Americans have natural rights all wrong, Cameron Hilditch maintains:
How do we know which rights are “natural” to human beings? This is an important question to ask because, as the [Pompeo] Commission’s report itself concedes, there is now “widespread disagreement about the nature and scope of basic rights.” Furthermore, how is this kind of “widespread disagreement” even possible if the rights of man are “self-evident,” as Jefferson famously argued in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence? If Jefferson was correct, a lack of popular consensus surrounding the nature and scope of natural rights should not exist among rational Americans nearly a quarter-millennium after the Founding. And yet, such disagreement persists, mainly because Jefferson was wrong. The idea that the human being’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is “self-evident” to the unaided rational intellect is thoroughgoing and unadulterated nonsense. Still, it seems to have been the conviction of many of our most influential Founders.
When someone makes a statement that seems obviously absurd, it is generally useful to stop and think whether there is a way of interpreting it that isn’t obviously absurd. If the truths the Declaration proclaimed were “self-evident” in the sense of being instantly understood and accepted as true by everyone, there would hardly have been a need to proclaim them (let alone to proclaim them as something “we hold”).
But there is a better way to understand self-evidence: A self-evident truth is one that can’t be deduced from more basic truths and can only be defended by indirect arguments rather than formally proven. (Take, for example, the principle of non-contradiction.) And if we view self-evidence in that light, the Declaration is not susceptible to the debunking arguments that Hilditch makes. The self-evidence of the truth that all people equally have human rights does not imply that it is “an obvious and intuitive deduction from human nature,” and so the fact that many civilizations have not grasped it does nothing to dent its self-evidence. Nor does the self-evidence of this truth imply that our civilization’s grasp of it owes nothing to its Jewish and Christian inheritance; it owes a very great deal to it — as the Declaration’s own wording suggests.
Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan earlier this week, meeting with its president and other key officials. The trip came amid troubling developments in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy activists were recently arrested by the city’s police force. Those developments alarmed many in Taiwan, which worries that it will be the Chinese Communist Party’s next target, fulfilling Beijing’s decades-long quest to reunite it with the mainland. Unsurprisingly, CCP officials were not happy with the visit. The day that it began, two Chinese fighter jets crossed the Taiwan Strait’s midway line.
Azar’s visit served to provide U.S. assurances that it would stick with its partner. The trip itself reflected a change in American policy toward closer ties with Taiwan, and it was made possible by the 2018 Taiwan Travel Act, which allows for senior U.S. officials to visit Taiwan and for Taiwanese officials to come to the United States.
Speaking at National Taiwan University Tuesday, he gave remarks reflecting the administration’s view on Taiwan’s role in the world, focusing on its coronavirus response:
The Taiwan model of excellence in combating the virus has been obvious to us all. Taiwan’s approach to combating the virus through openness, transparency, and cooperation stands in stark contrast to the country where the virus began. . . .
I believe it is no exaggeration to say that, if this virus had emerged in a place like Taiwan or the United States, it might have been snuffed out easily: rapidly reported to public health authorities, who would have shared what they knew with health professionals and with the general public.
Azar’s point about Taiwan’s success is crucial. Its leaders worked to protect the island’s residents from the coronavirus at its outset. Taking the lessons from SARS to heart, Taipei distrusted Beijing’s public comments and prepared for the worst. Stating the obvious, of course, is politically inconvenient for Beijing, and for the global health authorities over whom it has significant sway.
For one, Azar’s speech is a stark reminder of the WHO’s failures by way of its anti-Taiwan bias. Officials have neglected to cooperate with Taiwanese officials, and China successfully blocked it from participating in the World Health Assembly. As Axios’s China newsletter reminds us, WHO staff even endorsed pro-Chinese Communist Party conspiracy theories from a fringe website to tarnish Taiwan’s reputation.
In the post-coronavirus world, the CCP has accelerated its efforts to snuff out examples of Chinese democracy, as evidenced by its latest moves in Hong Kong. Azar’s remarks Monday provide a reminder that Taiwan’s stellar coronavirus response ought to terrify Beijing and embarrass its WHO apologists.
Kamala Harris is being showered with praise today from the Democratic Party’s media department, otherwise known as the media. I suspect the polling will show that she is at this moment, and perhaps for the next few weeks, as popular as she will ever be in this campaign. Why? History.
Ben Domenech writes in his newsletter that a Democratic commentator of his acquaintance describes Harris this way: “You love her on the first date, you like her on the second, on the third you’re done.” Ouch.
Shortly after Harris announced she was running for president on January 21, 2019, favorable media coverage boosted her in the polls, and she rose to a strong third place in a crowded primary. As of February 24, 2019, she enjoyed 12.3 percent support, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Alas, that was as good as it got for her, except for a brief surge after she sandbagged Joe Biden in the debate on June 27 with a pre-scripted attack suggesting his busing policies were racist. That attack catapulted her from seven percent support to a peak of 15.2 percent on July 6, 2019, according to the RCP average.
Followup reporting showed that her attack on Biden was purely opportunistic and cynical; after passionately supporting federal busing in the debate (“that’s where the federal government must step in”) she reversed course, which left very little daylight between her position and Biden’s. It turned out the wet-firecracker busing attack was all she had, and she sank steadily as the debate season rolled on. By mid August, she was back down to eight percent support. By mid September, six percent. By mid October, five percent. When she dropped out of the race in December she was at 3.5 percent.
Harris’s favorability/unfavorability rating is 43/36 according to one poll, 39/43 according to another taken this month. The latter is a very alarming figure for someone who isn’t running for anything, as Harris wasn’t until yesterday. Now that she is in a race again, those numbers are about to get much worse for her.
Senator Kamala Harris has said that she is “open” to increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court, in order to reverse the conservative majority (as she sees it) and pave the way for the progressive agenda. This position and the implied threat behind it deserve a lot more attention than they’ve gotten.
America’s Constitution is a magnificent document, but it’s not perfect. Its structural separation of statutory laws from the constitutional principles that lend those laws their legitimacy rests in some measure on custom, on precedent, and on the Supreme Court’s remaining faithful to its indispensable role as guardian of constitutional constraints. Unbridled majority rule — which is the direction progressives have been pushing the country towards for more than a century, wittingly or unwittingly — is simply a tyranny of the majority, and has no use for any constitution. In such a system, a Supreme Court is more like a super-legislature, which instead of protecting the Constitution, in effect replaces it.
That’s why the threat to increase the number of justices matters. It may well be constitutional to increase the size of the Supreme Court, but the practical result would be to weaken constitutional democracy, and leave minority rights increasingly subject to the whims of the majority. Given these progressives’ affinity for persecuting those who disagree with them (for example, on climate change, as Kevin Williamson shows below), this is a harrowing prospect.
And notice, you don’t actually have to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court to have the desired effect. President Franklin D. Roosevelt showed that merely by threatening to pack the Court, a president and Congress can fundamentally alter the Constitution without having to go to the trouble of formally amending it. As I wrote in the WSJ last fall:
His [FDR’s] signature New Deal programs clearly exceeded Congress’s power to regulate commerce “among the several States.” For 150 years, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause had been understood to reach only transactions that crossed state lines. Thus the justices struck down as unconstitutional virtually every New Deal program passed in FDR’s first term. FDR began referring to the justices as “the Scorpions.”
The 1936 election seemed to enhance his mandate to implement the New Deal. And nowhere in the Constitution is it written that the court must have nine justices. Thus the president proposed expanding the Court to 15 justices. The six new ones would make a four-justice minority into a 10-5 majority.
Democratic lawmakers balked. “A liberal cause was never won by stacking a deck of cards, by stuffing a ballot box, or by packing a court,” said Sen. Burton Wheeler (D., Mont.). But the justices seemed to get the message. In 1937, starting with NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., a majority began to surrender to the New Deal programs, ruling that the federal government could regulate economic activity that didn’t actually cross state lines.
In the ensuing five years, leading to Wickard v. Filburn (1943), the court effectively put its imprimatur on a new, progressive constitution. Limited and enumerated powers gave way to plenary federal authority subject only to the whims of transient political majorities and the malleable individual rights of a “living constitution.”
