Kamala Harris and the Fallacy of Defective Induction

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks during the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Perhaps Kamala Harris’s favorite tagline during last week’s debate was that, when it comes to questions of policy, “we have to think about how this affects real people.” That might sound grounded and good-hearted, but the emphasis on “real people” so often translates to an emphasis on impassioned anecdotes. These anecdotes then become faulty generalizations and are treated as evidence for the legitimacy of any possible policy proposal — a recurring theme of Harris’s debate performance.

An example: Harris stated that she had “been traveling around the country . . . meeting people who are working two and three jobs.” From these meetings, she concluded that America is in some form of employment crisis under this administration (despite the record-low unemployment rate) because people in America are working two and three jobs just “to put food on the table.”

Harris, however, remained especially vague as to the actual number of Americans forced to work multiple jobs to feed their families. The reality is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 5 percent of Americans worked more than one job in 2018. Further, only 3.2 percent of that 5 percent work a full-time job alongside of a part-time job (instead of two part-time jobs). And, recorded within that 3.2 percent are freelance artists, moonlight writers, and weekend Uber drivers — in short, it is hard to gauge whether the majority were working multiple jobs simply to “put food on the table” as Harris suggested, or if they were simply unsatisfied with their regular job (as the Census Bureau suggests).

Perhaps what is most telling, however, is that the percentage of Americans who are working two full-time jobs is almost too negligible for the BLS to record, at 0.2 percent. To top it off, the number of Americans working multiple jobs has stayed fairly steady since 1970, and it has been on a noticeable decline since the ’90s.

Her method of reasoning from the premise that she has met people who work multiple jobs to the conclusion that there is an employment crisis in the U.S. is an exemplary case of the fallacy of defective induction: concluding that something is generally the case because it is the case in a few instances. (Of course, Harris certainly was not the first, nor will she be the last, politician to enlist this fallacy in public speech.)

As the campaigning continues over these next 500 days, my plea is this: Beware the stories of  “real people” in political debates and the emotionally charged anecdote — this is true across the aisle, by the way — for a fallacy of defective induction is likely bringing up the rear.


Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (July 2, 2019)


1. A baby found dead in a bag under a tree in a bag this winter gets a funeral Mass and burial complete with NYPD pallbearers

2. Baby found in plastic bag has people waiting in line to adopt her

3. 17-Year-Old Soon to Age Out of Foster Care Pleads to Be Adopted by Anyone Who Will Take Me


5. How to Speak to Someone Who’s Suffering 

6. General Michael Hayden on surviving a stroke

7. Music for the dying

8. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Tony Perkins to Advocate for Release of Imprisoned Uighur Muslim Dilshat Perhat Ataman


10. A homily for today: “Today we see in the readings just how far God will go to save us and how we need to be open to how he saves us even when it seems that we’re perishing.”

That same priest’s celebration of his parents 50 years of marriage

(By the way, if this kind of thing interests you, do you know about #homilytweet?)




German Lopez makes a strong case (at Vox) that the mainstream Democratic approach to gun policy can’t achieve much. Background checks and bans on “assault weapons” would do little to reduce rates of gun homicide, suicide, and injury even at their most successful, because they would leave so many guns in Americans’ possession. Some people have drawn the conclusion that gun control in the U.S. is a blind alley. Lopez goes the other way: Progressives should set more ambitious goals. “Democrats should go big. They need to focus on the abundance of guns in the US and develop a suite of policies that directly tackle that issue, from licensing to confiscation to more aggressive bans of certain kinds of firearms (including, perhaps, all semiautomatic weapons or at least some types of handguns).”

Is this a plausible path? To Lopez’s credit, he lays out a lot of the evidence that it isn’t. He points to the rapid change in views about same-sex marriage as a hopeful precedent. But the issues just aren’t comparable. About twenty years passed between the time that most people had heard of the idea of same-sex marriage and its attainment of majority support. It triumphed nearly as soon as it became a live issue. Support for a ban on handguns, on the other hand, declined more or less continuously from 1959 through 2012 before very modestly rebounding.

Even when it comes to Democrats, Lopez understates what an uphill climb gun control has. He writes that “by and large, the party has remained in the same place it was in 25 years ago, focused on background checks and an assault weapons ban.” Both Democrats and Republicans have gotten less supportive of an assault-weapons ban over time. In 1993, 47 of the 56 Senate Democrats voted for it; in 2013, only 39 of the 55 Senate Democrats did. (I’m counting King and Sanders in the 55.) Over the same span, the Republican votes for the ban fell from nine to one.


A Ministry of All the Talents?

Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., June 20, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The European Council (the EU institution that essentially acts as a forum for the heads of government of the EU’s member states) has just come up, after much wrangling, with the selection of candidates for the union’s most-senior jobs.

It is recommending that the EU’s top bureaucrat (the president of the Commission) should be Ursula von der Leyen, a loyal Merkel ally, who has been Germany’s defense minister since 2013. Years of neglect under Merkel before von der Leyen took office means that she is by far from being the only culprit for the chaotic, underfunded state of Germany’s armed forces. Nor is von der Leyen solely to blame for Germany’s continuing unwillingness to meet its NATO  spending commitments. Nevertheless, she has been defense minister for over five years now.

And, notes the Independent:

[S]he has also faced controversy at home: in December she faced a parliamentary probe over claims of poor management and nepotism in relation to her department’s awarding of contracts and close relationship with defence consultants.

The daughter of a prominent EU official, von der Leyen believes, over the longer term, in a United States of Europe and, oh yes, a united EU military.

Meanwhile, the European Council’s new president is slated to be Belgium’s Charles Michel, currently the country’s interim prime minister after the break up of his previous coalition.

Josep Borrell, Spain’s foreign minister, has been put forward as the EU’s foreign minister, or as the job is informally known, high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He’s been in the news for his opposition to Catalan independence, and also for what must, I am sure, be a misunderstanding,


Spain’s foreign minister has been fined 30,000 euros ($33,980) by the national stock market regulator for what it described as a very serious breach in rules intended to govern insider trading, an infringement that has on Tuesday triggered calls for his resignation. The fine imposed by the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) on Josep Borrell was for the sale of shares in energy company Abengoa while he was a board member and was published in Spain’s official state bulletin.

“We impose on Mr. José Borrell Fontelles, for the commission of a very serious violation of article 282.6 of the Securities Market Law in the sale, on behalf of a third party, of 10,000 shares of Abengoa, SA, for 9,030 euros, on Nov. 24, 2015, having privileged information on this company,” the bulletin said.

Borrell had acknowledged in Oct., when the commission said it would take action against him, that the sale “gave an impression of being irregular,” but defended it by saying it only represented eight percent of his portfolio.However, the penalty has led lawmaker Pablo Iglesias, leader of the left-wing Podemos party, to call for Borrell’s resignation as the country’s top diplomat.

Finally (for now), there’s IMF boss Christine Lagarde. She has been nominated to take over the European Central Bank, the guardian of the euro. Call me a cynic, but I’m not entirely convinced that the currency is in safe hands.

The Guardian (2016):

Christine Lagarde has been found guilty of negligence in approving a massive payout of taxpayers’ money to controversial French businessman Bernard Tapie but avoided a jail sentence.

A French court convicted the head of the International Monetary Fund and former government minister, who had faced a €15,000 (£12,600) fine and up to a year in prison. But it decided she should not be punished and that the conviction would not constitute a criminal record. On Monday evening the IMF gave her its full support.

And Reuters from 2010 (my emphasis added):

Euro zone policymakers deliberately chose to “violate” the bloc’s rules in rescuing Greece and Ireland, closing ranks to protect the single currency area’s future, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying. The EU’s governing Lisbon Treaty places constraints on bailouts. European leaders agreed at a summit on Thursday to amend it by creating a permanent financial safety net from 2013.

In comments reported on Saturday by the Wall Street Journal, Lagarde said the amendment amounted to a “major adjustment,” but that a change was necessary after the tumult of this year’s debt crisis.

The Greek and Irish bailouts and the creation of a temporary European rescue fund had been “major transgressions” of the treaty.

We violated all the rules because we wanted to close ranks and really rescue the euro zone,” Lagarde was quoted as saying.

“The Treaty of Lisbon was very straight-forward. No bailout.”

Oh well.

As grimly entertaining as this list of bunglers and miscreants may be, their nominations contain a more important message. They show that, for all the populist discontent, the machinery of ever closer union grinds on and, with the awkward Brits out of the way, it may indeed even pick up more speed.

Good times.


Gallup: Democrats Drive U.S. Patriotism Plunge

(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

As Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, their pride in the U.S. has hit its lowest point since Gallup’s first measurement in 2001,writes Megan Brenan. Forty-five percent of American adults say they are extremely proud of their country, Brenan continues, marking the second consecutive year that this reading is below the majority level. In 2017, 47 percent of adults said they were extremely proud of the United States.

Republican national pride has been consistent, Gallup finds. The 76 percent of Republicans who expressed extreme pride in the latest survey is 10 points off the high of 86 percent in 2003. Even when Barack Obama was in office, Brenan writes, Republicans’ extreme pride never fell below 68 percent.

Fewer Democrats than Republicans have said they had pride in America since the poll question was first asked in 2001. Lately, though, Democratic pride has fallen off a cliff. Just 22 percent of Democrats say they feel extreme pride for their country in the latest survey. That’s half the number recorded prior to the 2016 election. Needless to say, the nature and policies of the forty-fifth president have contributed to the Democratic plunge.

And yet I was also struck by the decline of Democratic extreme pride during Barack Obama’s second term. It went from 56 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2016. Might that be attributed to liberal disappointment in Obama? Or is it further evidence of the Great Awokening of social justice activism that is apparent in white progressive attitudes toward race relations and in word usage in the New York Times?

Absent a significant national event that might rally all Americans around the flag, Brenan concludes, given Democrats’ entrenched views of the president, these historically low readings on American pride are likely to continue until Trump is no longer in office.” Which, given the Democrats’ left-wing drift, might not happen until 2025.

Happy Fourth.


