Politics & Policy

Representative Gallagher: Infrastructure Is ‘Heads I Win, Tails You Lose’ for Democrats

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President Biden takes questions from reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Representative Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) put out a series of videos on Twitter this morning explaining why he is fed up with the infrastructure process in Congress.

First: the price tag. The bipartisan deal would add $600 billion in new federal spending. “600 billion seems like a drop in the bucket compared to multiple multi-trillion-dollar COVID packages Congress has already passed in the last 18 months, but it is a huge sum of money, particularly considering that bipartisan negotiations during the Trump administration hovered around 250 billion in new spending,” Gallagher said.

Second: the nature of the problem. Gallagher said that Republicans and Democrats agree that American infrastructure could use modernization. “But the problem that I see isn’t that we haven’t spent enough money on infrastructure,” he said. “It’s that we created a broken system that throws good money after bad, and as a result we have the highest-priced infrastructure in the developed world.”

“So if you put aside the price tag, the actual concern should be that there’s no indication from this bipartisan group in the Senate that they’re actually going to address the many underlying problems in infrastructure financing,” Gallagher said. “In the absence of real reform, we’re again going to be faced with calls to update our allegedly decaying infrastructure in a short period of time.”

Third: the politics. “Usually, when you’re in the minority party, you negotiate with the majority on a bipartisan package because your goal is to move policy in a better direction, in this case to the right, of where you would be if the other party dictated policy on its own,” Gallagher said. “You might not get everything you want, but at least you prevented the worst case scenario. You got buy-in from both parties that would stand the test of time . . . but that’s not what’s going on here.”

If the bipartisan deal falls apart, Democrats can just take the $600 billion in new spending from that package and roll it into their $3.5 trillion partisan package they plan to pass through budget reconciliation, meaning it would only need 50 votes, i.e. no Republican votes.

“This is a heads I win, tails you lose negotiating strategy from the Democrats,” Gallagher said. “They either get to claim bipartisanship on an infrastructure deal, or if Republicans walk away from the table, they’ll just fold that plan into the gigantic bill they were planning on doing anyways.”

Fourth: the country’s long-term fiscal health. Gallagher sums up the previous COVID packages which already passed ($6 trillion), the new spending in the bipartisan deal ($600 billion), and the Democrats’ reconciliation bill ($3.5 trillion), and says that if Democrats get their way, it will be $10 trillion in new federal spending over just the past two calendar years. “Even adjusted for inflation, it’s more than we spent on World War II, the New Deal, the Marshall Plan, the space race, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined,” Gallagher said.

Fifth: national security. Gallagher pointed out that despite all this spending, the U.S. is poorly prepared for potential conflicts with China. “Admiral Phil Davidson, who until very recently was our top military officer in the Indo-Pacific, warned earlier this year that the Chinese Communist Party could try to invade Taiwan in the next six years,” Gallagher said.

“But instead of listening to Admiral Davidson’s urgent warning, the Biden administration is proposing an inflation-adjusted cut to the defense budget at the same time that domestic spending is growing by 16 percent. So federal spending is the highest as a share of GDP that it’s been since World War II, yet we are failing to make the investments needed to deter or if necessary win World War III,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher has made a strong, well-reasoned, conservative case against the infrastructure deal. Republicans in the Senate would do well to consider it.

Culture

There’s No ‘Deep Divide’ over Male Athletes in Female Sports

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High-school athlete Alanna Smith (Photo courtesy Alliance Defending Freedom)

Covering a new poll on whether athletes should compete against members of their own biological sex, regardless of gender identity, Axios reports that Americans are “deeply divided.”

The poll results tell a rather different story. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said athletes should compete against members of their biological sex, compared with just 20 who said they should compete against the sex with which they identify. Those numbers can’t fairly be described as “deep division” in any meaningful sense.

Of note, too, is the fact that the polling question was phrased with obvious bias, asking respondents whether athletes should compete against “athletes of the gender with which they identify” or “athletes of the gender they were assigned at birth,” an unscientific phrase used only by those who take as a given that a person could indeed be a woman trapped in a man’s body or vice versa. Asking a survey question with that phrasing is confusing at best and misleading at worst — and it almost certainly influenced the results in a way that a properly written survey question wouldn’t.

Even so, the poll found that a majority of Republicans (58 percent) and a plurality of Independents (35 percent) believe athletes should compete against members of their biological sex. Just 8 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Independents said athletes should compete based on their gender identity.

In fact, the descriptor “deeply divided” could best be applied to Democratic respondents, 35 percent of whom favor athletes competing based on gender identity and 25 percent of whom favor them competing against members of their biological sex.

As much as members of the media might wish otherwise, this poll and many others like it suggest that Americans don’t seem to believe it’s an imperative of social justice to force female athletes to compete against biological males.

Those Dunking On Simone Biles Should Remember Julissa Gomez

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Simone Biles of the United States at the women’s team gymnastics final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan, July 27, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Alexandra DeSanctis has offered a worthy defense of Simone Biles, and as Dan McLaughlin pointed out earlier, she withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics competition when it was clear she was suffering from aerial disorientation. “Toughing it out,” as some were calling for, would not be akin to, say, Willis Reed playing through a leg injury in the NBA finals. Losing track of where you are when attempting to do competitive gymnastics doesn’t just lose you points. It could be deadly. Those who have any doubt should recall the tragic story of Julissa Gomez, a young American gymnast who was

Sports

In Defense of Simone Biles

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Gymnast Simone Biles of the United States during training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan, July 22, 2021. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

After deciding to sit out yesterday’s women’s gymnastics team final at the Olympics, Simone Biles has, on one hand, been condemned as a lousy quitter, and, on the other, been hailed as a shining example of prioritizing one’s mental health above all else.

Neither camp is quite right.

If Biles deserves praise for what she did — and I believe she does — it’s not because she “prioritized herself” but primarily because her decision was actually quite selfless, even though she describes it as having been self-focused. Although she says she withdrew because of her own mental inability to cope with the pressure or to compete safely (which, as Dan McLaughlin notes, is more than enough reason to stand aside) it’s clear that she did so at least in part because she didn’t want to harm her team.

No Olympic gymnast slaves over their sport 24/7 for years just to arrive at the final competition and stand on the sidelines. No true athlete would ever wish for that or make that decision lightly. Biles’s critics talk about what she did as if she had casually shrugged and announced, “I just don’t feel like it, and I don’t actually care about this competition.” Nothing we know about Simone Biles, and nothing she’s said, indicates that she has this attitude toward the sport, herself as an athlete, or her team.

Had Biles stayed in the contest yesterday and continued to perform as far below her usual scores as she did on that first vault, she would’ve dragged down the team score much further than anything her teammates could’ve compensated for. Her choice not to compete might’ve dealt a blow to the overall score — but only if we assume that she would’ve gone on to perform as the incredible, flawless Simone Biles we’ve all come to expect. Based on what she’s told us, there’s little reason to think she was physically or mentally capable of performing that way yesterday. Nor is it fair to criticize her as if she should’ve been able to simply snap her fingers and carry on perfectly as if nothing had gone wrong, as if she could’ve done so if she’d just had the right attitude.

By standing aside, Biles chose not to risk her team’s performance just so she could save face and avoid personal embarrassment or to avoid the hate and blame she must’ve known were coming. It was a courageous and humble thing to do, as much as we might wish she could’ve performed at her usual 100 percent, wowed the world, and brought home another gold. The fact that she admitted her weakness was deeply humanizing, a powerful reminder that even the most glorious athletes aren’t invincible.

VIEW GALLERY: Tokyo Olympics Highlights

Politics & Policy

Donald Trump? That Guy Couldn’t Even Win a House Seat in Texas

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Politico reports:

Voters in North Texas delivered an upset Tuesday, picking GOP state Rep. Jake Ellzey to fill a vacant House seat over a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Ellzey beat fellow Republican Susan Wright, the widow of former Rep. Ron Wright, 53 percent to 47 percent, when the Associated Press called the low-turnout, Republican-vs.-Republican runoff. Though Ellzey was better funded, Wright leaned heavily on her backing from the former president, who often plays kingmaker in Republican primaries.

I’ve been led to believe that Trump remains extremely powerful in the GOP. That he can’t even ensure the election of the widow of a deceased candidate, in a safe Republican seat, during a run-off between two Republicans, would suggest that this might not be as true as some think.

PC Culture

Free Speech, Safe Spaces, and the College Environment

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Should there be free speech on college campuses? Should there be safe spaces? How should colleges balance them?

Those are questions addressed by Duke University professor Michael Munger in today’s Martin Center article, which is drawn from a talk he recently gave in Raleigh.

Much sarcasm has been directed at the idea of “safe spaces” on campus, but Munger sees nothing wrong in allowing individuals and groups to find or create such places. The thing is, that means allowing them to exclude people who don’t share their values — a concept that is under attack when certain people want to do that, such as devout Christians.

On the other hand, if you want nothing but “safety” from competing ideas, you don’t really belong in college, because that isn’t what the business of learning is about. On that score, Munger quotes leftist commentator Van Jones: “I don’t want you to be safe. I want you to be strong. And there’s a difference. Nobody can pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym. That’s the whole point of the gym, to break you down and cause pain, so you can become strong. THIS (debate) IS THE GYM.”

Munger criticizes the way many colleges and universities treat students unequally, with conservatives getting tough treatment of the sort Van Jones likes, and leftists getting soft, mushy treatment where they are never challenged. It’s like teaching chess students one-move openings and leaving them to think they’ve mastered the game, Munger says.

He concludes, “In fact, academic freedom must encompass both the right to constitute a narrowly focused safe space, and the right to challenge any conclusion that is part of the general orthodoxy. This is not a contradiction, but the implication of the freedom to conduct research and foster learning.”

Politics & Policy

Trump-Endorsed House GOP Candidate Loses Texas Primary Runoff Election

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Susan Wright (FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth/YouTube)

On Tuesday, Jake Ellzey defeated Susan Wright in the House GOP primary runoff election in Texas 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent

Wright is the widow of the late GOP congressman Ron Wright (whose death left the seat vacant) and had the endorsement of former president Donald Trump. 

Ellzey is a Navy veteran who had the backing of Texas GOP congressman (and fellow Navy veteran) Dan Crenshaw. 

Wright’s loss is more evidence that a Trump endorsement isn’t as powerful as some people think it is. That’s good news for Texas GOP congressman Chip Roy, the staunch conservative who has drawn the ire of Donald Trump for voting to certify the results of the Electoral College. 

From my NRO profile of Roy published last month: 

“Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy — he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district,” Trump wrote in a blog post before the vote for House GOP Conference chair. “I support Elise, by far, over Chip!”

The comments from Cheney and Trump about Roy show that — as much as many Republicans say they want to move on — the 2020 election and January 6 are still major fault lines inside the Republican Party.

As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, Trump has “made supporting his claims of a stolen election — or at least remaining silent about them — a litmus test of sorts as he decides whom to endorse for state and federal contests in 2022 and 2024.”