With progressives increasingly committed to a definition of “social justice” that puts virtually every core constitutional value at risk — from equal protection of the laws to the Bill of Rights — their willingness to intimidate the Supreme Court is even more dangerous than it was in the 1930s.
Abortion policy is just one of several areas in which California senator Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, has sworn to abuse executive power to assert her preferences if Congress won’t legislate as she’d like. Her authoritarian instincts were frightening when she was running for president herself, and they’re hardly any less frightening now that, if she and Biden are elected, she will be just one crisis away from the presidency.
Several of my colleagues have alreadydetailedmany of the issues with Harris, but let me add another: She is without question the most radically pro-abortion candidate to run for president or vice president in the history of our country.
As a senator, Harris has cosponsored the most aggressively pro-abortion piece of federal legislation ever introduced, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would override state restrictions on abortions in the last three months of pregnancy, well after fetal viability. The bill would invalidate any state law that prohibits “abortion after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating physician, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant woman’s life or health.”
According to reporting from my colleague John McCormack, the bill’s sponsors have said that it does not distinguish between the mother’s physical and mental health. Read in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Doe v. Bolton defining maternal health as including “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the person’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient,” the Women’s Health Protection Act would invalidate any and all state-level protections for unborn children after the point of viability — indeed, up until birth. (Harris, it is worth noting, seems to have little problem with allowing newborns to die of neglect should they survive an abortion procedure; she has twice voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide the same care to infants who survive abortions as they would to any other newborn.)
The legislation would also make it impossible for states to enact or enforce informed-consent laws and waiting-period requirements, which have often been upheld by courts as permissible under our current abortion jurisprudence. So much for federalism.
But just in case that bill doesn’t get through Congress, Harris has another plan that violates not only federalism but the separation of powers, too. During a town hall last spring, she promised that her presidential administration would enact a regime of “preclearance,” blocking state laws that her Department of Justice deems contrary to Roe v. Wade.
“We cannot tolerate a perspective that is about going backward and not understanding women have agency, women have value, women have authority to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies,” Harris said, justifying her proposed program to use her executive authority to override the democratic will and enforce Roe’s anti-constitutional reasoning on the entire country.
When asked in a New York Times candidate survey whether he’d require preclearance for state abortion laws, Biden’s campaign offered no response. He ought to be asked again. It isn’t difficult to imagine that Biden — who has been moving steadily to the left on abortion for quite some time, and drastically so over the course of this campaign — will happily defer to his new running mate on the question.
Skepticism of TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing app, reached its peak with President Trump’s signing an executive order that would ban the social-media software from the United States after September 20. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which is based in Beijing, is in late-stage acquisition talks with Microsoft and has reportedly also explored a deal with Twitter.
The Trump administration’s case against TikTok is based on the premise that its Chinese ownership is beholden to Chinese Communist Party requests for user data, including of Americans. It’s well-documented that ByteDance has caved to CCP pressure before, and even the Chinese Foreign Ministry calls it a Chinese company, despite its claims to be based in the Cayman Islands.
Still, what was missing from the case for regulating TikTok more stringently was evidence that it has transferred user data to Beijing (the company says that its servers are based in the U.S. and Singapore, and that it would not honor such requests). A new Wall Street Journal report sheds light on TikTok’s insufficient data-privacy practices:
TikTok skirted a privacy safeguard in Google’s Android operating system to collect unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices, data that allows the app to track users online without allowing them to opt out, a Wall Street Journal analysis has found.
The tactic, which experts in mobile-phone security said was concealed through an unusual added layer of encryption, appears to have violated Google policies limiting how apps track people and wasn’t disclosed to TikTok users. TikTok ended the practice in November, the Journal’s testing showed.
This practice, according to article, allowed TikTok to send user data to ByteDance’s servers. Crucially, it also concealed that collection of data:
As with virtually all modern apps, TikTok’s Internet traffic is protected by the web’s standard encryption protocols, making it unlikely that an eavesdropper can steal information in transit. That makes the additional, custom encryption code TikTok applies to user data seemingly extraneous — unless it was added to prevent the device owner from seeing what TikTok was up to, said Nathan Wood, a researcher at the International Digital Accountability Council, a watchdog group that analyzes app behavior.
TikTok’s defenders say that U.S.-based social media companies, such as Facebook, engage in opaque data-privacy practices, which is all the more reason to enact broad regulations touching all social-media platforms. They make this point to argue against singling out TikTok. But given ByteDance’s history of cooperation with the CCP, it’s difficult to give TikTok the benefit of the doubt — it’s reasonable to scrutinize it even more for its links to the Chinese government.
TikTok recently pledged transparency, offering up its algorithms and content moderation practices for scrutiny by researchers. As I wrote last month, this was a ploy to draw a contrast with other social-media platforms, which certainly face their own significant problems. But what American consumer can reasonably trust TikTok’s transparency assurances now?
When Facebook sells your data, it goes to advertisers and even perhaps political operatives, with many worrying about major privacy breaches. When TikTok collects it, though, your data could well end up in the hands of an authoritarian government with aspirations to exercise influence beyond its borders. These things are not the same. The latest Wall Street Journal report is further confirmation that TikTok’s activity calls for a different response.
I think Biden’s early announcement that he was going to pick a female running mate was a mistake, but given that he did it Harris was his best available choice for the campaign. As I wrote at Bloomberg Opinionlast night:
Among that sad subset of people whose hobby over the last few months has been speculating about Joe Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California was always in the lead. There’s a reason for that: She checks all the boxes. . . .
A frustrating aspect of intra-conservative debate in the Trump era is the tendency of some to pretend that genuine disagreements over policy are questions of understanding or even courage. This tendency was exemplified by a recent tweet from Greg Price, who runs the Daily Caller’s social-media platforms. Responding to a query about how Republicans would feel about a Marco Rubio–Nikki Haley GOP ticket in 2024, Price derided the hypothetical pairing as desirable if and only if “ . . . your understanding of the GOP comes solely from Tuesday night College Republicans meetings.”
Price did not offer any further explanation for this analysis, but it seems a fair assumption that he would prefer a ticket that offers more of a populist edge. Perhaps he’d rather see Josh Hawley — the Missouri senator with a perpetually lean and hungry look made leaner and hungrier when an unwitting tech executive enters his sightline — as the 2024 nominee. Maybe Tom Cotton’s emphasis on law and order appeals to him. It is after all eminently reasonable for one to favor Hawley, Cotton, or Florida’s Ron DeSantis over Rubio or Haley given the differences on trade, tech, immigration, and disposition between the two camps. But to dismiss Haley and Rubio as candidates with no grassroots support whatsoever outside of the establishment seems to be a category error.
Rubio is a young, charismatic, second-term, swing-state senator who finished third (by total delegates won) in the last serious GOP primary contest; won his seat by primarying a moderate Republican on a Tea Party platform; and has recalibrated his image over the past several years in order to show a deeper concern for the issues underpinning Trump’s victory. He also was leading Hillary Clinton by four points in the RealClearPolitics average when he dropped out in 2016.
Polling in 2018 indicated that Haley was one of the most popular politicians in America, with 75 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Democrats approving of her job performance as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations. She has also proven particularly adept at avoiding criticism from Trump while maintaining a brand independent of him. Rubio and Haley are also both in line with their party’s base on important issues such as abortion, gun rights, support for Israel, and a hawkish posture toward Iran and China.
All of this is to say that Rubio and Haley are not exactly Maryland’s pro-choice GOP governor Larry Hogan or Ohio’s ex-chief executive John Kasich, who will reportedly be taking a break from denouncing positions he’s held for the duration of his career in order endorse Joe Biden during the Democratic National Convention. Rubio and Haley are both well within the mainstream of their party, they both have considerable credibility within the conservative movement, and they both are widely expected to be serious contenders for the nomination come 2024.