New Quinnipiac Poll Shows Biden Leading Harris by Two Points

Former Vice President Joe Biden gestures during the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

A new poll from Quinnipiac University out this afternoon shows former vice president Joe Biden clinging to a slim lead over California senator Kamala Harris in the Democratic presidential primary less than a week after the first debate of the election cycle.

Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, Biden has 22-percent support, and Harris trails right behind coming in at 20 percent. In a close third and fourth are Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren at 14 percent and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders at 13 percent.

This survey, conducted over three days after last week’s two Democratic debates, is Quinnipiac’s first since mid June, when Biden was polling at 30 percent, followed by Sanders (19 percent), Warren (15 percent), South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (8 percent), and Harris (7 percent). The most obvious takeaway from the new poll then, is that Biden has sustained significant damage to his frontrunner status, and most of the support trickling away from him has gone to Harris, who has enjoyed positive news coverage in the wake of her effort during the debate to portray Biden as weak on race relations.

Unlike data from the CNN poll released yesterday afternoon, the new Quinnipiac numbers suggest that Harris might also be catching up to the former vice president among black voters, where Biden has thus far maintained a strong lead. In this afternoon’s survey, Biden received 31 percent support from black respondents, while Harris came in a close second at 27 percent. This is a concerning sign for the frontrunner, who can stand to lose some accolades from young, white liberals — who tend to favor more progressive candidates — but who has had an advantage to this point among moderate Democratic voters, especially those who associate him with Barack Obama.

White House

The Tuesday-Afternoon Rumors about Pence and Putin

Vice President Mike Pence walks outside in Munich, Germany, February 16, 2019. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

This morning, Randy Gentry, a representative from Vice President Pence’s office, came to a podium in New Hampshire to alert the audience that the day’s event about opioids was canceled: “Air Force 2 was headed this way, but there’s been an emergency and the president was asked to return to Washington.”

But that statement was contradicted by Vice President Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah, who said “There was no ‘emergency callback.’ Something came up that required the VP to stay in D.C.” and that Pence never actually left Washington. An unnamed administration official is telling reporters that the sudden change to Pence’s schedule is “nothing related to national security.” That unnamed official also ruled out any health issues with the president or vice president.

That didn’t stop quite a few people on Twitter from speculating that the sudden change to Pence’s schedule was related somehow to this news:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an inquiry into an accident with a submarine, he told a meeting with his defense minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday.

Fourteen Russian sailors on board a deep water research sub were killed in a fire while carrying out a survey of the sea floor, the Russian defense ministry was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies earlier on Tuesday.

The good news for anyone unnerved by these bits of news is that if it really was the worst-case scenario, Pence and Putin would be doing more than going to meetings.


Now Bioethicists Interpose Themselves into the Border Crisis

Migrants from Honduras climb a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, December 12, 2018. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Mainstream bioethics is often really just leftwing politics, masking as a field of objective expertise that seeks to influence society far beyond medical ethics and health care public policy. As an example, the other day I pointed out that leaders of the movement recently presumed to make the global-warming controversy a bioethics issue — which it isn’t.

Bioethicists are fond of taking positions about hot-potato controversies of the day, which is why we shouldn’t be surprised that 800 practitioners signed a letter sent to lawyers for illegal and asylum-seeking immigrants that castigates the government’s treatment of children being cared for in border-detention facilities. This issue is more relevant to biomedical ethics than global warming, to be sure. But the signatories base their self-described expert” opinions on not necessarily reliable leftwing advocates’ hearsay reports and news stories, you know, the kinds of things AOC says. From the June 25 letter:

According to numerous reports from on-site visits and interviews, children and others under the care of the U.S. government are being held in unsanitary conditions, without access to clean water or adequate nutrition, kept in frigid temperatures without the basic environmental conditions to allow them to sleep, and denied access to even the simplest emergency medical care. There have been outbreaks of influenza and lice; in the absence of basic sanitation, other public health threats will surely follow.

As ethicists, we can say with absolute certainty that this is not a hard case. We should not have to convince the U.S. government of its obvious ethical obligations to protect vulnerable children in its custody or of its obvious failure to satisfy those obligations to date. And yet, it appears that argument is needed.

If one need not be an expert to understand the problem, who needs your opinion?

That point aside, expert opinion usually requires actual, preferably direct, knowledge of the matter opined about. These signers don’t know that the charges they make are true. Indeed, leaders of the Border Patrol have repeatedly and adamantly denied many of these allegations — as they have begged for more resources to care for people swamping the facilities in what is clearly a chaotic situation.

No one would disagree with this point:

No matter where they came from, these are children, the most vulnerable members of any society. As a matter of common decency, they deserve care, protection, and acknowledgment of their humanity. As a matter of medical ethics, they deserve to be housed in conditions that will preserve their health and the health of others, and they deserve appropriate medical care when needed.

But it’s not that simple. Our detention facilities were not designed to handle tens of thousands of children and families (or those pretending to be families). You can only accomplish what your resources allow.

And note that these experts utter not one word about how we got into this mess in the first place. They do not criticize those who created and continue to enable the legal and social environments that caused the current crisis. The bioethicists have nothing to say about shameful political gamesmanship among the Democrats in the House of Representatives who cruelly delayed desperately needed billions earmarked to improve our capacity to care for these children, which, at the very least, is relevant to the current emergency.

There is not a single syllable spent castigating open-border activists who conspire to obliterate immigration norms and convince the destitute to make the sometimes deadly trek north. There is nothing about the ethical obligation to change the Flores decision that creates such a legal conundrum for the administration with regard to housing families with children. In fact, the letter explicitly supports it! Nor do they issue any call to increase the number of immigration judges dramatically so asylum cases can be adjudicated quickly and control restored.

There is no mention of the fact that children are often rented out to non-relatives so they can obtain immigration processing to which they would not otherwise be entitled. Nor, do these experts refer to the scourge of sex and other human trafficking that our broken immigration policies and enforcement mechanisms enable.

There is no question that border detention facilities are in desperate shape. There is much blame to go around — from a president whose language use gives credence to charges of racism that make the allegations of abuse in detention more credible, to a bipartisan political establishment with scant interest in controlling the borders, to politicians whose policy positions attract people to come here illegally, to those who want to destroy national sovereignty and are taking advantage of the current debacle.

But the bioethicists aren’t trying to remedy any of that. Rather, they have engaged in a cynical, virtue-projecting gambit intended primarily for its political effect. Their letter should be judged in that context.

Politics & Policy

Who’s Running Nike?

The Nike swoosh on a store in New York City (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Nike has decided to pull its U.S.–themed sneaker that had been slated for release this week in conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday, featuring the early American flag created during the American Revolution, often known as the Betsy Ross flag.

The announcement came after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick told Nike that the flag is connected to a time when there was slavery in America and is therefore an offensive symbol that made him and other activists uncomfortable. “Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag,” a spokeswoman for the company said of the decision.

Kaepernick is a partner of Nike’s and faced criticism last fall after the company featured him in an ad with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” It was meant to reference Kaepernick’s highly publicized and controversial choice to kneel during the National Anthem when it was played at the start of NFL games, which he called an act of resistance against “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Nike’s decision to pull the Betsy Ross sneaker wasn’t even the first time this week that the company buckled under backlash from people it evidently wishes to keep happy. Over the weekend, the athletic giant pulled a sneaker collaboration with Undercover after the brand’s designer, Jun Takahashi, wrote on Twitter: “No extradition. Go Hong Kong!” Takahashi’s comment expressed support for liberal democrats in Hong Kong in the face of the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party — and Nike decided it would rather be on the safe side, in this case, the side of Chinese nationalism.

So the Chinese government and Colin Kaepernick, then, are either implicitly or explicitly calling the shots at Nike, pressuring the company into making business decisions to cater either to this mob or that. And those decisions aren’t passing without comment.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey, a Republican who generally avoids culture-war commentary, announced this morning that he has instructed the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw financial incentives that the state had been providing to Nike to be located in Arizona. “Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history,” Ducey wrote on Twitter.

Missouri senator Josh Hawley was similarly critical of Nike’s decision, noting the company’s willingness to conform to Chinese demands. “They take advantage of our laws but send jobs overseas for sweatshop wages,” the Republican tweeted, “partner w repressive regimes, aggressively avoid paying any US taxes, and then tell Americans to shut up and buy their stuff.” Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), meanwhile, said he plans to stop buying Nike products until the company “ends its contempt” for American values.

Politics & Policy

New Gallup Poll Shows Pro-Life Progress

(Photo: Katie Yoder)

Last week, Gallup released its annual public-opinion poll on abortion policy, and its results contain some good news for abortion opponents. According to the survey, a plurality of Americans now identify as pro-life, with 49 percent of respondents calling themselves “pro-life,” and 46 percent calling themselves “pro-choice.” This is the first Gallup poll since 2013 in which a higher percentage of respondents identified as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.”

The new survey also found that the percentage of Americans who think abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances” increased from 53 to 60 percent between 2018 and 2019. A Gallup poll conducted in May, meanwhile, found that the percentage of Americans who consider abortion immoral reached 50 percent for the first time since 2012.

This gain in public support for the pro-life position is more significant than many observers realize. There is some evidence that pro-life sentiment tends to wane during Republican presidential administrations, as well as when abortion opponents are poised to make substantial policy gains. Some pro-life observers have been concerned that efforts to enact abortion limitations in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and a handful of other states might result in a public-opinion backlash. This new Gallup poll illustrates that this likely has not been the case. In fact, it is entirely possible that aggressive efforts by Democrats to make abortion policy more permissive in states such as New York, Vermont, and Illinois actually might have resulted in gains in pro-life sentiment.

Americans’ attitudes on abortion and other life issues inevitably fluctuate from year to year, which is why it’s important to remember the long-term gains the pro-life movement has made in public-opinion polling over time. In 1995, Gallup found that only 33 percent of Americans identified as “pro-life,” but since 1997, pro-life sentiment has reached at least 40 percent in every Gallup poll. In both 2009 and 2012, majorities of respondents to Gallup’s survey identified as “pro-life,” and pro-life efforts to educate the public likely have been an essential reason why the U.S. abortion rate has declined by more than 50 percent since 1980.

