The 2019 G20 summit kicks off on June 28 in Osaka, Japan. Given the current geopolitical climate, meetings between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — as well as between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping — will be of particular interest.
By now, Russia’s disturbance in the 2016 presidential election is well documented. Events in Syria, lingering effects from Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s recent criticisms of the U.S. in a forum in St. Petersburg at the beginning of June, and the fallout from the disintegration of the INF Treaty have only added to the tension between the U.S. and Russia.
Last week, the State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, voted to suspend Russia’s obligations to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the United States. The move comes on the heels of Trump’s decision in February to withdraw the United States from the INF Treaty because of alleged violations of the terms of the treaty by the Russian Federation.
Six years of attempted diplomacy, begun during the Obama Administration, did not resolve a dispute over the Kremlin’s development of 9M729, a prohibited weapon under the original terms of the treaty. Yet an updated treaty between Russia and the United States could be plausible, and would help ease geopolitical tensions.
And any new version of the INF Treaty should involve China. “The INF Treaty was signed when there were two superpowers. China was not included. Nor was any other country that now has such capabilities,” Stephen Kotkin, author and scholar of Russian and Soviet politics, told National Review. “The world has changed. This is not just Russia-U.S,” Kotkin said.
While China’s nuclear capabilities have increased since when the INF Treaty was signed in 1987, this is not expected to be a topic discussed between Trump and Xi Jinping. Instead, the much-anticipated meeting between the two will likely revolve around the ongoing trade dispute. China Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen advocated compromise between the countries ahead of the summit, reported Reuters, and any agreement—or disagreement—between the two countries would surely affect the global marketplace. While China has emphatically stated they will not discuss Hong Kong at the summit, the still-simmering civil unrest there could provide Trump with some leverage.
Regarding Russia, the stench of the 2016 election interference still looms large. Tensions from the INF Treaty have led to some misguided assertions of a renewed Cold War. The assumption that Russia’s pursuit to strengthen itself is akin to an ambitious buildup with the intent of empire building is flawed and archaic policy. This is not to say Russia should be dismissed as a geopolitical rival; it shouldn’t. But China is perhaps the more formidable adversary. (Putin’s recent rhetoric criticizing U.S. trade policy and cozying up to China might complicate things.)
The G20 summit offers an opportunity for the Trump administration to make significant progress in its foreign-policy pursuits. While a resolution to the trade dispute with China is perhaps the top priority, working on relations with Russia should not lag far behind. Both Putin and Xi have expressed a desire to mend their relationship with the United States. The challenge will be for the Trump administration to forge a policy that is agreeable to China and Russia while not lessening American hegemony in the world.
In January 2002, the Boston Globe ran its first of what would be hundreds of articles on the history of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the local diocese, raising public awareness of the problem in the Church nationwide. Four months later, the U.S. bishops met and hammered out a rapid response: the Dallas Charter — formally, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Since then, the number of allegations against priests in the United States has been a little less than 2 percent of what it was at the height of the crisis, in the late 1970s. Slightly less than 18 reports per year have been filed for abuse that was alleged to have been committed by Catholic clergy in the period 2000–17. The figure was approximately 1,000 for 1980.
The numbers have been on a steep decline since then, falling to approximately 75 per year by the late 1990s. The data for this century are consistent with a decades-long trend. We see no sudden or dramatic change in that downward slope since the release of the charter, but allegations of new incidents had already begun to hover closer and closer to zero, so the room for improvement was limited.
What we can say for the Dallas Charter era, 2002 to the present, is that it has seen the Church succeed at keeping the incidence of alleged abuse at a low plateau and even at lowering it a little further. (Again, only a little because the plateau was already so low.) Meanwhile, we’ve seen a sharp spike in the number of reports of abuse or misconduct alleged to have been committed last century — reports filed with law enforcement as well as reports filed with Church officials.
We have no way of telling how much the Dallas Charter contributed to those developments, the decline in reports of new incidents and the rise in the number of reports of historical abuse. The main driver here could be the explosion of media attention since 2002.
In any case, give due credit to the charter at least for the increase in the number of reports specifically to the police. One of the stipulations of the document is that, before launching internal investigations based on an accusation, diocesan officials are to report it to civil authorities — who almost always report back that the case is not prosecutable, because they can find no evidence other than hearsay (and often not even that) and the testimony of the accuser and the accused. All the same, thanks to the charter, the principle has been established that the diocese notify the police, without delay.
After law enforcement reports that it found insufficient evidence for its purposes, the case goes back to the diocesan review board, most of whose members are laypeople. They launch an investigation if they find that the accusation has a “semblance of truth” — i.e., that it’s “not manifestly false or frivolous.” The bishop removes from ministry any priests or deacons whom the board finds guilty of even one instance of “abuse” (an elastic term, which I’ll explain below). At many steps along the way, the board reports to the bishop and the bishop decides, but in practice that protocol is often treated as a formality. The board members do the heavy lifting, and the bishop seldom gainsays them.
The charter provides helpful structure. Before, each bishop was left either to decide each case on an ad hoc basis or to draw up his own general procedures. The authors of last summer’s grand-jury report in Pennsylvania were scathing in their judgment on the Church, but even they admitted that, “on the whole, the 2002 Charter did move things in the right direction.”
So I disagree with Declan Leary when he writes that “the major procedural reforms (e.g., the Dallas Charter) have mostly been ineffective and highly controversial.” Again, we have no objective way to measure the charter’s effectiveness, but then we have no objective way to measure the effectiveness of “cultural adjustments,” either, or of seminary reform, which Declan thinks were more important. The Church has made progress that has coincided with the release and implementation of the Dallas Charter. Make of that what you will. I think the charter has been pretty good. Although it can’t be imported wholesale by bishops in other countries, which have different legal systems, it serves as the Church’s best available model of a systematic plan for handling sex-abuse allegations.
Insofar as the charter is “controversial,” it’s for reasons that you have to like if your criticism is that Church officials have been soft on clergy sex abuse. The bishops write that the accused are “to be accorded the presumption of innocence during the investigation,” but the practical effect of the charter has been to give the benefit of the doubt to the accuser. In November, I discussed some of the difficulties raised by the low standards of evidence that are the rule on diocesan review boards in the United States.
“The effort was made to get to the truth and not be a court of law,” Frederick Thieman explained to a reporter for Pittsburgh’s diocesan newspaper last year. A former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Thieman has served on the review board of the Pittsburgh diocese since 1997. He was describing the 15 cases in which he’d been involved:
The standards for evidence that we applied were relatively loose. . . . Evidence [e.g., hearsay, or even hearsay on hearsay] that would not have been permitted or may not have been permitted in a court of law was permitted into the review. . . . I doubt a lot of cases would have made it into the courtroom. Certainly not a criminal court. Quite likely not even a civil court. . . . We applied a “semblance of truth” standard. So that is much lower than even a preponderance of the evidence.
“The cases were extremely difficult in the sense that there were oftentimes complicated factual situations,” Thieman added. “Cases were often many years old and people’s memories were understandably not as precise as they might have been.”
The Dallas Charter is vague, on the question of what the standards of evidence should be and on the question of what kinds of conduct should be deemed “abuse” and punishable. A case of “inappropriate touching,” for example — the Pennsylvania grand-jury report is full of such — might not make it into a criminal or civil court even if compelling evidence for it were found. As for evidentiary standards, a friend who served on a review board for a religious order for several years confirms for me that, in effect, accusers were presumed to be telling the truth and that only in rare cases did the board conclude otherwise.
That poses a dilemma for those of us who defend, in general, the standard of “innocent until proven guilty” in cases of alleged sexual abuse but then defend (without acknowledging what we’re doing) the converse, “guilty until proven innocent,” in the particular case of Catholic priests. “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”: What if we applied that principle, Blackstone’s ratio, to the sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church? Wouldn’t most priests who, in the Church’s eyes, have been “credibly accused” have to be found innocent, against our intuitive judgment? Conservative Catholics especially tend to be sensitive both to the excesses of the Me Too movement and to corruption in the Church. We need to decide whether we want Blackstone’s ratio to apply in the Church cases too. I think most of us don’t. If we want to apply a double standard, we should say so. We should call it what it is.
Elizabeth Warren enters the first Democratic debate tonight hoping to capitalize on some recent good headlines. She’s gained in polls, from an average of 6 percent in March to 12 percent today. Nate Silver observes that Warren’s rise has been at Bernie Sanders’s expense. Yesterday’s Moveon.org straw poll illustrates this trend. Warren was in sixth place in December, with 6 percent. Now, among progressive activists, she’s leading the field at 38 percent. Bernie is in second with 17 percent.
