President Joe Biden dinged both Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin during a speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, yesterday, calling them “two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.” Some coverage alleged that Biden had merely insinuated that the duo voted against more than with him, but it’s a lie that would have generated cheeky chyron corrections on CNN and instantaneous across-the-board fact-checking — five Pinocchios and all the rest — had it been Donald Trump.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has reshaped our country in countless ways. Even beyond the nearly 600,000 tragic deaths in the U.S. alone, Americans continue to face mental-health trauma, domestic violence, and financial hardship in the pandemic’s aftermath.
You might think the venerable New York Times, Washington Post, and other ivy-draped bastions of legacy media would be chomping at the bit to uncover the truth of how this plague began; after all, “Democracy dies in darkness.” Yet somehow it seems nothing could be further from the truth.
Fearful that discovering Chinese scientific incompetence might give President Trump a lifeline, the mainstream of America’s journalistic world labeled the increasingly credible lab-leak hypothesis as conspiracy and disinformation, while National Review always considered it plausible. Unfortunately for the left-leaning gatekeepers of acceptable opinion, the weight of scientific evidence has continued to accumulate. With Trump safely defeated, many in the media establishment are beginning to admit that this so-called conspiracy may have been right all along.
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“Futile care” — the forced removal by doctors and hospital bioethics committees of wanted life-extending treatment over patient and family objections — is, alas, still the law of Texas. And now a hospital in Florida has sued for the right to do the same thing to Genea Bristol, age 41.
Here’s the bitter irony: Bristol is a nurse who contracted COVID caring for coronavirus patients in nursing homes and experienced severe lung damage. Now, she is threatened with losing her own life despite her own apparent views on such a decision and the wishes of her mother.
Here’s the story: Bristol’s doctors believe it is in her best interest to remove life-extending treatment. But Bristol’s mother refused. So, the administrators of Lawnwood Regional Medical Center sued to have a court order to terminate treatment. Treasure Coast Newspapers columnist Laurence Reisman explains:
There is no alternative, said Lawnwood’s attorney Blake Delaney of Tampa-based Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney. His petition included affidavits from Drs. Michael Bakerman, the hospital’s chief medical officer, and Sasha Boris Grek, one of Bristol’s physicians, who said she has an “irreversible COVID-19 lung injury,” is in “grave” condition and dependent on a machine that puts oxygen in her blood and a ventilator.
The hospital said it has tried to find a facility where a lung transplant can be done, but they’ve been told she is not a suitable candidate. There are no other treatments.
The physicians have recommended stopping their aggressive treatment because her condition is “unlikely to experience any significant clinical improvement” and think her condition is irreversible.
Please understand what these medical experts are claiming — that Bristol’s life itself is “futile.” But that isn’t a “medical” question. It is a values judgment.
That’s the huge danger in these “futile care” cases. Bioethicists and doctors impose their own quality-of-life ethics on patients that they and/or their families do not accept.
Bristol’s mother says that her daughter would want to continue living:
Her mother said Genea made her wishes clear the night she went to the hospital. “She said, ‘Mom, I need you to make them (health care workers) responsible and do everything for me.’ I promised her I would,” Belinda Bristol told me in February.
Reisman summarizes the competing court claims:
[Hospital lawyer] Delaney said this is an especially complicated case because Genea needs to be hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine she can’t just take home.
“There are competing interests here,” Delaney said. “Every medical provider has the right to insist on not providing futile care. … You have to see the context … You can’t just look into what the patient wants.”
Florida statutes suggest otherwise, [family lawyer] Anastasio said, noting the Florida and U.S. supreme courts have talked about a “presumption of life” when there’s any question.
“When in doubt, you have to presume they want life,” Anastasio said. “I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”
The judge has, so far, sided with the family, requiring the hospital to reframe its pleadings. Noting the Texas futile-care law does not apply in Florida (full disclosure, I testified twice in front of Texas legislative committees last month urging the futile-care statute’s repeal) the judge said:
“We are not Texas,” she said. “It is ultimately going to be what the patient did want . . . if the patient made that clear.”
If not, the court likely would do what’s in the best interest of the patient.
Based on Lawnwood’s petition, [Judge] Buchanan suggested hospital officials know what the patient wants.
If that is so, they apparently think their “expert” values should trump the desires of patient and family about one of the most intimate and consequential decisions about health care that people make.
This is an important case. Thanks to Reisman for giving this story the attention it deserves, demonstrating the crucial role local media play in our public affairs.
In 1980, the Council on Environmental Quality, part of the Executive Office of the President, released the Global 2000 report. During the 1970s, the consensus among many scientists was that population growth was a bad thing (and China listened to them), and the Council’s report to President Carter reflected that consensus. The report predicted:
If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. Serious stresses involving population, resources, and environment are clearly visible ahead. Despite greater material output, the world’s people will be poorer in many ways than they are today.
The year 2000 has come and gone, and the report’s predictions did not come true. Hindsight is 20/20, you might say. But economist Julian Simon knew the predictions would be wrong right when the report came out. In the Winter 1981 issue of The Public Interest, Simon wrote the article “Global Confusion, 1980: A Hard Look at the Global 2000 Report.” In that article, based on his then-forthcoming book The Ultimate Resource, Simon presents copious evidence on why the population doomsayers were wrong. But he also points to some of the dynamics that give doomsayers the upper hand in public discourse.
One factor is reflected in the somewhat defensive tone in the last paragraph in Simon’s introduction. He confidently asserts that the evidence demonstrates that population growth will not ruin the planet, but he feels the need to clarify:
Please note that I am not saying that all is well now, and I do not promise that all will be rosy in the future. Children are hungry and sick; people live lives of physical and intellectual poverty, and lack of opportunity; some new pollution may indeed do us all in.
It’s hard to be optimistic when the prevailing narrative is pessimistic because that can come across as being dismissive of suffering. Presenting the case that a problem is not as bad as it may initially seem puts the presenter on defense right away. The doomsayers can be on offense all the time. You never hear someone predicting catastrophe clarify by saying, “Please note that it might not be as bad as I’m saying it will be.”
Simon lists six reasons why the Global 2000 report was inaccurate. Two of them are especially generalizable to show why doomsayers have the upper hand. The first is that “organizational self-interest may have been at work.” By that Simon means that organizations that specialize in studying a particular problem have every incentive to say that problem is extraordinarily pressing. For government agencies, that’s how they convince Congress to give them more money when it comes time to make the federal budget. For private organizations, that’s how they convince donors to write big checks when it comes time to fundraise. Money is finite, and it has many alternative uses. You need to convince people that your cause is the best possible use, so blow up the negative and downplay the positive.
The second reason Simon points out is that “bad news makes headlines.” He writes:
Would the Global 2000 report have gotten a thousandth of the widespread publicity it received if it said: “More or less, and left to themselves without massive government interference, the world’s people are slowly but steadily improving their lot in food and resource supplies, life expectancy, and a clean environment?”
Clearly, the answer is no. U.S. news media have been especially bad on this issue during COVID-19. According to a November 2020 study, 91 percent of American news stories about COVID-19 have been negative, compared with only 54 percent of non-American news stories. The study also found that the degree of negativity did not track with changes in the status of the virus. It’s (almost) all negative, all the time.
Simon then runs through each point of the Global 2000 report’s intro and demonstrates why the evidence actually points in the opposite direction. Pollution was improving, resources were becoming more abundant, the relative price of energy was declining, and so on. The data were (and mostly still are) on his side.
In the conclusion, Simon asks how the authors of the Global 2000 report could get away with such shoddy work. He answers his own question with another question: “Who is there to stop them?”
The very best scholar is likely to judge that it is more important to get on with his or her own work rather than try to act as a one-person truth squad. Journalists seldom have the time and patience for deep digging into the scientific literature.
Fortunately for us, Simon pretty much did choose to act as a one-person truth squad, and many economists today look back on the ’70s population growth scare as an error-filled fad. Simon argued that humans are “the ultimate resource” because they figure out ways to solve problems and create value from things previously believed to be only bad.
But almost all the incentives give the doomsayers the upper hand. If you want to be seen as a caring, educated, good citizen (and who doesn’t), it’s advantageous to hitch your wagon to a negative prevailing narrative, whether it’s based on the evidence or not.
Simon put it well: “False bad news is a very real social pollution, and a dangerous one.”
Do read the whole thing here. Simon was a master.
Politico reports, “the next monthly U.S. employment report, which will be released Friday morning, may not show the robust growth that President Joe Biden needs to help pass his sweeping agenda.”
I’m not sure that interpretation is quite right, as the Biden administration responds to bad economic news by declaring it to be further evidence that Congress needs to enact their trillion-dollar spending bills. Also, the Biden administration responds to good economic news by declaring it to be further evidence that Congress needs to enact their trillion-dollar spending bills.
Nonetheless, Politico notes that there are some indicators that Friday’s numbers may not be so hot: “The Real-Time Population Survey, a tool backed by the Dallas Fed that aims to track unemployment trends more quickly than the Labor Department, saw a slowdown in the labor-market recovery in May, with employment ticking down to 71.1 percent from 71.8 percent the month before.”
