U.S.

We Should Vote for the Opposite

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Watching public officials in several countries endorse protests that are breaking the strict public-health strictures enforced on everyone else has had a radicalizing effect.

I think I’m going to be even more stingy with my vote from now on. The only candidate I will ever vote for is the one who promises to do the exact reverse of what obtains in New York currently. All left-wing activism shall be banned in the name of public health or restricted to ten people or fewer no matter the size of the venue. At the same time, this candidate must vocally encourage attendance at massive religious processions as an obvious remedy for what ails society.

Media

A Simple Proposal: ‘Shut Down All Police Movies and TV Shows. Now.’

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Protesters hit a defaced NYPD vehicle during a rally against the death of George Floyd, Times Square, New York City, May 30, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Over at the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg has come up with a simple, easy, and completely rational way to address the problem of police brutality: “Shut down all police movies and TV shows. Now.”

Do you remember the half-hour documentary show Cops? “Cops is filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” Now that you’ve read those words, you’re probably humming “Bad Boys” right now.

There are probably some viewers who would argue Cops glamorized the police forces depicted on screen. The camera crew certainly wasn’t there to make the policemen look bad or to expose police wrongdoing. We didn’t see them beating suspects or intimidating teenagers. If police forces thought the show would make them look bad, they wouldn’t have agreed to the ride-along.

But Cops often made police work look like a particularly sad realm of existence. Maybe it was just the episodes I caught, but the police in Cops always seemed to be responding to domestic disturbances. The man and woman would be hysterically shouting at each other, a baby was crying, and terrified small children were watching from the doorway of another room. The man and woman — occasionally married, oftentimes not — would trade accusations as the cops tried to calm down one or both parties. Sometimes one or both were drunk or high. A search of the suspects would often turn up drugs. The older neighbor who called the cops would watch from next door, shaking her head and taking a drag on a cigarette with about an inch of ash still on it.

Oftentimes the boyfriend in the appropriately named shirt would end up in the squad car, red and blue lights flashing, as the woman who had been screaming a moment earlier suddenly switched gears and begged the officers to not take him away, more terrified of what was coming next than the bad situation in which she was already. Child protective services seemed to be needed at least once an episode.

The camera crews of Cops regularly encountered citizens who had a long list of troubles and problems, ones that law enforcement was poorly equipped to handle: unemployment or under-employment, poverty, addiction, few or no role models or support networks. Dysfunction begat dysfunction. A frequent viewer of Cops might conclude that once the camera crew was done with the ride-along, the squad car should arrive with a social worker as backup. The broken law was only one of many serious problems on the scene.

It was hard to feel optimistic for the non-police depicted on Cops. Maybe a run-in with the criminal-justice system would scare some of these folks straight; otherwise it was ensuring that a man who had made bad decisions, who had a long list of problems, would eventually be out, trying to find a job with a criminal record.

Many of us will be lucky enough to rarely encounter crime and its consequences. Police officers encounter crime and its consequences all the time. Consistent exposure to humanity at its darkest places would never justify police brutality or unequal treatment under the law. But police are human beings, too, and no doubt constantly encountering violence and the worst tragedies of the human condition takes a psychological toll. It’s fair to wonder if America’s police forces have been asked to manage longtime dire situations in rough, impoverished neighborhoods, circumstances that no law-enforcement force could ever sufficiently address.

(By one measure, Rosenberg got her wish before the current controversy, in the sense that no cop movies or television shows are in production. Just about all fictional television show production halted because of the coronavirus pandemic and is still working out the details of how to restart.)

Economy & Business

Tax Rates on the Working Poor

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The editors of the Wall Street Journal highlight a new study estimating that a quarter of “low-wage workers face marginal net tax rates above 70 percent, effectively locking them into poverty.” If they make higher incomes, that is, they lose so much in government benefits as to leave them barely ahead.

The basic problem that the study tries to quantify has been understood for many years. Fixing it would require either cutting benefits for the poor or raising benefits for those higher on the income scale. Neither has been an attractive option for policymakers.

U.S.

‘This Isn’t a Funeral, Officer, It’s Just a Protest’

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Contra Costa County in California updated its shelter-in-place orders yesterday. Residents of the county must keep the number of people in attendance at funerals to ten or fewer. Playgrounds, gym equipment, climbing walls, picnic areas, dog parks, pools, spas, and barbecue areas — prohibited outside of residences — will remain closed.

Also, residents of Contra Costa County may hold “protests of up to 100 people.”

County lawmakers do not see any contradiction there.

Politics & Policy

I Didn’t Miss Your Call, I Was in a ‘Virtual Walkout’

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When rank-and-file employees are infuriated that the management is insufficiently progressive for their tastes, the go-to move in this era of remote working is a “virtual walkout.” Not enough employees are actually in the workplaces to physically walk out, so the workers . . . just walk away from their computers and don’t answer their phones, it appears. New York Times workers are doing it. Facebook workers are doing it.

Of course, it’s kind of tough to tell the difference between a “virtual walkout” and just . . . not responding to emails, Slack messages, or calls. I suppose if you really want a huge turnout for your “virtual walkout,” schedule it for late Friday afternoon. Lots of people will inadvertently join your cause.

Politics & Policy

The Media Take Trump’s George Floyd Comments Completely out of Context

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This morning, a slew of big-name reporters — including the New York Timess Peter Baker and CNN’s Kaitlan Collins — claimed, or led you to believe, that Donald Trump said he hoped George Floyd was looking down on America cheering on its excellent new job numbers. A bunch of outlets ran with the story. Trusting the reporting, I assumed the president, as is his wont, said something absurd or offensive to undermine his own good fortune.

The full video of the comment, however, shows an entirely different context. Trump is speaking about the police’s and National Guard’s efforts to maintain peace in cities, and the importance of meting out “equal justice under the law,” which “must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed.” It’s from this perspective he says he hopes “George” is looking down at us.

Now, you can argue with Trump’s contention about law enforcement acting properly, but it is reasonable for him to bring up Floyd in the context of policing.

Do the press corps not have enough Trump material to work with? Because it’s difficult to believe that this sort of thing happens — always skewed in the same direction, by the same people — by accident.

Politics & Policy

‘A Place of Moral Leadership’

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King Hussein of Jordan shakes hands with Margalit Badayev, mother of Shiri, one of seven Israeli schoolgirls murdered by a Jordanian soldier. Hussein visited grieving family members on March 16, 1997. (Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I begin with U.S. policy toward China — specifically, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. The bill has passed both houses of Congress and is now on the president’s desk. In the House of Representatives, the vote was 413 to 1. Naturally, I am interested in the one.

When I was coming of age, I was keenly interested in Congress, and when a vote was lopsided — 409 to 3, 426 to 1 — I wanted to know about the dissenters or dissenter. A pattern was clear: The “nay” votes tended to be cast by radical-Left Democrats, such as Ron Dellums, and Ron Paul.

If there were two votes against some motherhood-and-apple-pie resolution in support of Israel, for example, you could have bet that they belonged to Dellums and Paul.

How about the one vote against the Uyghur bill? It was cast by Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky — who said, “When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs.”

I always think of Solzhenitsyn: “On our crowded planet there are no longer any ‘internal affairs.’ The Communist leaders say, ‘Don’t interfere in our internal affairs. Let us strangle our citizens in peace and quiet.’ But I tell you: Interfere more and more. Interfere as much as you can. We beg you to come and interfere.”

Another item in Impromptus today asks, “What is manliness?” This is a question that recurs, especially on the right. People are always trying to out-macho one another. They flex their muscles, especially at the keyboard. You remember the Saturday Night Live skit, “Quién es más macho?” That’s it.

Early in the Trump administration, a presidential adviser said, “The alpha males are back.” If you criticize the president, you are apt to be called “beta” (and worse). Trump himself has said, “I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

You may know the name of Timothy Klausutis. He is the widower of Lori Klausutis, the Florida woman who died in 2001. She had worked for Joe Scarborough, who was then a congressman. Over and over, President Trump has insinuated that Scarborough murdered this woman.

Timothy Klausutis wrote a letter to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, in which he said this: “I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life.”

I don’t know how you feel — individual mileage varies — but those lines strike me as manly. As an expression of manliness, or manhood.