There’s a problem with using “momentum” as a criterion of analysis: It doesn’t exist. Or, at the very least, the phenomenon is exaggerated. In a recent paper, “Knockout Blows or the Status Quo? Momentum in the 2016 Primaries,” Vanderbilt University political scientists Joshua D. Clinton, Andrew M. Engelhardt, and Marc J. Trussler used a huge polling-data set to examine if primary victories affect support for candidates. “Preferences sometimes respond to election outcomes,” the authors conclude, “but the estimated effects are indistinguishable from effects occurring on nonelection days.”
Explaining his findings on Twitter, Trussler wrote, “So voters are learning and changing their opinions. But this learning is not primarily happening due to electoral wins and losses. It is happening every day on the campaign due to the regular patterns of surge/discovery/decline described so well by @johnmsides and @vavreck.”
If there’s little evidence for “momentum”after the voting begins, I’d suggest there’s even less reason to use the term to describe changes in polling months before the Iowa caucuses. Clearly, Elizabeth Warren is rising in national polls as Democratic primary voters abandon Bernie Sanders. But she has a long way to go — and must make inroads in groups other than white-collar liberals — before she can challenge Joe Biden’s frontrunner status. If she gets wrapped up in all the talk of momentum, she likely will end up disappointed.
In yesterday’s post about the Supreme Court’s possible revival of the non-delegation doctrine, I remarked, “If I recall correctly, Justice Antonin Scalia was wary of the arbitrary line-drawing that robust judicial enforcement would entail but was open to the idea that some such enforcement might be necessary.”
A friend points me to this 1980 article by then-Professor Scalia, which ends thus:
Recently, however, the notion seems to have taken root that if a constitutional prohibition is not enforceable through the courts it does not exist. Where that mind set obtains, the congressional barrier to unconstitutional action disappears unless reinforced by judicial affirmation. So even those who do not relish the prospect of regular judicial enforcement of the unconstitutional delegation doctrine might well support the Court’s making an example of one –just one — of the many enactments that appear to violate the principle. The educational effect on Congress might well be substantial.
If you’re interested in the topic, the whole thing is worth reading, as is Scalia’s dissent in Mistretta v. U.S. (1989).
A key fact of life that candidates are loath to admit: Governing well is difficult, and good intentions are rarely sufficient to generate good outcomes.
Assume that South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg does not want to see young black men killed by police officers. Nor does he want the crime rate in South Bend to be high. He would like to see a world where African-American residents and South Bend police work together to make communities safer.
In mid-June, white South Bend Police sergeant Ryan O’Neill shot Eric Jack Logan, a 54-year-old black man, and killed him. Logan allegedly approached the officer with a knife; O’Neill shot Logan, who was taken to a hospital and soon after was pronounced dead. O’Neill was treated for minor injuries. O’Neill’s body camera was not running during the encounter and O’Neill failed to turn it on at any point.
A week later, Buttigieg sat alongside the city’s police chief at a town hall event. The crowd “repeatedly shouted him down” and the mayor was “met with profanities and heckles.”
“You are lying,” one attendee shouted at Buttigieg. “We don’t trust you,” said another.
After the meeting broke up, a visibly emotional Buttigieg told reporters that it was difficult to see “people I’ve known for years anguished,” angry at the city and at him, adding, “and I’m angry, too.”
“Right now, I’m not really thinking about the politics of it,” Buttigieg said. “I hope people can see what it’s like for a city to face up to the demons that racism has unleashed.”
Meanwhile, the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police issued their own blistering reaction, declaring that Buttigieg’s focus during this incident “solely for his political gain and not for the health of the city he serves.”
Mayor Buttigieg has in no way unified the community. Mayor Buttigieg continues to only focus on one incident and one family. Buttigieg has yet to comment on the largest mass shooting in the recent history of South Bend or on one juvenile killing another earlier in the week. Buttigieg’s focus on one family has left several others ostracized. He has not spoken to the families involved with the Kelly’s Pub shooting, the South Bend Police Family or the family of Sgt. O’Neill, all of whom are suffering greatly.
The reaction to Buttigieg outside of South Bend has been scathing. David Axelrod declares Buttigieg offered “answers were delivered in a factual, almost clinical, manner, more in keeping with his prior life as an analyst for McKinsey & Co. than the ministerial role called for by an episode in which a life was lost.” Everyone on The View ripped him. New YorkMagazine asks how badly he’s bungled the response to the shooting. and a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist argues that Buttigieg is proving himself an empty suit, coasting on image and evading scrutiny of his record, driven by “media coverage that lavished praise on Buttigieg while largely ignoring his strained relationship with people of color — particularly when it comes to policing.”
We are constantly reminded that Buttigieg has the golden résumé: Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey. And yet for all of his brains and accolades, Buttigieg is stumbling because governing in situations like this is difficult and requires telling people things they probably don’t want to hear. The South Bend police probably don’t want to hear that the disabled body cam sounds extraordinarily suspicious, and that the African-American community’s distrust of the police didn’t emerge out of thin air. South Bend African Americans may not want to hear that if Logan came at a police officer with a knife, then Sergeant O’Neill had the right to defend himself with deadly force. And it is probably impossible to successfully manage a crisis like this and run for president at the same time.
But keep in mind, a racially charged police shooting is probably one of the milder or more routine crises a city can face. It’s not New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Los Angeles after the Rodney King riots, New York City after 9/11, or the sunken Deepwater Horizon platform dumping oil across the Gulf Coast and threatening to wreck entire industries. It’s not an earthquake, tornado, or deep recession. And as bad as it is, a racially charged police shooting isn’t nearly as difficult as the problems the president is likely to face in January 2021: North Korea, Iran, the return of trillion-dollar deficits, the debt stretching past $22 trillion, hostile states developing artificial intelligence, robotic submarines, hypersonic missiles, etc.
Governing is hard and being a successful president is extremely difficult. But you won’t hear much talk about that on the debate stage tonight.
The media in general, and CNN in particular, are obsessed with the photograph of a father and daughter who drowned while attempting to get across the Rio Grande. While the photo is horrible and the human suffering here is doleful to contemplate, as a political matter this photo doesn’t change anything.
“Gut-wrenching photo,” is the first line in Brian Stelter’s media newsletter (which I highly recommend, by the way). “I know it is tempting to look away. I have been trying. I have been trying to avoid the stories about the deplorable conditions at the camps near the southern border,” he writes. “Migrants pleading for help. Maybe you have been trying to avoid it too. But we can’t. The humanitarian crisis at the border is back at the top of the national news agenda. I have been noticing this all month long . . .” It’s back at the top of the national news agenda, is it? Area arsonist notes that a lot of buildings are on fire.
Stelter and Co. think that putting a “human face” on the crisis at the border is the way to get what they want, so they consider this new photo a game changer. They never quite say what they want, except that it’s not what happens while Trump is president. If a Democrat replaces Trump, suddenly the suffering at the border will magically stop being “the top of the national news agenda.” It’ll just return to being background noise, one of those unfortunate situations that nobody can quite figure out how to solve.
Do Stelter and the activist Left want open borders? Maybe, but they won’t say that out loud. What’s obviously needed, and should not be a partisan matter, is more resources for detention centers for illegal immigrants, more judges to process asylum claims, etc. Agreeing that these are the salient issues would, however, put the Left and the media that shamelessly backs them into the position of no longer using dead children as cudgels with which to attack Trump. Let’s not be deceived about the political stakes for them. This is about defeating Trump as much as it’s about the plight of illegal immigrants.
Short of open borders, some number of would-be immigrants will be denied legal entry. What then? Some of them will try to sneak in anyway. Some of them will suffer and die as a result. Has it not always been thus? Did nobody die trying to sneak into the country when Obama was president? Will nobody die trying to sneak into the country when AOC is president? Or will she just give an executive order to dissolve all border controls? Does Brian Stelter realize America doesn’t want that? If he does, it doesn’t much matter. All that matters is opposing Trump, right now. All principles and proposals can be readjusted later, after he’s gone.
During the Obama years, the Department of Education (woe that it was ever created at all) was a hotbed of progressive activism. One bunch fastened a host of rules on colleges for dealing with sexual-assault allegations that trampled all over our concepts of due process of law, while another launched a regulatory crusade against the for-profit sector. In the latter, officials demonized the for-profits with a broad brush, calling them predators who were cheating students and taxpayers, then brought suit against several that were not intended to right any wrongs, but to destroy the schools.