The beginning of each month brings at least three updates to government data that can support or refute the Biden administration’s arguments that their early policy changes are working. The update to the Consumer Price Index, which is a key measurement of inflation, is scheduled to be released the morning of June 10. The CPI numbers for last month were terrible, for the second straight month, suggesting that what we’re experiencing is not a brief post-pandemic blip.
Sometime early in the month, with no particular set date for release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will provide the numbers for Southwest Border Land Encounters for May – that is, how many people the CBP caught trying to cross over the U.S.-Mexican border. After Biden insisted the increasing number of migrants at the border was part of a regular seasonal pattern, CBP caught more than 173,000 in March and more than 178,000 in April, the highest in about two decades. At some point, that number has to come down, if for no other reason than increasing temperatures and the summer heat make the journey north less appealing. But the longer the near-record monthly numbers continue, the more ridiculous and out-of-touch Biden’s assessment seems – and the clearer it becomes that administration policies have encouraged more migrants to try to illegally sneak across the border.
Most colleges and universities say something about how they expand a student’s intellectual horizons, but do they?
A recent book by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro (both of Northwestern) entitled Minds Wide Shut laments the rise of “fundamentalist” thinking in a number of aspects of life. The problem is that such habits of mind make it impossible for people to reason with each other because fundamentalism entails a set belief system based on some inerrant text or ideology. Fundamentalists are certain that they have all the answers and anyone who disagrees must be stupid or evil.
Morson and Schapiro point to higher education as contributing to fundamentalism, mainly through faculty who teach “negative” fundamentalism, which is to say that there are no truths. That tends to shut student minds from intellectual exploration.
They have a point there, and, in today’s Martin Center article, I write about what they get right in their attack on fundamentalism, what they miss, and what they get wrong.
They’re right that in some academic fields, such as literature, negative fundamentalism detracts from learning.
What they miss is that much of our education system, starting in early grades, now exemplifies fundamentalist teaching, with students being preached at over a host of questions (racism and environmentalism, for example) that must be accepted, never questioned.
And what they get hugely wrong is their claim that “market fundamentalism” is a problem. The authors devote many pages to attacking this strawman. Those who argue in favor of laissez-faire and against economic controls by government do not do so from fundamentalist precepts. Moreover, arguing for less government contributes to the debate the authors say they want. For them to suggest that arguments against government interventionism are “fundamentalist” encourages people to shut their minds — exactly what they say is wrong with America.
Let me get this straight.
We, as a society, have spent several days on a story about Ellie Kemper — the redheaded actress who played the titular character on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and also had a role on The Office — because (A) she was honored at the “Veiled Prophet Ball,” a weird debutante ball for rich people in St. Louis, in 1999, when she was 19; and (B) like many things in America, that event has some ugly racism in its history, well before Kemper was involved?
And we’re hearing about this now not because someone has newly uncovered it, but because some tweets went viral discussing this information, which has been public for years? And Twitter fanned the flames by including the topic on its “trending” sidebar?
And mainstream media outlets are running honest-to-God articles about what people are saying about this on social media? Including how morons are calling her a “KKK princess”?
Israel has scrapped its vaccine passport system, Green Pass, and removed most of its remaining COVID restrictions this week. Reports are that the U.K.’s government is likely to junk its plan for vaccine passports shortly. That leaves the European Union as one of the last holdouts. The European Commission has instructed states to roll out vaccine passports by July 1.
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the EU’s effort will also fail. Ultimately, introducing vaccine passports for COVID-19 is not worth the cost of doing so.
First, as vaccines roll out, the danger of COVID spread goes down, even for the unvaccinated. Consequently, vaccine passports — internally or externally — do not facilitate reopening, but confidence in the vaccine itself does. All vaccine passports do is begin excluding the unvaccinated from activities that they had the freedom to do while the pandemic danger was worse than it is now. They become an extension of fear.
Second, because long-term studies on these vaccines cannot have been done, and they are available only on an emergency basis, there are too many people who will remain unvaccinated because it is not available to them, or because they have a good reason not to be. These include, of course, young children. But also some adult women — particularly women who are pregnant or planning to conceive soon — may have a good reason to avoid taking the vaccine for now. For others, the vaccines may turn out to do no good whatsoever, as they are unable to develop the immunity in their T-Cells. Treating them based on their vaccine status would be treating them based on a lie. But thankfully an unnecessary lie.
Vaccine passports or something like them may work for institutions. They might even work for vaccines that have been subject to long-term tests, etc. But they do not do anything to end a pandemic.
What did our society get right, and wrong, in responding to the pandemic? What to make of the regional disparities that “many statisticians, virologists, and public-health experts” call “the greatest conundrum of the pandemic”? Was there ever any good reason to wear masks in sparsely populated outside spaces, or to mandate it? Did insisting on such behavior undermine other, less questionable, public-health advice?
New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl has nothing to say about any of this, but she evidently drew some key lessons in time for Memorial Day:
Using the first-person plural to talk about “our” failings is a handy technique for attacking other people in a wildly judgmental and generalizing way without owning the aggression.
Questioning other people’s patriotism is entirely acceptable if you’ve picked the right people.
Nothing is more important than berating one’s political/cultural enemies; certainly examining any evidence isn’t.
Be sure, in the course of blaming these enemies for hundreds of thousands of deaths, to express sadness at the “division” in our society.
Imparting a first priestly blessing upon my sister today after my ordination. pic.twitter.com/IxuksCYeeS
— 𝐅𝐫. 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐰 𝐁𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐥𝐢𝐧™️ (@FrBreslin) May 30, 2021
3. “To lose Lebanon is to lose the only Middle Eastern country where Christians live in peace and equality”, says Maronite Catholic Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï.
4. James Kirchick: Trying to make Israel vs. Hamas about race is nonsensical and dangerous
A cyberattack on JBS SA, the largest meat producer globally, has forced the shutdown of some of world’s largest slaughterhouses, and there are signs that the closures are spreading.
JBS’s five biggest beef plants in the U.S. — which altogether handle 22,500 cattle a day — have halted processing following a weekend attack on the company’s computer networks, according to JBS posts on Facebook, labor unions and employees. Those outages alone have wiped out nearly a fifth of America’s production. Slaughter operations across Australia were also down, according to a trade group. One of Canada’s largest beef plants was idled for a second day.
It’s unclear exactly how many plants globally have been affected by the attack as JBS has yet to release details that granular. The prospect of more extensive shutdowns around the world is already upending agricultural markets and raising concerns about food security as hackers increasingly target critical infrastructure. In the U.S., JBS accounts for about a quarter of all U.S. beef capacity and roughly a fifth of all pork capacity. Livestock futures slumped while pork prices rose.
According to annual studies by Accenture and the Ponemon Institute based on extensive surveys of firms and cybersecurity experts, between 2016 and 2018, the average total cost incurred by firms due to malicious cyber activity increased by 58 percent in the United States. Assuming that the total cost to the U.S. economy increased at the same rate as the average cost faced by those surveyed firms, the total cost of cyberattacks in 2018 would be as high as $172 billion (roughly 0.8 percent of 2018 GDP). This assumption likely serves as a lower-bound estimate, however, as the average number of cyberattacks faced by firms globally increased over this period, making it more than likely that the frequency of attacks against U.S. firms also increased. Since 2018 — the last year the study was conducted — the number of cyberattacks, the average cost of cyberattacks, and the total economic costs are likely to have risen even further.
Yesterday on Capital Matters, David Eisner compared today’s ransomware bandits with the Barbary pirates of the past and examined the question of whether ransoms should be paid.
America today faces the modern equivalent of the Barbary pirates. And, similar to the Barbary pirates, today’s hackers often operate with the support or cover of hostile powers. The wisdom of our Founding Fathers should not go ignored. Although most of President Biden’s May 12 executive order was already U.S. government policy, his call to strengthen the cybersecurity of government and its contractors is a correct one. As the administration has correctly indicated, the trade-offs for private companies are complex, and government should generally continue to defer to the decisions of their owners and boards. While Europe has a history, going back to the Crusades, of attempting negotiation and paying tribute, and some colonial leaders (such as Adams) preferred this route, most of our Founding Fathers were resolute in their opposition. American policy today should not waver in its opposition to negotiating with terrorists and paying cyber ransom. Our Founding Fathers did not do it. Neither should we.
Meanwhile, Cale concluded:
The Biden administration should build on the Trump administration’s strategy to confront the rising security and economic threat of cyberattacks. Although the ransom decision itself might be a “private sector decision,” cybersecurity is a common good that requires prioritization by the federal government.
The world lost two beloved artists in the last days of this past May. Eric Carle, of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame, passed away on May 23 at his home in Massachusetts at the age of 91. Carle was born in New York but spent many of his formative years in war-torn Germany. After finishing art school in Germany, Carle returned to the U.S. and took a job as a graphic designer for the New York Times. He was drafted in the Korean War and stationed as a mail clerk in Germany, after which he returned to the U.S. and continued on with the Times. His first children’s book was a collaboration with author Bill Martin Jr. titled Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? This kickstarted his career as an author and illustrator, beloved by children and adults everywhere for his charming stories and unique, colorful collage artwork. In addition to his huge contribution to the world of children’s books, Carle was the founder of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which was designed by the architecture firm of another children’s book author, Norton Juster. For those curious about his other works, Pancakes, with its bright illustrations, is a fun read and always makes me hungry.