So why would Price scoff at the idea of Rubio–Haley? It seems that Trump’s victory has convinced a fair number of conservatives that the ideal GOP is one that drifts leftward on economics, rightward on immigration and social issues, and toward a more isolationist foreign policy — excepting an aggressive opposition to China. Tucker Carlson, the founder of the Daily Caller, has certainly moved his chips in on this future. On his Fox News program, Carlson has sung the praises of Elizabeth Warren’s economic program, all but accused Haley of being a race-baiter, and dismissed the idea that immigration makes the country stronger.
Price, Carlson, Hawley, and to a certain extent even the new-look, “common good” capitalist Rubio may be right about where the conservative movement is headed. But then again, they may not. Few would have guessed that Donald Trump would take over the party whose previous three standard-bearers were George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. If 2020 is the electoral dumpster fire for the GOP that most polls indicate it will be, the tenets of Trumpism may be far less appealing in a 2024 primary. Alternatively, we may come to find out that it was the man and not the ideology that Republican voters found compelling. Regardless of where the party ends up though, it’s important that it arrive at its destination the right way.
The American Right has always bickered over conservatism’s definition and direction. From the libertarian Frank Meyer and traditionalist Russell Kirk to Bill Buckley’s fusionism and L. Brent Bozell’s rejection of it, we have argued. Once again, the movement finds itself at an inflection point, and how we handle this debate will tell us as much about the health of the movement as its outcome. It may be a tall order, but a party that’s serious about achieving its political aims post-2020 would refrain from denouncing its disparate factions as out of touch or deplorables and discuss its differences honestly.
The makers of overpriced ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s U.K., have decided once again to lecture the British public on their political virtue. The multimillion-dollar company’s official Twitter account took aim at the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, in response to her promise to deter migrants from making the illegal and perilous boat journey across the English Channel.
“Hey @PritiPatel we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture,” the company tweeted. As well as: “PEOPLE CANNOT BE ILLEGAL.”
But the Home Office was having none of it. One source told BBC correspondent Chris Mason:
Priti [Patel] is working day and night to bring an end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are of serious concern. If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food then so be it.
Just some recommended reading. Do yourself a favor and check out Tom Holland’s essay at Unherd, which looks at the striking symmetry between the leaders of Turkey and India in reclaiming the religious sites of their nations for religion. Modi vows to build a great temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi, and Erdogan has reclaimed the Hagia Sophia as a mosque. He asks whether the colonial import from Christendom of “secularism” has finally worn off.
There is an interesting piece in Politico by Gabby Orr about the disagreement in “Trumpworld” over the political viability of so-called “anti-transgender” policies. Research suggests that the topic of male trans-identified athletes in sports, in particular, is of considerable concern to conservative Democrats and independents. Of course, there is an even more controversial aspect to the transgender debate, as liberal commentators such as Joe Rogan have also noted. Orr reports:
Next week, [the American Principles Project] will debut two ads in battleground Michigan that accuse former Vice President Joe Biden, who has generally used his platform to promote protections for LGBTQ youth, of endorsing “gender change treatments for minors,” including surgery and hormone therapies for transgender youth. One of the ads, featuring former drag queen Kevin Whitt, warns that children “need time” to develop a stable sense of their gender. “As a young teen, I felt I should be a woman,” Whitt says. “Seventeen years later, I felt I should be a man again. Treatments to change the gender of a minor are very dangerous and irreversible.”
This reminds me of a similar tactic deployed by the U.K. conservative government prior to their landslide victory last December. The political Left is way ahead of the public on transgender issues. Just how much that translates into voting power remains to be seen.
Some studies have found that within an hour after cannabis is smoked, THC may induce heart rhythm abnormalities, such as tachycardia, premature ventricular contractions, atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrythmias. Acutely, THC also appears to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, resulting in a higher heart rate, a greater demand for oxygen by the heart, higher blood pressure while laying down and dysfunction within the walls of the arteries…
Smoking and inhaling cannabis, regardless of THC content, has been associated with cardiomyopathy (heart muscle dysfunction), angina (chest pain), heart attacks, heart rhythm disturbances, sudden cardiac death and other serious cardiovascular conditions. In states where cannabis has been legalized, an increase in hospitalizations and emergency department visits for heart attacks has been observed.
I am not surprised. If smoking tobacco can cause heart issues, I have thought, why wouldn’t smoking a different plant do the same? Bingo:
Carbon monoxide intoxication from inhaled tobacco or cannabis has been associated with several heart problems, such as heart muscle disease, chest pain, heart attacks, heart rhythm disturbances and other serious conditions.
Taking pot by vaping is also dangerous.
In addition to the poisonous compounds in cannabis smoke, vaping cannabis may also result in serious health outcomes, especially when it is mixed with vitamin E acetate oils, which are linked to EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury), the potentially fatal illness that emerged among e-cigarette users last year.
The statement says that the same problems do not arise from taking CBD products, which is derived from industrial hemp and, of course, is not smoked. The warning also does not apply to pot that is ingested.
Marijuana clearly has medicinal benefits and should not be a Schedule 1 controlled substance — meaning highly addictive and no legitimate medical use — a designation that makes a liar of the law. But it is not benign. The question of its deleterious health impacts should be studied further and considered as the country debates whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and allow pot to become our version of Soma.
COVID has created a crisis in higher education. What can we do to use that to our advantage?
In today’s Martin Center article, Stephanie Brenzel, who teaches at the University of Toronto, offers her thoughts.
First, things are bad and getting worse if you believe in politically neutral liberal arts education. Her field is religious studies, and she offers this bouquet of job postings as evidence of its tilt:
A global liberation professor with expertise in “global theologies of liberation and de-colonial theory”
A Latin Patristics professor who can apply the insights of Augustine of Hippo to race, ethnic, and indigenous studies
An Asian religions professor working on “critical approaches to race, gender, sexuality, social hierarchies, and inequality, and power struggles and political movements.”
Things are bad. Is there any solution?
She starts by arguing that the ideas advanced in a recent Martin Center piece won’t work, among them looking to governing boards to clean up the mess.
Brenzel argues that reformers should “focus on supporting business endeavors that offer sidelined scholars a platform to teach and present their research. Of course, bringing the free marketplace to higher education is easier said than done. Companies like Udemy—which allow anyone to create, upload, and sell online courses — are not allowed to issue degrees.”
But that leads to another problem — accreditation, which is run by forces of the education establishment. But it’s possible to get around that, she argues, by focusing on high-school students, and turning to private junior colleges.
Brenzel concludes, “With the added pressures of COVID-19, the ship of higher education is sinking. Plugging a few holes as Pullmann and Maitra suggest won’t stop it from going down. It’s time to think about what lifeboats we need to deploy.”
When CNN hired Sarah Isgur, a former Jeff Sessions spokeswoman and now staff writer at The Dispatch, last year to be a political editor at its Washington bureau, left-wing media types put on a full-court press to smear her professionalism. The CNN newsroom — which, last I looked, included former Obama official Jim Sciutto — was reportedly “demoralized” by her very presence. Conservatives, and it’s probably fair to say that Isgur is a pretty moderate one, aren’t welcome in mainstream journalism. We don’t need to go through all the numbers and polls to stress this point. Journalists have long jumped back and forth between Democratic Party politics and media gigs. The job is the same. The venue is different.
I bring this up because, as my former colleague Sean Davis points out, Nick Pacilio, Kamala Harris’s former press secretary, is now in charge of deciding announcing what the president of the United States can and can’t say on Twitter to his 85 million followers. Twitter has already removed debatable contentions by the president — or, contentions no more misleading than any number of Joe Biden allegations. The point of removing tweets, I assume, has more to do with being able to call Trump a liar than worrying about his spreading misleading information.
But the optics are remarkably terrible for Twitter. It’s almost certainly true that whoever holds the job of senior communication manager at the social-media giant will be ideologically progressive like the company’s CEO. But could you imagine what the nightly reaction on CNN and MSNBC would be if Mike Pence’s former spokesperson was seen censoring Joe Biden’s tweets during a presidential election? I have no doubt Democrats would be calling for congressional hearings.
