to still be contagious, the first tests for the virus don’t work, the FDA requirements slow down the development of new testing techniques, the stockpiles of supplies don’t get restocked, the guidance to banks on the small-business relief program gets delayed . . .

A more responsible press would recognize, “Holy smokes, something bad has happened! We had better get to the bottom of how it happened, who is responsible, hold them accountable, and ensure that the same problem can’t occur again!” But fairly early on, some reporters recognize, “Wait, the more we explain this problem and how it happened, the more people might lose faith in Democratic officeholders.” Some reporters quickly lose interest in the problem itself and become much more interested in how Republicans are responding to the problem.

People look to their leaders for cues. If a politician says that allegations of mismanagement, bad judgment, scandals, corruption, or other bad news are baseless partisan nonsense, or “fake news,” people who already like that politician will see a psychological permission slip to tune out that scandal or problem. And when members of the media echo that defense by shoehorning the story into the “more of the usual partisan finger-pointing and bickering” template, most people tune it out.

The thing is, if you strongly believe in the power of government to do good, you should be really motivated to find and fix problems in government. You shouldn’t really care that much about who is “pouncing” on the news of the problem, because who wins a news cycle is fairly unimportant compared with actually fixing the problem. And this goes for most campaign controversies, too. The consequences of a policy of dismantling the police matter more than who’s pouncing over the proposal. A sexual-assault claim, a nursing-home policy that ends up killing senior citizens, and a federal-legislation proposal that includes eliminating air travel and removing all greenhouse gas from industry and agriculture are all more important than who’s pouncing over it.

Politics & Policy

Happy Constitution Day

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

On this date 233 years ago—September 17, 1787—the Constitution was signed by its authors, and began its challenging journey toward ratification. We are very fortunate that it succeeded on that journey. Our country has not only benefited from the wisdom underlying that document but has also been shaped by its forms and contours. We Americans identify ourselves with the structure of our government to a very unusual degree, and for that reason many of our most profound debates and disagreements take the form of constitutional arguments.

This year, in particular, we might want to cherish and appreciate the extraordinary stability that our constitution has made possible. Consider an example: The United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., opened in 1800 to house the same institution—the U.S. Congress—it still houses today. In the course of that same 220-year period, the arrangement of powers in even the exceptionally steady British regime has gone through dramatic transformations unlike anything we have witnessed here, and most other relatively stable societies (like the nations of Western Europe, China, Japan, and countless others) have gone through several fundamental changes of regime through conquest, revolution, or political upheaval. The French have lived under five republics and a handful of other forms of government in that time. We Americans sometimes still think of ourselves as a young nation, but our political institutions are among the most established in the world. We’ve been through a lot, and they have served us well through it all.

We are approaching an election that may pose another threat to that stability. It will take place in the middle of a pandemic, so that many more people than usual may have to vote by mail—which may slow the counting of votes in ways that raise public concerns. And it occurs also in the midst of a very unsettled period in our politics. The President of the United States has said the only way he could lose that election is if the other side cheats. Prominent elders of the Democratic Party have said their party should not concede the election under any circumstances. Each side is working to persuade itself that the other is contemplating a coup (and as you read those words, you’re probably thinking “yes, but only the other side actually is planning one,” whichever side that might be).

It’s a mess. But it’s not our first mess, and it should lead us to contemplate the extraordinary achievement that we are now charged with preserving and perpetuating. In Federalist 1, as he prepared his readers for the coming debate about ratification of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton offered this assessment of the stakes:

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

That was not a one-time test. We face it still. But we do have some sources of strength that the Americans that Hamilton was addressing did not possess. We have the legacy they have bequeathed to us, and the common national experience that since that time has forged us into the society we are. That experience and that legacy are themselves part of our constitution as a society, and they compel us to consider our written Constitution as more than just a legal code, and more than just an arrangement of authorities.

On the NRO homepage today, I offer some thoughts about what that broader constitutionalism might involve—and what our constitution really is. This year, even more than usual, it’s imperative that we consider it in full, and think through our republican obligations so that we might come to deserve the unearned grace that is ours by virtue of the glorious fact that we all get to be Americans together.

Happy Constitution Day.


What Merkel Doesn’t Get about Nord Stream 2

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Axel Schmidt/Reuters)

The United States is trying to block Nord Stream 2, the pipeline that would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas and undermine Ukraine’s position in the continent’s energy markets. But the Merkel government, which has fought strenuously to protect the project, thinks that U.S. opposition to Nord Stream 2 is just about its desire to sell Europe more natural gas.

At least, that’s the reasoning that underlies an extraordinary proposal that the German government apparently made to get the Trump administration to drop sanctions. The Financial Times reports:

Germany offered to spend up to €1bn to subsidise the construction of two liquid natural gas terminals capable of receiving US gas exports in exchange for Washington dropping its opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.”

The Trump administration has opted for an aggressive approach that targets any entities involved in the project. So far, this has been successful, preventing a Swiss company involved in the construction from finishing the final portion of Nord Stream 2.

But is the German government right in assuming that the U.S.-led campaign against the pipeline is just about boosting the U.S. natural gas industry?

It’s true that President Trump’s instincts tend toward mercantilism and that killing the pipeline would be a good thing for the American natural gas industry. But when, in his 2017 Warsaw address, he promised to secure alternate sources of energy for Europe “so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy,” he was not merely dressing up economic self-interest in political language. There will be real-world political consequences that follow the completion of Nord Stream 2. And most will be worrying about Poland, Ukraine, and much of Europe.

The Trump administration’s decision to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, predictably, didn’t go over well in Europe, and at the time, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen panned the move. But in the wake of Russia’s poisoning of Alexei Navalny, she’s taking a harder line against it.

Von der Leyen — who served in Merkel’s cabinet for 15 years — took aim at Nord Stream 2 during a landmark speech today:

To those that advocate closer ties with Russia, I say that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with an advanced chemical agent is not a one off. We have seen the pattern in Georgia and Ukraine, Syria and Salisbury – and in election meddling around the world. This pattern is not changing – and no pipeline will change that.

She grasps what U.S. officials have been saying for years — and what Merkel still seems not to understand: Treating Nord Stream 2 as a business deal, not a political issue, is a gift to the Kremlin.


Twelve Foster-Care/Adoption/Child-Welfare Things That Caught My Eye Today: September 16, 2020


1. Becket Fund for Religious Liberty: Heroic foster moms fight for the oldest foster care agency in Philadelphia

In March 2018, city officials stopped allowing foster children to be placed with families who partner with Catholic Social Services when they claimed to discover that Catholic Social Services, an arm of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, upholds Catholic beliefs about marriage. But city officials’ actions are based on politics, not reality: there was no evidence of any same-sex couple even asking Catholic Social Services for foster care certification. And no couple has been prevented from fostering or adopting by Catholic Social Services, which serves all children in need, regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

2. Joint Economic Committee in the Senate: A Place to Call Home: Improving Foster Care and Adoption Policy to Give More Children a Stable Family 

3. Naomi Schaefer Riley: My Kids and Their Elite Education in Racism

4. Randy Evans: We should not just accept deaths like Sabrina’s and Natalie’s

. . . Every Iowan should be demanding to know why a committee created 20 years ago to examine the circumstances of the deaths of children from abuse or neglect has not met even once since it was formed.

Read that again. The committee has not met even once in 20 years.

The circumstances of these girls’ deaths are horrifying — and that makes the lack of follow-through by the Department of Human Services even more astonishing and aggravating.

5. The Miami Times: COVID-19 threat to kids in foster care

Typically, foster children in Florida are released from state custody when they turn 18. A law passed in 2013 gave them the option to stay in the system until they’re 21. Those with disabilities can remain until age 22. [Rep. Patricia Williams] thinks they need extra help through age 24.

“A temporary exception to the aging-out policy, and waiver of the current additional requirements for extended foster care services, could help address the elevated needs of our transitioning young adults in order to prevent unnecessary homelessness and exposure to this disease,” Williams wrote in an Aug. 31 letter to DeSantis.

6. ProPublica: Still No Answers to Lawmakers’ Questions About Children Stuck in Psychiatric Hospitals

7. Overton County News: Parental substance use linked to increase in infants in foster care

Stephen Patrick, MD, director of Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy and lead author of the paper, said, “While Congress recently made several improvements to the nation’s child welfare system, there remains a critical need for more funding and modernization to respond to the needs of families affected by the opioid crisis.

“Often we react to problems like this in silos. The rise of infants in foster care occurs at the intersection of the health care and child welfare systems. We need real and lasting partnerships between health care and child welfare providers to address the needs of our families.”

8. Bethany Christian Services: I Was a Stranger

9. YR: Disparities ‘Becoming Even Bigger’ For Foster Youth

Debbie Raucher, director of education at John Burton Advocates for Youth: Teachers and professors should make themselves approachable and accessible. They can put in their syllabus resources that are available, so it’s in writing. And they should say to the whole class, “If any of you are struggling right now, there are resources out there. Please come talk to me and I will help connect you.” And if they’re gonna make that offer, they should have those names and phone numbers at their fingertips to be able to provide it

10. Youth Today: Former Foster Youth Urges Siblings Be Placed Together in Foster Homes

Currently, the law provides that “unless it is contrary to the safety and wellbeing of the siblings, reasonable efforts must be made to place siblings together.” I argue that sibling togetherness should be a first priority and the first order of law when placing children and that the law must go beyond reasonable efforts toward placing siblings together. 

11.  The Victor Harbor Times: Foster carers recognised for vital role in supporting at-risk children

“As a child growing up around abuse, I saw miracles happen before my eyes in the home of my best friend, whose mother was a foster carer,” Ms Pahl said.

. . .

“Once a new child comes into our care, it’s magic. The children who are already part of our family bond together more than ever before and work as a team with us to support that child.”

12. Treasure Coast Foster Closet helps foster families and children find clothes, car seats, more

More than just helping the foster parents in a pinch is the fact that the Treasure Coast Foster Closet gives children dignity and makes them feel special and loved during what is one of the most trying times of their lives.


Exclusive: DHS to Investigate Allegation of Mandatory Hysterectomies Performed on Detained Women

Immigration rights activists protest at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C., July 17, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

As Dan McLaughlin outlined yesterday evening, a whistleblowing nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia has alleged that women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the center were sent to a doctor outside the facility who performed involuntary hysterectomies on them.

Understandably, this has received a great deal of negative media attention, although, as Dan points out, most of the coverage has sensationalized the allegation. Based on the information available at the moment, the allegation itself is much narrower than most subsequent reporting has made it appear. What’s more, the nurse is the only person to make this claim on the record; the other sources remain unnamed and unidentified.

