Film & TV

Amazon Lord of the Rings Series Gets Premiere Date

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Lord of the Rings Amazon (Ben Rothstein/Amazon Studios)

Variety reports that filming has just wrapped on the expensive, long-gestating Amazon Studios Lord of the Rings TV series and that it now has an official premiere date: September 2, 2022.

We have until then to speculate what specifically it will be about, and whether it will be any good. One thing’s worth clearing up now, though: It’s not simply going to be a readaptation of anything Peter Jackson has already put to film: that is, the events of the Third Age (and, briefly, the Fourth Age) of Middle-Earth. In fact, in that sense, it’s somewhat misleading even to call it a Lord of the Rings TV series. It will instead cover events that long preceded the tales of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. J. R. R. Tolkien, from whose pen the entire Legendarium of Middle-Earth flowed, created an expansive history and mythology for it that includes thousands of years preceding those more-familiar tales, which are merely a later entry thereof. It is from some still-unclear portion of these earlier tales that this new Amazon series will draw.

What exactly will be covered, we do not know. Precious few hints have emerged, though the first summary of the series mentioned the kingdom of Númenor, a sort of Atlantis stand-in long lost by the time of the events of the Lord of the Rings, and we already know that the role of Galadriel has been recast . . . though since she is one of the oldest beings in Middle-Earth, this doesn’t much help us figure out the timing of the show. We may have gotten one hint from what appears to be concept art released by Amazon in conjunction with news of filming having wrapped and a release date having been decided.

The Lord of the Rings

In the background of this image, behind the city, are two very large trees. Could these be Telperion and Laurelin, the Two Trees of the Valinor? That would put the series even further into Middle-Earth’s past than we thought. This is not a guarantee; there are many important trees in the Legendarium, some of which make more sense as candidates. (Leave it to Tolkien to make this question of arboreal identification so interesting.) At any rate, I look forward to discovering the answer to this question, as well as to the much more important one of whether this show will be any good or will instead try to “modernize” and thus ruin the timeless verities in which Tolkien’s work is rooted, when the show comes out . . . next year. Until then, well, there’s always the original trilogy . . . and the Soviet adaptation.

Education

Are More than 90 Percent of Teachers Vaccinated, as Their Unions Claim?

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A child has her temperature taken before attending the first day of grade 2 at P.S. 130 in Brooklyn N.Y., September 29, 2020. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

With the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association both opposing vaccine mandates for their members, teachers’ unions are contending the move is unnecessary in part because so many teachers are already vaccinated. “More than 90 percent of the AFT’s educators and school staff, and nearly 80 percent of our healthcare professionals, are vaccinated against COVID-19,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said late last month. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said around the same time, “nearly 90 percent of teachers have gotten a shot.”

What Weingarten, Psaki, and most commentators don’t mention is that figure is based upon a pair of voluntary surveys by the country’s two largest teachers’ unions. The percentage of American teachers who are vaccinated is probably high, but this is probably not the most reliable way to measure vaccination rates.

From March 26 to April 1, Hart Research Associates conducted a telephone survey of 1702 AFT members, including 893 kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers, and found 86 percent had already gotten the vaccine and another 6 percent said they had a vaccination scheduled.

In June, the NEA surveyed 2,690 educators and also found 86 percent of those who responded had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

But the response to both surveys was entirely voluntary, and we don’t know if vaccinated teachers would be more inclined to respond to the survey than unvaccinated ones. The accuracy of that figure is entirely dependent upon unvaccinated teachers being willing to tell a stranger that they’re not vaccinated. For what it’s worth, the surveys found 9 or 10 percent of respondents said they did not intend to get vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with the Administration for Children and Families, the Department of Education, conducted surveys of Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers at the end of March, and received almost 13,000 responses from education staff. That survey found “nearly 80 percent” had received at least one shot. But once again, it is fair to wonder if unvaccinated public sector employees would be reluctant to tell the government that they’ve declined to get the shot.

We have some good reasons to think those union surveys might be overestimating the vaccination rate, at least a little bit. Late last month we learned New York City’s 135,000 public school employees have a 60 percent vaccination rate. Osa Tui Jr., president of the Hawaii State Teachers Union, said this week that “approximately 80 percent of Hawaii’s 13,500 teachers are vaccinated.” In Pennsylvania, Upper Merion School District President Gary Ledebur said he “believes 80 percent of the district’s teachers are vaccinated.” The president of the Wichita, Kansas teachers union, said “about three-fourths signed up for vaccines when they were made available this spring.”

All of those percentages mentioned by union representatives are a majority, and a state or school district with an 80 percent vaccination rate is nothing to sneeze at, no pun intended. But they’re not “more than 90 percent,” and the public discussion of safely opening schools should probably be a little more wary of these figures.

Politics & Policy

So . . . What Happens after This New Moratorium Ends?

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People gather during a protest supporting an extension of the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., August 1, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

In a flagrant violation of the Constitution, the Biden administration is moving forward with a new eviction moratorium after the CDC’s previous one expired. The Supreme Court explicitly found that the original hold on evictions was unlawful and concluded that only an act of Congress could reinstate it. What’s even more frustrating is how arbitrary the new 60-day moratorium is: The administration has no plan to phase it out, and the policy will do nothing more than exacerbate the housing problem.

The CDC is framing its eviction policy as a “targeted” one. The CDC’s ploy is to argue that it is only looking at “hotspots” of COVID-19 and that the order is primarily about public health. Given that 90 percent of renters are covered by the order, though, the order isn’t narrow at all. And given the enormous political pressure exerted by progressives to use the moratorium as a form of rent control, the order is blatantly political. 

However, let’s say we give the CDC the benefit of the doubt (which we shouldn’t). If we agree that the ban on eviction is based on public-health science, we are still left with questions. The message progressives and the CDC have been giving is that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is rapidly spreading. Furthermore, a “doomsday variant” may be on the horizon; this is why states such as California have implemented mask mandates again. 

If the 60-day eviction moratorium is intended to prevent community spread of the virus, are we to believe the CDC thinks the pandemic will be over in just 60 more days? Well, we know that’s not true, because Dr. Fauci recently said the Delta variant is going to make things worse. But, if the pandemic won’t be over in 60 days, what will happen once this order expires? Does the Biden administration intend to evict people in October and endanger public health? 

It seems as if Joe Biden has no plan to phase out the moratorium at all. However, landlords can’t afford to have tenants not paying rent. Most landlords are not evil megacorporations but individual investors who rent their property. Unfortunately, the government has been unable to quickly disburse federal payments to renters and landlords in an orderly manner. CNBC reports that smaller landlords have been affected the most by the pandemic and the poor government response. 

The immediate economic effect of the newest eviction moratorium is hard to project. In December, it was estimated that renters owed $7.2 billion in payments. If we assume that trend has remained constant since then, that would put the debt owed to landlords around $14 billion. That’s likely far too low of an estimate, however. Some lawmakers wanted to set aside $100 billion for rental assistance, and around $50 billion has been officially authorized. 

Only a tiny amount of that federal funding has gotten through our byzantine bureaucracy and into the hands of landlords. With billions in outstanding rent, landlords are getting desperate. When the eviction moratorium was extended in June, property owners decried the move because their finances were so deep into the red. Strapped for cash, some landlords are forgoing maintenance work while others have deferred utility payments and cut staff. 

Putting off maintenance and deferring utility payments only makes sense if there is an end in sight. However, the debt renters owe is growing, and there is no end to the pandemic on the horizon. Are we really to believe that a 60-day hold on evictions is going to solve the crisis? As we saw the last few days, continuing the moratorium will only create a larger wave of evictions later on. 

Enforcing an eviction moratorium is not only illegal, but it also simply pushes the problem to a later date. While the CDC and the Biden administration wait for the rental crisis to solve itself, the economic laws at play haven’t changed. Renters may need assistance, but landlords can’t endlessly house tenants that don’t pay. No matter what, eventually, the rent comes due.

Science & Tech

To Promote Vaccination and Protect National Security, the Biden Administration Should Resurrect Vine

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(ViewApart/Getty Images)

In addition to suspending the Constitution, the Biden administration is still trying to persuade more Americans to take coronavirus vaccines. Its efforts have turned to a predictable place: social media:

. . . The government is also relying upon young, attractive TikTok influencers. The Biden administration is actively recruiting an “influencer army” to promote vaccines to Gen-Zers.

According to the New York Times, high school student Ellie Zeiler, a 17-year-old TikToker with over 10 million followers, was approached by the White House with an interesting offer. Zeiler was requested to partake in a campaign to entice her followers and other young people to get vaccinated.

About 50 Twitch streamers, YouTubers and TikTokers with large followings, including the very popular 18-year-old star, Olivia Rodrigo, have joined up. Some states and local municipalities have started similar campaigns. They are paying “local micro influencers” up to $1,000 a month to spread the word.

But why is the Biden administration promoting TikTok, a social-media app with extremely shady connections to the Chinese government? Last year, the Trump administration attempted to ban the app in the U.S. on national-security grounds. Earlier this year, Joe Biden rescinded this order. Now, we are stuck with an app that is both likely compromised by the Chinese government (and dominated by Zoomers — but that’s another matter).

There is a better way. Now, before I suggest this, let me reiterate that the Biden CDC’s unilateral extension of an eviction moratorium is flagrantly unconstitutional and should be fought, overturned, and undone forthwith. But momentarily entertain as a thought experiment what one could do in this realm where the government has decided to interpret federal law so broadly as to allow for unilateral regulation of every rental transaction in the nation.

In such a realm, there might be a case not only for banning TikTok over its questionable ties to the regime that brought coronavirus into the world, but also for using government resources to resurrect a defunct alternative to TikTok: Vine.