Which leads me to James Mattis, another subject of my column. President Trump tweeted, “Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog.’”

Trump did not fire Mattis. Mattis resigned. Trump did not fire John Bolton. Bolton resigned. After the fact, in each instance, Trump claimed to have fired the man. Both men resigned on principle. Mattis over Syria, and Bolton, it would appear, over Ukraine. (We should know more when Bolton’s memoir comes out.)

You know who both Obama and Trump did fire? Michael Flynn.

Another general, John Kelly, the former chief of staff, has now weighed in. “The president did not fire him,” Kelly said, referring to Mattis. “He did not ask for his resignation. The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused.”

This has ruffled presidential feathers, of course. Kelly ruffled them last year, too, when he spoke at a conference in Sea Island, Ga. He said that he had warned Trump not to hire a yes-man as chief of staff (as Kelly’s replacement). Otherwise, he might find himself impeached.

After Kelly spoke at the conference, the presidential press secretary at the time, Stephanie Grisham, responded, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.”

By the way, Trump did not give Mattis the nickname “Mad Dog,” as he claimed in the above-quoted tweet. That’s another subject, and another pattern. (In 2017, Trump claimed to have coined the phrase “prime the pump,” with reference to economic policy. “I came up with it a couple of days ago,” he told The Economist, “and I thought it was good.”)

In the last ten days, many of us have written about the death of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests, and the ensuing riots, and so on. There’s a lot to say. Have you ever mused, or fantasized, What would I do, if I were president? What would I have done? How would I handle the job? I myself have given in to such musings from time to time.

(Don’t worry, the Republic is safe from me: I couldn’t get elected dog-catcher.)

There is a world of difference between Israel in 1997 and Minneapolis in 2020, but bear with me anyway, please. In 1997, a Jordanian soldier massacred seven Israeli schoolgirls. King Hussein went and sat with their grieving families. The symbolism was important. Hussein was performing a kingly act, you might say. I think I might have gone to sit with the family of George Floyd — as a token of national concern, solidarity, and sorrow, if you will.

I know, the president can’t track the death of every sparrow. But some deaths roil the nation, as this one has.

Leadership matters, and the character of a leader matters. These are kindergarten lessons, but they have become more obvious to me in recent years. “The president sets the tone of the country,” it has long been said. But how can that be? We are a big ol’ country — 330 million now — and America is a bottom-up society, not a top-down society!

In theory, sure. But . . .

I hear Trump’s language repeated back to me all the time: “fake news”; “enemy of the people”; “hoax”; “rigged”; “swamp.” Millions and millions take their cues from the president, whether we like it or not.

“The presidency is not merely an administrative office,” said FDR, campaigning for that office in September 1932. “That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is preeminently a place of moral leadership.”

You may kick against this view. Democrats certainly did — or a lot of them did — in the Clinton years. “The president is doing his job, and what he does on his own time, in his private life, with interns or anyone else, is his own business.” Another way to put this is: Are the trains running on time? Is the president implementing the policies I like? Raising taxes, cutting taxes? Regulating, deregulating?

Republicans, in the Clinton years, were big on character, virtue, example-setting — all that gooey stuff. It seems sort of quaint now.

But I think the gooey stuff is key. And I think it will make a comeback, on the right, when a Democrat next occupies the Oval Office. People are like this, whatever their politics.

And you have to acknowledge, a lot of Trump Republicans are high on the president for his character. Two days ago, his press secretary compared him to Churchill. She said that his Lafayette Park walk was like Churchill in the Blitz. Last week, the president himself tweeted, “Congratulations to author Nick Adams on the @simonschuster publication of your new book, ‘Trump and Churchill, Defenders of Western Civilization’. Certainly a great honor to be compared, in any way, to Winston Churchill.”

There you ago. As I said earlier, individual mileage varies.

National Review

Inside the June 22, 2020, Issue

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The new issue of National Review is now available to all NRPLUS readers, and some of its contents may still be available to those who have yet to exhaust their monthly free-reads of America’s premier conservative journal. If that means you, well, you should pray that you have one of those freebies to read the consequential, dozen-page report by Nicholas Eberstadt and Daniel Blumenthal, “China Unquarantined,” in which the authors explore the threats to the international system posed by Communist China, a major and ill-intentioned power, sadly made so by the U.S. It’s a must-read essay.

Elsewhere in the issue, there are gems from the Table of Contents through the “Happy Warrior” column (in this issue, Heather Wilhelm’s prepping admission), but let’s take this opportunity to recommend Jay Nordlinger’s extensive first-hand account of riding out lockdowns and riots in New York City (James Lilek’s “Athwart” column recounts the same, albeit from Minneapolis, with the usual bite and touch of sarcasm), Daniel J. Mahoney’s review of the new American Conservatism collection, and Charlie Cooke’s free-speech defense of Section 230.

There’s not a single word you will want to miss. And do you know what? You could be reading all of the words right now. No waiting for the USPS to get the old paper-and-ink to you in a week or so (nothing wrong with that of course). To read the new issue, and to get access to the NR archives (each and every issue from the last decade and then some, plus a mostly ad-free experience on NRO, amongst other benefits), get that NRPLUS membership going. Do that right here, and why not right now.

Culture

Episode 17: Human Life Matters: Life, Death, Riots, and Healing

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A death by a knee to the neck. Riots. Fires. Broken windows. Missed opportunities for prayer and reconciliation. It’s been quite the week. After quite the months. In the latest “virus-free” conversation from National Review Institute, I talk with Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation. He’s a lawyer, he’s worked on Capitol Hill, and, most recently at the Department of Health and Human Services. A Michigan native, he lives in Washington, D.C. And among the reasons I wanted to talk to him is he lives in the world like we all do, and is one of the grounded ones. Prayer is important to him, as you’ll hear as he talks about his kind of rally in the wake of all of this — a Rosary Walk for reparation for the sins of racism and violence.


For previous “virus free” conversations, click here.

Politics & Policy

Uncommon Knowledge — Mitch Daniels: Plain Talk from the President of Purdue

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Mitch Daniels is the former governor of Indiana (2005–13), former director of the Office of Management and Budget (2001–03), and current president of Purdue University (since 2013). In this wide-ranging conversation with Peter Robinson, Daniels discusses his insistence on keeping Purdue’s tuition below $10,000 and how he does it, his vision for Purdue that includes mix of online and onsite education, and his efforts to hire an ideologically diverse faculty and recruit students from various backgrounds and ethnicities. He also shares his thoughts on the recent civil unrest, protests, and looting across the United States, and his plans on how to open Purdue and keep it open this fall amid the continuing COVID-19 crisis.

Economy & Business

Digging into the Jobs Data

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The numbers that were just released this morning are consistent with the data (released yesterday morning) on which I reported in a Corner post yesterday. I indicated that the number of jobless claims has been decreasing for nine straight weeks. It is reasonable to think that the number of jobs would increase with this, as people are coming out of lockdown. As more and more people come out of lockdown, we will continue to see an improvement in the job market.

By the way, as I anticipated in yesterday’s column, there are now headlines referring to U.S. jobless claims approaching 43 million (which refers to yesterday’s numbers — the ones I was writing about). As I wrote yesterday, this is a very misleading number. The more relevant number is about half of that.

Economy & Business

Why Jobs Are Recovering

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A useful thread from Adam Ozimek. Temporary layoffs are starting to be reversed as states re-open, and companies are rehiring to meet the conditions of the Payroll Protection Program. But unemployment due to permanent job loss actually rose this month, by 255,000. It’s too early to say we’re in a much-sought V-shaped recovery.

Economy & Business

About That Jobs Number

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I have seen the futures move around a Friday morning jobs report in my day (pre-market equity prices), but I have never seen 300 points tick up on the Dow in one second. Such was the case this morning on the jobs print, which, rather than reflecting 8 million jobs lost, showed 2.5 million jobs gained.  Rather than the 20 percent Depression-era unemployment number many were predicting, the unemployment rate actually declined, to a still-ghastly 13.3 percent.