Of course, if this horrific allegation turns out to be true — and regardless of whether one woman or two women or twelve women or more received this appalling treatment — whomever is responsible ought to be held fully accountable. But since the allegation became public, markedly little reporting has managed to answer essential questions such as those Dan raised:

Is the doctor correctly identified? Does the doctor have a sterling professional record, or a battery of red flags that should have been known to ICDC authorities? How many hysterectomies are at issue? Is there any evidence whatsoever — none is cited in the complaint — that this is anything larger than an issue with one doctor employed by one detention facility? It is hard for any fair reader of the complaint, from either a political or a legal perspective, to pronounce on this story without knowing those facts.

In an interview this afternoon, Ken Cuccinelli, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, tells National Review that he has asked the Office of Inspector General to expedite its existing review of the allegation. In addition, Cuccinelli will send three staff members from DHS this week to conduct their own parallel investigation.

“Particularly on the medical side, if any of the allegations were true, we’d be very concerned to correct them as quickly as possible,” Cuccinelli said. “I want to be clear that we don’t assume that a complaint is either accurate or inaccurate right out of the box, so we immediately started checking based on the allegations.”

According to Cuccinelli, the initial DHS review found that the allegations are not backed up by any documentation sent to Washington by ICE.

“You’d think that with medical procedures, [doctors] aren’t going to do that if they aren’t getting paid, and we’re not seeing any records of requests for payment or payment yet,” he explains, calling it “virtually inconceivable that any of this could have been going on without multiple sets of records.”

Nevertheless, DHS is sending an audit team composed of a Coast Guard doctor, a medical nurse from the deputy secretary’s office, and a lawyer from the general counsel’s office to the center, where they will review the facility’s original records to double-check the conclusions of DHS’s initial review.

“The public version of these allegations has shifted very quickly right out of the box,” he says. “Nonetheless, each new one that they lob out there, we’re going to take a look at ourselves and perform this audit of our own.”

Cuccinelli notes that, although the allegations have already changed several times since being made public, his team is “very much leaning forward on this” and will conduct its audit without interfering with the IG investigation, which has primacy.

“Our interest isn’t in the outcome per se of the inspector general’s investigation. It’s making sure that we have the truth in front of us and can correct any mistakes that are being made at the facility,” he says. “Obviously, we don’t need the inspector general to tell us to hold anyone accountable. If anyone has done anything wrong, we’ll do that ourselves.”

According to DHS, the auditors will develop a timeline for their investigation after arriving at the center tomorrow and assessing what documentation review and interviews will be necessary.

Fiscal Policy

Fed Forecasts Fed Failure

The Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C., (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The Federal Reserve has since 2012 explicitly, and for longer than that all but explicitly, said that it is aiming for a target rate of 2 percent annual inflation, as measured by the price index for Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE). Last month it announced that it wanted to hit this target on average, so that a period of below-2-percent inflation would be followed by a period of above-2-percent inflation.

This move was designed, among other things, to make the Fed’s target more credible. Over the last decade, annual PCE inflation has been consistently below its target. But the announced change in strategy lacked clarity. When does the period over which the average would be reached start? Will the Fed try to make up for below-2-percent inflation in 2020, or will it start the clock in 2021? How long will it wait to make up for a past undershoot, and how long will it plan to take to make up for it? The Fed didn’t say. So the announcement may have done more to destabilize expectations of the future path of prices than to stabilize them.

Today we got two new pieces of information, which unfortunately work at cross-purposes. The Fed issued a statement that it would “aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent.”

But it also released a summary of economic projections by its board members and bank presidents. They expect PCE inflation to run below 2 in 2020, 2021, and 2022, and to hit it in 2023. There’s no hint of above-2-percent inflation in the projections.

Whether above-2-percent inflation is desirable is a debatable question. But if you say your goal is to hit a 2 percent average and that you don’t expect to hit it, then you’re saying you don’t expect to be successful. In which case, if your goal is important, you might want to adjust your plans until you think you will be.


Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca: We Need to Treat Jews Well!

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 8, 2016. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

For the second time in a month, President Trump said that he believed Saudi Arabia will diplomatically recognize Israel in the not-too-distant future, a diplomatic shift that would represent as close to genuine “peace in the Middle East” as anyone could reasonably imagine. As many observers of the Middle East have noted, Bahrain and Saudi governments are close allies, and it is unlikely Bahrain would have move forward with its recognition of Israel without some sort of tacit agreement or support from Saudi Arabia.

But is Saudi Arabia really preparing for such an epic change in policy? Reuters news agency noticed at least one surprising shift in rhetoric:

The sermon by Abdulrahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, broadcast on Saudi state television on Sept. 5, came three weeks after the United Arab Emirates agreed a historic deal to normalise relations with Israel and days before the Gulf state of Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, followed suit.

Sudais, who in past sermons prayed for Palestinians to have victory over the “invader and aggressor” Jews, spoke about how the Prophet Mohammad was good to his Jewish neighbour and argued the best way to persuade Jews to convert to Islam was to “treat them well.”

While Saudi Arabia is not expected to follow the example of its Gulf allies any time soon, Sudais’ remarks could be a clue to how the kingdom approaches the sensitive subject of warming to Israel – a once inconceivable prospect. Appointed by the king, he is one of the country’s most influential figures, reflecting the views of its conservative religious establishment as well as the Royal Court…

The Sept. 5 sermon drew a mixed reaction, with some Saudis defending him as simply communicating the teachings of Islam. Others on Twitter, mostly Saudis abroad and apparently critical of the government, called it “the normalisation sermon”.

Can you picture Saudis tuning in for the sermon, expecting the usual fiery denunciation of Jews, and suddenly hearing that they should be “treating them well”?

If nothing else, a sermon such as this suggests some Saudi leaders are at least thinking about a dramatically different approach to Israel, and testing the waters, to see if the Saudi public is open to the change.


Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Coronavirus Isolation, Mideast Peace, Protestant Family Ethics & More (September 16, 2020)


1. CNN: Outrage as Nigeria sentences 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for blasphemy

Overlooked amid America’s war against the coronavirus is this reality: People with dementia are dying not just from the virus but from the very strategy of isolation that’s supposed to protect them. In recent months, doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections, depression and sudden frailty in patients who had been stable for years.

. . .

Social and mental stimulation are among the few tools that can slow the march of dementia. Yet even as U.S. leaders have rushed to reopen universities, bowling alleys and malls, nursing homes say they continue begging in vain for sufficient testing, protective equipment and help.


4. The Guardian: Nearly two-thirds of US young adults unaware 6m Jews killed in the Holocaust

Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they weren’t sure. One in eight (12%) said they had definitely not heard, or didn’t think they had heard, about the Holocaust.


6. Axios: $1 billion-plus riot damage is most expensive in insurance history

“All previous catastrophes — as classified by the insurance industry — happened in a particular city. This was the first that happened not just in multiple cities, but in 20 states.”

7. ‘China Has Bought Our Silence:’ Director Judd Apatow Criticizes Film Industry for Ignoring Uyghur ‘Genocide’

Continue reading “Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Coronavirus Isolation, Mideast Peace, Protestant Family Ethics & More (September 16, 2020)”


Reminder: Trump Doesn’t Need Wisconsin


In response to Biden Tops 50 Percent in Wisconsin Polling Average

Or Michigan, for that matter. Biden’s not clearing 50 in the RCP averages in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, or North Carolina, although he is close in the first two. If Trump holds them while losing Wisconsin and Michigan, he will win the Electoral College.


That Big Military Contractor . . . Patagonia?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., July 9, 2020. (Michael Reynolds/Reuters)

A little less than a year ago, I wrote about how Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, a billionaire, declared  “I’m an avowed socialist. I’m proud of it. That was a dirty word just a few years ago until Bernie Sanders brought it up” and how, in an interview with Fast Company magazine, insisted that Venezuela does not count as a socialist country. Chouinard’s face stared out from the cover of the magazine with the eye-catching headline: “CAPITALISM IS DEAD. LONG LIVE CAPITALISM.”

What I did not know until today is that Patagonia — an “unapologetically political” company — is also a longtime contractor to the U.S. Department of Defense. In May 2018, SoldierSystems.net, which covers the industry of tactical gear, noted, “Patagonia has a dedicated team, focused on supporting USSOCOM with delivering US Made/Berry Compliant technical cold weather and combat uniforms as prime provider to the Protective Combat Uniform program.”

Even those familiar with Patagonia’s PCU work usually don’t know how long they have been supporting the military. My relationship with the brand goes back to the late 1980s, when I was assigned to 3rd ID’s Long Range Surveillance Detachment. We were issued thick dark blue pile suits to ward off the cold while in a hide site and polypropylene long underwear, complete with logo on the left chest. Not long after that, very close copies of those garments were included in the US Army’s Extended Cold Weather Clothing System. Right down to the nylon chest pocket.

Throughout the 90s, SOF units would issue specialized pieces of Patagonia clothing for use in extreme environments. But it was not until the Global War On Terror that Patagonia answered the nation’s call and began developing entire clothing systems for SOF.

In July, in an article about apparel companies that have contracts with police agencies, GQ’s Sam Reiss noted:

Lost Arrow, Patagonia’s tactical clothing arm, is even more closely held. The clothes — overalls, some soft-shell jackets, a neck gaiter, all army green or grey — only appear on one webstore, Tactical Distributors, without Lost Arrow branding, marked as PATAGONIA TACTICAL *GOV’T SALES ONLY*. (Other tactical webstores, like us-elitegear and botach, each have Lost Arrow sections but don’t sell the brand). The only Lost Arrow mention in Patagonia’s corporate literature is a short one — ”Lost Arrow, Inc. dba Lost Arrow Project (government)” — on the Patagonia Works FAQ page.

Most people will have no problem with Patagonia developing and selling high-quality extreme weather gear for the U.S. military. Many companies would probably endlessly boast that their clothing is good enough for the world’s toughest soldiers, working in the world’s toughest conditions, but Patagonia is pretty quiet about that. Then again, some of Patagonia’s more stridently liberal customers, who see the U.S. military as an inherently imperialistic or destructive force, might not see the company’s military contracts as a sin that they can excuse or forgive.

How many companies are headed by self-described socialist billionaires who specifically include the support of liberal and progressive causes as part of their mission, but that also have military contracts?

Politics & Policy

Does the President Ever Talk to His CDC Director?

President Trump and CDC Director Robert Redfield answer questions during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In today’s Morning Jolt, I noted this exchange between Donald Trump and George Stephanopolous at a town-hall meeting event last night, about the effectiveness of wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

TRUMP: Well no, but he didn’t do it. I mean, he never did it. Now there is by the way, a lot of people don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good. And there are a lot of people that as an example you have . . .