Correction: Twitter says Pacilio isn’t involved in the removal decisions himself. I have updated the post to reflect his role — though Pacilio’s definitive tweets give users no clue as to how the process plays out or who makes these decisions. I don’t think the optics are any better for Twitter, but I should have been more careful.
In the name of fighting what he calls “sprawl,” Joe Biden has promised to hold hostage $12 billion in Surface Transportation Block Grants to the states unless they agree to abolish suburban single-family zoning. This follows a strategy devised by Senator Cory Booker and House majority whip James Clyburn. Under the Biden plan, America’s suburbs must reject their way of life and opt for high-density, urban-style development instead — or suffer the consequences. By holding Surface Transportation Grants hostage, Biden will effectively turbo-charge the already draconian anti-suburban strategy embodied in the Obama–Biden administration’s massively overreaching AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) regulation. The result will be the end of America’s suburbs as we know them.
The Opportunity Solutions Project, a state-level think tank in Florida, has just issued a report by Chase Martin exploring some implications of Biden’s coercive housing strategy. The report is entitled, “America’s Neighborhoods under Attack: How the Biden Plan Threatens More Than $12 Billion In Transportation Funding for Already-Tapped States.”
Martin’s report provides important context for Biden’s anti-suburban plans. The report begins by explaining that Medicaid spending by states has more than tripled in the last two decades, growing from $184 billion in 2000 to more than $600 billion in 2018. That has crowded out state spending on education, public safety, and transportation. Federal Surface Transportation Block Grants are designed to help fill in the funding gaps. Yet this leaves cash-strapped states with little choice but to accept any conditions placed on the grants. The alternative is to see serious deterioration in state roads, along with massive job loss among the hundreds of thousands of workers nationally who build and repair roads, or provide supplies for that repair.
Martin then reviews the history of the use of federal transportation funding to coerce various state-level policies. Such actions are rare, but not unprecedented. In 1974, in the face of a nationwide fuel shortage, Congress and President Nixon demanded that states adopt a 55 miles per hour speed limit or face loss of federal transportation funding. The states complied. A year later, federal transportation funds were conditioned on the adoption of a requirement to wear motorcycle helmets. In 1984, President Reagan demanded that states adopt a drinking age of 21, and this conditioning was upheld by the Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Dole. In 1995, a Republican Congress forced President Clinton to undo both the de facto national speed limit and helmet law. As Martin points out, however, at least these requirements bore some relationship to transportation.
The use of transportation funding to coerce the elimination of single-family zoning, on the other hand, is an extraordinary and unprecedented case of federal overreach. Using transportation funding as a lever would appear to give the federal government almost unlimited power over states and localities. And as Martin points out, in the wake of the economic fallout from COVID-19, states are even less well-placed to resist federal coercion. Florida, for example, has lost billions of dollars in tourism and toll road revenues during the pandemic. Loss of federal road repair funding would be untenable at this point. (By the way, Martin’s report provides a helpful chart showing how many hundreds of millions — and sometimes billions — each state receives in federal transportation funding.)
What will actually happen once Biden and a Democratic Congress follow through on their promise to lever Surface Transportation Block Grants against suburban single-family zoning? We don’t know, since coercion on this scale, and of this type, is unprecedented. One possibility is that some states might simply reject the money in view of the strings attached. Again, however, given the financial hole the states are now in, that is hard to imagine. Another possibility is that a state might adopt the federal mandate wholesale by abolishing single-family zoning statewide. This is far from impossible. Oregon essentially abolished single-family zoning last year. California is debating similar measures right now.
The Booker–Clyburn bill that inspired Biden’s promise to fight “sprawl” by abolishing single-family zoning amends the law on Surface Transportation grants to say that, “A project under this section may not be carried out unless the community in which the project is located” has implemented a strategy to replace single-family zoning with a menu of pro-density measures. So maybe states will accept their Surface Transportation grants, while individual communities will exempt themselves from state road repairs. Yet what suburban community could afford to allow its road to go unrepaired, or leave itself cut off from newly constructed arteries?
One way or another, Biden’s unprecedented plan to use state road funding to compel the elimination of single-family zoning is going to harm Americans profoundly. Either suburban self-governance will become a thing of the past — while the suburbs themselves come to resemble the dense cities their residents chose to leave — or America’s cash-strapped states will lose billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs at a moment of economic crisis, while watching their roads deteriorate. Name your poison. It’s one or the other if Biden and the Democrats win.
This week on The Editors, Charlie stands in for Rich and is joined by Maddy Kearns and Jim Geraghty. They discuss Trump’s recent executive orders, the chaos in Chicago over the weekend, and upsetting rumors about the college football season. Listen below, or subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.
There can be no more illusions that China will keep its promise from the 1997 handover to allow “one-country, two-systems,” under which Hong Kong was assured that it could retain rule of law, free expression and the promise of full democracy. But the people of Hong Kong have shown, over and over again during the ordeal of recent years, that they cherish the values of a free people. The world must not abandon them or surrender to Beijing’s steamroller.
The new law criminalizes new categories of “secession,” “subversion,” “terrorism” and “collusion with foreign forces.” Anyone convicted under the law will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence. It was imposed on Hong Kong by the mainland legislature, bypassing Hong Kong’s own legislative process. As part of helping students understand the new law’s provisions, teachers are to “foster the correct values on [students’] national identity” and to respect Chinese national symbols including the flag and national anthem, the letter said.
What will this “upgrade” to transgender cost a girl? Only her name; her natural voice, which will be permanently altered even if she one day gets off testosterone; her breasts, with their erogenous capacity and ability to breastfeed; and perhaps her ability to bear children at all. These are lifelong sacrifices, doled out on an “informed consent” basis to girls too young to legally get tattoos. Shrier poignantly writes, “No adolescent should pay this high a price for having been, briefly, a follower.”
Common humanity is our warrant as Christians to enter the public square. Our concern for addressing social ills originates from our shared creation by God. Natural law dictates the content of our engagement.
One of the silver linings to emerge from the current parade of criminal justice tragedies is a renewed focus on how we can reimagine public safety and law enforcement in this country. In this new vision, “law enforcement” should call to mind a practice, not a profession. Only then are we likely to have a system of public safety that understands the law is there to serve people rather than the other way around.
It is not helpful to demand that schools simply reopen. Instead, public officials at all levels — from school districts to state capitals to the federal government — need to provide schools with the resources, tools and ideas necessary to address the legitimate health concerns of teachers and parents.
Other families, doctors and advocates for children with disabilities say the disruption caused by COVID is reverberating throughout the entire special needs community. Doctors tell me children with autism are among the most affected. Their disorder seems almost custom-built to kick into high gear when everything they know suddenly turns upside down.
How extreme is Kamala Harris? Pretty extreme. There are various measures for these things, but according to Progressive Punch (“Leading with the Left”), Kamala Harris is the fourth farthest-left of any senator with a score of 96.76 percent out of 100 on “crucial votes,” despite moderating very slightly in the period when she was running for president. Elizabeth Warren is fifth, Kirsten Gillibrand is sixth, and Bernie Sanders is tenth. Here is a portion of the chart:
Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism.
American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them.
Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic state attorneys general that attempted to criminalize dissent in the matter of global warming, using her office’s investigatory powers to target and harass non-profit policy groups while she and her counterpart in New York attempted to shake down Exxon on phony fraud cases.
Until she was stopped by a federal court, Harris was laying subpoenas on organizations such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative-leaning group that is critical of Democratic global-warming proposals. She demanded private information that the organizations were not legally obliged to disclose, including financial information and donor lists, in order to be able to subject the supporters of right-leaning groups to legal and financial harassment. This was, as a federal judge confirmed, an obvious and unquestionable violation of the First Amendment.
It was also a serious abuse of power. Harris’s actions were coordinated with those of then attorney general Eric Schneiderman in New York, who argued — preposterously — that Exxon’s taking a different view of global warming was a form of securities fraud. This isn’t a conspiracy theory: They held a press conference and organized their effort into a committee, which they called AGs United for Clean Power.
