White House

Entropy in the Executive


Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that “Trump has faced an unprecedented wave of insubordination by his own White House staff, and he has often met that with an unthinkable, unleaderly passivity.” The worst example of these tendencies came in Syria, when Trump said we were withdrawing and his underlings effectively overruled him. Dougherty goes on to warn that a Biden presidency could operate similarly.

I think that the characterization of the problem is slightly but importantly off, and in a way that underestimates how Trump-specific it is. It’s natural to talk about the dysfunction in the administration as a matter of “insubordination”: I’ve done it myself. But when Trump himself habitually acts as though his words are idle, is it so wrong for his employees to follow that lead? He has been known to express unhappiness at their performance. Has he done so based on their treating what could be interpreted as statements of policy as jokes or trial balloons instead? If they do gamely attempt to start acting on his remarks and tweets, how sure can they be that he won’t reverse course and disavow them?

Biden would have difficulty in exerting his will over the executive branch, as all presidents do. Perhaps he would cede power and responsibility to his vice president, or to others. It seems unlikely that he would settle into the current president’s frequent role as a kind of outside commentator on his own administration.


States Are Working to Expand School Choice during the Pandemic

Governor Henry McMaster (R., S.C.) looks on at a rally in Columbia, S.C., June 25, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As I wrote on the homepage earlier this week, Republican senators Tim Scott (S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) are proposing to reallocate 10 percent of the CARES Act’s education funding so that states can award one-time grants to scholarship organizations, offsetting costs for families who need help funding private-school tuition or homeschooling. The same legislation would create a permanent federal tax-credit scholarship program, capped at $5 billion a year, giving federal taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar credit for any money they donate to scholarship organizations.

It’s worth noting that several states are also working to expand and fund school choice during the COVID-19 outbreak, recognizing that families and schools are facing significant economic setbacks as a result of the recession, as well as the uncertainty of whether, when, and how those school will reopen.

In South Carolina, for instance, Republican governor Henry McMaster has just announced a grant program — funded by the $48 million that the state received in CARES Act relief money — called Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE), which will offer 5,000 one-time grants of up to $6,500 for low-income students who attend private or independent schools. The first 2,500 of the grants will be first-come first-served, and the rest will be given out through a lottery system.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Republican governor Kevin Stitt has outlined a plan to use CARES Act block-grant funding to expand and create school-choice programs. First, he allocated $8 million to the state education department and another $1 million to a large technical school in the state so it could offer some students free tuition. The rest of the funding will be divvied up between $10 million for a fund for low-income students attending private schools; $8 million to a program that offers stipends to low-income students for “curriculum content, technology or tutoring services”; and $12 million to a state initiative that will enable more students to access digital-education content.

In Pennsylvania, legislators are mulling an even more expansive school-choice proposal that would create education scholarship accounts, using CARES Act funding to offer low-income families $1,000 per child, on a first-come first-served basis, to be spent on approved expenses such as tuition costs, tutoring, and online class. After November 16, any school-age child in the state would be permitted to apply, regardless of family income level.

This last proposal bears a resemblance to the education savings account programs in five states: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. These programs provide qualifying students with government-funded savings accounts that can be used to cover the costs of private-school tuition, online learning, tutoring, community college, and higher education.

States would be wise to consider creating similar school-choice programs, not only to help address the negative effects of the pandemic on families and schools but also to enable students to continue choosing the education that is best for them even when the pandemic is over.


Fond Farewell to Ken Marcus


This is Ken Marcus’s last week as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. It’s an amicable departure, so far as I know, and certainly he’ll be missed. He has undone many of the worst Obama policies regarding — to give just one set of examples — all manner of race-based decision-making, such as encouraging aggressive use of racial and ethnic preferences in school admissions and setting indefensible disparate-impact limits on school discipline. Earlier this year, I summarized some of the Trump administration’s progress here. Farewell, Mr. Marcus, and well done!

