Immigration

Rand Paul’s New Bill Would Increase Employment-Based Immigration ‘Nearly Fourfold’

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Senator Rand Paul speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., December 4, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Most of the immigration talk today has involved Elizabeth Warren’s new plan, which would deliberately scale back immigration enforcement and make it easier to come to the U.S. on the basis of “family reunification.”

Senator Rand Paul’s idea is better, but not great either.

His new bill, the BELIEVE Act (seriously), is essentially a competitor to the Fairness for High Skills Immigrants Act, which I discussed here earlier this week (and which passed the House Wednesday). Both address the clumsy “per-country caps” for green cards that make it far easier to join the U.S. from some countries than others, and that disproportionately hurt higher-skilled and higher-paid immigrants.

As I mentioned in my previous post, killing those caps without fixing some other aspects of the immigration system could have unintended consequences, so a broader bill would be preferable. Paul’s bill is indeed broader, but not always in a good way.

As David Bier of the Cato Institute reports, Paul would double most of the employment-based green-card categories, raising their total from 140,000 to 270,000 — and on top of that would exempt spouses and minor children from the limits, which in effect doubles them again, for a “nearly fourfold” increase. Those working in “shortage occupations” designated by the Department of Labor, a list that now includes only nurses and physical therapists but could expand via new regulations, would be exempt as well. Unlimited green cards would also be available to “any foreign graduate of a U.S. unviersity who ever entered as a child of an E, H, or L temporary worker and lived in the United States for an aggregate period of at least 10 years.” “Employment authorization to spouses and minor children of temporary workers” is tossed in for good measure.

There would be no cuts to the family-based categories to compensate. We currently hand out a bit more than a million green cards a year. Just by back-of-the-envelope math, quadrupling employment green cards by itself would have to hike that number somewhere around a third.

As I’ve pointed out numerous times, higher overall immigration levels are not what Americans want. (Neither are lower levels.) The goal should be to shift the mix of immigrants toward the higher-skilled, not to hike high-skilled immigration while leaving everything else the same. When D.C. can show the American people that (A) the border is under control and (B) the legal-immigration system is serving the national interest by admitting the very best immigrants available, perhaps we can have a discussion about expanding the latter. Not until then.

Politics & Policy

Pelosi vs. AOC

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addresses guests at an event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C., March 8, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The tiff between Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is interesting. And, for many on the right, surely delicious. Ocasio-Cortez and her crew have gotten under Pelosi’s skin. Pelosi was once the leftward edge of the Democratic House caucus. (Did you ever see this Saturday Night Live sketch, when Pelosi became speaker in 2006? One for the ages.) Now, however, she seems almost a fogey, telling the kids to tone it down. Ocasio-Cortez rapped Pelosi for “the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

Ouch. I had a memory — of 2008, the Democratic primaries. Team Obama actually played the race card against the Clintons. Which had to be a dizzying experience for them. Rich Lowry said to a prominent Clintonista, “Now you know how it feels to be a Republican.” He said, quick as a flash, “You’re right.”

Immigration

On July 1, Nike Ditched the Betsy Ross Flag. On July 4, These African Immigrants Became Citizens Under It.

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Fode Bade celebrates his five children being naturalized as American citizens at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia on July 4th (Chris Tremoglie)

Fode Bade did not know he was supposed to feel oppressed in the United States. However, as a native of Guinea, he certainly knew what oppression was. Entrenched poverty and periodic political violence plagued the African nation, and Bade’s survival to the next day was not guaranteed. In 2005, he came to the United States as a political refugee and was granted asylum. Free from the oppression of his native land, Bade prospered in America. And on July 4, he brimmed with pride as his four daughters and son became legal citizens of the United States at a special naturalization ceremony at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia.

On July 1, at the behest of Colin Kaepernick, Nike recalled their special Betsy Ross Flag Air Max 1 USA sneakers after the former quarterback expressed concerns over what “he believed are its associations with an era of slavery.” A billion-dollar corporation and a millionaire ex-athlete declared the patriotic flag as a symbol of racial oppression. Yet, on July 4, an African family, from a country victimized by the transatlantic slave trade, eagerly became citizens of a country under that very flag. Bade proudly stated, “I’m so grateful to this country.”

Children eagerly wait to be sworn in as naturalized U.S. citizens at a special ceremony at the Betsy Ross House on July 4th

As part of “Welcome America,” Philadelphia’s annual weeklong July 4 celebration, 13 children became American citizens at a special ceremony at the Betsy Ross House. Thirteen children are selected to commemorate the original 13 colonies, and the venue is chosen in honor of the seamstress of the first United States flag featuring the stars and stripes. The ceremony is in its 15th year and features a swearing-in ceremony, patriotic decorations, colonial reenactors, and the symbolic ringing of a bell — one time by each of the children — to honor the 13 original colonies. “Coming here, being an American citizen is the greatest thing someone can have on this earth,” Bade told National Review.

Another African immigrant, Ahmed, from Morocco, also witnessed his son, also named Ahmed, become naturalized at the ceremony. When asked what he thought the flag symbolized, the elder Ahmed did not hold back: “A better life.” Fresh off his naturalization, Ahmed was beaming with pride and enthusiastically waving the American flag — the Betsy Ross American flag. “America is great,” he told National Review.

Ahmed (center) was one of thirteen children who were naturalized as American citizens at a special ceremony at the Betsy Ross House on July 4th

The irony here should not go unnoticed. Leftist American elites peddle a narrative of oppression while those from some of the grimmest places on earth continue to see the United States as a beacon of hope. As a billion-dollar corporation and millionaire athlete sought to delegitimize American exceptionalism, an African father did everything in his power to make sure his children became legal citizens — and specifically did so at the house of the latest American hero that leftists have targeted as offensive. “Americans don’t realize how good this country is,” said Bade.

Chris Tunde, an African-American living in Philadelphia, had a strong opinion on the Nike-Kaepernick flag controversy. “I’m not a Trump supporter but this whole Betsy Ross, Kaepernick, Nike stuff is ridiculous,” Tunde told National Review. “Nike should have stood their ground and told Kap to kick rocks.” When asked what he believed the Betsy Ross flag represented, Tunde replied, “It was the first flag, it represents the birth of America.”

Law & the Courts

McGrath on Kavanaugh: A Timeline

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John McCormack has mentioned the flip-flop the Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate performed yesterday, but it’s worth laying out her evolution in one place.

July 10, 2018:

I echo so many of the concerns that others have articulated over the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

He has shown himself to be against women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and will be among the most partisan people ever considered for the Court. . . .

September 27, 2018:

Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have said that they are 100% telling the truth. One has called for the FBI to question additional witnesses — especially Mark Judge who Dr. Ford claims was in the room during the assault — one has not. That really stands out for me, not to mention the vast disparity in their temperaments and demeanors while testifying. Dr. Ford’s testimony was quite compelling.

My hope is that Senators Collins, Murkowski and Flake insist on additional FBI questioning or they vote against confirmation. . . .

Yesterday, some time before 4 pm (Eastern):

You know, I think that with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him.

Yesterday, 7:30 pm (Eastern):

I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court. But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.

I will post updates if she changes her position again.

World

‘Friends of Putin’

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A story to note: “Audio Suggests Secret Plan for Russians to Fund Party of Italy’s Salvini.” Sure. Populist Right parties tend to be in partnership with Putin, whether the partnership is formal or informal. In the case of Matteo Salvini and his League, it is formal.

In 2017, the League established a friendship-and-cooperation agreement with Putin. Salvini called it a “historic deal.” In 2014, the League established a “Friends of Putin” group in the Italian parliament. In Moscow, Salvini wore a Putin T-shirt! (See it here.) Putin is his Che, so to speak.

Indeed, Putin is the Che of many in Europe and elsewhere.

This morning, President Trump retweeted Katie Hopkins, a British commentator and former Apprentice contestant. She hailed Salvini, Orbán, et al., for bringing “strength in depth.” She added, “The fightback by proud nations is on.”

I say, be careful with whom you are entangled. Putin is no friend to things that conservatives, certainly in the United States, have long prized — freedom being paramount among them.

Politics & Policy

More Infighting to Come from House Democrats

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Jim Newell puts the Pelosi vs. AOC-et-al conflict in context:

House Democrats have control over one body of Congress, while Republicans control both the Senate and the White House. This means they’re going to lose fights, including fights over issues that have captured and animated their base. That the main progressive and moderate blocs are at each other’s throats, while the most famous individual progressives and the speaker fight in public after the first big loss, does not instill great confidence about their ability to digest those losses yet to come.

Culture

‘Mother’

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The Pences, Mike and Karen, on the Fourth of July in Washington, 2019 (Tom Brenner / Reuters)

Vice President Mike Pence calls his wife, Karen, “Mother.” It has come to my attention that many people find this “weird” and “creepy.” Maybe I, as a Midwesterner, can lend a hand.

I’m not sure about now, but it used to be common in the Midwest for a husband to call his wife “Mother.” And for a wife to call her husband “Father.” Please be assured that Pence does not regard his wife as his mother. But she is the mother of their children, and that’s the point: It’s like a title.

Reagan called his wife “Mommy.” (Nancy, I mean. Not sure about Jane.) Reagan was from Illinois, remember. Comedians hooted about “Mommy.” Also, everyone did a Reagan imitation in those days — and even those of us who are not mimics could say, “Well . . . Mommy . . .” Those were two words with which the Gipper was closely associated.

A little Googling turns up this: “Stu Spencer, who managed most of Reagan’s gubernatorial and presidential campaigns, says: ‘She always called him “Ronnie.” He always called her “Mommy.”’” (Story here.)

I know this sounds weird and creepy to modern ears. But it does not to mine. Come to think of it, I knew a Mainer — far from a Midwesterner — who called his dear wife “Mother.” It was very tender. Spanish speakers freely say “Mami” and “Papi.” I could go on.

In any case, the Pences can call each other whatever the hell they want, as far as I’m concerned. I also say, Vive la différence — in speech, appellations, and many other things.