There is plenty to say about this from an economic standpoint: The biggest takeaway is that the ~2.7 million people who self-identified last month as “temporarily laid-off” appeared to be right, and the dozens upon dozens of economists, experts, and analysts who sympathetically patted them on the head last month, saying, “There, there, it will be okay” while assuring us those folks were all sitting ducks in a post-COVID economy where no one would ever go out to eat again were, well, wrong.  Really, really wrong. I am down on myself after not better predicting it in real time this week as I ate out at restaurants every single night, every one of which was packed, every restaurant filled with the familiar faces of waiters and waitresses I have seen for years.

But I digress.

The real story of this jobs number goes beyond something we thought would be bad being pretty darn good. It sets the stage for the next six months of post-COVID-era data. Surely there will be some disappointments along the way. Not every data point will outperform expectations, let alone smoke the skeptics like this one did. But critics, pessimists, perma-bears, and most of all, Democrats, have to be wondering: After three months of getting the health picture wrong, are we in for another season of getting all the economic data wrong?

Economy & Business

Jobs Report Shows Markets Are Smart

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A U.S. flag hangs above an entrance to the New York Stock Exchange in 2015. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

As the stock market rallied in April and May, there was a great deal of handwringing about the apparent disconnect between financial markets and the real economy. With soaring unemployment claims and mass business closures, the S&P’s upward march appeared preposterous.

“Have the Record Number of Investors in the Stock Market Lost Their Minds?” asked John Cassidy at The New Yorker. Cassidy and others attributed the rally to a spike in retail volume. People bored at home injected a bunch of “dumb money” into the market, pushing up the prices of high-profile tech stocks like Tesla.

Seasoned market hands suggested the rally was driven by irrational exuberance. Legendary macro investor Stanley Druckenmiller said that “the risk-reward for equity is maybe as bad as I’ve seen it in my career,” and Warren Buffett sold stocks during the rally in April.

One theory was the financial markets had become disconnected from the real economy entirely. Tech stock have led market returns for years, and a consumer at home is still a consumer. He still makes Amazon orders and goes on Facebook, and the congressional stimulus drove incomes up during the economic shutdowns, so socially distanced consumers still had money to spend.

Meanwhile, the Fed’s massive bond-buying program shored up corporate balance sheets, even for some risky high-yield companies. These lending facilities precluded the mass bankruptcies that some market watchers had predicted. Loan programs also buoyed employment. As of May 30, banks had disbursed $510 billion in loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. Companies receiving PPP loans are required to spend 75 percent of the funds on payroll, and qualify for loan forgiveness if they retain 90 percent of their workers. The Fed’s corporate-lending facilities include similar provisions on workforce retention.

Which brings us to today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report showing a 2.5 million increase in jobs. Given the unprecedented stimulus, it makes sense that employment did not continue to nosedive. But it wasn’t just the government bolstering the economy. As states reopened in May, temporarily furloughed leisure and hospitality workers went back to work. It remains to be seen whether the summer will bring more good news. The pandemic could very well alter consumption patterns, and loan forbearance has generated a short-term liability overhang that could put a drag on economic growth.

But the past few months have shown that markets are smart.

Media

‘Standards’

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The New York Times employs a Nobel Prize–winner who thinks the Bureau of Labor Statistics might be deliberately misreporting unemployment data. It also employs a Pulitzer Prize–winner who believes a conspiracy theory about the origin of the Second Amendment.

If Tom Cotton’s op-ed “did not meet” the New York Times‘s “standards,” one wonders what exactly those standards are.

Education

University Professor: Reopen the Campuses

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Nearly all colleges sent students home back in March, and the big question they now face is whether to resume normal operations in August. Quite a few voices have argued that it’s just too risky to do so. College leaders who reopen will be responsible for a lot of illness and death. Do the safe thing — stay closed.

Taking the opposite side in this argument is professor Rob Jenkins. In today’s Martin Center article, he argues in favor of reopening, with sensible precautions.

Responding to the “Don’t Reopen!” crowd, Jenkins writes:

Attempts to portray those of us who favor reopening as insensitive, uncaring, or mercenary are uncivil and unjust. We, too, are concerned about students and others on campus, not just in the short term but also over the long haul. We believe the health — nay, the very survival — of our campuses is vital to the long-term health and well-being of all concerned.

Jenkins points out that COVID-19 poses minimal risk for most people in the age range we find on college campuses. Older faculty and staff can be protected against possible exposure.

And what if colleges stay closed? Many won’t survive much longer. Continuing with online courses won’t do. Jenkins writes:

Those who think we can simply hold all our classes online again this fall are deluding themselves. Students tolerated that in the spring because they had to. But study after study shows that a clear majority favor returning to campus; short of that, many do not intend to return at all. Can our campuses survive that intact? Can our higher education system? Can our students?

Politics & Policy

‘What Happened to Concrete Terms?’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss James Mattis’s denunciation of Trump, the ridiculous outrage provoked by Tom Cotton’s NYT op-ed, and the double standard of health officials when it comes to the recent protests. Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Culture

Twenty Things that Caught My Eye Today: Courage, Forgiveness & More (June 4, 2020)

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1. Diverse religious groups, 76 Members of Congress and 16 States support foster families at the High Court

2. WSJ: Child-Abuse Reports Are Falling, and That’s Bad News for Children

3.

4. Mississippi pastor: My Church was burned down because we want to worship in person:

On Easter Sunday, police officers with the city of Holly Springs interrupted our service and issued me a citation for violating an unconstitutional stay at home order. Ten days later, our peaceful Bible study was shut down although we were following all social distancing guidelines. But the nightmare wasn’t over. Last Wednesday, someone burned down our church, leaving only a smoldering mass of debris and our dreams. They left graffiti, trying to shame us for worshiping together in our church.

5. Sohrab Ahmari: Worse than war: My night besieged by looters and thugs in NYC

6. Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide Remains Dangerous, Targets the Vulnerable:

Anita Cameron, Director of Minority Outreach for Not Dead Yet, said “I am utterly disgusted that as COVID-19 ravages the Black community due to the results of racial disparities in healthcare, the Public Health Committee has decided to try to slip this bill through. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Black community; we are dying at frightening rates. This bill promotes death over life, and by pushing it, the legislature is sending a clear message to us Blacks that we are burdens and should die by suicide.”

7. Crux: Syrian archbishop says he can still find happiness, despite destruction

8. WSJ: Save Your Kids From Covid’s Digital Deluge

9. How one Catholic priest responded to the ’92 LA riots

Continue reading “Twenty Things that Caught My Eye Today: Courage, Forgiveness & More (June 4, 2020)”

Politics & Policy

Flames from False Narratives

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Protesters react after setting fire to the entrance of a police station in Minneapolis, Minn., May 28, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The indefensible killing — captured on video — of George Floyd, following closely after the release of video showing the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, triggered the riots, looting, and conflagrations that have engulfed scores of cities across the country. As horrific as these killings were, it’s questionable whether, in isolation, they would’ve prompted riots on the scale and in the numbers that have occurred in the last week. Demonstrations, sure. On a visceral level, the videos almost compel them. But nationwide riots would be unlikely.

Rather, the riots are a result of the narrative that the Floyd and Arbery killings are but the latest of increasing examples of innocent blacks being disproportionately shot by white cops and targeted by racist white civilians. The narrative is played hourly on cable news shows. It’s embellished by major newspapers across the country. Cynical and opportunistic politicians advance it every election cycle. Hollywood perpetuates the narrative in television and theaters. It’s a mantra of high-school teachers and college professors, regardless of academic discipline. Major corporations apologize for their nebulous complicity. The narrative is a staple of diversity and inclusion offices. It’s ubiquitous on social media.

The narrative has been repeated so frequently, so universally, that it’s an unassailable given, a fact not to be challenged. Indeed, it’s an article of faith which, if questioned, exposes the heretic to rage, venom, and ostracization. Some fear losing their jobs. Best therefore, not to even consider questioning the narrative.

The narrative is false. In fact, it’s not just false, it’s upside down. And it’s been false for quite some time. There are racist cops in a nation of 330 million. But 2020 America isn’t 1965 Selma.

In short, the data make clear that blacks are, indeed, overrepresented among victims of police shootings, but underrepresented relative to black overrepresentation in crime, particularly violent crime.