Vine was TikTok before TikTok, a Twitter-linked app that allowed for the rapid creation and promulgation of quick, fun videos. It died a few years ago, but not before it worked its way fondly into the hearts of millions of young people, who still remember and compile its many greatest hits. (Twitter execs apparently regret the decision to kill Vine, particularly in the wake of TikTok’s success.) Even before or without coronavirus, you could have squinted and seen a national-security case for reviving Vine as a competitor/alternative to the insidious TikTok. National security has been recognized as an area for allowable exceptions to free-market systems. Even Adam Smith wrote that it may be necessary to make such exceptions “when some particular sort of industry is necessary for the defence of the country.”

Now there are both national-security and epidemiological reasons to resurrect Vine. We need a homegrown source of pointlessly fun, distracting videos to combat the hollowing out of our meme-industrial base, which is currently being compromised by a Chinese-government-linked app. We also need an American app to help persuade Millennials and Zoomers to get vaccinated against a virus that originated thanks to the same government whose connection to TikTok that app has been coy about, to say the least.

You may scoff at the ridiculousness of this policy. But is it any more ridiculous than what the government has already done with the powers the pandemic has enabled it to grab? Obviously, these powers should be clawed back. But, again, operating in the theoretical realm in which we assume that does not happen . . . why shouldn’t the Biden administration resurrect Vine?

Politics & Policy

Refuting the ‘Marginal Utility’ Case for Progressive Taxation

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(LIgorko/Getty Images)

If you ever took a college economics class, there’s a strong likelihood that you were instructed that because poor people value a dollar more at the margin than do wealthy people, it follows that when the government imposes “progressive” income taxes, it raises the overall level of utility. The rich don’t miss the money taxed away from them as much as the poor value the money they’ll get through governmental redistribution. Therefore, redistributive tax policies are good.

Chances are also very high that you never heard any counterargument to that.

In this AIER essay, George Mason University economics professor Don Boudreaux provides the necessary counterargument.

He points out that the simple marginal utility case overlooks something important, namely the consequences of investment.

Boudreaux writes:

Suppose that multi-billionaire Bezos invests rather than spends an extra dollar that he earns today. Obviously, he thereby forgoes the utility — the satisfaction — that he’d enjoy today had he spent that dollar on consumption. So if that dollar is instead transferred through taxation to a poor person, it is illegitimate to compare the utility the poor person gets from today spending that dollar to the utility that Bezos would have gotten had he instead today spent that dollar. Given that Bezos in fact invested that dollar today, the utility the poor person would get from today spending that dollar must be compared with two alternative utility “experiences” — one enjoyed by Bezos and the other by many strangers.

If you are only interested in short-run income equalization, progressive income taxation is appealing, but if you care about the long-run maximization of societal wealth, you should reject it.

I’d like to add a couple of points to Boudreaux’s argument.

First, people who are not rich will, in a free society, devote considerable effort to finding goods and services to produce to sell to the rich. They have a strong incentive to produce and trade as the means of bettering their condition. Those incentives are highly beneficial, but they are weakened once politicians begin their redistribution schemes. At the margin, some people will think, “Why trouble myself with work when the government will give me money?”

Second, a dollar taken by taxation from a rich person does not magically find its way into the pocket of a poor one. It goes into the government’s treasury, to be spent by politicians as they see fit. Some of that money does wind up being given to the poor in welfare payments, but most of it is spent otherwise, on a host of things that politicians like: wars, “infrastructure,” subsidies for this and that, government employees, and so on. Subtract all of that and the dollar for the poor has shrunk to a few pennies.

Law & the Courts

The CDC’s Incredibly Sloppy Eviction Order

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

From a reading of the eviction moratorium, it seems clear that the CDC wanted to issue it and so backfilled scientific research to justify it.

According to the provision in the Code of Federal Regulations under which the CDC issued the order, the director has to determine that “measures taken by health authorities of any State or possession (including political subdivisions thereof) are insufficient to prevent the spread of any of the communicable diseases from such State or possession to any other State or possession.”

So the CDC goes about this task by arguing:

Evicted renters must move, which leads to multiple outcomes that increase the risk of COVID-19 spread. Specifically, many evicted renters move into close quarters in shared housing or other congregate settings. These moves may require crossing state borders. According to the 2017 Census Bureau American Housing Survey, 32% of renters reported that they would move in with friends or family members upon eviction, which would introduce new household members and potentially increase household crowding. Studies show that COVID-19 transmission occurs readily within households.

The CDC is comparing the world with the eviction moratorium to a world where nobody leaves their home for any reason other than eviction. It is true that compared to that world, allowing evictions would increase COVID risk. But as it currently stands, people visit their relatives. COVID-19 does not know whether you are crowding into your relatives’ house to visit them or to move in with them. People who could be evicted are already doing any number of other things that put them in contact with other people, so it’s not clear that their risk of COVID infection would change very much at all. The CDC is still using the same lockdown logic it used before the availability of vaccines. COVID-19 transmission does not “[occur] readily within households” if the people in the households are vaccinated.

The specific evidence the CDC marshals is lackluster. First, they misread basic facts. About the original eviction moratorium that applied only to federally financed rental units, they write, “Researchers estimated that this temporary federal moratorium provided relief to over one-quarter a material portion of the nation’s roughly 43 million renters [sic].” Assuming that they meant to say “one-quarter of the nation’s renters,” they’re still wrong. The Urban Institute blog post they cite for that claim says, “Eviction moratoria covering federally financed properties will apply to roughly 12.3 million (28 percent) of the 43.8 million US rental units.” So, first, it’s rental units, not renters. And second, it doesn’t say any relief was provided to those units, it merely says that the moratorium applies to them. It’s preposterous to say that one-quarter of U.S. renters would have been evicted in the absence of the moratorium, but that’s what the CDC’s mangled prose suggests.

This study referenced in the CDC’s order is a real stretch:

Compared to a scenario where no evictions occurred, the models also predicted a 4%-40% [read: We don’t have a clue] increased risk of infection, even for those who did not share housing, as a result of increased overall transmission. The authors estimated that anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 [read: Again, we don’t have a clue] excess cases per million population could be attributable to evictions depending on the eviction and infection rates.

Another study cited in the order found that states that lifted their eviction moratoria had higher incidence of COVID-19 than states that did not. How much higher? They found that it was 1.6 times higher, 10 weeks after the lifting. But the confidence interval from the study extends from 1.0 to 2.3. That means that it’s equally likely that states that lifted eviction moratoria had more than double the incidence of COVID-19 relative to states that didn’t as it is that lifting the moratoria had no effect at all. It’s basically statistics jargon for “We don’t know,” but it gave enough of a result to justify the action the CDC wanted to take, so they used it.

The order also admits that the CDC is using “modeling studies and observational data from the pre-vaccine phase of the COVID-19 pandemic” to justify an order given now, when around 60 percent of Americans are vaccinated. So we have good reason to believe that those estimates, which were underwhelming to begin with, are actually huge overestimates, since many more Americans have immunity now as compared to when the studies were conducted.

They can get away with this sloppy work because it is an emergency action. Ordinarily, federal regulations are subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, which entails a public notice-and-comment period during which these issues are argued over and have a chance to be straightened out. But since it’s an emergency action, there is no public input, and the normal recourses within the administrative state aren’t available.

The CDC uses this weak logic, poor evidence, and sloppy writing to justify a policy that carries criminal penalties up to a $100,000 fine and one year in jail for individuals who violate it. Criminal proceedings would be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice. “Well, nobody is actually going to be prosecuted . . . ,” you might be thinking. Okay, then why give them the power?

This should not need to be said, but apparently it does: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should not be able to deputize the U.S. Department of Justice to imprison people who violate its weakly reasoned orders on housing policy put in place at the urging of a president who said it was unconstitutional to do so but who then changed his mind under pressure from a few members of his party’s congressional delegation who were pulling a publicity stunt on the steps of the Capitol.

The courts should strike down this illegal order, but that isn’t enough. Congress needs to change the law to ensure that the CDC is unable to issue an order carrying criminal penalties that is such a shoddy piece of work ever again. In this order, the CDC is basically saying that it has the power to limit anything that you do that could potentially involve your crossing state lines and increasing your risk of catching a communicable disease relative to sitting in your house by yourself. That is not an acceptable remit of policy for a disease-control agency, run by unelected officials, in a free society.

Law & the Courts

Jen Psaki: No, Honestly, This Moratorium Is Nothing Like the Other One That It’s Exactly Like

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, January 20, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

They really do think we’re stupid, you know.

During her press conference today, Jen Psaki pretended that the new CDC eviction moratorium is “targeted” and therefore different from the illegal one that the White House concluded it was unable to re-issue. Psaki said:

What was announced was not an extension of the existing moratorium, which was of course national. It was a more limited moratorium that was going to be impacting and helping areas that were hardest hit by COVID.

A more limited moratorium, you say? One that just helps the “areas that were hardest hit by COVID”? Here’s Reuters, yesterday, confirming that the CDC believes the plan will cover at least “about 90% of the U.S. population”:

WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday issued a new 60-day moratorium on residential evictions in areas with high levels of COVID-19 infections citing the raging Delta variant after having rejected an earlier push by the White House.

The order applies to about 80% of U.S. counties that have substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission rates and covers about 90% of the U.S. population. The CDC said it will expand the protections to additional counties if they see a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Per CNBC, Chuck Schumer has the same number in mind:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday it will extend the federal eviction moratorium through October 3, 2021 after the ban lapsed over the weekend.

The announcement comes after pressure from House Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. The White House previously said Biden did not have the authority extend the ban, given a June Supreme Court ruling that said only Congress can enact a such a ban. Congressional Democrats did not appear to have enough votes to do so, and the House is currently in recess.

Now, the CDC will instead issue a ban in counties “experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels” of in Covid-19, which will cover an estimated 90% of renters, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Again: The problem here is categorical, not numerical. The underlying statute here does not permit the CDC to get involved in evictions like this, which is why the White House has confirmed over and over again that it can’t renew the moratorium — yes, even on a “limited” basis; why the Supreme Court has confirmed that the agency “exceeded its existing statutory authority”; and why Joe Biden admitted yesterday that his own lawyers have told him he’s breaking the law.

Still, if the issue were numerical — as Psaki wants us to believe — the problem with it could not be resolved by issuing exactly the same order with a ten percent reduction in applicability.