Politics & Policy

The Latest Episode of The Editors Is Here

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To listen you can click here or follow the link below:

Episode 155: A Series of Own Goals

National Security & Defense

Seth Rich, the Kremlin, and Us

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In an earlier post, I referred to the Lewinsky scandal, and now I will refer to Michael Isikoff — who was one of the top reporters on that scandal. It was to him that many of us turned, to find out what was going on. He worked for Newsweek then. He is now chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo! News.

His recent piece begins,

In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House . . .

Read the whole thing, as they say in social media.

Plenty of people were invested in the idea that the DNC offed Rich. “It was a contract kill, obviously,” Bannon said. Newt said, “We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 e-mails and 17,000 attachments. Nobody’s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what’s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn’t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee.”

And so on and so forth.

Look: Putin’s Kremlin is an enemy of the United States (and of the West and of liberal democracy generally). This is clear, for those without partisan or tribal blinders. Blinders are ubiquitous, of course. If the Kremlin had interfered for the D, not the R, the R’s would be crying bloody murder, and the D’s would be saying, “What’s the big deal? Move on.” All of this is “situational” (as well as tribal, etc.).

I think of a phrase that was popular when I was young: “situational ethics.” Conservatives decried it.

Fake news is serious business — deception of the sort that the Kremlin specializes in. A couple of weeks ago, President Trump griped and guffawed with Putin about journalists. Noting the journalists in the room, Trump said, “Get rid of them.” Putin is actually very good at that — he gets rid of them permanently. Trump continued, “‘Fake news’ is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.” Putin answered (in English), “We also have. It’s the same.”

Uh-huh.

In March 2012, when President Obama said to Dmitry Medvedev — Putin’s placeholder — “After my election, I have more flexibility,” we on the right went nuts. That now seems, to some of us, kind of quaint.

World

Syria Before the Deluge

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A specialist works on a damaged statue from Palmyra at Syria’s National Museum of Damascus, Syria, January 9, 2019. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Most Americans would associate a few images with Syria today: images of ravaged ghost towns, skeletal buildings, debris, the frames of vehicles hollowed out by explosives. One that I remember circulating in Western media is of a street in Homs, my mother’s native hometown, in 2011, juxtaposed with an image of the same street in 2014. Of course, the difference is that there was a semblance of calm in the first one, before the unraveling. Then came the images of bodies, often those of Syrian children. Sometimes there were even videos. This was Syria after the deluge, and the Syria that most Americans without previous knowledge of the small Mediterranean, Middle Eastern country would come to know. 

This is often lost in photos from Syria’s pre-war history, as a reviewer who was critical of the new “Syria Before the Deluge” exhibit argued recently. I visited the exhibit this week. I’m an advocate of the de-sanitization of imagery in media, meaning I believe that Westerners should have the option of seeing the graphic photography coming out of war zones, for the sake of transparency and clarity (of course, accompanied by written caution statements from the publishers). Syria Before the Deluge, the title of Peter Aaron’s photography exhibit of Syria in 2009 at New York City’s Center for Architecture, does not include the graphic, disturbing images I’m referring to. It doesn’t portray a war zone, because the collection depends on every person who tours it to enter with a preconception of Syria as hell on earth, and for the victims of the war and their families, it was and may still be hell. 

But do any Americans know that Syria was ever beautiful? That Syrians have a culture to be immensely proud of? This is what’s often lost in media depictions of war. 

The exhibit is in a basement-like space, quiet enough to hear your own heels echo from your steps. The largest photograph of the exhibit takes up an entire wall: Palmyra, Syria’s jewel, established in the third millennium. Most of the pictures are not in color, and this only reinforced my idea that Aaron counted on every person who visited to enter as if they were going to a wake, expecting a dismal collection of Syria’s lost, dead things, bled of their life and color like a corpse. One photograph is of Syria’s Roman amphitheater in Palmyra, built in the second-century a.d., now largely destroyed by ISIS, as the description notes. Another photo is of Temple of Bel, also destroyed by ISIS in 2015, the curled, scroll-shaped ornament atop the shaft of the columns perhaps suggesting a Greek or Roman past, once upon a time, to people who may not know that Syria existed for far longer before the deluge. Bab Sharqi in Damascus (meaning “east gate” in Arabic) is a perfect example of Syrian syncretism in architecture, the Roman arch erected during the reign of Emperor Augustus, as the photo’s description notes. It was also by this gate that Saint Paul escaped his persecutors. 

There are photos in color, ones that I’m grateful to Aaron for having taken. One is taken in Aleppo, the city most Americans would recall as having been ravaged by the war (and which Gary Johnson was famously unaware of during his run for president in 2017). It’s of a public fountain, commonly found in Syrian cities for public use, a blue cup dangling from a chain above a stone fountain built by the Romans. What have we learned about the Syrian people beyond their suffering in the last near-decade? The photo is in color, still alive, as is Syrian generosity, even toward perfect strangers, as journalist Jenan Moussa describes after her recent visit to the impoverished northern Syria.

Also in color is the photo of Nawfara Cafe in Damascus, a wood-and-clay paneled room with framed photos on the wall, men smoking argileh (hookah), the hakawati (public reader) reading classic works, wearing a fez. Still alive is Syrian art (often political art). Another photo is of five men smoking argileh, dressed in suits and ties. Alcohol, for Muslims, is haram — smoking argileh after work is like an American happy hour. Still alive is Syrian leisure. 

War makes headlines. I don’t blame those who aren’t familiar with Syria or Syrians for not knowing much about the country beyond what those headlines and tragic photos show. Even I was struck by the photograph of European tourists in Syria’s Roman ruins, taking photographs themselves, enchanted by the vista — today it’s difficult (or impossible) to find airlines with service into the country.

Syria during the deluge, which I experienced during my 2017 visit, isn’t a perfect oasis, and it’s rife with corruption. But for a country that has a critical role in our understanding of the ancient and Biblical world, Aaron at least plants the seeds for further inquiry by westerners of Syria before the deluge. 

If you look deep enough, you’ll find even the American fascination with Syria by Mark Twain, who wrote in 1867:

She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble into ruin. she is a type of immortality. She saw the foundations of Baalbek and Thebes and Ephesus laid; she saw these villages grow into mighty cities and amaze the world with their grandeur – and she has lived to see them desolate, deserted, and given over to the owls and the bats. She saw the Israelitish empire exalted, and she saw it annihilated. She saw Greece rise and flourish two thousand years and die. In her old age she saw Rome built; she saw it overshadow the world with its power; she saw it perish. The few hundreds of years of Genoese and Venetian might and splendour were, to grave old Damascus, only a trifling and scintillation hardly worth remembering. Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.

Sports

Finally, Laser Strike Zones Are Here

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People have long scoffed over my persistent advocacy of laser strike zones (including none other than George Will in a phone conversation once), but this thing is happening, people:

The either long-dreaded or long-awaited arrival of digitally rendered ballpark justice has come to professional baseball. Robot umpires have arrived.

Except, they’re not really robots. They’re human umpires wearing a Bluetooth-connected earpiece, connected to an iPhone, connected to a software program in the press box. The software doesn’t make every call, just balls and strikes. And if it’s wrong, the human umpire can step in to overrule the program, and his decision, not the software’s, is final.

The Atlantic League, an independent circuit with seven teams on the East Coast and one in Texas, became the first American professional baseball league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

Immigration

Welcome to America—It’s a Hell Hole!

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Beto is apparently doing his utmost to try to assimilate refugees into the culture of Austin, Berkeley, and other elite precincts of America:

 

Politics & Policy

The Day Has Arrived When Nancy Pelosi, Too, Is a Racist

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It was just a matter of time until the identity-politics Left found her, like most everyone else in America, lacking.

 

 

Politics & Policy

Brazening It Out

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President Clinton bulling through the Lewinsky scandal in April 1998 (Larry Downing / Reuters)

Tim Alberta’s account of Donald Trump and TrumpWorld when the Access Hollywood tape came out is highly entertaining. (You remember the episode: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the . . .”) A lot of people said that was it: He’d have to get out of the race. But Trump simply brazened it out.

It’s amazing what you can brazen out — if you’re disposed to do so. I’ve taken a short walk down Memory Lane.

In 1992, everyone said that Candidate Bill Clinton had to release his medical records. He refused. Everyone said he had to. He refused. And then everybody . . . shrugged.

Flash forward to 1998 — the breaking of the Lewinsky scandal. A lot of people said Clinton had to go. Had to resign. But he refused. “We’ll just have to win,” he famously told Dick Morris. Honorable men might feel they had to resign in such circumstances, Profumo-style. But you can brazen it out, if you want to.

Everyone said Ralph Northam (Virginia governor, yearbook, blackface) had to go. And he said, in effect, Nope. Brazened it out.

This is a phenomenon, probably worthy of an essay, rather than, or in addition to, a little blogpost.

Health Care

Kidney Donors Yes, Kidney Vendors No

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President Donald Trump signs an executive order on advancing kidney health in Washington, D.C., July 10, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Trump signed an executive order yesterday that seeks to improve the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease and increase the number of donated kidneys for transplantation.

I am aware of some of the behind-the-scenes conversations that went into this policy thrust, and I certainly support the goals and the methods the president has highlighted. But I think great care is required. In particular, I want to focus on the issue of living donations. From the order:

Supporting Living Organ Donors: Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation to remove financial barriers to living organ donation.  The regulation should expand the definition of allowable costs that can be reimbursed under the Reimbursement of Travel and Subsistence Expenses Incurred Toward Living Organ Donation program, raise the limit on the income of donors eligible for reimbursement under the program, allow reimbursement for lost-wage expenses, and provide for reimbursement of child-care and elder-care expenses.

This is well and good. It is against the law to compensate people for supplying an organ, but not illegal to reimburse a donor’s reasonable expenses. Unfortunately, under current practices, some of a donor’s actual out-of-pockets may not be covered, thus requiring some to pay for their own fleshly generosity, while potentially dissuading others who might be willing to donate except for those costs.

So, by all means, expand the category of recoupable expenses. But as the bureaucrats craft the rule, they need to be careful not to cross the line into creating a financial inducement for someone to give up a kidney.

There are many reasons for forbidding organ markets, including but not limited to the potential for exploiting the poor. After all, if kidneys can be sold, the poor are going to be the ones doing the selling–creating a whole new consequence from income inequality.