Some media recently ran the story that blacks are twice as likely as whites to be shot by cops. On its face, that’s true. But the statement doesn’t consider the comparable encounters with police, especially in high-risk situations, that are likely to prompt exchanges of gunfire or other forms of violence. Consider the following, from the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey, Census data, FBI Uniform Crime Reports, and other sources: (For extended discussion, see my dissenting statement to the 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report: Police Use of Force: Examination of Modern Police Practices, p. 197. Unless otherwise noted, most of the data is from 2018.)

  • In 2016, 466 whites were killed by police; 233 blacks were killed by police.
  • Whites are 76.5 percent of the U.S. population (including Hispanics); blacks are 13.4 percent of the U.S. population.
  • Whites commit 59 percent of violent crimes (defined as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault); blacks commit 37.5 percent of violent crimes.
  • One out of 8,511 blacks is arrested for murder; one in 58,582 whites is arrested for murder.
  • Blacks are approximately 6.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for murder.
  • One out of 2,800,438 blacks is arrested for killing a cop; one of 7,674,278 whites is arrested for killing a cop.
  • Blacks are 2.74 times more likely than whites to be arrested for killing a cop.
  • In 2016, 66 cops were killed in the line of duty; 32 whites and 15 blacks were identified as the killers.
  • More than twice as many blacks (533) murdered whites in 2016 than whites (243) murdered blacks.
  • Black males are 6 percent of the U.S. population. Black males are responsible for 42 percent of cop killings in the last decade.
  • In 2015, a cop was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was likely to be killed by a cop.
  • In 2016, 222 black males were killed by police. 16 were unarmed. 445 white males were killed by police. 20 were unarmed.

Contrary to the tweets and posts of some celebrities, blacks aren’t being “hunted” by whites. As Heather Mac Donald notes:

Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed 85.5 percent of all black-white interracial violent victimizations (excluding interracial homicide, which is also disproportionately black-on-white). That works out to 540,360 felonious assaults on whites. Whites committed 14.4 percent of all interracial violent victimizations, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks.

The false narrative has devastating consequences to society. Death, destruction, and division are but a few. The aftermath to the false Michael Brown narrative is just one example. The devastation in Baltimore is another.

Riots are inevitable the next time a black person dies in police custody. People will be killed, property and livelihoods will be destroyed. The false narrative ensures that.

Health Care

1,288 ‘Public Health Professionals’ Disgrace Their Profession

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Nurse Teresa Malijon waits for patients at a drive-through testing site for coronavirus in a parking lot at the University of Washington’s Northwest Outpatient Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., March 17, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Ramesh alluded to an open letter signed by over 1,000 “public health professionals, infectious diseases professionals, and community stakeholders.” The letter argues that it’s okay if the current protests/riots spread COVID-19 because racism is itself a public-health issue that needs to be addressed.

Let’s take that argument seriously for a moment and ask a follow-up question: Why, then, was there so much criticism of the anti-lockdown protests? The premise of those protests was that continuing lockdowns caused far more economic damage than was necessary. If anything is a public-health issue, surely record unemployment, social isolation, and bans on people going to hospitals for non-urgent care should count.

Well, here is how the letter distinguishes between anti-racism protests and anti-lockdown protests:

. . . [W]e do not condemn these [anti-racism] gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States . . . . This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders. Those actions not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives.

It’s difficult to understand how any reasonable person could have committed those words to print. Even just, “Yeah, we’re hypocrites, so what?” would have been a more satisfying response. Ironically, the signatories do say they have “privately mourned the widening rift between leaders in science and a subset of the communities that they serve.” That rift is now a chasm. If these leaders do have any real expertise, how sad that it’s been lost within the all-consuming political correctness of our age.

Religion

Reopening Policies Unfairly Target Church Services in Madison, Wis.

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(Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Religious leaders in Madison, Wis., have written to local officials, calling its reopening policy unconstitutional and a “discriminatory restriction.” The letter asks that the City of Madison and Dane County COVID-19 regulations be revised to apply to houses of worship the same way they apply to other organizations and businesses.

In a letter on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Madison, several attorneys outline how local authorities are applying reopening rules unequally in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, targeting places of worship with stricter policies than those applied to other public activities. This, they argue, “treats religious interests unequally and unfairly.”

The letter notes that the local reopening plan subjects “the routine operations of houses of worship—and of no other category of organization—to a ‘Mass Gathering’ limit of 50 persons.” Meanwhile,

retail stores, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, offices, factories, gyms, salons, tattoo parlors, spas, dog parks, contact sports, trampoline parks, movie theaters, museums, hotels, community centers, car washes—the list goes on—are all permitted to open and conduct “everyday operations” at 25 percent of their certified occupancy but without a generally applicable and blanket numerical cap.

In an initial emergency order, city officials treated religious groups in the same way as other essential businesses, declaring that “faithbased services, religious entities, and places of worship (indoor)” would be permitted to operate at 25-percent capacity. But shortly thereafter, President Trump called on state and local governments to permit houses of worship to begin reopening.

“Later that afternoon,” the letter continues, “in a seemingly targeted and hostile response to the Federal government’s calls for religious equality, [officials] abruptly reversed course and ‘revised’ the Forward Dane plan to cap all religious gatherings at 50 persons with future limits ‘to be determined.’”

Despite the fact that the local Catholic diocese released detailed plans for conducting church services at 25 percent capacity — allowing for groups larger than 50 people in the diocese’s larger churches — and enforcing social-distancing measures, the city continues to impose unnecessary restrictions by designating every worship service a “mass gathering.” Officials have gone as far as calling church leaders directly, threatening to send officers to monitor compliance with the regulation and hand out citations for violations.

“Thousands of people may shop together at a mall; hundreds of employees may arrive at an office or factory every morning to conduct the business’s everyday operations; and hundreds of children may spend a few hours bouncing off each other at trampoline parks. But, because religious services have uniformly been deemed ‘Mass Gatherings,’ no more than 50 of the 1,225 seats in Saint Maria Goretti Church may be filled,” the letter states.

Elections

John Hickenlooper Is Running . . .

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. . . for the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado, and also from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office:

U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper refused to comply with a subpoena Thursday morning, so the Colorado Attorney General’s Office will enforce it.

Hickenlooper was scheduled to testify virtually before the state’s Independent Ethics Commission about his alleged violations of Colorado’s gift ban. He refused to appear because he believes the hearing would violate his due process rights.

“I believe our subpoena was very clear,” said Commissioner William Leone. Hickenlooper, he added, was “required to attend by virtue of that subpoena. He currently, in my view, is in contempt of that subpoena.”

The commission voted 5-0 to have the Attorney General’s Office enforce the subpoena. After the vote, commission Chair Elizabeth Espinosa Krupa said, “The Attorney General’s Office says it has a team on its way to enforce the subpoena.”

But finding Hickenlooper may prove challenging. In the past, he has effectively disguised himself as a giant dancing blue bear.

Elections

Good Riddance, Valerie Plame

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Former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson poses at the 36th American film festival in Deauville, France, September 9, 2010. (Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

In a week full of bad news, the defeat of Valerie Plame in a New Mexico Democratic congressional primary is easily overlooked. Had Plame won, she would have had a good chance of winning the seat, as the 3rd District is pretty heavily Democratic-leaning, scoring a D+8 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

In September 2017, Plame attracted considerable criticism for tweeting out a link to an article headlined, “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars.” The article’s sub-headline asked, “Shouldn’t they recuse themselves when dealing with the Middle East?” The article declared:

For those American Jews who lack any shred of integrity, the media should be required to label them at the bottom of the television screen whenever they pop up, e.g. Bill Kristol is “Jewish and an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel.” That would be kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison — translating roughly as “ingest even the tiniest little dosage of the nonsense spewed by Bill Kristol at your own peril.”

(The article also contended that Bill Kristol was setting policy in the Trump administration, once again illustrating the long-overdue need for mandatory drug testing in the foreign-policy journalism world.)

A short time later, she backtracked: “OK folks, look, I messed up. I skimmed this piece, zeroed in on the neocon criticism, and shared it without seeing and considering the rest.”

She repeated an urban legend about dancing Israelis sighted after 9/11 and an article touting “Israeli fingerprints all over the place” in the investigation of the worst terror attack in American history. She shared an article entitled “Why I Still Dislike Israel” that laments the “Israel Lobby electing and controlling a malleable congress [sic] and increasingly even officials at state and local levels.”