White House

Jen Psaki’s Breathtaking Dishonesty on Legal Justification for Evictions Moratorium

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to the press in Washington, D.C., August 4, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is in a bit of a bind. After communicating that there was no legal justification for extending the evictions moratorium through the CDC, President Biden violated his oath of office and did so anyway. So in today’s press briefing Psaki has been tasked with explaining the rapid reversal. It has not gone well.

Psaki claimed that the decision was signed off on by the CDC’s lawyers as well as the White House Counsel’s office. She said that Biden was “old school,” and that “the president would not have supported moving forward with any action where he didn’t feel there was legal standing and legal support.”

The way she tried to square the circle was to argue that the new order is different from the one the Supreme Court declared illegal in June. “What was announced was not an extension of the existing moratorium, which was of course national. It was a more limited moratorium that was going to be impacting and helping areas that were hardest hit by COVID,” she said.

The problem is, Gene Sperling, Biden’s senior adviser, said at the press briefing just Monday, with Psaki at his side, that the CDC had determined that even a more limited moratorium could not be accomplished legally.

“The President has not only kicked the tires; he has double, triple, quadruple checked,” Sperling said. “He has asked the CDC to look at whether you could even do targeted eviction moratorium — that just went to the counties that have higher rates — and they, as well, have been unable to find the legal authority for even new, targeted eviction moratoriums.” [Emphasis mine.]

For Psaki’s story to hold, during the quintuple check, CDC lawyers would have had to unearth a magic legal authority that escaped them during the single, double, triple, and quadruple check. But the legal justification that the CDC used — essentially, taking action in the midst of a pandemic to slow the spread — was the same one that had been used previously, and that had been rejected by the Supreme Court.

Psaki’s dishonesty is breathtaking.

U.S.

If We Care about Institutional Guilt, How Do Democrats Escape It?

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A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is removed in Charlottesville, Va., July 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

One of the great fads of the current age is the view that institutions bear continuing responsibility for things done long in their past, by different people in different generations. We see regular demands that businesses and universities not only apologize but offer some form of reparation for their involvement in slavery, segregation, and other injustices. This is even the theory under which there is agitation for reparations from the government.

Somehow, however, one institution always seems to escape that: the Democratic Party. And yet, no other institution in American history was more responsible for the national maintenance of both slavery and segregation for more than a century and a half from the party’s founding. There were pro-slavery Federalists and Whigs and even slave-owning or anti-abolition Republicans, but at worst, the Federalists were indifferent to slavery and the Whigs incoherent on it. At all times, the Democrats were the party of the plantations, the party of the expansion of slavery westward, the party of resistance to any restriction upon it, the party of the Slave Power’s encroachment on the rest of the country, and the party of secession over slavery. After the Civil War, Republicans at times were less aggressive than they could or should have been in pursuing black civil rights in Reconstruction, but it was the Democrats who were the party of resistance (including armed resistance) to Reconstruction, the party of terrorizing black Americans away from the voting booth, the party of the Klan. And that pattern held for a century: Republicans were sometimes indifferent to Jim Crow and uninterested in dismantling it, but the most vigorous efforts to affirmatively promote Jim Crow and add to its edifice at the state and national level always came from the Democratic Party. Even in the 1960s, when the pro-civil-rights Democrats began to gain decisive control and push national reforms, the people turning on the fire hoses and standing in the schoolhouse doors were always elected Democrats. If you look at the worst of America’s history on race, nearly everywhere you will find Democratic politicians — and by no means only southern Democrats.

Why has there never been a formal apology for this on the part of the party, or an effort to make amends in a way that actually costs the party anything? Why hasn’t a leading figure in the party made a major speech on coming to grips with the party’s historic responsibility? It is not as if apologies by Democrats are uncommon when they find them politically useful. And it is not as if Democrats are unaware of the problem, given that they have been removing the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from annual events. Mark Hemingway looks at the failure of the 1619 Project to pursue the institutional guilt of the Democrats. I asked a similar question in 2014 about the “Our History” section of the Democrats’ website. It remains mostly unchanged seven years later. Here’s how it opens:

For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. We are the party of Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, FDR, and the countless everyday Americans who work each day to build a more perfect union. Take a look at some of our accomplishments, and you’ll see why we’re proud to be Democrats. [Emphasis added.]

This is a bald-faced lie, and it is noticeable that the website does not cite a single accomplishment before 1920, well over a century after Jefferson founded the party and nearly a century after Jackson fused it into its modern name and structure. (By contrast, the Republicans’ recitation cites seven events between 1854 and 1872.) Leave aside the tendentiousness of claiming women’s suffrage as mainly the work of Woodrow Wilson (in fact, it was much more a Republican initiative); it is astonishing to see Wilson — the man who segregated the federal government — cited here as the first exemplar of Democrats’ belief in civil rights, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the man who gave us Japanese internment and residential redlining. The “history” even has the audacity to claim as an accomplishment Harry Truman’s order desegregating the army without mentioning that it was Wilson who formally segregated it in the first place. Not a syllable is breathed here about the party’s having ever been in the wrong about anything.

It would be one thing to simply take the view that history isn’t important and where you stand today is all that matters. That is a defensible stance. But it is the posture neither of the Democratic Party in 2021 nor of its major supporters among public intellectuals and writers. If guilt is institutional and intergenerational, nobody in the United States of America has more to answer for than the Democratic Party.

Republicans Should Shut Down the Senate Over Biden’s Illegal Evictions Moratorium

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2021. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

President Biden, through the CDC, on Tuesday took the extraordinary action of violating his oath of office by reinstating a moratorium on evictions even though he knows it’s unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans stand ready to hand Biden the biggest victory of his presidency by delivering him the votes he needs to get his domestic agenda across the finish line. They should be doing the opposite. In response to Biden’s power grab, they should refuse to do business with him. They should shut down the Senate.

Let’s be clear. Presidents have exceeded their executive authority previously. With DACA, the Obama administration said,

Health Care

A Libertarian Response to Delta

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My latest column:

The risks Covid poses now are overwhelmingly concentrated among people who have chosen not to get vaccinated. We shouldn’t be indifferent to their fate. If a full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the vaccines will encourage more people to get the shots, it should by all means be expedited.

But there has to be a limit on how much we ask everyone else to do for the unvaccinated. Our policies can’t just be the same as they were before highly effective vaccines were widely available. . . .

Politics & Policy

The ‘You Can’t Interfere with Academic Freedom’ Defense Crumbles

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Suppose that someone were to hire a chess tutor for his son, but found out that instead of teaching about openings and middle-game tactics, the tutor was spending the time with the youngster playing Grand Theft Auto. When the parent confronts the tutor, he replies, “I’m an educator and educators are entitled to academic freedom. This is how I think best to prepare your son to play chess. You can’t interfere with me.” I don’t think even the most “progressive” parent would accept that argument. He’d send the tutor on his way.

In the world of higher education, we often run into the same problem — faculty members who think that they’re entitled to do whatever they please with their classes because “academic freedom” shields them from scrutiny. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Scott Yenor of Boise State University, which has been sliding into the quicksand of a “social justice university,” responds to that notion.

Yenor writes that, “whenever legislatures question university practices, universities cry that academic freedom is under assault. If legislatures start asking what is going on in the classrooms or in the curricula, professors might start worrying about what they say. If legislatures cut budgets or donors withdraw funds because of concerns about the direction of universities, universities might change direction. All this would compromise freedom of inquiry and the autonomy of universities. Or so the argument for academic freedom tends to go.”

The huge problem that Yenor sees is that faculty and administrators have been smuggling a load of divisive ideology relating to “social justice” into state universities for decades. Only of late have public officials in some states begun to react. They should not tolerate the teaching of aggressive theories that undermine social harmony and waste student time.

Yenor concludes, “But this is not the same system of higher education it was a generation ago. Today’s universities instead have become partisan ideological oases. They neither unequivocally advance knowledge nor uphold the principles needed for a healthy society. Therefore, claims of academic freedom are not enough to deflect the pressing need for reform and oversight. Legislatures are in the best position to conduct such oversight and to act upon the results.

Politics & Policy

Two Texas Democrats Who Fled State Are Now Vacationing in Portugal

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Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D., Texas) joins other Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives as they speak in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Remember the Texas Democrats who fled the state for the District of Columbia in order to deny a quorum and block a vote on an elections bill? Although one of the most respected elections analysts in the country said the legislation would have a “negligible” effect on election outcomes, the fleeing Texans were hailed as heroes in the national press for blocking what Democrats called a “Jim Crow-style” voting bill.

The Dallas Democrats took up a collection for “Dr. Pepper, salsa, hard candy, hairspray, travel toiletries, hand sanitizers, sewing kits, first aid, and/ or $ to pay shipping” to help out the fugitive Texas legislators.

Hopefully they raised enough money to pay for international shipping for that Dr. Pepper and salsa because it turns out that two of the Texas House Democrats are no longer in D.C. — they’re now on vacation in Portugal, according to a Texas Monthly reporter. 

You really can’t make it up.

Law & the Courts

The Justice Department Declines to Defend Conscience Rights

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Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., April 26, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

The Department of Justice has declined to pursue a case against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC), a suit that the government initially filed last year after a former nurse alleged that she had been forced to participate in an abortion procedure despite her objections.

In December of last year, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under the Trump administration filed a lawsuit in federal court against UVMMC, arguing that the center had violated the Church amendments, federal statutes enacted in the 1970s to protect the religious-freedom and conscience rights of health-care workers. Under these protections, medical entities are prohibited from discriminating against health-care workers who have religious or moral objections to performing abortions or sterilization procedures.

But yesterday, Biden’s Justice Department announced that it had dropped the case, effectively permitting the medical center to get away with what the nurse alleges was a blatant violation of her conscience rights and of federal law.

According to the complaint filed by Trump’s DOJ, UVMMC “intentionally and willfully” discriminated against the nurse by “deliberately [scheduling her] to assist with an elective abortion while deceptively misleading her to believe the procedure did not involve abortion.”