Law & the Courts

Unmask Antifa and Watch the Cowards Retreat

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)

I’d urge everyone to read my colleague Jim Geraghty’s post on the thuggery this weekend in Portland. It was appalling to watch masked Antifa thugs attack Andy Ngo, and it was also appalling that the police weren’t immediately present to arrest his attackers. Antifa’s propensity to violence is well known, and while I’d love to hear a sympathetic explanation for the absence of police, the lack of response looks a lot like a dereliction of duty.

There is, however, a simple and well-known legal reform that will go a long way towards deterring Antifa violence — even when police aren’t close by, but iPhones are. It’s called an anti-masking law. They’ve long existed in the South as a check on Klan violence, and they not only make it easier for police to immediately identify and arrest criminals, they also allow witnesses to preserve the pictures and videos of violent attackers for later criminal or civil action.

When I tweeted over the weekend in support of an anti-masking ordinance in Oregon, a number of correspondents asked me if the laws were consistent with First Amendment protections for anonymous speech. The answer is generally (though not always) yes, and there’s relatively recent on-point case law in the Second Circuit saying so. While court of appeals cases aren’t nationally dispositive, the panel in Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kerik included Sonia Sotomayor, and its reasoning is instructive.

New York’s anti-masking law predates the Klan, tracing its history back to an 1845 effort to combat violent Hudson Valley farmers. The statute essentially prevents gatherings of masked people unless they’re gathering for a “masquerade party or like entertainment.” The panel considered a number of constitutional challenges, including claims that wearing masks was a form of expressive conduct and claims that wearing masks protected a right to anonymous speech. Regarding the first claim, the panel noted that the in the Klan context, the mask constituted a “redundant” form of expression:

The mask that the members of the American Knights seek to wear in public demonstrations does not convey a message independently of the robe and hood.   That is, since the robe and hood alone clearly serve to identify the American Knights with the Klan, we conclude that the mask does not communicate any message that the robe and the hood do not.

Similarly, Antifa mobs are full of people who wear similar “black bloc” gear. Their message and purpose is easily identifiable without a mask or scarf. As for the Klan’s anonymous speech claims, the court held that state interests in public safety trumped Klan members’ interest in deciding the precise manner in which they speak:

Assuming for the discussion that New York’s anti-mask law makes some members of the American Knights less willing to participate in rallies, we nonetheless reject the view that the First Amendment is implicated every time a law makes someone-including a member of a politically unpopular group-less willing to exercise his or her free speech rights.   While the First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to express their viewpoints, however unpopular, it does not guarantee ideal conditions for doing so, since the individual’s right to speech must always be balanced against the state’s interest in safety, and its right to regulate conduct that it legitimately considers potentially dangerous.

Anti-masking laws can be unconstitutional when applied to peaceful demonstrators seeking to protect their identities as a matter of personal safety, but that reasoning doesn’t apply to Antifa. Its members seek to engage in violence and destruction with impunity, and the mask protects them from legal accountability. If you think Antifa members like to have their identities revealed, watch this video of Alabama police officers enforcing an unmasking law at Auburn University:

While anti-masking laws aren’t a perfect cure, one thing is definitely true — it’s hard to throw a punch when you’re hiding your face with your hands.


Zakaria on Asylum


The Washington Post columnist has sensible and almost certainly doomed suggestions:

The criteria for asylum need to be rewritten and substantially tightened. The number of courts and officials dealing with asylum must be massively expanded. . . . People should not be able to use asylum claims as a way to work in the United States. There needs to be much greater cooperation with the home countries of these applicants rather than insults, threats and aid freezes. No one fix will do it, but we need the kind of sensible bipartisan legislation that has resolved past immigration crises.


Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (July 1, 2019)


1. Brother of Pakistani martyr wants global day for basic human rights

2. Pray that this weekend’s North Korean moment can be some kind of moment for leaven and peace, but don’t forget the people who suffer terror under that tyrannical regime.

3. Pro-Life activists helping with border care

4. From Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine:

What does life look like after you’ve been canceled? You do your best to get on with your life, I guess. Maybe that means finding some other way to make a living, against a constant tide of contempt or disgust or social-media harassment. Or maybe it means inching back slowly into your old identity … and getting an uproarious standing ovation for which your hosts subsequently must apologize.

In Christianity, the rules are much kinder. The exposed sinner — even someone who commits a mortal sin — has an instant chance of redemption. You repent and ask God for forgiveness. Absolution follows. And if you start over, it is actually incumbent on other Christians to help you succeed again. They switch immediately from condemnation to support. The same in recovery. All you have to do is own your addiction and helplessness, make amends, start over day by day — and you will be encouraged, supported, cheered on by your fellows.

In the Woke Era, the cancellation process is far more brutal. An abject apology from the sinner is required — but just as a starter. If the apology is not a form of complete and utter self-flagellation, or fails to meet the standards of woke orthodoxy, you’ll still get canceled. And if you’re canceled for your unwoke opinion or a stupid, impulsive tweet, you’re permanently canceled.

And at that point, you will have absolutely no support from your peers, whatever you do. Any attempt to revive a career will be immediately suppressed. Whatever you once said clumsily or foolishly will never be forgotten. Any sign of social or career reemergence will mean another recitation of your sins, which, thanks to the permanence of the web, will go on forever like some Gregorian chant. It may even be that future woke culture will make your sin look even worse, and therefore even less forgivable.

5. Nicholas Kristof this weekend: “If you want to win an argument, you have to allow the argument.

6. Pope Francis: Jesus “is looking for witnesses who say to Him each day: ‘Lord, you are my life’.”

7. Seminarian who died in bus crash practiced laying down his life daily, friend says

8.It does get better: Women aged out of foster care inspire others

9. A find for art in the home via Rod Dreher

10. On C-SPAN, Jeanne Safer and Rick Brookhiser talk being married and agreeing to disagree about politics


Feel free to highlight any stories that should be catching my eye at klopez@nationalreview.com

I see that the upcoming Year with the Mystics is 22 percent off for pre-order on Amazon. (It’s even less on Kindle.)


New CNN Poll Shows Biden Losing Support after First Debate

Former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Kamala Harris during the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

A new CNN poll out this afternoon shows that former vice president Joe Biden has suffered a setback in his campaign for president, dropping ten points overall among registered Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters surveyed over the weekend.

While Biden dropped from 32 to 22 percent support, California senator Kamala Harris got a big bump, from 8 to 17 percent since voters were polled at the end of May. Harris came in second in the new CNN survey, followed closely by Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren — who rose from 7 percent to 15 percent — and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, whose support dropped from 18 to 14 percent.

The easiest way to read these numbers would be to assume that Harris’s attack on Biden at last week’s Democratic primary debate — when she criticized him for opposing busing and working with segregationists when he was in the U.S. Senate — was a success, and that she was able to pick off support from the frontrunner in the aftermath.

That theory seems to be borne out by the fact that 41 percent of registered Democratic voters who watched or followed coverage of the debates said Harris did the best job, followed by only 13 percent who said the same of Warren, and 10 percent who said the same of Biden. The California senator’s support was even stronger among those who actually watched one or both debates, 46 percent of whom said she performed best job.

But a closer look at the poll suggests it’s not quite that simple. While Harris has pulled even with the former vice president among white voters, non-white women, and young voters — especially those who call themselves “liberal” and white voters with college degrees — Biden still maintains a strong lead among black voters, with 36 percent support to Harris’s 24 percent. Older voters prefer Biden to Harris by a 20-point margin, and he leads Harris by 20 points among Democratic voters who describe themselves as either moderate or conservative.

Harris’s star seems to be rising, then, mostly with young, white liberals, but Biden continues to claim a strong advantage among non-white Democrats. The California senator’s effort to portray him as weak on race issues didn’t seem to lead to any sort of surge in her support among black voters who now view Biden as having been in league with segregationists. Her move might’ve played well with the progressives paying closest attention to the ups and downs of the contest, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be able to best the former vice president on primary voting days around the country.

Meanwhile, a little more than half of respondents to the CNN survey said they think the government should offer some form of national health-insurance program for all Americans, but only 37 percent of those respondents believe it should entirely replace private health insurance, and only 38 percent said it should be available to undocumented immigrants. During the second night of Democratic primary debates last week, every single candidate endorsed both replacing private health-care plans and offering the government health-care plan to illegal immigrants.

During a primary, candidates know they have to appeal to their base rather than the average American, so it makes sense that Democrats aren’t yet running to the center. But so far, they seem to believe they can take whatever positions their progressive base demands without eventually suffering consequences with the broader electorate.


Defining What’s Right


Writing from Britain nearly two years ago (after the murder of Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville and the troubles that preceded it), Reaction’s Toby Guise noted how “[t]he narrative of America’s unreconstructed Neo-Fascists is crude but clear.”


That of Antifa is more subtle. At its heart is the equivalence between ‘psychological violence’ – namely the holding or articulating of offensive beliefs – with physical violence. From this flows the claim that psychological violence can be met with physical violence, and therefore that Antifa’s violence is actually defensive (not pre-emptive, note; as the threat of physical violence is not required to take action). Antifa also reserves the right to define psychological violence unilaterally.

This may be too charitable. Often, I suspect, this supposed belief that “psychological” violence (as defined) is the same as the real thing is nothing more than yet another excuse for the thugs of the hard left to impose their beliefs on others — and as violently as possible. The violence is an essential part of the process, part of the fun for the enforcers, a necessary punishment for the offenders.

And such violence is more likely than not (at least until it is put to a halt) to get worse. Mainly because it has been allowed to work, but also, as Dominic Green noted in The Spectator USA over the weekend:

Intensification is in the nature of political violence, for it is sacrificial in logic, and ever higher levels of violence are required to sustain the buzz.

The violence is also, of course, a demonstration of power. Guise is right to stress how “Antifa . . . reserves the right to define psychological violence unilaterally”, an assumption of authority that it extends by attempting to control the streets, regardless of what the law may (if its guardians can be bothered) say.


The mainstream take comfort from the idea that only Neo-Nazis are at risk. But the accusation of psychological violence does not stop at Neo-Nazis. In the Antifa stronghold of Portland [As a reminder, Guise was writing in 2017], followers threatened forcibly to remove from a civic parade any of the town’s Republican voters. The idea has further become embedded that the very idea of free speech – let alone its practice – is psychologically violent and therefore deserving of extra-legal force….