Plame’s campaign ads were misleading, much like the movie made about her.

The winning Democratic nominee, Teresa Leger Fernandez, is unlikely to win cheers from many conservatives. But at least Leger Fernandez has lived in the district a long time, isn’t an anti-Semite, and isn’t trying to leverage receding status as a political celebrity into elected office. Name recognition and appearances on television are poor preparation for leadership in government. The country didn’t need Michael Avenatti running for president, George Papadopoulos or Cenk Uygur running for Congress, or Corey Lewandowski running for Senate.

Economy & Business

The Unemployment Picture Is Terrible, but Not That Terrible

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Alberto Mendoza checks a website to apply for unemployment benefits outside of the Workforce Solutions for South Texas offices in Laredo, Texas, March 20, 2020. (Veronica G. Cardenas/Reuters)

This morning, the United States Department of Labor released this week’s estimate of U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ending May 30, 2020. The report contained a glimmer of hope: While initial claims are high, this is the ninth straight week that weekly initial claims have declined. Now, the total number of initial jobless claims made since mid-March and the start of sledgehammer lockdowns across the U.S. is a stunning 42.6 million.

But, as my colleague Jack Tatom — a Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise, which I founded in 1995 and co-direct — notes, these headline estimates for unemployment are terribly misleading —roughly double the more accurate account of unemployment. How could this be? To start, unemployment data are highly politically charged and draped with emotions, insinuations, and assertions that make it very hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

The widely reported headline estimates are calculated by summing the number of new weekly initial claims for unemployment and the total from the previous week. But, according to the DOL, when initial claims are filed, claimants are merely requesting a determination on their eligibility for unemployment benefits after separating with their employer. So, many of those who file an initial jobless claim make an invalid request or are hired somewhere else before they even get a chance to claim any weekly benefits at all.

The weekly DOL report also releases the number of “continued claims for unemployment.” This is made up of those people who were unemployed for at least one week and who file a continued claim to claim the unemployment benefits that are owed to them. Or, in other words, it is the current number of insured, unemployed workers that are claiming unemployment benefits.

Continued claims data, which are released with a one-week delay, paint a much more accurate picture of United States unemployment. Unlike initial claims, continued claims data eliminate many of the mistakes and invalid requests made by those filing initial claims, errors made by workers on whether or not they are actually considered unemployed, and errors associated with workers that found new jobs or are back at work.

By looking at continued claims (unadjusted), the number of unemployed people since mid-March has seen a stunning increase of 17.2 million as of the week ending May 23, 2020. But that’s nothing compared to the headline number of total initial jobless claims made, which soared by about 40.8 million over the same period. So, the total number of continued claims in the U.S., while enormous, is less than half — only 42 percent — of the widely reported headline figures that the press trots out with great delight each week.

Although the rise in unemployment in the U.S. since the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic is clearly huge, continued claims data make it clear that the scary headline figures that are widely reported each week are far from the real story.

Media

Anne Applebaum Misfires

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President Donald Trump speaks at the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2020. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Critics of President Trump, including ones I consider generally sensible, have been lauding this long essay on his enablers by Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic. It has some terrific stories and some insights into the psychology of rationalization. But it is, I think, ultimately a failure.

This paragraph is the main reason:

To the American reader, references to Vichy France, East Germany, fascists, and Communists may seem over-the-top, even ludicrous. But dig a little deeper, and the analogy makes sense. The point is not to compare Trump to Hitler or Stalin; the point is to compare the experiences of high-ranking members of the American Republican Party, especially those who work most closely with the White House, to the experiences of Frenchmen in 1940, or of East Germans in 1945, or of Czesław Miłosz in 1947. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own.

She’s having it both ways. She doesn’t want to take responsibility for an analogy that will, as she says, seem, because it is, nuts. But all of the emotional force of her essay derives entirely from that analogy.

This paragraph is also grotesque:

The three most important members of Trump’s Cabinet—Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General William Barr—are all profoundly shaped by Vichyite apocalyptic thinking. All three are clever enough to understand what Trumpism really means, that it has nothing to do with God or faith, that it is self-serving, greedy, and unpatriotic. Nevertheless, a former member of the administration (one of the few who did decide to resign) told me that both Pence and Pompeo “have convinced themselves that they are in a biblical moment.” All of the things they care about—outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage, and (though this is never said out loud) maintaining a white majority in America—are under threat. Time is growing short. They believe that “we are approaching the Rapture, and this is a moment of deep religious significance.” Barr, in a speech at Notre Dame, has also described his belief that “militant secularists” are destroying America, that “irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.” Whatever evil Trump does, whatever he damages or destroys, at least he enables Barr, Pence, and Pompeo to save America from a far worse fate. If you are convinced we are living in the End Times, then anything the president does can be forgiven.

She returns to this theme later in the essay, lamenting that her trio believe “that God had chosen them to play special roles in this ‘biblical moment.’” The evidence that two of the three believe we are in or near the End Times is the say-so of her source, whose knowledge could be based on a misconstrued remark, speculation, or religious prejudice. Even that thin evidence doesn’t apply to Barr (who is, by the way, Catholic). No evidence is produced, either, that any of the three has an undeclared but driving desire for a white majority.

I guess if you are convinced the issues at stake are important enough, then any slander can be forgiven.

Health Care

N.Y. State Bar Committee Recommends Mandatory COVID Vaccine

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Small bottles and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration from April 10, 2020 (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

If a vaccine is ever developed for COVID-19, it looks like we are going to have one hell of a fight in this country over whether the inoculation should be made mandatory.

A New York State Bar Committee just issued a report recommending that the influential legal organization endorse passing laws forcing everyone in the country — unless medically inappropriate — to receive the vaccine regardless of their own desires. From the Law.com story:

Citing a robust collection of federal and state case law, a New York State Bar Association task-force group on Thursday said it should be mandatory for all Americans to have a COVID-19 vaccination, when one is available, including those who won’t want it for “religious, philosophical or personal reasons.”

. . . Making a legally backed argument on pages 60-63 of a newly released report on the “unique” legal and ethical issues brought forward by the global pandemic, the Health Law Section of the bar association writes that “some Americans may push back on the COVID-19 vaccination for religious, philosophical or personal reasons,” but “for the sake of public health, mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19 should be required in the United States as soon as it is available.”

“Mandatory vaccinations are supported by the authority of the state police power when the vaccinations are necessary to protect the health of the community,” the group writes in the report, while citing the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts.

I wish I could report that the committee’s opinion was a fringe idea. President Trump wants any vaccine to be voluntary. But mandating the vaccine seems to be gaining significant establishment traction.

Alan Dershowitz also supports such an authoritarian move, on the basis of Jacobson. (The case is not nearly as sweeping as some suggest, involving the city of Cambridge and smallpox — which had a 30 percent mortality rate for adults and 80 percent for children!)

Joe Biden’s chief health-care adviser — and potential secretary of health and human services — has not taken a position on this issue of which I am aware. But it is easy to predict his likely take. He has opined that all children should be required by law to receive a flu shot every year (also citing Jacobson) and that everyone should be forced now to wear a mask. Other notable bioethicists have similarly argued that we should be forced to use a contact-tracing phone app and receive a COVID jab.

This idea seems unprecedented. There is no law requiring all adults to be vaccinated against any disease. And even a health emergency does not just allow the government to enact any law it wants. Laws have to be reasonable. I think that courts would be loath to force 330 million people to be vaccinated when we know that those at most risk are the frail elderly and those with comorbidities, people we can protect with proper distancing and hygiene practices, not to mention the vaccine if one is developed.

Moreover, is it reasonable to force everyone in Montana or South Dakota — where the damage from the illness has been low — to receive a vaccination because New York and New Jersey suffered a catastrophe (in part, because their governors forced nursing homes to accept infected patients)? I doubt the people in those states would think so.

Technocrats sure do love their mandates. If the vaccine comes, I have little doubt that powerful forces will work very hard to make it mandatory, creating another issue perfectly positioned to tear us apart.

PC Culture

Drew Brees’s Patriotism Shouldn’t Be Controversial

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during NFC practice at ESPN Wide World of Sports. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

I can understand why the New Orleans Saints’ legendary quarterback Drew Brees would want to make nice with his teammates, and with black Americans in general, given the inflamed nature of public opinion at the moment. Nevertheless, his cringing apology is unfortunate. Brees’s statement on Instagram today was this:

I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments (Wednesday). In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.