After the nurse entered the room and discovered it was an abortion procedure, she allegedly “reiterated her objection,” but the medical center “refused to find a non-objecting nurse to take over, effectively forcing the nurse to continue assisting in the abortion (or abandon the patient) despite her well-known religious objection.”

Following the incident, the nurse filed a complaint with the Health and Human Services Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which resulted in the Justice Department filing suit against the medical center. Now, that suit has been dropped.

The Justice Department did not offer much by way of explanation for the decision, but an HHS spokesperson told Fox News yesterday that “after a detailed evaluation of the underlying legal theory used to issue a referral to the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services withdrew the original referral and requested DOJ dismiss the suit against the University of Vermont Medical Center, a request which was granted.”

Roger Severino, former head of the HHS Office for Civil Rights who oversaw the initial review of the nurse’s complaint and passed it along to DOJ, told Fox News that DOJ’s decision to drop the case is “a dereliction of duty that is an insult to the bipartisan consensus that says you cannot force people to assist in abortions.” (Severino also had a long Corner post on the topic yesterday with more of his thoughts.)

“This isn’t just a shocking failure by the Department of Justice, it’s a slap in the face to basic conscience rights,” Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said in a statement yesterday. “The law protects health care providers from being forced to perform procedures they find morally objectionable and the DOJ ought to see this case through.”

Health Care

No, Vaccine Mandates Are Not Coming for Schoolchildren – At Least Not Until Fall 2022

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A nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Bathgate Post Office vaccination facility in Bronx, N.Y., January 10, 2021. (Kevin Hagen/Reuters Pool)

Bloomberg Businessweek offers a cover story that is intriguing, but really puts the cart before the horse: “Vaccine Mandates for Kids Could Be the Next Big Back-to-School Fight.”

Yes, it could, but it’s not going to be a fight this year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that an emergency use application approval for vaccines for those between the ages of 5 and 12 are unlikely to arrive before “early to midwinter.” Until December or January or so, vaccines for those under 12 just aren’t an option, aside from parents who show up at a vaccination site and claim their 10-year-olds or 11-year-olds are 12.

Vaccines for those 12 and older are available under an FDA emergency use authorization. I’ll leave the true legal analysis to Andy McCarthy, but it seems most court cases on vaccine mandates have involved vaccines with full FDA approval, not ones that are only approved for emergency use. Keep in mind, schools and school districts generally don’t have the authority to implement vaccine requirements on students, but state governments do. Maybe some state legislatures or state health officials will embrace mandating a vaccine that only has emergency use authorization, but… that seems like a much riskier and more controversial move than simply encouraging child vaccinations and waiting until the FDA gives it full approval.

The big news today is that the FDA may give full approval to the Pfizer vaccine “by early September.” The FDA approved the EUA for the Pfizer vaccine for adults back on December 11, 2020. Assuming FDA’s approval process for the kid-friendly version of the Pfizer vaccine takes the same amount of time, full approval of a Biologics License Application would arrive sometime around September 2022 – a factor for next school year, but not the one starting soon.

So, yes, sometime after September 2022, it is possible a state legislature may attempt to implement a vaccine mandate for public schools.

Then again… what will the state of the pandemic be, one year from now?

Politics & Policy

Signs and Wonders

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In 2021, Democrats find it easier to take a stand against George Washington than against Andrew Cuomo.

Come on, guys! Just pretend he’s a statue of an 18th-century liberal or a Disney ride or something.

U.S.

Preliminary Data Show Slight Abortion-Rate Increase in 2020

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Abortion supporters and pro-life advocates demonstrate on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Washington, D.C., January 24, 2011. (Jim Young/Reuters)

During 2020, many pro-lifers were concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to an increase in the abortion rate. Some believed that more women might seek abortions because of financial pressures. Others were concerned that logistical difficulties involved with carrying a pregnancy to term during a pandemic might increase the incidence of abortion.

Meanwhile, there was some anecdotal evidence that more women were seeking abortions. In April of last year, CBS News reported that the “show rate” for women who had made appointments at an Illinois abortion facility increased from 50 percent to 85 percent. In May 2020, ABC News reported that “abortion funds,” which use private donations to subsidize abortions, were seeing an uptick in calls asking for the funds.

Within the past few weeks, public-health departments in five states — Indiana, Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, and Texas — released abortion data for last year. While these data show no evidence of an abortion surge in 2020, it does appear that the incidence of abortion slightly increased.

Georgia, Minnesota, and Indiana all saw their abortion rates increase somewhere between 1.9 percent and 5 percent from 2019 to 2020. Iowa reported a 13 percent increase in 2020 and a 25 percent increase in 2019. Though noteworthy if true, a 42 percent increase in the number of abortions over a two-year period seems unlikely and should be viewed with some skepticism.

Interestingly, Texas was the only state of the five to report an abortion decrease in 2020. A key factor in this decline most likely was Texas governor Greg Abbot’s March 22 executive order last year postponing medically unnecessary surgeries, including elective abortions. This prevented many abortions from taking place in late March and much of April. If the number of abortions performed in March and April of last year had been similar to those in previous years, Texas, like these other states, would have seen a slight increase in the incidence of abortion in 2020.

There are two trends in the data that should interest pro-lifers. The first is that the number of abortions performed on minors continues to decline. The most recent data from the Guttmacher Institute indicate that the abortion rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 17 fell by more than 88 percent between 1985 and 2017. For last year, each of the three states that reported abortion data by age saw a significant reduction in the number of abortions performed on minors. Overall, between 2017 and 2020, the number of abortions performed on minors fell by 10 percent in Indiana, 18 percent in Texas, and 29 percent in Georgia.

The second trend suggested by the data is that the number of chemical abortions continues to increase. In each of the three recent states that reported chemical-abortion data for 2020, the number of chemical abortions has increased by at least 23 percent during the last three years.

Interestingly, in Texas the number of chemical abortions increased by an astounding 70 percent since 2017. This is a cause for concern. Studies show that chemical abortions have a significantly higher complication rate than surgical abortions. Furthermore, as surgical-abortion facilities close down, supporters of legal abortion are promoting telemedicine abortions and other policies that would make it easier for women to obtain dangerous chemical-abortion drugs.

Overall, these figures suggest that even during times of disruption, the number of abortions performed in the United States tends to be fairly stable. Even during the sharp economic downturns in 1982 and 2008, the U.S. abortion rate continued its long-term decline. Even so, the slight uptick in abortions should concern pro-lifers, and these state-level statistics contribute to a growing body of evidence that an increase in chemical abortions is playing a large role in this recent abortion-rate increase. It is imperative that pro-lifers continue educational and legislative efforts to combat this rise in chemical abortions.

Health Care

Bioethicist: Right to Transgender Healthcare Akin to Freedom of Religion

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A person holds up a flag during rally to protest the Trump administration’s reported proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth at City Hall in New York City, October 24, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Critics of the transgender moral panic have been arguing that the movement is akin to religion. Now, that criticism finds support in the Journal of Medical Ethics — only rather than a criticism, the author contends that there is a right to GAH — gender-affirming health care — that is equivalent to freedom of religion.

The author, R. Rowland of the University of Leeds, identifies the so-called “religion” in question as the “right to live with integrity:” From “Integrity and Rights to Gender-Affirming Healthcare“:

Many states permit exemptions to laws for those with particular religious beliefs. For instance (unlike non-Sikhs), Sikhs in the UK are permitted to ride motorcycles without wearing a helmet and to carry ceremonial daggers in public. In Sherbert v Verner the US Supreme Court ruled that individuals who refuse Saturday work due to their religious convictions cannot be denied unemployment compensation even though others who refuse such work without such conviction can be. Other religious exemptions involve exemptions from uniform policies (to wear headscarfs or jewellery). The most popular account of rights to religious exemptions grounds these rights in our right to live with integrity.

This is sophistry. The right to free expression prevents the state from forcing people to do that with which they disagree because of their faith, and to worship as they choose. It does not require the rest of society to pay the costs of our religious practices or ensure we have the elements we believe necessary for the practice of faith. For example, there is no right for Catholics to have a church building. Or, to use the Sikh example, to force society to pay for the believer’s turban.

Moreover, religion involves a belief in a higher power as the source of truth and the establishment of standards to which the believer must adhere. Enforcing the right to free expression, for example, requires objective evidence of the objector’s faith precepts, for example, that abortion is a sin under Catholic dogma.

But true to the spirit (if you will) of our era, the right to live with integrity as a transgendered person and to receive GAH is totally subjective and centered in the solipsistic self:

To have or live with integrity, in the relevant sense, is for there to be a congruence or fit between the commitments, projects or principles that are constitutive of one’s identity or identities and one’s actions. One acts with integrity on this picture whenever one acts in line with one’s ideal of the kind of person one should be and the kind of life that one—but not necessarily everyone else—should live. One marker of a commitment, project or principle that one cannot sacrifice without sacrificing one’s integrity is that one cannot sacrifice it without feeling guilt, shame or remorse.

Well, that would create a right to live one’s life as a white supremacist wouldn’t it?

Rowland argues that if freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that permits the believer to deviate from the general norms of behavior, so does the right to live with integrity for transgendered people — meaning they have a “positive” human right to transition and access other forms of gender-affirming health care, even if not depressed or suffering mental illness:

If our rights to live and act with integrity ground a pro tanto claim right to religious accommodation, then our rights to live and act with integrity ground a right to GAH for many trans and non-binary people . . .

Integrity grounds a prima face right for many trans and non-binary people to access and be provided with GAH. And this prima facie right to GAH may well (at least sometimes) yield an all-things-considered right to GAH (section VI). This means that trans people do not need to have an illness or be suffering from a particular form of harm or distress in order to have rights to GAH and that we have rights to GAH even if we are not suffering from gender dysphoria. No one is ‘not trans enough’ to have a right to GAH on this view. And there is a good case that all trans people whose desired transition involves GAH have at least an important prima facie right to GAH.