In today’s Martin Center article, law professor Michael DeBow of Samford University looks at this regulatory onslaught and finds that it inflicted a great deal of harm on innocent people.
DeBow points out that the for-profits were responsible for improvements in the delivery of education that helped many students, especially “non-traditional” ones. In general, most of those students expressed satisfaction with their experience. But some schools did try to over-hype themselves to prospective students (as do many non-profit colleges) and that was the opening that federal officials used against them.
Focusing on one of the biggest cases, against Corinthian Colleges, DeBow notes that while the department made numerous allegations of wrongdoing, especially inflating job-placement data, there was never any assessment of “the frequency or materiality of these shortcomings.” That’s because the department levied a huge fine that promptly drove Corinthian into bankruptcy. Some 70,000 students had their educational plans disrupted and then taxpayers were nailed with losses when the government decided to forgive their loans.
My point here is not that there was no merit to the Department’s complaints about Corinthian, but that the Department’s heavy-handed (and arguably politically motivated) assault on it and other for-profit schools never allowed for a sensible assessment of the actual harms done and a weighing of the competing interests.
The contrast between the reckless approach of federal bureaucrats on an ideological mission and how such cases might have been handled in civil court is striking. The regulatory process with its openness to abuse is the problem.
The for-profit higher ed sector has shrunk dramatically over the last decade and shows only a slight rebound under the Trump administration. DeBow thinks he knows why:
Probably a main reason is that it would take only a new Democratic administration for there to be a renewal of the administrative crusade against for-profits. We may see little revival in the for-profit sector until we have reined in the Education Department’s authority to pick and demolish targets.
I live in Queens, so I was paying close attention to last night’s Democratic primary (the only election that matters) for that borough’s district-attorney election, which leftist candidate Tiffany Cabán appears to have won by a razor-thin margin at about 10 percent turnout. The result, if it holds, continues the hot streak for left-wing outsiders in New York elections, and the race was pegged as “nationally significant” even before the tally came in. In recent weeks, Cabán earned endorsements not just from the Democratic Socialists of America and Bernie Sanders but also from Elizabeth Warren and the New York Times. Is this simply a sign that the DSA has upended the New York establishment and built a political apparatus that can succeed in low-turnout elections? Or could it mean the country will soon see a lot more candidates of Cabán’s persuasion holding local, state, and national offices?
I don’t have any definitive answers, but there’s reason to be skeptical about that latter possibility. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias points out, Cabán’s support appears to be concentrated largely in whiter, gentrifying neighborhoods, while Katz’s base comprises largely black neighborhoods and older white neighborhoods:
So while Katz led in Queens Village, Jamaica, and Whitestone, Cabán overperformed in hipper Astoria, Sunnyside, and Long Island City (where, if you’re commuting to Manhattan, you’ll want to live). That roughly resembles the coalitions cobbled together last year by leftists Julia Salazar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Which means the story emerging in these races may not be about a multicultural, multigenerational working-class coalition electing socialist candidates, as some would have it, but about those candidates winning on the back of enthusiastic support from left-liberal gentrifiers. It’s clear the DSA has built a machine that can turn that enthusiasm into political success in citywide elections, even for candidates who want to decriminalize sex work (like Cabán) or who fabricated their personal history (like Salazar). It’s not clear that that will scale up — or how much working-class voters in the rest of the country will be inspired by my fellow gentrifiers’ political inclinations.
The Supreme Court notoriously stopped enforcing the non-delegation doctrine during the New Deal. Since then, Congress has been able to pass laws that grant the executive branch discretionary powers that make parts of it act, in effect, as a legislature.
Conservatives and libertarians are excited at the possibility that the Court is going to revive the doctrine. In a recent case, four justices signaled their interest. A fifth who did not participate, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, is thought to share that interest.
One point that often gets glossed over in discussions of non-delegation is that at no point in American history did we rely primarily on the Supreme Court to enforce it. The Court has only struck down legislation for violating the doctrine twice, both during the New Deal. The prospect of judicial invalidation may have deterred similar legislation previously, but for the most part the principle of non-delegation was enforced through the political process.
That doesn’t mean that the Supreme Court should refrain from ever enforcing the principle. If I recall correctly, Justice Antonin Scalia was wary of the arbitrary line-drawing that robust judicial enforcement would entail but was open to the idea that some such enforcement might be necessary. But it does mean that this is probably an area where constitutional revival will require political, and not judicial, action.
Former vice president Joe Biden’s newfound opposition to the Hyde amendment, which prohibits the direct federal funding of abortion, has brought the contentious issue of taxpayer-funded abortion into the spotlight again. The politics of covering abortion through Medicaid has received mainstream-media coverage over the past few weeks weeks. In Slate, Will Saletan recently summarized public attitudes toward taxpayer funding of abortion. Public-opinion scholars know that polling on life issues tends to be sensitive to question wording, but, as Saletan astutely points out, most data show that regardless of wording, there is substantial public opposition to taxpayer-funded abortion.
A 2017 Marist survey, for instance, found that 60 percent of respondents opposed such funding, and in 2016, a survey conducted by Politico and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that 58 percent of respondents said the same. Though questions asking about “Medicaid coverage” for abortion tend to find the least public support for the Hyde amendment, a 2018 Public Religion Research Institute poll showed that a slim majority of respondents still opposed taxpayer funding for abortion.
Publicly funded abortion also polls poorly among particular demographic groups. Most polls show, for instance, that women are as likely as men to oppose it. Even though Biden framed his opposition to Hyde in socioeconomic terms, both the 2016 Politico/Harvard poll and the 2017 Marist poll found that low-income earners were considerably more opposed to taxpayer-funded abortion than those with above-average incomes. The Politico/Harvard survey found that voters earning more than $75,000 a year were almost twice as likely to support taxpayer funding for abortion than those making a maximum of $25,000 a year.
Biden’s reversal on Hyde — which he consistently supported during his decades as a U.S. senator from Delaware — has had an interesting effect on his public support. A Morning Consult poll suggested that his shift will benefit him in the primary, as 30 percent of likely Democratic-primary voters said they would be more likely to support him, while only 19 percent said they would be less likely to do so. But the same poll found that his opposition to Hyde could hurt him in the general election, finding that only 19 percent of general-election voters said they’d be more likely to vote for him, while 24 percent said they’d be less likely to do so.
His switch on the issue is evidence of the changing demographics within the Democratic party, as an older generation of voters is being replaced by a younger cohort that tends to be more liberal on social issues. Biden, along with his fellow primary contenders, clearly believes he must support taxpayer funding of abortion to be competitive on the left, despite the fact that polling data indicates this position is unpopular with the public. Republican politicians should aim to make their own opposition to publicly funded abortion a salient campaign issue during the 2020 election.
A few respondents have observed that there were some liberals who complained about the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies back in his first term. That’s swell, but the amount of attention and outrage directed at separating families, crowded detainment facilities and cooperation with local law enforcement was miniscule from 2009 to 2012 compared to that of today — so miniscule that some of us could fairly conclude that the methods used in immigration enforcement were a second, third, or fourth-tier issue for most Democrats and most people in the national news media, and that many Democrats believed those methods were reasonable and justified as long as their preferred president was running things.
The argument isn’t mere hypocrisy; the argument is that large swaths of the national news media are only truly interested in topics when they are useful for demonizing Republicans. Immigration-enforcement methods that were bottom-of-page-A24 news in the Obama administration become top-of-page-A1 news in the Trump administration.
Facebook and the other Silicon Valley giants didn’t become big and powerful overnight. All of their data collection about users has been going on for years and years. But because they present a convenient scapegoat for Trump’s election, now there are much louder cries that government must step in and regulate them. The Obama reelection campaign app for Facebook access details such as users’ and their friends’ tags, likes and demographics, and it was hailed as genius. When Cambridge Analytica did the same with a personality survey app, it was described as sinister manipulation.
We’re on pace for a $900 billion deficit in 2019. That’s bad. But our annual deficit has been more than $440 billion each year since 2007. It’s been as high as $1.4 trillion in 2009 and as low as $441 billion in 2015. The topic is now once again worthy of editorial-board fury.
National media institutions are rarely outright pro-Putin, but he becomes a much bigger concern when Trump is in office. Our media is rarely outright pro-deficits and debt, but they become a bigger concern when a Republican is in office.
Why do most Republicans think that most Democrats are secretly fine, or at least indifferent, to the way ICE searches for, detains, and expels illegal immigrants? Because most Democrats were fine, or at least indifferent, to the way ICE searched for, detained, and expelled illegal immigrants during the Obama administration.