They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.

You could argue, I suppose, that Brees’s pro-flag comments were insensitive in their timing, but there’s no getting around the fact that what he said was not disrespectful to black Americans. It was a measured, reasonable statement of why he respects the flag and disagrees with those who knelt in protest during the National Anthem. He didn’t denounce anyone. He didn’t say the players who knelt had no legitimate grievances. He simply said that he, personally, doesn’t agree with engaging in public displays of disrespect of the flag. This happens to be the majority position in this country (54 percent according to this poll) and shouldn’t be controversial. Here’s the thoughtful, mild-mannered pro-flag statement Brees made Wednesday that sent people off on rage spirals:

I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see, what I feel, when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps, both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that’s been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it’s not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.

Absolutely correct. How bizarre to live in a moment when any of the above strikes anyone as inflammatory. Is it now politically incorrect to say you like your country?

U.S.

The Lockdowns Are Now a Scandal

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Demonstrators take part in a protest in Los Angeles, Calif., June 3, 2020. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

A boy in my neighborhood committed suicide a few weeks ago. It’s possible that the teen’s preexisting problems were exacerbated by the seclusion, tediousness, and helplessness of a national lockdown. Maybe not. I didn’t really know him. I do know that locals were forced to pay respects by sitting parked cars in the local Catholic church’s parking lot. Friends of the devastated family couldn’t hug the aggrieved parents. They couldn’t enter the church and pray together for their community. Scenes like this play out across the country.

At first, most Americans self-quarantined without being forced because, in large part, we’re a conscientious people and the argument for flattening the curve was a rational one. Soon, however, we were being told that wandering into the non-essential part of a local grocery store to buy vegetable seeds put every American life in mortal danger. Irrational and platitudinous arguments — “If we can save one life, we should!” — began making an appearance.

Next we were being forced to comply with the diktats of mayors and governors. No legislatures. No votes. No questions. Those who spoke up were stifled by social media or smeared by normal media as a death cult — even as virtually every prediction offered by alleged experts and journalists about the consequences of reopening turned out to be wrong. I’ve yet to hear a coherent explanation as to why a governor can act like a dictator over 100,000 deaths, but not 60,000 or 30,000 or 5,000?

Last week, the media, politicians, and many experts decided that every argument they made for destroying the lives of millions of people in America could be deferred to advance a preferred political cause. It is worth remembering that the same people who now claim that clearing out Lafayette Park is tantamount to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre were championing the closing down of churches across the entire country only a week ago.

Not a single governor or mayor has tried to shut down protests themselves, even though BLM marchers are breaking the very edicts they signed. Nay, many of these officials march themselves, and invite others to participate. The despicable mayor of New York who threatened to sic the police on a dozen peaceful Yeshiva students only a couple of weeks ago now invites people to march by thousands.

Indeed, the same politicians who destroyed your business and livelihood — and the pundits and reporters who called you murderers for wanting to save it — are now making value judgments on when and where you should be allowed to practice your freedoms. By fiat, they decide who has rights based on skin color or ideology, and who is not worthy of them. It is a massive scandal.

U.S.

‘Of Course Destruction of Property is Violence’

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I wrote for Politico today about the new vogue for minimizing looting and arson.

 

 

World

The NHS Quietly Changes Its Guidance for Gender Dysphoric Children

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James Kirkup has observed how Britain’s National Health Service have quietly changed their guidance for gender dysphoric children on their website. Their website used to read that “the effects of treatment with GnRH analogues [hormone treatment] are considered to be fully reversible.” But as of last week, it reads that “little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria,” “it is not known what the psychological effects may be,” and “it’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones.”

How about that?

U.S.

Rumors of America’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

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A pedestrian walks though Times Square in New York City, March 27, 2019. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

This piece has been getting a fair bit of traction in both the United States and the U.K. It is, nevertheless, nonsense on stilts. The stilts themselves are hewn from some well-made points and perceptive observations, but the general argument they are charged with supporting, that a monomaniacal obsession with evangelical liberalism has sent the United States into a geopolitical death spiral, is historically illiterate. According to an approvingly cited article linked to in the piece, the rot began with the United States’ commitment to a grand strategy of ‘primacy’ in the wake of the Second World War, which consists of “military preponderance, dominance in key regions, the containment and reassurance of allies, nuclear counter-proliferation, and the economic ‘Open Door.’” This strategy, we are informed, is maintained by the immovable ‘blob’ in Washington who have policed the Overton window on American foreign policy since 1945. There is an assumption throughout the piece that this ‘grand strategy’ sprang from the head of Zeus, or perhaps Harry Truman, after the defeat of the Axis powers, but this betrays a short memory. Except for nuclear policy, this strange, newfangled strategy is more or less an assumption of the geopolitical responsibilities previously shouldered by the British Empire.

The author piously informs his British readers that “we at least, like our neighbors in Europe, have older traditions on which to draw.” But the traditions that form the United States’s commitment to primacy are those of the British Imperial liberalism that bequeathed to the world (among many other things) Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and the United States itself in their current political, cultural, and legal settings. Does the author really consider life in the countries listed above to be, sicklier, poorer, more dangerous or dehumanizing than in others? If not, then who are the free peoples of the earth to turn to safeguard this order now in light of Britain’s global decline? And why shouldn’t Americans want more and more people around the globe to partake of it? The evangelical impulse in classical liberalism has, by any reasonable rhetoric, an astonishing track record of success. 

The reply will surely be that the target of criticism in the article is not the British Empire or the exportation of constitutional liberty in the abstract but the concrete particularities of American foreign policy since 1945. Very well, but “American attempts to overturn regimes which offend its liberal values” must include both victory in the war against Hitler, which set the stage for this dominance, and the final defeat of the Soviet Empire in 1991. These are more than considerable exceptions to the “negative results for the global system” which are the alleged fruits of post-war American foreign policy. The crux of Roussinos’s argument is the failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East, but it must be conceded that crafting an effective Middle Eastern foreign policy has proved to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma for every global actor, not just the United States. There has never been a global hegemon that has not emerged from its dealings in the Middle East either confounded, humiliated, or morally compromised. That the United States has joined the ranks of these superpowers is regrettable but not, I think, a falsification of her governing principles. By far the most interesting and salient points that Roussinos makes are those concerning the soul-destroying consequences of economic globalization. There is not space here to do justice to his observation, but readers can find my own treatment of the topic here, and will find, I think, much common ground between the two of us on the issue. 

The final point to make is that it is not at all clear to me that Mr. Roussinos knows what the United States is for.  His definition of what good American statecraft looks like is somewhat baffling. He links to an article in The Atlantic entitled “America Is Acting Like a Failed State,” the subtitle of which reads “Many businesses, local governments, and individuals are doing what is necessary to beat back the coronavirus — with little help from the White House.” From a conservative perspective, that sounds fairly ideal.  He further argues that:

America indeed represents a strange inversion of the Soviet collapse: the economy dwarfs that of any other nation, save China; its empire is still intact, and its military spans the globe more powerfully than any single challenger.

This “strange inversion of collapse” sounds remarkably like extraordinary geopolitical success. 

Elections

Biden Opens Up a Lead in Betting Markets

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Polls this spring have consistently shown Joe Biden with a lead over President Trump but betting markets have had Trump ahead almost the entire time. This RealClearPolitics chart shows Biden had a very slight and momentary lead right after he effectively wrapped up the Democratic nomination in mid-March, but otherwise Trump has had a clear lead throughout. As recently as May 24 (the day before George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis), Trump enjoyed an eight-point lead over Biden in betting markets.

That changed this week; with the latest polls showing Biden up anywhere from six to eleven points, bookmakers are now agreeing with the pollsters and giving Biden a slight edge. The RealClearPolitics survey of oddsmakers gives Biden a 3.8 percent lead over Trump.