But is there any reason to believe Trump’s prediction of a Roy primary loss (which reads more like a threat) will come true? Matt McCall, who lost to Roy 47.3 percent to 52.7 percent in the 2018 GOP primary runoff, certainly hopes so.

“I have asked Trump for his endorsement to run against Chip Roy. If Trump endorses, I will run, and we will kick Chip Roy’s ass,” McCall told National Review in a phone interview. “I’ve approached [Trump’s] team. Steve Bannon, I think, is working on that for us.”

McCall, a businessman who did not challenge Roy again in 2020, says he’s interested in running in 2022 because of Roy’s response to the 2020 election and his comment that Trump had committed an impeachable act. McCall believes that the elections in every state where voting procedures were changed without the approval of the legislature — including his own state of Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott added six days of early voting — were unconstitutional, and that the U.S. House of Representatives should have decided the presidential election.

McCall, who looks to Texas congressman Louie Gohmert as a political role model (“I think he’s a very, very sharp man and very conservative”), can be more than a little rough around the edges. This showed up again when he began speculating on why Cruz endorsed Roy.

“I have no idea why [Cruz] went to so much trouble to put Chip into office,” says McCall. “Maybe he intends to run for president and they’ve got dreams of running Chip for Senate.”

“Maybe it was blackmail, that’s what a lot of people say — you know, there’s pictures with Ted and sheep,” he adds. “I don’t know.” McCall did not offer evidence Cruz had been blackmailed about anything. “I’m not trying to pick a fight with Ted Cruz,” he says.

While McCall is committed to running if Trump backs him, he also says he’s happy to endorse any other Republican Trump might endorse: “If [Trump] picks somebody else, I will back him. I’m with Trump.”

Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the GOP of Travis County, home to Austin, dismisses McCall’s primary threats as bluster. “Would I bet any amount of money Chip’s going to lose a primary in 2022? No, I wouldn’t,” Mackowiak tells National Review. “I think he’s got a 95 percent likelihood of being renominated.”

It might be too early to be quite that confident about Roy’s prospects. Redistricting is bound to make the district (which Roy carried by 6.7 points in the 2020 general election and 2.6 points in the 2018 midterms) more Republican and more Trump-friendly, and it was Roy himself who suggested he may have signed his political death warrant when he voted to certify the election.

But there are many reasons to believe Roy remains the heavy favorite heading into 2022. Roy was an unknown staffer when he defeated McCall by five points in 2018; by 2022 he’ll have served four years in D.C., and it’s still very difficult to unseat incumbents. Trump might not throw his support behind a challenger if Roy seems likely to prevail, and even if he did, a Trump endorsement isn’t all-powerful: See, for example, the 32-point loss by Trump-endorsed House candidate Lynda Bennett in a North Carolina open primary in 2020. And, again, Roy has been highlighting and focusing on issues that appeal to Republican voters.

 

Impromptus

Oh, Kay!

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Alabama governor Kay Ivey speaks to the media after being sworn in in Montgomery, April 2017. (Marvin Gentry / Reuters)

That was the name of a Gershwin musical, of 1926: Oh, Kay! It is largely forgotten now, but some songs aren’t: “Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Do, Do, Do,” and “Someone to Watch over Me.” I’ll get to the governor of Alabama in a minute.

My Impromptus column today is devoted to the Olympics, largely — a variety of issues, a variety of points. Also, I have a music post, here, with some good stories: part of the lore.

A little mail? In a column on Monday, I quoted Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, who is at her wit’s end, when it comes to vaccination — when it comes to encouraging her constituents to get vaccinated. I said she reminded me of the title of a Truman biography: Plain Speaking.

A reader writes,

Dear Jay,

. . . I fell in love with Susana Martinez even before your cover story in NR. Now I may be falling for Kay Ivey. Governor Ivey. . . . I had a boss once who accused me of “not acting right.” She got right to the point. I never miss an opportunity to praise her. Some people didn’t like her style, so they convened a meeting. I wasn’t invited. She and another plainspoken person retired. They’re probably on Golden Pond somewhere. But they planted a seed.

In a column last week, I wrote of Shirley Fry Irvin, an American tennis champion, who died recently. When she was a kid — like ten years old — she traveled all over the country, competing in tournaments. I mean, she traveled alone. You could do that in those days. Kids did.

A reader sends me an article headed “The Astonishing Ride of the Abernathy Boys.” It begins,

Louis “Bud” Abernathy, 10, and his brother, Temple, 6, inherited their father’s spirit of adventure and set out in 1910 to ride their horses more than 2,000 miles from Frederick, Oklahoma, to New York City.

I mean, geezum.

In that column earlier this week, I mentioned Bob Dole, who has just turned 98. I was a college intern in his office, way back. A lady who once worked for Dole has written me, saying, “I remain a huge fan and visited him for several hours at his apartment last month.” Despite health struggles, “he was sharp and funny and involved as always.”

So good to hear.

Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that I was a born-and-bred Tiger — Detroit Tiger, Detroit Piston, Detroit Lion, and Detroit Red Wing. A reader writes,

Mr. Nordlinger,

. . . I just read today in your Impromptus column you are a fan of all sports Detroit. I grew up in Wisconsin, so I can’t say I am too sorry about the Lions’ state of affairs. The Tigers, however, are a different story. My son was drafted by the Tigers last week, and he just started his professional career. I hope to see him in a Tigers uniform someday, and you can root for him as well. I am a biased source to be sure, but he’s easy to root for.

Fantastic!

Finally,

Jay,

Listened to your Q&A with Kevin D. while driving today. Your discussion of the phrase “there are two kinds of people in the world” made me laugh out loud. It reminded me of something my dad would say: “There are three kinds of people in the world: those that can count and those that can’t.”

He grew up in rural Mississippi in the ’30s and ’40s, and he had a hundred old country sayings like the one above, and, “Don’t let your mockingbird mouth overload your hummingbird butt.”

Good advice! Thanks to all. Again, today’s Impromptus is here.

Education

The Urge to Punish

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Students raise their hands to answer a question at Kratzer Elementary School in Allentown, Pa., April 13, 2021. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

Less than an hour after the CDC released its guidelines, my local school district sent out a letter preparing parents for the probability that school — even school for very young children — would be conducted with the same requirement of cloth masks as last year. One wonders if the plexiglass will come back, too!

Because children are not efficient transmitters of COVID, transmission in schools that were open last year tended to remain at a level one-third of that of the surrounding community. Nothing has changed the consistent assessment of epidemiologists that COVID-19 is less of a mortal peril for children than influenza, a disease for which we do not install “pods” around children. Children don’t get “long COVID.”

Everyone with the slightest acquaintance with the history of pandemics knows that there is always an overwhelming urge to scapegoat during them. Pandemics aren’t “fair.”  And someone is to blame. New York’s mayor Bill De Blasio seemed to single out Orthodox Jews for special opprobrium.

But the news of the recent APA and CDC recommendations was greeted by a weird shrug in many quarters. We wouldn’t have to do this if everyone got vaccinated. Or, if people were focused on ending vaccine disinformation, this wouldn’t have to happen. Somehow, our sins caused this.

The problem is — there’s no connection between masking children under 12 and vaccination uptake. The CDC and APA didn’t even bother to indicate that there was some level of adult vaccination at which we could stop masking kids. Because there is no logical connection between them. Why is there no logical connection between them? Because kids don’t get seriously ill from COVID or become serious transmitters of it.

Because there is no logical connection between these things, there is also no sense in which masking kids can be seen as a “sacrifice” made by parents because of the irresponsibility of others.

Forcing a medically dubious intervention on children cannot be “deserved” either individually — to get at the minority of irresponsible parents — or corporately, as a form of revenge on a nation that . . . has a really high rate of vaccination compared with peer nations. Unlike a sacrifice, it has no redemptive value; this intervention is just something that makes young kids feel unsafer at schools (and in the world) than they really are and which is unhygienic for the very young. This was not a decision forced on our public-health authorities by a badly behaved public. It was a needless and unjustified decision — taken in the face of what we know, and what we can reasonably speculate, having seen this wave peak and begin to fall in the United Kingdom.

Sports

When You Understand What Happened to Simone Biles, It Makes Sense

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U.S. gymnast Simone Biles in action on the vault during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan, July 27, 2021. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

Today’s biggest sports news was U.S. gymnastics superstar Simone Biles withdrawing from the team competition. She says she will still plan to compete in the individual events. The individual events are the bigger prestige and payoff, so it is not unheard-of for a star to pull out if there is an injury scare during the team competition, but that alone is a lousy break for her teammates, who are left in the lurch.

Biles is physically 100 percent. Initial reports, even the more detailed explanation that Dominic Pino was working from this afternoon, suggested that Biles was just mentally stressed out, in part from the sky-high expectations. That seems inadequate, and I thought it sounded pretty lame when I heard it. Athletes have to walk it off and gut through injuries a lot. That’s true of mental as well as physical problems.

But in each case, there are things you can play through, and things you shouldn’t. Once I saw what her actual problem was, I understood. Biles got “lost in the air,” as you can see from the video:

It was even clearer on the full broadcast that Biles essentially fell prey to aerial disorientation — she lost track, in midair, of where the ground was. You could see it in her eyes when she walked off. Gymnasts, like pilots, can die from that — you land the wrong way, you break your neck. Like a baseball player who suddenly can’t stand in against a pitch, it’s a thing you can’t play through. You might get reoriented in practice, and hopefully Biles will. But she walked off and left the event because she simply could not go on. Critics piling on her based on the initial press reports should watch what actually happened and listen to veteran gymnasts before lighting her up.

VIEW GALLERY: Tokyo Olympics Highlights

20 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Med Schools Reject Biological Sex & More

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1. Katie Herzog : Med Schools Are Now Denying Biological Sex

“Again, I’m very sorry for that. It was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. The worst thing that I can do as a human being is be offensive.” 

His offense: using the term “pregnant women.” 

2. Stephanie Slade: Judges Say Web Design Is ‘Pure Speech’ and That the State Can Compel It Anyway

The wildest thing about the decision is that it says giving a conscience-based exemption to a web design firm would “necessarily relegate LGBT consumers to an inferior market because Appellants’ unique services are, by definition, unavailable elsewhere.” The fact that “LGBT consumers may be able to obtain wedding-website design services from other businesses” is irrelevant. “The product at issue is not merely ‘custom-made wedding websites,’ but rather ‘custom-made wedding websites of the same quality and nature as those made by Appellants.’ In that market, only Appellants exist.”

And she quotes our friend Ed Whelan. 

3.

4. New Bill Would Defund Public Universities That Provide On-Campus Abortions

“This abortion regime is dangerous for women,” Jeanne Mancini said, adding there are “psychological ramifications” to “being your own abortionist.” 

5. Chuck Donovan and Angelina B. Nguyen: U.S. abortion policy shouldn’t emulate China or North Korea. We should be more like Europe.

The question the court will face this fall is whether the Constitution allows any effective limit on abortion before the 1973 definition of viability (“usually placed at about seven months,” the Roe court said), though advances in science and medicine over the past 50 years continue to allow babies to survive outside the womb at a younger and younger age.