In this regard, it is also important to keep in mind that while living kidney donations usually work out fine, it is certainly not a risk-free proposition. Removing a kidney is serious surgery. Consider this:

  • Three in ten thousand donors die.
  • Morbidity is around ten percent.
  • The potential for long-term health consequences have not been adequately studied.

I am certainly not trying to dissuade would-be altruistic kidney donors — as Fox News journalist Ed Henry is doing for his sister (liver). But people should not be induced by money or other benefits to risk their lives and health.

Or, to put it more simply. Making it easier for one to become an altruistic donor is fine. But inducing people to become organ vendors is not.

Education

The NEA Is Out of Touch with Teachers on Abortion

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Alexandra DeSanctis reported on Monday that the NEA has taken a more explicit abortion stance, now opposing “all attacks on the right to choose.” She’s right to note the absurdity of a teacher’s union having a position on abortion:

The statement . . . doesn’t even make an attempt to articulate why the NEA has a stake in the abortion debate at all. It merely takes for granted that, as an influential left-wing organization, the group must necessarily champion the entire progressive agenda. This is a growing tendency on the Left, as “intersectional” thinking takes hold — the idea that each interest group within the broader progressive movement has a responsibility to embrace and advocate the particular interests of the rest.

If the National Rifle Association were to suddenly issue a statement declaring its belief that life begins at conception, and every human being has the right to life, it would be a cause for confusion and surely for immense criticism from the group’s opponents.

If anything, I’d say the NRA analogy understates the case. Supporting gun rights is seen as a socially conservative position, so it’s not a huge stretch to think the NRA might be pro-life as well. The NEA’s stance is more analogous to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce officially coming out against abortion — a development that is, of course, unthinkable.

The fundamental challenge of “intersectional” organizing is that the issues don’t actually intersect all that much. The rank-and-file members of interest groups are too heterogeneous to support every progressive cause outside their own group’s domain. Abortion is a good example. The General Social Survey asks “whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if the woman wants it for any reason.” Pooling all the data since 2000 and dropping the people who had no opinion, a slight majority (52 percent) of public school teachers answer “no.” In other words, roughly half of all teachers support at least some “attacks on the right to choose,” as the NEA would put it. This really shouldn’t be surprising because, to reiterate, being a teacher has no obvious connection to one’s position on abortion.

More broadly, the NEA’s own data from 2005-2006 show that 55 percent of public school teachers are “conservative” or “tend to be conservative.” I could not find a more recent NEA survey, and this one shows that the percentage who identify as conservative may be decreasing. But whether conservatives actually make up a majority of teachers is beside the point — clearly a large proportion of teachers are not going to be on board when the NEA veers into non-education issues, regardless of whether the union takes the liberal or conservative side.

The only way for intersectional organizing to succeed is for the moderate rank-and-file to stay silent about it. So they should speak up, and the sooner the better.

Law & the Courts

Mann v. National Review Update: Amicus Briefs Ask SCOTUS to Take over Case, Warn against ‘Judicial Heckler’s Veto’

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As we have reported, National Review has filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court requesting that in its forthcoming term it take up Mann v. National Review, the nation’s most-pressing case for First Amendment rights which now has accumulated lower-court issues that, unless refuted, will have a massive impact on free speech. A number of entities and individuals, seeing (and fearing) the constitutional consequences of the case, filed amicus curiae briefs in support of NR’s petition.

One brief, filed on behalf of 21 U.S. Senators, is critical of the D.C. Court of Appeals’ decision to allow the case – and therefore policy arguments about pressing, controversial, and passionate issues – to be heard by a jury. The ramifications, legal and constitutional, are serious:

Left uncorrected, it will erode the freedom of political speech that lies at the foundation of our constitutional order. By allowing juries to punish subjective statements of political or scientific opinion as defamatory statements of fact, the decision below will shut down crucial debates on matters of public concern. And the chilling effect of this judicial heckler’s veto will be especially pernicious because it will be felt in the nation’s capital, where much of the nation’s political debate is centered and where that debate is translated into public policy in the halls of Congress and the Executive Branch. The result will be forum shopping and politically motivated litigation that will stifle the marketplace of ideas upon which deliberative democracy depends.

The brief’s core argument is that vigorous debate is essential to the formation of public policy, and the form of that debate — and the extent to just what is “vigorous” — is constitutionally protected, a matter lost upon the D.C. Appeals Court. From the brief’s introduction:

. . . Unlike in England, the American founding generation recognized that “[t]he streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority,” “THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE,” and thus entrusted to ordinary Americans the responsibility of self-government. The Federalist No. 22, at 152 (Alexander Hamilton) (Clinton Rossiter ed., 1961). Because the American people are sovereign, the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press are an essential corollary to the Speech or Debate Clause, assuring the “unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.” Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, 484 (1957); see also Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 219 (1966).

The First Amendment does this by helping “produce informed opinions among members of the public, who are then able to influence the choices of a government.” Walker v. Tex. Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 2239, 2246 (2015). “First Amendment guarantees protect the free and uninterrupted interchange of ideas upon which a democratic society thrives.” Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 427 (1974) (Marshall, J., concurring). In short, freedom of speech is “the essence of self-government.” Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64, 75 (1964).

The price of vigorous political debate is that “[we] must tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech in order to provide adequate ‘breathing space’ to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.” Snyder, 562 U.S. at 458 (alteration in original) (quoting Boos, 485 U.S. at 322). This includes the freedom to harshly criticize the ideas and actions of political or ideological opponents, and to do so with rhetorical gusto. As this Court has explained, allowing speakers to be punished for expressing opinions on matters of public concern using “rhetorical hyperbole” and “vigorous epithet” would “subvert the most fundamental meaning” of the First Amendment. Greenbelt Coop. Publ’g Ass’n v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6, 14 (1970) (speakers could not be punished for characterizing plaintiff’s negotiating position as “blackmail”).

Americans have done more than attest to this principle—we have lived it. Our founding statesmen attacked one another so viciously that it would be inappropriate to reprint their insults here. See James Callender, The Prospect Before Us 57 (1801) (campaign surrogate for Thomas Jefferson colorfully describing President John Adams’s “hideous” character); Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton 522 (2004) (President John Adams cruelly demeaning Alexander Hamilton’s parentage); Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson 1 (1999) (supporters of President John Quincy Adams spread incendiary rumors about Andrew Jackson’s mother). These “insulting, and even outrageous” statements were not litigated in courtrooms, but rather in newspapers, pamphlets, town squares, and polling places.

To be sure, in one of the more shameful episodes in American history, the federal government tried to suppress “seditious libel,” but the effort backfired. Americans quickly repudiated the idea, “a wholly unjustifiable and much to be regretted violation of the First Amendment,” and President Jefferson promptly pardoned those who had been prosecuted. See N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 296 (1964) (Black, J., concurring); Abrams, 250 U.S. at 630 (Holmes, J. dissenting) (citation omitted) (“I had conceived that the United States through many years had shown its repentance for the Sedition Act of 1798, by repaying fines that it imposed.”). While the Sedition Act was never formally “tested in this Court, the attack upon its validity has carried the day in the court of history.” N.Y. Times Co., 376 U.S. at 276 (footnote omitted).

As a result, vigorous public debate has characterized the United States from the Founding to the present. See Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 173 (Henry Reeve Trans., Colonial Press 1894) (1835) (Americans “are surrounded by the incessant agitation of parties, which attempt to gain their co-operation and to avail themselves of their support.”). President Lincoln defended the freedom of the press at the height of the Civil War, even when the press was critical of the war effort and of Lincoln. See Harold Holzer, Lincoln and the Power of the Press 424–26, 440 (2014). A century later, following Lincoln’s example, this Court consistently upheld the right of citizens to protest the Vietnam War, even when their protest was vulgar. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 25–26 (1971).

Another important amicus brief, filed by former US Attorneys General Meese, Mukasey, and Sessions, goes deeper into the jurisprudence issues raised by the D.C. Court. The principle concern of these amici is that First Amendment controversies require judgments to be made by judges. What’s clear from their argument is that the consequences to free speech and jurisprudence will be serious if D.C. Court’s rulings stand. From the brief:

Courts, not juries, should decide whether speech on matters of public concern is constitutionally protected or punishable. Predictable protection of free speech advances the rule of law and enhances public confidence. Both within and beyond the defamation context, this Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence has established standards limiting what speech can be punished. Predictable application of those standards requires independence and understanding of constitutional principles, making courts better suited than juries for the task. Juries are a critical element of our constitutional system, but they are not well-suited to protecting dissenters’ speech. Recognizing that, this Court has repeatedly tasked courts, both in the first instance and on appellate review, with deciding whether speech is protected or punishable.

With an increasingly polarized populace and with free speech under attack, this Court should grant review and reaffirm that courts, not disparate local juries, must decide whether challenged statements on public issues are constitutionally protected or punishable. Deferring to juries on that question will chill speech on public matters, undermine the rule of law, and degrade public confidence, as plaintiffs use friendly juries to punish unpopular speech.

Further into the brief, the AGs argue that the D.C. Court’s determinations are contrary to America’s long-standing constitutional practice which demands that free-speech matters are rightly those to be considered by judges.

Even beyond defamation, this Court has consistently recognized that judges are responsible under the First Amendment for evaluating specific speech and classifying it as protected or punishable. In other words, the “Court has often recognized that in cases involving free expression we [judges] have the obligation, not only to formulate principles capable of general application, but also to review the facts to insure that the speech involved is not protected under federal law.” Letter Carriers, 418 U.S. at 282. “This process has been vitally important in cases involving restrictions on the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment, particularly in those cases in which it is contended that the communication in issue is within one of the few classes of ‘unprotected’ speech.” Bose, 466 U.S. at 503.

Just as in the defamation context, the other “unprotected speech” cases demonstrate more universally that “the limits of the unprotected category, as well as the unprotected character of particular communications, have been determined by the judicial evaluation of special facts that have been deemed to have constitutional significance.” Id. at 505 (emphasis added). In determining whether particular speech is protected by the First Amendment, courts have predictably protected free speech, bolstered public confidence, and helped to preserve the rule of law—by independently making “sure that the speech in question actually falls within the unprotected category and [by confining] the perimeters of any unprotected category within acceptably narrow limits in an effort to ensure that protected expression will not be inhibited.” Ibid. . . .