It is indisputable that large numbers of the national media look at events and ask, “Is this news good for Republicans or good for Democrats?” and seek out the angle that makes their preferred party look good. One might even argue that they’re only interested in these issues as fodder for their preferred narrative, that Democrats are the good guys and Republicans are the bad guys.
4. A powerful thought about the situation with the overturned ruling about the forced abortion in England:
Praise God — but imagine how powerful it will be for this family and this child if every single one of us that has been fasting and praying will commit to pray for them every day for the rest of our lives. https://t.co/3e7utinI1H
5. Via Leah Libresco, in the New York Times: “Portland also has what local officials believe is the only municipal fund in the country that provides support to asylum seekers before they submit their applications.”
Children transformed to shining stars after taking a shower& a warm bowl of soup. Thanks to the amazing people that respond in this incredible action of love to thousand of families we help at Humanitarian respite center/McAllen, this beautiful faces would still be with tears pic.twitter.com/bVbQOo3SJi
My Princeton colleague Peter Singer and I differ on important questions, but we are united in opposing groupthink and defending freedom of speech. Here he stands up for the rights of an athlete who's been punished for his criticism of homosexual practice. https://t.co/8Iy78INdjv
Eli Broad has written a column for the New York Times that manages to be wrong at almost every opportunity it has to be wrong — economically, politically, grammatically, etc. It’s really quite something.
Broad writes: “I’ve come to realize that no amount of philanthropic commitment will compensate for the deep inequities preventing most Americans — the factory workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and electricians, teachers, nurses and small-business owners — from the basic prosperity we call the American dream.” There’s a word missing from that sentence, also some thought: Do you know what factory workers, teachers, electricians, and farmers all have in common? Above-average incomes. Perhaps those suffering from the cruelty of inequality are those . . . entrepreneurs and business owners he cites, but I doubt it. If you go back and look at the big bite the Great Recession took out of median household incomes, the chart pretty strongly suggests the problem wasn’t being a farmer (median income $68,000 a year) but being unemployed.
Back to Broad: “But even in cities like my adopted hometown, Los Angeles, where many of these [progressive anti-inequality] policies have been enacted, they have not adequately addressed the crisis. Our country must do something bigger and more radical, starting with the most unfair area of federal policy: our tax code.” That’s a familiar formulation: Progressivism fails — solution: more of the same! Broad does not seem to be aware of the fact that that “unfair” federal tax code he complains about already is enormously progressive — by many measures the most progressive in the developed world.
And then on to the vague, hand-waving horsepucky and preening:
It’s time to start talking seriously about a wealth tax.
Some will say I’m calling for the populist masses to take out the pitchforks and take down the titans of Wall Street. Some will say it’s just too difficult to execute. Others will call it a flight of fancy.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating an end to the capitalist system that’s yielded some of the greatest gains in prosperity and innovation in human history. I simply believe it’s time for those of us with great wealth to commit to reducing income inequality, starting with the demand to be taxed at a higher rate than everyone else.
“Some will say” is almost always a cowardly formulation employed by people who do not want to seriously address counter-arguments. Who says? Who says what, exactly? Mightn’t those who are interesting in “talking seriously” about a wealth tax address that? Shouldn’t they at least consider the cases of the countries that have enacted wealth taxes and abandoned them as destructive and unworkable? That’s what happened in Sweden, the beau idéal of American progressives. (Sweden, that right-wing hellhole, doesn’t even have an inheritance tax!) On the other hand, well-governed Switzerland does have some wealth taxes. Any thoughts about why one model was a failure and one wasn’t? No?
Oh, “some will say.”
Also, Broad is conflating income with wealth, and making a very large assumption that the incomes of the middle classes will be raised by appropriating the savings of the wealthy. He does not bother attempting to establish a mechanism by which that may be expected to happen. Climate change, maybe.
More: “This does not mean I support paying higher taxes without requiring government to be transparent, accountable and equitable about how it spends the revenue, particularly for health care, public education and other programs critical to social and economic mobility.”
Okay, I’ll wait.
And more: “The enormous challenges we face as a nation — the climate crisis” — which is going to be addressed through a wealth tax? — “the shrinking middle class” — the middle class is not shrinking — “skyrocketing housing” — in progressive-run cities that have created artificial housing shortages, largely under the pretext of addressing “inequality” — “and health care costs” — well — “and many more — are a stark call to action.”
(That isn’t really what “stark” means.)
And this: “Currently people who have stocks and other investments that appreciate in value — usually people of means — are taxed at lower rates and are allowed to defer taxes.” Well . . . they pay 20 percent capital-gains tax on income that’s already been taxed at the 21 percent corporate rate — and these investments may very well have been made out of income that’s already been taxed at the personal rate. And most stocks aren’t owned directly by individuals at all — about 80 percent of the market value of U.S. stocks are held by institutions, insurance companies and pension funds prominent among them. About 20 percent of the wealth of the middle class is held in pension funds. It is true that these pension-fund beneficiaries tend to be wealthier, but somehow I do not think that those California school administrators earning $200,000-and-up a year are the plutocrats we’re talking about here.
And more: “I’m not an economist but I have watched my wealth grow exponentially thanks to federal policies that have cut my tax rates while wages for regular people have stagnated and poverty rates have increased.”
And more: “A wealth tax can start to address the economic inequality eroding the soul of our country’s strength.” Seriously — who is this guy’s ghostwriter? Strength doesn’t have a soul. That doesn’t even work as goofy figurative language.
Broad is the founder of KB Homes. Here’s his hometown newspaper: “As was the case with many builders, the early 2000s were quite profitable, fueled in part by easy-to-obtain subprime mortgages. Business declined quickly after the banking system nearly collapsed under the weight of bad loans and foreclosures. . . . KB Home’s longtime leader, Bruce Karatz, resigned amid an investigation into the company’s backdating of employee stock options. A federal jury later convicted Karatz of making false statements about the stock options.”
This has been a dizzying time in basketball — in the NBA, that is. Wild playoffs. Tragic injuries. Intense trading, drafting, and other dealing. My latest Q&A is turned into an NBA-cast, with regular gurus David French and Vivek Dave. We are joined by the New York Times’s latest NBA writer, Sopan Deb, whose recent work has included an hour-long ride with Steph Curry in his limo. (Curry’s, that is. Sopan’s is not available yet. They are putting the final customized touches on it.) Sopan is a die-hard Boston Celtic, but he surveys the entire league with clear eyes.
If basketball is not your thing, maybe a little ballet? I have a post on Manon, performed by the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House. More than a ballet, the performance in question was an overwhelming theatrical experience. As I say in that post, these guys really put the “T” in “ABT.”
And if neither basketball nor ballet is your thing? Well, your things are easily findable on the Great Wide Web, or even, heaven help us, outdoors.
The tax law enacted by Republicans at the end of 2017 capped the federal deduction for state and local taxes. Democrats, especially from high-tax states, want to lift the cap. Who would benefit? Based on the same methods Democrats usually use to judge the distribution of tax cuts, the answer is: Households that make more than a million dollars a year would get most of the benefit.
A Bloomberg account continues, “The benefit is largely concentrated among top-earning households, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s figures. About 94% of the breaks generated from repealing the cap would be claimed by taxpayers with at least $200,000 in income, according to the data.”
The novelist has put up a lot of easy targets in his New York Timesop-ed. I am going to take aim at six of his points, starting with his strongest one.
First: Irving asserts that abortion was legal in our country from Puritan times until the 1840s, at least before “quickening.” That’s an overstatement. Courts disagreed about whether abortion before quickening was illegal, as did legal treatises. One of the later-nineteenth-century treatises argued that lack of knowledge of embryonic development had sometimes led authorities to use quickening as a distinction. Modern historians on both sides of the abortion divide have suggested that the distinction arose for evidentiary and not substantive reasons.
Second: Irving claims that we have no idea why doctors lobbied to make abortion illegal from the mid-nineteenth century onward, or why legislators agreed with them. There is actually plenty of historical material on this subject. See, for example, James Mohr’s book on it, which notes, “The nation’s regular doctors . . . defended the value of human life per se as an absolute.” Or Carl Degler’s, which reports that “during the Nineteenth century feminists and free lovers alike condemned abortion because it destroyed a human being.” Or go to source material such as the New York Times article from 1871 saying of abortion, “Thousands of human beings are thus murdered before they have seen the light of this world.” The basic reasoning behind the prohibitions on abortion is completely obvious, and you have to go to great lengths to pretend not to understand what it was and is.