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who are those people?

TRUMP: I’ll tell you who those people are — waiters. They come over and they serve you, and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day where they were serving me, and they’re playing with the mask. . . . I’m not blaming them. . . .  I’m just saying what happens. They’re playing with the mask, so the mask is over, and they’re touching it, and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good. There are a lot of people. If you look at Dr. Fauci’s original statement . . . you look at a lot of people, CDC, you look at a lot of people’s original statement, they said very strongly, George, don’t wear masks. Then all of a sudden they went to wear masks. The concept of a mask is good, but it also does . . . you’re constantly touching it, you’re touching your face, you’re touching plates. There are people that don’t think masks are good.

Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, CDC director Robert Redfield declared today, “These face masks are the most important, powerful public-health tool we have. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine. . . . We have clear scientific evidence that they work. We haven’t got the acceptance, the personal responsibility that we need for all Americans to embrace this face mask.”

Redfield didn’t waver on the value of masks. He didn’t hedge, hesitate, vacillate, or wobble. He didn’t stutter.

If President Trump isn’t sure if masks are effective because of what he saw a waiter doing, perhaps he should pick up the phone and call the man whom he nominated to head the CDC back in 2018. The man whose “scientific and clinical background is peerless” in the words of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar. The man who has been working in clinical research and clinical care of chronic human viral infections and infectious diseases for more than 30 years.

And if, for some reason, Trump does not have faith in the judgment of Robert Redfield when it comes to matters of public health and stopping the spread of a contagious virus, the president should probably replace him.

If you are president of the United States, you don’t have to base your assessment of the effectiveness of masks upon what you see waiters doing. There are buildings full of epidemiologists and virologists and doctors and medical researchers who would be more than happy to answer any questions that the president has. If the president wanted the views of a doctor who didn’t work for the government, the country has dozens of top medical schools and private hospitals with staff that would happily explain, in as much detail as the president likes, why they think wearing masks is the safer choice, and what situations and circumstances should involve people wearing masks and which ones don’t.

Because right now, the director of the CDC is going before Congress and has just declared, with the whole world watching, that masks are “the most important, powerful public-health tool we have” and the president is declaring, “There are people that don’t think masks are good.”


The Best and Worst of ABC News’ Town Hall with Trump

President Donald Trump takes the stage with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos for a town hall event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 15, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Trump attended an ABC News town hall with undecided voters moderated by George Stephanopoulos last night. The evening was a mixed bag for the president, and consisted of the usual Trump fare: rambling interspersed with the occasional repugnant, charming, and informative utterance. Here are a few highlights and lowlights from the event.

Positive: Trump’s best exchange of the evening came with a Latina immigrant who just recently became an American citizen. While Stephanopoulos was introducing her as such, Trump could be heard in the background saying “very good.” When it was time for her to ask her question, she tearfully struggled to find the words and the president was very gracious and empathetic. Upon collecting herself, she explained that her mother had died last month and how it had always been her dream to become a citizen (which she did) before asking Trump how he would change the immigration system to help people such as her and her mother become citizens. Trump’s answer was unsatisfactory from a policy perspective — he gave his usual spiel about wanting people like her in the country, but wanting them to come legally — but he came across as warm and concerned, telling her that her mother had raised “a great daughter.”

Negative: In almost every question about the coronavirus, Trump scored an own goal. Asked about a national mask mandate, he easily could have explained that he lacks the authority to implement one. Instead, he gave a winding answer about how a lot of people don’t think masks are good. Asked about why he would downplay the virus, Trump claimed to have “up-played” it and boasted about placing travel restrictions on people coming from China. A prolonged back-and-forth with Stephanopoulos led to Trump singing the praises of “herd mentality.” Just tell people to wear masks when appropriate, Mr. President.

Positive: Trump received several questions about the protests and riots that have followed the death of George Floyd earlier this year. He gave an effective answer to the least combative one about balancing law and order with the need for reform. Of Senator Tim Scott’s (R., S.C.) JUSTICE Act, the reform bill blocked by Senate Democrats in June, Trump declared “It didn’t get done. It should have gotten done” before going on to express his solidarity with law enforcement. Stephanopoulos pressed him when he talked about law and order, asking him why he hadn’t restored it in cities like Portland. Correctly, Trump pointed out that he could not mobilize the National Guard without invoking the Insurrection Act, which would be considered anathema on the left as evidenced by the Tom Cotton op-ed fiasco at the New York Times.

Negative: Once again, the president exhibited his lack of decorum by lashing out at the late senator John McCain, a decorated war hero tortured by the North Vietnamese. Fielding a question about the explosive Jeffrey Goldberg story in the The Atlantic, Trump strongly denied the charges made in the story before attacking McCain:

As far as John McCain, I was never a fan of John McCain. I never thought he treated our vets well, he didn’t do the job. I was never a fan of his. But — and I think that’s fine and everybody knows that, and I said it to his face. I was very much up in that.

Accusing McCain of not treating “our vets well” was gross. Any other person would apologize for his past comments, but instead Trump chose to double down on them. It was hard to watch, and it undermined his denials.

The president was his typical self on Tuesday night, appearing at times charming, clueless, and vile. It seems doubtful that his performance will convince many persuadables, but Trump does deserve some credit for showing up to an event such as this while his opponent keeps to a shockingly light campaign schedule.


Biden Tops 50 Percent in Wisconsin Polling Average


Following the addition of two new polls, Joe Biden now leads Donald Trump 50.1 percent to 43.4 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of Wisconsin polls.

Biden’s 6.7-point lead is almost identical to Hillary Clinton’s 6.5-point lead over Trump in the final RCP average of Wisconsin polls in 2016 — right before Trump surprised the world by winning Wisconsin by 0.7 points. Sean Trende recently wrote that it’s not clear that pollsters have fixed the problems that bedeviled them in the Midwest in 2016.

But the Biden 2020 campaign still looks stronger than the Clinton 2016 campaign in Wisconsin because Biden’s overall level of support is higher and there are fewer undecided voters.

In 2016, Clinton garnered 46.8 percent support in the final RCP average of Wisconsin polls; she ended up with 46.5 percent of the vote in Wisconsin. That year, Clinton never topped 50 percent in RCP’s Wisconsin polling average.

Another reason to think the Wisconsin polling average will be more reliable in 2020 than 2016 is that we are getting a lot more data. In 2016, there were two public polls of Wisconsin conducted in all of September. In 2020, there are already nine public polls of Wisconsin conducted entirely or partly in September. Biden was at or above 50 percent in seven of the nine polls.


Federal Student Aid Was a Bad Idea


So argues economics professor Richard Vedder in today’s Martin Center article.

Vedder is responding to a recent defense of government student aid programs by Jason Delisle and Oden Gurantz. Vedder writes that they ignore

a fundamental problem that student loans have helped create: Too many people are getting overly expensive college degrees, while many others drop out before degree completion or end up underemployed, doing jobs historically done quite competently by high school graduates.

On that, Vedder is right. Federal student aid is the cause of the upward ratcheting of credential inflation we have had over the last 40-plus years. (I would add that it is also complicit in the downward spiral of academic standards in our primary and secondary schools.)

He also notes that easy student aid money has lured many poorly prepared kids into college. Once in college, many coast along to their degrees in a relaxed atmosphere of fun and low academic demands, what Murray Sperber called the “beer and circus” experience. Worse yet, many others imbibe the “progressive” radicalism that is hard to escape on most campuses.

If it were politically possible, Vedder would dramatically change or, better still, eliminate federal student aid programs.

He concludes:

I think a strong case can [be] made that the federal student loan program has led to unproductive overinvestment in higher education, lower academic standards, an explosion in costs, and a decline in low-income Americans on college campuses. Changing the system to make it work better will be extremely difficult.


Is ICE Running Human Experiments Resulting in Mass Hysterectomies?

Detainees at the Otay Mesa immigration detention center in San Diego, Calif., in 2018. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

It’s the hot, election-season, too-good-to-check claim of the day: that ICE is sending women detained for immigration violations for “mass hysterectomies.” The Intercept, a left-wing gadfly publication, has pushed the story into the media. Gizmodo Australia, not going much further than a lot of other outlets, headlined the story, “U.S. Concentration Camp Sent Undocumented Women to Be Sterilised According to Whistleblower.” Elle headlined its story, “ICE Whistleblower Says A ‘Uterus Collector’ Is Reportedly Performing Hysterectomies On Immigrant Women.” Nancy Pelosi is demanding an investigation:

If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint — including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women — are a staggering abuse of human rights. This profoundly disturbing situation recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought.

If true, the most hyperbolic version of the story would be a colossal atrocity. As it turns out, the actual allegation is much narrower — but still a horrifying case of serial medical malpractice, if proven. As is often the case with wild allegations of institutional misconduct, it is wise to demand proof, but also urgent to insist that the charge be properly looked into. Conspiracy theories are often crazy, but sometimes true; outrageous theories of institutional misconduct, especially when involving matters touching on sex, are a fertile field for crazy but also sometimes borne out by the evidence. Just because QAnon is nuts does not mean that conspiracies to commit sexual abuses never happen. What we can do is clarify what exactly is alleged, and by whom, and about whom. Let the wheels of law and justice grind forward from there.

Here’s what we know. An alphabet soup of advocacy organizations (Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, Government Accountability Project) teamed up to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and the Irwin County, Ga., ICE Detention Center (ICDC). Much of the complaint is the routine stuff of prison litigation, with a COVID-19 overlay: complaints about the Irwin County Detention Center’s provision of medical services and sanitary conditions in light of the pandemic. The entire complaint focuses on a single detention center; it does not allege events at other ICE facilities, although it takes aim at LaSalle Corrections, the private prison company that runs ICDC, and asks for an investigation of ICDC “as well as all other LaSalle operated facilities.”

