Education

Kansas Fourth State to Introduce a Campus Intellectual Diversity Bill

(Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Kansas has just become the fourth state to file a Campus Intellectual Diversity bill based on model legislation I proposed and explained here on the Corner last year. In the Kansas House of Representatives, bills are sponsored by committees, rather than by individual members. The sponsor of Kansas HB 2697 is the Committee on Education. The individual member who requested that HB 2697 be introduced is Representative Randy Garber. Garber deserves considerable credit for taking that initiative. The Kansas bill follows on similar bills introduced in Arizona, Missouri, and Iowa.

Like the other three bills, the Kansas Campus Intellectual Diversity Act instructs the public university system to stage debates, panels, and individual lectures that explore our most widely discussed public-policy controversies from diverse and conflicting perspectives. These debates, panels, and lectures will be open to the public. Videos of the events will also be posted online. The goal is to broaden the scope of viewpoints considered on campus and to educate students and the public through the clash of ideas. Frequent thoughtful debate over our sharpest national controversies should normalize disagreement and lower the emotional temperature on campus. Greater freedom of speech will result. (I lay out some additional thoughts on these bills here.)

The introduction of four intellectual diversity bills within the first two months of the 2020 state legislative session means this idea has momentum. There is considerable reason for optimism. But that doesn’t mean we should expect all four states to pass these bills into law this year. State legislative calendars are crowded. Bills often don’t get hearings right away. Many move only a year or so after they’re first filed. Some bills never get hearings at all.

Nonetheless, a successful experiment in even a single state can kickstart a national wave of laws. In 2017, the first year that comprehensive campus free speech laws were filed in state legislatures, only a couple were actually passed into law. That led to many more such laws in the following years. Any way you slice it, four different state legislatures’ proposing campus intellectual diversity bills in the first two months of the current legislative session is an encouraging sign. Stay tuned.

Elections

Watch: Kat Timpf Calls Warren Campaign’s Protest over Lack of Media Coverage ‘Laughable’

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is fundraising off of what it claims is a lack of media coverage for the Democratic presidential candidate — a claim that Kat Timpf calls “as laughable as it is predictable.”

Elections

How Strong Is Bernie? A Weak Biden May Be the Only Democrat Who Can Stop Him

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appears at a campaign rally on the night of the New Hampshire primary in Columbia, S.C., February 11, 2020. (Randall Hill/Reuters)

After finishing about one percentage point behind Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., appears dead in the water.

Following his third-place finish in Nevada, Buttigieg is on track to take fourth (or possibly fifth) place in South Carolina, and appears unlikely to take first in any state three days later on Super Tuesday. Indeed, it looks likely he will not clear the 15 percent threshold to win delegates in several of the Super Tuesday contests. Buttigieg has just a 0.8 percent chance of winning a plurality of pledged delegates, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model.

Although the senators from Minnesota and Massachusetts have a decent shot at taking first place in their home states on Super Tuesday, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are in about as bad of a position as Buttigieg. According to FiveThirtyEight, Warren has a 2 percent chance of winning a plurality of delegates, and Klobuchar has a 0.1 percent chance.

Just how strong is frontrunner Bernie Sanders? FiveThirtyEight estimates that he has a 70 percent chance of winning a plurality of delegates, and that the man most likely to stop him from winning the nomination is a weak Joe Biden.

The former vice president has an 18 percent chance of winning a plurality of delegates. And while Bloomberg has a 9 percent chance, that probably overstates the billionaire’s ability to edge out Sanders in a head-to-head competition. A YouGov poll conducted after the New Hampshire primary — but before Bloomberg’s disastrous debate performance — showed Sanders running 15 points ahead of Bloomberg (53 percent to 38 percent) in a national head-to-head matchup. The same poll showed Biden running four points behind Sanders (44 percent to 48 percent).

Biden has a very narrow but conceivable path: A solid win in South Carolina on Saturday that leads to Bloomberg’s supporters breaking toward the former vice president on Super Tuesday, and that translates into Biden victories across the South — Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas — while Sanders still wins California, Colorado, Maine, Utah, and Vermont.

Anti-Sanders Democrats can’t be too optimistic about Biden’s pulling it off, given his poor debate performances and record of underperforming the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire this year. But Biden’s chances of stopping Sanders seem much better than Bloomberg’s, or those of any other Democratic candidate left in the race.