Politics & Policy

Biden vs. Small Business


The candidate’s “racial equity plan” sounds like a nightmare for small businesses. Hans Bader explains that it

contains radical changes to America’s employment laws that have little to do with race. Under his plan, even the tiniest employers with only one or two employees will face unlimited liability in lawsuits, for things like discrimination, or harassment committed by an employee. It would also make confusing changes to the legal definition of sexual harassment that could lead to small businesses being liable for trivial acts by an employee. These small employers would also be liable for attorneys fees that could dwarf what they end up paying workers who sue them.


Politics & Policy

Debunking the TikTok Competition Canard

The TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone while on the U.S. flag, November 8, 2019. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

As members of Congress grill major tech executives this afternoon, TikTok and its boosters are using the focus on the tech industry’s anti-competitive practices to say that the app, which has faced scrutiny for its privacy practices, is good for competition. Kevin Mayer, the company’s CEO, made the point in a post on the company’s website today, writing that “TikTok brought successful competition to the marketplace.” He also announced the launch of a Transparency and Accountability Center that would let researchers scrutinize the app’s content moderation practices and the code behind its algorithms.

Will that appease anyone concerned about TikTok’s potential security risk? Probably not. But one important constituency already buys the argument. Tech journalists at some of the country’s most influential media outlets have for weeks argued that the app is no different from its multinational social media competitors. While government officials and privacy experts have warned that China’s invasive data-privacy practices and TikTok’s lack of transparency represent a problem, some writers regularly compare it to U.S.-based companies, concluding that the risk posed by TikTok does not seem much worse than the failings of its competitors. The latest column making this point, by the New York Times’ Kevin Roose, goes a step further, asking, “Instead of banning TikTok, or forcing ByteDance to sell it to Americans, why not make an example of it by turning it into the most transparent, privacy-protecting, ethically governed tech platform in existence?”

The piece centers on this call to regulate TikTok alongside the other Big Tech companies, but he broached the topic of competition in a conversation with a colleague about his Monday column. “It’s Facebook’s only real competitor, and the creative culture on the app would be a shame to lose,” Roose said.

That all might be true, but it needs to be balanced against other concerns, such as ByteDance’s cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party to cover up the mass internment of Uighur Muslims on Douyin, the version of TikTok that it offers in China. While ByteDance is not a state-owned enterprise, it does still operate as any Chinese company is obliged to these days. Since 2017 it has had an internal party committee, and CCP members at the company participate in sessions where they study Xi Jinping’s speeches and other facets of party ideology. Even conceding the point that other social-media companies should face more stringent regulation, new data-privacy standards will not change ByteDance’s allegiance to Beijing. As Roose admits, TikTok’s handling of user data is opaque at best — something that, due to ByteDance’s CCP ties, might not change too much, even with Mayer’s transparency assurances.

The column also warns that moving against TikTok could harm American democracy:

And since banning every Chinese-owned tech company from operating in America wouldn’t be possible without erecting our own version of China’s Great Firewall — a drastic step that would raise concerns about censorship and authoritarian control — we need to figure out a way for Chinese apps and American democracy to coexist.

While this does not exactly reprise the canard that a TikTok ban would be xenophobic, which has been advanced by some of his counterparts at other publications, the notion that such a move could constitute authoritarianism lacks any sort of support. Last spring, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States forced the Chinese owners of Grindr, the gay-dating app, to sell to their controlling stake in the company over data privacy concerns. No doubt, the user privacy concerns implicated by Grindr were more sensitive than the risk posed by TikTok, but the comparison with Grindr is only to show that the U.S. government’s emergency economic powers here can be wielded legitimately. Foreign agents are already required to register with the government, and the principle that individuals and entities with close ties to foreign powers should be treated differently is not new. Subjecting them to a different set of rules is not the same as censorship.

In this sense, the debate about TikTok should not “really be a debate about how all of the big tech companies that entertain, inform and influence billions of people should operate,” as Roose writes. The app’s owner is a Chinese company beholden to the CCP’s dictates, and this consideration should come first. Don’t take it from me. Here’s Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, responding to a reporter’s question about the conversation about Banning TikTok:

With regard to TikTok, the U.S. Senators’ smears are just baseless. The Chinese government always asks Chinese companies to comply with laws and regulations when conducting economic cooperation with foreign countries. We urge certain people in the U.S. to take a fair and unbiased view on this matter, stop using state power to oppress Chinese companies, and do things conducive to China–U.S. relations instead of going the other way.