Bill Martin Jr. also worked with author/illustrator Lois Ehlert, who created the memorable images for his and John Archambault’s book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Ehlert was born in Wisconsin in 1934 and attended the Layton School of Art. Beginning with Growing Vegetable Soup in 1987, Ehlert authored and/or illustrated nearly 50 books. Both Ehlert and Carle used collage techniques, which gave their artwork a distinctive, memorable flair that has enchanted readers for decades. Ehlert passed away on May 25 in Wisconsin at the age of 86. Both authors entertained and inspired generations of children, and we should honor their memory by continuing to read and pass on their beautiful works.
After a census showing that China’s 1.41 billion population had only increased by 72 million since 2010, the Chinese government made changes to its population-control policies to allow married couples to have up to three children.
The palace intrigue that led to the decision, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, indicates that the Chinese government views population decline as a major problem. Xi Jinping himself chaired the meeting of the Politburo that produced the decision:
Traditionally, such decisions have come out of broader Communist Party policy conferences. Some demographers had expected a loosening or even a lifting of birth policies at the end of the year at a roughly annual gathering of the top few hundred party officials.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Yi Fuxian, a U.S.-based researcher and longtime critic of China’s population policies. “It signals how concerned Xi Jinping is.”
He has reason to be concerned. China’s population policy is one of the best examples of the weakness and failure of central planning. Based on the best information available at the time and the opinions of experts around the world, China instituted strict population-control measures to limit most families to have only one child. The policy then stuck around for much too long and now presents a serious threat to Chinese society.
After the Mao era was over in the early 1970s, Chinese-Communist thinking on population policy changed. Mao stayed in nationalist-revolutionary mode his whole life; he wanted ever more Chinese people. But after he died, the Chinese government decided to be more scientific. After consulting the experts at the time, they made the decision to implement the one-child policy.
The Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth in 1972. Building off of 1968’s The Population Bomb by Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich, The Limits to Growth said that continuing population growth would lead to increased poverty because humans would deplete natural resources too quickly. The report has sold 30 million copies and was written by some of the top researchers in its day.
In a 2005 article for The China Quarterly, anthropologist Susan Greenhalgh describes the process that led to the adoption of the one-child policy. The Chinese Communist Party pursued population-control policies to fulfil its desire for more technocratic governance after Mao’s death in 1976. Because of the Cultural Revolution, most top social scientists had either fled the country or been killed. All of China’s top scientists worked for the military.
In 1978, Song Jian, a missile scientist who had gained the trust of the governing elites, went to Helsinki for the Seventh Triennial World Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control. That completely normal-sounding group was composed of Western scientists who had bought the Club of Rome’s arguments about the need for population control and believed that population growth could be managed according to precise mathematics. Greenhalgh writes that the Congress “was infused with the spirit of scientific certainty, progress and messianic fervour about the potential of control science to solve the world’s problems.”
Song brought that certainty back to China. Using the high-powered computers available to the military, he created population models that claimed to show exactly how China’s population would grow from 1980 to 2080. Based on Song’s work and his considerable political skill, the Chinese government adopted what could be called “The Limits to Growth with Chinese characteristics.”
Greenhalgh writes that Song used similar justifications as the Club of Rome, i.e. that “by degrading [China’s] ecosystem, population growth would eventually destroy the resources necessary to sustain human life.” But Song added China-specific arguments to get politicians’ attention. He warned that too much population growth would prevent China from achieving the “four modernizations,” which were part of the CCP’s economic planning at the time, and that by curbing population growth, China would be seen as a responsible actor on the world stage taking the lead on combatting a global crisis.
Song and his team of Chinese scientists advised the government to lower fertility by over 50 percent in five years. Starting in 1980, the brutal enforcement of the one-child policy was the result. Based on the advice of China’s top scientists, who had sinified the work of the West’s top scientists, the Chinese government made a decision to restrict the fertility of its population in a way that’s without precedent in human history. Textbook streamlined, top-down, scientistic, authoritarian decision-making.
Naturally, there were unintended consequences. Now that China needs to increase its birthrate, the Chinese government is having a hard time persuading its people to have more children. The government lifted the one-child policy in 2015, allowing any married couple to have up to two children. Despite raising the limit, the 2020 census showed that the number of births fell again — for the fourth straight year.
The trends look bad in every age group. From the Journal:
The census also showed a sharp rise in the percentage of Chinese aged 60 and above, to 18.7% of the population as of the end of 2020, up from 13.3% in 2010. The portion of Chinese citizens aged between 15 and 59, representing the size of its working population, stood at 63.35% in 2020, down from 70.1% in 2010.
The failure of the one-child policy has been conclusively demonstrated. Now comes the test for the Chinese Communist Party: Will it be able to turn around its population trends? The survival of the regime may depend on it. China watchers argue over whether increased Chinese aggression is evidence of strength or weakness. The ability of the CCP to respond to its population problem could be a good test to see who’s right.
Nikki Fried is officially running for governor of Florida, having filed the requisite paperwork today. She’ll face Charlie Crist in the primary, and, if successful, will run against Governor DeSantis next year.
I wrote at length last week about Fried, whom I consider to be an entirely preposterous figure. To this I would only add that she’s a fraud, too. Consider this, from the New York Times’ write-up of her candidacy:
Before winning the 2018 election by just 6,753 votes, Ms. Fried, 43, worked as a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer and medical marijuana lobbyist. She boasts that she holds both a medical marijuana card and a concealed-weapons permit.
This is typical of Fried’s approach. When “boasting,” Fried likes to pretend that she’s one of those moderate Southern Democrats who would be a Republican if they weren’t so extreme. Look! She has a concealed-weapons permit! When acting, however, she shows that she is nothing of the sort. Fried may indeed have a concealed-weapons permit. But she’s no friend of the online application system that, as agriculture commissioner, she is in charge of running. Indeed, last year Fried used the pandemic as an excuse to shut it down for three months, and consented to its reopening it only after she was widely criticized and threatened with a lawsuit.
At some point in the near future, the image of Nikki Fried and the reality of Nikki Fried are going to clash. And when they do, it’s not going to end well for her.
The World Health Organization announces it has “assigned simple, easy to say and remember labels for key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, using letters of the Greek alphabet.”
The U.K. variant is now named Alpha, the South African variant is now named Beta, the Brazilian variant is now named Gamma, and the Indian variant is now named Delta.
Yeah, that’s a swell idea, fellas. There’s no way that a bit down the road, the terms beta, zeta, eta, and theta will get mixed up.
And I’m sure the ruler of China will love it when we finally get to “Xi.” Then again, some might argue we’ve been dealing with the “Xi Virus” for quite a while now.
It’s going to sound like we’re being attacked by a bunch of fraternities and sororities. Get your jokes about guys catching the “beta virus” in early.
With all of that said, I probably should have just called this one The Omega Virus.
It really requires a heart of stone not to laugh uproariously at today’s report from CNN by Priscilla Alvarez and Natasha Bertrand entitled “Vice President Harris’ team tries to distance her from fraught situation at the border”:
In the weeks since the President asked her to take charge of immigration from Central America, Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff have sought to make one thing clear: She does not manage the southern border. Two White House officials familiar with the dynamic said Harris and her aides have emphasized internally that they want to focus on conditions in Central America that push migrants to the US southern border, as President Joe Biden tasked her to do. . . . Biden announced Harris’ new assignment on March 24 . . . telling reporters that he had asked the vice president “because she’s the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the countries that can help, need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.” After the announcement, Harris’ aides appeared to “panic,” according to one of the officials, out of concern that her assignment was being mischaracterized and could be politically damaging if she were linked to the border, which at the time was facing a growing number of arrivals. But another White House official pushed back on the sentiment, saying the vice president’s team wasn’t panicked.
Standard cautions about anonymously sourced journalism apply here, but the frantic effort to disassociate Harris from what Biden said she’d be doing is consistent with White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s “clarifying” about Harris’s role in late April “that her focus is not on the border” but “on addressing the root causes in the Northern Triangle,” as well as being consistent with Harris refusing to visit the border (allegedly due to “COVID issues” or the risk of disruption of a vice presidential visit) and going 69 days without holding a press conference since Biden’s announcement. The CNN report says that Harris is trying to avoid responsibility for pretty much exactly the reasons you’d expect:
One of the officials said Harris appears eager for a portfolio that will allow her to achieve political victories, especially in foreign policy, an area where she is far less experienced than Biden. Instead, Republican critics and the media have portrayed her new immigration role as a border assignment, potentially opening her up to criticism for the handling of the seemingly intractable problem.
The Democratic Party sure has come a long way from “the buck stops here.” This administration is visibly desperate to avoid images of what is happening at the border, to the point of blocking congressional Republicans from investigating firsthand the conditions in which migrants are being held. Harris clearly wants to be able to just organize a list of résumé-building “accomplishments,” rather than be judged on whether those things actually have any tangible results:
Harris and her staff have made it clear that they want to focus narrowly on diplomatic efforts in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where they believe they are more likely to achieve tangible results in addressing the root causes of migration, like economic despair, said the officials. The recent commitments Harris secured from 12 private companies and organizations to invest in the Northern Triangle are one example.