World

European Commission Official: Europeans Would Never Use the Military Against Protests

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European Commission Vice President, Margaritis Schinas listens during a panel discussion at a conference in Germany, February 16, 2020. (Andreas Gebert/Reuters)

Over in the Financial Times, Margaritis Schinas, a European Commission vice president, declares that European governments are “world champions” on human rights and took care of minority groups. (European minority groups could not be reached for a second opinion.) He also declared that European governments would never use military forces in response to protests. “What I can say is that in Europe we keep our armies only for our foreign enemies.”

A little more than a year ago today: “French military forces joined police in Paris on Saturday to tackle the nineteenth consecutive weekend of ‘yellow vest’ protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government. Protesters were banned from gathering on the Champs Elysees after shops and businesses there were looted and wrecked last weekend, prompting the government to call in ‘Operation Sentinelle’ military units.”

Schinas apparently believes that military police do not count as part of the army. Otherwise, he would have to account for the use of Spanish military police in Catalan last year, Dutch military police  forcibly removing  climate protesters at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam last year, the Romanian Gendarmerie’s clash with protesters in 2018…

Maintaining that European pride and self-regard requires a somewhat selective memory.

Law & the Courts

The Supreme Court Treats Puerto Rico as a Subordinate Territory

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Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., January 2020 (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

Supreme Court watchers were initially intrigued by the case of Financial Oversight & Mgmt. Bd. for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Inv., LLC, which was decided Monday. At issue was when the Appointments Clause allows Congress to authorize the president to appoint federal officers without the consent of the Senate, as it did in giving President Obama the power to appoint a seven-member Financial Oversight and Management Board to work out Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy in federal court and manage its financial restructuring. The Court, however, unanimously decided to treat the case entirely as a question of the broad Article IV powers of the federal government to make laws and appoint local officials in federal territories — a hot issue in the 1850s, but not of much broad relevance today if you don’t live in Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, or one of the smaller island territories. The Court thus upheld, without dissent, the power to bypass Senate confirmation of the Board’s members.

Still, the case presents some interesting angles. Justice Breyer’s opinion for a 7-Justice majority essentially agreed with Justice Thomas’s concurrence that the original meaning of the Appointments Clause determines the scope of federal appointment power over territorial officials, and that historical practices dating back to the First Congress are relevant to deciding what the text meant. Justice Thomas, as is his wont, argued for a broad, bright-line rule: “Territorial officials performing duties created under Article IV of the Constitution are not federal officers within the original meaning of the phrase ‘Officers of the United States.’ Since the founding, this Court has recognized a distinction between Article IV power and the powers of the National Government in Articles I, II, and III.” Justice Breyer’s majority opinion, by contrast, concluded that “the Appointments Clause restricts the appointment of all officers of the United States, including those who carry out their powers and duties in or in relation to Puerto Rico,” but distinguished officers exercising powers that the federal government could not exercise in a state. Those officers, said Justice Breyer, are local, territorial Article IV officers who can be appointed without Senate confirmation. In fact, they can be popularly elected or locally appointed without presidential appointment, as many laws have provided over the years in D.C., Puerto Rico, and numerous other territories that are now states.

Justice Sotomayor, whose parents came to New York from Puerto Rico, wrote separately to argue that the Court’s analysis was giving short shrift to Puerto Rican “home rule.” Her opinion evokes the small-r republican and nationalist interests of Puerto Rico, arguing that the federal government promised Puerto Rico self-government in 1952, and that this could place legal outer limits on what it could impose on the island as if it were simply an ordinary territory wholly under federal control:

No individual within Puerto Rico’s government plays any part in determining which seven members now decide matters critical to the island’s financial fate. . . . When Puerto Rico and Congress entered into a compact and ratified a constitution of Puerto Rico’s adoption, Congress explicitly left the authority to choose Puerto Rico’s governmental officers to the people of Puerto Rico. That turn of events seems to give to Puerto Rico, through a voluntary concession by the Federal Government, the exclusive right to establish Puerto Rico’s own territorial officers.

However, Justice Sotomayor also invoked the more questionable argument that the constitutional power of the federal government might be limited by various representations it made to the United Nations about Puerto Rico’s status, as if the U.N. is legitimately sovereign over of the American constitutional system:

The compact also had international ramifications, as the Federal Government repeatedly represented at the time. Shortly after the ratification and approval of the Puerto Rico Constitution, federal officials certified to the United Nations that, for Puerto Rico, the United States no longer needed to comply with certain reporting obligations under the United Nations Charter regarding territories “whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government.” Based on those explicit representations [in 1953], the United Nations General Assembly declared that the people of Puerto Rico “ha[d] been invested with attributes of political sovereignty which clearly identify the status of self-government attained . . . as that of an autonomous political entity.” . . . Thus, in the eyes of the international community looking in, as well as of the Federal Government looking out, Puerto Rico has long enjoyed autonomous reign over its internal affairs. Indeed, were the Federal Government’s representations to the United Nations merely aspirational, the United States’ compliance with its international legal obligations would be in substantial doubt. (Emphasis added).

She also cited a law review article “arguing that if Puerto Rico remains ‘just another territory subject to Congress’ plenary power under the Territories Clause,’ ‘the United States . . . is in violation of its international legal obligations vis-à-vis Puerto Rico.’” This assumes that the Supreme Court has any business invalidating the constitutional arrangements of the United States and its territories based on rules of the United Nations.

Nonetheless, Justice Sotomayor reluctantly joined in the Court’s upholding of the Board, mainly because the parties to the case (primarily holders of Puerto Rican debt) hadn’t raised the issue, and thus the Court was in no position to rule on it.

Impromptus

‘A Young Lady Named Bright,’ Etc.

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Albert Einstein in Washington, D.C., c. 1921 (Library of Congress)

In Impromptus today, I have a mish-mash of subjects, as usual. They include Elon Musk (the rocket man), presidential Bible-holding, William F. Buckley Jr., and decency. Feel like a little mail?

Responding to a piece of mine about the Koreas, a reader writes,

Between 1999 and 2003, I visited South Korea five times as an inspector for the U.S. military dental laboratory services. Being me, I spent many days in Seoul and out in the surrounding countryside. . . .

After a day out in the North Seoul mountains, and then an evening drinking (30 toasts: “Korea great, America great”; “Korea, America, friends”), I stumbled into a deserted Dobong-dong train station. I had noticed many Iranian menial workers, and three of them were the only other people in the station. They approached and I backed away.

“Oh, no, no, no! Friends!” They all came and kissed my cheeks. “You did something in Iraq, Iran needs it worse, when are you coming?” (I am a dentist, and all three had severe untreated dental disease.)

Last week, I published a post that was illustrated by a photo of two people on their way to a wedding. Whose? Well, the groom was Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon. I received a delicious note from Richard Brookhiser:

. . . I recall how Baron de Charlus in In Search of Lost Time refuses to recognize even the existence of Napoleonic nobility — he being a legitimist of the House of Bourbon. Now that is reaction for you.

I believe it is also Charlus who becomes suspicious of anti-Semitism when he notices that mere colonels are being invited to parties he attends simply because they too are anti-Semites. A prejudice that leads to social leveling better be reconsidered . . .

!!

In another post, I wrote of a record that a reader sent me: an LP, released 50 years ago, but still wrapped in its plastic, of speeches by Spiro T. Agnew. Another reader writes,

Had to laugh . . . When we were cleaning out my parents’ home, my brother and I found this in their record collection.

“This”? The reader has sent me photos of an album: Richard M. Nixon’s Second Inaugural Address.

It was still wrapped in the original plastic. It now resides in our bathroom.

In a column, I had occasion to quote a limerick by the late, great Robert Conquest:

That wonderful family Stein —
There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.
Gert’s poems are bunk,
Ep’s statues are junk,
And nobody understands Ein.

“Gert” would be Gertrude Stein, of course, and “Ep” would be Jacob Epstein, the sculptor. I have no opinion of her poetry or his statues, being acquainted with neither.

Einstein? My friend Mike Brown, the newspaper editor, quoted another limerick, this one by A. H. Reginald Buller, published in a 1923 issue of Punch:

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She started one day
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

Science & Tech

New Developments on the Hydroxychloroquine Front

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A woman holds a prescription of hydroxychloroquine, Seattle, Wash., March 31, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

First: It seems that several major studies, including one in The Lancet suggesting that the drug is actually harmful, were based on rather questionable data. The Guardian has the details: “The US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.” The company has a minimal online presence, and the “get in touch” function on its website doesn’t even work, yet it provided data it claimed to get from “more than a thousand hospitals worldwide.” These revelations follow concerns aired elsewhere that the data seemed fishy.

