Culture

My Dear Wormwood, on the Matter of ‘Social Justice’

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People hold signs at a protest in Chicago, Ill., July 24, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

I was unsurprised to learn of the patient’s struggles in comprehending the precise meaning of “social justice.” The difficulty proceeds from his default to reason, presuming that the term is meant to have a commonly held meaning.

Kindly instruct the patient that social justice is a remarkably flexible tool for the acquisition of power, assertion of moral superiority, and enforcement of ideological conformity. It means whatever he wants it to mean; but in any case, it is always good and right. Thus, it renders him the sovereign arbiter of what is “good” and “just,” an irresistible flattery that suggests that no one — from Aristotle to Aquinas to the Founders — had properly considered the correct brand of justice. Accordingly, the patient will rationalize repudiating these figures as well as eternal verities in furtherance of his newly minted principles of enlightenment.

Cultivate in the patient an image of himself as a savior of the oppressed. He will quickly comprehend that most individuals and institutions will yield to nearly anything in the pursuit of “social justice,” for only the most deplorable would oppose justice. This will incline him to deploy the term promiscuously. Do not restrain him, for the term is most effective when used confidently, even arrogantly, before the public can discern that it is a Trojan horse designed to promote, through shame and coercion, false and absurd propositions that otherwise could not gain purchase. After all, few have the confidence or temerity to question, let alone oppose, “justice,” even if they do not know precisely what such “justice” is!

Be assured that, in the end, the patient will be convinced, as were all of our most celebrated patients throughout history, that anything is permissible in pursuit of justice — even tyranny. Broken eggs, omelets, and all that.

In my next letter, dear nephew, I shall address use of the delightfully insidious term “implicit bias.”

(Apologies to Mr. Lewis.)

Monetary Policy

Jeet Heer’s Fed Jeer

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As Congress debates the next coronavirus-relief package, Senate Republicans have emerged as a voice for fiscal restraint, while Democrats call for an extension of enhanced-unemployment benefits and for $1 trillion in assistance to states and localities. It’s a puzzling political choice on the part of the GOP, since a more generous bill would likely bolster the president’s reelection prospects.

Could it be that Senate Republicans are acting on … principle? “No!” says Nation columnist Jeet Heer. Heer peered into the Republican mind and figured out why the GOP isn’t pushing a more generous spending package: Republicans care only about Wall Street, and Wall Street is already taken care of.

Because the Fed has lent more than $7 trillion to businesses, “no strings attached,” corporate America has survived the crisis, and Republicans are no longer worried, says Heer.

One minor inconvenience: The Fed’s entire balance sheet is worth $7 trillion. The vast majority of those holdings are in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed has thus far lent $12.2 billion to corporations. Payments to households, on the other hand, have totaled $600 billion.

Look, it’s an honest mistake. Heer only overstated the Fed’s corporate lending by 570,000 percent. Not to worry — the inaccuracy has been removed from the column, with a note stating that the article “has been updated.”

Politics & Policy

IG Report Shows State Governments Sitting on CARES Funds

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New Jersey governor Phil Murphy arrives to speak at a news conference in Trenton, N.J., September 12, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

States and local governments always complain about needing more funds from the federal government. Congress has already provided a substantial amount of debt-financed state and local aid as part of the CARES Act and other relief: $150 billion for a Coronavirus Relief Fund, $30 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, $25 billion for public-transit systems, an increase in the federal government’s share of Medicaid spending, and billions more for a slew of programs, including the Community Development Block Grant Program and the Economic Development Administration. The Federal Reserve has also set up a $500 billion program to facilitate short-term state and local borrowing needs.

States and local governments now want an additional $500 billion federal bailout. The speaker of the House wants to give them $1 trillion. My colleague Tad DeHaven and I have written about why we should not bail out the states. David Henderson at Hoover has written about it too, as have others. I recently wrote a column about it here. But there is another argument against bailing out state and local governments. And it won’t come as a surprise to those of us who have studied relief to state and local governments during the last recession.

The Department of the Treasury Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report that looks at how much the state and local governments have spent of their CARES Act funds as of June 30. It is much less than you think. Some states have spent virtually none of the money allocated by the California, such as South Carolina, which hadn’t yet touched its $2 billion in relief. The most a state has spent is California, which had spent 74.5 percent of the $15 billion allocated up to that point.

Writing about the report, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee noted the following:

In Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer has demanded more federal funding this week, only 3 percent of the more than $3 billion the state received has been spent thus far.

And in New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy has levied complaints against the new Senate Republican proposal, the Treasury Department reports that only 2.1 percent of the funds they received have been spent.

It seems some states are sitting on their funds while asking for more. Back in May, a report from the National League of Cities showed that the states themselves weren’t great at sending the money to local government either. And finally, based on the information I received during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, states often aren’t very forthcoming with Congress when asked about how much money they have left and what the have done with the funds.

These are all good reasons not to bail out state and local governments.

UPDATE: It occurred to me that states may look at this report and argue that they need more flexibility to be able to use federal funds to address their revenue shortfalls. As it is right now, they have to use the money on COVID-related expenditures. If those expenditures are lower than the funds allocated, then all they can do is sit on the federal funds.

I think this is a ludicrous argument. It is one thing for state and local governments to ask the federal government for help for expenditures they couldn’t foresee, such as COVID-related expenditures. But they shouldn’t be asking federal taxpayers for money to pay for their routine state and local expenditures, especially when they have failed to plan appropriately for a fall in these revenues. After all, emergencies happen on a regular basis and governments should prepare for them. As such, these governments should turn to their states’ taxpayers for non-COVID expenditures if they don’t want to cut spending.

Education

Maryland Governor Reverses Order Shutting All Private Schools in State’s Largest County

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Maryland governor Larry Hogan speaks at the National Governors Association summer meeting in Providence, R.I., in 2017. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

On Friday night, a local health official in Montgomery County, Md., issued an order prohibiting all private schools from offering in-person instruction until at least October 1. The mandate in Maryland’s largest county, home to one million residents, sparked a strong backlash over the weekend from parents and others concerned privately funded schools would permanently shutter because of the order.

On Saturday, Maryland GOP governor Larry Hogan criticized the local official’s decision, and on Monday Hogan issued an emergency order prohibiting local officials from shutting down all schools.

Hogan said in statement: 

Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.

To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.

Under an order issued April 5, local health departments continue to have the authority to close any individual facility deemed to be unsafe,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

National Review

Unfooled by China for 65 Years — Just One Reason to Back Our Webathon Effort

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Chinese servicemen walk past portraits of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as they patrol a street near the Great Hall of the People on the opening day of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, China, May 22, 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

We are taking on all comers at NR. Not just the presidential contenders hiding in basements, or the thugs rioting in our cities, or the unalloyed leftist ideologues fulminating in our newsrooms. We’ve got a special thing for the ChiComs, to use a term that should never have gone out of style (and hasn’t in these precincts). They are the foes in what is surely too a fight (the fight?) for our civilization, and for the future of this nation as Freedom’s beacon to the world.

This is why we fight. This is why we need your help. And that is why we have launched our Summer webathon. It seeks vital material help, to the tune of $250,000, which is by no means even close to how much real assistance we require. But $250,000 it is, and there are now two weeks remaining in this drive towards it. The facts may seem grubby to some, but this is a real effort, with real-time info, which we feel obliged to share: As of Monday morning here in NYC, we have registered donations from 1,193 selfless people, tallying $107,417.00. That means we are 43 percent of the way towards our objective. There is a long 57 per cent to go.

Back to China. Red China. When Bill Buckley forced himself into the media pool traveling with Richard Nixon on his historic 1972 journey to meet with mass-murder Mao, he filed a report (his March 17, 1972 NR essay, “Vini, Vidi, Victus”) that unloaded both barrels:

We have lost — irretrievably — any remaining sense of moral mission in the world. Mr. Nixon’s appetite for a summit conference in Peking transformed the affair from a meeting of diplomatic technicians concerned to examine and illuminate areas of common interest, into a pageant of moral togetherness at which Mr. Nixon managed to give the impression that he was consorting with Marian Anderson, Billy Graham and Albert Schweitzer. Once he decided to come here himself, it was very nearly inevitable that this should have happened. Granted, if it had been Theodore Roosevelt, the distinctions might have been preserved. But Mr. Nixon is so much the moral enthusiast that he alchemizes the requirements of diplomacy into the coin of ethics; that is why when he toasted the bloodiest, most merciless chief of state in the world, he did so in accents most of us would reserve for Florence Nightingale.

We’ll get this article to you in full in the next couple of days. Anyway . . . the utter foulness of Mao and Chinese Communism had been on NR’s lips since our very first issue in 1955. Closing out the premier appearance of The Week was an editorial on Alger Hiss defending Yalta in The Pocket Book Magazine. We wrote of that journal’s editor:

“Dear Mr. Watts: Why did you ask a Communist for his views on Yalta in the first place? But having done so, why did you fail to call attention to the fact that he is a convicted liar? What have you got for your next issue — “How Chiang Benefited from the Marshall Mission,” by Mao Tse-tung?

Thus ended the editorial. But what has never ended is our utter determination to keep Red China — and all its threats and intentions for global dominance, its penchant for mass murder and brutality, its aiding-and-abetting media and corporate lackeys — front and center as a cause, as a thing our readers must know about, as an economic powerhouse which simply has no intention of “liberalizing.” Visit NRO any day and you are sure to find exceptional analyses on these matters by the likes of Jimmy Quinn and Therese Shaheen and Christ O’Dea and Michael Auslin and Jianli Yang and so many more experts. They are working diligently, whether they know it or not, alongside Bill Buckley, standing athwart history — athwart the possibility of a China-dominated future — yelling Stop.

That’s the kind of journalism we need a lot more of, and it’s the kind of expertise your support makes possible. So NR’s Red China coverage is a big reason many (God bless them one and all) are responding to our Webathon appeal. But various folks have various motivations, some expressed along with donations. We share some of such here:

  • Dan spots us 200 smackers and offers a little literary criticism: “I first read your print magazine when I was 10 in 1984, and today we seem closer to 1984 than at any time in my life. Keep up the great work to defend reason, diversity of opinion, and conservative principles!” George had them nailed. This means the world to us — thanks very much.
  • Michael sends NR $100 and shakes his head: “When a face of the Dems says a statue of Father Damien is a symbol of ‘white supremacy,’ you know they’ve become unhinged. Time to cancel the Dems.” The party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left, but then you knew that Michael. Many thanks.
  • Patricia allots $50 to the cause and we compare notes: “Thank you, please continue to speak out so we can stamp out sparks of socialism, false history facts, and blatant attacks on the Constitution and the Founders of this great nation.” We’re stamping as fast as possible, thanks to good friends such as you.
  • Craig sends $200 and sizes up what he’s just done: “A drop in the bucket but at least it is more than a gesture.” Pretty big drop if you ask us. Thanks much Craig.
  • Carol donates 20 bucks and a strategic plan: “It’s time to take a stand. Being a senior citizen with hearing problems, my small contribution is the only way I can do it. I hope you receive many, many small contributions from citizens just like me.” Your lips to God’s ears! And Carol, you may have a hearing problem, but you most definitely don’t have a kindness problem.
  • Alexander sends a staggering $2,500 and a short pep-talk: “Keep up the good fight!” Keeping! God bless. And holy mackerel too!