But fixing “the root causes” of why people would rather live in America than Honduras is, itself, hardly a modest task. This is nation-building: an effort to change the economic and social conditions of a place that has been unable to make those changes itself. Our efforts over the past century at nation-building in many corners of the world have been spotty at best even when we have a significant “boots on the ground” presence of the U.S. military, let alone by just lining up a handful of donors and investors. As things currently stand, we can’t even create conditions that stop people from fleeing California, Illinois, and New York, but Harris thinks we can do it for El Salvador? No wonder she and her aides, already grappling with her manifest unpopularity, really do not want to have her measured against any yardstick beyond just showing up for work — and at the border, she won’t even do that.
The United States Embassy to the Holy See today has a rainbow flag to mark Gay Pride month:
The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See celebrates #PrideMonth with the Pride flag on display during the month of June. The United States respects the dignity and equality of LGBTQI+ people. LGBTQI+ rights are human rights. pic.twitter.com/Xentlnr16E
— U.S. in Holy See (@USinHolySee) June 1, 2021
The obvious question, which I’ve seen plenty ask on social media, is if they will be doing the same in Saudi Arabia. How about in Iran? I don’t love the Holy See being compared to those, but you get the idea. It would be an insult. The Swiss Guard isn’t going to charge the embassy, which is in Italy, not within the Vatican borders, but come on.
The most dangerous threat to religious liberty on these neuralgic issues isn’t the Human Rights Campaign or Planned Parenthood (and, by the way, I was just outside the one in lower Manhattan, and there’s a rainbow flag in one of the windows). It’s people who manipulate religion for these agendas and who pretend it’s one and the same with the Gospel. It’s again a bad comparison, but I recoil when people try to tell me where the flat tax is the Bible (it’s happened). Jesus tells us to love, but not to get caught up in all kinds of confusions that hurt people, and innocent children.
And yes, I know the people in the Catholic Church are far from perfect. There has been evil done and I’ve also seen a few rainbow flags, among other things in my time. But we all know what the Church teaches. And she should be free to. And people shouldn’t be intimidated for believing something that was a mainstream Democratic Party belief until quite recently. And that makes some sense. That’s not hate. That’s a different opinion about, yes, an issue quite intimate to people’s lives. We used to have arguments, and sit down with one another over dinner all the same, and the like.
I was in the the new Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan on Friday. It’s dangerous to get nostalgic, but where are the days of Daniel Patrick Moynihan? He would go on Firing Line and talk with Bill Buckley.
And, about pride. . . . According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it’s still a deadly (capital) sin. So maybe not a pride flag on the embassy to the Holy See? Wouldn’t that be a decent think to do?
When he was running for president, Joe Biden liked to promise that he’d appoint Beto O’Rourke as his gun-control point man. At an event in Dallas, Texas, in March, 2020, Biden said:
I want to make something clear: I’m going to guarantee you this is not the last you’re seeing of this guy. You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort. I’m counting on you. We need you badly, the state needs you, the country needs you, you’re the best.
At another event in Texas, also in March, Biden said:
And by the way, this guy can change the face of what we are doing here, with regard to guns, assault weapons, with regard to dealing with climate change. And I was just warning Amy: ‘If I win, I’m coming for him.’”
So what happened? Biden won the election, and yet, one year later, he hasn’t “come for” O’Rourke in any manner at all. His pick for ATF is David Chipman, not Beto. His gun-control efforts have been laundered through America’s well-established gun control groups, not through Beto. Biden hasn’t even created a “czar” style position for Beto that would allow him to bypass the Senate.
Could it be, perhaps, that there is not much for Biden to gain from putting the spotlight on a man whose most famous political moment was a promise to confiscate the most commonly owned rifle in America? And could it be, perhaps, that President Biden instinctively knows that?
Later today, the Sisters of Life will have a small Mass in thanksgiving for the founding of their religious community 30 years ago today in (relatively) upstate New York. It’s amazing to me that something so beautiful has been founded in my lifetime. Over 100 women have dedicated their lives to this beautiful charism to protect human life. It’s about so much more than abortion and assisted suicide and other violence against the human person. It’s about love.
Not too long ago, I was talking with a 17-year-old girl who had started the chemical abortion process. She was willing to speak to the Sisters, who could help her reverse the effects of the first pill. She smiled as I suggested she let them love her, whatever her decision wound up being. That’s who they are. God’s love in a world of screaming about abortion. They bring His peace and give girls and women a chance to breathe and find healing, sometimes decades after abortion.
This is from an email the Sisters sent out this morning, which captures why I love them so and encourage everyone to get to know them and support them:
We are overjoyed at the Lord’s abundant kindness and mercy at ushering the Charism of Life into the world, that each person may know the immeasurable sacredness and beauty of their soul. Each Sister of Life who has made vows wears a medal inscribed with words from a favorite poem of our founder: “I Sing of a Maiden” by Fr. John Duffy, CSsR. “And nothing would again be casual or small.” When God became Man, “nothing would again be casual or small, but everything with light invested, over-spilled with terror and divinity.” Now, every human experience has meaning in the plan of God. No ounce of suffering escapes His merciful gaze. Each person is a wonder to be loved and delighted in. Nothing — and no one — is casual or small, because Christ is Lord of all.
Knowing the Sisters means new insight on our lives and the lives of others. I’m enchanted and challenged by those words from Fr. Duffy on the Annunciation. If nothing again is casual and small, why do we go about our days treating people casually? Thinking and acting as if they aren’t the most important person in the world? Christ’s Incarnation is for each and every one of us. Believers in Christianity or not, each person was made by Love in love for love.
This is a reflection from their founder, Cardinal John O’Connor about their lives, which they also sent out today in their “30 Years of Grace” email:
Mary had conceived the Word of God beneath her heart, that Word who was one with God from all eternity, that Word that had been placed in the Ark of the Covenant. That word is now in Mary’s womb. For this reason, “Nothing would again be casual or small, but everything with light invested, over-spilled with terror and divinity.”
This to me is the meaning of the consecrated life. This is what the vows do. The person who opens her heart, her mind, her womb as it were, to the Word of God, will find that nothing again will ever be casual or small, but everything will be invested with light and over-spilled with divinity, because the Word is the light of the world. The Word illumines everything with new being. You cannot receive the Word fully, so that it becomes flesh of your flesh, blood of your blood, and still look at the world in the same way. Above all, you cannot fully receive the Word yourself and look at any other human being as you did before. Everything is now over-spilled with terror and divinity. Everything is illuminated.
Beyond the Sisters, his reflection reminds me of the message Pope Benedict handed me in October 2012 for all the women of the world. It wasn’t a new message, but one that if we took seriously, would be a resplendent game-changer:
But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.
Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible. . . . Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.
The Sisters are living this life and then some. They deserve our prayers and support. We should know them, help them, celebrate them, and let people know about them. They remind us that our lives are not casual or small, and that no one’s is.
Do support the Sisters of Life — our pro-life credibility — if you can.
And please get to know them — and share something of them today.
There are many YouTube videos here.
There’s a podcast here.
There are stories you can read here.
And there is more, if you explore their website.
As I was writing earlier about the Fulton case, I was receiving emails about my hatred for gay people, hating them so much that I’ll put children’s lives in danger. I certainly hope I don’t hate anyone. We are all on this earth with the struggle of being humans. We all have challenges, and I want to encourage other, not condemn them. At the same time, we live in a country that was founded on principles of freedom — religious freedom chief among them. You are free to believe in God, to not believe in God, to believe in lots of things. And it’s not outlandish — or hateful — to say that a Catholic agency has the right to operate as its conscience dictates. We want people to be in the foster-care space who believe the Beatitudes are a duty! There will be other agencies, including Christian agencies, who will decide they can make the adjustment, living in the world as it is. I think we live in a nation with tyrannical impulses on both sides, so to speak. The Fulton case really is about religious liberty and not about hurting wounded people. Can we see it is possible to have different opinions about things without hating one another?
Welcome to June. If you live in New York, there’s no way to forget it’s Pride month now. Turn the block to NR’s headquarters off Fifth Avenue, and you learn that purchasing apparently has to do with declaring your views on same-sex marriage. But it’s not about having an opinion anymore, it’s about submitting. Because we don’t seem to believe in pluralism anymore.
Some of the headlines this morning are in that spirit. We’re waiting for a few big Supreme Court decisions, as tends to happen in June. The Fulton case — argued by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — is among them, involving the city of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services. At the same time that Philadelphia declared a foster-care crisis, needing to recruit foster families, it abruptly stopped working with Catholic Social Services because they don’t work with same-sex couples. The most important fact in this case may be that no gay couple filed a complaint. This is all about ideology. Foster parents will tell you how essential their agencies are in walking through not only the bureaucracy — that at times seems to be working against them — but with resources for all the specialized needs children who are in foster care are going to have.
Indoctrination about what this case is supposedly about seemed to be jumping out of my phone today. Some of the things I read from the New York Times and others seem to be threatening the Justices appointed by Trump in a particular way (Alito and Thomas are lost causes, as far as some are concerned). “Will Amy Coney Barrett side with discrimination?” some ask. A more accurate question is: Will she work to protect religious liberty and children?