Politics & Policy

How the Polls Overrate Sanders

Yesterday, I noted that Senator Bernie Sanders has a very high net favorability rating, which would be unlikely to last through a general-election campaign. Another way the polls may be overstating his strength: They reflect a high level of support from young Americans, who may not show up to vote. To be as electable as a more moderate Democrat, two political scientists have estimated, Sanders “would have to boost youth turnout far above historical levels.”

Religion

Ten Things That Caught My Eye (February 24, 2020)

1. How can I reconcile the good and evil of Jean Vanier?

2. Charlie Camosy on Tucker Carlson’s show talking about assisted suicide.

3.

 

4. Nigerian Catholics to Don Black Clothing on Ash Wednesday to Protest Violence

5. This is a useful website on foster-care and adoption and religious freedom.

6. In Defense of ‘Paternalism’: Why Choice Schools Need to Get Better at Grappling With the Family Lives of Their Toughest-Case Students

7.  Christianity, Pluralism, and Public Life in the United States: Insights from Christian Leaders

8. Fr. Paul Scalia: Jonah’s Flight and Ours

9. My friends at the Thomistic Institute are jazzed that they have 25,000 subscribers and counting to their Aquinas 101 initiative. (Fr. Gregory Pine explains here.) Something good to fill your mind with during Lent.

1o. What Dorothy Day Wants You to Know about Fasting

For your Lent schedule, if you are in the New York area: an evening with Fr. Donald Haggerty (a favorite of many of the young Catholics who go to daily Mass at Saint Patrick’s cathedral) and yours truly. There will be a book-signing after with his new Contemplative Enigmas: Insights and Aid on the Path to Deeper Prayer and my A Year with the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living.

 

 

World

Are Babies Born without a Sex?

Poor Dawn Butler is in a terrible muddle. The Labour MP, who is running to become the deputy leader of her party, can’t make up her mind about whether babies are born with or without a sex. Like most aspiring Labour leaders, Butler is fully on board the trans train. During a recent appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, she told host Richard Madeley that “a child is born without sex at the beginning.”

 

But she’s since changed her tune. “It was a ridiculous interview, they fired questions at me and did not allow me to finish my sentences,” Butler said. “You cannot answer trans issues in soundbites.” Indeed, she would rather that people did not speak about trans issues at all. “I think the more people talk about trans issues, the more damage it is doing and the more hate crime it is developing which is not healthy,” she said.

Culture

Two Sides of West Side Story

The cast of “West Side Story” performs during the 63rd annual Tony Awards ceremony in New York June 7, 2009. (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

Carina del Valle Schorske pens an extremely woke reassessment of West Side Story, focusing on the way it portrays New York’s Puerto Ricans. The political theories she sprinkles in throughout are a little zany. In a bravura section, she dings the current Broadway revival production for having African Americans among the Jets, because she finds it “unlikely black New Yorkers would seek (or find) security among white Americans rather than among their Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Central American neighbors.” But she ends this larger thought about white supremacist violence by invoking “the Pulse club massacre [which] happened on Latin Night,” an incident that should trouble the simple morality tale of all people of color uniting against white evils. There’s plenty of grist here for conservatives who want to joke about how West Side Story is “problematic” now.

But, when she writes as a theater critic, I think de Valle Schorske has a few justified gripes and complaints. She supports her contention that “the show’s creators didn’t know, or didn’t seem to care to know, much about their own material.” And it shows. “The gym scene ‘mambo’ is not, rhythmically, a mambo,” she writes, “and the famous rooftop number ‘America’ has the Sharks dancing a Spanish-from-Spain Paso doble mishmashed with whitewashed showbiz jazz.” All true. And I think she’s onto something about how revivals have tried to enliven things by “doubling down on the plot’s brutality.” It is a cheap technique of substituting moral revulsion with simple physical disgust and discomfort that through repetition become creepy and exploitative. When I clicked over to the piece, I was ready for a delicious hate-read. And though I rolled my eyes once or twice, I think she’s mostly right about this show’s merits.

Elections

‘Is America Ready for President Noam Chomsky?’

