Coronavirus
Twenty Things that Caught My Eye Today: Nigeria, Foster Care, Zoom & More (July 28, 2020)

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1. Catholic News Agency: ‘Beyond reprehensible’: Christian aid workers executed in Nigeria

Bishop Matthew H. Kukah of the Nigerian Diocese of Sokoto said that the situation in the country stems from a culture that has devalued Christianity and no longer cares about faith. 

“This is the vacuum that [extremists] are exploiting–mainly, a west that is in retreat, as far as Christianity and Christian values are concerned, a west in which diplomats and businesspeople are far from being interested in matters of faith, especially when it comes to Christianity,” said Kukah

2.  FOX News: Infant critically wounded in Chicago expressway shooting

3. The Baltimore Sun: Joseph Costa, ICU Doctor at Mercy Medical Center, dies of the coronavirus he worked to help others overcome

4. Kelsey Bolar: Her Father Ensured Her Escape From China. Now She Hopes to Free Him From Prison.

5. Catholic News Agency: Controversial Dutch bill would allow assisted suicide for healthy people over 75

Currently, the quickest growing category of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands is people suffering from a mental illness but no physical impairment, Macdonald noted.

“To now consider extending the euthanasia law to people who are just tired of life, and may well be depressed, is highly irresponsible, immoral and dangerous,” he said.

6. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Children Last

The answer, at least in part, must be better training for foster parents and recruitment of a larger number of foster parents. The more options that caseworkers have for placing a child, the less likely they will be to place a square peg into a round hole. It’s not uncommon for foster families who say they can handle young kids to hear demands from caseworkers that they take an older one, or to get pressure to accept more kids than they can handle. Relatively few families are equipped to deal with special-needs children or medically fragile ones, but these kids have to go somewhere. Improving the recruitment, training, and support of foster families should be a priority for anyone who cares about fixing the child-welfare system.

7.  The Chronicle of Social Change: Missouri Child Welfare Overhaul Includes Kinship Diversion, Access to Birth Documents

The new law creates a “temporary alternative placement agreement,” which is described as an agreement between parents, relatives and the child welfare agency whereby the physical custody of the child changes, but there is no formal removal into foster care. These arrangements are limited to 90 days, and are meant to avoid the often traumatic experience of a court-ordered removal, an action that sets cases on a path where parents could have their rights terminated. 

8. NBC Los Angeles: Adoptions Once Frozen in Time Resume in Pandemic, Officially Uniting Families

Greenberg, along with the judicial counsel, the alliance for children’s rights and the public counsel did something that’s never been done: they rewrote the adoption playbook, created new electronic files, and allowed volunteer judges to finalize uncontested adoptions from a computer, wherever and whenever they have time.

“Everybody was committed to making something work for these kids,” Greenberg said.

9. Russell Shaw: In foster care case, another religious liberty test looms before the Supreme Court

In the term that begins in October, the justices will hear a case called Fulton v. Philadelphia in which the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is challenging the city’s action forcing Catholic Social Services out of the local foster care program because the Catholic agency won’t place children with same-sex couples.

The case does not raise identically the same issues as those involved in the Supreme Court’s recent LGBTQ decision on job discrimination (Bostock v. Georgia). But the clash of interests involved here was foreseen by Justice Neil Gorsuch in a section of his Bostock majority opinion. Conflicts between religious liberty and LGBTQ claims, he remarked, raise “questions for future cases” that the Supreme Court would eventually have to decide.

10. Julie Jargon: Lonely Girls: How the Pandemic Has Deepened the Isolation of Adolescents

“All of the things that a year ago were increasing girls’ depression have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Dr. Pipher told me. “Our recommendations were that girls spend more time with other girls, that they spend more time outside the home and that parents encourage girls to take more risks in order to develop skills on their own. Most of those things aren’t happening now because of Covid.”

Continue reading “Twenty Things that Caught My Eye Today: Nigeria, Foster Care, Zoom & More (July 28, 2020)”

Politics & Policy

Work, Family, and COVID Relief

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I’ve joined a group of more distinguished conservatives in signing a letter urging Congress to consider expanding the tax credit for children and the earned income tax credit as they continue their work on the “Phase IV” COVID relief bill.

Speaking only for myself: These ideas make more sense than simply giving out additional $1,200 checks to most Americans. They address more discrete concerns — the potential damage the current crisis might do to labor-force participation in the one case, the strains on families on the other — and they are defensible as long-term policies.

Sports

The Astros Better Not Win the Flippin’ World Series

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Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado returns to the dugout after hitting a home run at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., July 20, 2020. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

The Major League Baseball season is officially underway — in some limited form, at least. Fans aren’t in the stands; producers are generating cringey fake crowd noises anyway to keep up the appearance of normality. Also, players have to remain relatively isolated, games already are getting cancelled abruptly as players test positive for second-wave coronavirus, and the season has been shortened by more than 60 percent.

Still, baseball is baseball, and for those of us with nostalgic memories of youthful Little League games, Saturday-evening barbecues, and special nights at the ballpark with Papa, nothing could be more exciting. (Sorry, upcoming James Bond installment No Time to Die. But you’re almost as exciting).

Anyway, where am I going with this article? The title may have given it away: The one thing that could spoil baseball’s charmingly flawed return for me is if the Houston Astros find a way to win the World Series. This isn’t a particularly brave take at the moment: Ninety-nine percent of baseball fans seem to be united in this sentiment. Even Red Sox fans, who have a rivalry of epic proportions with Yankees fans, have told me that they would rather see my franchise go the distance than see the cheating slime down in Space City win it all.

For those readers unacquainted with the Astros’ cheating scandal, here’s the deal: An official MLB investigation earlier this year found that the franchise had engaged in sign-stealing at least during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Sign-stealing basically amounts to gaining a competitive edge by cracking the code that a pitcher and catcher (or coach and baserunner) use to communicate with each other about what to expect on an upcoming pitch. Not so controversial; minor tactics like this are employed all the time. The Red Sox were found to have employed similar ones in 2018.

The difference with the Astros was that their conspiracy was far graver — reaching all the way to the top of the organization — and far more systematic and tech-driven. There’s a long-standing difference recognized in baseball between soft and hard cheating; the behavior of the Astros clearly falls into the latter camp.

To me, these tactics are personal. Watching my brilliant Baby Bombers play against the Astros in the 2017 American League Championship Series for a spot in the World Series, valiantly overcoming a 2-0 deficit only to blow two straight opportunities to seal the deal in Houston, was heart-wrenching enough. I was sick to my stomach. My ten-year-old brother was bawling on the floor of our living room.

But the fact that this series might have been decided by the sign-stealing? This is simply infuriating. Likewise, I imagine, for Dodgers fans: Their team lost to the Astros in a tight seven-game World Series, just after the Yankees lost the ALCS. Perhaps the worst part about the whole thing is the arrogance with which the Astros took people for fools, expressing performative indignation at the mere suggestion that they would cheat.

The Astros have caught a lucky break: COVID-19 likely will ensure that the organization doesn’t have to contend with a single angered fan for the remainder of the season. (Nevertheless, the sound of plentiful fastballs launched intentionally onto the backs of Astros players promises to fill the air like sweet music.) But if there is any justice at all in this atrociously bad year, if this baseball season is even able to conclude, please, God, let the Astros fall to a heroic slayer — agh, it could even be the Red Sox, I guess.

World

Growing Resistance to Scotland’s New Blasphemy Law

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Earlier this year, in the midst of a pandemic, the Scottish government had the audacity to sneak in draconian restrictions on freedom of expression — with up to seven years’ imprisonment for the vaguely defined offense of “stirring up hatred” — in a bill purporting to repeal a dormant blasphemy law. The new law goes so far as to criminalize “displaying, publishing, or distributing” material that a member of a protected identity group finds to be “abusive, threatening, or insulting.” This would apply to social-media users and bloggers, as well as to playwrights and directors.

But as awareness of the bill’s implications grew, so too did resistance. Politics makes for strange bedfellows. During the public consultation on the bill (which may still be amended before it passes), even the Scottish Secular Society and the Catholic Church were united in opposition.

Politics & Policy

Deforming the Tax Code

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Congress has written a tax code that allows some companies to pay very low tax rates. Joe Biden thinks that’s a problem, but he doesn’t want to abolish or directly limit the provisions of the tax code that cause it. Instead, he would create a new 15 percent minimum corporate tax.

Richard Rubin’s Wall Street Journal article on the proposal explains the drawback:

But critics say Mr. Biden’s proposal could be counterproductive, partly because it would discourage companies from using tax breaks Congress created to promote investment in some of the very things the former vice president is trying to promote, such as renewable energy, low-income housing and manufacturing.

“It would be more straightforward to decide what policy we want and enact it,” said Michelle Hanlon, an accounting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Giving out tax breaks and then using a minimum tax to take some of them back, she said, is a “frankly kind of lazy way to do it.”

Politics & Policy

Socialists on the March

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(Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Last week, several self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists defeated long-serving Democratic incumbents in New York State primaries. One of the insurgents, Zohran Mamdani, tweeted out the words, “Socialism won.” His pinned tweet on his profile page says, “Together, we can tax the rich, heal the sick, house the poor & build a socialist New York. But only if we build a movement of the multiracial working class to stand up to those who want to stop us . . . Solidarity forever.”

This is a pretty good summary of what people currently attracted to socialism think they mean by the term — tax the rich and bring down the special interests to bring about a better country founded upon an agenda of radical egalitarianism. Yet anyone who has studied the history of socialism knows that this will fail, painfully, and possibly violently. Why do people fall for this time and again?

That’s the question my new book, The Socialist Temptation, released today, tries to answer. In it, I argue that socialism has learned how to speak the language of American values. The three main American values identified by cultural theorists are fairness, freedom, and community. Socialism says it can provide all of those.

Yet when you look at just how socialism purports to do that, it is full of contradictions. Those contradictions have been in full display whenever anyone has attempted to build an actual socialist state. Whether it be the Soviet Union, today’s China, or the Britain I grew up in, we see that bureaucrats and officials gain a privileged position, rights are trampled in the name of democracy, and communities are broken apart.

Of course, when everything goes to hell, socialists console themselves by saying that wasn’t real socialism. As Kristian Niemietz of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs has documented, in every such case the program began lauded as real socialism at last. As the wheels come off, they blame “wreckers” and foreign agents, and then finally deny that the project was ever socialist in the first place.

Thus, socialism is able to start again with a blank slate. Today’s socialist supporters say the last thing they want is nationalized industries and tractor-production targets, and wax lyrical about the joys of democracy and democratic control of corporations instead. In other words, they’ll replace direct government ownership of the economy with micromanaging bureaucratic oversight of it. Corporations won’t be the state, but they’ll be its agents. Imagine today’s woke capitalism with a National Recovery Administration imprimatur and you’ll get the idea. This will, of course, kill wealth creation and innovation and lead to a divided society with no rights and, again, broken communities.

As socialism’s appeal appears to be the way it speaks to values, it would seem that defeating socialism is a communications challenge. In this respect, we are in the same position as Ronald Reagan was in 1977 when he delivered his Hillsdale lecture, “Whatever Happened to Free Enterprise.” He said:

If you lose your economic [freedom], you lose your political freedom, all freedom. Freedom is something that cannot be passed on in the bloodstream, or genetically. And it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. Every generation has to learn how to protect and defend it, or it’s gone and gone for a long, long time.