Can we please agree to come together for children in a spirit of pluralism? Joe Biden, who believed marriage was between a man and a woman not so long ago, can give speeches about the aspirations of our democratic republic, but the imperiling he talked about yesterday has to do with the political fads of the day looking to crush long-standing beliefs that make a whole lot of sense.
I’m not even asking him to believe what his Church teaches, I’m humbling suggesting we consider the needs of children as more important than ideologies.
Let there be agencies that work with same-sex couples and agencies who don’t — and not because they want to discriminate, but because they believe children will do best in a more traditional setting.
And can we stop making issues where there aren’t? Again, there’s no gay couple in Philadelphia who went to Catholic Social Services and was refused. The media and others may want to make this a Pride issue, but it’s simply about children who don’t have time for adults to work out all their differences.
Is there anyone left who supports pluralism? Can we find common ground for vulnerable children, despite our differences?
Don’t let this case be about rainbows or Donald Trump. It’s about children and how we can best help them and protecting religious freedom in this all-important area of caring for children in need of true self-sacrificial love.
Impromptus today begins with the classics — Homer, Virgil, and those other stiffs. Some people want them forgotten altogether. I have much to say (and say some of it in my column). Other topics include Hong Kong, the Brzezinski family, and Boris Johnson.
A column last week began with the January 6 rioters and the defense that some of them are using: “I meant no harm. I was just caught up in the crowd.” I cited Anthony Daniels, the writer who also works under the name Theodore Dalrymple. For years, he served as a psychiatrist in a prison. I have heard him say, “I often met people who had fallen in with the wrong crowd. Strangely, I never met the wrong crowd.”
A reader of ours writes,
One thing I learned as a teacher is that “the wrong crowd” is made up exclusively of “other people’s kids.” “Other people’s kids” were in need of a strict dress code and discipline, and something should be done about them.
In the Army, “the wrong crowd” is always “anyone outside of our unit.”
In that same column, I told a story about John Warner, the late Virginia senator, and his onetime wife Elizabeth Taylor. A reader writes in with another one:
When I first worked in the Senate, Warner had the office across the hall in Russell. Two of the guys I worked with were ladies’ men, and they were also wise guys who told Elizabeth Taylor jokes. They mocked her because she was about to turn 50 (if you can believe it).
One day, she happened to get on the elevator with them, on the way up to see her husband at work. She asked them if they happened to know where Senator Warner’s office was, and thanked them when they showed her. I wasn’t there, but I saw them immediately after.
They were both sitting in the front office, literally dazzled. Finally one of them said, “Her eyes — they really are violet.”
FYI, I once asked Pat Buckley, “Who is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen?” (She had seen many — including Garbo — and was one.) She answered, quickly and decisively, “Elizabeth Taylor.” She added, “There was nothing like those eyes.”
One more: I published a letter from an Israeli who said that, after a long pandemic, he was hugely looking forward to seeing The Sound of Music in Jerusalem. Another Israeli reader writes,
The Sound of Music was postponed, on account of the war. It has been rescheduled for two weeks from now. Tonight, Aida! Elton John version. Who knew?
Thanks to one and all for writing, and reading. Again, today’s Impromptus is here.
To date, Congress has passed four COVID-relief bills: the CARES Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Response and Relief Act, and the American Rescue Plan. President Trump signed the first three, President Biden the last.
Combined, these bills sent about $900 billion to lower-level governments, primarily states and localities. A new study from Jeffrey Clemens and Stan Veuger looks into where this money went and finds two major patterns.
First, small states made out quite nicely, probably thanks to their overrepresentation in Congress relative to their population. Some of the formulas used to provide these funds even had “floors” — meaning every state was guaranteed a certain minimum amount of money that did not depend on its size. In general, if a state has one extra congressperson per million residents, including senators, it got an extra $670 to $780 per capita. (As the authors note, this is the difference between Montana and Arkansas: The former has three congresspeople to represent 1 million people, or three per million, while the latter has six congresspeople for 3 million residents, or two per million.)
Second, Biden’s bill, but not the three passed through a divided Congress last year, show a big partisan skew, worth about $300 per capita for a state with an entirely Democratic congressional delegation (relative to a state with a fully Republican delegation). This comes from a skew in the funding formulas coupled with the huge size of the bailout given — which was not necessary, given the better-than-expected fiscal condition of states this year. The authors explain:
Relative to the CARES Act’s population-driven formula for allocating general fiscal relief, the ARPA’s unemployment-driven formula skews dollars towards states with either large pandemic-driven increases in unemployment or with high baseline rates of structural unemployment. These states lean disproportionately Democratic. In addition, while we find that the Democratic party’s trifecta predicts a substantial shift in transportation funds towards states with heavily Democratic delegations, we find no such shift in education funds, where aid formulas tend to be linked to pupil counts.
To the extent this is compensating states hit harder by COVID, it’s at least arguably defensible. But it’s also rewarding states based on their preexisting, structural employment problems, as well as their decisions to lock down harder.
Read the whole study here.
The national rebellion against Critical Race Theory, leftist indoctrination, and enforced political activism in our schools grows larger every day. Sadly, the current assault on K-12 is but a foretaste of what is to come. President Biden and congressional Democrats are pulling out the stops to force Critical Race Theory (CRT) and “action civics” (better called “protest civics,” because it trains students to be leftist protesters) onto every school in the country.
The Democrats’ strategy mimics Obama’s imposition of Common Core. The feds will dangle massive education grants before the states, attaching strings that force the new protest civics and CRT onto schools. Biden has already issued priority criteria for awarding history and civics grants. Those criteria hold up the 1619 Project and CRT as models of what to support. Biden is also encouraging schools receiving federal COVID-19 relief funds to conduct “antiracist” (i.e., racist) “therapy” for teachers afflicted by “Whiteness.” The fast-multiplying civics bills currently circulating in Congress include priority criteria that give the inside track to grants that support after-school protest civics. Much of what Democrats now mean by “civics” is a world away from traditional lessons about the three branches of government, principles of federalism, and such. Nowadays, what Democrats call “civics” is designed to train up a generation of Greta Thunbergs.
The injection of leftist politics into education grants has become so obvious that backers of the big Civics Secures Democracy Act have been thrown onto the defensive. Yet, the fate of that bill may not be decisive. In an attempted end run around the controversy over the Civics Secures Democracy Act, a couple of new “civics” bills have just been introduced. There are now four bills designed to vastly expand federal funding for civics. These bills may look harmless, but especially as administered by Biden’s appointees, they will fund compulsory after-school protesting, along with CRT indoctrination. They are more like anti-civics bills than support for traditional civic education.
Unless Republicans on the Hill begin to track and publicly attack these fast-multiplying bills, one or more will get through. That would radically reshape the educational and political playing field. Instead of battles over far-left curricula in a subset of schools, entire states will be plunged into conflict over therapy to mitigate “Whiteness,” and over school-sponsored political protesting by students.
Enforced leftist indoctrination and political activism in the schools has swiftly moved education from a third-tier to a first-tier issue. It’s impossible to go to a conservative website or media outlet without encountering stories on CRT and related issues. If the politicization of K-12 has moved to the cultural forefront, however, Republicans in Congress do not yet recognize either the depth of the policy threat or the tremendous political significance of this battle.
True, to his great credit, Leader McConnell sent a letter signed by 38 other Republican senators to Biden Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging him to withdraw his proposed priorities for federal grants in civics and history. Yet barely a word has been spoken by Capitol Hill Republicans against the several pieces of legislation designed to provide Biden and Cardona with the money they need to impose their jaundiced priorities on America’s schools. These funding bills will weaponize the Biden administration’s intent to force protest civics and CRT on the states. Without that grant money, Biden cannot impose his troubling education priorities. With the money provided by these bills, however, Biden can take over our schools.
It is decidedly in the Republicans’ interest to turn these bogus “civics” bills into a major issue. The determination of the Democrats to force politicized “civics” and CRT on the country is now obvious. The existence of multiple civics bills makes it clear that so long as the Democrats run Congress, they will stop at nothing to force a new Common Core on the country — this one built around CRT and political-protest. Republicans ought to be making that case to the public.
What’s stopping them is partly a failure to recognize the growing grassroots concerns over politicized education. But there is more at work. The Civics Secures Democracy Act has Republican buy-in from Texas Senator John Cornyn and Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole. Cornyn and Cole can be forgiven for signing onto that bill before the true nature of protest civics was widely known. Now that they’ve been informed, however, and now that the Biden administration is explicitly supporting the wave of Critical Race Theory washing over America’s schools, it is past time for Cornyn and Cole to remove themselves from this massive federal bill. As of now, I’m sorry to say, neither Cornyn nor Cole is budging. Cornyn is even defending his bill with statements that are patently false.
This buy-in by a handful of Republicans, some of whom still don’t even know what modern protest civics is, helps account for the silence of the GOP on these dangerous so-called “civics” bills. Both of the new civics funding bills have at least some Republican co-sponsorship. When Republicans think “civics,” they imagine lessons about checks and balances and our layered federalist system. When they hear “service learning,” they imagine internships at the mayor’s office. What the new “civics” bills will actually be paying for, however, are leftist non-profits organizing school children to overrun legislative offices while chanting about the Green New Deal and gun bans. Those children will have very little knowledge of the arguments for and against the positions they advocate. The new protest civics eschews debate and replaces it with ill-informed political activism.