Third: Irving takes it upon himself “to remind the Roman Catholic Church of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” which supposedly mandates legal abortion by protecting religious liberty. (Apparently the Catholic church was much stronger in nineteenth-century America than anyone has previously imagined.) The condescension is ill-judged, considering that the Supreme Court, even while it has protected abortion, has never done so on religious-liberty grounds; during its most extensive consideration of the question, in Harris v. McRae (1980), six justices rejected the argument and the other three did not stick up for it; and only one justice has ever embraced it in the entire post-Roe history of the Court.
Fourth: “In 1976, with the passing of the Hyde Amendment, prohibiting the use of federal funds for most abortions, opposition to abortion gained support among Republicans.” What is this sentence even supposed to mean? Are we supposed to think that the Hyde amendment passed because Republicans increasingly opposed abortion — in which case Irving has just presented a banality in subliterate fashion — or that Republicans increasingly opposed abortion because of the Hyde amendment?
Fifth: “The sacralizing of the fetus is a ploy. How can ‘life’ be sacred (and begin at six weeks, or at conception), if a child’s life isn’t sacred after it’s born?” If there are opponents of abortion who believe that killing children after they have been born — taking actions that end their lives and are intended to end their lives — should be legal, Irving should present some evidence of them. Then he’d have an interesting op-ed.
Sixth: “The Roman Catholic Church, and many evangelical and fundamentalist churches, willfully subject women to mandatory childbirth and motherhood — procreation is deemed a woman’s primary purpose and function. I’m not overstating. In his 1951 ‘Address to Midwives,’ Pope Pius XII states that ‘the procreation and upbringing of a new life’ is the primary end of marriage.” What Irving is not doing is reading competently. That children are “the primary end of marriage” does not mean that they are the primary end of women, any more than it means that they are the primary end of men. This passage is the quintessence of Irving’s op-ed: It’s a bilious non-sequitur.
David Davenport, Hoover fellow and coauthor of How Public Policy Became War, analyzes how presidents have too readily declared war (on terror, drugs, poverty, you name it) and called the nation into crisis, partly to tackle the problem and partly to increase their own power.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is starting a new commission on human rights. I have my doubts about how much the commission can accomplish, but the criticisms of it from the Left are misplaced. My latest column examines the controversy.
There are two principal complaints, as related in the New York Times and The New Republic. The Trump administration is inconsistent on human rights, giving a pass to allies such as Saudi Arabia while coming down hard on adversaries such as Iran. And the commission will try to push a narrow theocratic conception of human rights, one that scants gay rights and the right to abortion.
The first complaint is correct, but not distinctive to President Trump. No administration is or can be entirely consistent on human rights. . . . The U.S. has a lot of interests and they cannot always be simultaneously pursued. The Barack Obama administration was softer than Trump on Iran and harder on Saudi Arabia, in keeping with its own larger foreign-policy aims. (Homosexual acts are punishable by death in both countries.) If the choice before our government were to advance human rights at all times and places or not to advance them at all, then the latter course would prevail.
Cory Doctorow has written a very silly column in the New York Times, in the form of an op-ed from the future. From the time-traveling column, we learn that efforts to regulate social-media platforms and other technology companies served mainly to stifle online political discussion, did little to reduce the communication of unpopular political ideas, etc. Doctorow, a science-fiction writer, presents no moral case against censorship — it is, we apparently are to conclude, mainly a practical technological problem.
He spells out another possible mode of regulation that he thinks might have proved more effective: More stringent antimonopoly enforcement, he writes, “would have challenged the Big Tech giants, eroding their profits and giving them less lobbying capital.”
The tech firms would have to up the spending quite a bit before catching up to George Soros’s Open Society Policy Center or the American Hospital Association.
Doctorow also offers a textbook example of 21st-century doublethink:
Democracies aren’t strengthened when a professional class gets to tell us what our opinions are allowed to be.
And the worst part is, the new regulations haven’t ended harassment, extremism or disinformation. Hardly a day goes by without some post full of outright Naziism, flat-eartherism and climate trutherism going viral.
The obvious contradiction there goes unremarked on.
On Monday morning, Florida senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to the Trump administration calling on the United States to render aid to a woman in the United Kingdom who was ordered by a judge to undergo a forced late-term abortion.
“I write with grave concern about the case of a 22-week pregnant Catholic woman with developmental disabilities in the United Kingdom who — against the wishes of her and her Nigerian-origin mother — is being required by a British court to undergo a forced late-term abortion, in what I believe to be a clear human rights violation,” Rubio wrote in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and DHS acting secretary Kevin McAleneen. “I urge your Departments to quickly investigate this case and, within all applicable laws and regulations, to offer assistance to her and her mother in seeking alternative medical care either in the United States through a temporary non-immigrant visa or through humanitarian parole for a temporary period due to this urgent humanitarian emergency, or at medical facilities in a third country that will not compel her to undergo a forced late-term abortion.”
On Friday, the Press Association and the Catholic News Agency first reported that an unidentified woman was being ordered by British judge Nathalie Lieven to undergo a forced late-term abortion because the pregnant woman, who is mentally disabled, could suffer from mental distress if the child were put up for adoption.
“’I think [the pregnant woman] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],’ Lieven said, because ‘it would at that stage be a real baby.’” (Premature infants born at 22 weeks — the age of the child marked for death by Lieven — are capable of surviving outside the womb and living normal lives.) The New York Timesreported that “a spokesman for the court confirmed public details of the case by email on Sunday, including the court proceeding and the judge’s comments.”
Last week, I attended the Coptic solidarity conference in Washington, D.C. The title of the two-day long conference was “Egypt’s Copts: Prospects of Equality in a Radicalized Society.” The conference was appropriately scheduled in time for this week, which is Religious Freedom Week, and those in attendance came from all backgrounds. There were Coptic Americans, government representatives, religious-freedom advocates, and civilians interested in learning about the status of Copts in Egyptian society — a society that is more often than not treating Copts as second-class citizens rather than as fellow Egyptians.
Here is a compilation of statements I gathered that best highlight the discrimination and quandaries Copts face today.
Elizabeth Prodromou, associate professor at Tufts University:
Asked about the terminology of “genocide” and Copts:
I oftentimes hear from policy makers who go throughout the region and hear ‘they emigrate,’ but they emigrate for a better life. Most people don’t want to leave where they’re from. People leave because they have no other choice. I think it’s important to underscore that point when talking about the Coptic community. If people are leaving it’s because the conditions at home are intolerable, precisely because of the institutionalized discrimination. If these trend lines continue, then we all know the outcome. Look at the number of Christians in Turkey, look at the number of Christians in the Holy Land, look at the number of Christians left in Iraq . . . That’s our lifetime that we’re possibly seeing the eradication of in Iraq. Just because there isn’t a pogrom or systematic violence we associate with genocide, it doesn’t mean the loss is not happening.
Alberto Fernandez, president, Middle East Broadcasting Networks:
It’s social hostility that’s much worse, in a way, than a hostile government. If something is embedded in society, it’s dangerous. Governments come and go.
Fernandez, asked about anti-American conspiracy theories in Egypt:
Egyptian media often sounds like you’re listening to Erdogan or Qatar, for a state supposedly against extremism. There’s a weaponization of media to promote a xenophobic mentality.
Sarah Yerkes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
Copts are rarely appointed as mayors even where they populate, they’re discriminated against in universities. (The Egyptian government needs to) root out its culture of discrimination by teaching about all religions . . . There are successful deradicalization programs in other countries but there has to be political will to put them in place and I don’t think that’s there (in Egypt). Sisi is painted as secular but he’s actually very religious himself and sometimes that gets lost.”
Badhey Hassan, Cairo Institute for Human Rights:
(President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) presents as a protector of Copts. He institutes unconstitutional laws and amendments. He consolidated his authority over branches of government such as the judiciary to unprecedented limits even in comparison to Nasser.
Former congressman Danial Donovan, (R., N.Y.):
Twenty-one martyrs were slaughtered (in Libya) because of their faith in 2015 . . . I have not lost my passion for the Coptic community and even though I’m not in Congress (anymore), I want to talk about how Congress can help you. This needs to be personal.
Yuval Carmon, founder & president of Middle East Media Research Institute:
What we see in the Middle East is an often bitter reality. It’s a renewed source of persecution and intolerance for its non-Muslim minorities. This is a disaster for humanity in general and the future prospects of the region . . . The West should encourage voices broadly like minded to our values. There are still Muslim reformers of goodwill who are courageously fighting this battle everyday, they are brace individuals who are far too often alone.