Two years on, that idea is, quite clearly, still on the march.

Health Care

Gillibrand’s Single-Payer Dishonesty


Senator Kamala Harris of California isn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate who’s dissembling about her plans for private health insurance. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is another.

Abigail Adams of Time recounts her debate performance on the question.

Before the debate: Like several of her Senate colleagues running for president, Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan as well as other more moderate proposals. She has often said she believes a single-payer system is the best way to ensure universal health care, but believes private insurance will naturally be driven out of the market because it will not be able to compete with Medicare-for-all.

After the debate: When the debate moderators asked candidates to raise their hands if they would abolish private insurance, Gillibrand notably did not. The New York Senator explained that she supports Medicare-for-all, but as she has said in the past, she views the four years of transition in Sanders’ bill as vital to its success.

“The plan that Senator Sanders and I and others support, Medicare-for-all, is how you get to single payer. But it has a buy-in transition period, which is really important. In 2005 when I ran for Congress in a two-to-one Republican district, I actually ran on Medicare-for-all and I won that two-to-one Republican district twice. And the way I formulated it was simple: Anyone who doesn’t have access to insurance they like, they could buy it in a percentage of income they could afford,” she said.

What Gillibrand didn’t say: At the end of the third year of the transition, the federal government would prohibit private insurers from selling policies covering what the new Medicare for all” program does. The old joke about politicians is that you can tell they’re lying when their lips move. Sometimes Gillibrand manages to do it when her arm doesn’t move.

Health Care

British Doctors Say Charging Foreigners for Care Is ‘Racist’

(Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)

Delegates to the British Medical Association annual conference have voted to give everyone who attends an NHS facility free healthcare — whether the patient is a U.K. citizen or not. From the Times of London story:

Doctors have voted overwhelmingly to stop charging foreign patients for NHS care, claiming that doing so is “fundamentally racist”.

Up to 500 delegates at the British Medical Association’s annual conference in Belfast backed a motion that said that asking overseas visitors to pay made medical staff “complicit” in racism.

“We are doctors not border guards,” Omar Risk said during the debate. “Charging migrants for accessing NHS services is a fundamentally racist endeavour — we are complicit in the oppressive regime.”

Now the BMA plans to lobby the government to stop charging foreigners. Good grief.

The U.K. has a very expensive problem with medical tourism, in which people come to the country for care, and then stiff the NHS when billed. Such scofflaws cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds a year — a lot considering the sad state of the NHS’s finances.

Are we no longer expected to be responsible for ourselves? If I am in the U.K. and fall ill or I’m injured, why should I receive free care from the NHS?

It isn’t as if I don’t have options. When I travel, I always buy travel health insurance in case I need care while overseas. It isn’t expensive and it’s the responsible approach — both to ensure that I am not financially ruined by a big medical bill and to assure that those who care for me in my time of need receive proper remuneration. In any event, people should pay for services rendered to the best of their ability.

Still, I guess we shouldn’t look down our noses too steeply. The two major Medicare for All plans cover illegal aliens. The Democrat candidates for president in the second Democratic debate all raised their hands when asked if they support covering illegal aliens under government-provided — e.g. taxpayer paid — insurance. California will soon pass a law to provide illegal aliens Medicaid coverage in the formerly Golden State to age 26, and Mayor DeBlasio of New York declared that everyone in the city is to be covered for free care whether legally in the country or not.

Costs-schmosts! As with the BMA delegates, if you disagree with covering anyone who can get across the border, free health-care activists brand you a nativist, racist, bigot, or whatever pejorative the activist thinks will shut down reasoned debate.

Meanwhile, bioethicists write in professional journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA that we must be mature and ration health care like the Brits do — our health-care system is going broke, don’t you know — while some euthanasia advocates look to assisted suicide as a potent money saver.

Maybe, there’s something in the water. Or, perhaps it is the triumphant return of, From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” — only without the from part being enforced.

Politics & Policy

Health Care for Illegal Immigrants: Memo to Democrats

Central American migrants walk during their journey towards the United States in Villa Comaltitlan, Mexico, April 18, 2019. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)

Some notes to the candidates who raised their hands last week when asked if they would support health insurance for undocumented immigrants:

First, there are already clinics and emergency rooms across the U.S. that provide a safety net for many millions of patients, including those in the country illegally, whether or not they have health insurance.

The clinics are known as Federally Qualified Health Centers. They received grants under Obamacare from 2010 to 2015, and as they expanded they began to receive more income from patients coming in with their new Medicaid cards. I traveled to one of the clinics a few years ago on the shores of Lake Erie, in Dunkirk, N.Y., and was told by the medical director there that 85 percent of their patients now have insurance and the main problem is a shortage of doctors.

Emergency rooms across the country have the same problem. They are bound by law to see patients in an emergency whether they have insurance or not. Most of our ERs have too many patients, but too few physicians and nurses. Illegal immigrants are able to use these facilities and they do, whether they can pay for the care they receive or not.

Second, health insurance doesn’t automatically improve access to actual care. In fact, by further clogging our ERs and clinics, insuring illegal immigrants could reduce access to care for Americans who already have insurance yet suffer from long waits, overcrowding, and health-care worker shortages.

I interviewed a patient at that clinic in Dunkirk who praised the doctors and nurses for being available 24/7 as he tried and succeeded in defeating his addiction to opioids. Medicaid paid his bill, but with the clinic stretched thin and suffering from a perpetual doctor shortage, I had to wonder who would have been available to return his late-night phone call and guide him through withdrawal if the clinic had been overwhelmed with even more patients.

Democrats might consider my position heartless, but I consider it practical. It’s too easy for a politician not to factor in real-world math before putting his hand up. It’s too easy for him to forget the difference between health coverage and health care.

But down in the medical trenches of an ER or community clinic, where we don’t distinguish between citizens and non-citizens or even insured and uninsured, we must focus on providing high-quality health care for all comers. We already have the safety net to provide for those without insurance, whether they are immigrants or not. We need to expand it. We need more doctors, more nurses, and more supplies to accomplish that, not more insurance.


Women Fight Back against Transgender Policies


I have a piece at the Spectator on female resistance to gender-identity policies.

In the United States, where I live, the annual GLAAD Accelerating Acceptance report shows a noticeable drop in young people’s acceptance of LGBTQ people. In 2016 the number of Americans aged between 18 to 34 who felt comfortable socialising with LGBTQ people was 63 per cent; in 2017, it was 53 per cent; and in 2018, it was 45 per cent.

And guess who the report finds to be ‘driving the dilution of acceptance’? Surprise, surprise – it’s ‘young women whose overall comfort levels plunged from 64 per cent in 2017 to 52 per cent in 2018.’ It turns out that being displaced in our own sports and being forced to give up our spaces, scholarships, shortlists and more is bit off-putting. Who knew?

Even the words we use to describe ourselves seem to be under attack. A recent BBC video intending to raise awareness for cervical cancer did not even mention the word ‘women’, but instead explained ‘this is for anyone with a vagina.’ And in the US, a Democratic presidential candidate said in the primary debates that he wants to champion reproductive rights for… um, trans women (who, being male, are incapable of being impregnated).


Desegregating Schools without Busing

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign stop in Concord, N.H., February 18, 2019. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard has some new comments from Kamala Harris:

There are a few things to unpack here.

First of all, while it’s not true that schools have “resegregated,” as some claim (see here, here, and here), it is fair to say that desegregation has been pretty slow. And yes, one of the reasons it’s slow is that the gradual end of court-ordered integration has canceled out some of the effect of rising residential integration (which isn’t happening all that fast itself).

Second, it is true that segregation is bad even when it’s not legally mandated the way it was during Jim Crow. Integrated schools seem to provide better education for minority students and by definition facilitate more cross-race contact.

However, reducing segregation via forced busing — i.e., sending kids farther away from home than the neighborhood school, sometimes very far indeed — just didn’t go all that well. Whites hated it. So did a substantial minority of blacks.

The failures of busing were widely recognized even on the left not too long ago. In 2014 Slate ran a multi-part series about how liberals’ “embrace of busing hurt the cause of integration.” (“Many black Americans did believe in the school bus and the access it provided, and busing might have been a viable tool for those families had it been smartly and surgically applied. It wasn’t. It was presented in a sweeping fashion that denied many blacks the agency they sought.”) The next year, responding to an earlier iteration of the Great Biden Busing Debate, Politico ran a piece from a former Johnson White House official called “School Busing Didn’t Work. And to Say So Isn’t Racist.” (“No black parents took a bus or drove from Southwest [D.C.] to attend evening PTA meetings [in the city’s Northwest] or to otherwise participate in school-related activity. The quality of classroom instruction fell off markedly. Fourth- and fifth-grade neighborhood students, for instance, were repeating material learned in earlier grades because teachers found their bused classmates had not yet received it.”)

In a print piece last year I spelled out some more feasible ways of integrating schools, though they’re probably a bit too libertarian for the current Democratic slate. Charter schools, voucher systems, and letting parents choose among a city’s public schools can bring children from segregated schools into integrated ones, especially if they’re designed with that goal in mind. We could also integrate schools indirectly, by integrating neighborhoods, including by scaling back overly restrictive zoning rules.

As I concluded: “Americans of different races are, of their own volition, living side by side more and more as time goes on. And we can coax this trend along by helping people achieve their preferences, rather than by overriding those preferences.”


Kamala Harris Calls for Federally Mandated Busing

Senator Kamala Harris (D, Calif.) at the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) 2019 legislative conference in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

On Sunday, Kamala Harris expressed support for new, federally mandated busing policies. “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school,” Harris said. “Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”

Harris still hasn’t been specific about what exactly the federal government should do. “After her exchange with Mr. Biden on Thursday night, a Harris spokesman said that she supported busing as a method for school integration, but the campaign declined to provide additional information,” the New York Times reported.

In the first national poll of the Democratic primary conducted since Harris attacked Biden over busing, Harris gained 6 points (jumping from 6 percent to 12 percent) and Biden dropped 5 points (from 38 percent to 33 percent). But that 6-point bump in the primary required Harris to embrace a policy opposed by a supermajority of American voters.