So, there you have it. The right to have medical interventions to support one’s transgenderism is now akin to freedom of religion.

Our intellegentsia have lost their marbles. It is going to take resistance by — and the common sense of — “real people” to keep our society on an even keel.

CNN Makes Itself Complicit in Joe Biden’s Flagrant Lawbreaking

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President Joe Biden after giving remarks on the administration’s coronavirus response at the White House, July 6, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

CNN.com, which for six long years between 2015 and 2021 turned itself into a blog about Donald Trump and his many excesses, has weighed in on President Biden’s decision to take executive action that he knows full well is illegal. And boy, is it . . . a complete whitewashing of flagrant and cynical lawbreaking.

Here’s the headline:

Biden shows he’s ready to make drastic moves in Covid-19 fight — even if he’s not sure they’re legal

Off to a bad start. But, hey, headlines can be misleading, so maybe it gets better?

It doesn’t. Here’s the lede:

Even President Joe Biden doesn’t know whether his

Politics & Policy

CRFB: Bipartisan Infrastructure Pay-Fors Only Raise Half as Much as Needed

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Analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) indicates that the pay-fors in the bipartisan infrastructure deal won’t raise nearly as much as the deal’s proponents have claimed.

Proponents claim that the $550 billion in new spending is fully paid for through a patchwork of small savings measures and projected economic growth. The CRFB sees only $250 billion in offsets at best.

CRFB:

Some of the reported offsets come from counting savings that have already occurred. This includes $53 billion from expanded unemployment benefits costing less than originally scored, $67 billion from counting sales of digital spectrum that have already occurred, and roughly $155 billion out of the $205 billion of claimed savings from repurposing unspent COVID funds. In addition, the plan relies on pension smoothing, a policy universally maligned as a budget gimmick.

Though the bill also includes a number of real and important offsets, we believe they will ultimately raise or save a total of $200 billion over a decade. Depending on dynamic feedback effects, we believe the total savings will cover $200 to $250 billion.

One could argue they’re still being generous. They’re still counting the delay of the Medicare Part D rebate rule as a $49 billion offset. As NR’s editors pointed out on July 30, President Biden has already delayed that rule until 2023, so that’s not saving any money that anyone was actually planning to spend. The CRFB also gives full credit for the $28 billion projected to be raised from taxing cryptocurrency transactions. Given the difficulty of tracking cryptocurrency transactions in the first place, it’s unclear how much money is actually out there to tax, and the Washington Post reports that senators are arguing for changing that provision in the legislation.

GOP senators who prefaced their support for the deal on it being totally paid for should beware these gimmicks. We’re still awaiting the CBO score, which GOP senators have said would factor into their decision. If it’s anything like the CRFB’s analysis, they should feel confident voting “no.”

Politics & Policy

Cuomo Won’t Go

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

I’ve made bad predictions before, but I don’t see Andrew Cuomo showing himself to the door just because the state AG issued an exhaustive report confirming what we have known since last winter: Cuomo is a shameless serial sexual harasser. If he were a low-level executive at any reputable company, he’d be fired. If he were a CEO, he’d be fired. Alas, though, Cuomo can’t be fired, except via a glacial impeachment process. Which he will delay as long as he can in order to blunt the effect of today’s report. If you are sufficiently brazen — and there just isn’t anybody more brazen, not even Bill Clinton — you can just ignore the heat and tough it out. See also: Northam, Ralph.

Press outrage and scorn from other elected officials can’t make Cuomo quit. If he doesn’t quit, impeachment may or may not oust him. I’m guessing not. I’m not even convinced there will be an impeachment. What then? If he runs for reelection next year, I think he’ll win a fourth term by double digits if his challenger is Lee Zeldin, the Long Island congressman who can very easily be painted as a Trump enabler in a state that despises Trump and has so far largely shrugged off Cuomo’s misdeeds. At the moment Zeldin is the “presumptive nominee,” according to the state GOP. I can picture Zeldin losing by 20 points more easily than I can see him beating Cuomo.

National Security & Defense

The Despicable Abandonment of Afghan Allies

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An Afghan soldier stands guard on a security tower in Bagram Air Base after American troops vacated it, in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, July 5, 2021. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was always going to be an ugly thing, an odious moment in time when we cut losses and abandoned bases. That acknowledged, what is inconceivable is our failure to protect those who worked with us there, the tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted us and are now targets of the Taliban.

Like the Obama and Trump administrations before it, the Biden administration seems intent on leaving allies exposed and friendless. Defenders of the Biden administration might point to the refugee program that purports to extricate Afghan allies and settle them in the United States. On paper, yes, this is what the program aims to accomplish. In reality, not so much. The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported how Afghan refugees would have to deal with more bureaucracy and expense than canceling an AT&T subscription many times over. Refugees will:

need to be referred by a current or former employer, then relocate to a third country. Even with the expanded criteria, Afghans face numerous logistical and financial hurdles to make it into the program.

Many Afghans needing to travel to airports or borders to reach a third country risk getting caught in clashes between government and Taliban forces, as well as roadside bombs and crime.

Some will need help filling out forms and might not have the resources to pay for translation or legal assistance.

Processing times could extend beyond a year, raising questions about how applicants and families would survive in foreign counties without assistance while waiting for their applications to be adjudicated.

U.S. officials on Monday said the U.S. has no plans to provide lodging or other aid to applicants.

Call me old-fashioned, but forcing allies of the U.S. to get their families out of a war-torn country and pay for a year’s lodging out of pocket, just for the chance of admittance to the United States, is a tragedy. It’s even more embarrassing as we debate a ridiculous trillion-dollar spending bill. I don’t know the going rate of a dozen C-17s, but it’s safe to say we could squeeze those in to get allies out of a fraught situation. Perhaps I’m being naive, but how no Republican senator has done a Rand Paul circa 2013 until we get our allies out of danger is not only morally deficient but also passing up a prime opportunity to look good in front of the cameras for an obviously worthwhile cause. We sacrifice our moral legitimacy on the world stage when we so often needlessly screw over our allies. 

VIEW GALLERY: U.S. Troops Vacate Bagram Air Base

White House

White House Signals that Biden Will Bow to Left’s Demand that He Reinstate Eviction Moratorium

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Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) embrace after Warren arrived to support Bush who spent the night on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to highlight the upcoming expiration of the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions, in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Joe Biden ran for president as the “moderate” who was in lockstep with the average American, not woke progressives. As those who’ve followed his career predicted, however, he has governed as the partisan hack he is: When woke progressives say, “Jump,” he meekly asks, “How high?”

No surprise, then, that three unidentified “people aware of the matter” have alerted the Washington Post that, due to “intense pressure from liberal House Democrats,” the Biden administration is planning to take a unilateral step to reinstate the eviction moratorium in some form.

The specifics of the anticipated action have not been described, except that it is expected to be “announced by the CDC.” In classic non-sequitur, the Post relates:

The Biden administration has repeatedly insisted that it lacked the legal authority to renew that program. However, the delta variant has renewed concerns about the impact of the expiring moratorium on millions of renters and White House officials have explored other options.

Of course, even if it were true that a moratorium on evictions would have a material impact on the spread of an infectious disease (and there is no evidence that it would), that could not change the fact that the president lacks authority to ban evictions.

On Monday, White House adviser and longtime Democratic policy guru Gene Sperling asserted:

Well, I would say that on this particular issue, the President has not only kicked the tires; he has double, triple, quadruple checked. He has asked the CDC to look at whether you could even do targeted eviction moratorium — that just went to the counties that have higher rates — and they, as well, have been unable to find the legal authority for even new, targeted eviction moratoriums.

No surprise there. As we’ve noted here (see, e.g., my latest, Charlie’s latest, and our recent editorial), a number of court decisions held the moratorium invalid on statutory and constitutional grounds, and the Supreme Court was poised to kill it a month ago. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who would have been the fifth vote, declined to kill it there and then, but only because he rationalized that it was going to lapse in five weeks anyway, and the additional time would provide for an “orderly” wind-down. Still, Kavanaugh emphasized that “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”

Of course, the executive branch has lawlessly continued the moratorium precisely because there are not enough votes in the Democratically controlled Congress to put a legislative authorization on Biden’s desk — assuming, for argument’s sake, that such legislation would pass constitutional muster. The votes are not there because (a) the owners of rental properties are overwhelmingly small-business people who are being crushed by the moratorium, and (b) Congress has already lavished $47 billion in aid for renters, but as of this weekend 93 percent of it hadn’t been disbursed.

So, this is not the crisis that progressives and their media allies portray it as, and there is no national consensus supporting a moratorium. For the Biden who ran for the presidency, that would have been enough to end the discussion. But for the Biden who is president, what matters is that the party’s Bolshevik wing is continuing its tirade and doesn’t care a whit that what it is demanding is lawless.

It was the Constitution that Biden swore to preserve, protect, and defend back in January, wasn’t it?

Politics & Policy

Rashida Tlaib Says Certain (((People))) Are Exploiting America

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In a recent video, Rashida Tlaib tells her audience that “behind the curtain,” the forces who stop a “free Palestine” are the “same people” who exploit “regular Americans” for “their profit.” Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL, who’s done yeoman’s work wishing away the anti-Semitism being normalized on the progressive left, calls this a “dog whistle.”

It isn’t. This isn’t some subtle messaging aimed at other leftists or Hamas apologists; these are some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes on the books. The claim that Jews are “exploiting” “regular” citizens is the basis for nearly every major anti-Semitic tract of the modern age — from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to Mein Kampf to the Hamas charter. The notion that Jews operate behind curtains is another popular anti-Semitic image.

Tlaib knows exactly what she’s saying. She also knows that no one in her party — not the cowardly Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelsoi or anyone else — is likely to call her out on any of it.

Markets

A Climate Change for Investors (Not in a Good Way)

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(PhonlamaiPhoto/Getty Images)

A story from the U.K., but don’t think that something like this couldn’t happen here.

The Daily Telegraph’s Jessica Beard:

Trillions of pounds in pension funds will be shoehorned into “green” and “ethical” investments as the Government plans to employ savers’ hard-earned retirement money to “save the planet”.