Kurt Werthmuller, policy analyst, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom:
The concept of citizenship (for Copts) is crucial. It’s a drum we should beat incessantly . . . Egypt will never realize its full potential without recognizing the citizenship of its own people.
David Pollock, Bernstein Fellow at The Washington Institute:
The argument that we could have the Muslim Brotherhood (instead of President Sisi), is this actually better to have an authoritarian ruler than the Muslim Brotherhood? I have to say that personally, we have to acknowledge that we have to confront this argument.
French Hill (R., Ark.):
Having more than 50 co-sponsors for H.Res 49 [a bill that calls on the Egyptian government to change their treatment of Copts] from very diverse members of Congress is nothing to discount. But there’s a lot more work to be done. (This resolution in the House) has been seen by some as an attack on the Egyptian government of Sisi, I’d like to take the opportunity to stress that’s not the case. That’s not the point. I acknowledge and support our partnership with Egypt, but more can always be done by the way and means of protecting religious freedom and human rights . . . I will reference a new article published last week in National Reviewthat discusses the recent attacks on Christian Copts . . . it’s critical that President Sisi’s words be backed by actions . . . Coptic Christians in Egypt deserve equal treatment and accountability.
The New York Times has confirmed reporting from late last week that a British court will compel a pregnant, mentally disabled woman to have an abortion against her wishes. The woman is 22 weeks pregnant, is reportedly in her 20s, and has not been identified by name.
The woman’s mother has offered to care for the child, in addition to her daughter, but that is apparently of little interest to Justice Nathalie Lieven, who issued the ruling for the Court of Protection — which makes decisions for people who are determined to “lack the mental capacity” to do so themselves — noting that the grandmother might on some occasions have to leave her daughter and grandchild.
“I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” Lieven wrote, calling her decision “heartbreaking,” before going on to claim that a forced abortion is in the woman’s best interests.
“I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” Lieven added of the woman’s reported desire to keep her child. The judge also asserted that it would be more harmful to the woman for her to give birth and give up the child than it would be for her to undergo a coerced abortion. “I think [she] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.”
From a medical perspective, it is patently false that a (compelled) surgical abortion so late in pregnancy would be safer for a pregnant woman’s health, and less traumatic to her, than giving birth and giving the child up for adoption. And, contrary to Lieven’s blithe assertion, this woman’s unborn child is already “a real baby” — though surely she meant, as all abortion apologists do, that the child would feel or seem like a real baby in a way he or she doesn’t while still in the womb.
This incident comes little more than a year after the disturbing case of Alfie Evans, when British officials prevented a couple from taking their sick child out of the country for possible life-saving medical care, because doctors in the U.K. believed nothing more could be done to alleviate his terminal illness.
This case is more egregious still. It is unclear as of now whether this pregnant woman and her mother will be able to appeal the court’s decision. Even if they manage to avoid having to go through with the abortion, it is abhorrent that judges have the power to compel a woman to kill her own child, and that so much of our culture would think it best for a woman to be forced to do so.
Worth noting, too, is the deafening silence from “pro-choice” groups both in the U.K. and here in the U.S. For them, it seems, the only “choice” worth protecting is the choice for abortion.
Update 1:18 p.m.: The Press Association is reporting that Court of Appeals justices in the U.K. have reversed Lieven’s decision and will not compel the pregnant woman to undergo an abortion, and the Catholic News Agency, which helped break the initial story, is reporting the same.
The media abandoned unequivocal opposition to suicide long ago. Most publications editorially support legalizing assisted suicide, and the news sides — such as the New York Times and the Associated Press — have even gone so far as to run stories lauding suicide/euthanasia “parties,” at which people celebrate the life of the host just before their death by overdose or lethal injection. PARTAY! Friends and family were so supportive, don’t you know!
Now, the Washington Post moves the ball another few yards downfield in a story from Kaiser Health News that furthers the normalization of “rational suicide” for the elderly by treating it as a respectable topic of discussion–rather than lamenting suicidal desires by oldsters as a serious mental health problem requiring unequivocal prevention efforts by a loving community. From, “As Seniors Go into Twilight Years, Some of them Privately Mull Rational Suicide:”
New Jersey recently became the eighth state to allow medical aid in dying, which permits some patients to get a doctor’s prescription for lethal drugs. That method is restricted, however, to people with a terminal condition who are mentally competent and expected to die within six months.
Patients who aren’t eligible for those laws would have to go to an “underground practice” to get lethal medication, said Timothy Quill, a palliative care physician at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Quill became famous in the 1990s for publicly admitting that he gave a 45-year-old patient with leukemia sleeping pills so she could end her life. He said he has done so with only one other patient.
Quill said he considers suicide one option he may choose as he ages: “I would probably be a classic [case] — I’m used to being in charge of my life.” He said he might be able to adapt to a situation in which he became entirely dependent on the care of others, “but I’d like to be able to make that be a choice as opposed to a necessity.”
Quill is deemed a hero in assisted-suicide circles. He’s apparently now expanding his advocacy to include people who are not terminally ill who want to commit “rational suicide.” And why not? Once we accept assisted suicide for the terminally ill, why not others who want to escape current or feared future suffering? Shouldn’t they also have the right to die in the “time and manner of their own choosing?”
In fact, this story reminds me very much of the pieces ubiquitously published about assisted suicide in the 1990s, which would present quotes from opponents (often, yours truly), but focused the emotional heart of the narrative on people who just wanted to “die on their own terms” and the compassionate doctors who wanted to help them, but couldn’t because of the cruel laws. Indeed, the the emotional heart of this story is on seniors who want to kill themselves before falling ill or becoming debilitated:
To Lois, the 86-year-old-woman who organized the [suicide discussion] meeting outside Philadelphia, suicides by older Americans are not all tragedies. A widow with no children, Lois said she would rather end her own life than deteriorate slowly over seven years, as her mother did after she broke a hip at age 90. (Lois asked to be referred to by only her middle name so she would not be identified, given the sensitive topic.)…
Carolyn, a 72-year-old member of the group who also asked that her last name be withheld, said they live in a “fabulous place” where residents enjoy “a lot of agency.” But she and her 88-year-old husband also want the freedom to determine how they die.
A retired nurse, Carolyn said her views have been shaped in part by her experience with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the 1990s, she created a program that sent hospice volunteers to work with people dying of AIDS, which at the time was a death sentence.
She said many of the men kept a stockpile of lethal drugs on a dresser or bedside table. They would tell her, “When I’m ready, that’s what I’m going to do.” But as their condition grew worse, she said, they became too confused to follow through.
“I just saw so many people who were planning to have that quiet, peaceful ending when it came, and it just never came. The pills just got scattered. They lost the moment” when they had the wherewithal to end their own lives, she said.
See what I mean? A story written like this about, say, teen suicide, would evoke outrage.
And here’s a bitter irony: After helping normalize the idea of elder suicide as empowering, the story ends with the phone number of a suicide prevention hotline. That’s just a sop after potentially putting lethal ideas into readers’ heads.
If you doubt me, catch this bit:
Carolyn said when she and her neighbors met at the cafe, she felt comforted by breaking the taboo.
Yes, by all means, we must break “taboos,” as if that’s all opposition to suicide is about.
We are becoming a pro-suicide culture. I predict that in five or ten years, stories about “rational suicide” for the elderly won’t present any opposition voices at all.
The PBS Frontline special entitled “Lost In Detention” represents a scathing indictment of the administration’s immigration policy. The yearlong investigation did an extensive and deep dive into the U.S. immigration enforcement system and stories of hidden abuse in detention centers.
The nearly hourlong report makes for harrowing viewers: Women who have been detained complaining about being harassed by guards for sexual favors, sexually assaulted by guards, and guards threatening to kill the women they are harassing if they talk. A single mom with two daughters who overstayed a visa gets deported back to Mexico just because she changed lanes without signaling. Cops describe patrolling neighborhoods with significant number of illegal immigrants, where people instinctively run from the sight of a police car. A mother of five American-born children being deported over a speeding ticket.
The report describes, “a vast network of 250 detention centers, from county jails to large centers run by private prison companies, where immigrants facing deportation are held until they can be removed from the country. In the past decade, three million immigrants have been detained in the system.” The report shows white-domed tents surrounded by barbed wire, and are described as overcrowded warehouses of people. Those who have been through the detention centers describe beatings, racial slurs, official coverups, and threats to deport anyone who complains. The problem is described as more than a few “bad apples,” but more of “barrels of bad apples.”
A full transcript of the report can be found here.