The tiny handful of Republican co-sponsors cajoled or duped into subsidizing what is in fact leftist protest under the guise of civics are preventing the GOP from turning these bills into the issue they ought to be in the upcoming contest for Congress. That has got to change. Congressional Republicans will be held accountable if the nightmare of a left-politicized de facto national curriculum comes to pass — although they had the power to block it. On the plus side, if Republicans come to their senses and begin to attack these so-called “civics” bills, their base will be stirred as never before.
There are now four bills proposing to expand federal funding for civics. First, there is the Civics Learning Act, which appropriates $30 million a year. This is a heavily partisan bill, with 51 Democratic sponsors and no Republicans. The priority criteria for civics grants funded by this bill clearly favor protest civics. Then there is the Civics Secures Democracy Act, the big bill that appropriates $1 billion a year for six years to fund leftist civics. This is the bill that Cornyn and Cole have stubbornly and foolishly refused to abandon. If there were any doubt about the political nature of this bill, Biden’s priority criteria for history and civics grants, and his use of COVID funding for CRT training, have removed it.
The third bill, introduced in early May, is the Inspire to Serve Act. Sponsored by Democratic Congressman Jimmy Panetta, this bill has eight Democratic sponsors and two Republicans, just enough to create the illusion of bipartisanship. Although the bill itself is so new that it is not yet available, it will likely closely resemble the text of a bill by the same name introduced by Panetta in the last session of Congress. That bill contains material related to the ROTC and military service, which likely explains how the two Republicans were lured into co-sponsorship. But the first part of Panetta’s bill doles out close to half a billion dollars a year to civic education, with a heavy stress on “applied civics” and “service learning,” euphemisms for protest civics. “Applied civics” means after-school political protest, lobbying, and work with political advocacy organizations. By some strange coincidence, such protests almost invariably turn out to be for leftist causes.
This brings us to the fourth bill, HR 3408, sponsored by Democratic Congressman Daniel Kildee. It is called the Promoting Programming, Research, Education and Preservation (PREP) Civics and Government Act. In total, this bill has six Democratic sponsors and three Republicans. This bill is also so new that we do not yet have a text. The announced purpose of the bill is to allow more money for civics education to be channeled through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Is it a coincidence that just as the Civics Secures Democracy Act has run into trouble, another route for civics grants has been proposed?
The PREP Civics and Government Act is endorsed by groups that have long supported protest civics. That especially includes the CivXNow coalition, which is also the biggest backer (and the largest likely financial beneficiary) of the Civics Secures Democracy Act.
The CivXNow Coalition has been looking to expand fast-collapsing Republican support for their bogus version of civics, and this new bill appears to be their play. CivXNow’s spokesman, Shawn Healy, claims to support “straight down the middle, classic civic education.” That is utter nonsense. Healy himself was the leading advocate for protest civics and Critical Race Theory-infused civics in Illinois before iCivics hired him away to run the CivXNow Coalition. (Read about Healy’s actual views here.) No doubt Republicans were lured into support of the PREP Civics and Government Act with the same false assurance that it would buck up traditional civics. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let us return to the first bill, the Civics Learning Act. This heavily partisan bill has just been reintroduced as HB 3383, with Florida Congressman Charlie Christ taking over for the original sponsor, Alcee Hastings, who recently passed away. Although the Civics Learning Act involves less money and has garnered less attention than the big Civics Secures Democracy Act, it may ultimately be the more dangerous vehicle for protest civics and CRT. That is because the Civics Learning Act is a proposed amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The ESEA is the massive law that authorizes the great majority of federal programs for K-12. This is what gets periodically modified and reauthorized by Congress under names like the “No Child Left Behind Act” or the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”
ESEA reauthorization is famously messy, and famously disastrous for conservatives. For years, the Republican congressional establishment has been determined to stay “bipartisan” on education. Typically, they ignore grassroots conservative complaints about Common Core, work a compromise with the Democrats in the dead of night (preferably, right before a holiday), then claim that they’ve given nothing away when in fact they’ve pretty much capitulated on everything. Last time ESEA was reauthorized, Republicans falsely claimed that they’d “abolished” Common Core. Nothing of the sort had actually occurred. While there are some strongly conservative Republicans on congressional education committees, those committees are disproportionately stocked with the most centrist members of the GOP.
The politics of congressional education committees are a big part of why we not only got Common Core, but why we’re losing the culture generally. Now it’s happening again. As noted, the criteria written into the Civics Learning Act are guaranteed to earmark its millions for protest civics. Supporters of protest civics (like Shawn Healy) love blending their demonstrations and lobbying activities with CRT. Biden has also promised to administer civics grants in a way designed to favor CRT. So, the outcome of the Civics Learning Act will be thoroughly politicized civics.
Inserting the Civics Learning Act into ESEA is also tactically clever, since the amendment could serve as a shell that would allow Democrats to increase the funding for the program with later appropriations. That could come in handy if the high-profile Civics Secures Democracy Act stalls. ESEA is extremely vulnerable to such moves. Republicans don’t like the optics of blocking big education bills, no matter how awful they are. Once a leftist definition of “civics” has been inserted into ESEA, Democrats can funnel additional appropriations to the program down the road while drawing relatively little attention. For the civics-and-CRT left, this is a very smart play.
The Democrats’ strategy on civics and CRT is evidently to run bills that are partisan alongside others that are bipartisan. If the Democrats can get big funding for their distorted vision of civics through deceptively bipartisan bills, they’ll be pleased to do so. On the other hand, if their cover is blown, the public catches on to protest civics and CRT, and the big bipartisan bills are blocked, rolling over Republicans during dead-of-night deal-making with their partisan amendment to ESEA remains an option.
This makes it all the more urgent that Cornyn and Cole drop their co-sponsorship of the big Civics Secures Democracy Act. Even if that bill stalls, their presence on it is preventing Republicans from making a powerful and entirely legitimate political issue out of the legislative battle over a fast-proliferating collection of civics bills. I doubt that congressional Republicans are even tracking the savvy, multi-pronged Democratic strategy to create a lavishly funded leftist de facto national curriculum, Common Core-style, using politicized “civics” bills as a vehicle.
Whatever Cornyn and Cole do, we need Republican office-holders to make the Democrats’ radical education plans into an issue. That can only be done by attacking the bills designed to fund and enable Biden’s radical priorities for history and civics. Without big money, Biden’s pro-CRT grant-priority criteria can do only limited damage. With major funding, however, Biden can turn every public school in the country into a leftist indoctrination camp.
This is a winning issue for Republicans, if they have sense enough to notice what their own voters — and many independents and moderate Democrats — are now focused on. This is also a test for Kevin McCarthy. House Republicans will stop blindly signing on to bad civics bills if McCarthy is smart enough to single this issue out for attention. There is no doubt the education battle could help McCarthy to win back the House. With his letter on Biden’s prioritization of 1619 and CRT, McConnell is already onto this issue. But he needs to ride it harder and focus on the actual legislation if he wants to win back the Senate. On the other hand, failure to block a de facto leftist national curriculum when Republicans had the chance could easily frustrate and anger their most loyal voters, and others as well. The Democrats are determined to indoctrinate your children. It’s time for Republicans to step up and block those legislative schemes.
May 31 is a number of things – Memorial Day, of course. The Feast of the Visitation, when we remember when a pregnant Mary visited a pregnant Elizabeth, miracles, both. And May 31 is also the last day of National Foster Care month. I’ve not been as obnoxious as I sometimes am about the month. In part, I think that’s because many of us have been waiting in anticipation for the Supreme Court to issue its decision in the Fulton case, which involves religious liberty and the very lives of children in Philadelphia. Children in foster care don’t have time for adults to come to peace with all our fundamental disagreements. We need more choices for children, not less. And yet, ideology so often gets in the way. Pluralism is often considered an enemy these days, but it’s the only way.
Triangle, Va. — “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row.”
In Virginia forests, it’s a bit different. Unlike Flanders, nobody died at Quantico National Cemetery. About 30 miles south on I-95 from Washington, D.C., in Prince William County, Va., it became a national cemetery in only 1983. “Quantico” is synonymous with the Marines, and until then, the land that’s now the cemetery was part of Marine Corps Base Quantico.
The more famous Washington-area national cemetery in Arlington is the focus of our attention on Memorial Day, with the president laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington is remarkable, and it’s a must-visit for sightseers. The various monuments and arches and breathtaking views of the city from Arlington House are all worth your while.
But Quantico is more spartan. It has no tourist aspirations. Tucked into the forest, it’s not on any vacationer’s checklist. And as a newer national cemetery, the visitors it does get are mostly family members of recently deceased veterans of all branches of the military.
Today it was decked out with thousands of American flags. Every grave had a small one. Larger ones flanked the roads. There were many people there, but it wasn’t packed. You could easily drive past cars parked along the road where people had gotten out to visit graves.
The graves at Quantico are organized by date of death, regardless of conflict. It’s not uncommon to see veterans of World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq buried in the same row.
The visitors are evidence of the military’s assimilating effect. Every skin color, every family size, every age was represented.
There was a little boy there with his family saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,” as he walked up a row of graves. His tone of voice betrayed that he didn’t quite understand the gravity of the situation, but he knew what to say.