Mississippi lawmakers did not advance this law with the intention of achieving an international happy medium. Rather, legislators in Mississippi and in states across the country have passed abortion limits with the intent of recognizing the reality that human life exists in the womb. At 15 weeks, unborn children respond to touch, have fully functioning hearts that pump 26 quarts of blood per day, have the ability to feel pain, can suck their thumb and undergo lifesaving and life-altering treatment.

Full report from the Lozier Institute here

6.  Mary Margaret Olohan: Government Stimulus, Remote Work May Have Fueled A Baby Boom

“Conceptions plummeted during the lockdowns of March, April, and May, but as reopening began in June, conceptions rapidly normalized,” IFS researchers Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone reported. “Conventional stories about fertility don’t fit well here: employment was still extremely suppressed in the summer of 2020 and excess death rates were very high. It was not, in conventional terms, a good time to make a baby.”

Continue reading “20 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Med Schools Reject Biological Sex & More”

Media

Around the Media

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I had the pleasure of two great conversations recently. One was with our old friend Jonah Goldberg at The Remnant podcast this morning, talking about January 6 and where conservatives fit in the Republican future. The other was with Pete Turner and Joe Posnanski on the Break it Down Show podcast, discussing Posnanski’s forthcoming book on baseball’s 100 greatest players:

Elections

Larry Elder Is Heating Up the California Recall Vote

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Larry Elder at the 2016 FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Nev. (Gage Skidmore)

Gavin Newsom’s reign of idiocy may be nearing an end. He exhibited grotesque displays of hypocrisy during his California lockdowns, when he held fancy dinner parties while Californians were forced out of work and onto the dole. He has overseen total mismanagement of Californian forestry, which has played a role in the worst wildfire seasons in state history. Under his regime, California has experienced record crime, homelessness, and drug deaths. Just this Monday, 80-year-old former U.S. senator Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) was attacked during daylight. Unfortunately, there were no “social workers” or “mental health workers” on the scene. California may have the highest income tax in the country, but the state’s budget surplus is not helping to address any of the problems faced by everyday residents. No, these problems don’t matter to Governor Newsom. Instead, he has decided to enact sanctuary-state policies. Instead, he has visited and promised to fix El Salvador. The most populous state in the union is truly in capable hands. 

It should come as no surprise that a potential disaster for the California Democratic Committee is brewing. While California may be a state of little political virtue, it is the only state in nearly a hundred years to successfully replace a governor via recall, when Gray Davis was replaced by none other than the Republican Terminator in 2003. Recent polling also indicates that Californians, likely voters in particular (47 percent), are growing more open to replacing Newsom. Republicans, despite making up barely a quarter of registered voters, amount to a third of all likely voters, which is a very good sign for turnout.

The shifting electoral landscape is also a cause for hope. Shockingly, a California judge has sided with radio pundit Larry Elder, and he has been added to the ballot. He has since rocketed into the front-runner position among challengers with a considerable lead, and his energized base may help catapult him to victory. It is also worth mentioning that, despite the disproportionate media coverage, only 3 percent of voters are interested in putting Caitlyn Jenner into office. Thank goodness. Who among anti-Newsom voters would seriously consider electing Jenner? 

Can you imagine the uproar if this succeeds? Gavin Newsom — the rich, white, progressive San Franciscan — defeated by Larry Elder, a hard-line black conservative who grew up in South Los Angeles. In California. The media would short-circuit. It would also provide an immense advantage in the 2022 midterm elections, should Republicans finally attain statewide office.

So keep up the great work, recallers, and get out and vote, California! Now is your best chance in a decade to finally attain some semblance of good governance. Enough is enough.

Culture

Why They Hate Ben Shapiro, and Us

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Ben Shapiro speaks at the 2018 Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas. (Gage Skidmore)

Laura Miller of Slate recently had an interesting interview with Eric Nelson of Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. Broadside publishes conservative books within a major publishing house. A good deal of the interview is Nelson making his pitch to Slate’s liberal audience for why liberals should not want to use contract-canceling campaigns to drive conservative book-publishing entirely out of mainstream publishing and into an ideological ghetto of right-wing publishers. The conclusion of the interview talks about Ben Shapiro and why he is so hated:

Broadside publishes Ben Shapiro’s book. What has the response to that been?

His new book is called The Authoritarian Moment, discussing deplatforming. And he is a very well-known guy who is not going to be invited on anything mainstream. We already know all the media that could possibly be willing to have him. It would be nice to think that you could get him on a morning show, even for an unfriendly interview, and they’re just not going to do it because there’s not enough upside.

Plenty of people think Ben Shapiro shouldn’t be invited on any kind of show.

Exactly. Shapiro is thought of by the right as moderate in many ways, basically the way that maybe Ezra Klein is thought of on the left. But the difference is, if Ben and Ezra each decided to have each other on as guests, Ben’s audience would say, “Oh, man, you really showed it to Ezra!” And Ezra would lose 100 percent of his audience if he didn’t then spend at least two weeks on a listening tour of the people he had hurt and expressing profuse apologies for allowing Ben the platform of speaking with Ezra.

The left is continually saying, all these people over here are too far to the right. They’ve been carving those people off for so long that now they’re carving off Matt Yglesias and Glenn Greenwald. And the right is embracing them. Ben Shapiro is such a frequent target because he’s the farthest person to the right that the left is willing to pay attention to. So while there are people on, you know, Newsmax and OAN with far more controversial opinions, liberals would much rather go after someone fairly mainstream and conservative than someone pretty far to the right.

So what you’re saying is that people who are seen as fairly centrist in the world of conservatives tend to become the bêtes noires of the left media?

The more things you have in common with the left, the easier it is for them to find you and be mad at you.

I’m not sure “moderate” is exactly the right word here, but certainly Shapiro’s willingness to take a metric ton of flak for not being intellectually all-in for Donald Trump marks him as a different animal from, say, OAN. But Nelson’s point, especially his last line, applies more broadly, and not only to commentators as sharp-elbowed as Ben Shapiro. If you pay much attention to the Left’s pundit and intellectual class, the people they hate more than anyone — the targets that really raise their blood pressure — are conservatives who are educated, conservatives who are well-spoken and/or well-read, conservatives who speak the language of the upper middle class. In other words, the sorts of people who write at National Review. A lot of these folks have a deep-seated need to mock the idea that a conservative could ever be any of those things. You could see this, for example, in how much more viscerally many of them hated Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio than they ever hated Trump. Trump, after all, flatters their self-image; he presents a face of conservatism that marks conservatives as uninformed people with crude vocabularies who belong to a lower social class.  But anyone who threatens the idea that all the smart people know to be on our side, that is who really raises their ire.

Politics & Policy

Apparently David Chipman Isn’t Crazy About the First Amendment, Either

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David Chipman testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, September 25, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

So it turns out that Joe Biden’s anti-gun nominee for the ATF, David Chipman, also has problems with the First Amendment, telling BBC in 2019 (hat-tip to The Federalist) that there is “frustration” in the United States over “freedom of speech” and the ability of people “to say things is that largely cannot be regulated.”

No, not, “largely.” Words can’t be regulated, period.

Chipman, like most would-be censors, frames speech restrictions as a public-safety issue. “The FBI, other federal agencies, have a tough job responding to these threats when they don’t currently have the authority to remove weaponry just because people are saying hateful things,” he explained.

First off, thousands of Americans have had their guns taken from them via red-flag and other laws — usually after police and courts determine that the owners are putting themselves or others in danger. Just today, Florida’s agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried stripped the concealed-carry licenses of 22 people who have yet to be convicted of any crime. Authorities already have too much leeway in limiting Second Amendment rights.

Most mass shooters offer few, if any, clues about their plans. Most of them don’t even have a criminal record. Even if they had, there’s a big difference between threatening imminent violence and saying “hateful” things. Yet, Chipman seems to believe that cops, using their “precrime” clairvoyance, should be empowered to unilaterally determine what constitutes “hate speech” before seizing guns from people who have done nothing illegal — an authoritarian twofer.

There’s of surplus of historical evidence demonstrating why such power should never be afforded the state. And one need only listen to Chipman conflate conservatism and “white supremacy” — and exaggerate the prevalence of gun violence and domestic terrorism — during his BBC interview to understand how quickly that power would be abused.

Maybe I’m an outlier on this issue, but I’ve gone my entire life without ever feeling “frustrated” about the right of others to publicly express opinions — even reprehensible ones. It’s not as if they’re going to stop believing or feeling stupid things simply because the ATF director threatens them. Of course, Chipman is free to believe whatever he likes, as well. It’s appalling, however, that someone with such disdain for the Constitution has been nominated for a position that is charged with upholding the law.

Economy & Business

Lessons from Lysol on Recessions and Recovery

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(Maranie Staab/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal reports that not everyone is looking forward to the post-pandemic economy:

The maker of Lysol has ridden a wave demand for its cleaning products since Covid-19 hit. Now Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC is grappling with a pandemic-recovery double whammy: slowing sales of disinfectants and rising cost inflation.

Reckitt posted record sales last year, boosted by demand for its products like Dettol soap and wipes that strained its ability to keep stores stocked. But with Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out across the world and restrictions easing, the company says those trends have started to moderate in recent months.

Recessions are weird things: They aren’t bad for everyone. The corollary is also true: Recoveries aren’t good for everyone.

One of the best economics articles of the pandemic was Arnold Kling’s contribution to the Summer 2020 edition of National Affairs, “Economics after the Virus.” In it, he argues that the pandemic recession is best understood as a disruption of patterns. “The economic shutdown is not simply a supply shock or a demand downturn; it is a disruption of patterns of specialization and trade. People have changed their behavior — in some ways for just a few weeks, in others likely for a few years,” Kling wrote.

Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol, all of a sudden had to reorganize its production processes to meet a huge surge in demand when the pandemic started. That took time, and most of us have been to a store that was totally out of Lysol. Now, Reckitt has to reorganize again. The Journal says it is “contending with rising prices of things like plastics and paper, and higher freight costs.” It’s facing a textbook case of cost-push inflation, being forced to raise prices because of rising input costs.

Using Kling’s paradigm, it’s much easier to see how recessions aren’t bad for everyone and recoveries aren’t good for everyone. There’s nothing inherently good or bad about a disruption. If you’re having an interesting conversation with someone, a disruption is annoying. If you’re having a boring conversation, a disruption is welcome.

The recovery is a disruption for Reckitt just as much as the recession was. It was able to gain from the first disruption and is currently losing from the second disruption, in both cases largely from factors outside its control. People who were upset about companies “profiting off the pandemic” didn’t consider that now many of those very same companies will be losing money because of the recovery.

There’s another interesting fact in the Journal story: Reckitt’s CEO said that “sales of its hygiene products had dropped more than a third in the U.S. since early March.” Other Reckitt brands have rebounded. “Sales of Mucinex, Lemsip and Strepsils have all shown signs of life up after large falls last year because of a historically weak flu season. Brands such as Durex condoms and Nurofen painkillers have also returned to growth as the world gets back to socializing,” the Journal reports.