We have 13 days left to find another — let’s call it 2,000 — contingent of generous friends to come to NR’s aid. A fact: We fight those fights that need to be fought. Another fact: You need us to be in the thick of it, to hold the line, and then to begin the operation of pressing back the enemies of liberty. There’s no gift too small, no gift too big — your personal circumstances and means are known to you, and we have no moral claim on even your loose change. But that doesn’t mean we cannot appeal to your sense of reality, to your hunger for the kind of intelligence and sanity NR uniquely provides. And now that all heck has broken loose, to your desire to support at least one institution not afraid to say, We have brought a gun to a knife fight. We are fighting. You help us to stay in the fight through your generous donation, of $10, or $20 or $50 or $100 — can you do that? Has the Almighty looked kindly upon you so that $250 or $500 or $1,000 or more is possible? If that is the case, will you please donate? It would mean so much to us, true, but truth is, it would also mean so much to you. Donate here. To show your support by check, if such is your preference, make it payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. In advance of your generosity, thanks for your support.

Politics & Policy

Our Unexpectedly Abbreviated Campaign Season

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If Joe Biden announces his running mate in the second week of August, as the Washington Post is reporting, he will be a bit on the later side, considering recent history.

  • Donald Trump announced the selection of Mike Pence on July 15, 2016.
  • Hillary Clinton announced the selection of Tim Kaine July 22, 2016.
  • Mitt Romney announced the selection of Paul Ryan August 11, 2012.
  • Barack Obama announced the selection of Joe Biden August 23, 2008.
  • John McCain announced the selection of Sarah Palin on August 29, 2008.
  • John Kerry announced the selection of John Edwards on July 6, 2004.
  • George W. Bush announced the selection of Dick Cheney on July 26, 2000.
  • Al Gore announced the selection of Joe Lieberman on August 7, 2000.
  • Bob Dole announced the selection of Jack Kemp on August 10, 1996.
  • Bill Clinton announced the selection of Al Gore on July 10, 1992.

If a nominee sees his running mate as a key asset — enabling twice as many appearances in twice as many states — then it makes sense to make the pick as early as possible. If a nominee sees his running mate as a potential liability — twice as many potential gaffes or off-message incidents on the trail, twice as many past political stances, votes, or scandals to explain away — then it makes sense to hold off until the last possible moment. (The closer the announcement is to the convention, the more it fuels interest in the vice-presidential nominee’s speech at the convention. The Democrats will be having a “virtual convention” in Milwaukee August 17 to 20.)

If Biden announces his selection sometime between August 10 and 14, his running mate will probably only campaign for a month or five weeks before ballots start getting cast in the 2020 election, as some states permit early voting to start as early as September 18. The early start for voting is prompting presidential-debate organizers to ask whether the first debate is being held too late. The first presidential debate is scheduled for September 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

This assumes the debates occur. Today in the New York Times, Elizabeth Drew calls for the presidential debates to be canceled — not for health reasons, but because “they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president.” (Many Trump fans will interpret the Times choosing to run this op-ed as an indication that fans of Joe Biden fear he will do badly in a debate against the president.)

Film & TV

Million-Dollar Guy

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Regis Philbin waves goodbye during the final episode of Live with Regis and Kelly in 2011. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

I’ll get to Regis Philbin in a minute. On the homepage today, I don’t have an Impromptus column, but I do have a piece: “America in the World: On the burden of it all.” I poured a number of thoughts into this piece, for readers’ consideration. Let me quote the final paragraph:

In a tradition of many decades now, foreigners and Americans alike have complained about the U.S. role in the world (not always unjustly, far from it). I often quote something John Bolton once said, about the foreigners: “They’ll miss us when we’re gone.” I’m afraid that we might miss us, too, when we’re gone — if we’re gone.

Care for some music? Here’s a post on an extraordinary soprano, Latonia Moore, of Texas. She did some singing — “remotely” — last week, and some (impassioned) talking, too.

Okay, now Regis. The final item in my Impromptus last Friday went,

As you may have seen, Regis Philbin, the television host, has died at 88. For the New York Times’s obituary, go here. He worked in my neighborhood, and had a home in it too. I would see him on the street from time to time. He always seemed happy and friendly: the kind of happy person who wants everyone else to be happy too.

When I said this on Twitter, someone replied, “Yeah, anyone would be happy and friendly with all that money and success.” No. A look around at life will dispel that notion.

Anyway, I wish I’d known Regis. Of course, we all did, in a way, because we saw him on television for decades. . . .

I got a note from Don Gould, a veteran newsman and sportscaster. He wrote,

. . . you judged him correctly. He and I were friendly, starting in 1983 when we passed each other in the hallway leading to Studio 8-H at NBC. It was the 50th anniversary of the Rockefeller Center page program. As I was going back downstairs to prepare for the 11 o’clock news, I said, “Regis Philbin.” He said, “Don Gould.” I was surprised and pleased he recognized me. He was always kind and supportive — had me on his show twice and treated everyone the same way.

And here’s a note from my old friend and correspondent Dave Taggart:

In 2000 my wife was on Who Wants to Meet a Millionaire? and we got to meet Regis. Upbeat and happy covers it. He was on stage and mic’ed up for over two hours for the taping — all live and unscripted — and he was “on” the whole time. Funny, too.

Marvelous. Have a good one, everyone.

U.S.

D.C. Police Arrest Pro-Life Activists for Writing on Public Sidewalk

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(Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Early on Saturday morning, D.C. police arrested two pro-life demonstrators who were in the process of chalking the message “Black preborn lives matter” on the public sidewalk in front of a D.C. Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.

The two individuals — Warner DePriest, a Students for Life of America employee and frequent sidewalk counselor outside the clinic, and Erica Caporaletti, a student at Towson University — were arrested for “defacing public or private property.”

DePriest said afterward that the police did not inform either him or Caporaletti of their Miranda rights and did not charge them for about 40 minutes. They were later released with a citation.

According to a spokesperson from Students for Life of America (SFLA), which helped to organize the demonstration, the city had issued a permit allowing them to paint the message. As of Saturday evening, D.C.’s Department of Transportation, which issues such permits, had not responded to a Washington Post inquiry about whether that permit had indeed been issued.

The controversy is especially interesting in light of the protests and rioting that have taken place across the country in recent months, with no small share taking place in D.C. In June, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser herself commissioned a large painting of the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on the 16th Street NW block just outside the White House. Shortly thereafter, city officials permitted protesters to paint the slogan “Defund the police” right beside Bowser’s initial painting.

In an open letter to Bowser last month, Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA, and Dean Nelson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation (FDF), announced their intention to paint the “Black preborn lives matter” message and noted that they had applied for the appropriate permit.

“You must allow SFLA and FDF to paint its ‘Black Pre-born Lives Matter’ message,” they wrote. “Your original decision to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the street is government speech. However, your decision to allow protestors to paint ‘Defund the Police’ opened the streets up as a public forum. You are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint in making determinations relating to public assemblies in public fora.”

If the permit was indeed issued as these pro-life groups attest, the arrests were an egregious abuse of police authority. If the city didn’t issue the permit, its failure to do so was a blatant example of viewpoint discrimination. Either way, someone must be held accountable for the apparent mistreatment these pro-lifers faced — especially after city officials spent months allowing rioters to get away with defacing and destroying private property throughout D.C. in the name of social justice.

Education

College Applicants Have More to Worry about Than Ever

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There was always some anxiety for young people contemplating the beginning of college, but our current health crisis has raised the level greatly. In today’s Martin Center article, Anthony Hennen explains that they are turning more and more to counselors for supposedly expert help.

He writes, “Counselors disagree about the extent of the change and why students are more anxious. The type and causes of anxiety also differ depending on what type of college students attend. But higher education is devoting more time and money to student anxiety than in the recent past.”

College counseling has become a growth industry, one that often assists wealthy families.

Hennen quotes Jake Rosen, a college counselor located in Philadelphia:

“Living on social media has not necessarily been good for mental health,” Rosen said. The pressure and competition students feel to get into the best school weighs them down. Even when students are out of school, social pressure follows them home.

“There’s a lot more anxiety and depression and pressure and school avoidance or concerns about bullying and the effects of social media, and it’s changed a lot, even since I was a high school student,” Rosen said. “The kids who are in school now are in a different world. They do seem, in a broader sense, to be struggling with it and dealing with more mental health issues than students were, you know, when I was in high school.”

Increasing number of students report “overwhelming anxiety” about college. I suspect that’s because we have so terribly oversold the idea that their futures depend on getting into the “best school.”

Politics & Policy

Nancy Pelosi, Always Finding Ways to Make a Bad Situation Worse

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 28, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

You would like to think that everybody, Left, Right, and center, would recognize that public-health officials such as Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have a really difficult job right now.

We’re dealing with a novel coronavirus, and medical researchers are still not sure why people react so differently, how long post-recovery immunity lasts, or where it came from. There’s not yet consensus, but growing suspicion, that the virus is airborne or virtually airborne because of how light it is. The difficulty of getting people to use precautions is illuminated every time we see people wearing masks below their noses so that they can breathe more easily.

It’s easy to forget Fauci and Birx don’t set the rules. America’s quarantine policies are set by states and localities, and they vary enormously depending upon local circumstances and the assessment and mentality of state officials. South Dakota never implemented a stay-at-home order and is well along its reopening plan. In Arlington, Va., cops are now authorized to write you a $100 ticket if you go out in a group of more than three people. (Good thing that at this moment, the general public has such overwhelming faith in the good judgment of police officers!)

Fauci and Birx can only make recommendations and hope that the people they advise follow their advice. As noted last month, Fauci has made some mistakes that have undermined his wise-man image.

Birx isn’t perfect, either. In April, she contended America’s experience “was likely to resemble Italy, where virus cases declined steadily from frightening heights.” But mistaken assessments are not deliberate lies, and insisting that every wrong appraisal is a revelation of hidden malevolence eats away at needed public trust like acid.

Last week, Politico reported that Pelosi said to Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in.” Politico reported that Pelosi accused Birx of “spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.”

Yesterday on ABC News’ This Week, Pelosi doubled down:

RADDATZ: Madam Speaker, I want to ask you — we just have a couple of more minutes here — Politico reported that in a closed meeting on Friday, you accused Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force of spreading disinformation about the pandemic.

Is that true? And do you have confidence in her?

PELOSI: I — I think the president is spending — spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his — she is his appointee. So, I don’t have confidence there, no.

Instead of asking Pelosi to give examples of Birx spreading disinformation, anchor Martha Raddatz immediately shifts to the topic of election security.

I suspect Pelosi didn’t give any examples of Birx spreading disinformation because she can’t find any. Pelosi is openly proclaiming that Birx’s assessments are unreliable simply because she works for the president.