Second, though, a randomized trial found that the drug didn’t measurably help to prevent COVID-19 when given to individuals who’d been exposed to infected people. From the New York Times:

Conducted in the United States and Canada, this trial was the first to test whether the drug could prevent illness in people who have been exposed to the coronavirus. This type of study, in which patients are picked at random to receive either an experimental treatment or a placebo, is considered the most reliable way to measure the safety and effectiveness of a drug. The participants were health care workers and people who had been exposed at home to ill spouses, partners or parents.

“The take-home message for the general public is that if you’re exposed to someone with Covid-19, hydroxychloroquine is not an effective post-exposure, preventive therapy,” the lead author of the study, Dr. David R. Boulware, from the University of Minnesota, said in an interview.

The drug could still be effective against COVID-19 in other situations, and there are other trials in the works. And there are some weaknesses to the study itself:

Not all the participants could be tested for the virus, because when the study was being conducted, there was still a shortage of test kits.

There was no meaningful difference between the placebo group and those who took the drug. Among those taking hydroxychloroquine, 49 of 414, or 11.8 percent, became ill. In the placebo group, 58 or 407, or 14.3 percent, became ill. Analyzed statistically, the difference between those rates was not significant.

In other words, they couldn’t test everyone to make sure their illnesses were COVID-19, and people who got the drug were about 17 percent less likely to become “ill” — a difference that wasn’t statistically significant because the study was so small. But there’s no denying this is disappointing news.

Science & Tech

About That Scary Hydroxychloroquine Study

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A pharmacy worker shows pills of hydroxychloroquine used to treat the coronavirus at the CHR Centre Hospitalier Regional de la Citadelle Hospital in Liege, Belgium, April 22, 2020. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Remember that scary hydroxychloroquine study in The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine that everyone in the media was writing about a few weeks ago? It turns out that the underlying data were likely fake:

A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.

A peer-reviewed Lancet study claimed that Surgisphere culled data from nearly 15,000 COVID-19 patients from 1,200 hospitals around the world. There is no evidence that it collected any data from anyone.

Partisans been rooting against hydroxychloroquine for months now. There’s really no other way to describe the manic reaction to a drug that has been widely, though anecdotally, said to have therapeutic value against the coronavirus. Politicians have blocked attempts to study the drug. The number of shoddy pieces of journalism surrounding hydroxychloroquine is just remarkable. Apparently, it is also dangerous.

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Biden compared taking hydroxychloroquine to drinking bleach, even though millions of Americans use the drug every day to survive. At the time, I linked to an NPR interview in which doctors at Columbia University and other research institutions complained that they couldn’t find people to conduct simple clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness, even though the drug was, as one doctor put it, “very very safe.”

Two verys.

Now we know that thousands of hospitals around the world relied on Surgisphere data to make determinations about treatment and studies. The WHO, the organization I am assured we must continue funding, halted clinical trials — followed by a number of countries — because of the alleged dangers borne from the imaginary data put together by an adult model.

WHO has now reversed course and resumed studies. If we learn that hydroxychloroquine is helpful mitigating the harm coronavirus — and that’s still a big if; a new study today shows that it is not effective as a prophylactic — we can probably thank knee-jerk anti-Trumpism for delays. Scientists have trouble conducting studies, medical journals will take shortcuts in a rush to prove the president wrong (what else could explain it?), and the media will publish any scary story that reaffirms their preexisting prejudices. If you’re interested in further corroding public trust in experts, this is a perfect way to do it. It’s a scandal.

Culture

Protests and Pandemics

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Protesters wearing masks look on as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan addresses the crowd during a rally in Seattle, Wash., June 2, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

How to square the circle of insisting on social distancing to fight the spread of COVID-19 while supporting large-scale protests? Public-health experts are here to help, as is Shannon Palus of Slate. “Public Health Experts Say the Pandemic Is Exactly Why Protests Must Continue,” reads the headline to the story, which notably lacks anyone who is willing to say that the protests will reduce the death toll from the disease or even to deny that it will increase them.

The central claim, rather, is that racism is (quoting one of the experts) “one of the more dangerous infectious diseases” and that fighting it is therefore a blow for public health even if it comes at the price of spreading COVID-19. “In the long term, breaking down structural racism is an unequivocal public health good,” Palus writes.

But even if we grant that premise — something that the slipperiness of the phrase “breaking down structural racism” counsels against — the planted axiom is that these protests are likely to be an effective means of reducing racism. It is not at all obvious that they are, especially when the protests spill over into violence and looting.

What should also comfort us about the protests’ role in spreading disease, Palus writes, is that they are “happening as states are relaxing stay at home orders, as largely white crowds head to pool parties and brunch.” (Let’s pause to marvel at the rigorous empiricism, doubtless expert-approved, by which we can ascertain that it’s “largely white crowds” that are exercising newly recovered freedoms.) Because of this, another expert tells Palus that if COVID-19 cases spike, “we’re not going to be able to pin this on the protests.”

It’s a point that is logically incompatible with Palus’s next move, which is to try to pin any such increase in cases on the police. Note again, though, that Palus and her expert aren’t denying that protests will spread a deadly disease. They’re just saying it won’t be possible to prove how much they do it. Which underscores that this is just politics. If racism can reasonably be likened to a dangerous infectious disease, so, surely, can stupidity.

Update: I got the spelling of Palus’s name wrong, and have fixed it. My apologies to her and to readers.

U.S.

New Video Documents UCSF’s Entanglement with the Abortion Industry

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Pro-choice supporters hold up signs outside of the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear a major abortion case in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

In a live online event this evening, Pro-Life San Francisco will debut a new video exposing entanglements between the publicly funded University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the abortion industry. Here are a few of the key facts included in the video:

UCSF operates and funds more than 100 abortion-training programs in the U.S., including training for abortions performed after fetal viability. The university and its affiliated programs have trained nearly 3,000 OB-GYNs currently practicing in the U.S.

Dr. Eleanor Drey, who directs the Women’s Options Center at San Francisco General Hospital — one of the training hospitals for the UCSF School of Medicine — has performed abortions at the hospital for almost two decades. Drey describes her work as director as striving “to maintain and increase the number of abortions we provide, which has allowed us to increase the number of residents and students we train.”

The website for UCSF’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health approvingly cites a researcher who argues that the UCSF medical school has “more so than any other medical institution . . . integrate[d] abortion into mainstream medical care.”

“The message that this medical school gives the rest of medicine is that abortion is a normal part of women’s reproductive health,” that researcher wrote.

Participating in political advocacy at the local, regional, and federal levels is part of UCSF medical school’s curriculum. University professors and administrators routinely testify on behalf of policy that favors unlimited abortion and against policy to restrict abortion, even late in pregnancy.

The video also documents UCSF medical research using of organs and tissue from viable fetuses, obtained by university researchers after elective abortions. Researchers in these sorts of experiments prefer to use tissue from fetuses not killed using digoxin prior to delivery, meaning that the more useful and valuable fetal tissue must be obtained from abortions done via live dismemberment or labor induction.

Showing footage from the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos, the Pro-Life San Francisco video illustrates that researchers consider UCSF to be the premier provider of fetal tissue obtained in these types of abortions, the latter of which can result in an accidental live birth up to 50 percent of the time. Pro-Life San Francisco’s efforts to obtain information about the treatment of such born-alive infants have been rebuffed.

UCSF chancellor Sam Hawgood, who previously served as dean of the UCSF medical school, is one of the nation’s foremost defenders of fetal-tissue research conducted on the bodies of aborted babies. Last summer, for instance, Hawgood issued a statement on behalf the school, saying that UCSF strongly opposed the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s decision to discontinue some forms of fetal-tissue research funded by the National Institutes for Health.

Between 2018 and 2019, UCSF research projects using fetal tissue from aborted babies received nearly $3 million from the federal government.

Pro-Life San Francisco’s event, “Live! From the Abortion Frontlines,” will take place this evening via Facebook Live at 9 p.m. EST, with filmmaker Jason Jones as emcee and featuring an address from David Daleiden.