As NPR notes, the polling numbers on forced busing are bleak: 

A 1973 Gallup Poll found that while a majority of Americans favored school integration, just 5% believed busing was the best way to do it. That went across racial lines — just 4% of whites and 9% of African Americans thought busing was the best way to do it. 

Americans thought other policies should be focused more on and would do a better job of achieving school integration, like changing school district boundaries to bring together students from different social, racial and economic groups (27%) or that there should be more affordable housing in middle-class neighborhoods (22%).

Even a generation later, 82% of Americans said they favored letting students go to their neighborhood school over busing. A 1999 Gallup Poll found that almost 9 in 10 whites said so, and blacks were split — 48% to 44%, with a plurality preference for keeping students in neighborhood schools.


This Summer’s ‘Beach Books’ — Just as Bad as Usual


Quite a few years ago, college officials figured out that they could get a head start on their project of making students woke if they used the summer reading assignment (the beach book) for that purpose. Out went anything classic or merely politically neutral in favor of current books designed to elicit leftist sympathies. (You’ll never find a book assignment that might cause the student to doubt that more government control is a good idea.)

In today’s Martin Center article, Chris West looks at the books chosen this year in North Carolina. He writes:

Half of the assigned readings at UNC schools and many at the state’s private institutions focus on the hot political topics of race and refugees. These readings do not prepare students for life as college freshmen; instead, they prime students for embracing a progressive conception of social justice.

Such as?

Students at UNC-Charlotte will read Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream, ‘a story about education, immigration, race, Americanness’ and ‘a feel-good tale’ that ‘will spark discussions of systemic inequalities and cultural diversity,’ according to the university.

However, there’s one book that seems to be a good choice:

Western Carolina University’s assigned reading seems to be one of the few defensible choices in the UNC system. Celeste Headlee’s We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter ‘is about mastering the art of civil discourse’ and aims to model difficult conversations that are necessary in a collegiate environment. Asking students to read it might actually help them succeed in college.

Yes, it might. Other colleges ought to be encouraged to choose that book and forget about trying to make ideological points.

Antifa — Fascists?


George Orwell, writing in 1944:

When we apply the term ‘Fascism’ to Germany or Japan or Mussolini’s Italy, we know broadly what we mean. It is in internal politics that this word has lost the last vestige of meaning. For if you examine the press you will find that there is almost no set of people — certainly no political party or organized body of any kind — which has not been denounced as Fascist during the past ten years.

A copious list then follows.


It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless.


Even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

And the way that penultimate sentence could apply to the vicious assault on journalist Andy Ngo is all too obvious.

In the course of a fine post earlier today on this Corner, Douglas Murray observed:

There was a time when “anti-fascist” meant what it said. People who opposed fascism called themselves “anti-fascists.” But then the term slipped. The definition of “fascist” became hazy from over-use and so the term “anti-fascist” also began to move.

Orwell would agree.

But then Douglas goes on to write this:

Second, anyone in any doubt over who the fascists and the anti-fascists are today should watch the footage of Ngo being attacked. Might the fascists be the thugs who wear face masks in the middle of the day in an American city and carry out mob assaults on journalists?

Yes and no, I’d say. Yes, the behavior that took place was the sort of thuggery that might have been expected from fascists, but the people who carried it out were in no sense ideologically in the place where fascists are generally assumed to be — somewhere on the right.

Posting later, Jay noted this:

[Ngo’s attackers] claim to be anti-fascists, but they certainly act like fascists — “They have no sense of irony,” says Tony. These guys never change, down the generations, down the centuries. Bully-boys are bully-boys, of whatever hue or stripe. Communists, Brownshirts, and their kin, we will always have with us.

All, sadly, too true.

But a point lurking within Jay’s words is an important one. It may seem pedantic, but, as Orwell argued, fascism is a word that should be used “with a certain amount of circumspection” and not degraded “to the level of a swearword.” When fascists do their worst on the streets, they — and their ideology — should be called out for the thuggery (or worse) with which it is so often associated.

So it should be with Antifa. They are creatures of the hard left, doing what some on the hard left have all too often done. To describe these thugs as fascists, even metaphorically, is to give their ideology an alibi it doesn’t deserve.

And if you think this is indeed just pedantry, go over to Twitter and check out the political alignment of those who claim to distance themselves from the violence, but . . .


‘An American Doing a Job’

Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Friend (via YouTube)

On no subject is America touchier than race. And people like to pick at our wounds, so that no scab forms. After the recent Democratic presidential debates, Kamala Harris went through some grief for not being black enough (or something). Like many Americans — most? — she is of mixed ancestry. That’s us.

To read about the Harris brouhaha, go here.

In the midst of the brouhaha, I happened to read an obit — this one:

Robert J. Friend, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who defied racism at home and enemy fire over Europe and who later oversaw the federal government’s investigation into U.F.O.s, died on Friday in Long Beach, Calif. He was 99.

I want to emphasize the final line of the obit — and kudos, as usual, to the writer, Sam Roberts — but let me excerpt some paragraphs that come before:

Lieutenant Colonel Friend recalled at least two perilous missions, both in 1944.

Bullets from his 50-caliber machine guns struck an oil barge in Germany, detonating an explosion that nearly downed his own plane. A few days later, flying at night in foul weather, with his plane hobbled by mechanical flaws, he bailed out over a mountainous part of Italy. As he hit the ground he spotted a woman running toward him brandishing a knife.

It turned out, he told The Washington Post, that she was desperate only for the silk from his parachute.

I did not quite see that coming.

Okay, the closing paragraphs:

The adversity Lieutenant Colonel Friend encountered during the war came not just from the enemy. He, like the others in his unit, had to deal with the racism of fellow Americans. On one occasion, in Sicily, white servicemen refused to share their quarters with African-Americans, he told The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif., in 2017.

But he did not think of himself as a racial trailblazer so much as simply a pilot fighting for his country, he said. “I never felt that I was anything but an American doing a job,” he said.


Masked and Unmasked

Members of the Zapatista army, including Subcomandante Marcos (center), in the hamlet of Nuevo Juan Diego in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, on August 27, 2005 (Reuters)

“Who was that masked man?” That is a beloved line in American lore, referring to the Lone Ranger. Other good guys have been masked too: Batman, for one. But, in general, beware masking. This is something that Anthony Daniels (a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple) said to me many years ago. We were talking about it again this very day. Why? Because of those “Antifa” thugs, who attacked the journalist Andy Ngo on the streets of Portland, Ore. Douglas Murray wrote about it below.

The thugs were, among other things, masked.

Incidentally, they claim to be anti-fascists, but they certainly act like fascists — “They have no sense of irony,” says Tony. These guys never change, down the generations, down the centuries. Bully-boys are bully-boys, of whatever hue or stripe. Communists, Brownshirts, and their kin, we will always have with us. Civilization has no choice but to resist them, mightily.

I was talking about masks. The Zapatistas wore them, in Chiapas (the southernmost Mexican state). They may still, for all I know. That’s why Tony and I were discussing masks, those years ago. We were talking about the Zapatistas. He was down there when their guerrilla rebellion started. (He was holed away in San Cristóbal de las Casas, writing a book.)

For a few years, the Zapatistas were chic. Their leader, Subcomandante Marcos — not to be confused with Ferdinand, of the Philippines — was an icon, appearing on T-shirts, à la Che Guevara. Some celebs trooped down to Chiapas, to sit with the subcomandante and his masked charmers: Oliver Stone, for one; Madame Mitterrand, for another.

A fear of masks, or a wariness about them, is prudent. I think of another line from lore: “Show yourselves.”


Dictators and Americans

Loujain al-Hathloul, now a Saudi political prisoner (Marieke Wijntjes / Handout via Reuters)

Yesterday, President Trump heaped praise on Mohammed bin Salman, the acting dictator, so to speak, of Saudi Arabia. When his father, King Salman, dies, he will be dictator outright (if all goes according to plan). Trump also shielded Mohammed from blame for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. “He’s very angry about it,” Trump said. “He’s very unhappy about it.”

Is he? Other people, including investigators, think otherwise. I’m reminded of Trump’s reluctance to believe U.S. intelligence on the matter of the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election.

After hearing Trump, Senator Mitt Romney tweeted, “The President’s praise for MBS, the man who US intel says ordered or authorized the heinous murder of a WaPo columnist & Saudi dissident, sends the wrong message to the world. It’s past time for Congress & the administration to impose sanctions for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

A bit of advice: Don’t wait up nights.

Breakfasting with Mohammed bin Salman, Trump was effusive, saying, “It’s an honor to be with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia. And I think especially what you’ve done for women. I’m seeing what’s happening. It’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”

Trump continued, “I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you. You’ve done, really, a spectacular job.”

In recent months, Mohammed’s government has cracked down viciously on human-rights activists, and particularly women’s-rights activists. They have been tortured in the usual ways, and held in solitary confinement. This does not exclude pregnant prisoners and U.S.-Saudi dual citizens.

I wrote about one prisoner last month, after I interviewed her brother. The prisoner is Loujain al-Hathloul — her first name means “pearl,” incidentally — and her brother is Walid al-Hathloul. Loujain has been charged with an array of crimes, including contacting human-rights organizations and applying for a job at the U.N.

Let me quote from my article:

Of course, she has been tortured: electric-shocked, flogged, and so on. The torture has been overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. He told Loujain, “I will kill you and cut you into pieces, but before I do it, I will rape you.”

This is what Walid al-Hathloul told an audience at the Oslo Freedom Forum this week. It is consistent with what we have long known about the Saudi justice system, such as it is.

For eight months, Walid and his family kept silent. They thought it was the best strategy to pursue. They went through all the prescribed channels. They appealed to the right ministries. Then they discovered that Loujain was being tortured anyway, so they decided to speak out, to draw attention to this case, one of many in their home country.

Probably the most prominent political prisoner in Saudi Arabia is Raif Badawi, who was publicly lashed. He has been imprisoned since 2012. His crime was to blog in favor of freedom, democracy, and human rights. I interviewed his wife, Ensaf Haidar, in 2016 (here). She is in exile, with their children, in Canada.