(This is the same Nancy Pelosi who toured Chinatown in San Francisco on February 24 to demonstrate the threat of catching the coronavirus was overstated, and declared, “It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not just Asian-owned now. You see in Italy where the shows — the fashion shows and all of that were done without an audience because people — they just didn’t — because people were not coming. So, again, this fear is — I think — unwarranted in light of the precautions that are being taken here in the United States.” By that date, Milan was the epicenter of cases in Europe.)

Birx and every other public-health officials have difficult enough jobs as is with this pandemic. But Nancy Pelosi will make sure the job is even tougher with vague accusations of “disinformation.”

Markets

ESG and Its Contradictions

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BlackRock CEO Larry Fink takes part in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York in 2017. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

From the New York Times:

Laurence D. Fink presents himself as the vanguard of a progressive form of capitalism in which profits are not everything: The enlightened money is supposed to press for environmental and social protection.

As the chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment management company, Mr. Fink oversees more than $7 trillion. He has steered some of that fortune to the crisis-wracked nation of Argentina, purchasing government bonds.

But as Argentina — in default since May — seeks forgiveness on $66 billion worth of bonds, Mr. Fink’s oft-espoused faith in “stakeholder capitalism” is colliding with traditional bottom line imperatives. Though poverty is soaring in Argentina as the pandemic worsens a punishing economic downturn, BlackRock is opposing a settlement proposed by the government and rallying other creditors to reject it, while holding out for a marginally improved deal. . . .

Two years ago, Mr. Fink — who has been mentioned in news reports as a potential Treasury secretary in a Biden administration — wrote an open letter to the chief executives of major corporations urging them to focus on social, labor and environmental concerns.

“To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,” he wrote.

Last year, Mr. Fink signed the Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation crafted by the Business Roundtable, an association of American chief executives. It pledged “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.”

In January, Mr. Fink wrote another letter to C.E.O.s warning that companies that fail to address climate change would be punished in the marketplace. . . .

In a statement, BlackRock said it has been working diligently to achieve a settlement, while recouping as much as possible for its clients. Roughly two-thirds of the investments it manages comprise the retirement savings of workers around the world.

“In this restructuring process, our fund managers are balancing a fiduciary obligation to make decisions in the best interest of these savers, while at the same time recognizing the difficult circumstances facing the Argentine government, including the challenges posed by Covid-19,” the statement said.

BlackRock’s statement on the Argentine situation is reasonable enough, and the company is quite right to stress the importance that it attaches to its fiduciary obligation to its clients.

At the same time, it is not hard to detect the outline of a potential conflict of interest. On the one hand, BlackRock is marketing itself as “making a positive contribution to society,” an image which is now very much part of its brand. On the other, holding out for the best financial deal with Argentina that it can for its clients could see the company attacked, fairly or unfairly, for hypocrisy, something that could damage its reputation even if this is a matter of utter indifference to those of its clients with exposure to Argentinian bonds.

International investing — and not just when it comes to Argentina — can, under certain circumstances, be tricky for those marketing the ethical approach baked into their investment process.

Here’s a report from Bloomberg from just six weeks ago:

BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said China remains one of the firm’s top regions for growth despite uncertainties brought on by trade tensions with the U.S. and the virus outbreak.

“We are here to work with China,” Fink said via video conference at the Lujiazui Forum in Shanghai on Thursday. “We firmly believe China will be one of the biggest opportunities for BlackRock.”

The world’s biggest money manager is expanding in China to tap one of the fastest-growing markets. China’s trillion dollar wealth industry opened further in April, luring investment from companies including BlackRock, Vanguard Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. While the further liberalization of the sector in China has been overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis, firms are nonetheless laying out plans for a market in which retail funds alone could reach $3.4 trillion in three years, says Deloitte LLP.

To put this in context, this concerns BlackRock looking to establish itself as an asset manager in China.

But the company also invests its clients’ money in the stock of Chinese companies.

It may be unfair, but I cannot help wondering how those companies measure up against the ESG (environmental, social, governance) criteria that are an increasing part of BlackRock’s investment process.

U.S.

Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today: Roe & SCOTUS, Adoption & More (July 31, 2020)

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1. Daniel Schwammenthal: To America, From a Worried European Friend

America can’t remain the leader of the free world if it is itself no longer free. To be the guarantor of Western security requires military and economic power, but also a sense of mission. And right now Americans are committing mass character suicide. If the country goes beyond acknowledging that racism and inequality persist and must be fought, and instead convinces itself that it’s inherently and irredeemably racist, it can’t possibly continue to believe that it has any right to lead.

2. Jordan Ballor & Eric J. Hutchinson: Forgiveness as a Political Necessity

As the political philosopher William B. Allen has noted, America itself is well understood as a “love story,” which includes “a moral commitment between the people and the government.” Forgiveness is the foundation of any true love story. Cancel culture necessarily ends either in self-immolation or in reeducation camps and gulags, creating its own kind of hellish existence—documented so powerfully by Solzhenitsyn. Forgiveness, by contrast, forges new beginnings and opens up new possibilities.

3. CNN: This single, working mom says remote learning will mean having to choose between her child or job

4. Josh Hawley: Judicial Nominees Must Explicitly Acknowledge That Roe Was Wrongly Decided

Roe is central. Roe is a window into the constitutional worldview of a would-be justice. It is a measure of their sense of what a justice should be. If you believe that Roe was rightly decided, then there just is no two ways about it: you are a judicial imperialist. If you believe Roe was rightly decided, you believe that unelected judges should have the power to enact their own social views, to promote their own social agenda, regardless of what the Constitution says or what we the people have expressed preference for, voted for, and enacted into law.

5.

https://twitter.com/tylerafagan/status/1288834725185048577?s=11

6. Arthur Brooks: ‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy

As I once found myself confessing to a close friend, “I would prefer to be special than happy.” He asked why. “Anyone can do the things it takes to be happy—going on vacation with family, relaxing with friends … but not everyone can accomplish great things.” My friend scoffed at this, but I started asking other people in my circles and found that I wasn’t unusual. Many of them had made the success addict’s choice of specialness over happiness. They (and sometimes I) would put off ordinary delights of relaxation and time with loved ones until after this project, or that promotion, when finally it would be time to rest.

But, of course, that day never seemed to arrive.

7. Chris Arnade: Our Educational Colonialism

What we have now is a top-down educational system that intellectually strip mines America and humiliates everyone. What we need is a democratic educational system that provides pathways to dignified lives for everyone. That provides Shakespeare and differential topology to those who see the beauty of each, but also provides skills to those who would rather focus on things like music, mechanics, nursing, parenting, farming, or whatever.

8. Melania Trump: ‘Be Best’ is Advocating that Every Child Find a Loving, Safe and Forever Family

9. Catholic News Agency: Congressional hearing highlights case of missing Chinese Catholic bishop

“What have you done in secret to this extraordinary man of God? And why does a powerful dictatorship fear peaceful men and women of faith and virtue?”

Bishop James Su Zhimin of the Diocese of Baoding, in China’s Hebei province, was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997. He was last seen by family at a hospital in 2003 while he was in government custody.

10. Michael Lewis: Confessions of a California Covid Nurse

Her job, as she now sees it, is to keep the door to the Public Health office open, until the American public is ready to be saved from itself. “There will come a time when their minds will be changed,” she said. “Once the reality hits them — when they see a friend of theirs die. Or someone young die. I don’t want them to feel confrontational. I want them to know I’ll be here for you. I’ll take your call even though you treated me like dirt.”

11. Nick Ripatrazone: Wander the World

Walking, as “a form of active idleness,” creates the perfect circumstances for creative thinking: “it is directed action and focused, but walking allows the mind to wander easily” – to go on an adventure within parallel to the adventure without.

12. USA Today: Georgia sheriff’s office thanks 3 inmates for saving deputy: ‘They didn’t hesitate’

13. Crux: After over four months, public Masses can resume Aug. 3 in Leicester, England

14.

15. Denver Catholic: Northern Colorado’s Chesterton Academy to offer free tuition this fall

What can you say in this instance except that God is good?” said Blaise Hockel, Headmaster of the Chesterton Academy of John Paul II. “I think that what [we] want people to know has been made evident by these anonymous donors’ gift to us: that Catholic education has been so desperately waited in northern Colorado, that we are here to stay, and we have the community’s full support… People see the inherent value of what we have to offer.”

 

 

Elections

The Identity of Biden’s Veep

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Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., June 1, 2020. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

It’s not the sort of thing that is likely to affect the outcome of the race, but I think Biden has botched the veep-selection process. The crucial mistake was announcing early that he was going to pick a woman. It was a mistake to say it even if was planning to do it.

It narrowed his options — and may have narrowed them more than he had intended. Once it was a fait accompli that his running mate would be a woman, attention naturally turned to whether she would be white or nonwhite. At this point, selecting a white woman would be a letdown rather than a (third) chance at a historic first.

It reduced the value of the selection in another way. If he selected, say, Senator Kamala Harris after giving consideration to a large field without demographic restrictions, he could have said that she was the best of all of them. If he selects her now, she’ll be the best he could do among a small list of nonwhite women.

Elections

Did Biden Open the Door to School Choice?

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Max Eden writes optimistically that Biden

appears to have proposed  — without quite realizing it — the largest expansion of federal school choice in American history. Last week, the Biden campaign promised to extend a refundable tax credit of up to $8,000 to cover child-care expenses for kids 13 and younger; families making up to $125,000 annually would be eligible. While Biden almost certainly does not intend for his proposal to underwrite a mass exodus from traditional public schools, the plan could assist parents who want to join with other families to find better educational alternatives. Given the blurry line between schooling and child care — as illustrated by school districts that remain officially “closed,” even as schools charge parents for “child care” — it’s hard to see how regulators could maintain a credible distinction.

Eden goes on to suggest that Republicans advance legislation that puts this theory to the test.

If any such credit goes to kids below school age, though, it’s important that parents who watch them at home be eligible.

Culture

‘Its Political Nature’

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J. K. Rowling in New York City, 2016 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Today is J. K. Rowling’s birthday. Until recently, the author was most famous for writing Harry Potter, the best-selling book series in history. These days, though, she is more famous for her alleged “transphobia”; i.e., her statements about the biological reality of sex and women’s-only spaces, which have sparked the ire of transgender activists and extremists.

To celebrate her birthday, a woman’s-rights campaigner, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, paid around $1,600 for an advertisement that simply read “I [heart] JK Rowling,” which was put up at the main train station in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

But as happened with Keen-Minshull’s previous billboard campaign displaying the dictionary definition of the word “woman,” the advertisement was soon taken down because of, what Network Rail described as, “its political nature”

Keen-Minshull told The Times of London: “I am astounded that they have found a way to take it down. We are in incredibly sinister times when an expression of love and solidarity is perceived to be hateful.”

Sinister times indeed. . .

Politics & Policy

In Illinois, Take the Corruption, Lose the American History

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Illinois State Representative Michael Madigan holds up a photo of Donald Trump after he was re-elected as Speaker of the House, Springfield, Ill., January 11, 2017. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Democrats have always been a party of special-interest factions without a lot in common, who work together by trading favors that each wants. This morning’s Politico Illinois Playbook perfectly captures the strange-bedfellow dynamic.