It is our generation’s turn to meet this challenge. Things have changed. Reagan’s generation could rely on strong support from big business, although he himself suggested that too many were even then willing to feed the crocodile. As we know, that has now gone — big businesses are now all too often willing to support governmental control of our lives, feeding us to the crocodile instead.

We must therefore learn to communicate in new ways, learning how to speak to values. If we are to defeat socialism, we must persuade people that socialism is a threat to, not a guarantor of, equality (read Animal Farm to your children soon). We must argue that embracing socialist definitions of freedom will mean sacrificing some of our most cherished freedoms, like freedom of speech and of worship. We must argue that the bedrock of American community isn’t a union job for life in a subsidized industry but the free-enterprise system itself, allowing us to create wealth with and for our neighbors.

If we fail in this challenge, then we can look forward to a long march of America’s democratic socialists, out of New York and through our states and cities.

Politics & Policy

More Praise for Mike Gonzalez’s The Plot to Change America

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(Encounter Books via Amazon)

This penetrating and insightful book — with the secondary title, “How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free” — has already been favorably reviewed by us here. It also features a nice blurb from Rich Lowry (“an incisive, unsparing treatment of identity politics”), as well as from Michael Barone and Ben Shapiro. So it hardly needs my endorsement. But the publication date is this week, and I’d like to add briefly my enthusiastic two cents.

As the title of the earlier NR review indicates, the book’s principal theme is identifying “The Intellectual Roots of Today’s Identity Politics.” A second strong theme — as you would expect from the author, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a Cuban emigre to boot — is a critique of the results of this Left-rooted sickness. And Mr. Gonzalez’s third theme is prescriptive: He aims to answer the question, posed in a different context over 100 years ago by a rather influential leftist, “What is to be done?” As the author succinctly puts it:

To achieve that end [i.e., to defeat the plot to change America], the most urgent tasks are to expose myths, reveal what really happened, explain why it is urgent to change course, and offer a strategy to do so. Though we should not fool ourselves into thinking it will be easy to eliminate identity politics, we should not overthink it, either. Identity politics relies on the creation of groups, and then on giving people incentives to adhere to them. If we eliminate group making and the entitlements, we can get rid of identity politics. Explaining all this is this book’s main goal.

That’s from the introduction, by the way; if you’re able to read that (and the conclusion) online, you should, since it will persuade you better than anything I can write to read the rest of the book.

Mr. Gonzalez’s illuminating research is particularly relevant now, as the agenda that has taken advantage of legitimate anger about George Floyd’s death is so obviously hard Left and anti-American, indeed anti-Western. The Left is using allegations of racism — the one area of failure of the West (though of course not exclusive to it) — to attack all the West’s undoubted strengths by tying them to race and allegations of racism.

I should add that the easiest way for Americans to look past trivial differences like skin color and national origin is to be really excited about the big thing that we too often forget these days that we all have in common; namely, being Americans and all that this embraces. That’s another reason why the Left hates patriotism and E pluribus unum. When Americans say they want to take our country back, they mean from the anti-American Left, not from racial minorities. President Trump should be at great pains to make this clear, as he did in his Mount Rushmore speech earlier this month.

Just a couple of other notes. First, Gonzalez is kind enough to cite in his book a couple of papers I coauthored for Heritage. So let me link to the salient part of one of them — page 9 here — namely my draft Executive Order to end the federal government’s use of racial and ethnic preferences and the disparate-impact approach to civil-rights enforcement. This would be a huge step away from identity politics — in addition to being a huge step toward following the Constitution and the actual meaning of our civil-rights statutes. I’ll add that, as I discussed here earlier this year, part of my answer to “What is to be done?” is that “it’s not that complicated.”

Finally, I’ve long wanted to cite Irving Kristol’s prescient 1991 short essay, “The Tragedy of Multiculturalism,” and the context of this post gives me an opportunity to do so. It appears in his book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, and you can read it here.

NR Webathon

If Only 1619 More Donate, We Will Hit Our Webathon Goal

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

First: Do read Jim Geraghty’s as-ever terrific appeal. It makes a sterling case for why NR, more than ever, is vital.

Now to the matter at hand: On Day Six of NR’s Summer 2020 Webathon, we find 720 kindly friends have contributed $59,927 to keep NR in the fight to cancel the cancelers. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but that’s what we were built for. And that’s what we intend to do — and indeed are doing — with you ever at our side in what is rightly described, sans hyperbole, as a fight for Western civilization.

Soon after Bill Buckley launched NR, determined to stand athwart history — yelling Stop at the denigrating and rewriting of what had come before, and at the progressives’ plan to dictate history’s without-question-predestined leftist future (you know, the thing Barack and the Gang always claim to be “on the right side of”) — he realized that this fight meant National Review, as an institution, would need to wage battle in cooperation with its readers. It was our fight — our a quite-inclusive cabal.

It seeks your company. For decades, many have embraced a role in this fellowship on behalf of conservative principles, on behalf of America’s liberties, on behalf of e pluribus unum and the blessings of liberty and our Judeo-Christian heritage. Would that you would join this brotherhood today.

As to the math of this webathon: Our goal is $250,000, and if an additional 1,619 people donated $100, well, we’d be mission accomplished. Almost. If we can reach our goal, and surpass it (yep: Our financial needs require much more than a quarter mil), then all the more material will be at the ready so that NR can fight, fight, and fight — without flagging, without exhaustion — this leftist madness.

Speaking of 1,619: Remove the comma and you know where we’re going. NR has published a lode of smart and withering criticism on the infamous 1619 Project’s lies, its misrepresentations, its true purpose — which of course is to put a deadly stink on 1776.

Hmmm . . .  More inspired webathon math: If we had 1,776 additional donors contributing $100 or more, we would smash our goal!

That contemplated, let us look at the 720 who over these past few days have contributed, and in particular those who have shared thoughts — explanations, reminiscences, attaboys, marching orders — along with their selfless contributions. Some examples:

  • Big Jim tenders $50 and affirms our objective: “Fighting cancel culture is maybe the most important thing we can all do.” True that amigo — this is about all the marbles. Many thanks.
  • Jacob matches Jim and adds encouraging words: “I am a proud subscriber and supporter of National Review, which I now consider one of few mainstream news sources. Thank you for your great work and resistance to woke cancel culture.” Thanks accepted, and returned for your camaraderie.
  • Another Fifty comes our way, this time from Richard, who explains his motivation: “I’m 71 years old. A retired lawyer and former high school history/government teacher. What worries me most is not the lockstep op-ed pages which I can disregard but bias in the ‘news’ stories and headlines. I simply can no longer believe what I read to be factual, much less true.” Thanks so much Richard and yes, that old Times-mocking line — All the News That Fits the Tint — was never more true.
  • Steve sends $100, and an echo: “I couldn’t agree more that we are in the midst of a historic moment of anti-journalism. The level of crowd bullying and silencing is staggering and, for some reason, acceptable now.” It was always there Steve, just underneath the surface. The pretense of objectively has been obliterated. Thanks to friends like you we work relentlessly on behalf of the truth.
  • Another C Note arrives from Wayne, stapled to an explanation of a big difference between NR and the left-genuflecting journals: “A constant and reliable source for diversity in conservative opinion that helps shape how I think instead of telling me what to think. Thank you!” You nailed it. Thanks ever so much.
  • We conclude by noting Joanna’s kindly $50 gift and her short-but-powerful instruction: “Don’t let us down.”

We won’t. And as long as we have a goodly amount of readers who appreciate these facts — that the world is a better place because of NR, and that it will be a far worse place sans NR — and then who go above and beyond to lend financial support so we can withstand the onslaught, so we counterattack, so we can embarrass the bejeepers out of the Fifth-Estate ideologues who masquerade as objective journalists, well, there will be no letdown. We ask, knowing we hold not a jot or tittle or iota of moral claim on your fortune, if you might now consider a gift to NR. If that $100 is a bridge too far, maybe $20 or $25 or $50? (How about $17.76?). Can you consider $250, or $500, or even a thousand or more (a handful have)? It would mean so much to us. Donate here. To show your support by check, that thrills us too: Make it payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. In advance of your generosity, thanks very much, and we are thrilled by your fellowship.

Politics & Policy

Hundreds of Sick Canadians Euthanized over Loneliness

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Good grief. We are told that euthanasia is “compassion.” But how compassionate is it when last year in Canada, hundreds of sick people were euthanized because of loneliness?

The country’s 2019 MAID [medical assistance in dying] Annual Report found that 13.7 percent of the 5,631 Canadians killed by doctors asked to be lethally injected because of “isolation or loneliness.” If my math is right, that’s about 771 people, or 64 a month, or two per day. Good grief!

Some of the other reasons people gave for asking to be killed:

  • Loss of ability to engage in enjoyable activities, 82.1 percent. That’s a serious concern, but with proper interventions, it can be overcome.
  • Loss of ability to perform activities of daily living, 78.1 percent. Ditto.
  • “Inadequate control of pain (or concern about it),” 53.9 percent. That’s a scandalously high percentage. Palliative and hospice pain-control experts will tell you that most serious pain in terminal illnesses can be successfully alleviated.
  • Loss of dignity, 53.3 percent. Again, this is a serious concern but can be overcome with appropriate care.
  • Perceived burden on family, friends, and caregivers, 34 percent. In other words, people put themselves out of their loved one’s misery.
  • Emotional distress/anxiety/fear/existential suffering, 4.7 percent.

These statistics are scandalous and should make Canada deeply ashamed.

Alas, most Canadians are proud that their doctors can legally kill sick people whose deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.” Not only that, but the country is now engaged in the process that will expand the conditions qualifying for lethal injection, including incompetent people with dementia if they asked to be put down in an advance directive.

It’s so bad, that in Ontario, if a doctor refuses to euthanize a legally qualified patient or find another doctor he or she knows will kill, they risk professional discipline.

This isn’t just about Canada. The country is our closest cultural cousin. If we swallow the hemlock as our northern cousins have, the same lethal pattern could unfold here.

How bad would it be? Canada has about one-ninth the population of the United States. If the same percentage of people euthanized in Canada were killed by doctors in the U.S.A., it would add up to more than 50,0oo medical homicides per year. Do we really want that?

Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Pro-Life Leaders Ask FDA to Remove ‘Highly Dangerous’ Abortion Pill from the Market

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The headquarters of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, Md. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

In a letter this morning, more than 20 leaders from conservative and pro-life organizations are asking the Food and Drug Administration to remove the chemical-abortion drug mifepristone from the market, calling it “highly dangerous for women.”

“While we are encouraged by the FDA’s decision to shut down illegal websites trafficking unapproved abortion pills into the US, we futher insist you exercise your authority under 21 CFR § 2.5 to classify the abortion pill as an ‘imminent hazard to the public health’ that poses a ‘significant threat of danger,’” the letter says, according to a copy provided exclusively to National Review.

The letter follows a recent decision from a federal judge, who ruled that the FDA’s safety standards for mifepristone — which require that women obtain the drug in person from a physician or prescriber — are an unconstitutional “substantial obstacle” to women’s abortion rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the In-Person Requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients,” U.S. district judge Theodore Chuang wrote.

That ruling came after Democratic attorneys general and dozens of Democratic lawmakers demanded that the FDA remove its safety regulations so that women could more easily obtain chemical-abortion drugs for the duration of the pandemic.