There was a man wearing a Marine Corps T-shirt. He finished at the grave he was visiting, stood ramrod-straight, and saluted, holding it for about five seconds. When his hand had returned to his side, he walked back to his motorcycle.
There was an older man standing before a grave who seemed like he was talking on the phone. Upon further inspection, however, you realized that he wasn’t. His voice shifted to the wrapping-it-up tone, and he said, “Alright, Hon,” just like anyone would before hanging up with his wife. Unlike the man in the Marine Corps shirt, however, he didn’t return to his vehicle. He kept standing there, arms folded.
There was an Army officer in his dress uniform. He looked sharp, but you can only imagine why he was visiting a grave today.
Section 31 was one of the busier sections. It contains the graves of people who died in late 2020 and early 2021. The sod is still fresh, and some graves have temporary markers because they’re still waiting for headstones. It’s their families’ first Memorial Day without them.
Arlington is, to put it crudely, full. Over 400,000 people are buried there, and there’s only so much land. Quantico does not have that problem. Section 28 of the cemetery is bordered on two sides by a construction site. “GRAVESITE EXPANSION” reads a nearby sign from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s accompanied by the standard construction site sign informing you that it’s been 33 days since a lost-time accident, and “The life you save may be your own,” which is a bit of an odd thing to read in a cemetery.
Advance planning for the National Cemetery Administration, the Veterans Affairs agency that maintains 155 cemeteries across the country, must be a particularly morbid experience. It should be the job of every defense policy planner to make the need for cemetery expansion proceed as slowly as possible.
As long as we have a military, we will have dead servicemen and servicewomen. They sign up knowing the ultimate sacrifice is possible, and they are willing to make it. “In Flanders Fields” is narrated by “the Dead,” but it is not a pacifist poem. The final stanza is an injunction to press on:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.
Memorial Day at Quantico demonstrates that we haven’t broken faith with the Dead. May they sleep in perfect peace knowing that the living will hold the torch high.
One of the best films of last year was a documentary about the end of the war in the Pacific. Unfortunately that movie, Apocalypse ’45, got only a limited theatrical release, but it is finally available to view at home, via the new streaming service Discovery Plus. I mentioned Apocalypse ’45 as my sixth-best film of 2020 and wrote:
Released to mark the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, this documentary implicitly demolishes the fatuous argument, advanced every August, that the U.S. should never have dropped atomic bombs on Japan. The other options — invading mainland Japan or starving it via blockade — would have caused even more suffering for the Japanese, and the U.S. was under no obligation to spend more of our servicemen’s lives while vanquishing an insane and evil death cult. Vivid color footage, some of it never seen before, set against matter-of-fact voice-over narration by veterans of the Pacific War, illustrates the agonizing toll on both sides of the island-hopping campaign across such thunderously defended rocks as Iwo Jima. The film is punctuated with harrowing footage of kamikaze attacks and civilian suicides that illustrate how grotesquely warped was the culture of Imperial Japan.
An excellent companion piece by the same director, Erik Nelson, is The Cold Blue, a documentary about the harrowing lives of bomber pilots in World War II, which is streaming on HBO Max. I wrote in 2018:
Men from B-17 crews speak in Nelson’s film of watching planes flying in such close formation that occasionally two would collide, each of them crashing. Pilots had to remind their ten-man crews not to waste too much time gawping at crashing planes; there was work to do.
Unlike the British, who ordinarily flew at night, American bombers were told to carry out their runs in broad daylight, over heavily defended targets. Their planes were not pressurized or heated. “On a warm day, it would be 28 below. Sometimes it got 60 below,” recalls one veteran. One man’s hands froze to a plexiglass window and his fingers had to be amputated. Frostbite could set in within ten minutes.
Leftist groupthink has invaded all of American higher education — English, music, chemistry; you name it, and you’ll find its practitioners working to transform disciplines into training camps for true believers.
What about divinity schools?
You might think that “wokeness” has saturated them, but in today’s Martin Center article, Chris West, a student at Duke’s Divinity School, says that while leftism is present at many divinity schools, it isn’t ubiquitous.
West writes, “Yet this fear of corrosive ‘wokeness’ in some parts of the academy, does not generally apply to divinity schools aside from small pockets of students and professors. Across the political spectrum, principles like academic freedom, free speech, and Christ-like love rule the day in seminaries. The critical race theory cathedral has not come to fruition.”
While some divinity schools seem to have been captured, divinity students have many choices that mostly “play it straight.”
Duke has a reputation for rampaging leftism and, a few years ago, a well-regarded professor in the Divinity School was driven into retirement by faculty zealots when he objected to “diversity training.” But West did not find any pressure to conform to any particular set of beliefs. “It seems that Duke,” he writes, “is not quite what I expected. Despite the warnings from others, not one person has tried to convert me to Methodism — I’m still not sure if I should be concerned. But more importantly, the professors I have interacted with, as an outspoken and self-identified conservative, have been nothing short of hospitable, kind, and welcoming.”
With the effective destruction of the Hippocratic Oath, doctors who wish to follow the Oath’s maxims of not participating in abortion or assisted suicide are in danger of being kicked out of the lifeboat by the World Medical Association.
Specifically, the WMA has a draft proposal to amend the organization’s ethical rules to require that physicians with a conscientious objection to an intervention refer patients to other physicians without the moral reticence. Specifically, the draft ethical revision reads (with the proposed change in bold):
Physicians have an ethical obligation to minimise disruption to patient care. Conscientious objection must only be considered if the individual patient is not discriminated against or disadvantaged, the patient’s health is not endangered, and undelayed continuity of care is ensured through effective and timely referral to another qualified physician.
If adopted, it would mean that physicians would have the ethical duty to be complicit in actions to which they are opposed for religious or moral reasons, including abortion, euthanasia (where legal) — i.e., homicide, assisted suicide (where legal), blocking puberty of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria, transition surgeries , infant circumcision, etc. This would not only violate the human rights of physicians by forcing them to do things they believe immoral or harmful to the patient, but require them in abortion/euthanasia/assisted-suicide cases to be complicit in the taking of innocent human life.
(Please note: Medical conscience does not include a doctor refusing to forward a patient’s medical records to another physician upon the patient’s request. Medical records belong to the patient.)
The proposed change would not only be authoritarian, but conflict with two other WMA ethical rules (my emphasis):
The physician must practise with conscience, honesty, and integrity, while always exercising independent professional judgment and maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct.
A physician must always provide medical treatment with the utmost respect for human dignity and life.
It would also drive physicians with traditional Hippocratic values out of medicine and inhibit talented young people — who would make splendid doctors — from attending medical school out of fear they would be forced to violate their consciences as the price of licensure. But then, that may be much of the point.
Continuing in the spirit of belatedly weighing in on things, I would like to join several of my National Review colleagues (past and present) in proclaiming the greatness of the German-language film The Lives of Others. Released in 2006 and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Lives of Others is a moving, intimate, and haunting depiction of life under the Communist regime in East Germany, as revealed through the complicated interaction of an agent of the East German Stasi secret police with the target of his surveillance. After many years of intending to do so, I finally watched it last night, and my goodness was it worth the wait.
Contemporary critical opinion, both here and elsewhere, was on the mark in praising The Lives of Others. Here in the Corner in 2007, John Podhoretz called it “one of the greatest movies ever made.” In 2009, John Miller ranked it No. 1 on his famous list of best conservative movies of the past 25 years. His ranking quotes William F. Buckley, still alive for the film’s release, who, after seeing the film in a theater with a friend, turned to him and said, “I think that is the best movie I ever saw.” Even the Oscars had a rare outbreak of good sense, bestowing upon The Lives of Others the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. For an industry with such an ambiguous record concerning communism to have assented to the greatness of a sternly anti-communist film is a true testament to the film’s greatness.
Without giving too much away, in case anyone else wants to get in on my slowpoke act, one criticism some have made of the movie is that the arc of the central character, a Stasi agent, is unrealistic. First Things provided a convincing case to the contrary at the time, one that I think holds up. But anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet should do so to judge for himself.
Google is not a good friend if you put in a search string about what you might want to watch or read to commemorate or even educate yourself or others about Memorial Day and what it represents. You get a lot of peripheral . . . um . . . rubbish.
Now it’s been a human instinct since Homer to use the setting of war and wartime sacrifice to make political points, settle scores, promote agendas, or just tell a tale loosely connected to the wartime event. Think here movies (some great ones!) such as Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, M*A*S*H, Inglorious Bastards, GI Jane, or (on the other side of the cultural ledger) Top Gun. Or stirring books of war and sacrifice (some of our best fiction and non-fiction) such as A Bright Shining Lie, Hiroshima, Catch-22, The Naked and the Dead, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Leaves of Grass, or Cold Mountain.
But this weekend, instead of all that, I encourage Americans digging for the meaning of Memorial Day to read or watch something that brings one closer to the raw point of the commemoration in the first place — giving the ultimate sacrifice in war. To bring home the point of Memorial Day, for me the book or movie should be viscerally close to the combat or war experience — but without undue varnish, political angles, tortured analogies, or surrealism. Something that is less ornate and more real, in understanding the act and the action that led to the individual sacrifice we honor this weekend.