This was not happening in a political vacuum. At approximately the same time, the IRS was being weaponized to harass and disadvantage right-leaning nonprofits and policy organizations, for example, leaking the confidential tax information of the National Organization for Marriage as an act of political retaliation, an offense for which the IRS was obliged to pay a settlement. (The IRS’s other abuses, as in the Lois Lerner matter, remain largely unpunished.) A lawyer with connections to Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo attempted to extort billions of dollars from Chevron in a mammoth racketeering project that involved falsifying evidence and bribing judges, a project that was cheered on by green activists such as musician Roger Waters and Democratic operatives such as former Cuomo aide Karen Hinton, both of whom had negotiated for themselves a percentage of the settlement. That went on until a federal judge intervened on RICO grounds. Democratic voices in the media were calling for the authorities to — this part is even less subtle —“arrest climate change deniers,” a project to which activists such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lent their voices.
And this was not idle talk: As with Harris’s abusive investigation in California, a legal pretext was offered, albeit a patently ridiculous one.
Harris’s self-serving prosecutorial abuses have been directed at political enemies, but they also put hundreds — maybe thousands — of people in jail or at risk of prosecution on wrongful grounds when it suited her agenda. As Lara Bazelon of the Loyola law school wrote in the New York Times:
Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.
Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.
Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.
In the context of Harris’s political vendettas, that eagerness to engage in “systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights” is particularly terrifying.
In choosing this corrupt prosecutor as his vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden has made a serious error, one that highlights his already substantial deficiencies in judgment.
In May of 2019, Kamala Harris unequivocally told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she would make no distinction between American citizens and illegal immigrants on a broad array of measures. When Tapper referred to benefits for “people who are in this country illegally,” Harris replied: “Let me just be very clear about this. I am opposed to any policy that would deny in our country any human being from access to public safety, public education or public health, period.” Joe Biden’s position on the same matter has been murky: Like all of the other Democrats on stage he raised his hand when Savannah Guthrie asked, “Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.” His campaign later claimed that Biden meant only that undocumented immigrants could purchase health insurance via Obamacare. But Biden was specifically asked about Medicare and Medicaid last June, and he said, “Look, I think that anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for.”
Harris’s campaign got off to a terrible start last January when she blithely said, also on CNN, that she would eliminate private health insurance, though she later walked back that position.
“The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through all the paperwork, all of the delay that may require,” Harris initially said. “Who of all us have not had that situation where you have to wait for approval and the doctor says, ‘I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this.’ Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.” She later clarified that by saying she was talking about eliminating bureaucracy and waste, not private health insurance, but as late as June 27 of last year, she was one of only two candidates at a Democratic debate who raised their hands when asked whether anyone would eliminate private health insurance. The next day she claimed she had misunderstood the question, which was “Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?” Only Harris and Bernie Sanders raised their hands.
The Democratic Party position is usually slightly more nuanced: It involves not eliminating private health insurance directly but putting it out of business indirectly, so as to maintain plausible deniability with the aid of the media. First step: Set up a public option, or “Biden plan.” This would, of course, wipe out all private health insurers, as Joe Biden frankly admitted in his New York Times editorial board interview, because no private company would be able to compete with the federal system. Here was his exchange with Jeneen Interlandi of the Times:
JI: O.K. You can keep your doctors. What happens if employers curb their own offerings as the public option takes hold? There’s a lot of incentive ——
Bingo. They can automatically go get a public option.
JI:But they would lose their ——
Sure they would.
JI:An employer could take away, if someone likes their private insurance ——
No, no, here’s the deal. If you like your private insurance and your employer keeps it with you, you can keep it.
JI:But what happens if your employer cancels it?
If you can’t, you come on the Biden plan. You provide that option. You can get a gold plan where you do have nobody — you do not have to pay more than a $1,000 deductible. We significantly reduce drug prices, which, by the way, Republicans are looking to get done, O.K.? What you do is you provide that option. But if you like your plan, if you really like it, I don’t think we should come along and say, “You must give it up.”
JI:But if your employer cancels that plan, then you don’t get it, you don’t have that choice.
No, you don’t have the choice, but you had the choice to — that’s why — I’m not saying, I said, if you like your plan, you can keep it, assuming — I should add the obvious — if your employer doesn’t take it away from you. O.K.?
If you like your plan, you can keep it . . . unless it’s no longer available. Which it won’t be. But Democrats will blame the private insurers they drive out of business for going out of business.
Out of all of Biden’s options, he chose the rival whose presidential campaign is best remembered for her attack on him, contending he opposed busing? The rival who said the way he described his relationship with old segregationists was “hurtful”!
DAVID MUIR: In recent days former Vice President Biden has said about executive orders, “Some really talented people are seeking the nomination. They said ‘I’m going to issue an executive order.'” Biden saying, “There’s no constitutional authority to issue that executive order when they say ‘I’m going to eliminate assault weapons,'” saying, “you can’t do it by executive order any more than Trump can do things when he says he can do it by executive order.”
HARRIS: Well, I mean, I would just say, hey, Joe, instead of saying, no, we can’t, let’s say yes, we can.
BIDEN: Let’s be constitutional. We’ve got a Constitution.
HARRIS: And yes, we can, because I’ll tell you something. The way that I think about this is, I’ve seen more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you. I have attended more police officer funerals than I care to tell you. I have hugged more mothers of homicide victims than I care to tell you.
And the idea that we would wait for this Congress, which has just done nothing, to act, is just — it is overlooking the fact that every day in America, our babies are going to school to have drills, elementary, middle and high school students, where they are learning about how they have to hide in a closet or crouch in a corner if there is a mass shooter roaming the hallways of their school.
As the sportscaster in Dodgeball says, “that’s a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for him.”
Someone might want to remind Joe Biden, who’s just picked progressive California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, that his vice-president-to-be believes Catholics are unfit to serve in our nation’s courts. (Biden, of course, as I considered at length on the homepage today, has spent his entire political career invoking his Catholic faith.)
In late 2018, while evaluating the nomination of Brian Buescher to serve as a district judge in Nebraska, Harris posed a series of questions insinuating that his involvement in the Knights of Columbus — a charitable Catholic fraternal organization — disqualified him from serving on the bench. Here’s one of her written questions:
Since 1993, you have been a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men. In 2016, Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, described abortion as “a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths.” Mr. Anderson went on to say that “abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.” Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?
She went on to ask Buescher whether he was “aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed marriage equality when [he] joined the organization” and whether he had “ever, in any way, assisted with or contributed to advocacy against women’s reproductive rights.”
Harris’s colleague, Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, went a bit further, asking Buescher whether he intended to “end [his] membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias” — in other words, intimating that she would withhold her vote at least until he had left the Knights of Columbus.
These two Democrats were, in short, suggesting that belonging to a Catholic group with millions of members, which has been an important charity in the U.S. for more than a century, renders an individual unfit to serve as a judge.
More sinister even than that, Harris used Buescher’s membership in the Knights of Columbus as a pretext to insinuate that opposition to abortion, a core component of Catholic teaching on the dignity and value of human life, disqualifies an individual from the bench.
Buescher eventually was confirmed, and at the behest of Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, the Senate later voted unanimously to reaffirm the constitutional clause forbidding religious tests for public officeholders. But the fact remains that Harris was guilty of reprehensible anti-Catholic bigotry, and there’s no reason to believe her views have changed.
I just spent nearly four hours of my life that I can never get back listening to oral arguments in the Flynn case. At issue was D.C. Circuit federal appeals court’s en banc reconsideration — i.e., review by the full court, ten judges in this instance (one having recused) — of the ruling by a divided three-judge panel of the court, which issued a writ of mandamus ordering Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case. (I wrote about the case over the weekend, here.)
In truth, the hearing (by teleconference) was quite interesting. For now, though, I just want to address a media account about it, because it goes to show why people have become skeptical of news reporting. In scanning some of the coverage, I noticed this loaded headline at CNBC: “Government lawyer suggests Attorney General Barr had secret reasons for dropping Flynn criminal case.”
No, that is not what the government lawyer said.