However, higher fees, limited investment options and the potential for share price bubbles could hit the future value of pension pots, experts have warned.

Pension providers have started moving retirement pots without consultation. Paul Darrow, who works for the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, said he was “perturbed” that his pension was being transferred to carbon-free and “socially responsible” investments.

Mr Darrow, whose name has been changed, said: “I’m worried it has compromised the long-term growth of our pensions for a warm, fuzzy feeling in the managers’ bellies. The issues of the world cannot be solved by a pension or two, so why is mine part of this experiment?”

He said the political world had spilt over into the financial one and he was “disturbed” that his pension was targeting social change rather than flat-out growth.

“Socially responsible” investing (SRI) and the variant of SRI known as ESG (when companies are measured against environmental, social, and governance yardsticks) as well as the closely linked concept of “stakeholder capitalism” — where a company’s management owes a duty to a range of “stakeholders,” of whom shareholders are just one category — all involve a (partial) separation of the owners of their capital from the return that that capital should generate. If those owners have freely chosen to accept a lower return because of their beliefs (by, say, declining to put their money in funds that invest in fossil-fuel companies), that is, of course, fine. But if those owners are given no say in the matter, that is an entirely different matter.

Beard:

Pension providers have moved money ahead of forthcoming rules enforced by [Britain’s Conservative] Government. From October, all pension schemes with more than £5bn [a limit that will fall to £1bn in October 2022] will have to assess what climate change means for their scheme and report on the climate risk of their investments.

Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, said: “We have put climate risk at the heart of pension decision-making. This will benefit savers, the jobs market and, crucially, the planet.” However, evidence that such moves will benefit savers is limited.

That a (Conservative) government believes that it is the job of the state to decide what should go “at the heart of pension decision-making” is a sad reflection of where, ideologically, Britain’s Tories now stand. It also says a lot that the minister given the job of selling this dismal exercise in central planning should be reduced to spinning tall tales about investor return, the jobs market, and “the planet.”

To believe that the British government’s largely uncosted, poorly thought-through and environmentally almost completely irrelevant plans for the U.K. to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will, on a, well, net basis, create jobs is to be truly gullible. That the Conservatives appear to believe that voters will believe this nonsense shows (not for the first time) their contempt for the electorate, but I digress.

On the question of return, Beard notes:

The top 10 most popular ethical funds held in personal pensions have returned less than the top 10 traditional funds over one, three and five years, data from Interactive Investor, the fund shop, showed, although this was skewed by the large returns generated by Scottish Mortgage investment trust and the Baillie Gifford American fund.

In addition, the most popular ethical funds, also known as socially responsible, “ESG” or sustainable, cost 0.3 percentage points more than traditional ones on average. This could push up how much investors pay. Results have always been mixed. Such funds returned nearly twice as much as traditional funds last year, with an average return of 10pc against 5.3pc, figures from Morningstar, a data provider, showed. Traditional funds have grown more in 2021, however.

Dzmitry Lipski of Interactive Investor said: “Funds with strong environmental and social standards can do better, but investors must scratch under the surface before getting carried away. Some, for example, might simply have avoided oil stocks when they fell last year.”

Lipski’s is an important point. Equally, not a few of the outperforming stocks in companies with a high ESG rating owe that performance to factors that have little or nothing to do with the “E” or the “S” (the “G” — governance — could, for obvious reasons, be a different matter).  For example, a good number of the tech companies that did so well for investors last year had a decent ESG rating (in no small part because of their light environmental footprint), but that was not why their stocks ran up.

The question of return is (for beyond the obvious reasons) central to those pushing ESG, who like to argue that investors can do well by doing good. Again, if we put the “G” to one side, there is no particular reason why the “E” and “S” should enhance performance (or, another claim, reduce risk), except perhaps in one particular case. If investors are buying ESG stocks because other investors are buying ESG stocks, the sheer weight of cash inflows can lead to outperformance. The flaw? That outperformance bears no relationship to the qualities inherent in ESG, but quite a bit to those of a bubble.

Beard:

There is also a risk that so much money being forced into ESG or sustainable stocks will inflate the value of their shares. DIY investors and wealth managers added £12bn to ethical funds last year, according to the Investment Association, a trade body. John Teahan of RWC Partners, a fund manager, said this enormous flow of money had driven stock prices to extremes and future returns could be poor.

Imperfect it may be, but the market has a way of bursting bubbles in the end. Equally, if there is a fundamentals-based reason why a company’s high “E” and “S” score is value-enhancing, then that will also tend to become priced into its share price over time. Valuation is not a precise science — far from it — but the more attractive a company’s prospects are seen to be, the more “expensive” it will become, thus reducing (although certainly not eliminating) the chances of future outperformance. The other side of that equation is that if the prices of certain stocks are depressed by their failure to satisfy the ESG enforcers, that could well represent a buying opportunity.

Beard concludes:

A spokesman for the FCA said the watchdog believed the risks associated with climate change should be taken into account to protect pension outcomes but savers had been given alternatives to the default fund.

That may be the case, but take a look at the regime that is being put in place and then ask yourself how alternative (when it comes to ESG) those alternatives are really going to be.

Sports

That’s It! I’m Officially a Tamyra Mensah-Stock Fan

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This is so refreshing:

Film & TV

Don’t Quit, Quentin Tarantino

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Quentin Tarantino accepts the award for Best Screenplay Motion Picture for Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood at the 77th Golden Globe Awards show in Beverly Hills, Calif., January 5, 2020. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC Universal/Handout via Reuters)

Kyle Smith reminded us yesterday that director Quentin Tarantino, 58, intends to retire after his tenth film, which means he’s going to make only one more. Of course, my hope is that our greatest director — whose violent, funny, and absurdist work caters to my Generation X sensibilities — changes his mind. Ten, after all, is but an arbitrary number.

Tarantino says he’ll quit because he “knows film history and from here on in, directors do not get better.” To do my (very) small part, I set about debunking this claim, tracking down a list of his favorite films, hoping to present a masterpiece — judged by his own standards — that was directed by someone over the age of 60. Well, I couldn’t really do it. Only a single film on his list, Battle Royale, was directed by a filmmaker over 60 (Kinji Fukasaku, who was 70). Sergio Leone, who directed only seven movies in all, made Tarantino’s favorite film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the age of 37. Almost all the other works — Black Sabbath, Apocalypse Now, Boogie Nights, and so on — were made by directors in their 30s as well.

Next, I went about trying to ferret out a prominent director who didn’t make the list, whose best work came after the age of 60. This didn’t look promising at first, either. The only movie Stanley Kubrick made after 60 was Eyes Wide Shut. Francis Ford Coppola directed the horrid Jack at the same age Tarantino is now. Woody Allen’s first two films after the age of 60 were the musical Everyone Says I Love You and the Philip Roth knock-off Deconstructing Harry, which were adequate, I suppose. But 60 marked the beginning of a decline in quality — even if his filmography had a few gems left. The best I could come up with was Martin Scorsese, who made Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence after 60. More importantly, Goodfellas, perhaps Scorsese’s best work, was his twelfth proper movie. Tarantino may be only three movies away from his true masterpiece. How can he quit at ten?

Law & the Courts

Democrats Don’t Even Hide It Now

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

What is it with Democratic presidents announcing that they are legally prohibited from doing something, and then doing it anyway? What Joe Biden did today with the eviction moratorium was similar to what Barack Obama did with DACA: “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, oh screw it, I’m going to do it anyway.”

MSNBC’s Sam Stein notes that Biden is “basically saying the CDC is gonna do a new eviction morotorium [sic] that probably will get shot down in court but because it will take some time to go through the legal system, will provide interim relief.” Or, put another way: Biden is explicitly instructing a federal agency to do something he publicly admits is illegal in order to take advantage of how long it will take for the courts to strike it down. This is the guy we elected to restore honor to the White House?

Naturally, Republican presidents also break the law and violate the Constitution — and before anyone says “but Trump!” to me, read this — but when they do, they tend to pretend otherwise. Of late, Democrats seem to have dispensed with those niceties and just gone for it. This is a development, I’m afraid, that does not bode well for the future.

Media

Remember, the National Media Deliberately Chose to Celebrate Andrew Cuomo

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at the COVID-19 vaccination site at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, March 8, 2021. (Seth Wenig/Pool via Reuters)

Assume, for the moment, that at the height of “Cuomosexuals” in 2020, members of the national news media did not know that Andrew Cuomo habitually and shamelessly sexual harassed women who worked for him for many years.

There was still that odd incongruence that New York state persistently ranked at or near the highest in COVID-19 deaths per million residents. And it wasn’t merely a factor of New York City getting hit first or the sheer population density. Nineteen months after the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., New York still ranks second, behind New Jersey, in deaths per million residents, and second in total deaths overall, about 10,000 deaths behind California. Long before we knew Cuomo’s administration was covering up the total number of deaths in nursing homes, there was little evidence that Cuomo was a great leader, sparing his state the worst effects of the pandemic. By and large, the media liked the way he looked and sounded on television. In fact, Cuomo was so good on television, he won an Emmy! And that was the criteria that mattered most at the highest heights of the media world. Many of the people who think of themselves as the sharpest and keenest minds, most deserving to scrutinize our elected leaders, are really not much more than theater critics – capable of how a performance makes them feel, and not much more.

If the national media had wanted to celebrate other Democratic governors, with records that were more easily defended during the pandemic, they could have celebrated Hawaii’s David Ige, Montana’s Steve Bullock, Oregon’s Kate Brown, Maine’s Janet Mills, Kentucky’s Andy Beshear, and Kansas’s Laura Kelly. Back in June 2020, all of those states ranked at or near the bottom in terms of cases per million residents, or deaths per million residents. Hawaii, Oregon and Maine still rank near the bottom in cases per million residents and deaths per million residents.