We Americans could make an issue of Raif Badawi, if we wanted to — of Loujain al-Hathloul and others as well.

Switch, now, to North Korea (a country that makes Saudi Arabia look practically Swiss). Before traveling there, President Trump had words about the border — the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea. “By the way,” he said, “when you talk about a wall, when you talk about a border, that’s what you call a border. Nobody goes through that border. Just about nobody. That’s called a real border.”

It is a hell of a border, yes. The president was right that “just about nobody” can get through it. But, in November 2017, someone did, amazingly. He was Oh Chong-song, a 25-year-old North Korean soldier, who made what many called a “dash for freedom.” Amid a hail of bullets — he was shot by his comrades five times — he dashed to the southern side, to Free Korea. He has since talked about life in North Korea, giving the usual eye-popping testimony. To see him, go here.

President Trump has granted Kim Jong-un an exalted platform, with these repeated summits and photo-ops. Let’s hope he will have something to show for it. Kim, remember, is a Communist dictator who presides over a gulag. Indeed, he presides over the most monstrous state on earth.

I often quote Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet-era dissident, who said something like this: “Free World leaders have to conduct business with tyrants, but, as they do, they should occasionally pause to ask, How will it look to the boys in the camps?”

When Reagan met with Gorbachev, he always handed the Soviet leader lists — lists of prisoners he was interested in. “Too many lists,” Gorbachev once complained. (To read Vladimir Kara-Murza on this subject, go here.) If Trump handed Putin a list, it might include the names of Oleg Sentsov, Alexei Pichugin, Yuri Dmitriev, Alexander Shpakov, and Oyub Titiev.

Yesterday, President Trump called Putin “a great guy,” “a good person,” and “a terrific person.” I disagree (except in the long-ago meaning of “terrific”). I think he is a dictator who invades foreign countries, sows chaos in democracies, and kills his critics, both on Russian soil and on foreign soil.

Trump has called Kim Jong-un “a great leader,” “very talented,” “very honorable,” etc. He has called Xi Jinping “a great guy,” “a terrific guy,” etc. (Xi, remember, presides over a gulag of his own, and the stories grow more horrifying by the day. In the future, no one will be able to say, credibly, “Oh, we didn’t know!”)

Only a few years ago, the conservative movement would have been repulsed by comments such as these. I am of that movement. It is possible to engage in necessary diplomacy with tyrants without showering them with praise. Without demoralizing their victims. Conservatives were repulsed by President Obama when he did “the wave” with Raúl Castro at a baseball game. That seems a thousand years ago.

Every day, I’m told that I am a dinosaur, a nostalgist, a relic. I am told this by the Trump-Orbán Right and by segments of the Left, and they are probably right. But, as a conservative, I’m not necessarily fazed by these charges. I don’t have the feeling that tomorrow belongs to me.

In an interview last week, Putin said that liberalism had become obsolete. By “liberalism,” he did not mean Oberlin College. He meant the Western way, the American way: the rule of law, the separation of powers, free enterprise, a free press, human rights, and so on. (What has recently been attacked as “David French-ism.”) Specifically, Putin said, “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

Asked about Putin’s view of “Western-style liberalism,” President Trump talked about the political failures of Los Angeles and San Francisco. (See this article, for instance.)

In Budapest, Viktor Orbán is, of course, in accord with Putin. Last year, he proclaimed, “The era of liberal democracy is over.”

It may well be. These days, the strongmen are . . . well, strong. (Orbán was the only European leader to attend Erdogan’s latest inauguration in Turkey. Other attendees included Medvedev of Russia and Maduro of Venezuela.) The truth is, liberal democracy is something rare under the sun. People enjoy it only in parentheses, very brief. But it’s worth struggling to hang on to. And if people lose it in one age or place, it will be waiting for people in another. You can’t kill off these ideas. You can smother them for a while — even a good long time — but kill them, no. They will revive.


The Lie of Portland’s Antifa

(Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

There was a time when “anti-fascist” meant what it said. People who opposed fascism called themselves “anti-fascists.” But then the term slipped. The definition of “fascist” became hazy from over-use and so the term “anti-fascist” also began to move. This might seem to be a theoretical matter. But it is one that ends up encouraging and condoning horrific scenes like those in the center of Portland on Saturday.

For some time, self-described “anti-fascists,” or Antifa, have been finding spurious and imaginary reasons for demonstrating in the city. Though these are less like demonstrations than carnivals of civil disobedience, violence and intimidation. One of the very few journalists to have taken an interest in the repeated shutting down of the city center by these groups has been the young journalist Andy Ngo. Despite the police apparently regularly handing over the city to Antifa to do what they want, there has been relatively little coverage of this whole story in the mainstream press. And despite being repeatedly hounded and intimidated by anti-fa, on Saturday Ngo once again went to cover events in Portland.

This time, Antifa went even further than they have before, with several of their number assaulting Ngo, stealing his equipment, and repeatedly smashing his face with weapons and projectiles. It appears that the Portland police once again stood by and allowed this to happen.

There are several things to note here. First, the journalism business is awfully good at patting itself on the back. Whenever some auto-cue reader gets some mild criticism the whole industry goes into full-on “war on the free press” mode and starts handing out bravery awards. But in Portland on Saturday journalism really was under assault, in the form of a mob deliberately targeting somebody who was trying to perform the job that too much of the media fails to do. If the journalism business is interested in a little professional solidarity, now might be the time to express it.

Second, anyone in any doubt over who the fascists and the anti-fascists are today should watch the footage of Ngo being attacked. Might the fascists be the thugs who wear face masks in the middle of the day in an American city and carry out mob assaults on journalists?

Of course there are those who do not think this. According to one C. J. Werleman, it is the journalist Ngo who must be held accountable for his own assault. According to Werleman (a deeply confused figure), Ngo, who is the young, gay child of immigrants, is in fact someone who “was [sic] participated in white supremacist instigated violence.”

If anyone wonders why there are so many qualifiers in that characteristically inelegant sentence, it is because Werleman is trying to excuse an act of actual violence by implausibly pinning a charge of violence on a nonviolent person who has just been violently assaulted.

That’s an especially kooky and uncommon extreme of society that you can glimpse just there. But the truth is that it is also part of a logical continuum from the hysteria that part of America has been imbibing for three years now. If you keep telling people that the fascists are coming, then there will be some people who will believe you. Others will simply use the excuse to go and have what they think of as a good time and violently assault people under the guise of doing good works.

I am sure the Portland police will come up with some excuse for why they keep failing to protect their city and its inhabitants. And I’m sure that most journalists will continue to pretend that violent civil disobedience in the center of American cities in broad daylight is really not worth anyone’s time focussing on. But the real lesson of Saturday is that anybody interested in genuine anti-fascism should from now on aim themselves directly at Portland’s Antifa. These are the people of our day who behave most like fascists. It is high time that they were treated as such by officialdom and civil society alike.


On the Biden-and-Busing Controversy

Joe Biden addresses a campaign rally in Iowa City, Iowa, May 1, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

It’s hard to know how to weigh in on this controversy, since the definition of “busing” is itself uncertain; since it’s hard to tell what Joe Biden means to say now, let alone what he meant to say decades ago; and since the criticism of him by his political opponents is so likely to be deceptive as well. But these thoughts:

1) It is unconstitutional and bad policy to assign students to public schools on the basis of their skin color.

2) This means that Jim Crow segregation was unconstitutional and bad policy; it also means that racial balancing of schools (which I have no doubt is now supported to one degree or another by all the Democratic presidential candidates, including both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris) is unconstitutional and bad policy.

3) Some federal judges, federal bureaucrats, and civil-rights groups thought that a good way to end Jim Crow segregation was by affirmatively assigning students to schools on the basis of skin color. In some circumstances — where this was simply a way of ensuring that students went to the schools they should have been going to all along had there been no Jim Crow — this might have made sense, but often it was, to understate the matter considerably, controversial. Some of the criticism might have been rooted in a defense of Jim Crow, but often it was not, because the liberal definition of “segregation” included not only the de jure but also the de facto variety, and because using racial discrimination to end racial discrimination is always problematic.

4) The federal-state and voluntary-mandatory distinctions that are often important in other contexts don’t really have much salience here.  That is, it can’t (as a matter of constitutional law or sound public policy) be left to the states to decide whether to engage in racial discrimination; likewise, if a state decides to engage in such discrimination, it’s misleading to call it “voluntary,” since while the state is not being forced to adopt the policy, the resulting discrimination is not voluntary for the students who are then assigned to schools on the basis of their skin color.  And this is true, again, whether we’re talking about old-fashioned Jim Crow segregation, or the new and politically correct discrimination undertaken to achieve “diversity.”

Energy & Environment

Mission Creep for Bioethicists

Environmentalists demonstration near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, during the 2015 World Climate Change Conference. (Mal Langsdon/Reuters)

The bioethics movement is nothing if not hubristic. Philosophy majors think they should be the “experts” to whom we hearken for virtually all of society’s problems, not just medical ethics or health-care policy. Thus, in my book Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, I quote a bioethics paper published by UNESCO as stating modestly that the field “goes beyond the codes of ethics of the various professional practices concerned. It implies new thinking on changes in society, or even global equilibria.” All bow down.

It’s really just leftist politics. As movement patriarch Daniel Callahan once put it, bioethics made it big because it “dovetailed nicely with the reigning political liberalism of the educated classes in America.” So, we should not be surprised that the field wants in on global warming policy advocacy. Remember, it’s all about global equilibria!

Still, it is fair to ask what science and policy disputes about global warming have to do with medical ethics and public health policy. Watch Callahan stretch to make the field relevant to the former concerns. From the Hastings Center’s report on a climate-change conference the bioethics institute convened:

Callahan noted that climate change and bioethics both arose from the human quest for progress. Just as medical progress has led to improved medical care and increased life expectancy, it has also raised ethical dilemmas, for example, concerning decision-making at the end of life and the affordability of medicine. Similarly, progress more generally has given rise to increased fossil fuel consumption, which has caused climate change.