The complaint is based on the on-the-record allegations of Dawn Wooten, a whistleblowing nurse at ICDC, and a bunch of unnamed, unidentified sources interviewed by the advocacy groups. Wooten submitted a sworn declaration that is quoted in the complaint but, so far as I can tell, not posted on the Internet with the complaint. The allegations about hysterectomies do not appear at all in Project South’s press release on the complaint, and are not found until page 19 of the 27-page complaint. This is not how one would ordinarily handle an allegation of sensational misconduct if it was supported by substantial evidence. The most eye-popping quotes come from a source identified only as “one woman” who was interviewed “at the Irwin County Detention Center” in October 2019, with no further information as to what connection she may have to ICDC:

Several immigrant women have reported to Project South their concerns about how many women have received a hysterectomy while detained at ICDC. One woman told Project South in 2019 that Irwin sends many women to see a particular gynecologist outside the facility but that some women did not trust him. She also stated that “a lot of women here go through a hysterectomy” at ICDC . . . The woman told Project South that it was as though the women were “trying to tell themselves it’s going to be OK.” She further said: “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

Let’s pause before we go further. Hysterectomies are an entirely legitimate medical procedure, but they have grave implications for a woman’s health, and they make it impossible for the woman to bear children. In no case should a hysterectomy be performed on any woman without her voluntary, informed consent. If anyone, anywhere, is performing hysterectomies on women without that, it’s a legitimate scandal, at minimum medical malpractice, and quite likely a serious crime. Government authorities receiving a complaint making such an allegation about women in government custody, however flimsy its evidentiary basis, should ensure that it is vigorously investigated.

LawandCrime.com obtained two statements from ICE. The first, at 6:50 p.m. tonight:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.

The second, an hour and ten minutes later:

Medical Director of the ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) Dr. Ada Rivera said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime that ICE “vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures.” “ICE’s mission is to protect the homeland and to swiftly and quickly remove people from the country; the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities, any assertion or claim to the contrary is false and intentionally misleading,” the statement said. Rivera, citing ICE data, said that since 2018 “only two individuals at Irwin County Detention Center were referred to certified, credentialed medical professionals at gynecological and obstetrical health care facilities for hysterectomies in compliance with National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) standards.” Rivera said detainees at ICE facilities are “afforded informed consent, and a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed against a detainee’s will.” The statement also said medical care decisions are made by medical personal, not law enforcement. The statement further said that it was “unfortunate” that the allegations contained in the whistleblower complaint were shared with the media “without allowing the government to examine or take appropriate action.” (Emphasis added).

According to the complaint, the allegations relate entirely to a single gynecologist to whom ICDC has referred detained women. Wooten describes him with deep suspicion:

Ms. Wooten also expressed concern regarding the high numbers of detained immigrant women at ICDC receiving hysterectomies. She stated that while some women have heavy menstruation or other severe issues that would require hysterectomy, “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.” . . .

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody. He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady [detained immigrant woman]. . . . She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy. She still wanted children — so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can’t bear kids . . . she said she was not all the way out under anesthesia and heard him [doctor] tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary.”

Ms. Wooten also stated that detained women expressed to her that they didn’t fully understand why they had to get a hysterectomy. She said: “I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going.” And if the immigrants do understand what they’re getting done, “some of them a lot of times won’t even go, they say they’ll wait to get back to their country to go to the doctor.”

The rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred have been a red flag for Ms. Wooten and other nurses at ICDC. Ms. Wooten explained: “We’ve questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I know that’s ugly…is he collecting these things or something…Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world.”

Wooten seems to believe, in contrast to the ICE statement, that there are more than two cases involved. The complaint goes on, citing Wooten and unnamed sources, to suggest that ICDC and/or the gynecologist in question have fallen down on the job of providing adequate translation services to Spanish-speaking detainees. DailyKos claims to have identified the gynecologist at the center of the story, an immigrant himself with an Indian name who presumably is not a native Spanish speaker. It is impossible to know if the DailyKos poster’s information is accurate.

There are important facts we do not know from the available sources: Is the doctor correctly identified? Does the doctor have a sterling professional record, or a battery of red flags that should have been known to ICDC authorities? How many hysterectomies are at issue? Is there any evidence whatsoever — none is cited in the complaint — that this is anything larger than an issue with one doctor employed by one detention facility? It is hard for any fair reader of the complaint, from either a political or a legal perspective, to pronounce on this story without knowing those facts.

Locking people up is one of the most serious things a government does. It must sometimes be done, but it presents inevitable potential for both abuse and neglect. In a better world, nobody would be locked up by immigration authorities for more than a few days, but the sheer volume of illegal entrants to the United States and the time-consuming legal procedures afforded before deportation put the government to a choice: lock people up at length or give up entirely on enforcing the law. The Trump administration has refused to do the latter; in fact, even the Obama administration was unwilling to give up, which is why it pioneered the use of cages to hold children. Having locked people up at length, the government becomes inevitably entangled in questions of their care and accommodations such as whether they are being referred to bad doctors or given adequate information about their medical care. All of these are legitimate areas of investigation and oversight. Still, given the complete and total absence of evidence or even allegation that ICE as an institution — or the Trump administration — wished or chose to impose hysterectomies on unwilling women, it might be more responsible to wait for such evidence before writing screaming headlines claiming this to be true.


When the United States Stands Alone

President Donald Trump addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, N.Y., September 24, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

There’s going to be a lot of talk about the U.N. over the next couple of weeks. The 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly will kick off with speeches by President Trump and other world leaders next week. And the U.N. Human Rights Council is currently meeting in Geneva, as China works to bring international human-rights mechanisms under its control, and as it and other authoritarian powers seek election to the body (if history is any guide, they’ll be successful).

The usual suspects are already spinning up the narrative that the United States stands alone at the U.N. Last week, the United States and Israel were the only countries to vote against a General Assembly resolution on the global coronavirus response. Some have seized upon that vote to paint the United States as a bad faith actor that stands alone in the world.

An assistant editor of a website notorious for laundering Chinese and Russian state media talking points wrote on Twitter, “The US empire and its little brother-in-crime Israel are the world’s biggest rogue regimes.” Unsurprisingly, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying agrees, tweeting this morning: “The US stands in opposition to the international community. Its objection to the UN resolution calling for solidarity and cooperation against COVID19 only isolates itself.”

In addition to the General Assembly vote, Hua highlighted two other recent U.N. votes: The U.S. attempt to re-impose U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran that had been lifted by the 2015 nuclear agreement, and a Chinese-authored U.N. Human Rights Council resolution approved in June of 2020. Here, as it often does, the Chinese Communist Party is simply lying. It’s worth looking at what actually happened.

Hua’s tweet claims that the U.S. was the only country to vote against the UNHRC resolution in June — but the Trump administration had already left the council two years before that. The picture Hua shared was from a vote in 2018. And no wonder: Though a Chinese resolution promoting disturbing language on human rights still passed in June, 16 countries voted against it. It’d be better if the resolution hadn’t passed at all, but this episode demonstrates that the U.S.’s concerns are shared by at least some UNHRC members.

As for the Iran sanctions vote, it’s true that only the United States and the Dominican Republic supported the measure. Once U.N. sanctions are lifted in October, Iran will regain the ability to buy conventional arms. Only the United States has sought to avert this grave outcome. China and Russia eagerly await their chance to sell arms to this U.S. adversary, and, meanwhile, France and the United Kingdom are preoccupied with preserving the Iran deal, which they see as a higher priority than preventing arms shipments to Tehran.

On its face, the U.S. vote against a General Assembly resolution on the global coronavirus response sounds inexplicable. But beneath the resolution’s innocuous-sounding language on international cooperation to combat the pandemic lies a political agenda that was successfully adopted by the assembly. While the initial draft would have been more acceptable to Washington, the one that eventually passed excluded references to human-rights defenders that appeared in the first draft. And thanks to a last minute amendment proposed by Cuba, a new clause urges states to lift their economic sanctions, a non-starter for any country that seeks to punish the many crimes committed by authoritarian regimes. In this light, it’s surprising that other democracies with similar sanctions authorities supported the resolution.

The main thread running through these incidents supposedly marking the United States’ isolation at U.N. bodies is its refusal to back down in the face of authoritarian attempts to coopt international organizations. What’s inexplicable isn’t that the U.S. stands apart from the international community; it’s that too few countries have supported its efforts.


‘But What about Sweden?’ Well, Let’s Take a Look over There . . .

(Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

When you write a piece like the one I did on the home page today, you inevitably are greeted by a cavalcade of “but what about Sweden, huh?” responses. Somehow this Scandinavian nation has caught the imagination of quite a few voices on the right, with a belief that somehow Sweden cracked the code and figured out just the right approach to the pandemic. The widespread perception in some circles on the right is that Sweden enacted few restrictions on citizens’ lives, kept the caseload low, minimized the damage to the nation’s economy, and achieved herd immunity.

None of these assertions are exactly accurate; some are less accurate than others. The reality of Sweden’s policy choices is that they didn’t yield the nirvana the cheerleaders claim nor the catastrophic disaster that the country’s fiercest critics predicted. Perhaps the strongest argument against the lockdowns in the U.S. and most other European countries is that Sweden tried a different approach and ended up with comparable results.

First, Sweden did enact many restrictions on daily life, ones that are comparable to the restrictions in place in much of the United States right now. Sweden banned visits to retirement homes in April. Bars and restaurants were limited to table service, with tables two meters apart, and shut down a few establishments that didn’t enforce those rules. The country recommended that those who could work from home do so and that citizens practice social distancing. Public events were capped at 50 people, and starting in April, the government recommended citizens “avoid any large social gathering such as parties, weddings, funerals and other events attracting many people at the same time.” For businesses, “shops and shopping centers must do what they can to limit the number of people on their premises at any one time.”

The primary difference between Sweden and most other Western countries is that the Swedes never used the formal force of law to get citizens to alter their normal behavior. The Swedish government declared, “you should do these things to protect your health and the health of others,” and — in a concept many Americans will find alien and hard to understand — the overwhelming majority of citizens followed the instructions without any threat of legal penalty. Swedes trusted their leaders and health experts, and in most cases, didn’t need the potential penalty of fines and jail time to motivate them.

Second, Sweden’s caseload and death rate are not quite the worst, but pretty bad, particularly when compared to its neighbors.

Sweden currently ranks 34th highest in the world in cases per million citizens, at 8,638, and ranks 13th highest in deaths per million citizens, with 579. The United States ranks 11th in both categories, at 20,421 cases per million citizens and 602 deaths per million citizens. (It is worth keeping in mind that small counties with an outbreak can rank particularly high when measuring by cases-per-million; Qatar ranks first, Bahrain ranks second, French Guiana ranks third, Aruba ranks fourth, and Panama ranks fifth.)

Perhaps a more useful measuring stick are Sweden’s neighbors. In cases per million, Denmark ranks 88th, Norway ranks 106th, Finland ranks 115th. In deaths per million, Denmark ranks 6oth, Finland ranks 78th, and Norway ranks 87th. By this measurement, Sweden is performing significantly worse than the nearest and most demographically and culturally-similar countries.