The first item is about Illinois’ notoriously corrupt House speaker, Michael Madigan, an old-timey machine pol who for decades has been the only figure who really matters in how Illinois is run. His daughter Lisa was the state’s attorney general for 16 years. Madigan is embroiled in a federal influence-peddling investigation so ugly that even a handful of Illinois Democrats have finally postured publicly in favor of him stepping down, but he’s going nowhere:

The unusual, late-night statement indicates Madigan, a master at counting votes, has the support of at least 60 House members. That’s what he would need to keep his speaker position, which comes up again in January. Before his announcement, seven Democratic lawmakers had called on the speaker to step down from his leadership roles rather than work under a cloud of suspicion. And he had spent the day calling caucus members to gauge their support. . . .

That it’s women in the caucus calling for Madigan’s exit isn’t lost on lawmakers. The sexual harassment complaints that dogged some of his aides in 2018 still haunt. Madigan fired his top lieutenants and now counts a woman as his chief of staff. But a “bullying environment” persists in Springfield, Martinez told Playbook.

Racial politics, the first refuge of the scoundrel, works in Madigan’s favor:

“He wanted to know if I was going to be calling for his resignation,” state Rep. La Shawn Ford told Playbook. “I said, ‘If you can affirm that you’re innocent and that you believe the investigation is not something that will lead to an indictment and conviction, then I’m with you.’” Others in the Black Caucus also stand by Madigan, and there’s good reason: The 22-member group is pulling together a “Black agenda,” a package of legislation being crafted after the police killing of George Floyd, much of which Madigan has endorsed. The members would likely prefer a trusted ally in the driver’s seat over a new speaker who may not help push through their agenda items.

Meanwhile, Ford is busy trying to purge the teaching of American history entirely from Illinois schools until it can be replaced with woke indoctrination:

Watch for State Rep. La Shawn Ford and Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty to announce a new initiative to end U.S. history classes in schools until alternative programming can be developed that gives a full telling of how the United States came to be. “What’s being taught is inaccurate,” Ford told Playbook, pointing to Blacks being “wrongly” depicted only as slaves during the birth of the nation and women not being portrayed much at all. The debate over history classes is a national one too. Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) set off a firestorm when he introduced legislation to bar federal funding for schools that use The New York Times’ 1619 Project. . . . Ford, Hagerty and advocates for women and Black, Latino, Asian, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups are meeting Sunday to address contributions that have been “overlooked” by history books for decades. Instead of teaching “inaccuracies,” said Ford, teachers would do better to focus on civics. This country could use it.

It is not coincidental that the 1619 Project’s educational arm has trained its fire heavily on Chicago schools, where its curriculum was introduced in the fall. Expect more agitprop and misleading narratives. This is the Democratic coalition operating as it is designed.

Elections

Karen Bass? Really?

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Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 17, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters)

I have a gut feeling that most Americans will not react enthusiastically to a vice-presidential selection that they’ve never heard of before. This is a separate question from whether someone with low name recognition would make a good vice president. I just think that if someone’s first reaction to a running mate announcement is, “Wait, who?” then that selection will have some skepticism or wariness to overcome. I think many Americans just instinctively believe that if you’re going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, they should have heard about you by now.

CNN reports that Representative Karen Bass of California, “the 66-year-old chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has gained real traction in the late stage of the search.” If selected, few modern running-mate selections could compete for the surprise factor, other than perhaps John McCain selecting Sarah Palin in 2008.

Yes, Karen Bass been in elected office since 2004 and spent two years as speaker of the California state assembly, but her nationwide name recognition must be close to zero. I can’t give you numbers on Karen Bass’s name recognition nationwide, because as far as I can tell, no pollster has ever asked about her outside of California. I suspect many self-identified political junkies couldn’t name more than one or two facts about her.

If selected, Bass would be something of a blank slate. That is not inherently bad, but her selection would set off a mad dash to define her in the eyes of the electorate, with the Trump campaign spotlighting everything bad and controversial and the Biden campaign spotlighting all of Bass’s career highlights. Biden and his allies in the media probably would win that battle . . . but maybe not.

Maybe the Biden campaign wants to do something surprising. Perhaps his team believes that despite Biden’s current lead in the polls, he could still be sunk by a lack of enthusiasm among the Democratic grassroots and a sense that he’s running a very boring, cautious campaign that mostly focuses on the fact that Biden is not Donald Trump. But a surprising veep pick would be a really odd decision, as Biden won the Democratic nomination in large part because he is the familiar, trusted old reliable. Biden won, I suspect, in part because he’s relatively boring and vanilla in a world where we’ve had one giant shock after another, and because in the Trump presidency, every day is a circus.

There’s a long tradition of trying to “balance the ticket” in American politics. That phenomenon always has an odd subtext of, “God forbid, if something ever happens to me and I cannot perform the duties of the presidency, the best person to take over is someone who is really different from me in a lot of ways.”

Elections

Biden and Taxpayer-Funded Abortion

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

As John McCormack noted earlier this morning, several House Democrats are pushing a bill creatively titled the “Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020,” which they describe as the first legislative effort to repeal the Helms amendment.

Since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, Congress has routinely attached the Helms amendment to fiscal bills to prohibit U.S. foreign aid from directly funding “performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions,” a policy that the Democratic sponsors of the new legislation decry as “deeply rooted in racism.”

The Helms amendment goes hand in hand with the Mexico City policy, which every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan has enacted to prevent non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion overseas from receiving U.S. funding. Under President Trump, that policy was expanded to apply to all foreign-health assistance provided by government agencies, including the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and the Defense Department.

According to the Washington Post, if elected, Joe Biden will follow the example of his Democratic predecessors in reversing the policy as soon as he takes office. “Biden will use executive action on his first day in office to withdraw the Mexico City ‘global gag rule,’” his spokesperson said, using the parlance of those who promote unlimited legal abortion.

Meanwhile, in his “unity taskforce” recommendations developed in cooperation with Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden asserts, “Democrats believe that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion.”

The vague wording leaves room for Biden to claim he’s telling the truth, but public opinion on abortion is actually much more complex than he makes it sound. A Gallup poll from last summer, for instance, found that less than 40 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, it’s certainly not the case that Democrats favor taxpayer-funded abortion, let alone overseas. According to a 2018 survey from Marist/Knights of Columbus, Democrats were almost evenly split on whether taxpayer dollars should fund abortion in the U.S., with about 45 percent saying they oppose the practice. In 2017, the same survey found that an overwhelming majority of Democrats (70 percent) opposed taxpayer-funded abortion around the globe.

On this element of abortion policy, as with abortion policy more generally, Biden is out of step not only with the average American, but with voters in his own party.

Culture

Why Moralistic Film Criticism?

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“Morality? What’s morality?” Armond White asks sarcastically in his disquisition on the “Antifa Film Syllabus.”

With respect, it seems to me that this kind of moralistic evaluation of films is very much in the same spirit as the moralistic evaluation of statuary (and films and young-adult novels and everything else) we are seeing from the mob of the moment. I have never been exactly clear on what the moralistic criticism of films or other such works is intended to accomplish. Are we supposed to think Joker is a poor film, or a film we should think poorly of, because it is consonant with the nihilistic mood of the moment?

(Surely it is too much to think that these films are individually or collectively the cause of that mood.)

If given a choice between a moralists’ cinema that excludes No Country for Old Men — one of the greatest and most morally serious films of our time — and an “Antifa syllabus” that includes it, I suppose have a black bandana around here somewhere. If our political commitments mean that we cannot enjoy Pulp Fiction or The Dark Knight (which is esoteric Straussianism anyway, right?) or — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — Vertigo, then maybe our political commitments are too restrictive.

Politics & Policy

Speaking of George Wallace . . .

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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about his plans to combat racial inequality at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Barack Obama is, of course, free to compare Donald Trump to Bull Connor or George Wallace for sending federal police to protect a courthouse in Portland — even if the violence in that city is largely perpetrated by white Marxist Antifa types and has nothing to do with equality.

But since Obama brought it up, it’s worth noting that the only person in modern American politics to have repeatedly praised Wallace and other segregationists is Joe Biden. It was Biden who bragged that in 1973 Wallace considered him “one of the outstanding young politicians of America.” It was Biden who wrote in 1975 that the “Democratic Party could stand a liberal George Wallace.” It was Biden who in 1981 told a black witness in the Senate that “sometimes even George Wallace is right.” It was Biden who, while campaigning for the presidency in Alabama in 1987, claimed that he’d been the recipient of an award from Wallace in 1973 (it probably wasn’t true; but what a thing to brag about!), and then boasted that Delaware was “on the South’s side in the Civil War.”

Not long ago, Biden alleged that his relationship with pro-segregationist senators such as James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge was nothing more than a matter of “civility.” That contention is easily debunked. “Eastland was particularly anxious to mentor young members,” historian J. Lee Annis notes in his book Big Jim Eastland: The Godfather of Mississippi. “One favorite over the last term was Joseph Biden, who then was best known for having lost his wife and young daughter in an automobile accident.” Annis goes on to write that Biden showed “considerable deference” to the racist senator, allying with him on numerous bills and seeking his mentorship. Biden confirmed the relationship himself, writing in his 2007 biography, “I started by asking him questions. He was proud of his standing as the longest-serving senator and of his reputation as a keeper of the institutional flame. I think he was flattered by the deference I showed him, and his answers to my questions often surprised me.” (Italics mine.)

Biden was also buddies with J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a segregationist and anti-Semite who would later become a mentor to the Clintons. Biden eulogized Strom Thurmond, and at one point called the one-time Dixiecrat candidate and later Republican one of his “closest friends.” It was more than friendship. Nadine Cohodas notes in her book, Strom Thurmond & the Politics of Southern Change, that: “Biden had developed a genuine fondness for Thurmond. The young Democrat appreciated Thurmond’s political skill — he realized he was sitting next to a living piece of history — and he respected the straight-up way they could deal with one another. When Biden became Judiciary’s senior Democrat, he had promised Thurmond he would never do anything to undercut him. Thurmond had always reciprocated.”

All of this history deserves context, but it’s indisputable that in the 1970s the senators were friendly. (Though, I guess, I should also mention that the last time black kids were kicked out of a school by the federal government, it was the Obama administration shutting down the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.) But if every media outlet is going to gleefully quote Obama on Wallace, let’s talk about it. I get the sense that if a GOP presidential nominee had a similarly sordid history, it would be far more newsworthy — especially in an age of “racial injustice reckoning.”

Politics & Policy

Barr-room Brawl

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Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 15, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

I’ll confess that I did not watch the entire Judiciary Committee hearing with Bill Barr; I’m grateful that Andy and Rich did the work for me. But I have seen enough of it to fully agree with their sentiments. It was a circus, full of gross process fouls, and everyone who is familiar at all with Congress knows it.