Courts are thus best suited to classify challenged speech as protected or punishable. A First Amendment inquiry may involve a clean “question of law.” See, e.g., Harte-Hanks Commc’ns, Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657, 685 (1989). Or it may involve “special facts” of “constitutional significance.” Bose, 466 U.S. at 504-505. Whatever the inquiry, a First Amendment analysis will undoubtedly entail a “tightly circumscribed legal analysis” into which “factual questions” are “subsumed.” Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, 139 S. Ct. 1668, 1680 (2019). And when “an issue ‘falls somewhere between a pristine legal standard and a simple historical fact,’” this Court typically “determin[es] that, as a matter of the sound administration of justice, one judicial actor”—the judge—“is better positioned than another to decide the issue in question.” Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 388 (1996) (quoting Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 114 (1985)).

The rationale of the Court’s recent Merck decision is particularly instructive here. Merck held that an administrative law preemption issue “is a legal one for the judge, not a jury.” 139 S. Ct. at 1679. Just as “judges are normally familiar with principles of administrative law,” id. at 1680, they are also much more familiar with First Amendment principles than juries are. “To understand the question as a legal question for judges makes sense” because “[d]oing so should produce greater uniformity among courts; and greater uniformity is normally a virtue when a question requires a determination concerning the scope and effect of” the First Amendment, just as when it involves “the scope and effect of federal agency action.” Ibid.

In addition, briefs on behalf of NR’s petition were filed by Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and the Individual Rights Foundation (jointly), The American Center for Law and Justice, Judicial Watch, Southeastern Legal Foundation, Mark Steyn, Dr. Judith Curry, and Stephen McIntyre of the much-followed Climate Audit.

Elections

Is Amy McGrath the New Beto O’Rourke?

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Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath supporters at an election-night party in Richmond, Ky., November 6, 2018. (John Sommers II/Reuters)

Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and failed 2018 House candidate, announced her bid this week to unseat Mitch McConnell in 2020. Within 24 hours, she posted an eye-popping fundraising haul of $2.5 million. The enthusiasm behind a long-shot Democratic candidate in a deep-red state naturally invites comparison between McGrath and Beto O’Rourke, whose 2018 Texas Senate campaign served as a black hole for Democratic campaign cash.

But there are two reasons it’s hard to see McGrath sustaining this initial burst of enthusiasm the way O’Rourke did. Beto ran in 2018 as a bold progressive and anti-Trump Democrat: He said he supported single-payer health care and wanted to impeach Trump, while Democrats running in red or purple states did not.

McGrath, on the other hand, is trying to run as a pro-Trump Democrat, the Louisville Courier Journal reports:

“If you think about why Kentuckians voted for Trump, they wanted to drain the swamp, and Trump said that he was going to do that,” McGrath said during the announcement of her candidacy on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Trump promised to bring back jobs. He promised to lower drug prices for so many Kentuckians. And that is very important.” . . . 

“And you know what? Who stops them along the way? Who stops the president from doing these things? Mitch McConnell,” she continued on MSNBC. “And I think that that’s very important, and that’s going to be my message — the things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done. He’s not able to get it done because of Senator McConnell.”

McGrath told the Courier Journal on Wednesday that she opposes Medicare for All, supports existing state limits on late-term abortion, and “probably” would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “There was nothing in his record that I think would disqualify him in any way,” she said of Kavanaugh. (On Wednesday night, she flip-flopped on Kavanaugh: “I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court. But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.”)

This is an awkward attempt by McGrath — who had previously expressed opposition to any restrictions on abortion, likened her feelings about Trump’s election to 9/11, and called herself the most progressive person in Kentucky — to reinvent herself.

Democrats might look past McGrath’s inauthentic moderation if polling showed they had a real chance to take out McConnell. The other factor driving Democratic enthusiasm in Texas in 2018, after all, was the polling that showed a tight race between O’Rourke and one of the Republicans that Democrats hate the most. (The race did indeed end up being close: Cruz won by only 2.6 points.)

But Trump won Kentucky by 30 points in 2016; he carried Texas by only 9 points. It’s unlikely pollsters will serve up surveys showing McGrath has a good chance to take out the congressional Republican they despise the most in 2020.

Sports

Breaking: Contracts Have Consequences

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U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe holds the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy as the team arrives at Newark International Airport in Newark, N.J., July 8, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

It brings me great sorrow to report that wealthy women who are paid large sums of money to play a game are unhappy with the pay structure for which their union collectively bargained and to which they themselves voluntarily agreed. The foxes have holes, and the birds the air nests; but members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team are only guaranteed a $100,000 salary to play a game (before bonuses, of course). Let it never be said that ours is a country without tragedy.

The process by which two parties settle a compensation dispute through arbitration and collective bargaining (rather than publicly play-acting as Freedom Riders and disrespecting the country on foreign soil) — “the right way to do it,” if you prefer — has already proven an effective means of improving team pay, if raising team pay is indeed the point.

For a comparable number of “friendlies,” the women’s team compensation leapt from 38 percent to 89 percent of their male counterparts’ with the enactment of the 2017 collective-bargaining agreement, according to the Washington Post. These numbers, which reflect the improvements possible from a simple negation process, are misleading in terms of the disparity between the men and women — the women’s salaries and bonuses are not structured the same as the men’s team, which receives higher bonuses than the women’s team but does not receive a guaranteed salary.

But even this evades the actual point: If the women’s team is unhappy with this arrangement, it is not the fault of the United States, the American flag, Donald Trump, or some distant cabal of sexist white men scheming to stick their thumbs in the face of Megan Rapinoe. It is the fault of both the women’s union representatives and the women themselves for signing an agreement that they were unhappy with. If they didn’t like the terms of the agreement reached by the collective bargaining process, the women’s team was well within its right not to sign it. But, alas, they did sign it. Doesn’t that matter?

Perhaps the team’s union can, at the next opportunity, negotiate a more favorable arrangement for the team, sparing the country the public histrionics and political demonstrations of team members. Unless the public histrionics and political demonstrations are themselves the point. Which is certainly possible.

Rachel Maddow spoke for no one when she asked what, in the meantime, Americans “can do to support that fight” for “equal pay.” Rapinoe suggested, among other things, that fans might buy players’ jerseys.

Is there a more noble cause for which a Chinese child in a Nike sweatshop can labor?

Politics & Policy

Perot and Buckley: Stop the Presses

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In 1992, our founder wrote this for his March 31 syndicated column, penned in the aftermath of the late H. Ross Perot’s much-ballyhooed 60 Minutes interview that proved central to his ensuing presidential bid:

Mr. Perot is a gentleman of imperious habits. Several years ago I edited and slotted an article in National Review on his heroic organization of a band of privateers to rescue several of his workers caught up in the Ayatollah Khomeini’ s hostage dragnet (Mr. Perot had authorized the release of the data to our writer). A few weeks later he called me on the telephone to say that he had changed his mind, he wished the story canceled. 

I told him that the magazine carrying the story was already on the press. In that case, he said, just cancel the entire issue and send him the bill. I explained to him (I am a patient fellow) that magazines don’t run in quite that way. He expressed surprise. 

As he expressed surprise on “60 Minutes” that he would have any problem at all dealing with Congress, were he elected president. “The key to progress is to get people to agree with you,” he pronounced, as though the clouds of Mount Sinai had parted to herald this oracular pronouncement. 

Why didn’t Madison or Jefferson or Lincoln think of that?! Get everybody to agree with you, and Pfft! — problems just go away!

Bill had a lot more to say, and as it progressed, the column’s tone got sharper than aged provolone. Here’s the entire shebang

Culture

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (July 10, 2019)

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1. The archbishop of Paris has asked all priests in his archdiocese to celebrate Mass for Vincent Lambert 42-year-old quadriplegic man who is being starved to death in a French hospital. Doctors removed him from food and water on Sunday after a long legal battle. “Today there is a very clear choice facing civilization, Archbishop Michel Aupetit said, “either we consider human beings as functional robots that can be eliminated or scrapped when they are no longer useful, or we consider that the essence of humanity is based, not on the utility of a life, but on the quality of relationships between people which witness to love.”

[Update: Lambert died overnight. God be good to him.)

2.

https://twitter.com/SoutienVincent/status/1149029309677559808

3. Earlier this week, Pope Francis tweeted “We pray for the sick who are abandoned and left to die.” He added: “Doctors should serve life, not take it away.”

4. On the quadrupling of anti-Christian attacks in France 

5. U.K. Mirror: Mum who would have had abortion if she’d known baby had Down’s syndrome sues NHS

6.  Very few Christians are returning home to Mosul in Iraq

7. Daily Signal: This Gay Dad Lost Custody of His Own Kids. His Case Matters for All Children.

8.  Why listening matters. Even if you think the other side is wrong.

9.  Opium addict, martyr, and saint

10. If you see “Williamson” and assume “Kevin,” press releases from a certain Democratic presidential candidate make for amusing double takes. The latest: “WILLIAMSON TO DELIVER KEYNOTE AT THE LULAC WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME”

Politics & Policy

The Flaws in a Study of Abortion Rates and the Mexico City Policy

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President Donald Trump holds up the executive order on the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy at the White House, January 23, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

One significant pro-life accomplishment thus far during the Trump administration has been the decision to reinstate and expand the Mexico City policy, which prevents U.S. foreign aid from funding organizations that perform or promote abortions. It has been in place during the administration of every GOP president since Ronald Reagan. Under Trump, the policy now includes not only family planning funds but also funding for global-health assistance.

Unsurprisingly, supporters of legal abortion have been vigorous in their opposition to this policy, aggressively promoting studies that claim to show that the Mexico City policy has in fact increased abortion rates overseas. A 2011 study published by the World Health Organization, and more recently a 2019 study by Rutgers University professor Yana van der Muelen Rodgers both have received a significant coverage.