U.S. consumers are getting over the pandemic, no matter what the government or the noisy Twitter crowd says.

Law & the Courts

Stupid, but Legal: Nikki Fried Suspends Concealed Carry Permits of Accused Capitol Rioters

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The Bill of Rights (Wikimedia Commons )

Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and the only statewide-elected Democrat in the state, announced this afternoon that she has suspended the concealed-carry permits held by 22 Floridians (Fried’s office has regulatory authority in this area):

My first reaction to this was: Doesn’t Fried mean “allegedly involved”? As far as I can tell, not a single one of those 22 people has been convicted of anything. Irrespective of whether one thinks that the events of January 6th were the worst thing that has happened in America since the Civil War or a complete non-event, we should be able to agree that it is a bad idea to bypass the presumption of innocence as Fried does here. “Insurrectionist” is a pretty serious charge for a public official to throw out at the best of times — especially without reference to a jury.

My second, related, reaction was: Given that the 22 people in question have not yet been convicted of anything, how on earth can Florida’s government be empowered to suspend their concealed carry permits?

Unfortunately, it turns out that it is. Florida’s state constitution explicitly protects the right to keep and bear arms. But it also explicitly permits the state to regulate the bearing part. Here’s the relevant section:

(a) The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.

And, as it turns out, the law in question, 790.06, allows the state to revoke a carry license on the mere presentation of charges (bolding mine):

(3) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall deny a license if the applicant has been found guilty of, had adjudication of guilt withheld for, or had imposition of sentence suspended for one or more crimes of violence constituting a misdemeanor, unless 3 years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or the record has been sealed or expunged. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall revoke a license if the licensee has been found guilty of, had adjudication of guilt withheld for, or had imposition of sentence suspended for one or more crimes of violence within the preceding 3 years. The department shall, upon notification by a law enforcement agency, a court, or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and subsequent written verification, suspend a license or the processing of an application for a license if the licensee or applicant is arrested or formally charged with a crime that would disqualify such person from having a license under this section, until final disposition of the case. The department shall suspend a license or the processing of an application for a license if the licensee or applicant is issued an injunction that restrains the licensee or applicant from committing acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violence.

What is “a crime that would disqualify such person from having a license under this section”? Here’s the list:

(1) It is unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been:(a) Convicted of a felony in the courts of this state;
(b) Found, in the courts of this state, to have committed a delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult and such person is under 24 years of age;
(c) Convicted of or found to have committed a crime against the United States which is designated as a felony;
(d) Found to have committed a delinquent act in another state, territory, or country that would be a felony if committed by an adult and which was punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year and such person is under 24 years of age; or
(e) Found guilty of an offense that is a felony in another state, territory, or country and which was punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year.

Which means that, providing that the 22 people in question were “arrested or formally charged with a crime” and that their crimes were either “against the United States which is designated as a felony” or “an offense that is a felony in another state, territory, or country and which was punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year,” Fried is acting within her powers.

Naturally, these provisions are not the only ones in play. Like the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Florida’s state constitution also holds that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” In order for a successful challenge to be brought on those grounds, however, the plaintiffs would have to establish (a) that a constitutional right is being denied without due process, and (b) that concealed carrying is a constitutional right.

As it stands, that second element would be pretty tough to demonstrate, given that Florida’s constitution carves out an exception for regulation, and that neither the Eleventh Circuit (which covers Florida) nor the Supreme Court have ruled on the question of concealed carry either way (it will soon in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen). If the material question here were whether the state can restrict gun ownership per se on the basis of mere criminal charges, a plaintiff challenging Fried’s decision might have a fair shot at overturning the rule. (Notably, in her Kanter v. Barr dissent, Amy Coney Barrett concluded that, historically, only “those who pose a threat of violence to the community” could be disarmed by the government — yes, even if they had been convicted of a crime.) For now, however, carry tends to be treated differently by the courts than is simple possession.

None of this justifies Florida’s statute, which could easily have been written differently, and which should make everybody who cherishes the presumption of innocence feel a little uncomfortable. As a matter of basic political hygiene, it is a bad idea to condition constitutional rights upon the absence of a mere accusation, and the fact that we are dealing here with two things (guns and the alleged Capitol rioters) that the establishment press tends to loathe makes the case against such provisions stronger still.

Film & TV

Can Ghostbusters: Afterlife Recapture the Franchise’s Magic?

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Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (Sony Pictures/@Ghostbusters/via Twitter)

A few weeks before the 2016 Ghostbusters all-female reboot was released, its cast joined Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The Paul Feig project was an object of controversy from its announcement. This promotional decision presaged the final product’s decision to lean into gender politics without actually providing a requisite amount of originality or crowd-pleasing comedy. (It was also one of the first things that made me think Donald Trump might win against Hillary.) The 2016 Ghostbusters performed poorly enough that its requisite post-credits sequel tease will remain forever that, much like the end of Mac and Me, Paul Rudd’s favorite film.

So instead of continuing along this path, Ghostbusters will be handed “back to the fans,” to use director Jason Reitman‘s also-controversial phrase. In his case, there’s something almost literal about that: Reitman is the son of Ivan Reitman, director of the first two Ghostbusters films. But this has also meant bringing back surviving members of the original cast (Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Dan Akroyd), Paul Rudd, and Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things. Today, we got our first full-length trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, due out this November:

With a rural setting, hints of the mysterious and unexplained, a friendly allied high-school teacher (played by Paul Rudd), and even Finn Wolfhard, it’s clear that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is going for a Stranger Things aesthetic here. But with the implication that the story of the first two Ghostbusters movies has fallen into the status of forgotten myth even as events proceed to reveal it as true, I also got from this trailer something of a Force Awakens vibe from the proceedings — something clinched by the hint of the grudging return to proceedings of Peter Venkman (Bill Murray’s character), in older, crankier, and perhaps reluctant-mentor mode, à la Harrison Ford’s aged Han Solo.

That aspect of The Force Awakens was both a bit duplicative (we had already witnessed the descent into obscurity of the Jedi order in A New Hope) and somewhat-implausible: In the span of a few decades, could something like that really be lost? Perhaps we can allow such storytelling license in a galaxy depicted as so vast, and so . . . illiterate. But Ghostbusters: Afterlife appears to be premised on the notion that an explosion of paranormal activity, witnessed by millions of people in America’s most populated city . . . becomes merely an urban legend within the span of a few decades? That might be too much.

Or maybe not. I’m willing to wait and see whether the comedic framing of Ghostbusters can support the kind of dramatic gravitas and themes of family inheritance, memory, and whatnot that Ghostbusters: Afterlife appears to be striving for. At any rate, I think it has a better shot of success than the misbegotten 2016 reboot.

Elections

Texas Voters Should Ignore Trump’s Endorsement of Corrupt AG Ken Paxton

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Former president Donald Trump addresses a member of the news media after attending a border security briefing with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Weslaco, Texas, June 30, 2021. (Brandon Bell/Reuters)

The feud between the Trump family and the Bush family continues, this time in a local Texas race for attorney general. The Texas attorney general is the highest legal position in the state, and the primary race for the seat has been hotly contested, with current Texas land commissioner George P. Bush challenging incumbent AG Ken Paxton. Trump recently endorsed Paxton, who has been dogged by legal trouble over the last few years. Trump’s endorsement of Paxton is a surefire example of how ethical concerns aren’t important to many politicians. That doesn’t mean voters should think the same way. 

Americans generally distrust lawyers, and Ken Paxton has done little to assuage ethical concerns surrounding his behavior. In 2015, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton for three legal violations just six months into his job as attorney general. Two counts of securities-fraud charges were levied against Paxton and another count of failing to register as an investment adviser. For reasons both financial and political, these charges are still outstanding. 

Despite the indictment, Paxton was reelected three years ago. However, allegations of unethical behavior have continued.  The FBI recently launched an investigation into Paxton, who is now also under suspicion for using his position to benefit a political donor. The Associated Press reported last November that: 

Federal agents are looking into claims by former members of Paxton’s staff that the high-profile Republican committed bribery, abuse of office, and other crimes to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, the people told The Associated Press. They insisted on anonymity to discuss the investigation because it is ongoing.

George P. Bush has been considered a strong Republican candidate for AG ever since he was able to make inroads with the Texan Hispanic community. Despite allegations that the Bushes are too lukewarm on conservative issues, George P. Bush has not been a RINO thus far in his political career. Bush even aligned himself with the former president on many occasions to shore up Republican support.

Nevertheless, Trump endorsed Paxton, who undoubtedly helped his cause by aggressively pursuing frivolous “election integrity” lawsuits. Trump’s endorsement cited Paxton’s willingness to be “strong” on “election integrity.” While Trump has made his decision, voters still hold the power. Paxton’s history of ethical problems should turn off voters. 

It is true that Paxton has denied the claims that have been lobbied against him, and that Americans should abide by the maxim “innocent until proven guilty.” However, Paxton has been dogged by allegations of misconduct for almost a full decade, and even former aides have decried his unethical practices. Donald Trump ran on “draining the swamp.” If a persistent record of allegations of using one’s elected position for personal gain isn’t “swampy,” then what is?

Electing good, decent, people to hold the reins of power is a lost art in American politics. Washington himself believed “that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” However, here in my home state of Texas, we need not lose that art entirely. Luckily, voters need not “hold their nose” and vote for Paxton when a perfectly acceptable indeed, good conservative candidate waits in the wings. Trump endorsement aside, Texas can do better than Ken Paxton.

Sports

What Just Happened with Simone Biles?

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Gymnast Simone Biles of the United States on the uneven bars during training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan, July 22, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics finals at the Tokyo Olympics. With the best gymnast of all time not participating, Team USA won silver, with the Russian team (that’s not really the Russian team) winning gold.

The circumstances of Biles’s withdrawal were unusual. She was not injured. From Zachary Evans’s news story:

“We had a workout this morning and it went OK and then just that five-and-a-half hour wait or something, I was just shaking, could barely nap, I just never felt like this going into a competition before and tried to go out there and have fun,” Biles explained on Tuesday.  “Once I came out here I was like, ‘No, mental is not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.’”

If you’re a fan of USA Gymnastics, as pretty much every American is when the Summer Olympics roll around, this result is disappointing. No matter what sport it is, it’s disappointing when a team doesn’t win a contest it was expected to win. It’s natural to want some answers, especially in this case. It’s not that the team was outmatched by its opponents. The team couldn’t perform to the level it should have because its best member did not compete.

There might be a gut instinct to be upset with Biles. Why didn’t she toughen up and compete? That’s not the right question to ask, however. Mental preparedness is primarily a question of coaching. It’s on the athlete to perform, but it’s on coaches to make sure the athletes are prepared to perform. So it’s worth wondering whether this was primarily a failure of coaching.

Athletes need coaches, even the most successful athletes, because the perspective of a coach is different than that of a player. The coach is supposed to see the bigger picture. Coaches have seen situations that athletes have not seen yet and know what successful and unsuccessful responses to those situations look like.