The lighter approach on lockdowns meant the Swedish economy was spared somewhat, shrinking 8.3 percent in the second quarter, and the government is forecasting an overall 4.5 percent decline for the year — better than Spain and France, but comparable to the other Nordic countries. The European Union overall saw a decline of 11.9 percent during the same period, so the Swedes did better than average. The Swedish unemployment rate appears to have peaked at 9.8 percent in June, and was down to 8.8 percent in August. That’s actually on the higher end among European Union countries.

Curiously, there’s not much sign that Swedes have developed herd immunity, at least as traditionally understood. Two studies performed in early summer by the Swedish health authorities reveal that only the 7 percent of the population had developed antibodies against him COVID-19; 12 percent had antibodies in Stockholm. One hard-hit suburb hit 18 percent. The country’s government officials have repeatedly insisted that “herd immunity” was never a deliberate goal or strategy of the country’s policies.

There is still time for Sweden’s situation to look better than its neighbors. Right now, Sweden is in pretty good shape. Testing is at record highs, and only 1.2 percent of the tests are coming back positive. The death rate among those infected is low. But overall, the story of Sweden in this pandemic is more voluntary restrictions, a somewhat less bad serving of economic pain, and a death toll and caseload that is pretty bad compared to its neighbors.

Perhaps if the situation in other European countries and the U.S. gets worse in autumn, Sweden will have something of the last laugh. But to the extent Sweden is a success story, it is a story of social trust — Swedes took sensible precautions to prevent the spread of the virus without lockdowns and government mandates. For America to have had comparable results, we would have needed a populace that had as much trust in government officials and public-health experts as the Swedes do.

Science & Tech

Animal Testing Discovers New Antibody Component for Fight against COVID


The animal-rights movement lies when it claims that research using animals offers no human benefit. But the propaganda is having an impact. According to Gallup, a whopping 39 percent of Americans believe that animal research is not moral, versus 56 percent who think it is. In 2019, only 51 percent found it moral. Those are alarming figures, even though support remains in the majority, because it means that tens of millions of us oppose this crucial area of scientific inquiry.

That is why it is good, from time to time, to highlight important examples of animal research with the potential to move science and medicine forward exponentially. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has just announced that they have discovered a new antibody component — the tiniest known — in animal studies that shows great promise in overcoming COVID-19. From the press release:

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists have isolated the smallest biological molecule to date that completely and specifically neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the cause of COVID-19. This antibody component, which is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, has been used to construct a drug — known as Ab8 — for potential use as a therapeutic and prophylactic against SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers report today in the journal Cell that Ab8 is highly effective in preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice and hamsters. Its tiny size not only increases its potential for diffusion in tissues to better neutralize the virus, but also makes it possible to administer the drug by alternative routes, including inhalation. Importantly, it does not bind to human cells — a good sign that it won’t have negative side-effects in people.

This shows how animal studies — supplemented by non-animal approaches such as using human cell lines — work together to move science forward. Let us hope this research moves toward human application strongly, as our president might put it.

The “grim good” of animal research needs to be continually defended. Otherwise, animal-rights fanatics could well impede medical breakthroughs that offer the potential for unquantifiable human good.


Woke History


After seeing the absurdity of some professional historians on Twitter, I’ve wondered how long it would take for woke-y content to begin seeping into their work. I don’t mean books adopting 1619–style fabulism or tomes that theorize about the past, but rather straightforward academic histories. Well, I’m reading a new one on the Vikings, titled Children of Ash and Elm, by Neil Price — a book I assumed would be the kind of dense history I prefer. And there, on page 158, prefacing a discussion on sex roles in Viking society, I run into this:

Today we have developed a rich vocabulary of identity and preference, of sexual orientation and its infinite expression, of our bodies and how we inhabit them, of our relationships with others, including our preferred forms of address — in essence, a terminology that at its best acknowledges and empowers who we each feel ourselves to be.

Now, I’m sure gender roles in 7th century Nordic society were far less nuanced and equitable than those of modern Denmark or Sweden. And though it is an otherwise fine book (I recommend it!), I would contend that it’s highly debatable that humans can be whatever we “feel” or that we have an “infinite” menu of choices. Mostly, though, I’d rather not be lectured to at every turn. History is escapism, a place to learn about the realities of the past, not the fashionable societal trends of today.


The Police Heroism in Compton

A Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer’s cap rests on the hood of a patrol vehicle in Los Angeles, Calif. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Last Friday, when we marked the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, one thing that did not get enough attention was the sacrifice of the police, firefighters, and other first responders, hundreds of whom were killed that day. First responders is an apt term for them. They are the people who show up. They knowingly charge into the dangers from which most of us flee.

Then on Saturday came the atrocious attempted murder of two Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs in Compton, by an assassin who is still at large. Once again, what is striking is the heroism of the police. It is awesome to see, but it is routine heroism if, like me, you’ve spent lots of time around cops.

One of the deputies who was shot was Claudia Apolinar, a 31-year-old former librarian, the mother of a six-year-old boy and on the job for a year, who saved her 24-year-old partner (who has not been publicly identified at this time). Deputy Apolinar had been shot in the jaw area and the upper torso, and was bleeding profusely. Yet, she had the presence of mind, and the courage under circumstances where she could not be sure the attack was over, to lend medical aid — apparently including application of a tourniquet to her fellow deputy.

What do we see on the other side of the equation? A sneak attack on two law-enforcement officers who were simply protecting a community rife with anti-police hostility. More of those precious “peaceful protesters” blocking the entrance to the nearby hospital to make it difficult for ambulances to get through, with some of the “peaceful protesters” chanting, “We hope they die!” And other locals celebrating the deadly ambush of police.

Pure evil.

Miraculously, both deputies reportedly came through surgery well and are expected to survive. If our society cannot tell the good guys from the bad guys, especially after something like this, I’m not sure we ever will.

In the meantime, take some time to think about and commend the valor of Deputy Claudia Apolinar. She is uniquely brave, but it is because of people such as her, still willing to protect and serve no matter how impossible the job of policing is made, that the rest of us can enjoy liberty and prosperity.


Cleaning Up after Biden


It shouldn’t be the press’s job, but too many journalists are taking it on: my new Bloomberg Opinion column.

Woke Culture

Hagrid Says J. K. Rowling Is Not Transphobic


Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the Harry Potter series, has come to the defense of author J. K. Rowling. “I don’t think what she said was offensive really,” Coltrane told the Radio Times, referring to Rowling’s comments about men not being women. “I don’t know why but there’s a whole Twitter generation of people who hang around waiting to be offended. They wouldn’t have won the war, would they? That’s me talking like a grumpy old man, but you just think, ‘Oh, get over yourself. Wise up, stand up straight and carry on.”

Well said, Hagrid! Now, I’ll just leave this here:



I Respond to the Los Angeles Times


A few days ago, the Los Angeles Times editorialized in favor of repealing California’s law requiring racial neutrality.  I found it a pathetic effort and sent a letter. To my surprise, the paper has published it:

To the editor:

Your editorial in favor of Proposition 16 argues that because “the U.S. isn’t a meritocracy” California should abandon its race-neutral law. Let’s see if that makes sense to readers.

The U.S. isn’t a meritocracy, therefore the L.A. Kings should be compelled to have a roster that’s racially balanced — for fairness.

The U.S. isn’t a meritocracy, therefore the state bar exam should be junked and admission based on “fair” racial quotas.

The U.S isn’t a meritocracy, therefore the L.A. Philharmonic should stop using blind auditions when it fills openings and instead choose musicians so that all groups will be fairly represented.

Would The Times’ editors like those results?

Maybe the U.S. isn’t a perfect meritocracy, but it doesn’t follow that we should move in the opposite direction, as will be the case if the state abandons the racial neutrality of Prop. 209.

Science & Tech

Scientific American Wades into the Presidential Election


If you thought 2020 couldn’t get any stupider, you should know that a nearly 200-year-old scientific publication has decided it needs to make its first endorsement of a presidential candidate.

If you want to get a sense of the level of thought and effort that went into it, you need to read but one line: “The most devastating example [of Trump rejecting science and evidence] is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September.” This is the piece’s key allegation, and a variation of the line was featured on the publication’s Twitter feed, but it’s not even clear what’s being said: Does “cost” refer back to “response” — in which case the (absurd) claim is that every COVID-19 death is the president’s fault? Or does it refer to “pandemic,” in which case it’s merely stating the overall death toll? The piece later admits that the “pandemic would strain any nation and system,” so I guess the authors are fully aware you can’t really pin the whole thing on Trump.

Anyhow, as Ross Douthat recently explained, it’s not at all clear how many lives a different presidential response could have saved, as “when you compare deaths as a share of population [among the U.S. and its peer countries], the U.S. starts to look more mediocre and less uniquely catastrophic.”


The Essential Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York September 17, 2012. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Today is the publication day of a fantastic new collection of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s writings on the Constitution, the courts, and the law.

The book is called The Essential Scalia, and is edited by two of the justice’s former clerks who are now important legal thinkers in their own right—Judge Jeffrey Sutton and (my friend and former colleague) Edward Whelan. Its selections are drawn from Scalia’s many opinions, speeches, essays, and other writings, and organized into a few key themes: principles of interpretation, constitutional and statutory interpretation, administrative law, civil liberties, judicial power, and the like.

But this is far from a specialized volume for lawyers. It is an education in Americanism, and in the distinct and central place that the law and the Constitution have in the life of our republic. To read it is to grasp what a judge ought to be—not only because that question was often Scalia’s explicit subject, but also because his legal writings are a model of the form, and an example of why we need judges who understand their role and will not shirk from it.

And of course, for all the gravity and seriousness of that subject, Scalia’s writing makes learning from him a joy. His clarity is enlivened by his wit, and the two always work together in the service of his arguments. In fact, I walked away from this book with a sense that Scalia’s constitutionalism and his talents as a writer are connected in a deeper way still: They are booth rooted in an appreciation for the given world and in a sense that we should protect the best of what we have inherited by making proper use of it.

It’s a deep and subtle insight, and Scalia works it out into a kind of philosophy of law, even as he applies it to the intricacies of particular cases and circumstances. Watching his mind at work is a joy. And this collection not only puts his essential legal writings in once place but also helps us appreciate why the man himself was so essential. Well worth your while.

Politics & Policy

Abortion: The Stakes in the Election


If Democrats take the presidency and the Senate, we could be in for more legislative change on abortion than we’ve seen in decades. I write about the range of potential outcomes at The Dispatch today.


Christians: The World Needs Us to Really Live the Cross to Victory

A woman prays during an Easter mass led by Bishop Krikor Kousa at the Armenian Catholic Church in Cairo, Egypt, April 11, 2020. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

Lift high the cross
The love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world
Adore His sacred name.