One of the major aspects in the case is a provision in Rule 48(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which requires the prosecutor to obtain “leave of court” in order to dismiss a criminal case. This provision is in tension with constitutional law, under which the decision to commence or persist in a prosecution is vested solely in the executive branch. So the core questions are: Does the “leave of court” requirement permit the judge to conduct some inquiry into the Justice Department’s reasons for dropping a case? And, if so, how much inquiry is tolerable before the court crosses the line, violating separation of powers by intruding on the executive’s discretion?
As you might imagine, there was a good deal of back-and-forth on this, particularly between the judges and Jeffrey Wall, the acting solicitor general, who argued the case for the Justice Department. This discussion shifted from (a) hypotheticals about how little the government could theoretically get away with disclosing about its reasoning, to (b) how much it had actually disclosed in the Flynn case. Wall made it clear that, whatever might in the abstract be the base level of required disclosure, the Justice Department had gone well above it in Flynn’s case. Here, Judge Sullivan was given a submission arguing that the case should not have been brought in the first place; it posited a legal theory that there was no crime, supported by factual disclosures that were, in turn, backed up by witness statements and other evidence.
As the discussion between Wall and the judges unfolded, a question arose about whether the prosecutor is obliged to tell the court all of its reasons for dropping a case, or if it is sufficient to impart just enough information to satisfy the court that the dismissal is not sought for an improper purpose. (The Justice Department argues that the court’s inquiry into improper purpose is limited to ensuring that the defendant agrees with the dismissal.) In explaining why there is no requirement to tell the court everything the prosecutor knows, Wall pointed out that very often the prosecutor will be aware of information from the investigation that might inform the decision to dismiss but that, for a host of good reasons, should not be disclosed.
In this vein, Wall added, it was entirely possible that Attorney General Barr might be aware of non-public information from the Flynn investigation and related investigations that should not be publicized, and that there would be no need to reveal it because the court had already been given more than enough information to be satisfied that the dismissal motion was proper.
In context, Wall seemed to be speaking theoretically, not based on personal knowledge of the investigations and what the attorney general knows about them. That’s not just the way I heard it; the judges plainly heard it the same way because there was no follow-up. It was a point worthy of making, but not one that called for probing.
Wall was not saying that Barr was in possession of or had relied on “secret information” that is being withheld from Judge Sullivan. Nor was he saying Barr had no such information, as it would be normal to have it. In fact, Wall did not seem to have the Flynn case in mind at all. He was in the position of the Justice Department’s lawyer looking out for the institutional interests of prosecutors. It is commonplace for prosecutors to be aware of non-public information that is not disclosed in relevant court proceedings — maybe it’s grand-jury material, maybe disclosure would compromise an informant, maybe revealing it would hurt investigators’ ability to conduct effective interviews of witnesses, etc.
None of this is similar. There are well-known rules of the road. Prosecutors must disclose exculpatory information. And there is a duty of candor toward the tribunal. If a prosecutor makes a statement that could be misleading if other information is not disclosed, then that information must be disclosed. If a judge asks a question, the prosecutor must either answer it or inform the judge that the government declines to answer it — the court must not be placed under a misimpression. But all that said, the prosecutor simply needs to show that his reasoning satisfied any legal requirement, not to disclose every fact that informed his reasoning.
All the acting solicitor general was saying is that there is no legal obligation to inform the court of everything the prosecutor knows. He was not signaling that there is some explosive secret information somehow bearing on the Flynn dismissal motion that has been withheld from Judge Sullivan.
Living as I do on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, next to the projects behind the Metropolitan Opera, I wanted to temper some of the sentiments expressed by the estimable Kyle Smith and VDH on the decline of New York.
To me, the Upper West Side is not quite as bad as it seems to Kyle. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it, but I don’t sense a “palpable” fear when going out to eat on Amsterdam or Columbus Ave.—and the outdoor dining is actually quite nice, even in the heat and humidity. Nor is there fear among the sunbathers at Sheep Meadow on Central Park’s west side, or in the parks along the Hudson.
New York is not dead. Go to Greenwich Village on a weekend, and the streets are filled with people at outdoor cafes and grabbing a drink along with their Cuomo chips. Many of the city’s restaurants, thank goodness, are surviving.
Neither has the city returned entirely to the dysfunction of the late ’60s and ’70s. During the looting and riots in late May it really did seem like a good idea to bring in federal troops to restore order, but the rioting died down relatively quickly, and there was no need for a federal response on the level of L.A.’s Rodney King riots. Seeing stores and restaurants with plywood on their windows was a shock, but that plywood has come down in most places and been repurposed for barriers for outdoor dining. There is currently nothing close to the persistent and violent Antifa presence that exists in Portland. At most, Black Lives Matter protesters will get on bicycles and ride around Manhattan in groups; annoying and stupid, but nothing New York’s finest can’t handle.
None of this is intended to discount the suffering New Yorkers experienced at the height of the pandemic, including the 23,500 who died and the additional tens of thousands who fell ill. The eerie emptiness of midtown and downtown Manhattan is staggering for anyone to behold. And of course, it would be better for the NYPD if they could focus on rising murders in certain precincts rather than chaperoning BLM protesters.
One day, however, the coronavirus mitigation efforts will end. Whether New York will fully recover is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, I feel compelled to report that, in my day-to-day experience, the city is not yet in the midst of the apocalypse.
We prefer our Marx to be of the Groucho and Chico persuasion, and though they were a source of confusion about the contractual validity of a sanity clause, there is no confusion — say so many of the donors to our ongoing Cancel-Culture webathon — about the fact that NR is worth their financial support because it indeed is an oasis of sanity in this maelstrom of ideology and madness and Leftism amok-running. Some examples:
John affords us a generous $200 and this sentiment: “NR has been a safe harbor of sanity for decades. During these times of reckless stupidity, we need NR more than ever. Thank you all for your thoughtful and intelligent articles and commentaries.” It’s us who need to do the thanking, and we do. And yeah — we find your assessment to be spot-on, John.
Ditto from Christopher, who spots us 50 bucks and says what we all know to be true: “National Review is nearly the only sanity out there. After my morning (leftist) local paper, NR online is the first place I go. Keep up the great work.” You keep passing the ammo and we’ll keep the guns ablaze. Thanks, Christopher.
Jacob drops $500 into the till and says it short and sweet: “Nowhere else is there such a high concentration of great thinker-writers.” I like that job description, and yeah, it fits a goodly amount of my colleagues — who are in the fight because of your selflessness. Thanks Jacob.
Alex is good for a $100 contribution and specific praise: “Thanks to Rich (our voice), Jim (our funny bone), MBD (our conscience), Maddy K. (our common sense), Charlie (our trigger finger), and so many others. You’ve helped me make better sense of the world. I don’t have much, but I hope this helps you keep up the fight.” It sure does. Many many thanks, Alex.
Now Matthew, who sends $100, is my first pick for foxhole companion: “I wish I could meet these bastards in the street but I am too old for that now. And my better angels tell me Mr. Cooke is right — duke it out with ideas and words. You folks have both in truths the NR expresses every single day.” Never too old Matthew, but thanks terribly for the kind words and kind deed.
Joseph, source of a $50 contribution, is actually fighting: “Currently deployed and National Review gives me hope I’ll still recognize our country when we return home. Keep fighting the good fight.” We do because you do. Typing with one hand and saluting with the other, Joseph!
Let’s end with this from the once-parched Richard, donor of a C Note: “Reading your articles is like a drink of fresh water in a drought. You are a good part of my moral compass.” Well, well, well, we are here to serve. Drink up! And thanks so much, Richard!
Sane journalism was a rarity to start with — after the intense madness of 2020, it might as well be on the Endangered Species List. But sane, meaningful, conservative journalism — one that is a bold and powerful two-by-four upside the head of Leftist elites and the 1619 brigadiers who detest the More-Perfecting Union of the Declaration and Constitution — is the DNA and vital organs and gray matter of NR. This magazine and website deserve to persist in the fight, because without it . . . well, do you picture the world being be a worse place sans NR? If you think so, and if you’re like Richard, who quenches his intellectual thirst at the NR Bar, then buy a round. Your generosity will keep the joint open and jumping. Minus that, well . . . let’s not think about the darkness.