In the Frontline report, the administration insists the current enforcement policies are necessary to protect the American people. The report shows the president traveling to El Paso and boasting, “We have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible. We now have more boots on the ground and we are deporting those who are here illegally.” The deputy director of ICE boasts of “record-breaking numbers in terms of criminal alien removals” that include “1,000 murderers, 6,000 sex offenders, 45,000 serious drug violators. As we expand the deployment of Secure Communities, focus on criminal aliens, you’ll see that number continue to go up and up.” Officials from the administration boast that they’re finally taking enforcement seriously, a contrast with their lax predecessors.
One of the president’s immigration advisors callously declares, “At the end of the day, when you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen. Even if the law is executed with perfection, there will be parents separated from their children. They don’t have to like it, but it is a result of having a broken system of laws.”
Critics complain that the administration’s policy is just “enforcement on steroids.” The report warily details how ICE has extended its reach by enlisting the help of local law enforcement to better identify illegal immigrants who have committed crimes — turning local cops into a de facto enforcement branch of federal immigration law.
Wait, wait, I’m sorry, this Frontline special is from October 2011, and describes the immigration policies of the Obama administration. Clearly, these policies do not warrant a heated national conversation, are not a national scandal, outrage, or embarrassment, and do not deserve furious denunciation all across the political spectrum. If they did, we would have heard all of this eight years ago. While the allegations of abuse are repulsive, they simply didn’t seem to interest the media or the public on a large scale back in 2011.
And regarding the way illegal immigrants are being hunted, arrested, and deported, clearly the president knew what he was doing and this was simply tough enforcement of the immigration laws on the books. If it wasn’t, surely all of the current Democratic presidential contenders who are furious about the current policies would have noticed. I mean, Joe Biden was vice president when all of this was going on.
Or is it just that these longstanding enforcement policies are acceptable under President Obama but not acceptable under President Trump?
Most colleges and universities used to have a core curriculum that required students to take serious courses in an array of disciplines. Sadly, that concept has been fading away for many years. At many schools, students get to pick pretty much anything they like from a huge assortment of courses.
In today’s Martin Center article, Christian Barnard (a writer with Reason Foundation) focuses on that problem. After noting that employers are generally not impressed with the abilities of college grads, he writes:
While it’s tempting to blame poor preparation on liberal arts degrees, it would also be wrong. The labor market isn’t just starved for engineers, computer scientists, and skilled manufacturers—employers also want graduates with a strong arsenal of soft skills. The fact that many graduates still lack these core skills demonstrates how the explosion of degree options and the popularity of easy majors at many universities has actually damaged their core liberal arts programs.
Barnard uses the research done by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni to show that among schools in North Carolina, most get poor grades for having a curriculum that requires students to take foundational courses in seven basic areas.
Rigorous courses in key disciplines are still available, but students can get their course credits needed for graduation by taking a bunch of easy courses. For example:
At Appalachian State University, which receives a D from ACTA, students get ambushed by a dizzying array of options. From an anthropology course devoted solely to the understanding of ‘magical worlds’ to a photography course on wedding and portrait photography, along with the usual long list of courses on gender, sexuality, class, and privilege, the wealth of options has crowded out the most basic—and often the most valuable—courses.
Most students, focused on getting their degrees with as much fun and as little work as possible, see this curricular smorgasbord not as a problem, but a “cook perk.”
It’s time for the North Carolina institutions with the costliest tuition rates and the highest prestige to take the helm in redeeming the liberal arts. By cutting the curricular fluff and only awarding degrees to students who are truly equipped with the hard and soft skills they need to succeed, the state’s colleges can prove to be actually worth the cost.
I weep for the broken heart of my fellow Nigerian Catholic woman whose unborn grandbaby has been sentenced to death under the guise of protection and care.
2. In a thread on Twitter, adoption advocate Kelly Rosati talks about her teenage daughter, Anna Grace, whose birthmother had intellectual disabilities of the kind that mother in England has. Her daughter would not be alive today had a court ordered an abortion.
3-Government ordered abortion? Barbaric. The reporting suggests mom doesn’t want this &has supportive family. Anna’s birth family wanted her in this world, was supportive of her adoption & remains connected to her & us. I can’t wrap my mind around this ruling. Neither could Anna.
The mistreatment of migrant children in government custody is wrong–and shameful–whether it is under Democrats or Republicans, Obama or Trump. Enough with the partisan finger-pointing. Reform the system and fund it. We're talking about innocent children.https://t.co/7ecIRcXNgy
Sign up for the K-Lo Weekly newsletter and you’ll get the Amazon link when it’s at pre-order point there. The Saturday morning e-mail also tends to include WFB flashbacks and notices to upcoming events and links. I’ll be involved in some adoption and family conversations this week in D.C. and will recap them there a wee bit this weekend before Independence Day sets in.
In the Washington Post‘s “Top Workplaces” magazine this week, kudos are given to Power Home Remodeling Group for its “diversity”uber alles efforts: “To help boost the number of women, Power added an extra $1,000 referral bonus for new female recruits — giving employees $3,000 rather than $2,000 if the candidate gets hired.”
Now, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans among other things sex discrimination in private employment, says: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to . . . classify his . . . applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities . . . because of such individual’s . . . sex.” And those “regularly undertaking” to do recruiting for individuals or companies are likewise banned from “classify[ing] or refer[ing] for employment any individual on the basis of … sex.”
I’ll also note that Power is based in Pennsylvania, in which the relevant federal court of appeals has explicitly rejected the “diversity” justification for employment discrimination under Title VII (no federal court anywhere has accepted it, by the way). And I’ll ask, would anyone — including, say, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — find it legally permissible for an employer to give special bonuses for the successful recruitment of white males? (By the way, Power’s policy would as reported encourage white women to be referred not only over white men but also over nonwhite men.)
Over the years, I have quoted Mike Brown, here on the Corner and in columns. He is one of my favorite journalists and writers in America: the editor of the Rockdale Reporter, in Rockdale, Texas. On the homepage today, I have a piece on him — and the craft of newspapering. I also have a bonus: a podcast, a Q&A, here. Kevin Williamson and I went to visit Mike, in Rockdale. Kevin is a former newspaperman himself (and a Texan, like Mike). I’m more a magaziner (not like Ira, no offense to him or anybody else).
Let me tell you something that Neal Freeman, that veteran NR-nik, told me. He once drove across the country, selling WFB’s column in town after town, talking to newspaper editor after newspaper editor. He said that these people were not only editors, reporters, and historians — but priests, cops, mayors, welfare workers, etc.
So true. Pillars of the community (and think of the function of pillars in architecture).
Neal added, “I’m not sure what’s going to hold America together in the post–Mike Brown era.”
Something will, no doubt, but in the meantime it’s gratifying to have Mike Brown and platoons of others, doing the work that is essential to civic life, democratic life, American life. Again, the article is here and the podcast here.
I am second to none in my admiration for William F. Buckley Jr., but on matters of electoral politics his judgment was not exactly infallible. For example, he floated the idea of having former president Dwight Eisenhower join Barry Goldwater’s ticket as the vice-presidential nominee, which was possibly unconstitutional and certainly preposterous. Professor Kevin Kruse of Princeton, pretending to correct my assertion that it is a mistake to call the segregationist Democrats of the Roosevelt era “conservatives,” correctly notes that WFB believed he had found a kindred conservative spirit in some of those Democrats and thought that they might be pried away from the Democratic party by the Republicans, among whom self-conscious conservatism was ascendant by the middle 1960s.
WFB did believe that and wrote as much. And—this is the part that you would think might interest a professor of history—he was wrong. With a tiny handful of notable exceptions (the grotesque opportunist Strom Thurmond prominent among them) the segregationist Democrats remained Democrats. Why?
The most obvious answer is that they believed what the Democratic party believed, and believes. This is probably why the so-called conservative coalition in Congress came to so little: The Republicans and the Democrats disagreed on the basics, from economics to foreign policy. They agreed mostly on not thinking much of the big industrial unions and big-spending urban-development programs.
WFB helpfully published a list of those Democrats he thought possibly ready to defect to the Republican party. You would have done well to bet against him. James Eastland? No. John McClellan? No. John Stennis? No. Sam Ervin? No. Herman Talmadge? No. Allen Ellender? No. Spessard Holland? No. John Sparkman? Strike . . . eight.
WFB also thought “liberals like Olin Johnson” might be recruited to the GOP. Strike nine.