“The constitutional merits of the right to abortion aside, the Supreme Court places no burden on the FDA to approve dangerous methods of abortion,” the letter from pro-life leaders states. It continued:

Yet, on July 13, 2020, a lone federal district judge circumvented the FDA’s considered judgement that this dangerous drug be dispensed in a healthcare setting, and enjoined the FDA from fully enforcing the REMS protocols. This rogue judicial activism is a gross breach of the separation of powers, undermining the FDA’s statutory authority to regulate drug safety, while recklessly endangering American women and preborn children.

While advocates of expanding legal abortion insist that chemical abortion is safe, mifepristone carries the risk of serious complications that often require follow-up care, a particular problem during the COVID-19 pandemic. Somewhere between 5 percent and 7 percent of women who ingest mifepristone abortion will require a follow-up surgical abortion. One survey found that more than 3 percent of women who underwent a medical abortion in the first trimester required emergency-room admission to manage complications.

The letter also points out that, since 2000, the FDA itself has documented more than 4,000 “adverse events” for women after taking mifepristone, including 24 maternal deaths. It notes that the FDA requires only abortion-pill manufacturers to report maternal deaths, while most women who experience severe side effects are likely to seek care at emergency rooms, which are not required to report adverse events.

The letter is signed by Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, Jessica Anderson of Heritage Action, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Lila Rose of pro-life group Live Action, and more than a dozen other pro-life leaders and activists.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Sports

How Many NFL Players Will Opt Out This Year?

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Several NFL players, including the New England Patriots’ right tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, announced recently they will not play in the upcoming season. Cannon is a cancer survivor, and Hightower’s mother suffers from diabetes.

Many fans might be wondering why professional athletes — by and large young men in peak physical health — would be willing to sit out one of their prime playing years when the virus poses such a minimal threat to those in their demographic.

But . . . some portion of young people who catch the virus are experiencing lingering health issues, including “long-term repercussions in their ability to move, to exercise and a loss of general exercise capacity . . . lingering issues with concentration, memory retention and performing certain tasks . . . damage of the kidneys and the lungs.” For professional athletes, their body’s ability to achieve peak performance is their livelihood, and is dependent upon aspects of health such as lung capacity, muscle mass, concentration, vision, etc. A lingering health issue that would be difficult but manageable for a white-collar worker could be a career-ender for a player who expected to play at least a few more years on a lucrative contract.

The vast majority of professional athletes who catch the coronavirus will probably pull through just fine, and many will be asymptomatic. But the National Football League has 1,696 players on its full rosters of all 32 teams. What are the odds that at least one player catches the virus and experiences some significant lingering health issue because of it?

Also note that while the players are young and usually in peak or near-peak physical health . . . not all of the coaches and support staff are. The NFL and the other major professional sports are going to try to complete its seasons in 2020. But as Major League Baseball is demonstrating, trying to continue any aspect of normal life during a pandemic will not be easy.

World

À propos de la France

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Detail of Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1802), by Jacques-Louis David (Wikimedia Commons)

In the normal course of things, more than a few Americans would be traveling to France for vacation right now. But things are complicated — so complicated, it’s no sure thing to gain admission to Canada or Mexico. Is Yellowstone open? Cedar Point (alluring destination of my youth)? Never mind: I have brought some of France to you . . .

. . . in the person of Mathis Bitton, who is a summer intern here at National Review, and a sophomore-to-be at Yale. To hear our Q&A, go here.

Mathis can talk about any number of things, but we confine our conversation to France, which is a big enough topic for hundreds of podcasts. I ask Mathis about the French language — and about the role of the Académie. And about poets and novelists. And philosophers and scientists. And artists and musicians. And filmmakers and carmakers.

And statesmen. What to think about Napoleon? When my gurus disagree, I get confused. Paul Johnson, in his biography, paints Napoleon as a proto-Lenin. Andrew Roberts, in his, paints him as a hero. Can Monsieur Bitton break the tie?

What about de Gaulle? Mathis is a Gaullist, and I jab him about his man — but he is right (and so is de Gaulle).

The incumbent president, Macron? The Le Pen family? What about French identity, and nationalism, and chauvinisme, and assimilation? All interesting, even urgently so.

You will enjoy listening to Mathis Bitton, as I did. In fact, we may have Round 2, to cover more of the waterfront, so if you have questions, let me know (jnordlinger@nationalreview.com). Again, this Frenchy Q&A is here.

P.S. I’m not much of a statistician, but if I were, I would note — with satisfaction and gratitude — that this Q&A is the 250th: the 250th episode. So Mathis joined me on a “historic” occasion.

P.P.S. Do you prefer “an historic” (versus “a”)? I really do.

P.P.P.S. Years ago, Matt Labash interviewed Jesse Jackson. (We were both working at The Weekly Standard at the time.) (Matt and I, I mean, not Jesse and I.) Matt was questioning him on his facts — his numbers. Jackson replied, “Yeah, well, you can talk to the statisticians about that.” I wasn’t present, but Matt re-enacted it, and the disdain in that “statisticians” was priceless.

P.P.P.P.S. On another occasion, Jackson was saying that he was a big-picture guy, not a detail guy: “I’m a tree-shaker, not a jelly-maker.” I have always aspired to be a tree-shaker, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.

Politics & Policy

Once a Champion of Life, Joe Biden Is NARAL’s Man Now

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Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the U.S. economy during a campaign event in Dunmore, Pa., July 9, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden, who argues that his near-50 years in public life uniquely qualifies him to be president, has done more “evolving” than perhaps any candidate in modern history. And no issue better exemplifies his lack of moral conviction than his about-face on abortion. This week, NARAL, the powerful abortion trade association, endorsed Biden for the presidency.

Here’s reminder of the former senator’s long history on issue – with a twist at the end:

1976: Biden votes for the Hyde Amendment, a law banning federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

1977: Biden votes against allowing Medicaid to fund abortions, even for victims of rape and incest.

1981: Biden authors an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, banning any American foreign aid from being used in research related to abortions. The “Biden Amendment” is still law.

1981: Biden votes for the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to lobby for the cause of abortion. (Congress would later modify the language to include lobbying against abortion as well.)

1982: Biden supports Jesse Helms’s amendment to a federal debt-limit bill, which would permanently prohibited the use of federal funds for abortions and abortion research or training. Biden was to the right of Ronald Reagan in this instance.

1982: Joe Biden proposes a constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to choose their own policies on abortion.

1983: Biden votes, numerous times, to prohibit the Federal Employees Health Benefits program from funding abortions for government workers.

1984: Biden supports Ronald Regan’s “Mexico City policy,” which bans federal funding for private organizations that provide abortion, advocate to decriminalize abortion, or expand abortion services.

1993: Biden once again votes to save the Hyde Amendment.

1994: Biden writes letter to a constituent bragging that he has voted against abortion funding on 50 separate occasions.  

1995: Biden votes for partial-birth abortion bans that would be vetoed by President Bill Clinton.

1997: Biden again votes for partial-birth abortion bans that would be vetoed by Clinton.

2003: Biden votes for the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.”

2007: Right before being picked as veep for Barack Obama — the most radically pro-abortion president in American history — Biden writes in his biography, “I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than 30 years.”

2008-2016: Biden says absolutely nothing substantive on abortion policy, or much else.

June 5, 2019: Biden publicly reaffirms his 40-plus year support for the Hyde Amendment.

June 6, 2019: After criticism from other Democratic Party primary candidates, Biden immediately folds, reversing 40-years of middle-of-the-road principles and “denounces” the Hyde Amendment.

Today: Biden has dropped all moderation, miraculously resolved all those deep struggles with the Catholic faith, and aligned himself NARAL’s position — abortion on demand until crowning, paid for by the state.

Thoughtful people change their minds all the time.  No thoughtful person changes his mind about everything exactly when it benefits him most.

National Review

Introducing Capital Matters

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(SARINYAPINNGAM/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon that free markets are under political and intellectual assault, but with even the so-called moderate Democratic presidential candidate hammering out his agenda with a socialist and even elements of the Right turning on markets, the fight is more intense than it has been in decades. It’s in this context that NR and the National Review Institute are launching Capital Matters, a joint project to defend, explain, and evangelize for market economics. The initiative is headed by our friend and colleague Andrew Stuttaford, a veteran of the financial world and a long-time NR contributor. You’ll notice NRCM pieces popping up on the homepage, and there’s a new landing page exclusively for this content. Some of the biggest names in conservative economics will be contributing and NRCM will cover the gamut, from business and finance, to monetary and fiscal policy. As the project develops, there will be a morning newsletter and podcast, among other things. We hope you check it out and make the NRCM page a daily destination. As the socialists attack markets and many on the right lose their appetite for defending them, NRCM will happily stand in the breach.

U.S.

Founding-Era Antislavery and the Overheated Freakout Over Tom Cotton’s History of Slavery

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(Pixabay)

As John McCormack notes, Tom Cotton may have been awkward in his phrasing, but there is nothing shocking in saying of slavery, “As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.” Jonathan Chait writes:

Cotton seems not to be saying that slavery was necessary in order to get slave owners to accept the union, but that it was necessary to the “development of our country.” Here, oddly enough, he is recapitulating one of the most important errors in the 1619 Project itself.

There are two ways to read “necessary”: that slavery was necessary to build the country, or that tolerating the pre-existing institution was necessary because nationwide abolition was politically and perhaps economically and socially infeasible in 1776 or 1787. I agree with Chait that the 1619 Project is off-base in claiming the former; I do not read Cotton as saying that, and the people who are jumping on him over this are, it appears, just people who already hate Tom Cotton.

The formulation that slavery was tolerated as a necessary evil at the time of the Founding, and that the Founders expected (overoptimistically) that it was on an inevitable path to extinction, is a fairly standard one, and mostly an accurate way of putting the more complicated story of Founding-era slavery and anti-slavery into a nutshell. It most accurately captures the views of the Virginia Founders (such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and George Mason), who saw slavery as wrong — unlike John C. Calhoun and his followers in a later generation, who framed it as a positive good — but were unwilling or unable to face the effort to end it. It also accurately captures the view of anti-slavery delegates to the Constitutional Convention, who concluded that it was not worth breaking up the new nation in a vain effort to force the South to abandon slavery immediately.

Was the Constitution designed to “put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction”? Here is where things get much more historically contested, but there is much to be said for Lincoln’s view. While it was the expressed hope of some of its Framers that the institution would be set on that path, the Constitution did not arm the federal government to do so. The new federal government was empowered only to ban the slave trade (as it did in 1807), ban slavery in new, federally administered territory (as it did immediately in 1787, and again to an extent in 1820 and 1850), and ban slavery in the District of Columbia (as it never did before the Civil War). Abolition would, under the Constitution, have to come state by state.

That process seemed underway in 1787: While slavery was legal in every colony before the Revolution, five of the thirteen states had banned slavery under the Articles of Confederation between 1780 and 1784, as did Vermont (then an independent republic) in its 1777 constitution. Even Virginia, after passing a voluntary-manumission law in 1782, had a serious legislative debate in 1785 over abolition. The one directly pro-slavery provision of the new Constitution, which was not in the Articles of Confederation — the fugitive slave clause — was added only because, when the Articles were drafted in 1776, there were no free states for slaves to escape to.