So: How much to give? The answer is what your wallet and means dictate. But be assured of this: There is no contribution too small or too large — and never one that is not deeply appreciated by all here. Help us to stay in the fight, to preserve that rare source of conservative sanity, through your generous donation of $10 or $20 or $50 or $100. What the heck: Think about $250 or $500 or $1,000, and if more is possible, you’ll get no complaints here! Whatever you can donate, do so here. To give by check, make one payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036.
One last thing: Morrie Ryskind was one of the screenwriters for A Night at the Opera, famous for its “sanity clause” line and dozens more. He was also one of the founding editors of National Review. Morrie was a Hollywood lefty-turned-conservative who befriended a young Bill Buckley when he was launching this journal. He was an avowed foe of that other Marx, the one named Karl. Many believe he was also blackballed because he appeared as a friendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That would make Ryskind an original victim of the cancel culture. Your contribution would be a nice bit of payback for that.
“The pick is in!” Now-commissioner Roger Goodell will stride out upon the stage and announce that with the first pick in the 2020 Democratic running-mate draft, Joe Biden’s campaign selects . . . okay, wait, that’s not really how it works.
For cable-news and political junkies, this is one of the most dramatic moments of the cycle. Likely one Democrat among Kamala Harris, Susan Rice, Karen Bass, Tammy Duckworth, or Gretchen Whitmer has just been given an excellent chance of becoming the 47th president of the United States — and obviously the first woman to become commander in chief. For the others, there’s likely a promise of strong consideration for some other key position in Biden’s cabinet.
But looking back at recent history, some of the figures on the short list don’t join the cabinet and end up not playing much of a role in the party’s future. Chris Christie never formally joined the Trump administration; reportedly, Jared Kushner played a role in that decision. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana made the short list for Obama, but didn’t seek reelection in 2010 and lost a bid to return to the Senate in 2016. Oklahoma governor Frank Keating was considered a top contender in 2000, but never joined the Bush administration. And in 1992, Bill Clinton’s finalists included “Senators Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John D. Rockefeller 4th of West Virginia, Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, Bob Graham of Florida and Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana.”
In the sales competition in Glengarry Glen Ross, “first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. . . . Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.” Biden’s selection gets to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, several others will probably get some sort of position in the executive branch . . . and some others may well get obscurity.
While we wait to hear the name of Joe Biden’s running mate, I just want to reiterate the point.
Biden’s basement-style campaign means that every word he says in public, and every decision he makes has more weight. It’s the exact opposite of Trump’s 2016 approach, in which a motormouth campaign that seemed to be streaming 24/7 on cable news made everything he said weightless.
It’s an important choice. You can’t see a video of Biden these days without thinking: “His veep pick really matters!” One poll shows that more than half the public believes Biden will not serve the full length of his first term.
And I think this means it’s impossible to make a “correct” pick. Someone who has too large a profile will look too much like a president-in-waiting and overshadow Biden. Someone without a large profile, or too far to his left, will make Biden look like he’s taking the risk of marooning the country with a president who doesn’t have legitimacy.
The pick matters so much because Biden’s age, energy level, and health matters.
At Lawfare, Alan Z. Rozenshtein argues that the National Rifle Association should be reformed, not dissolved. But as he notes, there are serious allegations of financial impropriety against the organization’s leadership — and in such cases, the state of New York (where the NRA is registered) grants its attorney general wide discretion to seek dissolution rather than other remedies, such as replacing the board or placing the organization into receivership.
As a result, his argument rests on norms, not laws:
The law under which [the state attorney general] is operating is immensely broad, and permits the attorney general to seek to dissolve a nonprofit if it “has exceeded the authority conferred upon it by law, or has violated any provision of law whereby it has forfeited its charter, or carried on, conducted or transacted its business in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner, or by the abuse of its powers contrary to public policy of the state has become liable to be dissolved.”
But the very breadth of the law is what underscores the need for the norm — which is, after all, an unwritten rule of conduct for government officials — of prosecutorial discretion. As written, the statute permits the attorney general to seek dissolution any time a nonprofit’s leaders engage in serious fraud. But seeking such a radical remedy every time that occurs would clearly go beyond what the legislature intended, and what good public policy countenances. The breadth of the law only makes sense if paired with discretion on the part of those who enforce it.
I’m not sure the breadth of the law makes sense at all. If there’s one thing that the past five years or so have taught us, it’s that mere norms erode in the face of political incentives. The only thing that matters is what the law actually allows officials to do. New York and other states should spell out more specific criteria for when a nonprofit must be dissolved rather than reformed.
Closed schools are a national emergency that will damage an entire generation of children. Many districts seem to be defaulting to a plan of waiting for a vaccine before reopening schools. This represents a tragic lack of urgency and creative thinking.
Where is the audacity? Restaurants can figure out outdoor dining. Why can’t schools manage outdoor learning? In my latest Bloomberg column, I offer some ideas to keep kids in classrooms while also addressing the legitimate health concerns held by many teachers and parents:
Classes should be held outdoors wherever possible. Football, baseball and soccer fields can be converted to outdoor classrooms; for many weeks, students and teachers wouldn’t need to spend much time indoors. Tents can keep children dry if it is raining. Heat lamps can keep them warm during a fall chill. Restaurants have figured out how to do this. Schools can, too.
Children should be kept in small, assigned groups, and groups should mingle as little as possible. If local officials decide that all students can’t attend in person five days a week to keep density low, the school week should be extended, and some classes should be held on weekends and evenings. And districts that go virtual this fall should begin planning immediately to keep schools open in the summer of 2021 to make up for lost classroom instruction.
High school students are more equipped to benefit from virtual learning than 1st graders. So if some schools must be closed, then close the high schools, keep the K-8 schools open, and use the high-school buildings for socially distanced elementary- and middle-school students. Better yet, districts should keep all schools open and work with local officials to commandeer public parks for outdoor instruction — or even vacant shopping malls for socially distanced indoor instruction — during the week.
There is an implicit assumption in many states that the school year needs to begin in late August or early September, as previously scheduled, or not at all. But state officials could directly link the goals of reducing the virus’s spread and reopening schools, telling their residents that once the spread reaches a specified low level, schools will reopen. This would encourage greater use of masks and social distancing measures. And if a state hits its target in, say, mid-October, why not begin the school year then? The choice shouldn’t be to open on September 3 or not at all.
The Philadelphia Statement on free speech and civil discourse makes its public debut today. The Philadelphia Statement counters social-media mobs, cancel culture, and campus-speech policing by clearly articulating and affirming the principles of free speech and the need for civil discourse. By collecting signatories, supporters of the Philadelphia Statement hope to start a movement that will restore and strengthen the culture of free expression in America.
You can read the Philadelphia Statement here. If you agree, you can become a signatory of the Philadelphia Statement at the same link. I am one of the initial signatories, as is NR’s Kevin Williamson. You can read the list of initial signatories here.
Two of the initial signatories, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, and Pete Peterson, dean at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, have a thoughtful op-ed about the Philadelphia Statement out today.
Is the presidential race in Michigan close or a Biden blowout? The polls point in opposite directions.
The most recent poll, conducted July 26 to August 6 by YouGov for the University of Wisconsin, shows Biden leading Trump 47 percent to 43 percent among registered voters. A July 24-26 poll of likely voters by the Democratic pollster Change Research also found Biden leading by just four points.
On the other hand, a CNN poll showed Biden up 12 points in mid-July, and a late July poll conducted by EPIC-MRA showed Biden up 11 points.
One possible sign that the Biden campaign believes the race is actually close in Michigan: The state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, found herself in recent weeks back on Biden’s VP shortlist.
Back in June, the president of Duke University decreed that the institution needed to fully embrace anti-racism. Today the Martin Center publishes an open letter by emeritus professor John Staddon in response to it. He is troubled by the assumptions behind the anti-racism crusade and the actions it will entail.