As long as Beijing views TikTok as a Chinese company, this debate remains one primarily about national security, not competition or regulating U.S.-based tech giants.

Politics & Policy

The Republican Party Is Not for Burning


It’s not enough that Donald Trump lose reelection, say some Republicans and former Republicans. His party has to lose big, too, to exorcise his spirit from it. My new Bloomberg Opinion column says the tactical argument for burning down the Republican Party is based on a mistaken premise.

[I]t’s not at all clear that the Republican Party can be burned down or Trumpism extinguished.

Let’s say that the November elections lead to Republicans losing the White House, 20 House seats, 12 Senate seats and five governorships: a result considerably worse for the Republicans than most observers expect. That would leave them with roughly the same amount of power they had in 2009, after George W. Bush’s disastrous second term. Eight years later, they had a majority of everything. . . .

Politics & Policy

Zombie Reagan for Congress!


I enjoyed Peter Spiliakos’s piece on the perils of “Zombie Reaganism,” but I would caution him against judging the appeal of tax cuts and the like by looking primarily at presidential-election results. Spiliakos writes:

For the average American, Reaganism largely solved this problem at the federal level by indexing income-tax rates to inflation and by multiple rounds of tax cuts. During and shortly after this, Republican presidents won three straight presidential elections with wide pluralities of the popular vote (they have done so once — narrowly — in the last 32 years). Thus, tax cuts became part of the mythology of this supposedly golden age of Republican politics: They enabled the GOP to win elections and they supercharged the economy.

This is true. But it’s also true that two years after the GOP’s series of presidential blowouts came to an end, Republicans swept Congress and have controlled it for most of the time since. Since 1994, the GOP has won majorities in the House of Representatives in ten of the 13 elections, and majorities in the Senate in eight of the 13 (with a tie in 2000). If the GOP has been in thrall to the Reagan agenda since 1980, it has not performed too badly on that platform in the years since Reagan left office — especially when one considers that it is Congress, and not the executive branch, that is in charge of the purse strings.

Politics & Policy

Opening Negotiations


David Gelernter makes a persuasive case for raising the voting age to 21. I hope somebody is working on the column arguing for 40.


Day Care Fine, School Not Fine


COVID Skeptic Alex Berenson shares an email from the South Pasadena Unified School District that outlines plans to do all-remote learning for students, but provides an 8 a.m.4 p.m. extended day-care program that would cost $180 per week per child.

Day care is fine, but school isn’t? What precisely is the basis for this safety judgment?

This is the sort of arrangement that makes the school re-opening debate seem like class warfare in which teachers are asserting that they are not like lower-caste “essential workers” but more like white-collar ones who ought to be allowed to work from home and avoid all danger.

Science & Tech

COVID Tech Spotlight: Potential UV-Light Breakthrough

A robot made by Argentine company UV-Robotics uses UV light to detect germs and sanitize in a bus in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 30, 2020. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

When airborne droplets laden with COVID-19 were exposed to a specific wavelength of ultraviolet light, more than 99.9 percent of the viral particles were killed, according to new research at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. The researchers, led by scientist David Brenner, recently published a paper discussing the effect potentially human-safe far-UVC rays have on the coronavirus family. “Based on our results,” writes Brenner, “continuous airborne disinfection with far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit could greatly reduce the level of airborne virus in indoor environments occupied by people.”

If this ultraviolet light is safe for human exposure, it could add another low-cost method of virus mitigation to our toolkit. How would such technology be applied to reduce the spread of COVID-19? Brenner continues: “Because it’s [likely] safe to use in occupied spaces like hospitals, buses, planes, trains, train stations, schools, restaurants, offices, theaters, gyms, and anywhere that people gather indoors, far-UVC light could be used in combination with other measures, like wearing face masks and washing hands, to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.”