As Sean Wilentz details in his deeply researched book No Property In Man, the Framers were very careful to preserve the space for states to abolish slavery, and to refer to slaves at all points in the document as people, not property. One example illustrates how the Constitution protected anti-slavery. The Founders were deeply concerned with the sanctity of private property and private contracts. A significant impetus for the Constitutional Convention was debtors’ revolts and resulting state laws repudiating contracts.

One of the significant restrictions the Constitution placed on states was the first clause of Article I, Section 10: “No State shall . . . pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” Among other things, the Contracts Clause stood as an obstacle to states immediately freeing indentured servants, who had entered into a relationship of servitude of their own free will (however exploitative) for a period of years. They could agree, in order to repay debts, to extend their term of service. States could ban new contracts of this nature, but they could not free people from previously entered contracts.

Slaves were different: They had not consented to be slaves, they were legally treated as property in the same way a horse or a dog was property, and they were bound for life, not for a fixed term. The Fifth Amendment, added in 1791, protected property rights against the federal government, which could not take a man’s property without just compensation or without due process of law. But unlike contracts, states were not in any way restricted from taking property — not until the Fourteenth Amendment, passed after the national abolition of slavery. What that meant, in practice, was that a state could destroy property rights in slaves — by recognizing the slaves as free citizens — without offending the Constitution.

That mattered a great deal in New York and New Jersey, the two Northern states that still had significant slave populations in 1787. The abolition of slavery in those two states took place in 1799 and 1804. In both states, there was fierce resistance by slaveholders, who argued that their property rights were being violated. Had the federal Constitution protected property in the way that it protected contracts, abolition in New York and New Jersey would have been impossible.

As it turned out, unfortunately, those were the last dominoes to fall. New free states would be admitted, but no existing state would abolish slavery again until the Civil War — not even Delaware, where free black citizens outnumbered slaves ten to one by 1860. The Founders’ optimism was misplaced. But they did have a plan; it just didn’t work out the way they expected.

National Security & Defense

The Upcoming Partisan Fight over Nuclear-Test Funding

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The U.S. Capitol, after Congress agreed to an economic stimulus package created in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2020 (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Last week, both the House and Senate passed their respective drafts of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with veto-proof majorities. Congress will go on to workshop a final product together behind closed doors. Once both sides are satisfied with a final compromise, the $740 billion bill goes on to the president. This traditionally bipartisan bill has seen compromise on issues such as the renaming of Confederate bases. Friction does lie ahead, however, as the House and Senate have opposing provisions on nuclear testing, a continuation of a larger debate over the merits and demerits of nuclear-testing readiness.

While the House passed a complete test ban on nuclear weapons, the Senate adopted an amendment from Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) that sets aside $10 million to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary.” With a Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate, the question of nuclear-test preparedness is set to be a partisan affair.

I discussed the Senate amendment in a previous piece, noting its auspicious timing. In May, there were revelations that the Trump administration was considering the possibility of conducting a nuclear test to catalyze negotiations for a trilateral nuclear agreement with China and Russia. The amendment was associated with — as I saw it — an ill-reasoned negotiation strategy by the Trump administration, one with many defects as a negotiation tactic. Yet this needed to be distinguished from the Senate amendment’s policy of preparedness, as I generally support the idea of maintaining the U.S. nuclear infrastructure. Finally, this previous piece established the shortcomings of the U.S. nuclear arsenal as it stands, noting its potential weakness in any situation truly requiring a nuclear test.

Democrats are largely against nuclear testing or any funding related to such an option. In early June, after revelations of the Trump administration’s tentative plan, Democrats called testing “short-sighted and dangerous,” citing the dangers of escalation and environmental impact, and noting that the U.S. can assess its arsenal without a physical test (which the U.S. hasn’t used since 1992). On June 3rd, Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) introduced his Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act which would prevent the Trump administration from using any funding for nuclear-weapons testing. Markey said: “Congress must use its power of the purse to deny President Trump from sparking a global return to testing the most powerful weapon ever created by man.”

In his successful House NDAA amendment blocking funding for nuclear testing, Representative Ben McAdams (D., Utah) echoed these same sentiments, saying that “explosive nuclear testing is not necessary to ensure our stockpile remains safe” and that testing “causes irreparable harm to human health and to our environment and jeopardizes the U.S. leadership role on nuclear nonproliferation.”

Democrats are partially correct in worrying about the possible ramifications of an explosive test. It is unlikely that a physical explosion would bring China and Russia to the table, and far more likely that escalations would ensue. So it is reasonable to counter the Trump administration’s potential testing efforts. But it is unreasonable to block efforts to ensure the readiness of nuclear testing.

Whether or not the $10 million facilitates the administration’s proposed test, it is useful in and of itself for a couple of reasons. First, the U.S. nuclear arsenal is falling into disrepair. Despite virtual testing simulations, nuclear weapons bear the unknown effects of aging and lack of maintenance. Should there ever be a true need for a nuclear test, the U.S. would likely not be ready.

Second, as American adversaries carry out their own nuclear agendas and global nuclear affairs become more uncertain, the U.S. can send a message of preparedness without necessarily sparking escalations. China is restoring and building up its nuclear program as the U.S. has tried (and continually failed) to get the nation to sign on to a trilateral arms control treaty with Russia. Just last Thursday, the president spoke with Vladimir Putin on the matter. White House spokesman Judd Deere said that the president “reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia and the United States and looked forward to progress on upcoming arms control negotiations in Vienna.” While a full-on explosive test could spark an arms race, a mere effort to be prepared for a test is not outwardly escalatory. Baseline preparedness is also essential in signaling U.S. nonproliferation leadership; maintaining credible nuclear capabilities is foundational to deterrence and nonproliferation.

As the Senate and House convene to finalize the NDAA, policymakers would be wise to prevent any outright test. However, this does not require tabling funding for “reducing the time required” to test. There can and must be a line between escalation and ensuring strength and leadership.

Culture

Twenty-Five Things That Caught My Eye Today: Honoring Our Elderly, Healing & More (July 27, 2020)

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1. Charles Camosy: Honoring Our Elderly

2. Wesley J. Smith: ‘Quality of Life’ Medical Authoritarianism Invades Texas

Now, a case strikingly similar to those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans is unfolding in Fort Worth, where doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center are seeking to both force a baby off life support and prevent her mother from pursuing alternative care.

3. Ross Douthat: The Ghost of Margaret Sanger

4. Ruth Graham: Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Problem

5. Dozens of Rohingya migrants feared drowned off Malaysia coast

6. Daily Mail: ‘A naked brutality worthy of the Nazis’: Edward Lucas on the harrowing evidence of Beijing’s concentration camps dedicated to ‘re-educating’ a million or more Muslims

At the end of the class, inmates are asked ‘is there a God?’ The only permitted answer is ‘no’. 

Every waking moment is an onslaught on their cherished beliefs and traditions. The half-starved inmates are even forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, in defiance of their Muslim faith.

7. Daily Mail: Heart-broken mother is reunited with her newborn son after he was stolen from her hospital ward and sold to another family 800 miles away

8. Barcelona cardinal holds Mass in defiance of government order

Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, the archbishop of Barcelona, argued that the cap was an arbitrary attack against religious freedom, a right protected by Spain’s constitution. His said it was not justifiable to allow up to 1000 tourists at a time in the Basilica of the Holy Family, where the funeral Mass was held, but only 10 people if they are attending a religious service.

9. Heather Lanier: The Real Work of Parenting a Rare Girl

On her first day of kindergarten, I couldn’t know any of this—just as I couldn’t know that, on the day I learned of my daughter’s diagnosis, I was being handed a gift: the knowledge that the point of life isn’t to achieve things. It also isn’t, as Richard Dawkins implies, to avoid suffering. It isn’t even to “be happy.” A better life isn’t one that steers clear of the most pain, managing to arrive at the end with the eulogy, He had it easy, or She was the least scathed person I know. This belief in the virtue of the “happy” and suffering-free life sterilizes and shrinks us, minimizing what makes us most beautifully human.

10. Chris Arnade: A Culture Canceled

Continue reading “Twenty-Five Things That Caught My Eye Today: Honoring Our Elderly, Healing & More (July 27, 2020)”

Religion

Pierre Manent on the Church and COVID

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Everything Pierre Manent writes is worth reading, but not enough of it is translated into English. Today, however, The Public Discourse has published a translation of a recent Manent essay from La Nef, on the Church’s meek acceptance of closures during the pandemic, and how religion is not a mere club of opinion.

Catholics, like the French as a whole, have been surprised, stunned, and bewildered by the pandemic and the confinement that responded to it. Like most of the French, they obeyed the new health regulations, out of both fear of the virus and obedience to legitimate government. They accepted being deprived of the sacraments without a word, including during Holy Week. In the days that followed, at the same time that routine set in, this exceptional state seemed less and less acceptable. The pain of being deprived of the life of the Church was compounded by the unpleasant feeling that public institutions were perfectly indifferent to the religious needs of citizens — that at no moment of making a decision had the government given a minute of reflection, an ounce of consideration, to this essential part of common life.

Read the whole thing.

Law & the Courts

Breaking — It’s Dangerous to Have Rioters Shoot Fireworks at You, Laser You, and Throw Heavy Objects at You

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Until now, the federal officers protecting federal property in Portland have been portrayed in the press almost exclusively as provocateurs randomly arresting people. To his great credit, an AP reporter spent time over the weekend inside the courthouse with officers and his report is harrowing:

U.S.

Life Is On Hold, ‘Until There’s a Vaccine’

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Dr. Francis Collins holds up a model of coronavirus, during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing in Washington, D.C., July 2, 2020. (Saul Loeb/Reuters)

As discussed in today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, good news about the development of a coronavirus vaccine continues apace. While there are no guarantees, most health experts think that the world is on course to have a vaccine ready to distribute by the end of this year or early next year.

The sense that a vaccine is likely to arrive in record time is sparing our elected leaders some of the most difficult choices.

If a vaccine is just a few months away, those leaders can argue that we can and should continue various quarantine measures that are inconvenient and painful, but manageable, at least in their eyes. No in-person schooling until there’s a vaccine. Mandatory masks until there’s a vaccine. Minimal air travel until there’s a vaccine. Closed beaches until there’s a vaccine. Work from home until there’s a vaccine. Little or no live music until there’s a vaccine. Sorry, movie theaters, conventions, live theater, cruise lines, tourism, gyms — you just have to endure roughly a year of minimal or no income.

Maybe we can muddle on through until the end of 2020 or into the early months of 2021 like this.

If, God forbid, vaccine developers hit roadblocks and announced that a working vaccine wouldn’t be available for another two to three years . . . everyone from top to bottom of our society would be forced to figure out a way to live with this virus. No more hiding out in the Hamptons until further notice.

We would have to take a hard look at whether “online learning” is an acceptable substitute for in-person schooling for years at a time — at every level from pre-school to graduate school. We would have no choice but to figure out how to make our workplaces as safe as possible; a government edict keeping businesses closed for years at a time would be economically apocalyptic. Every current spot that seems like a likely vector for spread — subways and buses, churches and other religious gatherings, bars and restaurants — would have to be reinvented and adjusted in order to reopen and function with minimal risk. We would no longer be able to hand-wave away the barely surmountable or insurmountable challenges facing working parents as a temporary inconvenience.