I wrote about Bernie and Cuba today:

Electing Bernie Sanders would be almost indistinguishable from putting the late radical historian Howard Zinn, or the America-loathing linguist Noam Chomsky, or the tendentious left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore in charge of American foreign policy. The country would be in the hands of an opponent of its power with no faith in its goodness. Bernie would make Barack Obama’s overly solicitous attitude toward our enemies and Donald Trump’s bizarrely warm statements about foreign dictators look like American foreign-policy orthodoxy by comparison.

There is almost no enemy of the United States that wouldn’t be heartened by a Sanders victory and see it as an opportunity to make gains at the expense of the United States and its allies. If his decades-long track record is any indication, Sanders would be inclined to make excuses for our adversaries and look on the bright side of their repression and rapine.

He’s doing it with the Cuban dictatorship to this day.

Politics & Policy

‘A Fetus That Was Born’

In an article this morning on two pro-life votes the Senate will hold later today, a CNN reporter used a highly intriguing turn of phrase that exposes exactly how far some in the media will go to defend — subtly or otherwise — the talking points of abortion-rights supporters.

To begin with, the article refers to both bills as “abortion restrictions,” even though the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act doesn’t regulate or limit abortion in any way. Instead, it merely requires that doctors provide standard medical care to infants who manage to survive abortion procedures, the same medical care that they would provide to any other newborn of the same gestational age. In short, it aims to equalize standards of care for “normal” newborns and those who had been targeted for abortion.

Along with Democrats who oppose the legislation, media outlets often refer to this bill as anti-abortion legislation, either pretending that the text says something it does not or, more sinister, that abortion rights include the right to let an unwanted infant die of neglect.

This particular CNN article is even more troubling, though. Here’s how the reporter describes the provisions of the born-alive bill: It “would require abortion providers to work to ‘preserve the life and health’ of a fetus that was born following an attempted abortion . . .”

Did you catch that? “A fetus that was born.” What is that? Isn’t that just . . . a newborn infant? The contortion and intentional obfuscation at play here speaks for itself.

Religion

Whither the Catholic Vote: a New Poll

A visitor prays during mass at a Roman Catholic Church in Knock, Ireland, 2010. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

The results are back. In late January and early February, EWTN (the Catholic cable network) and RealClear Opinion Research conducted a survey of 1,521 registered Catholic voters to assess their views on the forthcoming presidential elections, some hot issues and trends, and even stances on traditional religious beliefs. Its findings largely confirm a late 2019 EWTN poll showing that voting preferences (Trump versus a Democratic presidential candidate) track the intensity of adherence to Church teaching.

In the new poll, 54 percent of Catholic voters said they are open to voting for President Donald Trump in November, which includes 34 percent who declare that they will definitely back the incumbent. Trump’s biggest support among Catholics comes from the devout: 67 percent say they are sure to vote for him or are open to it. That also describes the position of 52 percent of devout Hispanic Catholics.

In that devout subgroup, 58 percent contend that the country is better off financially than four years ago. Also, 77 percent of devout Hispanic Catholics claim they are personally better off financially than four years ago.

President Trump’s approval rating among Catholics is 47 percent (63 percent among devout Catholics), an increase of three points since November 2019. But Trump trails in all head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates, by as much as 11 percent (vs. Biden, 51-40) and as little as four percent (vs. Buttigieg, 44-40).

Of Catholics voting in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, Joe Biden had the highest level of support, with 29 percent, but the Catholic former vice president was closely followed by Bernie Sanders at 24 percent. Michael Bloomberg (17 percent) and Elizabeth Warren (10 percent) were the only other candidates who registered in double digits.

The poll’s findings expose a widening gap among Catholics based on devotion. From the EWTN analysis: “When it comes to foundational Church teaching, the active or devout Catholics are increasingly at odds with their fellow Catholics, to the point that there are virtually two Catholic communities in the country. This is obvious in the 2020 presidential election.”

The fracture transcends partisan leanings. More from the EWTN analysis:

The divide that exists among Catholics is also not limited to politics. It is deep and wide on a host of issues related to Church teaching and culture.

The poll found that Catholics are split when it comes to many of the most urgent social issues such as whether Christian owners of wedding-related businesses should have the right to not provide services for a same sex wedding or that the Catholic Church should not be required to allow individuals who do not follow the teachings of the Church to work in parochial schools.