While it is easy to get lost in the hurly-burly of lurching from one election to the next and from one supposed national crisis to the next, it is remarkable how far back the ideological-partisan lines of U.S. politics are at least partly visible and comprehensible. In the Wilson era, you have a Democratic party pursuing centralization and central planning, suspicious of free markets and competition, allied with academic elites, and pursuing an agenda of regimentation that Democrats presented as “scientific” and supported by dispassionate, empirical evidence. Against that, you have a Republican party allied with business interests, hostile toward taxes and redistribution, promising a restoration of an idealized prelapsarian American order—the “return to normalcy.”
Wilson, the godfather of American progressivism, was a plain and undisguised racist, backward and vicious even by the standards of his time: The progressive torchbearer resegregatedthe federal government. Teddy Roosevelt, the personification of progressivism in the Republican party, was a frank racist as well. There was, unhappily, plenty of that to go around for both parties. But the Republican opposition to the primordial welfare state is entirely familiar to the modern political ear, whether it was Frederick Hale describing FDR as a proxy of the Socialist party or Ronald Reagan a couple of decades later warning about socialized medicine. “Conservatism” in the sense we use the word in American politics is there to be seen.
There were conservative tendencies in American politics before the 1930s, but the modern conservative movement was founded on opposition to the New Deal. The segregationist Democrats, on the other hand, were for the most part eager supporters of the New Deal—provided it was administered in a way that would exclude African Americans from most of its benefits. You do not have to take my word for it—consider the votes: on labor reform, on entitlements, on financial regulation, etc. If the southern Democrats were “conservatives,” then the New Deal was passed on conservative support, which is a very odd claim to make. What do we call the Republican anti-New Dealers, then?
Professor Kruse offers WFB’s description of some southern Democrats as “conservative” as though this settled the issue. That’s an adolescent parlor game, and he knows it. But if you want to play it, here’s Franklin Roosevelt describing the impenitent racist Theodore Bilbo as “a real friend of liberal government.” That is not something dredged up from the shadows and margins: It’s from a Ta-Nehesi Coates essay titled “A History of White Liberal Racism, Continued.” Coates is not exactly a right-wing provocateur—or, as Professor Kruse likes to put it, a “denialist.”
Professor Kruse’s line here is something between error and intellectual dishonesty, i.e. willfully conflating the issue of policymaking in the 1930s with the question of how people talked about coalition-building politics a generation later. It certainly is the case that many New Deal liberals were by the 1960s alienated from the Democratic party by its embrace (or at least openness to) the radical elements of those years. These were not exclusively southerners: Ronald Reagan was one. (Reagan’s FDR hero-worship and his intellectual inconsistency regarding the New Deal did a great deal to soften conservatives who had once vowed to have the New Deal out root and branch.) And yet very few of those old Democratic bulls crossed the aisle.
As Ira Katznelson put it in Fear Itself, the southern progressives stuck by the Democratic party because, in the words of one contemporary observer, the New Dealers “fought the money power and the big industries.” (The rest of that quotation reads, in part, “so long as they were pro-farmer and did not stir up the n*****s.”) Banks and railroads were targets of particular ire. Again, the modern Republican-Democrat/conservative-progressive lines are already there, at least in part. And it seems likely that those real differences in values and loyalties go a long way toward explaining why those Democrats remained in the Democratic party: They were the Democratic party, to a considerable extent, and they fundamentally shared its progressivism. The southern Democrats who helped to create the modern welfare state were not about to join a Republican party whose conservative firebrands were promising to tear it down.
If the New Deal Democrats were in some meaningful sense “conservatives,” we are going to have to come up with a new word to describe those Republicans who opposed it, and who did so using language and arguments that remain familiar today.
Fr. Martin, in this thread, goes on to give a partial list of sins that should cause us to fear hell, and then concludes that a school should fire teachers either for all of these or none of these. Here's why I disagree: https://t.co/c5nQuevQKj
Years ago, there was a movie, The Longest Day, about the Normandy landings. Today, June 21, is, I believe, the longest day of the year. Is it the best day of the year? Well, I like “fall back,” when we gain an hour. I begin my latest episode of Music for a While with “A Soft Day,” one of my favorite songs: by Stanford (setting a poem by Winifred Mary Letts). It came to mind when I was out in a park, seeing everything lush and wet. Anyway, you’ll love the song, if you don’t know it already.
Yesterday, I had a “Tel Aviv Journal,” which prompted some interesting mail. I heard two versions of a story — a story that is a joke with a point. To set it up, let me quote the opening of my journal, please:
When we land in Tel Aviv from Bucharest, some people on the plane — women! — are very, very rude: pushing, shoving, and yelling. I’m about to put my dukes up and the F-word hangs on my lips — and then I remember: “Ah, right: They’re Israelis. They’re supposed to be this way.”
And the same women who are trying to run you over to get to the overhead bins they want would probably cook you a meal and tuck you in at night.
And take up arms to defend you.
Culture, culture …
Okay, here’s the story, or at least one version of it: It’s late December on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv. The pilot gets on the speaker and announces that the plane is starting the descent to Ben-Gurion Airport, and it will be 20 minutes until touchdown. It will probably be another ten minutes before arrival at the gate. During this half-hour, he stresses, all passengers must remain seated with their seatbelts secured. He adds, “For those of you still seated, as I speak: Merry Christmas.”
A reader said he had lived in Israel in the mid-1970s and really and truly saw the following sign in a hospital in Haifa: No Smoking. On the Sabbath, Positively No Smoking.
Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn’t resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business.
College leaders should learn from this — if you want to avoid such lawsuits, don’t let school officials get involved in political protests. That’s my argument in today’s Martin Center piece.
Rather than wasting money on “diversity training,” college leaders should spend some time training their minions that there is a line between education and political activism which in their official capacities they must not cross. The problem, of course, is that a huge number of college employees from the top on down don’t think there should be any such line. They regard everything as tied in with their “progressive” commitments.
Oberlin’s new president, Carmen Ambar, exemplifies that mindset when she recently declared that the case “will not sway us from our core values.” Since those so-called values obviously keep the school from realizing when it is viciously defaming and damaging an innocent business, there will probably be more cases like this one.
Everything old becomes new again, and such is the case for comparing Republican presidents to Nazis. Last weekend’s “nationwide day of protest” were filled with placards and signs insinuating so. Salon recently published an article that compared President Trump’s criticism of the media to that of Hitler. Protesters in London decried Trump and his supporters as “Nazi scum.” In April, Democratic presidential hopeful alleged that the president’s rhetoric “echoed Nazis.” On June 18th, CNN’s Don Lemon once again deployed this technique and compared President Trump to the Nazi leader. Aside from being old, tired, and untrue, this trope is nothing new. For decades, left-wing activists have compared Republican political leaders to Adolf Hitler.
As Larry Elder has recounted, liberals have compared everyone from Barry Goldwater to George W. Bush to Nazis. It’s a history that dates back at least 55 years. And as Steven Hayward has recounted, even Ronald Reagan met with the calumny:
Democratic Rep. William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.” The Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (later a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”
There was ample academic support for this theme. John Roth, a Holocaust scholar at Claremont College, wrote:
“I could not help remembering how 40 years ago economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I—to send the world reeling into catastrophe. . . . It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our postelection state with fear and trembling.”
Maybe the people with the problem are not Republican leaders but the ones using divisive, unsubstantiated hyperbole.
True! The acclaimed author and playwright pens a terrific piece in the July 8, 2019, issue of your favorite conservative magazine — or, most likely, your favorite magazine period — in which he gives a rundown of his choices of American women writers whose work deserves to be in the nation’s best-of canon. It is a most instructive and illuminating piece, which you can read here. (Of course, if you’ve already maxed out on free articles this month, you’d still be able to read it if you became a member of NRPLUS.)
Interested in a few other recommendations? Well, the entire issue is a marvel, but here are three additional pieces that would prove of interest to any intelligent American: Christopher O’Dea’s cover essay, “Logistics with Chinese Characteristics,” is an expose of Red China’s weaponization of the global supply chain, which is an emerging (and big) national-security threat that should move to the top of every agenda. You can read O’Dea’s essay here. Then there is the powerful examination of the Iraq War — why it was a mistake, why its defenders were wrong, and why many of its critics were too — by Hal Brands and Peter D. Feaver. Read it here. Our leader, Rich Lowry, fan of our National Pastime, reviews Paul Goldberger’s Ballpark: Baseball in the American City. Read it here. And finally there is Jay Nordlinger’s profile of Thae Yong-Ho, one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials ever to defect. Read it here.
Well, not so finally: Since we’ve mentioned a profile, let’s make a bonus recommendation: John McCormack’s piece on Missouri’s exciting freshman senator, Josh Hawley — you can read it here.