“Both global warming mitigation and health improvements share some similar ethical problems and dilemmas,” said Callahan at the meeting. One of them is to find a good balance between cultural change and technological solutions. For health care, there is a tension between preventive medicine and high-tech care. In the case of global warming the tension is between changing climate-affecting behavior, such as burning down forests, and technological and economic solutions, such as solar panels and windmills.

Nope. Bioethics has nothing “expert” to contribute to the idea of anthropogenic warming, “economic solutions” to reducing emissions, or reducing fossil-fuel consumption. As to stopping us from “burning down forests,” I’ll listen to Smokey the Bear.

And get this one:

In her remarks at the meeting, Mildred Solomon, president of The Hastings Center, noted that “a through line across nearly all Hastings projects, over its 50-year history, has been a desire to consider what the right relationship ought to be between humans and nature . . . When does our desire to innovate become exploitation? This tension must be managed in nearly every context The Hastings Center explores — whether the question is about changing the human genome, pursuing a radically extended human lifespan, or producing energy through extraction of natural resources like oil and coal.”

Good grief.

Bioethics has enough on its plate as its leading luminaries seek to impose policies germane to the field, e.g., “quality of life” ethic instead of equality of life, denial of medical conscience, healthcare rationing, live organ harvesting, futile care theory, a virtually anything goes biotechnology, a utilitarian outlook, etc.. We shouldn’t meekly follow the movement’s lead in those areas — just say no to the Technocracy! And we certainly shouldn’t care about their not-so-“expert” opinions about the global-warming issue.


My Middle Name Is ‘No Relation’


Hey, now! I see a headline about “Williamson’s mesmerizing lunacy” . . .


Harris vs. Biden


I wrote about the debate for Bloomberg Opinion.

Senator Kamala Harris, as a black female senator from the biggest state in our country, was always likely to be a strong contender. In the second of the first two Democratic debates, though, she also stood out as the coolest and toughest professional on the stage. Joe Biden has also been a top candidate, on paper, having served as vice president in an administration Democratic voters dearly miss. But his debate performance, while not deadly, is likely to deepen those voters’ worries that he is not up to the job of beating President Donald Trump in 2020.


The Democratic Straddle


At the New York Times, I write about how the Democrats are trying to avoid some unpopular left-wing positions without explicitly disavowing them — and how that tactic could backfire.

On several polarizing issues, Democrats are refusing to offer the reassurances to moderate opinion that they once did. They’re not saying: We will secure the border and insist on an orderly asylum process, but do it in a humane way; we will protect the right to abortion while working to make it less common; we will protect gun rights while setting sensible limits on them. The old rhetorical guardrails — trust us, there’s a hard stop on how far left we’ll go — are gone.


Watch: Kat Timpf Calls Texas Law Requiring Colleges to Report Sex Jokes a ‘Waste of Time’


In her latest video for National Review, reporter Kat Timpf discusses a bill signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott that permits law enforcement to jail college employees if they fail to report sex jokes they hear about on campus as a Title IX violation.

[jwplayer ELQo42CB-8HR1M1dH]


A Quick Recap of Two Nights of the New Democratic Party

Beto O’Rourke speaks at the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Fla., June 26, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

While it’s political common sense that candidates are not generally assured of or eliminated from anything after one measly debate, it is certainly true that voter assessments can be quickly re-aligned. The last two nights of Democratic debates actually did a lot to establish some obstacles and advantages in the impressions voters have of these candidates.

The major takeaway I will share before some random musings on individual candidates: Even a movement-conservative political junkie like myself was just stunned at the lack of interest in hiding the new extremism of the new left. No candidate seemed interested in the clear differentiation that this obvious brand would bring: “I am a center-left liberal, and I will fight Donald Trump, but I am not insane, and I am not promising tens of trillions of dollars of nonsense.” Independent, objective Americans could not possibly have watched either night of that debate without saying, “They want to take away our health insurance; instill a government takeover of the entire health-care system; give “free” college to every single person; open the borders and refuse to regulate immigration; give free health care to anyone outside the country who wants it; massively increase taxes; impose economy-destroying extreme environmental measures; “cancel” over a trillion dollars of student debt; confiscate guns illegally; and let us not forget, push forward the agenda of men being able to have abortions.” I am not exaggerating or being coy — there was near consensus in each of these policy objectives, and whether it be the economic, political, or cultural direction they seek to take the country — it is not just unrecognizable to John Kennedy’s America — it is unrecognizable to Barack Obama’s America!

But without further adieu, my take on particular standout performances:

  1. It is pretty much universal consensus that the biggest loser of the two-night woke-fest was Beto O’Rourke.  I really do believe that he was doomed before this debate performance, but at the end of the day, I believe Beto comes across as the most disingenuous candidate that either party has had stand on one of its stages in a generation. I fully appreciate that all politicians are acting to some degree, but this guy takes his little “Buddha in the mountains on a journey” schtick to a whole new level of nonsense, and he was just pitiful on Wednesday night — from the embarrassing Spanish pandering schtick, to Julián Castro clobbering him while he sat there looking like his mom was scolding him for getting a DUI.
  2. I don’t know if Elizabeth Warren helped herself or not Wednesday night — on one hand I realize that she is working hard to trump Bernie Sanders as the front-running socialist candidate, and on the other hand I agree that her “ideas” schtick seemed to really lack any meat on the bone. But what we do know: The media has picked her to be their candidate that they will prop up, and they are on a mission to cuddle her and massage her back into play. I expect shameless propping of the Native-American fraud for months to come. I question her viability in a general election but believe she may very well get in the “lane” that Bernie once occupied.
  3. I am sure it will now be beaten into us that Kamala Harris is the hot candidate, and she surely did help herself Thursday night. The “food fight” line was incredibly lame, which means that it went over great with CNN panelists. Her boldness in picking that fight with Joe Biden was completely lacking in character, accuracy, fairness, or integrity but it did what it needed to do: establish her as a rival to Biden, which implies a “top-tier” status for her and her campaign. Kamala is a talented communicator, and what she lacks in ideological guiding light that she makes up for in, well, something. I can’t say with real conviction what the appeal is, but I do know she will be a top-tier candidate going, and has as good a chance as any to win the nomination.
  4. Speaking of Joe Biden, he has a choice in the weeks ahead that will make or break his candidacy. He needs to get into a street fight with Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and anyone else who dares to call him a racist, or he needs to quit the race. He is not fighting to clarify his non-racist bona fides; he is fighting to demonstrate that he has the toughness to not stand for that kind of nonsense. I never believed Mitt Romney lost the race because people believed he was a Gordon Gekko corporate tycoon villain from the bowels of private-equity dungeons; I believe he lost because people just couldn’t believe he wouldn’t defend himself from being called such!
  5. It will not be good for the Democrats if Julián Castro gets a lift in this race and sticks around for a bit. That line about defending “reproductive justice” was disgusting and weird. And the addendum to his wokey pro-abortion street cred that he even supported abortion rights for men was the worst possible thing for those who do not want to portray the new Democrats as so culturally out of touch with mainstream Americans that they cannot be trusted. And of course, it doesn’t do a lot to boost the Democrats as the “pro-science” party.
  6. I think Amy Klobuchar had moments of showing herself to be reasonable and cerebrally aware of what a president can and cannot do, but her performance lacked gravitas.
  7. Bernie Sanders did two things you can not do as a socialist trying to win this nomination: 1) He waffled around the fact that he is advocating a huge middle-class tax increase to pay for Medicare for All; and 2) He is advocating a huge middle-class tax increase to pay for Medicare for All. I think Bernie will die off soon in this thing, as there are plenty of people now borrowing his Marxian progressivism in their policy plank, and yet they do not have 40 years of actually calling themselves “socialist.”
  8. My free advice to the DNC — Marianne Williamson ought not be on one of your stages again. My free advice to Saturday Night Live — do everything you can to keep Marianne Williamson in this race.

‘The Buttigieg Illusion’


I have a column up about Mayor Pete today.


Colleges Shouldn’t Escape Blame for the Student-Debt Crisis

Sarah Lawerence College (Wikimedia)

The student-debt crisis was launched to the forefront of the American political world this week when Bernie Sanders announced his plan to eliminate nearly all of the $1.6 trillion in student loans currently owed by Americans. Sanders’ announcement caused quite the uproar, yet notably, colleges themselves escaped the lion’s share of the blame.

College tuition has exploded well beyond the rate of inflation: Since 1978, college tuition has increased more than four times — a staggering 1375 percent — the rate of inflation. It’s risen eight times faster than wages since the 1980s, according to Forbes.

“The reason people keep paying huge amounts for college is because it is assumed – and somewhat correctly, yet with lots of exceptions — that a college degree is needed to advance career-wise beyond mere economic subsistence,” Jay Schalin, director of policy analysis at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, told National Review. Statistically, college graduates still earn over 1.5 times more than those with just a high school diploma.

American society has been sold on the idea that obtaining a college degree is the key to success. “Universities are seen through rose-colored glasses,” Dr. Jenna A. Robinson, president of the Martin Center, told National Review. And the government’s backing of student loans has allowed more students to be financially viable to attend college. Children go to high school, get accepted to college, get the dream job after graduation and buy the house with the white picket fence; the process is almost formulaic. “Conventional wisdom has been pushing college-for-all for a very long time,” Robinson said. “The minute a kid hits first grade he or she is pushed toward college,” Schalin said.

“The education industry and their friends in government have been pushing ‘college for all’ for political and financial reasons,” Schalin added. While the number of people with undergraduate degrees has increased significantly since the 1990s, so too has the cost of those degrees. Add on the fact that an even higher percentage of those students end up in occupations they most likely could have obtained without a degree, and you wind up with a negative return on investment — that, had it occurred on Wall Street, would generate plenty of righteous condemnation.

There needs to be more investigation of the causes behind tuition inflation — including the ballooning in university administrations. Politicians have rarely given any attention what caused this dramatic increase. “The people in a position to call out universities for their complicity in the student loan ‘crisis’ have by-and-large benefited from their college educations and believe that it was very much worth the time and money it took to attend,” Robinson said. “They went to decent schools, they graduated on time, and they paid back their loans (if they had any) with ease.”

The institutions that were once centered on the pursuit of knowledge and higher learning may condemn the free-market economy, but they are pursuing their own profits — and they should not escape blame for the current situation.