Here is Staddon’s conclusion:
Sir, you repeatedly propose ‘transformative action’ and end by saying that ‘These actions are only a starting point.’ I hope that nothing happens until some of the questions I have raised are satisfactorily answered. In no case should faculty and students be forced to undergo training that seems to resemble not education but Uighur-style re-education.
Today, I have an Impromptus column for you, touching on a variety of subjects, as is the column’s job. Yesterday, I had a piece on Ondrej Kolar, a district mayor in Prague. He has gone through a terrible ordeal, which required police protection, and two weeks in hiding. If you would like to hear my podcast with him, go here.
Kolar is an inspiring figure: a politician who stands up for freedom and democracy, even in the face of the direst personal threats.
Impromptus today begins with that old devil race. I speak a bit about the capitalization of “white” and “black.” (I think this is a bad and corrosive habit.) And I note an incident in Leelanau County, Mich., where I once spent some time.
A member of the Road Commission there said, “Well, this whole thing is because of them n*****s in Detroit.” By “this whole thing,” he meant the pandemic and the need to wear masks, I think.
Later, speaking to Interlochen Public Radio, he said, “A n***** is a n***** is a n*****. That’s not a person whatsoever.”
Forget the sentiment for a minute. What do you think of the asterisks? Namby-pamby? Too softening? Does that word have a greater impact — is its ugliness more amply revealed — without asterisks?
Let’s try it again: “A nigger is a nigger is a nigger,” said the road commissioner. “That’s not a person whatsoever.”
It seems to me that, in the last several years, racists have crawled out of the woodwork. They always exist, of course, but they are either in the woodwork or not. I prefer them in the woodwork, if I have to have them at all.
Yesterday, after I wrote my column, I had a memory of long ago. Arthur Ashe was dying of AIDS. This was in the early 1990s. And he told an interviewer that being black was harder than having AIDS.
I was brought up short by this remark. Ashe was a celebrity, a star, a revered athlete. An American hero. Was being black so hard as that — even for him? By his own testimony: yes.
Googling around, I have found an excerpt from his autobiography. I will paste.
I had spent more than an hour talking in my office at home with a reporter for People magazine. Her editor had sent her to do a story about me and how I was coping with AIDS. The reporter’s questions had been probing and yet respectful of my right to privacy. Now, our interview over, I was escorting her to the door. As she slipped on her coat, she fell silent. I could see that she was groping for the right words to express her sympathy for me before she left.
“Mr. Ashe, I guess this must be the heaviest burden you have ever had to bear, isn’t it?” she asked finally.
I thought for a moment, but only a moment. “No, it isn’t. It’s a burden, all right. But AIDS isn’t the heaviest burden I have had to bear.”
“Is there something worse? Your heart attack?”
I didn’t want to detain her, but I let the door close with both of us still inside.
“You’re not going to believe this,” I said to her, “but being black is the greatest burden I’ve had to bear.”
“You can’t mean that.”
“No question about it. Race has always been my biggest burden. Having to live as a minority in America. Even now it continues to feel like an extra weight tied around me.”
I can still recall the surprise and perhaps even the hurt on her face. I may even have surprised myself, because I simply had never thought of comparing the two conditions before. However, I stand by my remark. Race is for me a more onerous burden than AIDS. My disease is the result of biological factors over which we, thus far, have had no control. Racism, however, is entirely made by people, and therefore it hurts and inconveniences infinitely more.
Over at the Catholic Herald’s Chapter House blog, where I write a couple of times a month, I have a new column on the classic ’90s romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. I somehow managed never to see the movie until just last week, when I discovered that, in addition to being one of the very best romantic comedies of the last few decades, many of its themes are just what we need to hear during this strange cultural moment in which we find ourselves.
Even before the coronavirus outbreak confined most of us to our homes and largely removed us from our tangible communities, we were suffering from an isolation pandemic in this country. Here’s part of how I put it in the piece:
Technological advances such as FaceTime and Zoom have been godsends, to be sure, but we all know that a video call can never replace a housewarming party, a first date at a movie or a dine-in restaurant, a real Thanksgiving dinner, a chance for grandparents to watch their grandchildren open presents under the tree. Social distancing, though a necessity in some circumstances, doesn’t come without significant suffering and costs.
We are social creatures, and though they hadn’t received nearly enough attention, social scientists had been telling us long before the coronavirus outbreak that we’re in the grips of an isolation pandemic, a cultural crisis of loneliness. It’s little surprise that the last few months of lockdowns have brought about spikes in the number of Americans reporting anxiety and depression, certainly due at least in part to increased isolation.
Which brings us back to lonely Lucy. Along with giving us more well-rounded characters than the modern rom-com typically delivers, While You Were Sleeping reminds us in our age of isolation that we are all better off when we’re knit into communities and places where we belong—even when those communities force us to accept other people’s idiosyncrasies, even when living closely with them requires patience and selflessness, even when it’s difficult and often painful to be dependent on others and have them depend on us.
If you’ve managed to miss out on this classic like I had, make some time on a socially distanced evening at home to fix that.
“In talking to some of my friends who work in infectious disease, they think she’s done an incredible job, as do I,” said Julie Campbell-Bode, a Democratic activist from Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb. “Selfishly, we need her here. There is plenty of time for her to climb those mountains and I’m sure she will.”
A high compliment to be sure, but . . . I wonder how Garlin Gilchrist feels reading that. He’s the lieutenant governor of Michigan who would take over if Whitmer resigned to become vice president . . . and apparently, some Whitmer fans are just not convinced he could fill her shoes.
Yesterday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed an executive order forcing nursing homes in his state to accept patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in March, informed reporters there was no need for an independent inquiry into his deadly mistake because no one can be deemed reliable enough to investigate him.
“There is no such thing as a person who is trusted by all Democrats and Republicans. That person doesn’t exist. The Department of Health — those are just numbers. They report our numbers. You can see you what you want in the numbers, but the numbers are the numbers,” Cuomo explained.
Well, using this preposterous logic, no politician could ever be investigated for wrongdoing in the United States. Fortunately, the Associated Press released its own investigation today into the Cuomo scandal and found that it was likely New York had significantly undercounted the deaths resulting from the governor’s mishandling of the elderly at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.
Numbers, it turns out, aren’t always numbers. Unlike other states with major outbreaks, New York’s fatality numbers only include residents who died on nursing-home property, and not the thousands of patients who caught the disease in homes but were transported and ultimately died elsewhere. While the state estimates that around 6,600 perished in nursing homes, the Associated Press puts the real number closer to 11,000 — more than the total fatality count in any state other than New Jersey.
It might even be worse. The Associated Press — which should be praised as one of the only major outlets pursuing this story — has been denied access to New York’s nursing-home death data despite filing public records request three months ago. You might remember all the conspiracy theories that liberal pundits were spreading about Florida’s “manipulated” numbers in May. Here we are in August, and Cuomo, the governor who couldn’t flatten the curve, is now also stonewalling and hiding his state’s death toll.
In our fear of death we simply do not want to think about what happens after our loved ones die. But we must. We seem to be willing, in our understandable terror, to trade away many essential things: basic freedoms, our public life and public institutions for the promise of greater safety from sickness and death, but when that sickness and death come anyway (as it must), what will we do when we find we have made the world worse than it otherwise might have been? If we trade the beauty and order of our society for safety, not only will we find we have lost our dear ones anyway, we will sit and mourn them in a desolate land of our own making.
China’s Foreign Ministry, which announced the sanctions, didn’t offer details on what they would entail. The move appears to be largely symbolic and restrained, as most of those listed had been targeted by Beijing before.
“In response to the erroneous actions of the U.S., China has decided to impose sanctions today on those individuals who behaved badly on Hong Kong-related issues,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian during Monday’s daily press briefing.
So far, Mr. Lai’s is the most significant arrest made under the new national-security law. He is a towering figure in Hong Kong, and his newspaper was a thorn in the side of the city’s pro-Beijing leadership during the months of massive peaceful protests and violent clashes with police that rocked Hong Kong last year.