Unfortunately, there are caveats and unknowns. For instance, to kill 99 percent of the virus, it needs to be exposed to the light for at least 25 minutes. However, killing 90 percent of the virus takes eight minutes. The trouble is in finishing off the last ten percent of the virus.

But how long would such lights need to make a coronavirus-laden sneeze impotent? After all, while the virus can be transmitted on surfaces, the more dangerous pathway are the airborne and newly emitted viral droplets. And the time frame of when the virus is killed is important, not just the end percentage.

There are also some lingering concerns that human exposure to far-UVC 222nm may not be entirely safe. “The Sterilray disinfectant source (222 nm) conventionally used to sterilize equipment and work surfaces was assessed for tolerability in human skin found potential dangers of exposure to 222 nm wavelengths when looking to see if UV lights could be used as an alternative to antiseptic use in medical facilities,” according to a 2015 study. It should be noted that this study was specifically looking at neutralizing bacteria on the hands of the test subjects, not viruses. Dr. Brenner and his team have yet to address the 2015 study’s findings, so it is unknown what the ultraviolet requirements between bacterial and viral destruction might be and what that difference means for public health.

This, then, is potentially good news tempered by the relatively slow time to kill and the possible medical side effects. To hear more about Dr. Brenner’s research, the challenges it faces, and the potential impact this technology could have, please see this TED talk interview.


‘The Alternative Explanation, a Lab Escape, Is Far More Plausible.’


Jamie Metzl has an enormously important op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today.

If the virus jumped to humans through a series of human-animal encounters in the wild or in wet markets, as Beijing has claimed, we would likely have seen evidence of people being infected elsewhere in China before the Wuhan outbreak. We have not.

The alternative explanation, a lab escape, is far more plausible. We know the Wuhan Institute of Virology was using controversial “gain of function” techniques to make viruses more virulent for research purposes. A confidential 2018 State Department cable released this month highlighting the lab’s alarming safety record should heighten our concern.

Suggesting that an outbreak of a deadly bat coronavirus coincidentally occurred near the only level 4 virology institute in all of China — which happened to be studying the closest known relative of that exact virus — strains credulity.

Metzl notes that the Chinese government is attempting to avoid any serious investigation, with president Xi Jinping contending that investigations into the origin should be delayed until after the pandemic is contained. Metzl argues that an international investigation must include full access to all of the scientists, biological samples, laboratory records, and other materials, and that “denying that access should be considered an admission of guilt by Beijing.”

You may not have heard of Jamie Metzl, but he’s not just some schmo. He’s got the kind of sterling résumé that glows in the U.S. foreign-policy world — “deputy staff director of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Senator Joe Biden, senior coordinator for International Public Information at the Department of State, and director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs on the White House National Security Council.” What’s more, he frequently writes about genetics and bioengineering. In 2004, Metzl ran for Congress as a Democrat.

We don’t know with absolute certainty that this pandemic started with some sort of accident at a lab in Wuhan. But the non-lab explanation most frequently cited since the outbreak, that the virus can be traced back to some animal consumed at the Huanan Seafood Market, is now inoperable. Not even the Chinese government is contending the outbreak started there anymore, raising the question of why certain American journalists are still echoing an exculpatory explanation that not even Beijing believes is plausible anymore.


Mandateless Joe Biden


Joe Biden may well be the next president of the United States, and if that scenario comes to pass, it will because he was in the right place at the right time, and met two minimally difficult criteria. He won the Democratic primary because he wasn’t Bernie Sanders, and he will have won the general election because he wasn’t Donald Trump.

Biden recently contended his virtual campaign is reaching people. “All this stuff about hiding in the basement? Well, over 340 million people have watched what we’ve done like this on television.” (According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population is 330 million.)

Judging from the polls, Biden’s minimalist approach is working. But one has to wonder just what a president-elect does after winning due to voter exhaustion with the other guy. Biden’s policy proposals are barely getting much attention in the pandemic and protest-driven news cycle.

Biden is ahead, in part, because pro-Trump Democrats have left the party and he’s good enough for everyone who remained, as well as for the white-collar suburbanites who joined the party during the Trump years. Biden leads among Bernie Sanders voters, 87 percent to 4 percent, and among Elizabeth Warren voters, 96 percent to zero. Biden is the blank-enough slate that just about every Democrat can unify behind as an alternate to the incumbent.