The early rallying cry, “15 days to bend the curve,” is now a ridiculous joke. The day the coronavirus hit home — when the World Health Organization officially announced a global pandemic, President Trump addressed the nation, and the NBA suspended its season — was 139 days ago. There are 158 days left in 2020. This is not some problem that will go away in a month or two, and we need to stop operating on that assumption. We would be better off if our leaders stopped seeing this as a short-term hardship that will disappear once that vaccine arrives. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

The Economy

On Reviving New York City

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We now know a lot more about how to treat COVID-19. And the range of what’s available to treat this disease is, thankfully, improving. Operating our economy in slow motion until a vaccine is found, developed, and made easily available would, I suspect (and it’s not much of a guess) lead to disaster.  As I noted in a post on Friday:

[I]f we are to avoid an economic catastrophe, some way has to be found of ‘living with’ this pandemic considerably more intelligently than we have managed up to now.

On that topic, here’s an extract from a letter sent by David Bahnsen to some of New York City’s business leaders and published in the New York Post, calling for them to encourage a return to work in the office “not in January 2021, but in September 2020. Labor Day, not New Year’s Day, please.”

[M]y concern is the downstream impact that will result from the city not being open for business — with people not coming to work, with New York no longer being New York again.

Who is captured in this downstream impact I refer to? The dry cleaners no longer having men and women drop off their suits for weekly press. The shoe shiners no longer seeing men sit in their chairs for a morning shine. The deli workers without people on a lunch break to order a sandwich. The coffee-shop folks not getting tips to brew up iced coffee. The busboys not getting shifts because restaurants won’t open without businesses reopened. The bartenders not serving an evening drink before someone jumps on a train back to Connecticut out of Grand Central.

This is what I refer to — not merely the effects on our white-collar jobs and industries, but the withering of the invisible hand of the New York economy, which harms those who have been disproportionately damaged by the crisis.

My suspicion is that reports of the death of the office, like those of the demise of business travel, will, in the end, turn out to have been exaggerated, even if we allow for the greater range of alternative ways of working now made possible by new technologies. “In the end,” however, may be quite some while away.

And in the meantime, there can be no doubt that the destructive effects on New York City of remaining in the strange sort of limbo in which large parts of Gotham now seem to be held are growing worse by the day. We do need to learn to ‘live with’ this pandemic intelligently. And inertia is not intelligence.

Sports

A Grim Omen for the Sports World

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Since last Thursday, every baseball fan took at least a little bit of joy at the sport’s return — even without fans in the stands, even with giant cut-outs at Citi Field, or computer-generated images of fans in the stands. Up until this morning, the prospects for the return of professional basketball and hockey looked pretty good. The NBA season is scheduled to resume Thursday at 6:30 p.m. EST with a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, while the National Hockey League is scheduled to restart play Saturday at noon in Toronto, with a matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers.

But this morning, Major League Baseball confronted its first serious challenges from the coronavirus. The Miami Marlins’ home opener against the Baltimore Orioles scheduled for tonight is postponed, as “eight more players and two coaches with the Marlins have tested positive for the coronavirus,” and reportedly tonight’s New York Yankees–Philadelphia Phillies game is also postponed — the Marlins just completed a three-game series against the Phillies.

Five days into the season, a team has a significant chunk of the roster infected and needing to quarantine for an extended period of time — during a regular season that will be just 60 games! This morning, one of the sports talk hosts on WTEM in Washington observed that we should enjoy every baseball game in 2020 like it’s a gift — because we never know when the pandemic might temporarily take away the games again.

Politics & Policy

Ezekiel Emanuel Wants to Shut Down the Country Again

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Back when the country was going off the economic cliff because most states “shut down,” Ezekiel Emanuel, the bioethicist and Obamacare architect, urged that we be kept in that artificially induced societal coma for 18 months, until a COVID-19 vaccine was found.

Now, the country is slowly getting back on its feet and millions are returning to work — but the disease is also spiking in some areas, such as Texas, California, and Florida. So, of course Emanuel again is calling for a shut down as the lead signatory of an open letter to “Decision Makers” signed by 150 other “experts” in health care. From the letter:

Non-essential businesses should be closed. Restaurant service should be limited to take-out. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air. Masks should be mandatory in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where we interact with others.

We need that protocol in place until case numbers recede to a level at which we have the capacity to effectively test and trace. Then, and only then, we can try a little more opening, one small step at a time.

You should bar non-essential interstate travel. When people travel freely between states, the good numbers in one state can go bad quickly.

If you don’t take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death.

Bar most interstate travel? That’s never been done in our history. Like I have written here before, some see this pandemic as the opportunity to establish a technocracy — rule by experts. Emanuel is a technocrat’s technocrat.

Never mind that some states have never had to close down and some that did are being hit again. Never mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged that schools be reopened because of the incredible harm being caused to children from not being able to attend. Never mind that Dr. Anthony Fauci has not advocated shutting down the country. Never mind that the COVID isn’t exactly smallpox for those not in vulnerable groups. And, never mind that we are being told maximum uses of masking and social distancing can significantly blunt the resurgence. Emanuel wants apocalypse now!

It is also worth noting here that Emanuel is a chief adviser on health care to Joe Biden and that another shutdown would cause catastrophic economic dislocation beyond anything we have experienced to date, not to mention a meltdown of the stock market, erasing many people’s retirement accounts. Another national shutdown would inflict unquantifiable pain and suffering for the tens of millions who — unlike the letter’s signers — would be unable to earn a living staying at home.

Of course, the ultimate impact of such a course would almost surely be the election of — no coincidence — Joe Biden. So, one suspects this is a letter more steeped in political machinations than epidemiological analysis.

Politics & Policy

Dr. Fauci’s Three Recent Mistakes

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

Before we go any further, let me begin by saying I believe Dr. Anthony Fauci is an exceptional doctor and public-health expert who is doing the best he can in extremely challenging circumstances. I think most of his judgments during this pandemic have been either correct or a reasonable assessment based upon what was known at the time. (Although it’s easy to wonder if this pandemic would have progressed differently if Fauci and other government health experts and officials had not initially recommended against wearing masks back in early March.)

But lately, Fauci’s made a couple of unforced errors that put those who are inclined to defend him in awkward and uncomfortable positions. In declining importance, they are . . .

(1) New York ‘Did It Correctly.’: In a July 17 interview with PBS, Fauci said, “When you do it properly, you bring down those cases. We have done it. We have done it in New York. New York got hit worse than any place in the world. And they did it correctly by doing the things that you’re talking about.” Yes, he’s speaking off the cuff, and he probably didn’t mean to imply a blanket endorsement of everything governor Andrew Cuomo and mayor Bill de Blasio did.

But Fauci is a smart man, and surely he recognizes that a lot of people want to boil the pandemic to a simple tale of smart, good blue states and dumb, bad red states. He knows Cuomo is taking an utterly unhinged victory lap, despite numerous well-documented mistakes and bad decisions. He knows that the governor and mayor desperately want people to forget about those bad choices and look at the current conditions of the state and city as an amazing success story. Fauci understandably wants to avoid getting sucked into the morass of modern partisan politics, but at some point, avoiding direct criticism of elected officials starts to turn into a whitewashing of the record.

Whether or not Fauci intended to offer a blanket endorsement of New York’s response to the virus, that is how his comments were interpreted: Fauci holds up New York as model for fighting coronavirus — ‘They did it correctly’,” etc.

(2): The Photo Shoot: Earlier this month, Fauci sat for a photo shoot for In Style magazine by his pool at his home. The doctor is 79 years old, has enjoyed an illustrious career, has advised every president since Ronald Reagan, and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. He doesn’t do what he does for fame and fortune. But posing poolside in sunglasses in a celebrity magazine just feels incongruous, and a little tone-deaf when so many people are struggling economically.

(3): The Baseball Game: Let’s get all the bad-opening-pitch jokes out of the way: “Even Fauci’s pitches remain six feet away from everyone else.” “The Orioles signed Fauci to improve their bullpen.” “The CDC recommends wearing a mask so that no one can see you’re the one who threw that awful opening pitch.” “Dr: Fauci: His manners are mild, but his pitches are wild.”

Assume, in that controversial photo, that Fauci only took off his mask briefly to sip some water. He said he tested negative the day before, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have caught the virus since that previous test was conducted.

Fauci isn’t setting the quarantine policies being enforced by cities and states; he can only advise other people in and out of government. But fairly or not, he is the face of America’s quarantine policies. These restrictions are unprecedented and have been in place, to varying degrees, since mid-March. These restrictions don’t always make sense; the District of Columbia currently requires citizens to wear masks outdoors but still allows indoor dining.

Perhaps as part of his effort to remain above the fray of politics, Fauci has rarely, if ever, criticized any quarantine restriction as excessive or unwarranted. He undoubtedly has a lot on his plate, but his lack of criticism of steps such as governor Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on seeds, the arrest of the paddleboarder in Malibu, Philadelphia police dragging a man off a bus for not wearing a mask, and other ill-considered government actions means that some people will see Fauci as a de facto supporter of those actions.

When the man associated with quarantine restrictions is sitting in a baseball stadium, next to two friends watching a game, when everyone else in America is legally barred from doing the same thing . . . he’s going to get some grief. The sight illustrates the reality that America is operating under one set of relaxed rules for the powerful and well-connected, and another set of stringent and strictly enforced rules for everyone else.

None of this means that Fauci is a bad guy, or that he’s wrong about everything, or wrong about most things. He doesn’t deserve threats. The pandemic isn’t his fault, and he’s doing the best he can to keep everyone alive and healthy. But if the good doctor is getting more flak and criticism now than he did back in March and April, it is partially because he is perceived as the preeminent advocate for a patchwork of arbitrary and confusing restrictions on the daily life of Americans — and he would be wise to avoid situations where he appears to be exempt from those restrictions.

Culture

The Hyde Amendment is Life-Saving and Worth Saving

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The United States Capitol (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)

Ever since Democrats gained a majority in the House in the 2018 midterms, they have set their sights on repealing the Hyde amendment, which prohibits the federal government from using taxpayer dollars to fund elective abortions directly through Medicaid. Last year, House Democratic leadership refused to allow a vote on an amendment that would’ve stripped the Hyde amendment from a Labor-Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, motivated by other political concerns.

However, this year, Democratic politicians have renewed their attacks on Hyde. Every Democratic presidential candidate, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, publicly opposed the Hyde amendment. Last week, the Biden campaign released policy recommendations from its joint taskforce with supporters of Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders; those recommendations also called for the repeal of Hyde.

Just last week, House Democrats went a step further. On Thursday, Representative Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) introduced an amendment to remove Hyde’s language from a 2021 appropriations bill. In a statement, Pressley said that the Hyde amendment’s legacy was “shameful” and that she was “frustrated and disappointed” that a pro-choice House majority would advance an appropriations bill including it. Representatives Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) cosponsored Pressley’s amendment. Today, the House Rules Committee will decide whether this amendment will make it to the House floor for consideration.

Historically, the Hyde amendment has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. In 1976, the original amendment received votes from 107 Democrats in the House, 44 percent of House Democrats who voted on the measure. In 1993, when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, some of them made an effort to do away with the Hyde amendment, but it remained in effect, partly because it received support from 98 House Democrats. However, in recent years, the Democratic Party has moved sharply to the left on life issues. After the 2018 election, for instance, ThinkProgress identified 183 House members who favored repealing Hyde.