There are, however, areas of common agreement among all Catholics. One is the concern over the question of gender identity and the use of bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms. A majority of all Catholics (55 percent) believe that these facilities should be based on biological sex at birth and not gender identity, whereas 30 percent believed that it should be based on gender identity, not based on biological sex at birth.

The poll also found 57 percent of Catholics want more faith-friendly programming coming out of the entertainment industry.

Asked about whether certain actions were “intrinsically evil,” Catholic voters favored “Not” in the cases of abortion (53 percent), euthanasia (55 percent), and physician-assisted suicide (59 percent).

Some 81 percent of Catholic voters believe in Hell, two percent more than those who believed in the existence of the Devil.

World

Education and Health Care in Castro’s Cuba

Bernie Sanders praised Fidel Castro’s literacy program on 60 Minutes. The candidate’s remarks have been justly criticized, for all the obvious reasons. One defense that has been made is that Sanders is factually correct. The line goes that the Castro regime, for all its evils, made great strides in improving education, and also health care, for Cubans.

Is that so? Justin Trudeau made similar claims after Castro died in 2016, and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post fact-checked them. He gave Trudeau three Pinocchios (four would have been the worst rating), concluding:

Trudeau appears to accept outdated Cuban government spin as current fact. The reality is that education and health care were already relatively vibrant in Cuba before the revolution, compared with other Latin American countries. While the Castro regime has not let that slip — and given greater access to the poor — it is a stretch to claim Castro was responsible for “significant improvements,” especially more recently.

Many other Latin American countries made far more dramatic strides in the past six decades, without the need for a communist dictatorship; Cuba simply had a head start when Castro seized power.

Moreover, the focus on health care and education should not detract from the fact that overall living standards, as measured by gross domestic product, calorie consumption and other measures, have declined significantly under communist rule. . .

Law & the Courts

Study Suggests Large Racial Bias in Police Use of Force

(Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Today saw the release of a very good — but also very limited — study suggesting that white officers are far more likely to use “gun force” against blacks than black officers are.

The study works by leveraging a natural experiment in the way cops in some places get assigned to 911 calls: The nearest available cop is assigned to each call and doesn’t get to choose whether to go. If these calls are more likely to result in force when a white officer gets assigned to a black neighborhood (relative to a black cop working the same beat and shift), it seems reasonable to conclude race is making a difference.

That’s exactly what the study finds, in contrast to several previous studies using other, less precise methods — though those other studies tended to focus on fatalities specifically, and in one case also found racial disparities in non-lethal force. Most shockingly, “while white and black officers use gun force at similar rates in white and racially mixed neighborhoods, white officers are five times as likely to use gun force in predominantly [80 percent or more] black neighborhoods.”

But now let’s talk limits. The study includes only two cities, and the black-vs.-white results for “gun force” come from only one of them. (The analysis of the second city focuses on white-vs.-Hispanic comparisons, and the data don’t even say what type of force was used.) There is a lot of variation across police departments in terms of how much they use lethal force and the degree to which cops stop blacks more than whites, so you can’t just assume a result from one city generalizes to others.

To make matters worse, to get the data, the researchers had to promise not to name the cities — though they are able to tell us a few things about them, such as that the city the “gun force” results come from “has large populations of both blacks and whites, a total population of over 240,000 and has a homicide rate that ranks in the top 20 among the nation’s 100 largest cities.” From this it seems at least possible that the city is not representative of the country in ways that may strongly affect the results. But we really don’t know.

And by the way, what is “gun force” exactly? The study reports that the “type of force is recorded by the police officer, including whether the force was a gun. According to the police department records division, nearly all of the incidents of gun force are the discharging of the gun.” This is not reassuring. Presumably this can’t include every time an officer draws a gun but doesn’t fire, which should be a non-trivial proportion of all gun uses. But then what situations make it “nearly all,” so that we can’t just interpret the statistic as referring to discharges? How confident are we that these data are coded consistently?

A couple other potential issues the authors themselves note: They have no way of knowing whether the force in any given case was excessive, or whether an officer instead used less force than he was trained to, so differences in force levels don’t necessarily prove that the white cops used too much force. The authors also can’t account for the suspects’ behavior, so if black residents respond differently to black and white cops, that could be a factor too. And the data can’t distinguish outright bias from, say, the effect of white cops’ being less able to de-escalate volatile situations in black neighborhoods owing to cultural differences.