Part of that is making sure the team is in the right mindset before competition begins. This is especially true of elite athletes. Phil Jackson had nothing to teach Michael Jordan about dribbling or shooting. Jordan was better at that than Jackson was. Jordan told ESPN Magazine in 1998 what he learned from Jackson:

Calming the body. No matter how much pressure there is in a game, I think to myself: It’s still just a game. I don’t meditate, but I know what he’s getting at. He’s teaching about peacefulness and living in the moment, but not losing the aggressive attitude. Not being reckless, but strategic.

Elsewhere in the same piece, Jordan talks about Jackson and his college coach, Dean Smith:

The main reason we do so well is Phil. I like him because of the atmosphere he creates. Sometimes he can say one word, one sentence, and shake you up, make you think. Like Dean Smith did. Instead of yelling at you, criticizing you, Dean would say something like, “Would you make that play if you were in high school?” It’s not a curse, but you get the point. At a crucial point in a game Phil might call a timeout after one of us took a bad 3-pointer, and he’ll say, “You must be really hot, aren’t you?” Or “Toni, he’s on a roll.” Instead of saying, “That was a dumb shot.” It makes you think. And we all need to be checked and criticized to some degree.

That’s all mental. Athletes can lose their way in the heat of the moment. It’s the job of coaches to make sure that they don’t.

There’s no doubt that Simone Biles is physically capable of performing. She says she is, and we know from her past accomplishments that she is. She’s still the greatest gymnast ever. There was some failure of mental preparation, however, that led her to believe she was unable to perform in the team finals. If it was a failure of coaching that took her out, let’s hope that the coaches are able to figure out what they did wrong and get her back on the mat.

Media

‘Crisis Actor’?

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If you’d like a reminder of the childishness, unseriousness, and irresponsibility of American Greatness and the people associated with it, consider that Julie Kelly is claiming that D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was assaulted during the Capitol riot, is a “crisis actor.”

Health Care

Rochelle Walensky’s Woeful Performance

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Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, testifies before a Senate committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

Rochelle Walenksy is the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She is also seemingly on the verge of tears every time we hear from her.

Walensky is fond of letting us in on how she’s feeling. On March 29, for example, she announced during a White House pandemic-response-team briefing that she was “going to pause” during a presentation focused on informing the American people of the state of play using relevant facts and figures.

“I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she continued. On a human level, it’s difficult to watch the clip of Walensky and not feel for her. The feeling was plainly not affected — it was written all over her face. But when one takes a step back, it’s also quite frustrating; it’s not the American people’s job to process and respond to Walensky’s fears. It is her job to respond rationally to the challenges of the pandemic so that even if all Americans don’t fully agree with her agency’s recommendations, they can trust the process by which they were reached.

By that measure, she’s been a disaster.

The CDC says that fewer than 10 percent of COVID cases are the result of outdoor spread. A closer look at the data suggests it’s below 1 percent, potentially even below .1 percent.

Under Walensky’s leadership, the CDC has been corrupted and co-opted by teachers’ unions with an interest in keeping kids out of school.

In May, she confided during a Senate hearing that she had told her son that he would not be attending summer camp this year despite the wide availability of vaccines, lack of outdoor spread, and minimal danger that the disease poses to children.

For those kids whose parents will allow them to attend camp, CDC guidance requires masks for the unvaccinated, including outdoors. It also says that “camps may also choose to continue to require masks for vaccinated and not fully vaccinated campers and staff in order to adhere to prevention strategies when it is difficult to tell who has been vaccinated or to set an example for not fully vaccinated campers.” Vaccinated campers are still supposed to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

Two months after Walensky’s not-so-Churchillian admission of personal crisis, the seven-day average of new cases had plummeted from 65,174 to 21,048.

Now, with case rates rising once again — but, importantly, having largely been decoupled from deaths thanks to the vaccines — the CDC is gearing up to reverse its previous stance that vaccinated Americans need not wear masks indoors, and once again try to compel them to be worn in certain “high” risk areas. It’s also expected to recommend that everyone in K–12 schools will be required to mask up regardless of vaccination status — sacrificing children’s social development and mental health for no demonstrable health benefit.

With Walensky at the wheel, the CDC has been everything it shouldn’t and cannot afford to be: indecisive, irrational, untrustworthy, and unbalanced. It’s difficult not to see its performance as a spitting image of its leader.

Politics & Policy

CDC’s Renewal of Mask Guidance Will Be Used to Push for Vaccine Passports and Mandates

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A healthcare worker prepares the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in El Paso, Texas, May 6, 2021. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

The CDC is set to reissue guidance that vaccinated individuals wear masks in certain indoor settings. This is a completely unnecessary step that cuts against efforts to persuade people that vaccines are worth taking. But it also could lead to an eventual shift away from vaccine persuasion and toward coercion.

Politico’s writeup of the news includes a noteworthy quote from Leena Wen, the former head of Planned Parenthood:

“I’m glad the CDC headed the overwhelming consensus of public health officials across the country,” said Leana Wen, a doctor at Georgetown University. “I wish that they went further and finally called for a system of proof for vaccination otherwise the vaccinated are being punished for the actions of the unvaccinated.”

The argument at this point is clear. Communicate that everybody will now be forced back to wearing masks indoors because of irresponsible people, and it will build up public sentiment in favor of mandating vaccination or of creating a system of vaccine passports. It’s similar to the way that government health-care spending means that unhealthy people impose costs on all taxpayers. This has been used as the pretext for policies such as indoor smoking and trans-fat bans.

To be clear, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective, and people who are eligible should get vaccinated. But that doesn’t mean we should require them. Government mandates are a blunt tool, and the threshold for deploying them should be high. In this case, the COVID-19 vaccines have not been around as long as other vaccines that are required for school entrance, such as MMR. An overwhelming majority of the vulnerable have been vaccinated already, and, among the younger population, COVID-19 does not pose the same threat as measles.

Health Care

CDC: Put the Masks Back On, Fully Vaccinated People!

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Yamiche Alcindor talks about living in St. Louis, Mo. (Nine PBS/via YouTube)

Whether or not the CDC and the Biden administration intend this new guidance to be perceived as declaring “vaccinations don’t do any good,” telling vaccinated people they have to wear masks again will be perceived as declaring “vaccinations don’t do any good.”

And then there’s the curious aspect to how this dramatic development leaked out:

If you’re a White House official, and you’re hoping the American people will warmly receive this unpopular recommendation, particularly those who weren’t fans of masking the first time around… does it make a lot of sense to leak this to Yamiche Alcindor? The same PBS, NBC News and MSNBC contributor who probably ranks among the White House reporters least trusted by the right side of the political divide? What, was Brian Stelter busy?

National Security & Defense

China: The World Health Organization Should Investigate Fort Detrick in Maryland

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Chinese President Xi Jinping waves next to Premier Li Keqiang and former president Hu Jintao at the end of the event marking the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China, on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, July 1, 2021. (Carlos Garcia/Reuters)

I suppose that Washington and Beijing should keep open lines of communication, and there’s no particular harm in U.S. deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman meeting with Chinese foreign ministry officials in Tianjin, China this week.

But after a while, conversations with a pathologically, shamelessly, absurdly dishonest regime start to become pointless. It’s bad enough that China refuses to cooperate with any further steps of any independent or international investigation into the origins of COVID-19. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry, day after day, contends that the investigation into the origins of COVID-19 should refocus on the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, speaking Monday:

 For some time, the voice of reason has been growing in the international community, criticizing the US politicization of origins tracing and calling for a probe into the Fort Detrick lab.

Sergei Latyshev, a Russian journalist and historian, wrote in his article that the US is trying to “pin” COVID-19 on China and that coronavirus is used for international blackmail. Abbey Makoe, former political editor at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, stressed in his opinion piece that it is morally incorrect for the US politicize science-based collaborative work under the auspices of the WHO. Hamdhan Shakeel, senior editor of Maldives News Network, pointed out that some western states, instead of tracing the origins of the virus in a scientific manner but out of racism, are attempting to shift the blame to China by distorting facts and spreading disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 virus.

These examples fully show that origins tracing is a scientific matter and should not be politicized. Some in the US are obsessed with using origins tracing for political manipulation in order to deflect attention and shift blames. Their malicious motive has long been exposed to the world. The US has the largest number of confirmed cases; the timeline of early cases in the US has been constantly dialed forward; and the mysteries around Fort Detrick and EVALI remain unsolved. If labs are to be investigated, then the WHO experts should go to Fort Detrick. The US should act in a transparent and responsible way as soon as possible and invite WHO experts to the US for an inquiry into the Fort Detrick lab so that truth can be revealed to the world…

Global Times: According to the latest statistics, over 13 million Chinese netizens have signed the joint open letter calling on the WHO to investigate the biological laboratory at Fort Detrick. So far, we have not seen a positive response from the US. What is particularly regrettable is that the server of the endorsement has come under attacks from US-based IP addresses. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: First, a huge thumbs-up for the Global Times open letter. On this issue, the US owes the Chinese netizens two explanations.

First, the US should offer a responsible explanation on all the suspicion surrounding the biological laboratory at Fort Detrick. Why is it still playing dumb when over 13 million Chinese netizens have called for justice? Why did it keep obfuscating and stonewalling on this issue? Where is the transparency it claims?

Before Sherman’s trip, an unnamed Biden administration official declared in a briefing, “we’ve said we are prepared to engage Chinese officials when we believe those engagements will be substantive and constructive… As Secretary Blinken has said, the U.S. relationship with China will be collaborative where it can be, competitive where it should be, and adversarial where it must be.”

And when pressed about where the U.S. and China could collaborate, this official pointed to climate change.

 I think when we’re talking about timing here, we’re going to take advantage of opportunities if there are areas that are constructive. I just mentioned a little bit earlier these very, very dangerous floods that are going on in Henan. I think that if you read what the Chinese are saying about these floods, it’s very apparent to them – they know that there are climate issues out there, there are these causes out there that they have to fix themselves if they’re going to – if they’re going to resolve some of these problems that affect all of their citizens, they’re going to have to join global movements.  And I think that there are opportunities for us to take advantage of what’s happening there where the Chinese people agree with the international community.  So I mean, that’s an example of how we can be constructive.

How much can our government “collaborate” with a regime that not only won’t let WHO investigate the city where the pandemic began, but that keeps insisting our government started the whole calamitous pandemic? Just what do Americans get out of our government continuing these dialogues with a foreign regime that keeps spreading the most appalling lies and false accusations?

 

Religion

On the Religious and Racial Divide

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(DanHenson1/Getty Images)

Lots of people are piling on to David French for his most recent piece on structural racism. I don’t want to get into that directly, but just to reflect, as I sometimes do, on the divide between conservative Catholics and Evangelicals. Previously, I ventured that the last five decades of history in Evangelicalism and Catholicism were shaping the evolving politics of these two groups. But, I wonder if this religious divide accounts for certain divergent attitudes on racial issues.