This latest effort by House Democrats to do away with the Hyde amendment is a strange political decision. It is fairly clear that taxpayer funding of elective abortions is unpopular with the public. All seven national polls conducted since 2016 on taxpayer-funded abortion have found that a plurality of Americans opposes it, and six of them show that a majority of Americans opposes it. Those surveys were conducted by a range of pollsters, and there were variations among them in how the survey questions were worded.

In addition to being popular, the Hyde amendment is good policy. Ideologically diverse groups that have analyzed the effects of the amendment have concluded that it has saved millions of lives. A 2010 analysis by the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights found that Hyde had prevented 1 million abortions. The Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal abortion, published a literature review in 2009 showing a strong scholarly consensus that limiting Medicaid funding of abortion lowers abortion rates. My own research for the Charlotte Lozier Institute has concluded that the Hyde amendment has saved more than 2.4 million lives since it was first adopted in 1976 and continues to save approximately 60,000 lives every year.

Moving forward, Senate Republicans need to make it clear that they will not support any appropriations bill that does not contain Hyde’s protections. Similarly, President Trump should state, as he has done before, that he will veto any appropriations bill that does not include the Hyde Amendment. This will send a strong signal to House Democrats that their recent efforts to mandate that taxpayers fund abortion will not succeed.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this piece are attributable to the author and do not necessarily represent the positions of the author’s affiliated institutions.

Education

What Will College Be Like This Year?

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Answer: Nobody is sure.

With classes set to begin again next month, students and faculty members face a great deal of uncertainty. So writes the Martin Center’s Megan Zogby in today’s article.

She writes: 

Certainty for the fall is not high, however. The New York Times argued that most people haven’t “met minimal criteria” for state lockdowns to end. If colleges aren’t careful, they could set up outbreaks on campus instead of providing a safe zone. If outbreaks happen, the end result may be another hasty switch to online classes, catching universities flat on their feet again.

One thing that is certain is that schools will go all-out to stop any outbreaks. Masks will be mandatory almost everywhere and any actual classes will probably have the professor separated by a plexiglass screen.

North Carolina State is probably typical of many schools — still trying to figure out how to proceed in this new environment. Zogby writes:

NC State sent out an email in early July to ‘clarify’ things for the upcoming semester, but its vagueness wasn’t very helpful. The email stated that the class schedule available currently ‘may not be final’ and the university ‘is still working to evaluate individual class needs and make decisions daily.’ While the vague responses from universities across the country are understandable, they don’t help students who live far from campus and need to make housing arrangements. Many students have assumed that classes will be online and the university is just pushing off announcing it, so they made plans to live at home to save money. Regardless of in-person or online classes, students will pay the same tuition.

Will they be willing to pay? And since many American kids go to college much more for fun than for learning, how many will turn thumbs-down on the whole thing now?

Elections

Voters Start Casting Ballots in about Eight Weeks

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Voters fill out ballots during the primary election in Ottawa, Illinois, U.S., March 17, 2020. The polling station was relocated from a nearby nursing home to a former supermarket due to concerns over the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Daniel Acker/Reuters)

Today marks 99 days until Election Day. But Americans will start voting much sooner than that. In 2016, 16 states had more than half of their votes cast early, by mail or via absentee voting. With the coronavirus pandemic unlikely to be resolved by autumn, it is likely that more Americans than ever will partake of absentee and early voting options.

Many campaigns hand-wave away summer difficulties by insisting their candidate is a “great closer.” With each passing cycle, that matters less and less, as more and more votes get cast before November. We no longer have Election Day in this country, we have Election Month, and whether campaigns and candidates like it, they need to adapt accordingly.

Ballots will start getting cast for the 2020 elections on September 18 in a few states. As of this writing, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Virginia begin in-person absentee voting 46 days before Election Day; Michigan, New Jersey, and Wyoming begin voting 45 days. Illinois starts voting 40 days before; Maine, Montana, and Nebraska vote 30 days early; California and Iowa vote 29 days before; Indiana and New Mexico vote 28 days earlier, and Arizona votes 27 days earlier. Only a handful of states do not allow early or absentee voting without a specific excuse, and the pandemic is increasing pressure to allow voters to cast ballots by mail.

Almost every presidential election cycle features at least one late-breaking story that is characterized as an “October Surprise.” Last cycle, FBI director James Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing the reopening of the email probe on October 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, and then announced that the investigation was again complete on November 6, two days before the election. But with more and more Americans casting ballots well before the first Tuesday in November, those October surprises have fewer and fewer remaining voters to influence after they break. A candidate who is in trouble in the month of October faces a shrinking window of opportunity to turn things around.

As Yogi Berra said, “It gets late early out there.”

Law & the Courts

Josh Hawley’s Litmus Test

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The Republican senator from Missouri says that he will vote for only those Supreme Court nominees who go on record saying that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Three thoughts:

1) It is in principle appropriate to ask nominees such questions, expect answers, and evaluate their nominations on the basis of them (as I argued way back when in NR, to the dismay of then-senator Jeff Sessions). And it’s worth challenging the distorted view of relations between the political branches and the judiciary that insists otherwise.

2) It may not always be possible to get a nominee who explicitly opposed Roe on the Supreme Court. I doubt it would have been possible to confirm Justice Kavanaugh in 2018, for example, if he had said Roe was mistaken. It might not have been possible to confirm an on-the-record anti-Roe Justice Thomas in 1991, either.

3) A justice who had been on record against Roe would not be a lock to vote to overturn it, because of the force of precedent. Chief Justice John Roberts might well believe that Roe was wrongly decided as an original matter, just as he believes that Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was wrongly decided. But he voted to strike down abortion restrictions this year anyway, on the stated ground that precedent had to stand.

NR Webathon

Join the NR Band of Brothers and Sisters

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

If you’re curious as to what my colleague Alexandra DeSanctis looks like, pick up the dictionary and find “tenacious” — her picture should be there. She is an excellent reporter, a champion of innocent life, and a great advocate of this institution. I encourage all to read her webathon appeal that takes on that big liberal political hack who has made a mockery of veracity — yes, gubernatorial poster-hawker Andrew Cuomo.

Along with Rich Lowry’s appeal (We Won’t Be Canceled), what we have so far on Day Five of our effort is a terrific one-two punch explaining just why it is in your interest to find it in your heart, your checking account, or between the couch cushions the means to support National Review in our Summer 2020-webathon. You can donate here.

Between now and August 16, we are hoping to raise a minimum to $250,000 to help keep NR at fighting strength throughout this raging fight against the leftist/Marxist/anarchist/media-ideologue cabal that yearns to destroy the America of 1776 and reframe this nation as founded in 1619. Since the kick-off, 492 kindly readers have donated $42,598.00 for that purpose. We are thrilled by such an outpouring but praying for many more to join the NR Band of Brothers and Sisters, in a spirit of non-despairing camaraderie as we work to repulse the, well . . . the repulsive. Because that’s a fair description to place on those who would crush unalienable rights and who would cancel the giants of our nation’s — and indeed the world’s — history, who would rewrite the unrivaled account of the ever-more perfect Union that is a blessing of liberty, liberty that has benefited few since Creation’s dawn.

These 492 souls seek your fellowship. Some has told us why they have given, or why they have not only given but also slapped a back or hurled an invective. We share some examples:

** Laurence sent $50 our way and fixed bayonet: “I am an American patriot as my father was who served this country during a world war. God bless this great nation.” God bless you, too. And Dad, too.

** Howard added a zero to that — his $500 came with a review: “Victor Davis Hanson, McCarthy, and Political Beats — best podcast on the net — all solid gold!!” The NR podcasts are important means of our standing athwart, and they only happen because of your kind of generosity, Howard.

** Meg drops $200 into the tip jar as she utters some serious words: “Cancel the bullsh**! And, maybe do an issue that features the amazing conservatives running for Congress this year. I can’t keep up with the number of impressive candidates! Veterans. Pissed-off journalists. Black women. Black men. Former cops. Just good plain old conservatives who have had it! The talent pool is deep and wide: We need to nurture it!” Good advice, as deeply appreciated as your selfless help.

** George’s C Note accompanies an obvious sentiment that deserves stating: “There has never been a more important time for independent sober conservative perspectives in the public square.” Amen, George, because it is and will always be the truth that sets us free. God bless!

** Julia finds 20 bucks and explains why it is now in our possession: “I am pleased to make this small contribution to your cause. Thank you for continuing to offer such a variety of viewpoints with such a high quality of writing. Kevin Williamson and Victor D. Hanson would be worth the price of admission by themselves, but then you discover so many other fine journalists like Kyle Smith, etc., and it’s a pleasure to be a subscriber. Well done.” You, though, Julia, are medium rare. Thanks so much.

** Kathryn finds General Grant and orders him to hold the fort: “Stand your ground against the woke mob! I’m already a print and online subscriber, but I would give even more money if I could. Let’s hope other conservatives finally show they have had enough and step up.” A few hundred Kathryns and we will outflank the enemy — on the right of course. Thanks ever so much.

** Jerome makes us happy with his $100 gift and mistakenly believes he is late to the party: “I should have been reading NR years ago. But better late than never. In this difficult time, it appears to be one of the few periodicals that’s kept its senses.” We’ve got a lock on sanity, Jerome. Thanks so much

** Anne sends $2,000 — yes, TWO THOUSAND! — and if that wasn’t enough, she added these kind words: “Reading NRO helps me maintain my sanity and perspective. It’s a beacon in the current darkness that is affecting this great country of ours. Thank you for your courage to speak the truth.” Anne, we must insist: We’re the ones who are thankful.

We’re thankful that there are those who rightly see NR as a vital institution, one that merits aid above and beyond subscription payments because we are determined to aggressively counter the current crazed attack on Western civilization and the American project, and because we are intent on enduring in order stop more such attacks that the coming years and decades will no doubt witness. James Burnham nailed it when he declared that ours was a “protracted conflict.”

There is nothing run-of-the-mill happening right now, so we are hopeful that readers — whether they can contribute in the fashion of Anne, or the gift is akin to the Widow’s Mite — will be motivated to donate to NR’s Summer Webathon. Again, this effort’s goal — which is nowhere near our true need — is $250,000. There’s quite a ways to go, but we are confident we will arrive, one generous reader by one generous reader. Those who agree that their time has come to lend aid should contribute to our webathon here. Those who would rather send a check should make it payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. You do such with our deep thanks.

Sports

Should We Expect Lower-Scoring Baseball in 2020?

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It’s hazardous to generalize from a largely lower-scoring Opening Day in baseball (3.88 runs/game compared to 4.83 last season), not least because Opening Days should be lower-scoring: Every team is starting its best healthy starting pitcher on the same day. Still, given that hitting is timing and the chief enemies of pitching are fatigue and injuries, it is reasonable to wonder whether the very long layoff since last season means that we will see pitchers get the upper hand in the sprint down the stretch.

We’ve never had a season start in July before, but we do have one vaguely similar situation to compare: the strike-interrupted 1981 season, when there was no baseball between June 11 and August 10. A two-month layoff in mid-season is the closest we can use to simulate the effects of such a late start. Was scoring down? I looked on a team-by-team and league-by-league basis at scoring, comparing first-half scoring both to second-half scoring and specifically to scoring in August, and the answer is . . . things mostly went on as before:

To summarize: In the American League, scoring was the same in the second half as the first half (4.10 runs per game), and slightly higher than that in August (4.17 runs per game). In the National League, scoring was down a bit in the second half (from 3.97 to 3.90 runs per game), but also up in August (4.00 runs per game). There were teams that fell off sharply, such as the Reds and Rangers, but also teams that were up, such as the Indians, Royals, and Astros. The season’s best hitter was Mike Schmidt; Schmidt was batting .284/.381/.582 when the strike hit but went wild on his return, hitting .356/.495/.719, with 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 50 games. He was not rusty. And neither, it seems, was the average major-league hitter.