Nonetheless, this study makes a good case that there’s a serious problem in the two cities it focuses on, and even if the problem isn’t ubiquitous, there are no doubt many more places like them. I’ve been following the race-and-police-shootings debate for a long time, and this is the very best evidence I’ve seen for bias in lethal force. Hopefully those cities will take it to heart, even if they won’t identify themselves publicly, and hopefully other cities check their data for similar patterns.

Economy & Business

Coronavirus and the Economy

In response to How Coronavirus Affects the Economy

Daniel Tenreiro had a pretty thorough and succinct review of the possible ways an epidemic could harm the economy, but there’s one more worth adding. Almost everything he mentioned would register as a negative supply shock for the U.S. economy — but the repercussions could include a negative demand shock as well. If disruption to supply chains and so forth reduce the economy’s natural interest rate and the Federal Reserve does not act to bring interest rates down itself, the result will be an inappropriate tightening of monetary policy. That’s a second-order economic effect of the shock, but in practice it could end up being bigger than the first-order effect.

Update: Scott Sumner agrees–or rather, I agree with him, since he wrote first.

Elections

Think of the Children

It is ever in fashion to defend one’s political preferences by insisting that they are best for children or, better yet, that children themselves have voiced support for one’s views. This is so much the case that it has become a Twitter meme in recent years to articulate one’s over-stated political views from the point of view of a young child, based on an emerging trend of adults sincerely tweeting about the supposedly trenchant political commentary their children have offered them — commentary nearly always aimed squarely at Trump and conservatives.

On issues such as climate change, immigration, and gun control in particular, the Left asks us endlessly to think of the children, as if acknowledging the existence and rights of young Americans necessarily leads one to take a progressive position on every policy question.

Over the weekend, the presidential campaign of former mayor Pete Buttigieg indulged in a similar tactic. At a campaign event in Colorado, a nine-year-old boy praised Buttigieg for his bravery and asked the candidate to “help him tell the world he’s gay, too,” before joining Buttigieg on stage to talk about being gay.

The child, of course, deserves nothing but sympathy — and certainly shouldn’t be mocked or condemned. His parents, and Buttigieg, ought to have known better than to let a child involve himself so personally in what was so obviously a political moment.

Economy & Business

How Coronavirus Affects the Economy

Customers wearing face masks shop inside a supermarket following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, February 10, 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

U.S. stock indexes are down roughly 3 percent today as concerns about the Chinese coronavirus send shockwaves through the global economy. Below is a brief overview of how an epidemic that originated in a Chinese provincial capital has managed to affect Western firms.

Consumption. With a population approaching 1.4 billion, China is the largest market in the world. With stores shuttered and work opportunities reduced, Chinese consumption has ground to a virtual halt. Companies around the world that sell products to Chinese consumers are seeing massive hits to revenue.

Production. Numerous Chinese factories have shut down as the government attempts to stem the spread of the virus. That reduction in supply — seen in Apple’s decreased iPhone production and the shutdown of Tesla’s Shanghai factory — further inhibits economic growth not only for Chinese firms but also for multinational corporations with factories in China.

With firms producing less, demand for inputs such as oil also slow down, leading to broad reverberations on the global economy. Brent crude oil has dropped more than 5 percent today.

Supply-chain disruption. Firms that import parts from China have to find new suppliers for crucial components. In some cases, the infrastructure does not exist to quickly shift input production out of China. Even where non-Chinese suppliers exist, the delay in locating and negotiating with those suppliers costs firms sales. Advanced Micro Devices, a chip maker that supplies many large technology companies, has fallen six percent today.

Travel. Global businesses depend on the mobility of labor, especially at the executive level. Travel to and from China and its neighbors has plummeted, making it harder to do business. This hurts transportation companies in particular. American Airlines and Delta Airlines stock are both down more than 7 percent today.

Information uncertainty. China’s leadership has been sending mixed messages regarding the coronavirus. Observers have cast doubt on the official infection and death toll numbers, citing inconsistencies in the trajectory of cases. Moreover, while Chinese president Xi Jinping did not make remarks on the epidemic until January 23, an internal speech he delivered indicates he knew about the virus as early as January 7. That means authorities may have done less to contain the virus than they should have, and raises questions about their commitment to public health.

Skepticism of Chinese authorities amplify sell-offs as markets price in the possibility that the virus is much more widespread than officially believed.

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