As I wrote in June of last year, “The problem is not merely that most national media institutions are biased in favor of Democratic governors over Republican ones. The problem is also that certain voices in our media are biased in favor of big-state, better-known Democratic governors over other Democratic governors.” The national media adoration of Cuomo set up an accelerating narcissism cycle. No wonder Cuomo acted like he could get away with anything.

Now that the state attorney general’s report has burned Cuomo’s reputation to ashes, it is a good time to remember the national media deliberately chose Cuomo as the governor they would celebrate, salute, and praise the most during the pandemic – just a little head of California’s Gavin “French Laundry” Newsom, who now faces a recall, and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, who a few months ago was photographed in a bar, violating her own social distancing restrictions.

No doubt, Ige, Bullock, Brown, Mills, Beshear and Kelly have their own flaws. But it is unlikely that they are chronic sexual harassers or get caught their own social distancing orders. (If they are, please come forward and share the details!) The exposure of the real Andrew Cuomo should be a deeply humbling experience for everyone who gushed about the New York governor throughout 2020. (If you bought an Andrew Cuomo prayer candle, please go on a lengthy sabbatical and reflect deeply and at great length upon what bad life choices brought you to this low point.) The national media though they were spotlighting the best governor during the pandemic. They spent a year celebrating the worst.

Politics & Policy

President Biden Announces on Live TV That He Intends to Break His Oath of Office

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President Joe Biden speaks about the pace of coronavirus vaccinations at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 29, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

President Biden knows that the CDC’s eviction moratorium is illegal, having, per Gene Sperling, “not only kicked the tires,” but “double, triple, quadruple checked.” He also knows that the Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal, and that the majority of the legal scholars he has consulted think that the Court is correct.

And yet, because a bunch of progressives have spent the day complaining, Biden announced just now that he intends to violate his oath and reissue the order anyway. “The bulk of the constitutional scholars,” Biden admitted at his press conference just now, “say it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.” Then he said that he was prepared to try his luck anyway.

Big day for the “norms” crowd.

 

World

Meanwhile, Over in China, the Dishonest Official Line Slips a Bit

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People wearing face masks at a main shopping area after the lockdown was lifted in Wuhan, China, April 14, 2020 (Aly Song/Reuters)

Perhaps the news that China is now making big moves in response to the Delta variant will dispel any Western credulity of the nonsensical official numbers from the Chinese government. The official account from Beijing continues to insist that China – a country of a billion people, and the origin of the virus — has fewer total cases than Uganda and fewer deaths than Costa Rica. According to China’s official numbers, the country has 1/135 the number of deaths in the U.S., and 1/340 the number of cases in India.

Cases have been confirmed in more than 35 cities in 17 of China’s 33 provinces and regions.

The cities of Nanjing and Yangzhou have canceled all domestic flights, and Beijing has halted long-distance trains from 23 stations. The Chinese Basketball Association said that matches of its men’s professional league would be suspended because of the pandemic.

We know the official numbers are nonsense; we just don’t know how much worse the real situation is.

But this fits a pattern of spectacularly implausible claims from the Chinese government throughout this crisis.

It’s not just the refusal to cooperate with international investigations into the origin of COVID-19. It’s the damn lies, atop of lies, atop of more lies. It’s the lying about the contagiousness of the virus. It’s the lying about the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines, and lying about the safety and effectiveness of other countries’ vaccines. It’s the government’s complete disregard for where the space program’s debris can land. It’s the insistence that all is well and that their nuclear power plant co-operators are just being paranoid. Even when the Chinese government’s assessment is accurate, we can’t trust that assessment because of all the times they’ve lied before about subjects with life-and-death consequences.

Forget everything else that shows up in the trade deficit; China’s primary export is trouble.

Culture

Andrew Cuomo and the Tragedy of Politicized Feminism

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Students gather with signs during a Speak Out Against Sexual Violence demonstration at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., March 28, 2021. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

The new report from New York State’s attorney general confirms what many have known for a long time: Andrew Cuomo is a man abusing his position of power to harass women.

Looking at this story from a feminist perspective, one would be completely unsurprised by it. In fact, it’s exactly what one would expect. Men have power and treat women unjustly; that’s the problem that feminism diagnoses and wants to solve.

Yet feminist groups don’t have a lot of credibility to speak out against Cuomo because many of them have endorsed him for public office over the years. The National Organization for Women–New York (NOW-NY) endorsed him for governor in 2018, and their president said, “This was an easy decision. . . . Year in and year out Governor Cuomo has put women’s rights front and center.” The organization’s endorsement says:

Governor Cuomo is building a legacy of real change for the women and girls of New York: raising the minimum wage of which women make up two-thirds of earners; enacting paid family leave; making it harder to discriminate against pregnant workers; and paving a path for young New Yorkers to earn tuition-free four-year degrees.

See the sleight of hand there? Cuomo’s “legacy of real change for the women and girls of New York” is really just progressivism. The minimum wage, paid family leave, and tuition-free college aren’t specific to women (and if you believe men can get pregnant too, as some progressives argue, neither is discriminating against pregnant workers).

There is reasoning behind feminists’ casting their lots with progressivism. They point to disparate-impact issues (such as the “women make up two-thirds of earners” part about the minimum wage) and say that since many progressive policies would benefit women more than men, they are feminist issues.

Conservatives, pretty generally, have been opposed to institutional feminism. Conservative hostility probably played a role in feminists’ believing that adopting progressivism was the best move for the success of their movement. It was enemy-of-my-enemy thinking combined with the simple fact that many feminists were sympathetic to the progressive agenda to begin with.

But the fact that feminists have attached themselves to the whole progressive agenda and demand conformity to it makes it impossible for conservatives to go along. If conservatives have to support raising the minimum wage, tuition-free college, and (most importantly) abortion to be considered feminist, that’s a deal breaker. So it’s a cycle of exclusion: Conservatives exclude feminists and feminists exclude conservatives forever and ever.

It’s sad that it worked out that way. The feminists have a point about men in positions of power using that power to get away with abuse of women. It happens way too often, and it’s despicable. The details of Cuomo’s behavior are gross. Any woman in that environment would be at a disadvantage professionally and would also have legitimate fears about being preyed upon, simply by virtue of being a woman. Men working in Cuomo’s office didn’t have to face that, and if Cuomo were a woman, these incidents would not have happened. Gender does matter in situations like this, and insofar as conservatives have shunned feminist thinking on workplace dynamics, they have been wrong to do so.

That many people on both sides instinctually see this incident through a political lens (“What about Trump?” “It’s good to be a Democrat”) is the tragedy of politicized feminism. It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s nothing inherently progressive or conservative about the idea that some men who have power treat women unjustly. That Cuomo is a Democrat is incidental to his conduct. Plenty of Republican politicians, not to mention men in nonpolitical settings like business and religion, have done things similar to or worse than Cuomo’s behavior.

There’s a way forward: remembering that God created humans in His own image, and He created them male and female. On that view, gender is a gift from God. It’s sacred and important.

That idea runs squarely against the Left’s views on gender fluidity and the denial of any difference between men and women. Gender matters — not as an item on an intersectional checklist of oppression, but as a characteristic of human beings created in the image of God. That means women should be able to speak out about abuse they face from men because they are women, and it means men in positions of power have a responsibility to treat women justly because they are men. When men fail to do that, as Cuomo clearly has, they should be held accountable.

That way of thinking makes sense only if you believe that there are real and immutable differences between men and women, and that all people are of equal worth in some higher sense. The Left increasingly does not seem to believe either of those things. It’s going to be up to conservatives to hold the line on those two truths. If that makes us sound like feminists sometimes, so be it.

World

Don’t Appease Tehran for Energy Terrorism in the Strait of Hormuz

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Oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018. (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

As of this writing, some four commercial, patrol, and research vessels have been disabled — one of which may have been hijacked — in the main shipping channel through the Strait of Hormuz, apparently as part of an Iranian military operation. If this turns out to be accurate, the Islamic Republic has attempted to use sea mines to close the strait and so to strangle the flow of petroleum to global markets in the most dramatic offensive escalation in this vital shipping way since 1988. The timing of the action is no accident, as last month, Iran announced it would be making its first oil shipment from its new terminal at Jask Port on the Gulf of Oman — its first such facility south of Hormuz. Few took notice at the time, but Tehran was in essence signaling that it no longer needs the strait to supply clients, notably the People’s Republic of China. Now the world will be forced to take notice as the mullahs are foot-stomping this new capability.

So Iran no longer cares about the strait, but quite frankly neither should the United States. We have come a long way since 1980 when President Jimmy Carter declared that it was official U.S. policy that freedom of energy flow from the Persian Gulf was a vital American national-security interest that we were prepared to defend with force. While the resulting Carter Doctrine was undoubtedly the high-water mark of the Carter administration’s national-security policy, we have in recent years established U.S. energy dominance as one of the world’s three largest producers — and of course our production is geographically varied and has access to numerous terminals, none of which are constrained by the Strait of Hormuz. We can and should ramp up domestic production to ameliorate any shortage caused by this attack, while coordinating closely with our partners and allies in the Persian Gulf to counter it.

It’s worth remembering that this is hardly the Iranian regime’s first foray into energy terrorism. In September 2019 the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on the world’s largest oil refinery at Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, which was similarly designed to choke shipping and so spike energy prices to the point that the United States would have no choice but to relieve sanctions rather than risk another such disruption. But while the Abqaiq attack was unprecedented in its sophistication and execution, it was also a failure. The rise in prices was relatively modest and quickly dissipated because of an increase in U.S. production, as well as a robust, coordinated, rapid-response repair campaign by Saudi Arabia.

While securing the Strait of Hormuz may no longer be a vital national-security imperative for the United States, it does not necessarily follow that we should allow this gross Iranian provocation to go unanswered. Following the Iranian attack in 1988, President Ronald Reagan retaliated by launching Operation Praying Mantis, resulting in significant damage to, or the total loss of, half of Iran’s fleet. For more than 30 years, this show of force gave Tehran pause when they considered a similar escalation. That pause appears to be over.