Culture

Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today: Hagia Sophia, Dems & Abortion, Rosary Doc & More (July 24, 2020)

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The Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 10, 2020. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

1. Catholic News Agency: Churches burned, people beheaded in Mozambique’s escalating extremist violence

Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Mozambique’s Pemba diocese has been an outspoken advocate for the needs of the more than 200,000 people who have been displaced by the violent insurgency. 

In June there were reports that insurgents had beheaded 15 people in a week. Yet the bishop said that the crisis in Mozambique has largely been met with “indifference” from the rest of the world. 

2. Elyssa Koren: UN Human Rights Council Exploits COVID-19 Pandemic to Support Funding for Abortion

The U.N. Human Rights Council advanced the resolution July 17 under  the topic of ending discrimination against women and girls. It made the radical claim that “sexual and reproductive health services,” including “safe abortion,” are an “essential health service” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

3.  ‘Isolation for her was a death sentence,’ overdose deaths worsen in WNY

“She needed to be with people. She knew that isolation for her was a death sentence. And isolation truly was her death sentence and so last monday she overdosed and died,” said Sandra Robinson, speaking of her late daughter.

4. Washington Times: Federal prison had 75% coronavirus infection rate

5.  Why you shouldn’t dismiss Mike Pompeo’s report on human rights

Contrary to the fears of Mr. Pompeo’s critics, the report does a service by synthesizing the founding documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with its Bill of Rights—with the re-founding texts of Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction and the global human rights revolution of the 20th century centered on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Throughout it links freedom and equality, refusing to decouple them as many culture warriors do.

6. Heather Mac Donald: Freedom to Deface

Mayor Bill de Blasio has cancelled a graffiti-eradication program targeted at cleaning private buildings. He is thus deliberately sending New York City back to its worst days of crime and squalor.

The symbolic significance of this cancellation is as large as its practical effect.

7. Reuters: Greek church bells toll for Hagia Sophia, PM calls Turkey a ‘troublemaker’

In a message marking Greece’s 46th anniversary of the restoration of democracy on Friday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Turkey a ‘troublemaker’, and the Hagia Sophia conversion an ‘affront to civilisation of the 21st century’.

“What is unfolding in Constantinople today is not a demonstration of strength, but proof of weakness,” Mitsotakis said. 

8. The New York Times: Christian Abortion Critics Urge Dems to Change Platform

“We call upon you to recognize the inviolable human dignity of the child, before and after birth,” the group wrote in its letter to the Democratic platform committee, shared in advance with The Associated Press. “We urge you to reject a litmus test on pro-life people of faith seeking office in the Democratic Party.”

9. Former Wednesday’s Child Advocates for Adoption

Continue reading “Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today: Hagia Sophia, Dems & Abortion, Rosary Doc & More (July 24, 2020)”

The Economy

A Receding ‘V’

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Via Bloomberg’s Maeve Sheehey and Steve Matthews, writing yesterday, more evidence that what recovery we have had is already faltering.

From restaurant dining to air travel and now to filings for unemployment benefits, a growing body of evidence indicates America’s rebound from the pandemic is stalling days before hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of federal aid is set to expire.

Take a look at the evidence Sheehey and Matthews have put together and it’s hard to disagree.

One of the arguments for avoiding too drastic a cut to the $600 a week UI supplement now being paid by the feds (although just for a little bit longer) is that one of the most effective ways of boosting aggregate demand, at least in the short term, is by weighting help towards those who would otherwise be under intense economic pressure.

Sheehey and Matthews blame the slowdown on “the worsening pandemic” to which the answer is yes, but only in part. While COVID-19 is at the root of our problems, the operation of the lockdowns in a way that appeared to take little account of the fact that the economic risk attached to them grew exponentially the longer they were maintained ought to have shifted the risk/reward calculations surrounding them much more than it did. The idea that the economy would be switched off and then on was never really credible, and the longer the switch was in the off position the more incredible that argument became.

Sheehey and Matthews maintain:

Until a vaccine or effective treatment for Covid-19 is available, the world’s largest economy will at best post tepid, uneven growth and, at worst, endure an extended period of malaise or even a depression.

That’s an unsurprising claim, but waiting around for a vaccine or effective treatment is not an effective strategy. Nor is the institutionalization of (recurring?) lockdown regimes that appear to be that strategy’s corollary.

We will not be able to judge the success of the very different Swedish approach for quite some while (whether there or not there is a ‘second wave’ will be, I suspect, the crucial element in that verdict) and Sweden’s approach may not fit countries with very different cultural and political traditions.

Nevertheless, if we are to avoid an economic catastrophe, some way has to be found of ‘living with’ this pandemic considerably more intelligently than we have managed up to now.

Politics & Policy

Unskew 2020

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

Despite the lack of faith people had in Biden at the start of the election cycle, he’s led the Democrats nationally almost since the start of the primaries, and he’s led Trump significantly almost the entire time.

If you believe the polls.

As I write, polls are showing Biden opening up double-digit leads in some of the states that Trump swung to his column in 2016, and Biden even leading a bit in states like Florida. Trump isn’t just behind at this point, he’s way behind.

If you believe the polls.

I’m inclined to believe them. I happen to think that the 2016 outcome and the 2016 polls were close enough. All polling includes a margin of error, and Trump’s surprise victory was within the margins of what was possible.

But there is one pollster who really is betting that the polls are bad. And I think he’s set to become the leading voice of dissent in the data game of 2020. I’m talking about Robert Cahaly of The Trafalgar Group.

Trafalgar has its own theories and methods and they sometimes get the goods. Cahaly’s group was almost alone in predicting a Trump win in Pennsylvania in 2016. And he called the Florida races right in 2018.

Cahaly’s methods lean into the idea of “shy Tory” or rather, “shy Trumper” voters. He devises measures of the way “social desirability bias” warps the results of poll respondents. If members of some demographic group overwhelmingly believe that they’d lose face, or face consequences, for admitting their support for Trump, they’ll just tell the stranger on the other end that they don’t support him. Cahaly believes white women and black men may particularly understate their support for Donald Trump. And his read on the 2016 election is that Trump did worse than is realized with traditional Republicans, but better than is known among independents. In other words, his theory is that pollsters are talking to the wrong people and believing them too easily.

Tom Bevan discusses Cahaly’s work over at RealClearPolitics. And Cahaly did a fascinating interview with The American Conservative last month.

I’m still skeptical, but his theory of herd-like incompetence among pollsters does have a certain appeal and explanatory power.

Politics & Policy

Minor Compliments for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler

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Mayor Ted Wheeler wears a protective mask and googles during a protest in Portland, Ore., July 22, 2020. (Jonathan Maus/Bikeportland via Reuters)

On his first day of work, Portland, Ore. mayor Ted Wheeler rode his bike to the office. It was a bold, symbolic move for a city mayor, but fairly predictable in a town such as Portland, parts of which look and feel like CHOP all the time: a seedy college campus, overrun and occupied by pale, homeless anarchists with penchants for funky haircuts, NPR, and Chuck Palahniuk’s fiction.

However, I can imagine young progressives from other parts of the country were titillated at the prospect of a mayor biking into such an environment. How hip! Here, finally, was a radical man of the State — our State, not the evil, fascist one — who shares our Millennial outlook on climate change. Not only did he believe that to cycle is to save the world, he acted on it, too.

My first very minor compliment to Ted Wheeler is that he biked to work aware of the possible and ultimately realized risks of doing so: He broke his ribs in a 2017 bicycle accident.

Wednesday night’s symbolic move was a different story, however. The PR stunt — like President Trump’s Bible brandishing in early June — backfired.

A true man-in-the-arena stud, Wheeler rushed into the throng of protesters and rioters gathering in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. He stood alongside the progressive masses in solidarity, pumping a black power fist and rallying his supporters.

“I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,” he said. “We’re on the front line here in Portland.”

But his little wartime speech didn’t draw the response he had hoped for. In fact, there were hecklers in the crowd, booing the beloved mayor.

Later on, Wheeler got closer to the courthouse, where federal agents had set up a line of defense between the building and the mob. Several Portland citizens were asking him hardball questions when the tear-gas canisters started flying.

Good thing Wheeler came prepared — with a private-security team, of course, and his own safety googles. But apparently, it was the sort of protective eyewear one gets in a high-school chemistry lab, worthless against the gas variety used by federal agents. Wheeler emerged from the confrontation tear-eyed, flushed, and sweaty.

To worsen matters, the protesters and rioters then turned on him. As Wheeler was escorted back to the mayoral office, they screamed in his face, thrashing at the security guards. The revolution seems to be eating its own — right on schedule.

So my second very minor compliment to Ted Wheeler is: At least he took some risk by directly facing the effects of his woeful, incompetent, and dangerous leadership as the mayor of Portland. He’s a man with skin in the game — to a certain extent — though no less idiotic.

Other mayors around the country, perhaps Lori Lightfoot and Bill de Blasio, could learn a thing or two from him. They too ought to take some risk and step out into the neighborhoods that have long suffered under progressive leadership.

World

The Risks of China’s Three Gorges Dam’s Flooding

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The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River discharges water to lower the water level in the reservoir following heavy rainfall and floods in a few regions, Yichang, Hubei province, China July 17, 2020. (China Daily/Reuters)

China has been suffering through record rains the past weeks, leading to the worst flooding in the country in decades. There is little relief in sight, and the Yangtze River is now above flood level, according to China’s Ministry of Water Resources. A few days ago, officials admitted that certain “peripheral” structures of the massive Three Gorges Dam deformed due to the building water pressure. Stunning pictures of water being released to relieve pressure are raising the specter of whether the entire dam could fail (some good photos here). Some online satellite photos purporting to show the buckling of the dam, however, should be viewed with skepticism.

Still, the damage that has already occurred from the record deluge is significant, with numerous cities upriver from the dam already flooded. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Some 40 million people in more than two dozen provinces have been affected by the flooding as of July 12, causing more than 80 billion yuan ($11.5 billion) of direct damage to the economy, according to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management. Around 28,000 homes have collapsed, while millions have been displaced and at least 141 people have been declared dead or missing in the floods.

All that would be dwarfed if the Three Gorges Dam failed. The dam was built from 1994 to 2006, at a cost of $31 billion and displacing 1.4 million people for its construction, precisely to lessen the risk of devastating flooding along the Yangtze, a perennial problem in China since ancient times. The river’s basin accounts for nearly half of China’s agricultural output, and it runs through major cities, such as Wuhan, with 10 million people.

Chinese authorities have already evacuated 38 million people downriver. The dam can hold back waters to a level of 175 meters above sea level; according to the Bureau of Hydrology of the Chanjiang (Yangtze) Water Resources Commission, the latest (Friday) height at the dam was 158.85 meters, down from 164 meters on Tuesday. Yet more rain is predicted, and if smaller, older dams upriver from Three Gorges overflow or fail, then the pressure on the main dam could quickly overwhelm either its capacity or even its structural integrity.