The 2020 Democrats and Open Borders


Miami — Most 2020 Democrats have now embraced decriminalizing illegal border crossings, a policy that the liberal website Vox calls “the most radical immigration idea in the 2020 primary.” Foreign nationals who illegally cross the U.S. border would be released into the United States pending a civil trial (assuming they don’t present a threat).

Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has released an actual plan to decriminalize illegal border-crossings, but he insists that policy does not amount to open borders because those who cross the border illegally would still be subject to civil penalties.

“This is not something that’s radical,” Castro told reporters following Wednesday night’s debate. “People still have to show up to a court hearing. They are still subject to deportation.”

But on Thursday night, moderator Mario Diaz-Balart asked the candidates: “If someone is here without documents, and that is their only offense, is that person to be deported?” Most of the candidates who commented said that person should not be deported. “No, absolutely not, they should not be deported,” Kamala Harris said. (Joe Biden walked up to the line, but didn’t quite cross it. “That person should not be the focus of deportation.”)

If you combine the policy of decriminalizing illegal entry with opposition to deporting anyone who hasn’t committed a serious crime, how does that amount to anything other than “open borders”?


The Wheels on the Bus Go ’Round and ’Round

Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks at the JCB headquarters in Rocester, England, January 18, 2019. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

In an interview earlier this week, Talkradio’s Ross Kempsell asked Boris Johnson what he does in his spare time. His answer was either a lie or another remarkable eccentricity. Either way, it is fascinating to see Johnson’s mind muddle its way through a response.

Johnson: I like to paint . . . and make things.

Kempsell: What do you make?

Johnson [after a long pause, a wistful turn of the head, and a grimace]: I have a thing where I make models. When I was mayor in London, we made beautiful buses . . .

(You might label it strange to bring up a mayoral term after being asked a question about one’s hobbies. But Johnson’s main campaign tactic has been to turn almost every question about his past into a referendum on his record as Mayor ten years ago.)

He smirks, on the verge of laughter. “I like to make . . . buses,” he says.

Kempsell: You make models of buses?

Johnson: I make models of buses.

Kempsell: So they’re gonna be in Downing Street?

Boris Johnson: So what I do . . . well I don’t make models of buses . . . what I make is . . . I get old, um, I don’t know, wooden crates, right? And then I paint them. And they have two . . . I suppose it’s a wine, it’s a box that’s been used to contain two wine bottles, right? And it will have a diving thing. I turn it into a bus and I put passengers . . . You really wanna know this?

Ross Kempsell: You’re making buses. You’re making cardboard buses. Ok, that’s what you do to enjoy yourself.

As Johnson goes on to explain that he turns wooden wine crates into model vehicles and “paints the passengers enjoying themselves on the wonderful,” low-carbon double-deckers, Kempsell stares incredulously.

The genius of this answer is that it is absolutely hilarious. The clip has some ten million views, and nobody knows quite what to make of it. Most of my acquaintances in the United States, still believing in Britain’s reputation for hard-headed seriousness, are under the impression that it must have been a crushing blow to his candidacy. But for many in the U.K., the video is a sign that the old, larger-than-life character still exists — google “Boris bus” and you are no longer met with the controversial spending pledge that helped Leave win the Brexit referendum, but another moment of comedy from a once-metropolitan mayor.

As I wrote over a month ago, Johnson is attempting to perform an incredible balancing act: He is a liberal conservative who wants to build affordable homes, improve social care, and pursue a more open immigration policy, but his base is now a group of Conservatives who want him to be tough on migration and even tougher with Brussels. This morning, Johnson refused to rule out proroguing parliament in order to get a no-deal withdrawal passed through the House of Commons. The decision was a nod to his hard-Brexiteer constituency, but that group would not be large enough to bring him victory at a general election. And since attempting to force through no deal is likely to bring the date of a general election far forward, Johnson may not be able to act upon his liberal-conservative agenda after all.

So it seems that Johnson is trying to pretend the contradictions don’t exist — keep the hardliners happy by promising to take the U.K. out without a deal on October 31 and keep an eye on a possible general election by doubling down on his cartoonish charm. He is comforted by the elusive hope that the EU will offer him a better deal and provide him with a way out of the mess, but nothing suggests that they are particularly keen on saving him.

Which is why the bus video, absurd as it may be, is a meaningful: as a reminder that Johnson’s persona is a sideshow to distract from his incoherent Brexit policy. He’s an expert at abiding by his own set of rules, but Brexit means facing up to reality. At the moment, Johnson is playing three different games: one with the Tory-party membership, one with his colleagues in parliament, and one with the country at large. But inventive acts of comedy won’t help with the only game that matters. Johnson might be in for a shock when he’s finally invited to play with Brussels.


Putin, Journalists, and Us

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the G-20 meeting in Osaka, June 28, 2019 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Earlier this month, I had a post on the risks that journalists face, including murder. It touched on Ivan Golunov, who had just been arrested. He is a Russian journalist working for the Meduza news site, which is based in Latvia. Golunov investigates corruption — which puts him in considerable danger.

He was arrested on drug charges, an obvious frame job. He was also beaten up. But he was released from prison after an international outcry. Unfortunately, other journalists are not so lucky.

The body count of Russian journalists is high. (For the relevant Wikipedia entry, go here.) A few of the dead are famous, such as Anna Politkovskaya, killed in 2006 (on Putin’s birthday). Most of them are not famous. In any case, it takes real bravery to be a real journalist in Russia. They are constantly in the crosshairs.

Last summer, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of Open Russia, launched Justice for Journalists, whose purpose is to investigate violent crimes against journalists. I will have a piece about Khodorkovsky — imprisoned by Putin for ten years — in the next National Review.

President Trump likes to chuckle with Putin about journalists. Two years ago, Putin gestured at reporters and said to Trump, “Are these the ones who insulted you?” Then the two leaders chuckled.

It happened again today. Trump gestured to journalists and said, “Get rid of them. [Putin needs no encouragement in that department.] ‘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.” Then the two chuckled.

In March of this year, Putin signed legislation aimed at “fake news” and anything that “disrespects” the Russian state.

Trump has also done some chuckling with Rodrigo Duterte, the leader of the Philippines. Filipino journalists, too, are in the crosshairs. (“Just because you’re a journalist,” Duterte said in 2016, “you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”) When reporters tried to ask Duterte about human-rights abuses, he called them “spies,” which got a laugh out of Trump.

Every day, or every week, Trump calls journalists “the Enemy of the People” and accuses them of “fake news” and “treason” and so on. His supporters and explainers say he’s just blowin’ off steam, no big deal, the ordinary rough-and-tumble. I understand media-bashing, having done a lot of it myself, in my scribbling career.

But journalists in many parts of the world wind up dead. This is certainly true of Russia. The American president should bear this reality in mind, especially when abroad, and he should represent democratic, and American, values.


Canada Stifles Religious Freedom

(Alessandro Lai/Dreamstime)

The Canadian Charter explicitly guarantees freedom of religion and conscience. Guarantee, shmarantee. Canadian law is fast becoming intolerant to religious liberty by forcing its citizens to choose between their careers and their faith.

Today’s Wall Street Journal carries an important column that illustrates precisely how officially anti-religion Canada is becoming. Avi Schick writes about a bill that just passed the National Assembly of Quebec, which would prohibit public workers from wearing any religious symbol or article of clothing while on the job. Schick explains the bill’s import:

Advocates say the bill promotes the separation of church and state. In reality, the law suggests that religious practice is incompatible with public service, that people of faith cannot be trusted to balance their religious beliefs and civic responsibilities, and that employees must choose between their consciences and careers. Public employees won’t be the only ones affected: If the government won’t hire someone who wears a turban or crucifix, why would a private business?


Quebec’s stifling of religious expression is becoming the rule in Canada, rather than the exception. I have written here about how the Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that all doctors must abort, euthanize, provide transgender interventions or any other legal medical procedure — or find a doctor who will, called an effective referral. In other words, Ontario forces doctors to take human life or provide services he or she might consider mutilating, even if the doctor considers it an egregious sin — either that, or be ghettoized into areas of practice such as podiatry in which no such requests are likely to be made. And if they don’t like that, as one judge put it, they can get out of medicine altogether. Do you see the pattern?

Last year, in British Columbia, a private Christian university sought to open a law school, in which students would be expected to conduct themselves consistently with the faith’s moral precepts. Because of this, it was denied accreditation. From, Canada Attacks Religious Freedom, by Bob Kuhn, also in the Wall Street Journal:

The Law Society of Upper Canada, the nation’s oldest and largest, told the high court in Ottawa during oral arguments on Nov. 30, 2017, that accrediting any “distinctly religious” organization would violate the Canadian Charter, which is similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights. It added that when the government licenses a private organization it adopts all its policies as its own. If these arguments had been accepted, they would have spelled the end of Canada’s nonprofit sector. In their zeal to root out the supposed bigotry of traditional religious believers, these lawyers were prepared to dynamite Canada’s entire civil society.

Thankfully the court passed over some of our opponents’ more extreme arguments. Instead, on June 15 it ruled that making Trinity’s faith-based community standards mandatory could harm the dignity of members of the LGBT community who attend Trinity. The majority of the court concluded that this potential dignitary harm to future LGBT law students was “concrete,” while the infringement on Trinity’s religious liberty from refusing to accredit its qualified law program was “minimal.”

By actively suppressing the liberty of its religious minorities and marginalizing the Charter’s explicit protections in this regard, Canada no longer qualifies as a free country.

Rancid anti-religiosity is bursting out here too. Witness the explosion of rage when the Trump administration promulgated a rule that merely requires the government to actually enforce all religious conscience protections currently contained in federal law. Witness that Medicare for All would force doctors to perform abortions and transgender procedures, if asked. Good grief, witness the continual and unremitting legal attacks on the Colorado cake baker. Does anyone think that the Democrat presidential contenders on stage the last two nights debating wouldn’t all eagerly follow Canada’s lead?

True civil libertarians stand up for freedoms in which they have no personal skin in the game. Clearly, most of today’s leftists and secularists are not civil libertarians. That is something to ponder seriously when the time comes to vote.