I spent a little time as a teenager around Evangelical circles, but quickly ended up back in the Catholic Church I was raised in. The more I reflect on it, the one thing that feels “foreign” to me about the American experience is the racial segregation of America’s Protestant churches. The Catholic Church in America has, occasionally, had rivalrous ethnic divisions — ask old Italian-American priests about the Irish leadership in New York if you want to hear what old-world anger sounds like. But, in general, in Northeastern parishes Sunday morning was always the least segregated hour in our America.

African Americans are a tiny portion of the American Catholic Church. Barely one in 20 African Americans are Catholic. And yet, despite de facto segregation by neighborhood, there have always been African-American families in my parishes. Several African Americans are part of my traditionalist Catholic parish today. African Americans have been counted among our Catholic bishops going back decades before I was born. A Catholic bishop of New Orleans once deployed the most severe canonical measure to confront racism: He excommunicated three segregationists. This is a tool Catholic bishops are, even now, reluctant to use on advocates for legal abortion.

Until a few years ago, I could almost certainly say that the majority of the priests I had experience with at my childhood Catholic school, our local parish after we moved as a teenager, and in college were non-white: Filipino, Indian, Haitian, Jamaican, or Ghanaian. These men taught me to serve at the altar. They taught me catechism. They absolved me of my sins in the confessional. If anyone can be considered a leader of the Traditionalist movement within the Church, it would be Cardinal Robert Sarah from Guinea.

I should add one important caveat, which is that many Catholic parishes in America, including my own, have a language divide running through them: English and Spanish. In my own parish, this is partly overcome by a strong adherence to the traditions of the Church, including the use of a common liturgical language: Latin. And the practice of the most traditional devotions — particularly our processions — tends to bring together the English- and Spanish-speaking communities as one. My own parish used to hold an International Potluck. Perhaps five European nations would be represented, then an equal number from Asia, but we were dwarfed by those representing nearly every nation of Central and South America.

Although I think this experience reflects the honest catholicity of the Catholic Church, I don’t cite all this to brag that we have it all figured out. I’m sure my fellow Catholics experience racism even in the Church. But, it seems obvious that the relative integration of the Catholic Church may habituate white American Catholics to a view of American racial relations that doesn’t match the reality for the Protestant (or Protestant-descended) majority. And the scandal of segregation of many Protestant churches will shape the way conscientious men such as David French think about their nation.

Politics & Policy

Joe Manchin Just Blew Up Rationale for Republicans to Cut an Infrastructure Deal

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Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) removes his mask to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 1, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

I’ve repeatedly written about how ridiculous and counterproductive it is for a group of Republicans to be negotiating a bipartisan deal on infrastructure with a Democratic Party that is racing to spend $4.1 trillion. But one argument that defenders of the negotiations have been making to conservatives is that if Republicans agree on a bipartisan deal, moderates such as Senator Joe Manchin will be more likely to oppose the larger Democrats-only $3.5 trillion bill crammed with liberal priorities. But now even that flimsy argument has blown up.

CNN’s Manu Raju reports the following on Manchin pushing for bipartisan talks to continue:

Get that? “If the bipartisan infrastructure bill falls apart, everything falls apart.”

Far from supporting the theory that a bipartisan deal would dissuade Manchin from supporting the bigger bill, Manchin is making it clear that he thinks agreeing to a bipartisan deal is a critical part of passing the combined spending package. Were it to fall apart, instead of breaking the massive agenda into several smaller parts that may be digestible, moderates will have to consider swallowing a massive $4.1 trillion bill. Additionally, the process would no longer have any bipartisan cover.

So make no mistake. Any Republican that votes for the bipartisan charade is greasing the wheels for Democrats to ram through their entire agenda — on climate; expanding Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare; subsidizing college and childcare; and a host of other liberal priorities.

(Note: The $1.2 trillion includes existing spending on infrastructure plus an additional $600 billion in new spending. My $4.1 trillion figure only includes the new spending).

Law & the Courts

Expect State and Federal Employee Vaccine Mandates to Stand

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Walmart pharmacist Carmine Pascarella administers a Moderna coronavirus vaccine to Jeff Stone inside a Walmart department store in West Haven, Conn., February 17, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Our Brittany Bernstein reports on the beginning of what is sure to become a trend as the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads: state and federal mandates requiring public employees to get vaccinated. It is inevitable that these mandates will be challenged in court.

Expect them to be upheld. To understand why, consider a decision I wrote about last week — a federal district court’s sustaining of Indiana University’s vaccination mandate for students.

Judge Damon Leichty, a Trump appointee, reasoned that the university, which is public, is thereby an arm of the state. This is significant because it puts the university, vis-à-vis its students, in a position analogous to a public agency (whether federal or state) vis-à-vis its employees. If Judge Leichty is correct that the university has the discretion to impose a vaccine mandate, notwithstanding the students’ recognized interests in bodily integrity and medical privacy, it follows that government agencies would have it as well.

Here’s how I summarized Leichty’s reasoning:

In finding that the university had a wide berth to require vaccinations, Judge Leichty relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a smallpox-vaccine mandate (under which those who refused to comply were fined $5 — about $140 in today’s dollars), finding that states have a critical interest in protecting the public from potentially deadly infectious diseases. . . . In the ensuing decades, Jacobson has been relied on several times by higher courts, including the Supreme Court, to justify vaccine requirements and other public-health mandates.

Leichty conceded that a number of prominent jurists, including Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, have suggested that too much weight has been given to Jacobson and cautioned that it should not be considered the last word on state power to infringe on individual rights. As if to prove this very point, the Supreme Court late last year ruled, in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, that New York’s severe coronavirus restrictions on attendance at religious services violated the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause. The state had rationalized its restrictions as necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Nevertheless, Judge Leichty distinguished Cuomo from Jacobson because, as the Court explained in the former, free exercise is unquestionably a fundamental right, and therefore New York had a higher burden (which it failed to meet) to justify restrictions and, importantly, to refrain from discriminating against religious institutions by imposing burdens more onerous than it imposes on commercial and other activities.

In deciding Cuomo, the Court did not overrule Jacobson. Leichty thus reasoned that the two precedents can coexist because they apply to different situations, implicating different rights. Given that Jacobson is still the law with respect to the narrow situation it addresses — namely, a vaccination requirement to halt the spread of an infectious disease (albeit one considerably more deadly than COVID-19) — Leichty, as a lower-court judge, was bound to follow it.

This is persuasive. One needn’t be a fan of mandates to grasp that lower-court judges are required to apply Supreme Court precedents, regardless of whether they agree with those precedents. Significantly, Leichty observed that the university’s mandate included exemptions for students who objected based on religious or medical reasons. If the vaccine mandates for state and federal employees include similar exemptions, they should be sustained by the courts. If they don’t, the government agencies would be inviting the more exacting scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s Cuomo ruling, and all bets are off.

Unless the Supreme Court reconsiders Jacobson, vaccine mandates are going to be upheld. I wouldn’t hold my breath on such a reconsideration. Our history with crises is that the Court gives the political branches, especially the executive, wide latitude to deal with them while the crisis is happening. When the pendulum swings in favor of individual rights, that tends to happen when the crisis is over — setting norms for future crises.

To be clear, I am not arguing against vaccine mandates. I have doubts about them so long as the government has given the vaccines only emergency authorization, but I am predisposed to accept the discretion of elected governments and private employers to require them (with appropriate exemptions). My point here is to assess what the courts are likely to do, irrespective of whether I agree or disagree.

Politics & Policy

Governor Cuomo: I’ve Told the Truth on COVID ‘From Day One.’ Really?

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference in Manhattan, June 2, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Andrew Cuomo is somehow still governor of New York. He is also still in possession of a degree of brazenness that is nearly unparalleled in public life. The first bit of evidence of that is how Cuomo is, in fact, still governor, despite ongoing investigations into his efforts to alter or hide outright information about his state’s COVID numbers (as he was writing and then promoting a book about his pandemic-era leadership), and into numerous sexual-harassment allegations against him.

To the extent Cuomo ever endeared national attention and affection, it was in large part due to the perception that he was competently handling the coronavirus crisis, something that he owes largely to his mysteriously award-winning briefings on the topic. So it is not a surprise that he has continued these briefings, thinking that a “More Cowbell” approach may bring him out of his current troubles. But when he says things like what he did at today’s, you have to wonder if he’ll just end up shooting himself in the foot again:

I am telling you as I sit here — I have told you the facts on covid from day one. Whether they were easy, whether they were hard, I told you the truth. While a lot of people were talking politics and a lot of people were talking theory and a lot of people were trying to deny because they didn’t want to deliver bad news, I told you the truth. You know why? Because I believe in you. I believe in New Yorkers. I believe if they get the truth and they get the facts, they will do the right thing. I’m a lifelong New Yorker. I know New Yorkers. Give them the facts. ‘Yeah but the facts are ugly.’ Doesn’t matter. Give them the facts and they will do the right thing.

It’s worth asking what Cuomo defines as “Day One.” It certainly couldn’t have been the day he began covering up the disastrous consequences of his order forcing nursing homes in the state to readmit patients infected with coronavirus. As Brittany Bernstein reported for us earlier this year:

A top aide to Governor Cuomo admitted last month that the administration covered up the true data on nursing home deaths from the coronavirus in New York state in order to hide the magnitude of the issue from federal authorities.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa apologized to state Democratic lawmakers during a recent video conference call, saying “we froze” out of fear that the real nursing home death numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported.

However, the New York Times reports the coverup efforts were underway before federal authorities requested the data, and just as Cuomo began writing a book touting his pandemic leadership achievements. The rewritten report, which concealed the number of deaths and found that Cuomo’s policies were not at fault for the nursing home death toll, was released just four days before the governor announced he was working on a book.

Cuomo finally released the complete data on nursing homes earlier this year, only after the state attorney general found that thousands of deaths of nursing home residents have been undercounted. The governor said then he had withheld it to avoid a “politically motivated” inquiry from the Trump administration into the state’s handling of the virus in nursing homes.

What’s amazing is that Cuomo not only lied about this, but is now lying about having lied. So when he now claims that he tells the truth to New Yorkers because he believes in them, one can justly wonder whether he is lying about that as well.

Law & the Courts

The ACLU Promotes an Absurd Conspiracy Theory about the Second Amendment

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A man inspects a Browning shotgun during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., April 28, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The ACLU has bought into the preposterous lie that the Second Amendment is intrinsically racist:

This, of course, is surreal nonsense from start to finish — so surreal, in fact, that I have to wonder whether Carol Anderson truly believes a word of what she’s arguing. As even a cursory glance at the record shows, it is not gun rights that have been historically associated with racism, but gun control — and to the extent that, up until about 1970, the two ideas were utterly inextricable in American life. To look back through this country’s history and conclude that it was the advocates of the right to bear arms who were the problem is . . . well, it’s chutzpah on a level I didn’t know possible. Somehow, the people advancing this case have managed to take a position that was advanced by figures such as Justice Roger Taney and outfits such as the Ku Klux Klan, and to pin it onto their opponents — many of whom, like the men who drafted the 14th Amendment, were explicitly fighting against the widespread attempts to disarm free blacks. This is intellectual vandalism, and the ACLU should have no part of it.