I was chairman of a House committee for four years. The best chairman I ever served under before or since was Ron Dellums of California, who chaired the House Armed Services Committee during my first term. Ron was pretty much an open socialist, and I didn’t agree with him about anything. But he was a gentleman and smart as a whip, and watching him chair a committee was a great lesson for anybody who had the sense to realize it.

The chairman of a committee is and should be a partisan for his own policy agenda. He expresses that by the subjects he chooses to investigate or legislate, the witnesses he chooses to testify, the timing of hearings, and the activities of the staff he directs.

It’s the privilege of the majority to set and pursue its agenda. But when the hearings begin, the chairman has to act in a more balanced way, like a judge in a courtroom.

Of course styles vary; I was always very informal, for example, and I bent the rules to encourage lively discussion and a debate-like atmosphere. That was partly selfish on my part. Chairmen have to sit through the entire hearing; hearings are, generally, long and dull affairs; and I am easily bored. I liked to stir things up.

But whatever a chairman’s stylistic preference, he has to be even-handed in executing it. Everyone deserves a chance to participate and to advance and defend their views, and the chairman is the guardian of that equity. That’s not just basic fairness; it’s a matter of respect for the constitutional processes, and of the verdict of the people, by which both elected and appointed officers hold their positions.

The five-minute rule was much in display in the Barr hearing. It’s a necessary rule, because otherwise the more junior members would never get the chance to ask questions. But it’s not a straitjacket. The chairman has discretion to give colleagues or witnesses a little more time when it advances the purposes of the hearings.

If the witness is filibustering rather than responding — and that tactic is quite commonly used by seasoned cabinet secretaries and sub-cabinet officials — the chairman should simply remind them that if they don’t respond to the question within the five-minute limit, he’ll allow the member more time to pin the witness down.

Another possibility is for the chairman to take a few minutes himself to follow up on an intriguing question before recognizing the next member. I always reserved to myself and the ranking member the right to ask as many questions as either of us wanted. Usually we would both wait until the end of the hearing out of courtesy to our colleagues, but if a more timely intervention was helpful to establish an important point, I didn’t hesitate to make it, and I never denied the ranking member that opportunity either.

Here is what a chairman should not do.

He should not allow repeated interruptions of witnesses, whether in the name of “reclaiming my time” or not. Members don’t have to ask questions with their time — they can use their entire five minutes to make a statement if they want — but if they ask a question, the witness has to be allowed to answer it.

He should never allow either members or witnesses to be attacked without giving them a chance to respond. It’s fine for members to get rough with witnesses who are professionals, such as government officials, representatives of special-interest groups, or big-shot public figures — as long as the member is willing to take it as well as dish it out. Any member of either party who is afraid of a devastating response should not initiate the attack.

One other ironclad rule for chairing a committee hearing: If, after hours of testifying, a witness needs a bathroom break, you have to give it to him.

Nobody is perfect of course, and occasionally hearings get out of hand, especially in highly partisan committees such as Judiciary. The Democrats on the committee were probably upset by the fact that Barr had dodged testifying for a year. I understand that, but the way they handled the hearing just vindicated Barr’s reluctance.

An able witness is an able witness, and the current attorney general is very accomplished in what he does. He may beat you if you treat him fairly, but he’ll certainly make you look foolish if you don’t.

As I said, this is all a matter of basic fairness and respect for the Constitution. But it’s also important to the effectiveness and reputation of the chairman and the party he represents. There is a reason stories about the Barr hearing received such play on conservative media. Nobody who watched the hearing, and who was not a convinced Democrat, came away from it with a good opinion of the House majority. And I suspect even Democratic partisans realized it was an unforced error and an epic fail.

Politics & Policy

What Would Be the Best Way to Run against a Biden-Rice Ticket?

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Over on the home page, I take a look at 20 things you probably didn’t know about Susan Rice — and Benghazi isn’t one of them, because you almost certainly already know about that. In about a week, that list is going to look prescient and important . . . or quickly forgotten. And I noted in today’s Jolt that if Joe Biden instinctively surrounds himself with familiar faces he already knows and trusts, then I think Rice is the most likely selection.

A smart mind asked me whether the Trump campaign would hammer a Biden-Rice ticket on Russiagate. That’s a likely scenario, but I’m not convinced a focus on Russiagate would be the right message for Trump and the GOP in the circumstances of a pandemic, a steep uphill climb on the economy, etc. Trump and Mike Pence would be better served by talking about the future and what he’ll do in a second term, etc. Although maybe the Trump campaign could get some traction with the argument, “If this crew was willing to break the law and investigate me and demonize me, imagine what they could do to you if they get back into the White House again!”

I think if I were trying to run against Biden-Rice, my message would be something like, “You know Joe Biden is likely to be out in one way or another within a year or two, and then in a President Susan Rice, you’ve got everything you didn’t like about Hillary Clinton — dishonesty, arrogance, self-righteousness, entitlement, disregard for others and the law, right in the Oval Office, which is what you voted to prevent back in 2016!”

Politics & Policy

Paine

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If your mind is your church, you’re probably worshipping a false god.

Culture

The Progressive Patriarchy Advances

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A transgender rights activist waves a transgender flag, N.Y., May 24, 2019. (Demetrius Freeman/Reuters)

A while back, I wrote a piece here at NRO about why I believe feminism and radical gender ideology are incompatible. The occasion for those thoughts was the participation of Angela Ponce, a biological male who identifies as a woman, in the 2018 Miss Universe pageant and the general acclaim with which most of the media greeted this individual.

On entering the pageant, Ponce wrote on Instagram: “Today I am here, proudly representing my nation, all women and human rights,” and later said of the possibility of winning the competition, “Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. If they give me the crown, it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.”

In response to this, I posed the question (which is enough to get you drummed out of polite company and off of most social-media platforms these days): Can Ponce actually “represent all women” without being a woman at all?

Since I wrote that article, developments on this front have only escalated, with this recent CNN tweet as a prime example:

For those who aren’t up to date on the latest intersectional lingo, “individuals with a cervix” is one of the approved progressive ways to refer to biological women, as it supposedly takes into account transgender and “non-binary” individuals. So, for instance, a biological woman who identifies as a man might still be an “individual with a cervix,” and using this phrase includes such a person, while the word “woman” would not.

Likewise, “individuals with a cervix” might, from the perspective of radical gender theory, be taken to include biological men who identify as women and who, despite not having a cervix, need to be included in the category of what we’d typically consider “women” and yet might be excluded by the use of the word “women.”

In short, transgender ideology demands that, in the name of equality and inclusion, we refrain from using the words “men” and “women,” “boys” and “girls,” because to do so might offend or exclude those whose self-identification or expression of gender doesn’t line up with their biology. And, if CNN is any indication, the media appear ready to conform.

There are quite a few things wrong with this upside-down state of affairs, but one of the most interesting is the way in which it contradicts another of the Left’s reigning dogmas: radical feminism. If you’ll forgive me for quoting myself, here’s how I put it back in that piece from December 2018:

And what does this new frontier of progressivism mean for other planks of the platform? The unassailable dogma that women are constantly oppressed and subjugated by the patriarchy — that we can only be free if we recognize and disempower the tyranny of white male privilege that prevents women from expressing ourselves and taking control of our lives — requires that there is such a thing as womanhood, and that it can be defined consistently.

Ponce’s much-hailed appearance in the Miss Universe contest, on the other hand, implies societal acceptance of the idea that men can in fact be women.

These two doctrines of progressivism are in fundamental tension. Even if one accepts the notion that some biological males can feel so female that they essentially are, in some intangible way, women, such a view necessarily conflicts with the feminist claim that there is something unique about being a woman — and that womanhood deserves to be shielded from the encroachment of male power.

The wholehearted embrace of transgender ideology necessarily, and quite intentionally, erases womanhood. It allows biological males to don the mantle of femaleness simply by asserting that it is their birthright. There has never been a more patriarchal claim.

I titled that article “The Progressive Patriarchy,” and this casual use of the phrase “individuals with a cervix” to refer to women seems to reinforce that characterization. We are now being told — by the very same ideologues insisting that conservatives are sexist misogynists who are evil for recognizing the immutable realities of biology — that we can no longer use the word “woman,” because to do so might contradict the notion that biological men can be women, and vice versa. They are, in short, erasing the concept of womanhood for the sake of ratifying the fiction that being a man or a woman means nothing at all.

Politics & Policy

The Fed and Racial Equality

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Biden says that he wants to add to the Federal Reserve’s mission: It should promote economic equality among races as well as low inflation and unemployment. This idea hasn’t gotten much attention — CNN’s write-up of the speech where Biden unveiled it didn’t mention it. At Bloomberg Opinion, I argue that it would be a mistake to distract the central bank from its basic mission of stabilizing the business cycle.

Education

UCLA Beclowns Itself in Fighting ‘Racism’

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Academic freedom now takes a back seat to the tender feelings of social-justice warriors on campus. Just how bad have things gotten? A recent incident at UCLA tells us.

Education writer and former UCLA faculty member Walt Gardner writes about it in today’s Martin Center article. 

A lecturer in political science made the horrible mistake of quoting Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it, King himself used the n-word. The lecturer mistakenly assumed that his students were adult enough to understand that he was just quoting the letter, not making any racial slur himself. Now he is in hot water with the school’s Discrimination Prevention Office. No one in a position of authority seems willing to speak up for him.

Colleges and universities proclaim that he want their students to develop “critical thinking” skills. But, Gardner asks, “How can students be expected to develop critical thinking if the material they are exposed to has been bowdlerized?”

One has to wonder if students actually felt hurt that the lecturer exposed them to that word — or has it simply become a kind of sport among “woke” students to see how many scalps they can claim through their whimpering?

Gardner sums up the situation up: “No one is suggesting that slurs, epithets, and the like deserve a forum. But censuring an instructor who quotes directly from original sources — sources opposing racism, no less — just because the words he recites offend some students makes a mockery of real education and academic freedom.”

Politics & Policy

House Democrats Introduce ‘First-Ever Bill’ to Fund Elective Abortions in Foreign Countries with U.S. Tax Dollars

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Since 1973, the year Roe v. Wade asserted a constitutional right to abortion, the Helms Amendment has banned the use of U.S. tax dollars to pay directly for elective abortions in foreign countries.

This week, several House Democrats introduced what they are describing as the “First-Ever Bill to Repeal the Helms Amendment.”

In a press release, the original cosponsors of the new bill say the prohibition on funding abortion overseas is racist: 

“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism. It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions Black and brown people around the world. Just like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color. But enough is enough, and both amendments must fall if we want to realize true health equity and reproductive justice,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “I am proud that my sisters Representatives Lowey, Lee, Speier, Pressley, DeGette, and Torres are joining me to introduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which will finally repeal the Helms Amendment. Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right.”

In January of this year, a Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus asked Americans if they supported or opposed “using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries.”

The result: 76 percent of Americans oppose using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries, while 21 percent support it.

Education

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Beautiful

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Carl Schurz, 1829–1906 (Library of Congress)

Who is that stern-looking man up there? That’s Carl Schurz, but I’ll get to him in a moment. My Impromptus today raises a number of issues, as usual, most of them very sensitive, as usual.