This June, a new study on this topic appeared in the British Medical Journal The Lancet Global Health, authored by a team of researchers at Stanford University, has been receiving a considerable amount of attention. This study is somewhat different than the other two, analyzing more years of data. It is more rigorous analytically, and it appeared in a prestigious academic journal, but even so, it contains many of the same methodological shortcomings as the previous studies.

For one thing, it is important to note that overseas abortion data are often incomplete. Like other other studies assessing the effect of the Mexico City policy, this one suffers from missing many data points. The study analyzed abortion data from 26 African countries between the years of 1995 and 2014. The authors report no abortion data for 170 of the 520 state-year pairs, meaning that nearly one-third of the potential data points are missing. Also, the authors obtained abortion data for all 20 years from only six of the 26 countries covered in the study, meaning that more than three-quarters of the countries in the dataset have missing data points.

Additionally, the available data on overseas abortions are often unreliable. A close look at the data used by the authors exhibits some implausibly large variations in the incidence of abortion. For instance, according to data included in the supplementary appendix, the reported number of abortions in Ghana increased 72-fold between 1996 and 1997. In Zambia, the reported number of abortions fell by 61 percent between 2013 and 2014. Similarly, in Swaziland, there was a 76-percent reduction in the number of reported abortions between 2006 and 2007.  Some of these variations in the reported number of abortions may be due to incomplete data collection, and they demonstrate serious reliability issues with the new study.

It is also worth noting that while the Mexico City policy is important, there are many other factors that impact both foreign-aid grants and overseas public-health outcomes. The study finds that per-capita family planning and reproductive-health aid slightly increased after the Bush administration reinstated the Mexico City policy in 2001. While many criticize the policy for limiting access to contraception overseas, reported contraceptive-use rates actually increased after it was reinstated by the Bush administration. Even though the authors claim that rescinding the policy would lower the incidence of abortion, reported abortion rates actually went up after the Obama administration rescinded it in 2009.

Like other recent Republican administrations, the Trump administration made a principled decision to stop requiring U.S. taxpayers to subsidize abortion overseas, and administration officials have worked to strengthen this policy. The studies claiming that the Mexico City policy increases abortion rates all have methodological shortcomings, and a considerable amount of academic research demonstrates that defunding organizations that perform abortions is an effective strategy for lowering abortion rates.

Politics & Policy

Megan Rapinoe, the White House, and Trump’s Inability to Stick to the Script

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Megan Rapinoe during the Women’s World Cup Champions Parade, N.Y., July 10, 2019 (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Yesterday, U.S. women’s soccer team star Megan Rapinoe repeated that she would not go to the White House if invited but said that she would accept an invitation to meet with others: So yes to AOC, yes to Pelosi, yes to a bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer, yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real substantive conversation and that believes in the same things we believe in.

Trump fans will object to her stance, and perhaps Rapinoe’s political views are so strong that she would refuse to attend any White House event hosted by a Republican president. But keep in mind, in Trump’s presidency, traditionally nonpartisan events have turned politically charged or partisan really fast. Since becoming president, Trump has veered off onto partisan rants about his political foes in the most unexpected and inappropriate places. On the first full day of his presidency, Trump appeared in front of the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters and complained about “dishonest media,” bragged about the number of times he had been on the cover of Time, boasted about the “good reviews” for his Inauguration Day speech, and went on his usual “I would have kept the oil” rant about the Middle East.

In front of the Boy Scouts, Trump threatened to fire HHS Secretary Tom Price if he couldn’t get enough votes for a reform bill in the Senate, criticized President Obama for never attending a jamboree, boasted about his 2016 win, and called the event “an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again.” (Most of the audience was under age 18.) The Boy Scouts later issued an apology for “the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree.”

On a Thanksgiving 2018 phone call with the troops, Trump complained, “It’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It’s a disgrace” and lamented, we’ve been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals.”

Earlier this year, speaking at the Pentagon, Trump went off script again:

While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi will not let them negotiate. The party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the party — the radical left becoming the radical Democrats. Hopefully Democrat lawmakers will step forward to do what is right for our country.

In France for the D-Day anniversary event, against the backdrop of a cemetery where nearly 10,000 American war dead are buried, Trump called Nancy Pelosi “a nasty, vindictive, horrible person” in a televised interview with Laura Ingraham.

In a joint press conference with Angela Merkel in Osaka, Japan, Trump decided to suddenly weigh in on the Democratic debate: “They had the first debate last night. Perhaps you saw it. It wasn’t very exciting, I can tell you that. And they have another one going on today. They definitely have plenty of candidates, that’s about it. So I look forward to spending time with you rather than watching the debate.”

Trump doesn’t always do this. His State of the Union addresses have generally avoided these moments, as did his recent Fourth of July speech on the national mall. But Trump’s ability to navigate the traditionally nonpartisan, feel-good presidential duties is entirely dependent upon his mood and what’s on his mind that day. And Trump seems consistently oblivious to the fact that some audiences, like members of the military, the CIA, the Boy Scouts, or foreign heads of state want to avoid getting dragged into a partisan debate.

With the odds better than ever that Trump will go off script and go on a partisan rant at any moment in any situation, anyone invited to his events — like the U.S. women’s soccer team — risks getting caught in a political controversy. You go in expecting feel-good talk about great American achievements, and you get stuck standing in awkward silence and looking at your shoes as Trump suddenly starts explaining, at length, that the preeminent flaw of Pete Buttigieg is that he looks like Alfred E. Neuman.

Trump is free to be the kind of president he wants to be. But venting his spleen about his political foes or complaining about bad press in venues like this mean certain people just won’t want to attend them. And if his reelection team is wondering why he seems to have such a hard ceiling of poll support, part of it might be his inability to pull off those apolitical feel-good presidential moments.

Health Care

What If Republicans Take Down Obamacare?

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The Trump administration is backing a lawsuit against Obamacare. Have Republicans thought through what happens if the lawsuit succeeds? At Bloomberg Opinion, I run through some scenarios — and reach depressing conclusions.

Education

A Satirical Novel Highlights the Rot in College Education

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Sometimes a bit of satire and humor are more effective in getting people to see problems that are loads of serious reports and books. For that reason, we should welcome a recent novel entitled Original Prin. In today’s Martin Center piece, Anthony Hennen looks at it.

It was written by Randy Boyagoda, a Canadian English professor who is not some implacable foe of higher education. He is alert to its current lunacies, however, such as the faculty of a Catholic college that frets about the school as too Catholic-seeming.

Hennen writes:

A generation ago, colleges could keep up their rarified air of bastions of learning. But with the rising number of youths attending college and the mass of academics using social media, the mystique of college as a place dedicated to knowledge has given way to looking just like other revenue-focused human endeavors. Faculty, administrators, and college officials have a financial interest in higher ed, just as a businessman does in his job. Original Prin brings that reality to life.

That’s an important idea to plant.

Hennen’s only disappointment with the book is that it doesn’t more fully develop the deep trouble that religious colleges face. He writes:

The most interesting thread in Original Prin that’s left undeveloped, though, is the secularization of religious colleges. The school changes its name so it doesn’t sound too Catholic. Its ‘convent schools had been closed for decades, and the two dining halls were now a scent-free study space and prayer room for Muslim students.’ And its Catholic students club is ‘comprised of six Chinese communications majors who spoke little English.’ Many religious schools seem to be shifting away from their religious mission and identity. Religiously minded parents might choose a religious college for their children, but the reality on the ground isn’t as safe or sacred as they had hoped.

The novel sounds like a good read.

Politics & Policy

Reagan Doesn’t Haunt Pelosi and Schumer

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What separates young Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez from the congressional Democratic leadership, Ryan Grim argues in the Washington Post, is that the latter are still scarred by Reagan’s defeat of the liberals of his day. Shaped by that experience, Democrats such as Pelosi and Schumer have tried again and again to avoid riling up the right. They’ve reformed welfare, voted for the Iraq war, and hung back from endorsing Obama in 2008. Now they’re refusing to impeach Trump or call for Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. Grim contrasts them to younger progressives who have adapted to a new political environment in which the right is much weaker and the left has less reason to be scared.

There is probably something to Grim’s theory—progressives who have had the experience of overreaching and failing will have different reactions from those who haven’t. But there is less to it than he suggests. The case that Pelosi has been intimidated by Reagan’s shadow fits poorly with her record on several of the specific issues Grim mentions. She voted against welfare reform and the Iraq war and tacitly supported Obama in the 2008 primaries. (Schumer voted against welfare reform too.)

There are also other explanations for the leaders’ behavior. Maybe they noticed that Trump won in 2016, for example, or have seen the polls on impeachment and outlawing private health insurance.

Culture

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (July 9, 2019)

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1. Land of a Million Orphans — part one of a Daily Mail piece on Zambia (hat tip @DanaPerino)

2. Dark Days for India’s Christian Communities

3. Tim Stanley from Iraq: The West owes Iraq’s persecuted minorities a lot more than just talk

Some of it:

I’m here to interview Christians but I’m also invited to meet the pope of the Yazidis, an ancient native religion, and I’m never one to turn down a pope, so off we go. The venerable Sheikh Baba is in his Eighties, tired, and his son and brother take over the meeting. Conversation – as with all Iraqis – is robust.

“The situation is very bad,” says the Sheikh’s son, and the West offers only “talk”. That’s not entirely fair – some money has been spent by the US – but this is a community in crisis. Daesh killed thousands of Yazidi men and raped the women. When the Jihadists disappeared, they took 3,000 girls with them. Where are they? The Yazidis “are now in camps and [suffer] psychologically and materially. No jobs. We want our people to return to their land.”