But the Democratic Party includes a wide range of views, from Joe Manchin and Collin Peterson on one side to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders on the other. Biden can’t please everyone, and if and when he starts governing, he’s going to start making decisions that disappoint one faction. It is easy to envision a moment in early 2021 when the new president encounters resistance in his party, and Biden argues the American people elected him to enact a particular agenda. That dissenting Democratic faction will have the strong counterargument: “No, you were elected because you weren’t Donald Trump.”


Grading Must Go?


In today’s Martin Center article, Duke University professor John Staddon looks at the movement to abolish grades.

The centuries-old idea of grading was simple: “That some kids are brighter than others, that these differences are reflected (not perfectly: some backward kids work hard, some bright kids are idle!) in their grades, and that grades serve both to inform and motivate students.” But our education experts (one prof who wrote a piece for the New York Times in particular) now know better.

Staddon continues:

Things are very different now. The reality of human difference — difference in every aspect from height, weight, and beauty to intelligence and industriousness — has become a huge problem for America. Many people simply can’t accept it. A big problem with grades is that they make these differences impossible to ignore. Hence, pressure to make them taboo.

Cancel the fact of human differences and the “progressive” project of turning America into Animal Farm goes so much quicker.

Staddon identifies three erroneous ideas that may doom grading:

  • The belief that all are equally talented
  • The hegemony of “feelings:” even momentary unhappiness must be avoided
  • Bad science, which says that ”aversive control” is ineffective

He concludes:

No doubt tests, examinations, and grading systems could be improved. But in fact the trend has been to go to pass-fail or eliminate grading entirely. The result may well be the ignorance we see displayed by young BLM protesters who attempt to pull down statues of Abraham Lincoln and other emancipators. We need not less grading but more, more open posting of grades, and not easier exams but tougher ones.

Politics & Policy

The Karen Bass Boomlet


The odds are still stacked against her being tapped as Joe Biden’s running mate, but California congresswoman Karen Bass certainly has the widest and most interesting range of public supporters — from George Will and Jim Clyburn to Markos Moulitsas and a group of Bernie Sanders delegates.

Will and Clyburn see Bass as a stabilizing force, but why are left-wing activists rallying behind the congresswoman? Look to her comment to The Atlantic: She ‘cannot envision’ ever running for president, even if she was vice president,” Bill Scher writes at Real Clear Politics. “If Biden is going to choose a fellow pragmatist, the left would greatly prefer the choice be someone who won’t seize the inside track for the next presidential primary contest, which could be as soon as 2024.”

Biden says he will reveal his VP pick next week.

Woke Culture

Netflix’s Sinister Endorsement of ‘Transgender’ Children

(File photo: Mike Blake/Reuters)

A 9-year-old Texan boy called Joseph, who now identifies as a girl called Kai, is playing a transgender girl called Bailey for the Netflix remake of the 1990s show The Baby-Sitters Club.

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

Joseph’s parents claim that they realized he was a girl when he was around 18 months old. His mother, Kimberly Shappley, who describes herself as a conservative Christian, explains how she struggled when her young son started exhibiting stereotypically feminine behaviors. In a 2017 article for Good Housekeeping, Mrs. Shappley describes one night when Joseph was “very young” and she was “tucking [him] into bed.”

[His] legs were cold and, concerned, I lifted the sheets, discovering [he] had taken a pair of panties off a baby doll and put them [himself]. It was constricting [his] blood circulation and if [he’d] slept that way overnight, it could have become very dangerous. After that experience, I realized I could no longer ignore something very real about my child: My son, born Joseph Paul Shappley, is a girl.

Is this the most staggering non-sequitur of all time? Wait for the second paragraph:

I was raised as a devout, conservative Christian with strong Republican values in the South. It’s a place where being different can not only be unforgiving, but unsafe. I was, and am, an active member of our local church. I used to lead a small ministry teaching Bible study, and I didn’t support or condone those living the LGBTQ lifestyle. That was just part of the Christian makeup I’d been brought up to believe. I knew I’d instill those same principles in my children.