I begin with this: For 50 years, Bill Buckley labored to separate conservatism from kookery. How’s that going? I touch on the issue of President Trump and Dr. Stella Immanuel (she of the “demon sperm”). Do young people today look at Trump and TrumpWorld and think, “This is conservatism”? If so, what does that mean?

There is also the issue of Trump and Russia — Putin’s Russia. Repeatedly, the president draws a moral equivalence between the United States and this Russia. Why? Who can explain it?

I further discuss an ugly episode at a 7-Eleven. The late, joyous Regis Philbin. And more. See what you like (and dislike).

Here is a podcast — a Q&A — with David Pryce-Jones. His new book is Signatures: Literary Encounters of a Lifetime. I talk with DP-J about some interesting people he has known: including Aldous Huxley, W. H. Auden, Rebecca West, Saul Bellow, Erich Segal — the list is pretty wonderful.

For many years, people have been debating the question of U.S. history and how to teach it in the schools. That debate has come to a boil in recent days. Here in the Corner, I’d like to offer a few basic thoughts.

You know the expression “warts and all” (which arises from portraiture). Well, I think history should be taught warts and all — but don’t make it merely warts.

Bernard Lewis, the late Middle East scholar, once said, “There is an old saying: ‘My country, right or wrong.’ It seems that many Americans have changed that into, ‘My country, wrong.’”

Which leads me to Carl Schurz — the German immigrant who became a Union general, a U.S. senator, and other things in his interesting, productive life. I cherish something he once said: “‘My country, right or wrong’: when right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be set right.”

I also cherish something that Jeane Kirkpatrick said: “Someday Americans will have to face the truth about themselves, no matter how pleasant it is.”

I’m all for teaching the warts, believe me — even stressing the warts, if you like, in order to illustrate the gap between ideals and reality. But do not forget the rest.

Have a good one.

Fiscal Policy

Congress Is Blowing Its Deadline for COVID Relief

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A man who lost his job leaves an Arkansas Workforce Center after filing for unemployment amid the spread of the coronavirus in Fayetteville, Ark., April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

On Wednesday I had a piece that started this way:

You can give House Democrats credit for one thing: When they realized that another COVID-19 relief bill would be necessary, they got right on it. Their HEROES Act — I won’t bore you with the full name — has been passed and sitting on the shelf for a couple of months now. Senate Republicans, by contrast, just unveiled their HEALS Act proposal this week, as the previous round of unemployment relief approached its end-of-July expiration date.

Thus, we’re in for another one of those confusing bursts of last-minute legislative chaos, in which major provisions change constantly as the House, the Senate, and the White House try to whip up something they can all agree on. More than likely, we’ll find out too late about a bunch of drafting errors and unintended loopholes, but that’s Washington for you.

I was too optimistic. Instead of passing a rush job or even just temporarily extending the status quo while working out the next step, Congress is blowing the deadline. Reports The Hill:

Enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire as congressional negotiators are deadlocked over a coronavirus relief deal.

The additional $600 a week in unemployment insurance that Congress provided in late March will sunset on Friday at midnight, dealing a significant financial blow to millions of jobless Americans amid a weakening labor market.

Lawmakers had hoped the deadline, which was known for months, would result in the kind of eleventh-hour agreement that was once commonplace in Washington. But in a sign of how far apart negotiators are, the Senate left town for the week on Thursday, ensuring Congress will careen over the looming unemployment cliff.

And while the GOP Senate waited until the last possible second to get moving, the Democrats rejected a lengthy extension of the $600-per-week unemployment boost, per Politico:

[White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows made an offer to extend enhanced unemployment at $600 per week for four months as a stand-alone bill. This is a new offer from the White House, and further than Republicans have gone thus far. It’s an extension of current law — something the GOP has railed against. Pelosi and Schumer rejected the offer, and countered with extending enhanced unemployment insurance at the same rate — $600 per week — through the first quarter of 2021.

Bang-up job, everyone!

Politics & Policy

Remembering Herman Cain

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Herman Cain, the pizza magnate and talk-radio host who sought the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, died Thursday of COVID-19 at the age of 74.

David Von Drehle has a nice appreciation of Cain at the Washington Post.

Cain’s 2012 campaign staffer Ellen Carmichael remembers her boss in this Twitter thread: 

https://twitter.com/ellencarmichael/status/1288841949131284480

Matt Lewis shares a story Cain recounted of growing up under segregation: 

In 2011, I spent some time with Cain for a story about his presidential campaign, which you can read here.

Politics & Policy

In God We Trust

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(traveler1116/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

On July 30, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the law P. L. 84-140, which made “In God We Trust” the nation’s official motto. The motto had appeared on coins since the Civil War era, but now it would also be printed on paper currency.

Critics grumbled about the new motto stamped on their dollar bills. To them, the law was an unholy marriage between church and state. Eisenhower was raised religious and baptized as a Presbyterian in adulthood; his baptism took place one year into his first presidential term. He was devout, undoubtedly, though any sober-minded person would conclude that he never acted like a zealot.

In fact, his decision to make “In God We Trust” our national motto had nothing to do with forcing his own flavor of Christianity upon the citizens of the United States. Rather, it was to foster a sense of spirituality and transcendence that had been lost after the carnage of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bombs.

On Flag Day in 1954, Eisenhower delivered a speech addressing the new phrase he had added lawfully to the Pledge to the Flag. The phrase was: “Under God”.

Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war. In this somber setting, this law and its effects today have profound meaning. In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.

In 2020, there are political tribes and vocal ideological minorities such as Black Lives Matter and the illiberal Catholic Integralists who want to force their ethics onto their fellow citizens in a despotic fashion. Eisenhower’s spiritual wisdom offers a timely viewpoint that resists this grotesque ‘tyranny of the minority’.

It was also wisdom shared by the great pamphleteer and patriot Thomas Paine. Writing in the Age of Reason, Paine articulates a sentiment similar to Eisenhower’s:

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. . . . I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. . . . I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

Economics

ESG on a Tear, But No Boohoo (Maybe)

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A sign for BlackRock at their building in New York City (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The attempt to legislate for society via shareholder resolution rather than old-fashioned elections trundles on.

A week or so back, S&P Global reported that BlackRock, the world’s largest asset-management company, and, these days, one of the most prominent advocates of “socially responsible” investing (SRI), had been voting the shares that it controls in the way that it has been promising:

BlackRock Inc. voted against dozens of management recommendations during the 2020 shareholder proxy season after finding that those companies were not making enough progress on climate issues.

In a report released July 14, the world’s largest asset manager said it had identified 244 companies . . . that “are making insufficient progress integrating climate risk into their business models or disclosures.”

Nearly 80% of those companies were placed “on watch,” a classification that BlackRock uses to tell those management teams that they have 12 to 18 months to meet its climate expectations or risk facing voting action next year. For the remaining 53 companies, BlackRock took several material actions against management including siding with shareholders on their proposals, voting against board members and raising governance concerns. The companies that BlackRock took voting action against during the 2020 proxy season came from a mix of industries, though energy dominated that cohort with 37 companies, according to the report. BlackRock also voted against proposals at seven utility companies, four industrials companies, four materials companies and one financial firm.

“A wide variety of investors, including BlackRock, have expressed their concerns about the investment risks of insufficient climate risk management,” the company wrote. “In 2020, we took voting action against those companies where we found corporate leadership unresponsive to investors’ concerns about climate risk or assessed their disclosures to be insufficient given the importance to investors of detailed information on climate risk and the transition to a low-carbon economy.”…

With $6.467 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock is one of the largest shareholders at most publicly traded companies in the U.S. As a result, BlackRock has faced pressure from climate activists for years to use its position to introduce sweeping changes at its portfolio companies. Fink’s January letter sent a clear message that climate, as well as other environmental, social and governance issues, would be paramount in BlackRock’s stewardship going forward.

“Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects,” Fink wrote. “In the near future — and sooner than most anticipate — there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

A “defining factor.” Really? It’s not necessary to be a climate ‘denier’ (FWIW, I’m a ‘lukewarmer’), to think that statement might owe as much to ideology as to science.

In one sense, albeit a self-fulfilling sense, Fink is right, however. If enough investors convince themselves that they should not be putting money into assets deemed to be responsible for climate change, then (1) whether they are right or wrong about climate change, or, (2) perhaps even more importantly, whether or not changing corporate behavior in the manner that they want will make any material difference to the way that the climate changes, their unwillingness to invest will still depress the value of those assets now deemed to be unacceptable.

Bloomberg Green (sic):

The Mt Arthur coal mine in Australia is one of the world’s best. It’s got plenty of reserves and the low-cost supplies produced there are easily shipped to Southeast Asia, where there’s insatiable appetite for the fuel.

Yet owner BHP Group has a problem: It’s struggling to find a buyer willing to pay the right price.

The world’s biggest mining company’s unsuccessful effort over the past year to offload the asset highlights the predicament producers are in. To bow to mounting investor pressure to exit the most polluting fuel, BHP may need to sell a profitable mine for much less than it believes it’s worth. . . .

Coal-asset values have collapsed quickly. Rio Tinto Group sold its last coal mines for almost $4 billion just two years ago amid strong interest from big miners and private equity groups. Now rivals BHP and Anglo American Plc risk paying the price of waiting too long.

“We could have exited a few years back, and we probably would have got a better price, but we’ve also made good cash flows from what are good assets,” Anglo American Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani said. “How we exit is more important to me, in terms of stakeholders and reputation, than getting an absolute number on the bottom line.”

It appears that “stakeholders and reputation” matter more, at least where this is concerned, than the bottom line.

That sounds like a comment from a CEO who has forgotten who owns his company and for whom, therefore, he works, at least in theory. That would be the shareholders.

Meanwhile, there’s been some embarrassment in that what is probably the most important subset of SRI, so-called ESG investing, where investors look at how companies shape up against certain somewhat variably defined environmental (‘E’), social (‘S’) and governance (‘G’) criteria.

The Financial Times:

Just weeks before Boohoo was hit with fresh allegations about poor working practices in factories that make its clothes, MSCI gave the UK fast-fashion retailer a clean bill of health.

The rating and index provider reiterated Boohoo’s double A rating — its second-highest ranking — while highlighting how it scored far above the industry average on supply-chain labour standards in a June update of the online retailer’s environmental, social and governance ranking.

That exceptional rating — which placed Boohoo among the top 15 per cent of its peers based on ESG metrics — as well as the decision by so-called sustainable funds to invest in the retailer has come under fire in recent weeks after the Sunday Times claimed garment workers at a Leicester factory making clothes for one of Boohoo’s brands were paid below the minimum wage and suffered poor working conditions.

Boohoo has since announced an independent review of its UK supply chain, said it had not uncovered “evidence of suppliers paying workers £3.50 per hour”, and alleged there were inaccuracies in the investigative reporting. . . .

Several asset managers pointed to Boohoo’s good ESG ratings, both from MSCI and others, as a factor in their investment decision even if some say they also carry out their own analysis.