4. In the New York Times: When ‘Black Lives Matter’ Is Invoked in the Abortion Debate

5. 10,000 protest abortion in Dublin

6. Philadelphia archbishop Charles J. Chaput: Building A Culture of Religious Freedom

7. There are some terrific names on this new commission, including Mary Ann Glendon and Jacqueline Rivers . . .

8. Cities Take Innovative Approaches to Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorder, and Homelessness (Hat tip @ @PatNolan4Justic) from Prison Fellowship)

9. Humanum journal on man fully alive

10. In Defense of Owning Too Many Books (Hat tip Karen Swallow Prior (@KSPrior), who has a new book she co-edited out today on cultural engagement)

Politics & Policy

R.I.P. Griffin Namin

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Griffin John Namin, 21, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer on June 26th. He was an upstart political figure in Connecticut politics, one of the younger operatives in the state’s GOP infrastructure. Widely known in the town of Southbury for his charm, political insight, and civic enthusiasm, Griffin was something of a throwback, an honest broker who said what he thought without equivocation. While he was undergoing treatment for brain cancer, Griffin managed to work for two Republican gubernatorial campaigns, one in the primary season, the other in the general election. He received letters from the late John McCain, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and other national figures wishing him well as he battled with his awful disease. He fought to the end. He ran the race with integrity. His death leaves a gaping hole in the state of Connecticut, the town of Southbury, and — most profoundly — the hearts of his family.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that Sorrow makes us all children again — destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing. So it is — there are few words to say, few condolences to offer, few pithy refrains that can do anything but distantly reverberate down the walls of that bottomless pit of grief, approaching the bereaved as but an echo, hollowed of meaning, more often gestural than substantive. There is little that can assuage a family’s unbearable sorrow, little that a distant party can do to blunt the abiding pain, so I resign myself to that distinctly Johannine observation of the Evangelist recording our Lord before the tomb of Lazarus: Jesus wept.

We all weep for Griffin Namin. May God rest his soul.

Health Care

A Useful, If Inconvenient, Question for the Democrats

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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during an event to introduce his “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill, September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Ezra Klein thinks it’s “ridiculous” to ask Democratic presidential candidates whether they want to abolish private health insurance. It’s supposedly ridiculous because the correct answer isn’t yes or no, but “it depends.”

Several of the Democratic candidates have endorsed Senator Sanders’s Medicare for All bill. Klein takes up the subject:

[I]f you assume both the generosity and the financing of Sanders’s plan, there’s really no reason to debate private insurance. If the government will cover everything, with no copays or deductibles or hidden forms of rationing, then there’s no need for private coverage. . . .

[Sanders’s bill] doesn’t actually abolish private insurance. It outlaws “health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act.” If the proposed benefits contracted during the legislative process, it would open more room for private insurers to enter the system. So even Sanders’s answer to this question isn’t truly “yes” or “no.” It depends on what’s covered, which in turn depends on how much Americans are willing to pay in taxes.

Klein then lists questions that he thinks debate moderators should be asking instead: Would your plan include cost sharing at the point of service, how would prices be determined, and so on. They’re not bad questions. But neither is the question about outlawing private insurance. In the first place, whether the Sanders proposal would change in the legislative process is irrelevant to the question of what the candidates are seeking. Their endorsement tells us the answer to that question. It is also hard to picture the Sanders proposal changing so much that anything like the private health-insurance policies that scores of millions of Americans now rely on could survive.

Several candidates — Gillibrand, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten — have endorsed, of their own free will, making it illegal for Americans to buy the kind of insurance most of them now have. Americans should be informed about what Democratic health programs will look like. They should know as well whether they’ll have a choice about participating.

Politics & Policy

The Complicated Political Legacy of H. Ross Perot

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Former presidential candidate Ross Perot gestures during the presidential debate at Michigan State University, October 19, 1992. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

A long, long time ago — so long ago, I can’t find it in the NR archives — our old friend Jonah Goldberg wrote that someone could write a good book on how in the short span from 1988 to 1992, Ronald Reagan’s America became Bill Clinton’s America.

At least one chapter in that book would have to cover H. Ross Perot, who passed away today.

If you haven’t read On Wings of Eagles, do so. A lot of businessmen talk about valuing their employees and tout themselves as tough guys and problem-solvers. Faced with an epic problem — two of his employees being held hostage in a heavily guarded prison fortress in Iran as the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution raged — Perot basically set up a private-sector team of commandos to go into the country and rescue his imprisoned employees. The effort was unbelievably risky . . . and yet, it worked.

But most Americans will remember him from his presidential campaigns, and perhaps Dana Carvey’s hilarious impersonation. (“Now here’s the deal, see . . . Larry? Can I finish? Can I finish?”)

Perot’s 19 percent of the vote nationwide in 1992 looks amazing in retrospect, and his 9 percent four years later is almost as impressive. No one had achieved a bigger share of the vote as a third-party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt. Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson . . . nobody’s even come close to Perot’s performance since 1996. Perot dispelled any notion that a major presidential candidate had to come out of central casting. Perot was short, looked like Frank Perdue, and sounded like Colonel Sanders. But the American electorate, for the most part, took him seriously.

From the perspective of 2019, H. Ross Perot looks like a key precursor to Trump: the billionaire political outsider who popped up on Larry King Live, opposed free trade deals, and who spoke bluntly and simply and promised to just roll up his sleeves and look under the hood. But there were some key differences. Perot worried about the deficit — “the crazy aunt in the basement” and about the debt — back when it was a “mere” $5 trillion. He supported means-testing Social Security. His policy interests were not wide but he knew enough about them to give lectures with charts. Perot was feisty but rarely obnoxious.

Back to Jonah’s point, you might think that the time with the biggest interest in candidates outside the major parties would be a time of major crises and national instability. And yet . . . the United States of America in 1992 doesn’t look all that bad at all from the perspective of today. Yes, the country was emerging from a recession, but unemployment peaked at 7.8 percent in June, which looks pretty modest by the standards of the Great Recession. The tech and dot-com booms were just around the corner. The Cold War was over, Kuwait had been liberated from Saddam Hussein, and the United Nations had rarely looked more effective. The worst horrors of the Balkans still lay ahead. Al-Qaeda was just a bunch of unknown guys. North Korea had no nuclear weapons, nor did Iran — nor did India or Pakistan yet. Perot and Bill Clinton lamented that Washington was allegedly paralyzed by gridlock, but the partisanship of that era looks mild compared to today. The legislation passed during Bush’s presidency was pretty substantive.

Depending upon your point of view, Perot and Clinton either tapped into latent American anxiety in the early 1990s, or they convinced Americans that things had gone terribly wrong when in fact things were going okay. As I noted when George H.W. Bush passed away, on the campaign trail, Bill Clinton described a struggling, desperate America:

Unemployed workers who’ve lost not only their jobs but their pensions, their health care, and even their homes. Laid-off defense workers who now make their living driving cabs. Elderly couples whose refrigerators are bare because so much of their monthly Social Security check has to go for prescription drugs. Middle-class families everywhere who’ve taken second jobs to make ends meet.

H. Ross Perot declared in his book, “Unless we take action now, our nation may confront a situation similar to the Great Depression — and maybe even worse.” That looks pretty hyperbolic, considering how the 1990s turned out.

But whatever his flaws, H. Ross Perot ran and ran again because he loved his country dearly. He was an American original in every sense of the term, generous to veterans and many other good causes. R.I.P.

World

A European War on (Everyone’s) Free Speech

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That France’s President Macron, like Britain’s May and Germany’s Merkel, has been busy trying (often on the grounds of fighting fake news or vaguely defined hate speech) to muzzle what’s being posted on the Internet is not exactly news. For example, I’ve written about it here, here, here, and here.

In this piece for The Hill, Jonathan Turley offers up a useful reminder that this is not a problem that can been safely confined to a continent with an already somewhat limited respect for the idea of freedom of expression:

Macron and his government are attempting to unilaterally scrub out the internet of hateful thoughts. The French Parliament has moved toward a new law that would give internet companies like Facebook and Google just 24 hours to remove hateful speech from their sites or face fines of $1.4 million per violation. A final vote is expected next week. Germany passed a similar measure last year and imposed fines of $56 million.

The French and Germans have given up in trying to convince the United States to surrender its free speech protections. They realized that they do not have to because by imposing crippling penalties, major companies will be forced into censoring speech under poorly defined standards. The result could be the curtailment of the greatest invention fostering free speech in the history of the world. It is all happening without a whimper of opposition from Congress or from most civil liberties organizations.

The move by the Europeans hits in the blind spot of the United States Constitution. The First Amendment does an excellent job of preventing government action against free speech, and most of the laws curtailing free speech in Europe would be unconstitutional in the United States. However, although protected against Big Brother, we are left completely vulnerable to Little Brother, made up of the private companies that have wide discretion on curtailing and controlling speech around the world.

Europeans know these companies are quite unlikely to surgically remove content for individual countries. The effect will be similar to the “California Exception.” All states are subject to uniform vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act, but California was given an exception to establish more stringent standards. Rather than create special cars for California, the more stringent standards tend to drive car designs. When it comes to speech controls, Europeans know they can limit speech not only in their countries but practically limit speech in the United States and elsewhere.

The range and the vagueness of these laws (and for the social media companies in question, the size of the fines) have had (as they were designed to do) a chilling effect, and not just at the corporate level.  Turning his attention to Germany, the land of Angela Merkel, leader of the free world, Professor Turley notes:

The result of such poorly defined laws is predictable. A recent poll found only 18 percent of Germans feel they can speak freely in public. More than 31 percent did not even feel free to express themselves in private among their friends. Just 17 percent of Germans felt free to express themselves on the internet, and 35 percent said free speech is confined to small private circles. That is called a chilling effect, and it should be feared.

Indeed.

Immigration

Pros and Cons of the ‘Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act’

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Our current system for green cards — the “immigrant visas” that confer permanent residence — has something called “per country caps.” In certain categories, no country may receive more than 7 percent of the available green cards. (See the nuances here.)

This is a stupid system. As David Bier of the Cato Institute has pointed out, a rule of “7 percent per country” takes no account of the obvious fact that different countries have different populations. India has 2.5 times the population of the European Union, yet has a green-card cap only 4 percent as high — and a wait time for employment visas of ten years vs. nothing. On top of that, as Bier notes in a separate analysis, the Indian and Chinese immigrants hit hardest by the caps tend to have higher skill levels and higher earnings than do immigrants from smaller countries whose caps don’t present a real obstacle.

A bill working its way through both houses of Congress, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, would scrap the caps for employment visas and raise them to 15 percent for family visas, without changing the total number of green cards available. (The House is voting today.) But as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) notes, there are problems with this, too.