Led on their way
By this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God
In conquering ranks combine.

Lift high the cross . . . 

Much of Monday, I was singing — when not regaling others of the majesty the feast of the day — the Triumph of the Cross. All the riots and fires and madness and evil that all seem of hell — insist on us all taking a few steps back and appreciating the power of mercy, love, truth, faith, courage. The virtuous life, the Beatitudes, living the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This stuff Christians sign up for, but don’t always operate out of.

The cross of Jesus makes so much make sense.

Also on the calendar today is Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary, who watched her Son be tortured to death. She knows every sorrow and if we believe she is the Mother of God, who gives us as a mother to us, we are not alone in any suffering.

The world is transformed, changed through suffering and sacrifice. A Dominican priest I know, Fr. James Brent, O.P., talks about this beautifully in this short video.

The hospital bed as an altar is such a vivid and convicting image. And I’ve sure seen it. And we’ve all experienced it, haven’t we?

This was in the Liturgy of the Hours Monday from Saint Andrew of Crete — the kind of meditation we need these days:

We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation—very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honorable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.

The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it and I will glorify it again. Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.

The world would look so much different if Christians truly lived this. I’m praying to recommit myself to be a person of victory, a person who shows His love in all I do. I’m a mess, but I want to be His light. I want to remind people that there is more than this election cycle or the destruction of their business, or even the loss of life. Evil is not the end of the story. Always remember there is no Easter without Good Friday. But we are an Easter people, Christians.


Twelve Adoption/Foster-Care/Child-Welfare Things That Caught My Eye Today (September 14, 2020)


1. The Nation: Why Are We Still Ignoring Former Foster Children’s Votes?

During the primaries, the child welfare system barely came up. Julián Castro, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration, was the only candidate to release a child welfare plan. But he dropped out of the race in January. The only mention of the child welfare system in the Democratic Party platform is focused on the sovereignty of indigenous tribal nations under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that governs the removal of Native American children from their families.

. . .

Child welfare was an awkward fit for a primary focused on defeating Trump, whose record on the issue has been mixed. While his cuts to basic social services and harsh immigration policies sent more children into foster care, his administration also passed the Family First Act, which had the backing of many child welfare advocates. And some former foster youth praised particular political appointees under the administration.

2.  Austin American-Statesman: What is Texas doing to save foster kids?

The court-appointed monitors in the foster care lawsuit provided a 363-page report this summer detailing “substantial threats to children’s safety” in some larger foster care facilities.

. . .

“Some of these facilities are horrible,” state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said last  week. “They need to be completely redone or new facilities have to be built to handle the kids in a humane way. (Foster children are) under our care as a state, and we need to spend the resources on that.”

That means making a greater investment — not cutting funds. Earlier this summer the Texas Health and Human Services Commission provided a list of possible budget cuts that included reduced oversight of child care centers and other facilities. We recognize Texas faces difficult spending cuts because of our coronavirus-battered economy. But we must not make up those dollars at the expense of children’s safety.

3. Elise Cutini: The First Basic Income Pilot Program for Foster Youth Is a No-Brainer

The pilot program provides unconditional cash payments of $1,000 to 72 youth between the ages of 21 and 24, with priority given to those closer to 24. It levels their playing field just a little bit more and makes it possible for these youth to pursue the skills training they need to reach a life of self-sufficiency. While 89% of foster youth want to go to college, only 3% graduate. Left to fend for themselves when they emancipate from the foster care system at age 21, they face an impossible choice:  Pay the rent today or stay the course to achieve success tomorrow. 

4. The Yucatan Times: Historic number of adoptions in Yucatan

5. Kerala: 2.5-year-old baby swept off beach by waves while mother clicks selfies

This missing boy, identified as Adhikrishna, was just two and a half years old.

6. York Daily Record: ‘Horrific conditions’: Boy, 12, found dead in feces-ridden room; father and fiancee charged

Police found the boy’s naked body on a bed, covered in feces.

“Claw marks appeared in the child victim’s sheets,” according to a news release from Lebanon County District Attorney’s office. “Max Schollenberger’s bedroom was entirely devoid of light and furniture, aside from the bed wherein he died. The bedroom’s windows contained shades and doors. The shades were taped to the window frames and the doors were screwed shut; the window coverings rendered the child unable to see in or out.”

. . .

Several other children who lived in the home — both from Maurer’s previous relationship and biological children from Schollenberger and Maurer — appeared to be well-adjusted and healthy, the district attorney’s office reported.

7. Back End News: Expert: Cybersex trafficking is a ‘family-based crime’

“OSEC [online sexual exploitation of children] is a serious threat to children and possibly the most devastating form of modern-day slavery,” said Atty. Samson Inocencio Jr., VP, IJM Global OSEC Hub and national director, IJM Philippines. “OSEC involves the actual sexual abuse of children — it is not just sending nude photos as some think. In the cases IJM has been a part of, we know that very young Filipino children were molested by adults, forced to have sex with other children, made to use sex toys to portray sex acts, made to touch themselves, and do other sexually explicit conduct.”

. . .

The “comforts of the home” phrase spins a new meaning for the peddlers or what social welfare organizations label as “facilitators.” Home privacy shields them from being caught committing a crime that sometimes even relatives recruit other children and partake in the payment in return.

8. Times of India: 17-year-old fights to have her child marriage annulled

The man she was forcibly married to is 20 years older, does drugs, ill-treats her and threatens to kill her and her family members unless she moves back with him, she told TOI.

9. Huffpost: ‘It’s Out of Control’: How QAnon Undermines Legitimate Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Child sex trafficking is a dire problem: It happens in all 50 states, almost always at the hands of people the victims know and trust. But QAnon — in its virulent campaign to expose a supposed underground pedophilia ring run by the liberal elite — is exacerbating the very crisis it claims to be fighting. As the movement appropriates and sensationalizes the issue to recruit more followers into its conspiratorial web, legitimate anti-trafficking organizations are suffering significant collateral damage.

10. Psychology Today: What Our Faces Say to Our Children

As if nature is giving us a hint about where important information might come from, babies are born with a preference for face-like shapes (Johnson & Morton, 1991), and in fact, there is evidence that this preference develops before the baby is even born (Reid, Dunn, Young, Amu, Donovan, & Reissland, 2017).

11. Daily Mail: Actress Sally Phillips slams Amazon for selling Down’s syndrome ‘hatewear’ after T-shirts with a slogan calling for the condition to be ‘made extinct’ appear on the site AGAIN


Economy & Business

Politics Has Gotten So Commercialized with All the Merchandising

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 17, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Did you notice that just about every major political figure ends up with a wide variety of merchandise bearing their name and their likeness?

Did we need the Hillary Clinton nutcracker?

Do we need Donald Trump funny hair socks?

Do we need a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure?

Did we need the Robert Mueller prayer candle?

Do we need a wide variety of Dr. Anthony Fauci throw pillows? What, do you need them for entertaining? If so, would Dr. Fauci approve of you having people over, inside your house?

Isn’t it one more sign of our culture’s unhealthy need to promote and stir up a cult-like devotion to political leaders, that there is a) merchandisers large and small churning out this stuff and b) presumably people willing to buy it?

It used to be that in order to qualify for an action figure, you had to be a superhero, space alien, pro athlete, or an anthropomorphic combative piece of food.

Now you can have Kamala Harris deciding whether or not to press charges against the villain action figures.


Twenty-Six Things That Caught My Eye Today: Rethinking Crisis Response with Sally Satel & More (September 14, 2020)




3. Washington Post: Amnesty Report: Businesses supporting Myanmar abuses


5.GZERO: Hard Numbers: India COVID cases spike, Colombia protest turns deadly, Sudan floods, global wildlife destruction

Seven people were killed on Wednesday night when a protest against police brutality turned deadly in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. The protests were sparked by a video widely shared on social media of cops repeatedly using a stun gun on an unarmed man until he died.


7. Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: ‘We Hope They Die’

No one other than the shooter is responsible for the gunfire ambush Saturday of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as they sat in their patrol car. But the same can’t be said for the protesters who blocked the entrance to the hospital where the two are being treated, and chanted “we hope they die.” The latter is a cultural poison nurtured by the left-wing anti-police movement sweeping the country.

. . .

Democratic mayor Eric Garcetti called the chants and protests at the hospital “unacceptable” and “abhorrent,” but he and other Democrats need to do more to condemn and ostracize these protesters.

8. Rick Santorum: Gardner Is Right: NASA Must Confront the Growing China Threat

There is no question that space has become the new frontier for Chinese-American geopolitical rivalry. There also is no question that the Chinese plan to use the same tactics that they always use to gain strategic parity with the Americans — stealing our technology and deploying it for their own use. In fact, they’ve already forcefully begun doing so.

9. Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: Black Cops Don’t Matter

In one day this week, two black police chiefs resigned under pressure — Renee Hall in Dallas, the first black woman to head that city’s force, and La’Ron Singletary in Rochester. Last month Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, a three-decade veteran of the force, quit in protest over the progressive City Council’s plans to defund the police.

Rochester’s Chief Singletary didn’t go quietly. In a bitter statement Tuesday, he said: “As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character.”


11. Elizabeth Weil: They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

We dug ourselves into a deep, dangerous fuel imbalance due to one simple fact. We live in a Mediterranean climate that’s designed to burn, and we’ve prevented it from burning anywhere close to enough for well over a hundred years. Now climate change has made it hotter and drier than ever before, and the fire we’ve been forestalling is going to happen, fast, whether we plan for it or not.

Megafires, like the ones that have ripped this week through 1 million acres (so far), will continue to erupt until we’ve flared off our stockpiled fuels. No way around that.

12. Sally Satel: Rethink Crisis Response

Police are often the first responders because there is no one else who can attend to a person in crisis. “I don’t think we have any option but to be social workers, marriage counselors, coaches,” Joann Peterson, a retired New Haven police captain, told the Connecticut Mirror in June. At the same time, having police on the front lines of such incidents wastes community resources, overburdens law enforcement, and, when things go badly, criminalizes severe behavioral disruption due to illness.

. . .

“Cop culture has always been, ‘We’re the people who respond to a crisis, jump out of the car, and take immediate action,'” New York Police Department Assistant Chief Matthew Pontillo told colleagues at a Police Executive Research Forum in 2015. “And we’re saying, ‘No, that’s not the correct paradigm anymore.'” While wholesale replacement of police officers with social workers is unrealistic, there are police-based programs that respond humanely to people who are in crisis.