That instead it has embraced the claim makes me wonder once again what exactly the ACLU is for. Last week, two amicus curiae briefs were filed in a pending Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, the material question in which is “Whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.” The first brief was filed by the National African American Gun Association, and it’s an absolute tour de force. It starts with this accurate description of the relevant history . . .

During the colonial, founding, and early republic periods, slaves and even free blacks, particularly in the southern states, were either barred from carrying a firearm at all or were required to obtain a license to do so, which was subject to the discretion of a government official. African Americans were not considered as among “the people” with the “right” to “bear arms.”

Exclusion of African Americans from the rights of “the people” in the Second Amendment and other Bill of Rights guarantees was in conflict with the explicit text. The argument has been made that the Second Amendment was adopted to protect slavery. But the defect was not in recognizing the rights of white Americans, but was in not recognizing the rights of black Americans. The impetus for recognition of the right to bear arms came from the Northern states, which had abolished or were in the process of abolishing slavery.

. . . and it proceeds to run through pretty much every way in which the right has been denied to black Americans since the Founding. I have spent a good deal of time studying the history of the Second Amendment, and parts of it still shocked me.

The second brief was filed by a group of progressive public defenders who, while presumably not personally thrilled by the scope of the Second Amendment, are nevertheless alarmed by what they describe as “the real-life consequences of New York’s firearm licensing requirements on ordinary people.” “Our clients’ conduct,” the group writes, “would not be a crime in states that already properly recognize the Second Amendment.” As it is, New York’s regime has led to “devastation”:

The consequences for our clients are brutal. New York police have stopped, questioned, and frisked our clients on the streets. They have invaded our clients’ homes with guns drawn, terrifying them, their families, and their children. They have forcibly removed our clients from their homes and communities and abandoned them in dirty and violent jails and prisons for days, weeks, months, and years. They have deprived our clients of their jobs, children, livelihoods, and ability to live in this country. And they have branded our clients as “criminals” and “violent felons” for life. They have done all of this only because our clients exercised a constitutional right.

It speaks volumes that, at the same time as these two groups were working on these briefs, the American Civil Liberties Union was busy lending its brand to what is little more than a cynical propaganda exercise. The ultimate aim of frauds such as Carol Anderson is to discredit and weaken a key part of the Bill of Rights. Once upon a time, the ACLU stood against that sort of thing. Today, that role falls to other people. Americans who hope to preserve their civil liberties should take that into account.

Elections

Unions Spent At Least $1.8 Billion in the 2020 Election Cycle

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( Joaquin Corbalan/GettyImages)

A new report is out today summarizing the political activities of unions in the 2020 election cycle. It says unions spent $1.8 billion, and that is actually an underestimate.

The report is from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR), the research arm of the National Right to Work Committee. It breaks union spending into three categories: spending by union political action committees (PACs), spending by public-sector unions on state and local politics, and spending from union general treasuries. The first of those, PAC expenditures, is often the number reported as total union spending in the media, according to the report. That totaled to only $57 million in 2020, leading one to conclude that unions’ influence is relatively small in elections.

But the other two categories in the NILRR report make up most of unions’ political activities. Public-sector unions spent $287 million in state and local races, and $1.4 billion left union general treasuries for political purposes in 2020.

That $1.4 billion is huge, but the NILRR argues it is actually an underestimate. Unions are required to report expenditures from their general treasuries to the Department of Labor every year. Expenditures are broken down into different categories. The NILRR got the $1.4 billion number by summing the expenditures in the “political activities and lobbying” category. But there’s no cut-and-dry definition of political spending, and plenty of political expenditures show up in other categories.

Two other categories of spending are “representational activities” and “contributions, gifts, and grants.” The NILRR combed through those categories and found many examples of political spending in them. For example, they found that the National Education Association (NEA) gave money to the Strategic Victory Fund, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, the Progressive Caucus Action Fund, and the Progressive State Leaders Committee — all left-wing political groups — and reported it in the “contributions, gifts, and grants” category. The NEA considers that spending to be on “social welfare organizations” and separate from political spending, even though those groups all push a political agenda.

The NILRR report excluded some spending to avoid double-counting and only counted spending from public disclosures in explicitly political categories, so it’s safe to say the $1.8 billion is an underestimate of unions’ actual political spending last year. Unions may be playing a smaller role in most Americans’ lives, but they still play a large role in funding political activities, most of it to the benefit of progressives.

Economics

Ocasio-Cortez Misunderstands Inflation

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) speaks during a news conference in Queens, N.Y., April 12, 2021. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The socialist congresswoman said last week that if we had “an overall inflationary issue, we would see prices going up in relatively equal amounts across the board no matter what the good is.” She notes that we have instead seen “very sector specific” price increases, “which means that these are due to supply chain issues.”

This is wrong. Uneven price increases are consistent with overall inflation both theoretically and as a matter of historical fact (as in the 1970s). On the most charitable interpretation of Ocasio-Cortez’s remark that I have been able to make, she seems to have in mind the reasonable idea that an excessively loose monetary policy will eventually cause prices to rise in roughly equal proportions. But she also seems to be assuming, falsely, that we can’t have that kind of inflation at the same time that we have supply-chain weaknesses that cause some specific prices to rise especially fast.

The extent to which each of these phenomena is happening is something economists are currently debating. It would certainly be easier to resolve the debate if the presence of one of them implied the absence of the other. The world does not arrange itself so neatly.

Education

After Seven Months, 40 Percent of New York City Educators Aren’t Vaccinated

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Students wait in line for a temperature check before their first day of in person school at I.S. 318, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Brooklyn, N.Y., October 1, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

The middle section of today’s Morning Jolt makes the inconvenient point that despite the media’s preferred narrative, a significant portion of the remaining unvaccinated are not Trump-voting, MAGA-cap-wearing Republicans but Democrats, independents, or apolitical types.

I could not have found a more powerful illustrative set of statistics than the jaw-dropping percentages of New York City employees who are not vaccinated:

Some of the city’s largest agencies have lower vaccination rates than the general public. Of NYPD’s 54,000 uniformed and civilian workforce, only 43% are vaccinated, the New York Post reported last week, also finding that the FDNY has a 55% vaccination rate. Roughly 42% of city Department of Correction workers are vaccinated, the agency told THE CITY, based on information it has about those who were vaccinated in the five boroughs.

Both the city’s 135,000 public school employees and 42,000 public hospital workers have a 60% vaccination rate. An MTA spokesperson estimated 65% to 70% of the transit agency’s 65,000 employees have received the vaccine.

Maybe a decent number of NYPD and FDNY personnel voted for Trump. But it’s hard to believe there are many Republicans, registered or self-identified, among the ranks of the workforces of the MTA, city hospitals, or the city’s public schools.

And that last one is a strong argument for metaphorically burning teachers’ unions to the ground and salting the earth where they once stood. For the past eighteen months, teachers’ unions across the country and in New York City insisted that school buildings could not be reopened because the threat of COVID-19 infection to teachers, administrators, and other staff was just too high.

In New York state, teachers became eligible for vaccination back on January 11! And almost eight months later, 40 percent of city Department of Education employees remain unvaccinated? Clearly these educators were not all that worried about catching COVID-19. Apparently the fear of the coronavirus was just powerful enough to make returning to the classrooms unthinkable, but not quite so powerful enough to get them to get off their butts and go get vaccinated.

If the mainstream media wants to shame some people for not getting vaccinated, they don’t have to look through the social media posts of members of the Hillsong church.

If they live in New York City, there’s a good chance that the nearest public school teacher isn’t vaccinated.

Immigration

Immigration Policy, Ensuring the Worst of Both Worlds

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Central American children walk in line with their parents after being dropped off by the Border Patrol at the bus station in Brownsville, Texas, March 15, 2021. (Veronica G. Cardenas/Reuters)

Why is the U.S. government spending considerable and not-yet-publicly-released sums to ship migrants, whose vaccination status cannot be verified, to various corners of the U.S., while at the same time, not allowing vaccinated foreign citizens to enter the U.S.?

If you’re worried about COVID-19 and the Delta variant, the reverse policy would make the most sense — allow people in who are verifiably vaccinated by a country whose government we trust, while barring those who are unvaccinated or who cannot prove their vaccination status.

Right now, European tourists who want to visit the U.S. would have better luck flying to northern Mexico and attempting to sneak in.

Education

It Isn’t Just Conservative Parents Opposing Critical Race Theory in Schools

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Opponents of Critical Race Theory attend a packed Loudoun County School board meeting in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

A long report from Politico out this morning reveals that the ongoing discontent over critical race theory in public schools isn’t confined to conservative or right-leaning parents. In reality, parents across the political spectrum have a host of complaints about what’s going on in public schools these days, including the recent push for including CRT’s controversial tenets and arguments in public-school curricula.

Here are a few key details from the piece:

On the national level, Democrats have insisted that the brush fires over critical race theory — which has become a political punching bag even for unrelated equity initiatives — are largely the work of right-wing activists who willfully misrepresent what it means, and they blame Fox News for fanning parents’ anger.

“That’s another right-wing conspiracy. This is totally made up by Donald Trump and [Republican candidate for governor] Glenn Youngkin,” Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said in June.

“I don’t think we would think that educating the youth and next and future leaders of the country on systemic racism is indoctrination,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in May.

But those Democrats appear to be underestimating parents’ anger in places where critical race theory is top of mind. Objections to new equity plans are not the sole province of conservatives but extend to many moderate and independent voters, according to POLITICO interviews with school board members, political operatives and activists in Democratic and left-leaning communities including the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; New York’s Westchester County; Maricopa County covering Phoenix, Ariz.; and suburban Detroit.

These regions are hardly hotbeds of conservatism, yet what Politico discovered talking to experts and parents in these areas disrupts the hardened left-wing narrative about who exactly is getting so upset over CRT — and what exactly upsets them so much about it.

One parent who lives outside Detroit told Politico she first began learning about CRT because her daughter had begun to argue that the police should be defunded and that the looting during Black Lives Matter protests was justified. She mother said she has voted Democrat but can’t continue doing so “in good faith” and called her daughter’s views radical. Along with other parents, she started a group to confront the local school board about CRT in schools.

Over in Loudoun County, Virginia, where I grew up, six members of the local school board are facing recall elections — and all of them are backed by the local Democratic Party. If CRT continues to be a major issue in the area, it could threaten the last few years of success that left-wing candidates have had in Loudoun, which has historically been a swing district.

In addition to complaints about curricula becoming too progressive, parents in the suburban areas Politico studied complained about drawn-out school closures and school boards that focus too closely on diversity. Another interesting anecdote from the piece:

Bion Bartning, a self-described independent and co-founder of Eos lip balm, became involved in the debate over critical race theory after his daughters’ private New York City elementary school began implementing changes that included telling students in a video to “check each other’s words and actions” for bias.

“That’s the opposite of what you want to tell a 5-year-old,” Bartning, who is of mixed race, said in an interview. “I grew up with very liberal values, and believing in the goal where we judge each other by our character and not by the color of our skin.”