For some parents, it’s easier to think that their boy is really a girl than it is to think that he is a boy who might grow up to be effeminate or (as some research indicates) homosexual. Transsexualism is the only accepted way to be gay in Iran, for instance.

Bizarrely, though, Netflix views supposedly transgender children as a progressive cause worth championing. In The Baby-Sitter’s Club, there’s a scene where Bailey (played by poor Joseph) is admitted to hospital, whereupon Mary Anne, his babysitter, is handed a blue gown. “I don’t want the blue one,” Bailey says. (Never mind that every patient in the hospital wears the same color.) The doctors then repeatedly “misgender” Bailey, by — you know — reading his biological sex from his chart. Identifying this micro-aggression, teenage Mary Anne then asks to speak to them outside.

I know you guys are busy, but as you would see if you looked at her and not her chart, Bailey is not a boy. And by treating her like one you are completely ignoring who she is. You’re making her feel insignificant and humiliated. And that’s not going to make her feel good or safe or calm. So from here on out please recognize her for who she is.

But since when did doctors take their cues from sanctimonious teenagers? If the doctors in this scenario had looked at the patient, instead of the patient’s chart, they would have seen a pre-pubescent child with long hair. Treating patients is similar to raising children in that acknowledging the material reality of biological sex happens to be quite important.


It’s Going to Be a Race


The national polling looks pretty horrific for Trump and he’s clearly the underdog, but I will be shocked if it doesn’t tighten up such that this is a real race in the fall.

Sean Trende, who’s down on Trump’s chances, has an interesting thread that circles around to this conclusion:

Politics & Policy

Barr Wins the Day

Attorney General William Barr appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, July 28, 2020. (Matt McClain/Pool via Reuters)

The Barr hearing wasn’t very edifying, in large part because Democrats were utterly committed to keeping him from saying anything. One of them would make a sermonette, pause to ask Barr a hostile question, and then angrily interrupt him when he started to answer, accusing him of taking up valuable time. Then, the sermonette would start up again.

One thing was definitely established, though — Democrats fervently believe that federal officers are attacking peaceful protesters in Portland.

Here is a typical riff from Representative Pramila Jayapal complaining that federal officers weren’t called in to crack down on anti-Whitmer protesters in Michigan:

Jayapal paints a highly misleading picture of the Michigan protesters, but, whatever you think of them, they weren’t attacking federal property or federal officers — the rioters in Portland are.

In general, Barr is an excellent witness. He’s sober, usually doesn’t let his irritation show (although he will spin his pen faster), never says more than he has to, and knows more than anyone else in the room.

It’s a tribute to how good he is that Democrats were desperate never to get caught up in a genuine back-and-forth with him.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Children Last

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Work, Family, and COVID Relief


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

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


The Astros Better Not Win the Flippin’ World Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Growing Resistance to Scotland’s New Blasphemy Law


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

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

Politics & Policy

Deforming the Tax Code


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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Socialists on the March

(Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

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

(Encounter Books via Amazon)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NR Webathon

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

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Hundreds of Sick Canadians Euthanized over Loneliness


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

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

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

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

These statistics are scandalous and should make Canada deeply ashamed.

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full text of the letter can be found here.


How Many NFL Players Will Opt Out This Year?


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

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

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

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

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


À propos de la France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Review

Introducing Capital Matters

(SARINYAPINNGAM/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Security & Defense

The Upcoming Partisan Fight over Nuclear-Test Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


1. Charles Camosy: Honoring Our Elderly

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

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

3. Ross Douthat: The Ghost of Margaret Sanger

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

5. Dozens of Rohingya migrants feared drowned off Malaysia coast

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

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

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

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

8. Barcelona cardinal holds Mass in defiance of government order

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

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

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

10. Chris Arnade: A Culture Canceled

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


Pierre Manent on the Church and COVID


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

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

Read the whole thing.

Law & the Courts

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Economy

On Reviving New York City


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Grim Omen for the Sports World


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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Ezekiel Emanuel Wants to Shut Down the Country Again


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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