While an outright failure of the dam may not be the primary danger, nonetheless its geopolitical consequences are staggering to contemplate. It would be a black swan of epic proportions, China’s Chernobyl moment. A tsunami-like wave from a breach in the Three Gorges Dam could wipe out millions of acres of farmland right before the autumn harvest, possibly leading to famine-like conditions. As it is also the world’s largest hydroelectric power station, a failure would lead to huge power outages. Low-lying cities of millions along the Yangtze’s banks cities could become uninhabitable and the death toll could be staggering.

China’s heartland manufacturing and inland shipping along the Yangtze, which empties out into the East China Sea at Shanghai, would be significantly affected by downriver flooding, potentially leading to major economic disruption inside China and around the world. The political impact could be enough to destabilize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in the same way that Chernobyl was the nail in the coffin of the Soviet Communist Party. Public anger, already stoked by the draconian state response to the coronavirus pandemic that started in Wuhan, could boil over, even if many understand that the rains are an act of nature.

Given the social and political implications of the current flooding, and the specter of a Three Gorges breach, it may not be a complete coincidence that Beijing last week announced its second-largest purchase of U.S. corn ever, to the tune of 1.365 million tons, along with 320,000 tons of winter and spring wheat. From a political perspective, the dam’s failure would be the gravest crisis faced by CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, comparable to the Katrina hurricane that so tarnished George W. Bush’s reputation. Unlike the weakened post-Chernobyl USSR, however, a destabilized CCP could well become a more dangerous one, looking to divert public anger towards “enemies” such as Taiwan, Japan, and the United States.

That Xi has not visited the dam or seemingly made it a public priority may mean that he’s been assured by Chinese engineers and hydrologists that the dam can withstand the current deluge. A long-overdue rebalancing in U.S.–China relations is taking place, and a hard-edged policy of reciprocity is entirely proper in dealing with Beijing’s endemic predatory and abusive behavior. However, for humanitarian, economic, and geopolitical reasons, the world should obviously hope the Three Gorges Dam holds. 2020 has already been enough of an annus terribilis.

Politics & Policy

Pompeo and Human Rights, Ctd.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at the State Department in Washington, D.C., December 19, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

David Kramer, who served in the State Department under George W. Bush, assails Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent speech on human rights as well as the human-rights report that was the occasion for it. (It’s the same report my Bloomberg Opinion column discusses, much more positively.) Kramer makes two charges, and has half a point.

First, he accuses the report of trying to “to downgrade the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, dismissing them as ‘divisive social and political controversies in the United States’ and suggesting that they are, in fact, not ‘unalienable rights.’” Here’s the actual passage in question that Kramer is distorting:

In divisive social and political controversies in the United States — abortion, affirmative action, same-sex marriage — it is common for both sides to couch their claims in terms of basic rights. Indeed, it is a testament to the deep roots in the American spirit of our founding ideas about unalienable rights that our political debates continue to revolve around the concepts of individual freedom and human equality, even as we disagree — sometimes deeply — on the proper interpretation and just application of these principles.

The increase in rights claims, in some ways overdue and just, has given rise to excesses of its own. Not all government forbearance or intervention that benefits some or even all citizens is for that reason a right, and not every right that democratic majorities choose to enact is therefore unalienable.

The report does not, as you can see, make any claim about whether abortion is an unalienable right. If it had denied it — if it had instead claimed that abortion is the infringement of an unalienable right, as I believe it should have done — it would not have been “downgrad[ing] the rights of women.” It would have been denying that killing vulnerable members of the human species are among those rights.

A later passage of the report suggests that the proliferation of rights in various international treaties and declarations is a mistake: “Transforming every worthy political preference into a claim of human rights inevitably dilutes the authority of human rights.” Kramer swipes: “As if legalizing same-sex marriage somehow compounded the plight of political prisoners rotting in Iranian, Egyptian, Chinese, or North Korean jails.” That’s not the claim. The claim is closer to the idea that proclaiming same-sex marriage an unalienable human right on par with religious and political freedom would undermine our ability to stand up for those basic freedoms. Maybe that idea is mistaken, but jeering at a different idea that uses some of the same words isn’t a refutation.

Second, Kramer faults Pompeo for his omissions. Pompeo, in his view, should have taken some time to denounce his boss for being corrupt, divisive, and abusive; repudiated the administration’s foreign policy; and apologized for his own treatment of journalists and congressional subpoenas. Part of this critique seems to me to be right. The administration has not been a great champion of human rights, as I note in my own column; Pompeo’s sniping at Mary Louise Kelly was a low point of his tenure (and an episode on which Joel Gehrke’s profile sheds some light). But if your point is that moral integrity requires that Pompeo and everyone else in the administration resign and maybe commit ritual suicide, then you should just say that instead of pretending that you disapprove of the way they’re doing their job.

Markets

Thunberg Donates 100,000 Pounds to Criminalize ‘Ecocide’

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Climate-change activist Greta Thunberg attends a Fridays for Future protest in Turin, Italy, December 13, 2019. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has become the world’s most famous anti–global-warming campaigner, was just awarded a one million pound environmental prize. She has announced that 100,000 pounds of that money will be donated to the radical environmentalist organization Stop Ecocide. From the Ecologist story:

Thunberg said that her foundation will “as quickly as possible donate all the prize money . . . to support organizations and projects that are fighting for a sustainable world, defending nature and supporting people already facing the worst impacts of the climate- and ecological crisis — particularly those living in the Global South.

“The first two donations of €100,000 will go to the SOS Amazonia campaign led by Fridays For Future Brazil to tackle Covid-19 in the Amazon, and to the Stop Ecocide Foundation to support their work to make ecocide an international crime.”

Stop Ecocide seeks to make “ecocide” the “fifth international crime against peace” –equivalent to profound evils of genocide, crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, now punishable at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Ecocide would not be a crime of intent, but based on the impact of human enterprise on the environment — even if it did not hurt a single human being. Here is the definition:

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

Note that “peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants” is a decidedly elastic term that isn’t limited to human beings but could also include everything from insects, mice, bears and other beasts of the field, and potentially, plant life. Moreover, the diminishment of “peaceful enjoyment” wouldn’t require actual pollution, but could include displacement, loss of forage, etc.

The very concept has the explicit intention of criminalizing large-scale free-market enterprise, as the Stop Ecocide website explains:

THE BEAUTY OF THIS: Corporate success depends on public and investor confidence. No CEO or financier wants to be seen in the same way as a war criminal. A law of ECOCIDE on the horizon will therefore signal the end of corporate immunity -– and begin to redirect business and finance away from harmful practices.

Just as the “nature rights” movement intends to chill crucial activities such as mining, oil extraction, forestry, and large-scale farming, by allowing anyone to sue to prevent nature’s “rights” from being infringed, ecocide would punish these enterprises as a crime. In this sense, it is even more profoundly subversive.

Perhaps even more perniciously, threatening large corporations with the loss of “corporate immunity” would bring industrialization to a screeching halt as it also trapped the world’s destitute populations in their misery by chilling efforts to upgrade economies by extracting natural resources.

Media

Access Journalism and the Woke Mob

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(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

There are a number of real threats to journalistic integrity afoot today. A big one is that powerful people will use their value as news sources to dictate what a newspaper can print or a TV network can air.

“Access journalism” is hardly a new phenomenon. It can be particularly pernicious in the worlds of sports and music journalism, where critical columns, harsh reviews, or insufficient airplay can get journalists frozen out of locker rooms and denied interviews with popular musicians. Sports leagues that provide the bulk of ESPN’s content have massive leverage to dictate coverage. Politicians can use this, too, dispensing interviews to friendly outlets and booting critical ones from foreign junkets or the White House briefing room. We know that the New York Times will respond quickly when a Democratic presidential campaign demands changes to articles it has printed.

These tactics tend, however, to be somewhat narrowly focused: Your access to me depends on how you cover me. What is newer and more ominous is reporters’ citing pressure from sources as leverage over a newspaper’s entire business: who it hires, how it frames the news, even what op-eds it publishes. Even worse is the apparent assumption that this is a legitimate thing for journalists to consider in what they write and publish.

During last month’s controversy over the Times daring to publish an op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton, the Times reported: “Three Times journalists, who declined to be identified by name, said they had informed their editors that sources told them they would no longer provide them with information because of the Op-Ed.” This week, a letter signed by 300 Wall Street Journal reporters demanded multiple changes to the op-ed page, including objections to publishing specific people and effectively demanding the muffling of particular points of view, especially articles questioning the premises of critics of the police as systemically racist. The op-ed page fired back with a defiant refusal to be ‘canceled’ by its own co-workers. There’s a lot going on in the letter, but particularly alarming is the front-and-center reappearance of the access-journalism argument: “Some of us have been told by sources that they won’t talk to use because they don’t trust that the WSJ is independent of the editorial page; many of us have heard sources and readers complain about the paper’s ‘bias’ as a result of what they’ve read in Opinion.”

A journalist who takes the integrity of the profession seriously ought to be able to explain that distinction to sources. Of course, the biases and punch-pulling inherent in access journalism can never entirely be eliminated from journalism in the real world, but the real issue with the WSJ and Times news journalists seems to be that they do not even see why it is bad or dangerous to let sources dictate what your newspaper publishes. If you see your job as speaking power to truth, you are in the wrong business.

World

A Surge in Anti-Unionism

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In 2014, 55 percent of Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom. But then came the Brexit referendum, in which most Scots voted to remain in the E.U., and then coronavirus, in which public perception favored the Scottish government’s handling of the pandemic to that of Westminster. Current polling from June and July indicates a clear majority, 54 percent, for independence north of the border. Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, tweeted:

I welcome [the prime minister] to Scotland today. One of the key arguments for independence is the ability of Scotland to take our own decisions, rather than having our future decided by politicians we didn’t vote for, taking us down a path we haven’t chosen. His presence highlights that.

Boris Johnson has his work cut out. The case against the union may be more rhetorical than rational, but we do not live in a rational age.

National Review

Inside the August 10, 2020, Issue of National Review

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The new August 10, 2020, issue of National Review is off the printing presses and on its way to thousands of mailboxes here and abroad — but for those who have NRPLUS subscriptions, the issue, in its entirety, is available for reading immediately. Curious as to what lies between the covers? You’d be right to be, so we’re offering a few glimpses and suggestions as to the impressive contents. We suggest you consider Christopher Caldwell’s cover essay, “The Prophet of Anti-Racism,” about Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author who says it’s racist to disagree with his strategy of fighting discrimination with discrimination. Elsewhere in the issue, there is Victor Davis Hanson’s review of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, Nina Shea’s report on Red China’s efforts to suppress Christian churches, and Ramesh Ponnuru’s critique of the Chief Justice and his emphasis on safeguarding the High Court’s prestige. And maybe wander into the Books, Arts & Manners section to check out Alex Trembath’s review of two new books that call out climate alarmists, and the acclaimed playwright David Mamet’s lockdown reflection on a few old books.

If you are not an NRPLUS subscriber and want to read all these pieces, and the other gems that accompany them in the new issue, well — once you’ve read three, you’ll have hit your monthly freebie limit. That applies not only to magazine content, but so much more exclusive material that NR publishes. The solution is an NRPLUS subscription, which you — admit it — have been planning on getting. Do that right now, right here.