13. Thorn: How vulnerabilities increase child sex trafficking risk

There are certainly victims being forcibly held against their will in the world, but the vast majority of coercion into sex trafficking occurs over months and years, with controllers building trust and psychological leverage in order to exploit their victims.

. . .

Instability with adult role models can create a void for children that a trafficker leverages to create trust and ultimately exploit their victims. Those who enter the foster system can be particularly vulnerable.

As one survivor put it: “Nobody wanted me. This set me up to be vulnerable and needy.” Those in foster care have often been removed from abusive or negligent settings, which immediately makes them highly vulnerable targets for predatory traffickers.


15. Catholic News Agency: Tabernacle stolen from Canadian Catholic cathedral

Bishop Gerard Bergie of St. Catharines pleaded for the two people who took the tabernacle to return it, along with its contents, in an interview Tuesday afternoon with Canadian station NewsTalk 610 CKTB.

“The tabernacle can be replaced. It’s the contents (…) that is what is so precious to us. That’s what’s irreplaceable,” said Bergie, adding that he hopes that no harm is done to the Blessed Sacrament.


17. Rachel Campos-Duffy and Evita Duffy: Michelle Obama Is Complicit In Netflix Child Porn Film ‘Cuties’

Beyoncé and Cardi B are part of a puzzling and pernicious third-wave feminist cultural trend that equates stripper culture with female empowerment. Elevating celebrities who traffic in this cultural sewer to the status of role models, as the Obamas and Biden campaign have, to win votes and cultural cred, explains so much of the child sexualization the film “Cuties” so misguidedly tried to portray. Sex sells — in music and in politics.

. . .

Four years ago, first lady Michelle Obama joined a social media campaign called  “#BringBackOurGirls” to raise awareness of the kidnapping of Nigerian Christian girls by Muslim terrorists. Maybe it’s time for Michelle Obama to lend her fame, massive fortune, and cultural influence to bringing back our American girls from a dangerous, hyper-sexualized culture that preys on their innocence and exploits them — a culture that lies and sells sex as empowerment robbing girls (and boys) of their God-given right to just be kids.

18. Robert J. Samuelson: Goodbye, readers, and good luck — you’ll need it

So far as I can tell, nothing that I have written has ever had the slightest effect on what actually happened… But I’m resigned to this. No one elected me to anything. In our system, the people rule, not the pundits; and that’s how it should be.

. . .

I hope I am wrong about the future. That’s one excuse for my throwing in the towel now, in the midst of one of the great news stories of our time. I am a man of the 20th century, but we are now facing the problems of the 21st century, which demand new policies and norms. Goodbye and good luck — you’ll need as much help as you can get.

19. Fr. Raymond J. de Souza: The Conservatives should double down on religious freedom

My colleague William Watson observed that, with a Liberal leftward turn, the political middle is now miles and miles wide. Biblical wisdom advises against taking the wide road, but then politics does not operate entirely by the dominical injunctions of holy writ.

20. Robert VerBruggen: More Sex, Less Death?

Relative to people who reported having sex zero times or once per year, those who had sex up to 51 times were about a third less likely to die, and those who did it weekly or more were only about half as likely to die. Deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease were both lower among people with higher sexual frequency.

21. Reason: A New Bill Would Stop the Feds From Tossing Drug Defendants in Prison Before They’re Convicted

Durbin, Lee, and Coons’ bill will put all drug offenses on the same level. People charged with drug offenses that could potentially result in long prison sentences will no longer be treated with a presumption or pre-trial detention. But this is also not a “Get Out of Jail Free” pass. A judge can still order the confinement of a defendant who is deemed a threat to the community or a flight risk. The difference is that the courts will no longer presume that this threat exists without any evidence.

. . .

“The Fifth Amendment protects the life, liberty, and property of all Americans from government interference without due process of law. This legislation seeks to better protect the right of all Americans against unjust imprisonment by changing the presumption for pretrial detention,” said Lee in a prepared statement. “This change to a presumption against pretrial detention will allow judges more discretion to consider each defendant’s individual and unique circumstances when deciding whether pretrial detention is appropriate and necessary.”

22. Faye Flam: ‘Follow the Science’ Isn’t a Covid-19 Strategy

Science can give insights into the nature of the pandemic, but there is no scientific formula pointing to a solution. Any plan of action will force us to balance the need to protect people from the virus with educational, psychological and economic needs, as well as other health needs. The disease is dangerous, and yet there are some things, such as protesting racism or reopening elementary schools, that some people would deem worth the risk. How we weigh those priorities is a matter for public policy.

. . .

A real strategy would start by admitting that Americans, for the most part, want safeguards against the disease but don’t want to sacrifice everything in life for the sake of public health. Some value the right to protest racial injustice, others the right to keep their jobs or businesses open.


24. ‘Coffin confessor’ Bill Edgar paid to gatecrash Queensland funerals and speak for the dead

Mr Edgar runs a business in which, for $10,000, he is engaged by people “knocking on death’s door” to go to their funerals or gravesides and reveal the secrets they want their loved ones to know. 

. . .

Despite the confronting nature of his job, Mr Edgar said “once you get the crowd on your side, you’re pretty right” because mourners were keen to know what was left unsaid.

He said some clients never had the opportunity to reveal their secrets while they were alive.

“When people are knocking on death’s door, some of them are alone for six-to-12 months before they die and they never see anybody,” he said.

25. Tim Markatos: Two Identities, One Faith

In a rare comment on the subject, Rohmer explained how he saw the relationship of faith and film:

I am a Catholic. I believe that a true cinema is necessarily a Christian cinema, because there is no truth except in Christianity. I believe in the genius of Christianity, and there is not a single great film in the history of cinema that is not infused with the light of the Christian idea.



Yes, Biden Called Trump’s Travel Restrictions Xenophobic

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about climate change in Wilmington, Del., September 14, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Biden campaign national press secretary TJ Ducklo had a disastrous interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier on Thursday in which Ducklo appeared to be as eminently unprepared as your typical Trump White House surrogate, and grew increasingly agitated as the segment progressed. After Baier played clips of two experts that Biden has relied upon downplaying the coronavirus in late January, Ducklo claimed that “the vice president was not against the travel ban” placed on China by President Trump on January 31. Baier pressed Ducklo on this point, repeatedly asking if Biden was for the travel restrictions. Ducklo refused to answer directly, instead saying that Biden was “not against” them and offering to send Baier “fact-checks.”

More interesting than Ducklo’s substandard performance was this offer. The day after Trump announced the travel restrictions on China, Biden tweeted that “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.”

PolitiFact says that because Biden had previously accused Trump of fostering “hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering” and Biden did not explicitly tie xenophobia to the travel restrictions, Trump’s allegation that Biden had called his Chinese travel ban xenophobic was “mostly false.” FactCheck.org ignored Biden’s February 1 tweet entirely, simply asserting that Biden did not take a position on the initial restrictions and pointing to his support of such measures in April.

Our current president is fond of making galling claims that insult the intelligence of those listening to him. It appears that a President Biden would be no different. The day after the travel restrictions were put in place, Biden criticized Trump for his xenophobic response to the coronavirus crisis. It strains credulity to argue that the criticism had nothing to do with those travel restrictions, regardless of what Ducklo’s precious fact-checks may say.


Trump and McSally Trail Democrats in Arizona

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., July 14, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

In a new poll of registered voters in Arizona, both President Donald Trump and Republican senator Martha McSally trail their Democratic challengers by several points.

The survey, conducted by CBS News/YouGov over several days last week, found that Joe Biden leads Trump by a three-point margin among likely voters, with 47 percent support to Trump’s 44 percent. Six percent of voters said they remained undecided, and 3 percent said they plan to vote for someone else.

But what’s especially interesting is the way respondents answered the detailed survey questions. Among likely voters who said they’ll back Biden, a plurality (47 percent) said they plan to do so because he’s not Trump, while 34 percent said they’ll back Biden because they like him and 19 percent said they support him because he’s the Democratic nominee.

Those same numbers are a totally different story when it comes to support for Trump. An overwhelming majority (75 percent) say they’ll vote for Trump because they like him, while 10 percent are supporting him as the GOP candidate and 15 percent will vote for him to oppose Biden.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a little bit of room for Trump to expand his support. Among likely voters who reported that they aren’t planning to vote for him, 3 percent said they’d certainly still consider doing so and 9 percent said they might consider it. Eighty-eight percent of those voters said they certainly won’t consider backing Trump between now and the election; by contrast, among likely voters who said they wouldn’t vote for Biden, only 81 percent said they won’t even consider doing so between now and Election Day.

When the survey asked likely Trump voters what they’d be most concerned about if Biden won, 64 percent said economic issues and 27 percent cited policing and protests. Biden supporters, meanwhile, said if Trump wins reelection they’d be most concerned about coronavirus issues (44 percent) and race relations (29 percent).

When it comes to the Senate race in Arizona, Republican incumbent Martha McSally is trailing her Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly, by seven points, 49 percent to 42 percent. The two candidates are nearly tied among men, but Kelly has a large lead among women, with 53 percent support to McSally’s 38 percent. He also has a slight lead among independents, who favor him by a four-point margin.

Arizona is one of several key swing states in play in this year’s election. In 2016, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the state by a margin of a little less than four points.

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Response to the Los Angeles Shooting Is Cynical Scaremongering


Despite his promise to name Beto “Hell Yes, We’re Going to Take Your AR-15” O’Rourke as gun czar, Joe Biden claims he doesn’t support confiscation of firearms, merely a friendly “voluntary buyback program” and a national registry for law-abiding owners of so-called “assault weapons.”

After two cops were ambushed in Los Angeles by gunmen this weekend, Biden promised that he’ll take “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” and “weapons of war” off the streets. Setting aside the fact that the AR-15 isn’t a “weapon of war” and it is seldom used in criminality, why is Biden even talking about them now? The person who shot the deputies — at least, according to the video and reporting we have — used pistols.

Like most of the gun-control efforts on the left, Biden’s proposal would do little to nothing to mitigate firearm crimes (is he really contending people who attempt to murder law-enforcement officers are going to sell back their weapons?). This kind of cynical scaremongering is only meant to mislead voters who wince at the very notion of a gun, and to take focus away from a movement that’s been dehumanizing cops and degenerating into violence. And while it’s important to note that we don’t know the shooter’s motivations for sure, as far as we know, AR-15s had absolutely zero to do with the crime in question.


Are the Pollsters Wrong about Trump Again?