After a transition period, Indian immigrants would get the vast majority of the employment green cards for roughly a decade to clear out their backlog. And after that, wait times for everyone would stabilize at seven to eight years.

No one wants to sponsor an immigrant employee who won’t start working for more than half a decade, so employment green cards would effectively be reserved for those already here on temporary visas such as H-1Bs — which are handed out through a ridiculous lottery system, often to tech workers brought in by outsourcing firms. Nurses would be especially disadvantaged by this change, because they’re not even eligible for H-1Bs; Rand Paul has urged a special exception for them.

I don’t have a problem with treating immigrants from all countries the same, and I don’t mind if we take in fewer nurses and more tech workers, either, as much as I despise the H-1B system through which we select the latter. I might be inclined to vote for the bill if I were in Congress. But the immigration system really needs a thorough overhaul, not just the surgical removal of one tiny contributor to its dysfunctions — a surgery that will lead to some complications.

CIS is right: “Adopting a different green card selection system that chooses the most highly educated and skilled workers would eliminate the need for a per country cap system, and would not reward the exploitative employers who thrive on the existing system.”

Culture

American Psychological Association Division Pushes Polyamory

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Remember when psychologists’ goal was to help people live balanced and ordered lives? Now, it seems, the profession’s highest purpose is to empower and validate people’s deepest desires and sexual urges without having to suffer stigma” or any adverse judgments from themselves or society.

Hence, a division of the American Psychological Association has launched the Non-Monogamy Task Force, the goal of which seem to be the promotion of sexual anarchy and the muting of polyamorists’ moral consciences:

The APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force promotes awareness and inclusivity about consensual non-monogamy and diverse expressions of intimate relationships. These include but are not limited to: people who practice polyamory, open relationships, swinging, relationship anarchy and other types of ethical non-monogamous relationships.

Finding love and/or sexual intimacy is a central part of most people’s life experience. However, the ability to engage in desired intimacy without social and medical stigmatization is not a liberty for all. This task force seeks to address the needs of people who practice consensual non-monogamy, including their intersecting marginalized identities.

That sounds wholesome.

How did the great Cole Porter put it?

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been emended since its original posting.

Politics & Policy

No, Alex Jones Is Not a Seer about Sex-Abuse Conspiracies

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Alex Jones speaks at a rally near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Matthew Walther of The Week is one of the most unpredictable and intriguing columnists out there, and he begins his latest offering with a provocative but accurate point: People believe in conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate in part because of revelations of the claims of longtime sex trafficking surrounding multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

As mentioned in today’s Morning Jolt, the Epstein allegations come on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein sexual-harassment and abuse scandals, which comes after the sexual-abuse scandals in the U.S. gymnastics programs, which comes after the sexual-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, which comes after the United Nations peacekeeper sex-abuse scandals . . .  Man, it’s been a horrible couple of years, huh?

But Walther wraps up with a quasi-defense of Alex Jones:

Among other things, the Epstein case forces us to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions about the real meaning of “fake” news. There is, or should be, more to being informed than fact-checking formalism. If you have spent the last few years earnestly consuming mainstream left-of-center media in this country you will be under the impression that the United States has fallen under the control of a spray-tanned Mussolini clone who is never more than five minutes away from making birth control illegal. If you watch Fox News and read conservative publications, you no doubt bemoan the fact that Ronald Reagan’s heir is being hamstrung by a bunch of avocado toast-eating feminist witches. Meanwhile, Alex Jones’s audience will tell you that America, like the rest of the world, is ruled by a depraved internationalist elite whose ultimate allegiance is not to countries or political parties or ideologies but to one another. These people believe in nothing. They will safeguard their wealth and privilege at any cost. They will never break rank. And they will commit unspeakable crimes with impunity, while anyone who dares to speculate openly is sued or hounded out of public life as a kook.

Which of these worldviews is closest to the truth?

To quote NFL Live and not Joe Biden, “Come on, man!” The argument that Alex Jones does a better job of informing his audience about the realities of the world requires us to overlook the vast majority of Jones’s offerings, in particular talk about “crisis actors” faking school shootings such as the ones at Sandy Hook, contending that the United States has “weather weapons” and that the Air Force created floods in Texas, that 9/11 was an inside job, that terrorist attacks such as the ones in Brussels and Orlando were “false-flag operations,” that FEMA is preparing massive numbers of coffins for impending martial law and mass deaths, that the Pentagon has used “gay bombs” on both its own troops and Iraqis, and of course, that chemicals in the water are turning frogs gay.

Alex Jones does not have any unique insight into the reality of power in American life; he’s just a paranoid who sees the bogeyman behind every corner and who sees all manner of depraved evil in every institution. As almost every prognosticator learns, if you make enough predictions, sooner or later one of them will turn out to be right.

National Review

National Review and The Census Go Back a Long Way

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

This institution has a long — and at times, combative — history with the decennial duty, which we share now given the mandate’s current kerfuffles. In 1960, this magazine’s one-time editor, William Rickenbacker (the son of Eddie, and the co-author of The Art of Persuasion) took great umbrage when he was asked to complete a special questionnaire, one that census-takers would give — in addition to the regular census form — to every fourth home that year. This request, declared Bill, was nothing less than government invasion of his privacy. In the pages of the May 21, 1960 issue of National Review, in an article titled “The Fourth House,” Rickenbacker made his case:

But there is a second questionnaire, printed on blue paper, unconscionably long, uncivilly inquisitorial, and absolutely unconstitutional. This form, we are told, is being sent to every fourth house in the nation. My house was the fourth house, and I have studied this snooping questionnaire. It does not relate to any constitutional requirement that I know of; it has not been addressed to the population as a whole; and I shall not answer it.

Indeed, I have already torn it up. Some day, when the summer satrap of the Snooper State comes to ask me why I refuse to contribute my share of statistics to the national numbers game, I shall call for my lawyer. For my house claims protection under the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

“Go,” I shall say, “and report to your Snooperiors! Tell them that I shall resist this unreasonable search! I plead the Fourth!”

The Amendment, that is — the right against unreasonable searches, etc. Convinced of his standing, the blue form sent to Casa Rickenbacker ended in tatters. Why? Why not . . . just fill it out and be done with the annoyance? Even though it, well, here’s how Bill described its contents:

The first two pages of questions relate to the material possessions of the citizen. Is his house on a city lot, or a place of less than ten acres, or more than ten acres? Did the yield of nature provide sales of more or less than $250 last year on the less-than-ten-acre place, or sales of more or less than $50 for the more-than-ten-acre place? When was the house built? How many bedrooms? How is it heated? Is there a clothes drier? Washing machine? How many bathrooms? Whence comes the water? What form of sewage disposal? Is there a basement, a telephone? What is the telephone number? How many automobiles? What is the market value of the house? If this a trailer, is it mobile? If this is a rented lodging, how much is paid for electricity, gas, water, fuel? Does rental include use of land for farming?

I cannot imagine any relation between these questions and the constitutional requirement to enumerate the people. How lush grows the federal jungle! The tentacles of its creepers pierce the walls of all the homes in the land. How can a man be less than outraged by this destruction of his privacy? Consider the questions asked every member of the house!

What’s your name? What’s your relation to the head of the house? Where were you born? If you were born outside the country, what language was spoken in your home? What country was your father born in? Your mother? How many years of schooling have you had? Did you finish the last grade? Have you been to school since February 1st, 1960? When were you first married? If you’re a girl, how many babies have you had? Did you work last week? How many hours? Were you looking for work, laid off, absent because of illness, on vacation? When did you last work? What kind of work was it? Name of employer? How do you travel to and from work? Did you work last year? How much did you earn? In wages? In profits and fees? How much income do you have from social security, pensions, veteran’s payments, rent, interest, dividends^ unemployment insurance, welfare payments, and other sources?

But this was not some annoyance, some little thing for Bill Rickenbacker. Indeed, nothing was too little for him: When he passed away in 1995, he was in the early stages of writing a book about three-letter words. He thrived on little things. Especially ones that involved matters of principle. As for this blue / every-fourth-house / inquisitive long form — it was definitely not the census, he thundered.

We know that the long blue snooper is not the true Census. It asks questions not related to the information needed to fix proportional representation; it is distributed separately from the true Census questionnaire; and it is not distributed to the population as a whole.

Indeed, I suspect that the meddlers who designed the blue snooper attempted to compensate for this lack of legal authority by dressing the cover page in the rich and pretentious but borrowed and certainly specious trappings of Official Authority. Thus the seven stately stars, the names of governmental departments and bureaus, the letter from Chief Snoop Burgess, exhortations to answer every question, skip nothing, and return within three days! It all looks very official, doesn’t it? But if this is the official census, then what was that white questionnaire that went to all my neighbors?

His defiance made quite public, the Snooper State noticed. It reacted. The December 24, 1960 issue of National Review Bulletin reported what next happened:

A Federal Grand Jury has subpoenaed National Review’s Bill Rickenbacker to testify concerning alleged violation of the law relating to the 1960 Census. Rickenbacker, veteran National Review readers will remember, wrote an article (“The Fourth House,” NR, May 21, 1960) in which he claimed that the economic and sociological questionnaire sent to every fourth household was unconstitutional. He had refused to fill it in, and restricted his census duty to the short form that was sent to every household.

Rickenbacker contends, first, that the economic survey is an unconstitutional “search.” The Constitution authorizes a decennial Census only as an “enumeration” of the population for purposes of apportioning representation. Second, the survey constitutes an unnecessary invasion of privacy. The citizens have a right of privacy that the government can invade only for strictly necessary purposes. Whatever information of this sort the government really needs it can obtain without coercive and inquisitorial processes, just as many market survey and opinion polls do. And, third, it looks as if Rickenbacker (who, after all, is not the only one who objected to that snooping questionnaire) is being harassed for daring to publish his objections. In this light, the government’s action looks like a veiled attack on freedom of speech.

National Review agrees with this analysis, and gives whole-hearted support to the defendant. It’s about time someone went to court to find out whether there is in fact and law a limit to the power of Big Brother to peer into our private lives. If the Grand Jury bands down an indictment and the case goes to the courts, Rickenbacker intends to fight it right up to the Supreme Court. It might be fun to see Messrs. Warren, Douglas and Black find that the civil rights of the reactionary Mr. Rickenbacker have been abused.