The influence of ESG rating providers has grown significantly in recent years in tandem with an explosion in demand for sustainable investing, as groups from large pension funds to retail investors look for investment products that do good as well as generate returns.

We will have to see what (if anything) the review turns up, but this, from the London Times, wasn’t reassuring:

Investors who bought Boohoo shares because of its high ethical ratings missed a “clear red flag” that should have alerted them to problems in its supply chain, a leading City broker says.

In a highly critical research note, Liberum said some of the fast-fashion group’s institutional investors should have queried limited disclosures on the sources of its cut-price clothing.

The company has won a loyal following among ethically minded shareholders, thanks to rankings on environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. . . .

There are a lot of questions that can be asked about ESG, ranging from issues of fiduciary duty, to the fees charged on some ESG products, to the logic of bundling E, S and, the relatively uncontroversial G together, both from the point of view of performance (there is some evidence that suggests G adds to performance, while E and S detract) and logic. What’s more, sometimes the dictates of E and S can pull in opposite directions. The relative weighting attached to the E and the S can also lead to very different results. There can even be disagreement on how to score within a single category.

The Irish Times:

“MSCI gave Tesla a near-perfect score for environment, due to its emphasis on the low carbon produced and its clean technology,” notes the SCM report, “whilst FTSE gave it a ‘zero’ on environment as it only rates the emissions from its factories [something that in fact is heavily related to Tesla’s disclosure policies]”.

All this has produced rich pickings for the ESG ratings agencies. They are just part of the profitably flourishing eco-system that SRI has generated. They have, of course, a vested interest in seeing that market grow.

Not that they have to worry about that for now.

The Financial Times:

More than 360 new ESG-focused funds were launched by asset managers across Europe last year alone according to data provider Morningstar. Investors have piled into sustainable funds, which pulled in a record-breaking €120bn in Europe last year — 2.5 times the amount in 2018.

Immigration

DACA Drags On

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DACA supporters outside the White House, September 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

DACA is shaping up to be like the Spanish-American War tax or Jim Geraghty’s USDA Agency of Invasive Species — an almost unkillable absurdity.

Since the first days of this administration, I’ve been trying to hold the president to his unequivocal promise to terminate the unlawful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “on Day One.” The White House was afraid to follow through, but eventually, on Day 228, DHS rescinded (with a wind-down period) the Obama-era memo that granted work permits to roughly three-quarters of a million illegal immigrants who came here before age 16.

What no one anticipated at the time were the lengths to which our lawless courts would go to keep DACA in place; my colleague Andrew Arthur includes a DACA timeline in a piece today. The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 last month (guess who was number five) that DACA — a program pulled out of thin air, with no basis in statute or regulation — could only be rescinded by jumping through the hoops of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which is supposed to be for promulgating and changing formal regulations, not ephemeral (not to mention illegal) policy directives.

This week, the administration finally responded to the absurd SCOTUS ruling with a plan for coming up with a rescission order that won’t give John Roberts any pretext for continuing to delay the termination of the program. In the meantime, the new DHS directive allows DACA to continue, though with no new applications, with a renewable duration of only one year from the current two years, and ending the practice of granting “advance parole” to DACAs (which facilitates the conversion of DACA’s amnesty-lite to the amnesty-premium of a green card). In addition, DHS has proposed charging a fee for DACA renewals; currently there is no fee for DACA itself, only for the work permit and fingerprinting. This would raise the total cost of renewing DACA from $495 to $765 (which is still only about half of what it actually costs to process the package of DACA applications, meaning the rest is poached from fees paid by legal immigrants).

Some immigration hawks were disappointed that DHS isn’t just pulling the plug on DACA immediately. The Heritage Foundation, for instance, said that “conservatives are right to be disappointed that DACA continues to live on.” But as the OG Squeaky Wheel for ending DACA, I actually think the administration is approaching this the only way it can. Since any new rescission order will receive a judicial colonoscopy, DHS needs to make sure to polish its every emanation and penumbra. None of that should be necessary for the simple rescission of a memo, but that’s the hand that’s been dealt.

Even if the new belt-and-suspenders rescission memo is issued before January 20, if Biden wins, his DHS secretary (Ilhan Omar may be looking for a job!) will simply rescind the rescission — and, needless to say, the #Resistance judiciary won’t hold a Democratic administration to the same bogus APA standard as they have Trump.

Of course, Congress could rouse itself to do some legislating and give the DACAs green cards (something the president has supported, with conditions, for years), but I’m not holding my breath.

Adoption
Twenty-Five Things that Caught My Eye Today: Family Heartache, Anti-Semitism in Brooklyn, Finding Beauty in Creation & More (July 30, 2020)

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1. Lord have mercy on this heartbroken family  — the heroic birth mother and heroic adoptive parents and all who love them.

2.

3.

4.

5. People: Tx. Pastor Killed by Car While Helping Stranded Motorist: He ‘Gave His Life’ So ‘Others May Live’

6. NBC New York: ‘My Son Is Gone:’ Heartache, Tears at Funeral of 1-Year-Old Killed in NYC Shooting

7. Chuck Donovan & Donna Harrison: COVID-19 Has Given Abortion Providers a Terrifying Opportunity, And They’re Acting Fast

With a stroke of his pen, a single federal judge in Maryland has struck down a longstanding health regulation from the Food and Drug Administration that was designed to provide women with a modicum of contact with a member of the medical profession.

In a giant leap backward for humankind, Judge Theodore Chuang imposed a new policy, initially limited to the era of COVID-19, that allows abortion facilities to operate essentially as pill mills.

8. BBC News: Mexico Supreme Court rejects state’s bid to decriminalise abortion

9. George W. Bush at John Lewis’s funeral

10. R.I.P.

https://twitter.com/dandarling/status/1288927147663523840?s=11

11. Walter Russell Mead: “There are still liberals in the Arab world, and some of them are secular, but nobody thinks they will drive policy for the foreseeable future.

12.

13. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Sean O’Malley & Archbishop Jose H. Gomez: Catholic Schools Are Worth Saving

Catholic schools are worth saving not only for the proven results in serving children from low-income, working-class and middle-income families, but because of the impact our schools have on American society as a whole.

Continue reading “Twenty-Five Things that Caught My Eye Today: Family Heartache, Anti-Semitism in Brooklyn, Finding Beauty in Creation & More (July 30, 2020)”

Elections

Congressional Republicans Sound Off on Trump’s Election-Delay Tweet

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President Trump’s tweet floating the postponement of the November general election — something that has never happened and something only Congress has the constitutional authority to do — prompted a backlash from a congressional GOP caucus that’s usually reluctant to criticize him.

Texas congressman Will Hurd: “We are not an authoritarian government.”

Nebraska senator Ben Sasse: “The President should not sow distrust, and state governments should safeguard the ballot box whether the votes are cast this fall by mail or in person.”

Iowa senator Chuck Grassley: “All these things are pretty well set and have been going on for decades. And so we’re a country based on the rule of law so nobody’s going to change anything until we change the law.”

Missouri senator Roy Blunt: “The United States held elections during the Civil War, the 1918 pandemic, and World War II. There is no justification for changing the date of the upcoming November elections.”

More comments from Senate Republicans in this thread: 

Elections

Hey, Guys, That ‘Letter of the Law’ Thing Matters

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A voter drops ballots for the March 3 Super Tuesday primary into a mobile voting mail box in Laguna Woods, Calif., February 24, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

USA Today turns over some op-ed space to David Rothkopf, host of Deep State Radio, who declares that “the threat posed by Trump’s musing about illegally delaying the election must be seen not in terms of the letter of the law but of Trump’s intent, of his situation and of his history.”

That letter of the law thing matters, though. For starters, the U.S. legal code declares, “The Tuesday next after the 1st Monday in November, in every even numbered year, is established as the day for the election, in each of the States and Territories of the United States, of Representatives and Delegates to the Congress commencing on the 3d day of January next thereafter.” Changing that would require an act of Congress. Article II of the U.S. Constitution explicitly states:

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Without a congressional act, voting will occur in all 50 states on November 3, come hell or high water. Period. Full stop. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect 200 dollars.

The USA Today op-ed includes the headline, “Take Trump seriously. Laws and the Constitution haven’t stopped him yet.” What on earth are they talking about? As of April 2019, the administration had lost in federal court at least 70 times. Just recently, the Trump administration lost cases on DACA and on access to his personal financial records.

Rothkoph warns that “complacency about the seriousness of the threat posed by the president’s tweet was exactly the wrong one.”

If Trump wanted to postpone the election, how would he do so? He cannot simply declare Election Day rescheduled via Twitter. The federal government has very little say in how elections are run in the United States. Elections are conducted locally, usually administered by county or city officials or clerks.

The president can’t unilaterally alter anything about the voting process. The people running the polls don’t answer to him! (And just who would enforce this presidential edict?)

The person in charge of a state’s elections varies from state to state. Twenty-four states have an elected secretary of state whose duties include administering elections, nine states have a board or a commission that oversees elections, seven use a combination of a chief election official and a board or commission, five states have a chief election official appointed by the governor, and two have the lieutenant governor as the chief election official. Those figures are accountable to the citizens of their states; they don’t answer to the U.S. president.

The entire op-ed amounts to a contention that yes, the president has no authority to do this, but people should be frightened by the president’s suggestion anyway.

Isn’t everybody frightened enough these days?

Culture

Mask-Wearing and the Common Good

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A couple wearing face masks walk by a wall with graffiti after health authorities reversed reopening following the increase in cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in San Jose, Costa Rica, July 13, 2020. (Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters)

Much fuss has been made in recent months about the question of facial coverings, and it isn’t worth recounting in detail what has been said on all sides of the subject. To my mind, the perspectives at either extreme (the hyper-partisan, unflinchingly pro- and anti-mask perspectives) are obviously wrong and not worth responding to.

But the debate over whether, when, and why we ought to cover our faces, in the hopes that doing so will at least mitigate the risk of transmitting or contracting coronavirus — and the related question of mask-wearing policies — is a helpful occasion to revisit how we talk about the common good in a policy context.

There are plenty of understandable reasons why one might dislike wearing a mask or facial covering, and to those objections, the best response is some form of an appeal to the needs of those who are more at risk. A younger person, for instance, might have relatively little reason to worry about his own health if he chooses not to wear a mask in the grocery store, and it places a certain limit on his autonomy that he is required to do so. But the policy demanding that he wear a mask isn’t primarily aimed at his own good; it is aimed rather at the good of those more at risk than he is — the elderly, the immunocompromised, etc.

It’s a simple enough idea. Even those of us who are less at risk from this disease assume the burden of mask-wearing to protect those among us who stand to lose their lives. To most people, this seems like a relatively innocuous and comprehensible notion. Our actions affect those around us, even if they first and foremost have to do with ourselves, our bodies, and our own choices.

Though Americans of all political stripes have by and large embraced masking policies, there’s an aggressively pro-masking contingent on the Left, composed primarily of the sorts of progressives who likely have been glowering at you for sitting several feet away from a couple friends in your backyard or for failing to wear a mask while walking from the grocery store to your car.