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks prior to signing executive orders on lowering drug prices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 24, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

If the presidential election were held today and the polls were precisely correct, Joe Biden would win handily. The RealClearPolitics map has Biden up in enough states to win the Electoral College 352–186:

The FiveThirtyEight forecast likewise has Biden up 330–208 in the most likely forecast, with a 76 percent chance of a Biden victory compared with a 24 percent chance of a Trump victory. But then, as I have discussed before, this is not so different from where Trump stood four years ago, and Republicans again overperformed the polls in Florida and several key Midwestern states in 2018 (while underperforming in Mississippi and much of the Southwest). And just as has been true of every Republican presidential candidate in history other than George W. Bush, the Midwest will be make-or-break for Donald Trump yet again in 2020.

There are, therefore, three optimistic cases for Trump. One, the polls could be wholly untrustworthy, in which case there is nothing to do but wait for the votes to be counted. (This is historically not a winning wager.) Two, the current polls are premature, capturing only a snapshot, and we should expect things to tighten by Election Day. (I made that case, as well as why it may not work as well with Trump as the incumbent.) Or three, the polls are systematically biased, and therefore analyzing them properly should tell us now that Trump is already in better shape than he appears.

Sean Trende looks at the latter argument, examining the specific question of whether the 2018 poll failures show that pollsters have not, contrary to their protestations, fixed their methods to avoid undercounting white working-class voters who are likely to support Trump:

I went back and looked at the poll errors for 2013-15, and it became apparent that the errors for 2016 followed much the same pattern: They were concentrated in areas with large numbers of whites without college degrees. . . . While the bias toward Democrats was smaller in 2018 than in 2016, the bias overall was similar to what we saw in 2014, especially in the Midwest. . . . Moreover, almost all of the errors pointed the same way: Republicans overperformed the polls in every Midwestern state except for Minnesota Senate/governor and Wisconsin Senate (none of which were particularly competitive).

As Trende notes, this is a relatively new divide: Through 2012, “whites with and without college degrees voted Republican at roughly the same levels. Underestimating the share of whites without college degrees and overestimating whites with college degrees wouldn’t have mattered in 2012 or 2008, because their votes were fungible.” That split has at least as much to do with Trump driving away college-educated white voters as it does with him drawing in white voters without college degrees, but overall, his coalition is proportionately less college-educated than that of past Republicans.

Will that be true again this year? Joe Biden isn’t Hillary Clinton, and he performed much more strongly with white working-class voters in the Democratic primary than she did. As Trende notes, hunting for systematic poll errors can be illusory because voting coalitions and polling methods are both moving targets from one election to the next. Still, there is more than merely guesswork behind the sneaking suspicion that Trump may still be in better shape in Florida, across the Midwest, and possibly in North Carolina than he presently appears.

Politics & Policy

Shadi Hamid’s Remedy Does Not Match His Diagnosis

President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn at the White House, July 27, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

I enjoy reading Shadi Hamid at The Atlantic — not least because, although we disagree a good deal, he’s a genuine “liberal” who believes in free speech, American institutions, and the importance of real pluralism (that is, in respecting real differences rather than in assembling people with different immutable characteristics and demanding that they all think the same things). Nevertheless, I think that Hamid misses the mark a little in his piece this morning.

Hamid’s essay is titled “The Democrats May Not Be Able to Concede,” and its subtitle is, “If Trump wins, especially after losing the popular vote, the left may draw the wrong conclusions.” Specifically, Hamid contends that “liberals had enough trouble accepting the results of the 2016 election”; that “in some sense, they never really came to terms with it”; and that, if they were to lose again in 2020, elements within the Left may become so disillusioned with America that they declare the system illegitimate and take violently to the streets. There is no misunderstanding Hamid’s meaning here, nor is the direction of his concern unclear. Despite considering that Trump is unfit for office, he does not “believe Donald Trump is a fascist or a dictator in the making,” or that “America is a failed state,” and he is “truly worried about only one scenario: that Trump will win reelection and Democrats and others on the left will be unwilling, even unable, to accept the result.”

Some have interpreted this as a threat or as excuse-making. But, as a long-time reader of Hamid’s, I think this is unfair. That’s simply not who he is, or how he sees the world. And yet, well-intentioned as I am sure it is, I cannot help but see Hamid’s conclusion as something of a non sequitur. He writes that, as a result of the possibility that the “left will be unwilling, even unable, to accept the result” of the election, “strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning—even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.”

To which one must ask: Why?

As a matter of general principle, I have no time whatsoever for the argument that anyone — let alone a voter — should hope that his opponent wins as a defensive measure against his opponent being a bad loser. Indeed, to follow Hamid’s advice here would be to permit the heckler’s veto to reign within our politics. If there is any action to be taken in response to the behavior that Hamid anticipates, it must surely be taken against the perpetrators of that behavior, not against its victims? “Donald Trump may refuse to concede, so we’d better hope he wins” is not an argument we’ve seen advanced. Its opposite is no better.

Later in his essay, Hamid focuses in on the Electoral College, which he believes would serve as the primary target of anger in the case of a Trump victory. Were Trump to win the election but not the “popular vote,” he suggests, the outcome might “fuel disillusion not just with the election outcome but with the electoral system.” I will not rehash my support of the Electoral College here, and nor will I point out that the Electoral College is, and always has been, at the core of the American system, and that everyone has known this in advance since 1788. Rather, I will simply observe that Hamid’s conclusion seems off here, too. If it is the case that “the left” will refuse to accept the outcome because it has decided that it doesn’t like the system, then those “strictly law-and-order Republicans” who “could never bring themselves to vote for” Biden should hope that Trump wins the “popular vote,” shouldn’t they? That, not the alternative, would be the course of action that defends both “law” and “order.” Moreover, if the primary threat to the Republic is that “Trump will win reelection and Democrats and others on the left will be unwilling, even unable, to accept the result,” then non-Republican voters should surely be lining up to help, too?

This, I should make clear, is not my preference. My preference is that every voter votes freely for whomever he wishes, that the system is used as it is constructed, and that everybody respects the result. But if, as Hamid suggests, one side is unlikely to play ball, it seems a touch unfair to suggest that the responsibility for preserving order falls to that side’s opponents.


Good College Debt and Bad College Debt


People sometimes regret their decisions to borrow for goods and services and higher education is no exception. Going into debt for a college education can make sense, but it can also be a terrible mistake.

In today’s Martin Center article, Preston Cooper makes the distinction between good and bad student debt.

If a student borrows to finance an educational program that leads to useful skills and knowledge, that’s good debt. Cooper gives the example of nursing students at UNC, who graduate with debts of around $22,000, but have starting salaries of more than $58,000.

On the other hand, a great many students borrow too much for credentials of little market value. That’s bad debt. A large component of that are the students who are lured into college but never complete a degree.

Bad debt helps to fuel the problem of credential inflation. Cooper explains:

Subsidized student loans, along with other forms of financial support for higher education, enable more people to get degrees. Unfortunately, this leads employers to expect degrees from job candidates, even when those jobs have not required degrees in the past. Degree requirements lead people to take on student debt and earn college degrees when the needs of the labor market don’t justify it. Even if the borrowers themselves can use the debt to get access to better-paying jobs, the cost of their unnecessary education still acts as a drag on the economy overall.

What is to be done? Cooper advocates limits on the amount students can borrow from government, and also requiring colleges to have some “skin in the game,” meaning that if the students they purport to educate don’t repay their government loans, the school will have to pay, at least in part.

We really should get the federal government completely out of college finance, but until such time, Cooper’s reforms are good ones.

Woke Culture

One-Party Campuses Are Not Intellectually Healthy

Campus of the University of Texas in Austin in 2016. (Jon Herskovitz/Reuters)

The ugliest trend in higher education is for campuses to become ideological monocultures where only “progressive” thinkers are tolerated. This year, we have seen innumerable instances where students or faculty members who are accused of harboring “wrong” ideas (usually denounced as “racist” and “unsafe”) have been hounded by mobs of social-justice warriors.

In this essay published in The Hill, John Ellis of UC-Santa Cruz criticizes this development.

Ellis writes, “The case against the one-party college campuses that we now have is easy to make. John Stuart Mill said it best: ‘a party of order and stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.’ Then he got to the heart of the matter: ‘It is in a great measure the opposition of the other that keeps each within the limits of reason and sanity.’”

Alas, Mill is just another dead white guy to the “woke” people who dominate our campuses. His argument in favor of free speech and open debate carries no more weight with them than it would have with Hitler’s Brownshirts or Mao’s Red Guards.

Ellis continues, “But figuring out why a one-party campus always degenerates into foolishness is the easy part — because it’s not really the heart of the problem. This is what is: Campuses are full of people who see nothing wrong with the one-party campus — in fact, that’s what they want.”

He’s right. Long ago, the Left set its sights on taking control of education so that we’d create people who see the world “correctly.” Independence of thought and civil debate are no part of that.

I agree with the professor’s conclusion: “Higher education is dominated and controlled by people whose purposes have nothing to do with higher education: That’s the real problem of the one-party campuses, and it’s why they need reforming from top to bottom.”

Health Care

Autonomy or Abandoning the Mentally Ill?


A U.K. woman with anorexia is in danger of starving to death and courts there will not allow force-feeding to save her life because she has decision-making capacity. From the BioEdge story:

At this stage the only way to save her life is naso-gastric tube feeding. But AB finds this abhorrent. She would have to be restrained or sedated during the procedure to keep her from ripping the tube out. “The only purpose of such an option would be to re-nourish AB’s body to the point where she is well enough to engage in psychiatric or psychological therapies,” observes Mrs Justice Roberts in her decision.

Isn’t that what we should do for people with mental illnesses? Self-harming is a terrible affliction. Shouldn’t true compassion mean we protect such people from themselves? I mean, if she were burning herself with a cigarette, would we hand her the lighter? If she wanted to commit suicide, would we just stand back and say, in effect, “Have at it”?

I think that is precisely where we are heading in Western society. Germany’s highest court recently conjured a right to commit suicide — which the court called “self-determined death”– for any reason whatever, and further, that anyone can assist as a concomitant constitutional right. The court specifically ruled that society and family have no standing to question the reasons or the lethal action.

In Belgium and Netherlands, mentally ill people receive voluntary euthanasia, conjoined with organ harvesting.

In California, those involuntarily confined in mental hospitals are required to be provided access to assisted suicide if they otherwise qualify for a lethal prescription. By definition, such people have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be a threat to their own safety or that of others.

Oh, and by the way: September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you miss it? I am not surprised. We don’t put much energy into saving people from themselves anymore, and indeed, are moving as a culture toward an ethic that believes we don’t have any right to keep people from harming or killing themselves.

Some call that respecting autonomy. I call it abandonment.