But the Grand Jury saw fit to level charges. Don’t make a federal case out of it — the saying didn’t apply here. National Review (April 8, 1961) reported and opined:

On March 17, three months after his appearance before the Federal Grand Jury, Mr. William F. Rickenbacker was indicted for his refusal to fill out the special questionnaire given to every fourth house during last year’s census, National Review published the article (“The Fourth House,” May 21, 1960) in which he described the questions (how many bathrooms? how many cars? what appliances? how much income from various sources? what mode of travel from house to office?) and outlined his stand on the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search.

If Rickenbacker and his attorney, the illustrious C. Dickerman Williams, fail to have the indictment dismissed, the case will go to trial; and they are determined to carry it to the Supreme Court if necessary. It’s going to be an interesting cas

In large terms the issue is between the welfare state and individual liberty. For the welfare state. in order to pass around its benevolences, must know the intimate details of the lives, actions, and possessions of the individual citizen. If the welfare state is proven in the courts to be powerless to compel citizens to divulge such information, then the welfare state will have received some sort of a setback.

On the other hand, if Rickenbacker loses his case and takes his sixty days behind bars, it will have been made clear to all that this country has now passed into an advanced stage of central and coercive governmental power. When a man goes to jail for refusal to divulge, among other things, the number of bathrooms he has in his house, the lights have got pretty dim. In one way we almost — almost, mind you — hope that our associate editor and everyone else who did as he did will go to jail. As Thoreau said, in times when the government imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also the prison. And it remains true that one of the best ways to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it.

To federal court he went, and there . . . Rickenbacker lost. His sentence: a 60-day prison sentence, suspended, a $100 fine, one day of probation. He appealed. The federal Second Circuit heard it in October, 1962, in less than two weeks future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote the no-dice opinion, which can be read here. The following January, SCOTUS denied Rickenbacker’s cert petition. All appeals were exhausted. National Review (January 29, 1963) editorialized, “Lost: One Civil Right.” From its wrap up:

As things now stand, it would appear that an American citizen has no privacy. The Federal Government can, apparently, ask him any question it wishes to ask him, and toss him in jail if he refuses to answer — and the Government doesn’t have to prove the reasonableness of its action, or its relation to existing legislation.

We’ve made a lot of progress, in the wrong direction, since William Pitt the elder said, “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England may not enter. . . .”

But there is a happy ending. Bill Rickenbacker was vindicated when the ensuing decade of prodding and instigating and agitating found the new Chief Snooper decreeing that 1970 census’s long form would be optional, not compulsory, for whoever lived in The Fourth House.

Culture

Tuesday Links

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July 9 is Nikola Tesla’s birthday: bio, some science and engineering, Tesla coil music, Tesla vs. Edison rap battle.

What a Conservative Learns In College:

. . . as a conservative at my small, Minnesota-based liberal arts institution, I’ve spent the last four years defending myself against personal and political attacks from professors and peers alike.

Raising the American Weakling — there’s been a 20 percent decrease in grip strength in one generation.

The 47 names Disney considered for the 7 dwarfs.

How to Buy Your Kid’s Way Into College.

Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful?

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and are Independence Day related — history, movies, music, inspirational speeches, the science of barbecue and of fireworks, and more.

U.S.

Sorry, the U.S. Women Aren’t Victims

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I wrote about the soccer team and equal pay today.

 

PC Culture

In Praise of Crowdfunding

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Members of Antifa gather at the “Mother of All Rallies” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., September 16, 2017. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

The deranging effects of tech are visible every day. But there are also positive aspects — among them a tool that strikes me as having many of the capabilities needed to restore some sanity to our times. I refer to the process of crowdfunding. In recent weeks I have been struck by the response to two crowdfunding efforts in particular, which are vital in different ways.

The first relates to the case of Andy Ngo, the young Portland-based journalist whom I wrote about here last week. Ngo, readers will remember, was recently assaulted by so-called “Antifa” in broad daylight as the police stood aside. In the hospital afterwards it became clear that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage, among other injuries. Another journalist immediately set up a crowdfunding site to try to help pay Ngo’s substantial medical bills and to replace the equipment that the Portland Antifa thugs had broken or stolen from him. The goal of that crowdfunding appeal was reached (and indeed exceeded) in a matter of days by American citizens and others horrified at what had been allowed to happen on their streets.

Now another crowdfunder has been set up, this time to launch legal proceedings against those responsible for assaulting the journalist. Among those who may be in the firing line of legal proceedings are not just the thugs who the authorities have allowed to run rampant through an American city, but also the authorities themselves. A link to the legal appeal can be found here.

I hope that this appeal goes as well as the first. It should. Because this is one of those rare moments when a meaningful blow could be struck. For, alas, what people do not do by moral impulse alone often has to be willed by a combination of punishment and incentive. To date there seems to have been little incentive to stop the thugs of Antifa and a considerable punishment for the people like Ngo who even try to record — let alone oppose — what they do. The risk ratio should be inverted here, and this crowd-funding effort seems a perfect way to start doing so.

Of course, not every mob action in our day ends in the violence seen in Portland. But a seriously negative impact on freedom of thought and inquiry can be achieved even without the hospitalising of dissidents.

Readers may have come across the case of the young academic Noah Carl, who was last year awarded an academic position at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge. Barely two months into his three-year position a group of activist students, academics did a drive-by shooting on Carl’s nascent academic career. They leveled malicious and ignorant claims about the nature of his research, made no attempt to even hear their target’s proper account of his work, and instead merely lobbied for his removal. Cambridge obliged the mob in April of this year, apologizing to the activists for the “hurt” caused by Carl’s appointment. As subsequent investigation has proved, this was nothing more than an orchestrated attempt by far-left ideologues to police not just who should be allowed to be an academic, but what people in academia should be allowed to inquire about. Nothing in Carl’s own research merited one iota of the hounding he received. And it is hard to see that there was any impetus for the mob other than the correct guess that Carl is some kind of conservative. Failing to look beyond that, the members of the anti-Carl mob showed that their own lack of intellectual inquiry ought to make them ineligible for attendance at any university. Let alone a university like Cambridge, which has had a few significant achievements to its name over the centuries.

Until very recently such a demonstration of weakness and cowardice by a university might have gone unpunished. Until recently an invertebrate college head such as St. Edmund’s Matthew Bullock might have gotten away with giving in to the mob with an eye on the easy life and no cost whatsoever to himself or his reputation.

But in the age of social media and crowdfunding, all this too can be turned around. Noah Carl has not just been defamed, but his career has been severely damaged at its outset. Should this stand it would not only be a grave injustice in itself, but kerosene for future mobs as well as a warning to any other young academics who might (actually or merely in the imaginations of activists) tread anywhere near difficult terrain. Such as the terrain of having the wrong political opinions. In other words, it would help to create an intellectual culture where people deliberately veer away from anything that ill-intentioned critics could misrepresent as being dangerous. Which in due course would leave very little for academics to do.

So I am delighted, again, to see that within only a couple of weeks of being up and running, Carl’s crowdfunding appeal to turn the tables and take out a legal action against St. Edmund’s is already four-fifths of the way to reaching its target.

Quite often, when faced with the actual and virtual outrage mobs of our time, ordinary, sensible people ask, “What can I do?” In crowdfunding campaigns such as these there is finally an answer. Small sums and big ones are being sent. They are the answer that some of us have been looking for. A combination of new technology and popular decency has produced — finally — the means to push back.

Culture

Assisted-Suicide Leader Says Eliminate Waiting Periods

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Funded bounteously by George Soros money and backed by an enthusiastic and generally uncritical media, assisted-suicide advocates push their death agenda with a pack of lies.

First, they promise that protective guidelines will protect against abuse to ensure that only those with no other way to alleviate suffering but to take poison pills receive them — and then, only after a careful process.

Second, to convince cowardly medical associations to cease opposing legalization and assume a position of studied neutrality— whatever the hell that means — they promise that doctors will never be forced to participate in assisted suicide.

Here’s the problem. Those promises are not meant to be, you know, permanent. They are expedients to (choose your cliché) get the ball over the goal line, place the foot in the door, wiggle the camel’s nose under the tent, etcetera.

Once the law is firmly in place, we suddenly are told that the oh, so carefully crafted protective guidelines are actually obstacles to achieving death with dignity. And we are told that doctors’ right to refuse participation in suicide — known as medical conscience — discriminates against sick patients. It’s all such a scam.

Here’s the latest example in the ever-assisted suicide friendly New York Times, where The New Old Age columnist Paula Span complains:

But while the campaign for aid in dying continues to make gains, supporters are increasingly concerned about what happens after these laws are passed. Many force the dying to navigate an overly complicated process of requests and waiting periods, critics say.

And opt-out provisions — which allow doctors to decline to participate and health care systems to forbid their participation — are restricting access even in some places where aid in dying is legal.

See what I mean?

If you think these complainers are on the fringe of the suicide movement, think again. No less than Kim Callahan, the head of Compassion and Choices, the country’s most influential assisted-suicide advocacy organization (formerly more honestly known as the Hemlock Society), now suggests that waiting periods — one of the most important protective guidelines touted for years by C & C — should be tossed:

“There’s too many roadblocks in the existing legislation,” said Ms. Callinan, whose organization has long promoted that legislation. “They’ve actually made it too difficult for patients to get through the process.”…

Perhaps, Ms. Callinan proposed, aid-in-dying laws shouldn’t require waiting periods. “It takes people a long time to find a first doctor, to make an appointment, to find a second doctor, to find a pharmacist,” she said. “The process itself is a waiting period,” one often exceeding 15 days.

Indeed, the Oregon Legislature just passed a bill waiving the waiting 15-day waiting period if the patient is expected to die imminently.

Whatever you might believe about the wisdom of enacting assisted-suicide laws, please understand that activists’ blithe assurances about strict protections are not meant to be a ceiling that permanently constrains the lethal practice. Rather, once a tipping point of popular acceptability is reached, the existing laws will become launching pads to enable a far broader facilitated suicide, and eventually euthanasia, authorization.

Those with eyes to see, let them see.