According to Politico, parents are especially upset that their various complaints are being dismissed as just being “anti-CRT,” or, worse yet, that their opposition to CRT is being written off as merely not wanting students to learn about racism. As most good reporting has found since this controversy first arose, hardly anyone on the left or right is complaining about CRT because they’d prefer students not to learn about slavery, racism, or the history of racial conflict in the U.S.

And as this report shows, left-wing proponents of CRT will have to grapple with the fact that it isn’t just conservatives who have a problem with their program.

Education

Alumni at This College Are Fed Up with Its Leftist Administration

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The Declaration of Independence had it right — people are inclined to suffer evils while they are sufferable, but eventually they can’t stand it any longer and rise up.

American college and university alums have suffered for a long time, mostly watching in quiet resignation as the institutions where they once studied and matured have been turned into platforms for leftist advocacy. At a few schools, however, the alumni are beginning to fight back and, as Jay Schalin informs us in today’s Martin Center article, one of them is Davidson College.

One issue is the administration’s abandonment of Davidson’s roots as a Christian (specifically, Presbyterian) institution. In a high-handed manner, it decided to drop the written requirements that the president needed to be a practicing Christian and most of the board be composed of Christians. When an alumni group sought to notify as many Davidson alums as possible about this break with tradition, the administration put up a fuss because, supposed, the alumni directory wasn’t to be used for mass email purposes.

It’s enough to make you think that Davidson’s ruling elite doesn’t want communications that challenge it.

Also, on the topic of communications, another alumni group, Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse (DFTD) wants the college to adhere to the Chicago Principles. One member of DFTD wrote,  “I have spoken with and met with the administration many times over the years, including with Carol [Quillen] . . . and believe that no change of direction is even possible with the current administration. Not only is my voice not heard but is [deemed] unworthy of consideration. Our money is, somehow, acceptable, but our values and beliefs are not.”

Schalin concludes with some good news: “Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse seems to be organizing for the long haul in the struggle for free expression and ideological balance at the college. And the recent emergence of two dissident groups at Davidson — one of them a powerful group of former trustees — coincides with what is going on at other colleges and universities across the country: resistance to free speech infringements and far-left political and ideological agenda is gaining traction. Such developments have occurred at Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and at Washington and Lee University”

Maybe we’ve reached a 1776 moment.

Elections

AP Report: Herschel Walker Allegedly ‘Threatened His Ex-Wife’s Life’ on Multiple Occasions

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The Associated Press has a deeply disturbing report on Herschel Walker, the former NFL star who has Donald Trump’s backing in the 2022 Georgia Senate race:

[I]n December 2005, Cindy Grossman, Walker’s ex-wife, secured a protective order against him, alleging violent and controlling behavior.

Grossman has said she was long a victim of Walker’s impulses. When his book was released, she told ABC News that at one point during their marriage, her husband pointed a pistol at her head and said, “I’m going to blow your f’ing brains out.” She filed for divorce in 2001, citing “physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior.”

In seeking protection from a judge in Dallas County, Grossman filed an affidavit from her sister, which described Walker as unwilling to accept that his former wife had begun dating another man.

Grossman told the court she got calls during that period from her sister and father, both of whom had been contacted by Walker. He told family members that he would kill her and her new boyfriend, according to Maria Tsettos, Cindy Grossman’s sister.

‘In an affidavit, Tsettos claimed Walker once called looking for his ex-wife while she was out with her boyfriend. Tsettos took the call and said Walker became “very threatening” when told of Grossman’s whereabouts. In Tsettos’ recollection, Walker “stated unequivocally that he was going to shoot my sister Cindy and her boyfriend in the head.”

On another occasion, Tsettos said she talked to Walker “at length” after he’d reached out to her online. He “expressed to me that he was frustrated with (Cindy) and that he felt like he had ‘had enough’ and that he wanted to ‘blow their f—— heads off,’” she recalled of the Dec. 9, 2005, exchange.

Two days later he called again and told Tsettos that he possessed a gun and planned that day to act on his threats, which he repeated in graphic language, she said.

Law & the Courts

The Bogus Kavanaugh Tip-Line Story: ‘Every Whack-Job in the World Called In to That Thing’

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On Thursday, the New York Times published a report that the FBI received 4,500 tips during the supplemental background investigation of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and sent the most “relevant” tips to the Office of White House Counsel (which had requested the follow-up investigation).

“The letter left uncertain whether the FBI itself followed up on the most compelling leads,” the Times reported. But the Times failed to report that summaries of all 4,500 tips were available for review by all 100 U.S. senators:

Mike Davis, who served as chief counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Kavanaugh hearings, tells National Review that there was a summary of all 4,500 tips in the FBI’s report, which was available to all 100 U.S. senators.

“They printed out the entire tip-line summary,” says Davis. “Every senator had full access to read those things if they wanted to.”

Davis makes a crucial point about Senate Democrats now expressing outrage: “If there was anything that caught their attention, they could have flagged it for further investigation.”

“Every whack-job in the world called in to that thing. That’s why there were 4,500 [tips],” says Davis. “Grassley’s team went through the entire tip-line. It was nonsense.” Davis worked under then-chairman Chuck Grassley on the committee and now runs the Article 3 Project, a conservative group that focuses on the judiciary.

A Republican senator who reviewed the FBI’s report confirms Davis’s description of the tip-line summary. “There was nothing in there . . . nothing anywhere providing a shred of corroboration” of an existing allegation or a new allegation, the senator tells National Review.

“It’s very clear what happened to the tips,” a former senior White House official told National Review’s Jack Crowe. “Everyone knows what happened. I don’t know why the Times is pretending they don’t. Everything we got, we gave to the Senate. There’s no secret file.”

As I noted in my piece, there was a bipartisan agreement that the supplemental one-week background investigation was supposed to be limited to “current” and “credible” allegations, and there’s good reason to believe there were no new credible allegations of wrongdoing. The press has had three years to investigate any new tips that Democratic senators may have found credible, but they’ve come up empty

The interviews conducted by the FBI during the supplemental background investigation in 2018 actually cast serious doubt on the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford:

Christine Blasey Ford claimed that her best friend from high school, Leland Keyser, was with her at the small gathering where Blasey Ford was allegedly assaulted by Kavanaugh. Keyser publicly said she didn’t recall the party or ever meeting Kavanaugh. But in speaking to the FBI during the supplemental investigation, she went a step further, casting serious doubt on Blasey Ford’s story.

“I don’t have any confidence in [Blasey Ford’s] story,” Keyser said to Kelly and Pogrebin, who interviewed her for their book. The details of the allegation “just didn’t make any sense,” Keyser said.

Culture

Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Olympic Abortion Pressure, Christian Refugees in Lebanon, Lebanon & More

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1. Olympians are speaking out about abortion pressure:

 “I literally don’t know another female track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion,” Richards-Ross told Sports Illustrated Now. “And that’s sad.” She attributed the situation to misinformation circulating among peers on college campuses that pregnancy is impossible for women athletes who have lost their menstrual cycles due to extreme exercise.

Richards-Ross’s description of her thought process, that she had “no choice at all” and risked losing a lifetime of work if she continued her pregnancy, speaks to a culture around sports that encourages athletes to sacrifice and do “whatever it takes” to perform at the highest level. Indeed, her baby’s father, star NFL cornerback Aaron Ross, who is now her husband, couldn’t be with her when she visited the abortion clinic that day. “Nothing interrupted [Coach] Tom Coughlin’s [training] schedule for the Super Bowl champions. Nothing,” she wrote in her book.

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5. Mindy Belz: A decade of destruction

Try telling Syrian mothers giving birth that the civil war there isn’t newsworthy. For some observers, the 10-year conflict has fallen off the radar. But at a hospital in the city of Afrin, those who weren’t killed after rocket fire destroyed a labor-and-delivery unit struggle to survive.

4. Nigerian seminarian calls for ‘prayer backed up with action’ to counter violence

5. Christian refugees in Lebanon live in abandoned mall amid economic crisis

In an abandoned mall on the outskirts of Beirut, an image of St. Thérèse of Lisieux hangs in the window of what was once a storefront. This former clothing store now serves as home for Christian refugees who have been hit hard by the inflation caused by Lebanon’s severe economic depression.

 

Continue reading “Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Olympic Abortion Pressure, Christian Refugees in Lebanon, Lebanon & More”

Energy & Environment

We’re Paying the Price for Refusing Controlled Burns

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Power lines framed by flames as the Dixie Fire grows in Plumas National Forest, Calif., July 15, 2021. (David Swanson/Reuters)

Terribly large and destructive wildfires in the West are now a summer ritual — and with it, the insistence that the fires are further evidence of climate change.

But the fires are also a consequence of bad forest management policies – specifically, the longtime erroneous belief that humans should never clear out flammable underbrush and other potential fire fuel, and that controlled burns are destructive and always inherently bad.

Thankfully, the longstanding conventional wisdom is rapidly eroding. Oregon’s Democratic governor Kate Brown said on Jake Tapper’s program yesterday, “it’s incredibly important, with climate change, that we get into these forests and start doing the thinning and harvest and prescriptive burning, so that we can create healthier landscapes, landscapes that are more resilient to wildfire.”

Some left-of-center publications that focus more specifically on environmental issues emphasize that deliberate policy choices in forest management can mitigate the effects of fires.

“We have overwhelming evidence that when we treat forests by removing fuels, it generally — not always, you can never say always, but generally — moderates fire behavior,” said Maureen Kennedy, a professor who studies forest fires at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

…Forest treatments like this work by spacing out fuel, Kennedy said. When there is a continuous ladder of branches and small trees from the ground to the canopy, it allows fire to rise up into the treetops. And when trees are close together, fires move from one to the next, growing hotter and hotter. Trees that are farther apart, however,  encourage fires to fall to the ground. It makes sense, intuitively, but it’s still surprising when a wall of flame settles down and begins creeping across the forest floor, Kennedy said.

“No matter how many times I study it, no matter how much sense it makes in theory, it’s still amazing,” she said. “When you look at photographs from the Wallow Fire, that landscape was nuked, it was burning so hot that there were only blackened sticks that used to be trees left behind. Then, as you move into the treatment area the trees are brown, and then further in, they are green.”

The financial cost of controlled burns is actually surprisingly inexpensive; “in the southeastern U.S., where prescribed fire is a common management practice, the average cost is about $32 per acre.” One estimate of the 2018 California wildfires put the economic cost at more than $148 billion.

But finding a potential solution and implementing it are two different tasks. It’s difficult to treat every corner of a forest that is at risk of a fire. And unfortunately, almost all of the legal and political incentives are for local, state, and national officials to not perform any controlled burns. In other words, one of the reasons our forests in the West are so flammable and full of kindling is that the people who claim to love those forests the most won’t allow measures to prevent the worst-case forest-fire scenarios.

There is little to no sign that global carbon emissions will decrease anytime soon. We are going to have to learn to adapt to a more carbon-heavy atmosphere.

Cities at risk of flooding would find investments in flood mitigation a much more cost-effective approach than wild-eyed dreams of decarbonization or banning the internal-combustion engine. But those approaches are practical, not idealistic – and thus, they get much less attention.