Law & the Courts

Read Full AG Report: Andrew Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Employees

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

READ: NY AG’s 168-page report on Cuomo sexual harassment investigation

How Will Democrats Make Cuomo Go: Impeachment or a Primary Challenge?

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) arrives for an event in New York, March 18, 2021. (Seth Wenig/Reuters)

There is much to be said about the damning report on Andrew Cuomo’s serial sexual harassment released this morning by New York attorney general Letitia James — a report largely compiled by outside law firms, headed by former acting U.S. attorney Joon Kim. As Rob Ortt, the Republican leader in the state senate, asked in National Review last week, why is Cuomo still governor? The problem for New Yorkers and Democrats is the follow-up question: Where to go from here?

While we should never say never in politics, Cuomo seems extremely unlikely to resign, unless he must do so to stay

Politics & Policy

In March, Joe Biden Said Andrew Cuomo Must Resign If an Investigation Confirmed Sexual Assault Allegations

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) speaks during a news conference in New York, May 5, 2021. (Spencer Platt/Reuters)

In March, President Biden said that Andrew Cuomo should resign if an investigation confirmed the sexual assault allegations against him:

President Joe Biden said in an interview aired Tuesday that Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should resign if an investigation confirms the allegations of sexual harassment against him.

Asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos if Cuomo should step down if the investigation confirms the allegations, Biden replied, “Yes.”

“I think he’ll probably end up being prosecuted, too,” Biden said.

Today, an investigation confirmed the sexual assault allegations against Cuomo:

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in violation of state and federal laws as well as the executive chamber’s own written policies, according to a long-anticipated report Tuesday from the state Attorney General’s Office.

The bombshell report by a pair of attorneys selected by Attorney General Letitia James details cases of harassment by the governor that include unwanted groping, kissing, hugging and inappropriate comments directed toward current and former employees.

It also contends Cuomo and his senior staff had retaliated against at least one former employee, fostered a toxic workplace that enabled the harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.

There is no wriggle room for Biden here. Not only has Cuomo been found wanting by the standard Biden himself set out, but, as he has made clear repeatedly, Biden does not believe in due process for those who are accused of sexual assault (unless they’re made against him).

Your move, Joe.

 

Biden’s Empty Immigration Plans

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The July arrest numbers at the southern border haven’t been released yet, but they must be pretty bad.

I reach that conclusion because last week, the White House released not one, but two essentially meaningless immigration plans — one a “blueprint,” the other a “strategy.” 

None of it changes the administration’s open-ish border policies, except perhaps to increase the flow of illegal aliens into the U.S.

I can see it now:

“Mr. President, arrests of illegal aliens — er, erroneously present non-citizens — are up in July! What should we do?”

We have to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something

Politics & Policy

Becerra and Biden Betray Medical Professionals Being Forced to Assist in Abortions

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Xavier Becerra responds to a question from Sen. Ben Sasse during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

“Don’t hate me.” According to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice last year, that is what an abortionist at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) said to a nurse before she forced her to assist in the termination of a child’s life on pain of losing her job and potentially her license if she refused. The nurse in the case had informed her bosses well beforehand that she could not participate in abortion because of her religious and moral convictions. Her right to such a demurrer is protected by federal law, known as the Church Amendments, which Congress passed unanimously in direct response to Roe v. Wade. The facts were stunning in their clarity, the victim was extremely credible and sympathetic, and the violator remained entirely callous and unrepentant. The UVMMC matter was the most open and shut conscience case in over a decade. I say was, because on Friday, the DOJ quietly, and voluntarily, dismissed the case. No admission of guilt, no injunction, no corrective action, no settlement, no nothing. Worse yet, because the victim has few to no options to sue on her own (due to nuances around private rights of action), the Biden administration is effectively giving UVMMC a full pardon and will continue to give it federal funds, despite it having been found by HHS to have violated the law.

Don’t hate me indeed.

After Roe v. Wade the medical profession split in a way that Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, did not expect. He imagined that women would obtain abortions “with the guidance of her physician” in respected hospitals and medical practices all over America, excepting those run by religious institutions. Instead, the medical profession, rightly fearing for its reputation, offloaded abortion work to the legions of “abortion clinics” that began to spring up like McDonald’s, but without the smile, all across the country. To the average American today, there are doctors and there are abortionists, and overwhelmingly, medical professionals do not want to be identified with the latter. Every year, thousands of medical professionals quietly decline to train in, assist, perform, or refer for abortions for a simple reason — they entered the practice of medicine to save lives, not end them. The more people recognize that abortion is not health care, the harder it is for abortion conglomerates to recruit and retain abortion workers. After all, who wants to put on their resume that they abort “products of conception” all day long for a living? This explains in part why Big Abortion is desperate to eliminate conscience protections for medical professionals that have been in place for decades because it helps their bottom line to have more people complicit in their sordid business. And now with President Biden and HHS secretary Xavier Becerra in power, the abortion industry is getting its wish.

Although the nurse victim of UVMMC’s malfeasance was deeply traumatized, she mustered the courage to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS, which is responsible for enforcing our nation’s many conscience-protection laws. I was director of OCR at the time and ordered an investigation by the office’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division which was founded precisely to handle cases such as these. The Division’s career professionals, with assistance from career attorneys at the Office of General Counsel, issued findings of violation against the hospital which led directly to a lawsuit by the DOJ to enforce compliance with the law.

For those unaware, Becerra may be the most notorious violator of conscience laws in recent years. He even lost a Supreme Court case with his name on it, NIFLA v. Becerra, after he tried to coerce pro-life pregnancy-resource centers into violating their consciences by forcing them to refer mothers in search of life-affirming alternatives to free abortion services. Becerra was twice found in violation of conscience-protection laws by HHS’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, but now he is in charge of the entire agency. The fox is running the hen house.

Seeing this looming conflict of interest, lawmakers have rightly questioned Becerra’s commitment to conscience enforcement across many hearings. Every time, Becerra has promised to continue to enforce the law, and vigorously. Here is a sampling from recent congressional hearings:

  • “My history if you will take a look at it is one about defending Constitutional and Civil rights of all Americans and as a person of faith I guarantee you we will do everything we can to make sure people are able to exercise their rights under the Constitution when it comes to religion, your faith, and so forth.”
  • “We’re going to continue to move forward in protecting people’s rights and have an Office of Civil Rights that will continue to protect those. We have a number of cases that are coming before us all of those, if they deal with Constitutional and Civil rights, we, under the Office of Civil Rights will be protecting those rights.”
  • “The work will not change; we continue to have a responsibility to protect the religious freedom of all Americans when it comes to any of the health-care programs that are out there.”
  • “We will continue to provide protections for the civil constitutional rights of all Americans including those that involve religion and so nothing there changes.”
  • “Congresswoman, we will continue to respect and not only follow the law, but enforce the law when it’s under our Jurisdiction, including the religious rights of Americans.”

It was a lie. All of it. And Congress must hold him accountable for it. I cannot understate how unusual it is for DOJ and HHS to drop a duly authorized lawsuit after it has been investigated and filed, while getting literally nothing in return. The government strenuously avoids doing such a thing because it calls into question the consistent expectations of the law, reeks of politics, and exposes the government to potential liability for attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. Without so much as a slap on the wrist, this was a clear favor to abortion special interests and a spit in the face of not only the victim in the case, but the many medical professionals who have suffered conscience violations through the years and will continue to suffer, but now with little hope of recourse from their government.

HHS issued formal findings of violation against UVMMC after a thorough investigation. It simply cannot continue to fund a violator of the law that refuses to agree to come into compliance. Becerra should know this principle well because he was the California attorney general when HHS disallowed $200 million of Medicaid funds to the state for forcing people to buy abortion insurance contrary to federal conscience-protection laws. Even the Obama administration entered into a corrective action agreement with a hospital that had forced a nurse to assist in an abortion, but not Biden. We now know, if there was ever any doubt, that Biden and Becerra’s first loyalty is not to their proclaimed Catholic faith or to the law, but to abortion, abortion, and more abortion.

U.S.

Could Lindsey Graham’s COVID Case Delay the Infrastructure Vote? 

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2020. (Al Drago/Reuters)

South Carolina GOP senator Lindsey Graham announced today that he’s quarantining for ten days after being diagnosed with a mild case of COVID-19. Graham was one of the 67 senators who voted to open debate on the $550 billion infrastructure bill, and the bill needs to overcome at least one more 60-vote hurdle before final passage.

So could Graham’s diagnosis result in a delayed vote on the bill? Vaccinated individuals exposed to COVID-positive individuals don’t need to quarantine, and it seems unlikely that six more of those 67 senators would develop “breakthrough” COVID infections. Although Graham’s diagnosis probably won’t delay the vote, it is possible the debate could drag out significantly longer than Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants. Schumer says he hopes to wrap things up by the end of the week, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — another one of the 17 Republicans who voted to open debate on the infrastructure bill — says there should be no “artificial timetable” for the bill. McConnell likely has the ability to delay a vote if he wants to do so.

Politics & Policy

Blacks, Gun Control, and the Second Amendment

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Guns in a display case at the Cabela’s store in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2008. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Boston Globe writer Jeff Jacoby has a stellar piece in which he argues against the leftist notion that the Second Amendment was meant to hurt blacks. He writes, “The real racism associated with the Second Amendment isn’t in the rights of gun ownership that the Bill of Rights cemented into the Constitution’s text. It is in the long and shameful record of those rights being denied.”

I will only add a bit to the case Jacoby makes.

For many decades after the Civil War, black Americans understood perfectly well that their lives, liberties, and property were safe only if they had the means to defend them. A fascinating book I read back in 2009 is Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power. Howard was a medical doctor and entrepreneur who was extremely successful in his medical practice and business affairs. He used to hold rallies for blacks in Mississippi but was always prepared for Klan violence with an armory of weapons. There is a memorable photo of Dr. Howard at one of his rallies, cooking some chicken. Propped up beside him is a shotgun.

Blacks such as Dr. Howard regarded the Second Amendment as their friend, protecting their personal right to own firearms for their own protection. He and Justice Scalia would have been in perfect agreement.