By and large, these are the same progressives who loudly defend legal elective abortion — what they call “the right to choose” — relying heavily on euphemistic slogans such as “my body, my choice.” Utterly forgotten is the second body, that of the unborn human being, which must be mutilated and discarded to accommodate the wishes of the first.

If we can understand the importance of mask-wearing policies that impose on some of us for the good of the whole — policies that infringe on some aspects of our individual autonomy so as to prevent harm to others — surely we can understand a policy that curbs autonomy at the point where it involves taking another human being’s life.

World

A Respectable Nation

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During a Senate committee hearing today, California’s Dianne Feinstein said the following:

We hold China as a potential trading partner, as a country that has pulled tens of millions of people out of poverty in a short period of time, and as a country growing into a respectable nation amongst other nations. I deeply believe that.

Does she read the news?

The American and German consumer and Western trade policy have pulled tens of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. And the very unrespectable actions of their state threaten to plunge them back into it.

Elections

The Real Challenge of Voting By Mail

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With characteristic temerity, President Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to vent about voting by mail.

 

It’s worth beginning with what’s true: There will surely be far more voting by mail this fall than we have seen before in a national election in America. That’s because election day will come amid a pandemic, and long lines at crowded polling places won’t be safe. We have already seen in primary elections in many states that many voters (of both parties) prefer to vote by mail. Some states are making special arrangements for this—changing laws, investing in technology, and the like. Others aren’t. But all will see much more voting by mail.

We have also seen that voting by mail can slow the counting of votes. Particularly in close races, this sometimes makes it impossible to declare a result on election night. Occasionally, as some primary races have shown us this year, it can take days or even weeks. But the fact that results take longer does not mean those results are tainted. The work of counting mail-in votes, and especially of verifying signatures and resolving disputes, can take time, but this is precisely the work of assuring that results are legitimate and reliable.

It’s essential that public officials help the American public understand this in advance of the fall election, to help voters see that the fact that results may not be available within hours doesn’t mean the results aren’t reliable. In other words, public officials need to be conveying precisely the opposite of the message the president delivered in his tweet. They need to convey that message because it is the truth: There simply is no pattern of elevated fraud with mail-in-voting.

Voting by mail—whether by absentee ballots (which must be requested by voters) or various universal vote-by-mail systems (where all voters receive ballots by mail)—has been pretty common in this century: In both the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 congressional elections, about a quarter of all votes were cast by mail, with more than 30 million Americans voting that way in each case. Five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington—run their elections primarily by mail. And neither in those five states nor in studies looking at absentee and mail-in voting in other states is there any discernible pattern of elevated fraud. As with in-person voting, there are some known instances of fraud involving mail-in ballots of course. But no one has found any broader pattern of such fraud.

There may be solid, civic reasons to dislike voting by mail in normal times. But in a year when voting in person will be unsafe for many Americans, mail-in voting offers a vital alternative, and it is crucial to help voters see that there are not in fact reasons to think that it enables fraud.

Nor, by the way, is there a clear reason to think that mail-in balloting would advantage Democrats, as Republicans seem implicitly to assume. That view seems well out of date at best. Evidence and analysis in this century suggests that mail-in balloting advantages the two parties roughly evenly, and that it is of particular help to older voters, who tend these days to vote Republican.

As for delaying the election, it is as usual a little hard to say just what the president had in mind in his tweet. Waiting until the pandemic threat passes certainly isn’t an option. And even a more modest delay simply wouldn’t be up to him. The Constitution, in Article II, section I, says that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress” and that “The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

And the Congress has determined just that. As the law (at 3 USC 1) puts it:

The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.

The law further states, at 3 USC 7, that:

The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State as the legislature of such State shall direct.

And it states (at 3 USC 5) that as long as a state certifies its results at least six days before that meeting of the electors, that result “shall be conclusive.”

There is no role for the president in any of this, and his view regarding whether the election should happen on schedule is as irrelevant as mine or (unless you’re a member of Congress) yours.

Should Congress consider delaying the election, then? I don’t think it should. The kinds of challenges that will confront election administrators in this pandemic year don’t lend themselves to being resolved in short order, so that there isn’t really any advantage to be gained by Congress delaying the election a little.

But there may well be a way for Congress to help the election go more smoothly in those later two parts of the code I just cited above. The problem mail-in voting can create, especially in jurisdictions that aren’t used to so much of it, isn’t about fraud but about delays in counting and verifying results. So what may need to be adjusted is not the date of the election but the Electoral College deadlines that follow it.

I made a case for a reform like this (with Kevin Johnson of the Election Reformers Network) earlier this month in the Washington Post. As things now stand, election day is November 3, states need to finalize their results by December 8 to avoid their being challenged in Congress, and then members of the Electoral College are to meet on December 14. Congress certifies the results on January 6, and the winner is inaugurated January 20. That means that there are 78 days between the election and the inauguration, but states have only 35 of those days to finalize their results. As we’ve seen in some primaries this year, that simply may not be enough time in some contested states.

So rather than changing the election date, Congress should act to push back—just for this year—the date by which states have to finalize results and the date on which the electors meet. Pushing those back by two or three weeks could give contested states a lot more breathing room to deal with the actual challenges involved in mail-in voting while the election, certification, and inauguration would all go on as scheduled.

Making such a change would only requite a very simple tweak—a couple of sentences of legislative language. If it were done now, before anyone votes, it wouldn’t advantage one party over the other, so it might have a shot even in this polarized Congress. And if things don’t go smoothly on election day, it could make a big difference and help avoid a crisis of legitimacy. Some states would need to alter their own laws to make uses of the extra time, or to petition a state judge to extend the time for counting. But giving them the option would be a big help. If Congress is looking to avert an election mess, such a change would be much more constructive

But whatever lessons might be drawn from the problems the president gestures toward in his tweet, one more point must be made: The president is obviously not trying to be constructive. His tweet is a cynical, manipulative effort to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of the coming election, as he has worked to undermine public confidence in all of our institutions since the moment he entered the race for the presidency five years ago. If he has concerns about election fraud, he should make his case at some length, offer evidence, and propose to congress some steps that might be taken to address his worries. But that his not his goal here. He is operating not as our president but as a kind of a tribune, channeling frustration and mistrust. It is bad enough to do this as an outsider in a time of alienation and cynicism. It is far worse to do this as President of the United States. It’s a failure of responsibility, and a travesty of leadership.

NR Webathon

A Third of the Way There, Make No Mistake: We Will Take Aqaba

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From left: Anthony Quinn, Peter O’Toole, and Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (Columbia Pictures/via IMDb)

It’s a pity if you haven’t yet seen the magnificent Lawrence of Arabia. Since it’s based on fact, you’ll forgive my spoiling the plot, central to which is the World War I account (with dollops of artistic license) of the taking of the Turkish-held Red Sea port of Aqaba. To take it by water seemed impossible; to take it by land — which would require a (surviving!) force attacking after a prolonged and brutal desert journey — was, well, nuts. But that is how it happened: A small band of clansmen, led by the determined British officer, endured the Arabian Desert (“God’s Anvil”) and took the port from the rear.

It could be done. The far can be fetched.

Why the cartoonish history lesson? Well, it has to do with our current webathon, now a week old, and facing an additional long, 17 summer-dog-days to endure before we reach (we hope, we pray) our goal of $250,000 — each and every buck sorely needed during this pitched battle against the ascendant foes of Western civilization and the enemies of the principles on which this very Republic is founded.

Lawrence’s small force grew as he plodded on through the brutal journey. So has ours: As of 1 p.m. today, 908 fellow conservatives — maybe even some from atop a camel — have closed ranks with NR to help wage this critical battle (the total donated so far is a speck over $80,300). This keyboard to God’s Ears: Would that another 908, and then another, and then half that again too, sign up over the next two-plus weeks to sustain conservatism’s central voice of sanity and straight-shooting as we stand athwart the cancelers and tell them where they can put their progressive sanctimony.

Since our last update a few days back, many have seen fit to contribute, and a few have offered comments that we always find inspiring. Maybe you will too:

  • Barbara spots us a Fifty and compliments galore: “Thanks NR! One of my favorite things about NR is finding two articles representing very different viewpoints on the same topic on the same day. Keep up the vital work!” It is vital, but it’s kept up thanks to your kindness.
  • Jim also tenders $50 and a speck of gloom: “In the words of Andrew McCarthy, ‘Some days, it just feels like we are doomed.’ We need NR to be there to help us during these times.” We’re here Jim 24/7, never flagging. Do not despair!
  • Todd sends $50 and something else just this side of a marriage proposal: “To say that I love National Review and that is a much-needed lifeline to me in this insane time in our country is an understatement. I pray that all of you at National Review will continue on your mission to give citizens an objective analysis about politics and our nation. William Buckley would certainly be proud of what he has built. God bless you all!” Back at you, and yeah, we do think Bill would approve.
  • Another General Grant arrives, this from David, who maybe just watched Zulu: “Keep it up NR. You are the last defense.” Bayonets are fixed. Front ranks, Fire! Thanks for the ammo David.
  • Jake plops $100 on us and gushes with tributes: “Keep up the incredible work! I don’t know what I’d do without NR, both for the entertainment it provides and the way it arms us to deal with this nonsense that y’all so tirelessly fight against. Anything that Madeleine Kearns or Kevin Williamson writes is must-read material for me too.” Jake, we’re thrilled to find you in the foxhole with us.
  • Paul sends $100 and finds it’s high time: “Can’t watch from the sidelines any more. This is in my streets, it’s at my office, it’s at my kids’ schools. . . . Cancel the madness.” That’s our objective. Great to have you at the barricades.
  • Michael’s $10 has a value, but his comment is incalculable: “I apologize that I cannot donate more. I read NR every day. I recently learned that this magazine/site is a multigenerational staple for my family. I have been reading it for the past year or so. My parents read it. As did my grandparents. Your articles are well-written and well-researched. I trust what I’m reading on your site. You have no idea how rare and valuable that is these days (or perhaps you do).” No apologies needed Mike. The family that NR’s together . . .

Dig Mike’s sentiment: Your articles are well-written and well-researched. I trust what I’m reading on your site. You have no idea how rare and valuable that is these days (or perhaps you do). Yeah, we do. Which is why we can make this appeal with a good conscience. The truth that’s unspun; commentary that’s educated; analysis that’s convincing; principles that are unmovable: That’s what NR is about. Bill Buckley created this entity 65 years ago with the goal of staring down the elite, the culture mavens, the way-the-other-side-of-center news dispensers, the even-farther-left sanctimonious academics. On our behalf, on yours, especially on the principles we share, and even more especially on these United States of America, we refuse their demands to shut up. And Paul hits the nail square on the head: You can’t watch any longer from the sidelines. So please do support NR, right now. Whether your contribution is $10 or $100 or $1,000 or more, no amount is too small, no amount too big. The aid is truly needed (fact is, we need at least double our objective of $250,000). Donate here. To show your support by check, that thrills us too: Make it payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. In advance of your generosity, thanks so much. It means the world to us.