My suggestions are below. A few words of explanation. Memorial Day is an American commemoration, although many other countries have similar tributes (Remembrance Day in the U.K., Anzac Day in Australia, Armistice Day in France). So, save The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Das Boot, or All Quiet on The Western Front for another day perhaps. My list is from the American wars.
Overall, I prize those histories, memoirs, movies, and novels that capture the unique physical, psychological, and communal nature of combat, war, and sacrifice, but do so in the larger setting of the cause, the purpose, and the mission — presented without cynicism and despair. At the same time, they expose us to the full range of emotion elicited by war and sacrifice; from triumph, heroism, and unparalleled comradery to futility, angst, and horror.
My short list of suggestions for this weekend is below, but to give one example I would point to author Rick Atkinson’s lyrical histories of World War II (The Liberation Trilogy) or his Revolution Trilogy, currently being published and written. An Army brat and former reporter whom I first met when he came out to report on our tank battles in Desert Storm, he has mastered the art of weaving the grit and visceral detail of the individual combatant story into the bigger picture, while doing agenda-less justice to both. He has also managed to capture an important facet of war and sacrifice — the randomness and caprice of death and war — but without indulging in the idea it might be senseless because of folly, incompetence, or cruel chance.
Atkinson captures this in a way that allows us to appreciate the real nature of the heroism we salute this weekend, which is the heroism of surrendering oneself to the cause, the effort, the machine in some cases — and with no guarantee about how it could end, including in inexcusable mishap and disaster.
So, we commemorate not only the Boys of Pointe du Hoc but also the highly trained Ranger platoon who confidently leaped over the side of their grounded landing craft in the invasion of Sicily into an unknown runnel and promptly drowned. We recognize as heroes not just the Band of Brothers who made it from Normandy to the Eagle’s Nest but also their assistant division commander in the 101st Airborne who after three years of readying his division for combat unwisely sat in his jeep in the belly of a Waco Glider on D-Day and snapped his neck on the landing. We think of the nurses, doctors, and bed-ridden patients randomly killed by stray bombs at Anzio. All of these and so many others throughout American wars died cruelly in unheroic circumstances in a way, but as part of the most heroic and sacrificial act of mankind — surrendering oneself to the greater cause or group and without limit. This we commemorate this weekend.
I love the picnics and the pool openings too, nothing wrong with that. But here is a short list of some suggestions for Memorial Day if you take a chance to read, watch, reflect, discuss, remember, and pray. Some of the books are available on Kindle Unlimited or online, so even a chapter or two snatched off the Internet is a nice tribute to the day. Some wars provide rich literature or movies, others less so. I made no attempt to balance the list in any way but rather to range across various episodes of sacrifice and honor.
- The Winter Soldiers, Saratoga, or Victory at Yorktown by Richard Ketchum (American Revolution)
- Six Frigates by Ian Toll (Post Revolution to 1812)
- Any descriptions of battle from the Civil War histories of Shelby Foote, Stephen Sears, or Bruce Catton
- The Rick Atkinson trilogies of the American Revolution or World War II, or his book The Long Gray Line (Vietnam)
- The Pacific War Trilogy by Ian Toll (WWII)
- Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer (WWII Navy)
- Band of Brothers and The Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose
- The Korean War by Max Hastings
- This Kind of War by T. R. Fehrenbach (Korea)
- We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway (Vietnam)
- Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
- Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History by Wallace Terry
- Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden (Somalia)
- War by Sebastian Junger (modern)
- A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier by Joseph Plumb Martin (American Revolution)
- The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
- Company Aytch or a Side Show of the Big Show: A Memoir of the Civil War by Sam R. Watkins
- Military Memoirs of a Confederate by Edward Porter Alexander
- Inside the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson edited by J. Gregory Acken
- The Fall of Fortresses by Elmer Bendiner (WWII bomber campaign)
- With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge (WWII Pacific Theater)
- Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II by James Tobin (kinda, sorta a memoir)
- If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II by George Wilson
- A Rumor of War by Phil Caputo (Vietnam)
- Chickenhawk by Robert Mason (Vietnam)
- Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Lynda Van Devanter
- One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nate Fick (Iraq)
- Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq by Nicholas Moore
- Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning by Elliot Ackerman (modern)
- The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper (American Revolution)
- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and Shiloh by Shelby Foote (Civil War historical fiction)
- The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (anti-war Civil War classic)
- Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer (multiple American wars)
- Run Silent, Run Deep by Ned Beach (submarine warfare)
- The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (WWII Navy)
- The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester (WWII Navy)
- W. E. B. Griffin’s The Corps Series (WWII)
- A Walk in the Sun by Harry Brown (WWII)
- The Thin Red Line by James Jones (WWII)
- The Marines of Autumn by James Brady (Korea)
- The Thirteenth Valley by John Del Vecchio (Vietnam)
- Fields of Fire by Jim Webb (Vietnam)
- The Lionheads by Josiah Bunting (Vietnam)
- The Crossing
- The Patriot
- Sergeant York
- Saving Private Ryan
- Band of Brothers
- The Longest Day
- A Bridge Too Far
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
- The Tuskegee Airmen
- Memphis Belle
- 12 O’Clock High
- Letters from Iwo Jima
- Flags of Our Fathers
- The Bridges at Toko-Ri
- Run Silent, Run Deep
- Hamburger Hill
- We Were Soldiers
- Black Hawk Down
- The Hurt Locker
- American Sniper
- Lone Survivor
John Hillen is a decorated combat veteran and author of numerous books and articles on military affairs. He was the military adviser to the Call of Duty video-game series.
Rebekah Jones is at it again. And, this time, she has brought the Miami Herald and the Daily Beast along with her.
From the Daily Beast:
Florida’s inspector general has granted whistleblower status to Rebekah Jones, the health department worker who was fired after claiming that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration was fudging COVID-19 data—and who was then arrested for allegedly hacking the state’s emergency messaging system. “It’s pretty huge,” Jones told the Miami Herald after hearing the news.
But it’s not “huge.” It’s merely another example of Jones’s leveling dramatic accusations, and then, before they have been examined, pointing to those dramatic accusations as if they are evidence of wrongdoing.
I have written previously about the disgraceful smear that Jones has engineered against Governor DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw. In form, this one is similar. Jones wants her marks to believe that something dramatic has happened, when in reality all she has done is advance yet another set of untested allegations. It’s circles all the way down.
On Twitter today, Jones wrote that “the IG at DOH issued a probable cause that what I said is true after investigating.” But the IG at DOH did no such thing. Indeed, that Jones has been “granted whistleblower status” means nothing more impressive than that she has applied for whistleblower status — which, it is important to note, is a status available to anyone who (a) has worked for a Florida state agency, and (b) wishes to advance allegations of wrongdoing that, if proven, would be criminal — and that, as is usual, she has been accorded it. This grant does not mean that the merits of Jones’s accusations have been examined. It does not mean that they have been accepted, or even prejudged. It does not mean that she is telling the truth. It means she is permitted to make a complaint without retaliation.
As CBS12 reported last week in a detailed piece that was published a couple of weeks after my own, there is an enormous gap between what Jones claims in public (which, if true, would be an extraordinary scandal) and what Jones claims when she has to be more careful (which is that she, a dashboard manager, disagrees with how serious scientists do their job). And so there is here. Jones has already announced that, despite it being the centerpiece of her entire conspiracy theory, she is not including the charge that she was instructed to “delete cases and deaths” in her “whistleblower” complaint. Here, as before, she is clearly hoping that casual observers will conflate her casual claims and her official claims and be left with a false impression as a result.
Given that the purpose of Florida’s whistleblower status is to shield a whistleblower’s identity until an investigation is concluded, it might seem odd that Jones has gone public with this news. It might seem odd, too, that she so closely cropped the message she shared that her readers could not tell what else it said, or even which department it was from. But, of course, none of this is odd. Jones’s entire game relies upon misdirection, the deployment of half-truths, and the relentless conflation of allegation and substantiation. This is merely the latest chapter in a long, long book — and, once again, the press seems happy to help her write it.
On Friday, President Biden released a budget that would, if enacted, end the Hyde amendment, an annual budget rider that has prohibited federal Medicaid funding of abortion for more than four decades.
The Hyde amendment has been America’s most effective pro-life public policy. By one estimate, it has saved more than two million human lives from abortion since it was first enacted:
One study by the Guttmacher Institute, a Planned Parenthood offshoot, found that in states that use their own tax dollars to pay for abortions undergone by Medicaid recipients, the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients is 3.9 times the rate among nonrecipients, “while in states that do not permit Medicaid funding for abortions, Medicaid recipients are only 1.6 times as likely as nonrecipients to have abortions.”
The precise number of lives saved by the Hyde amendment is a matter of dispute, but according to a 2016 report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an organization affiliated with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, “the best research indicates that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million unborn children” since the policy was first enacted in 1976.
That’s an average of 50,000 human lives saved from abortion each year.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged in a 2009 interview that a major rationale for funding abortions for Medicaid recipients was that it would result in a culling of the poor, though she put it a bit more euphemistically. “Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of,” she said. “So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding of abortion.”
So long as Joe Manchin keeps his commitment to keep the filibuster, it’s unlikely the Hyde amendment will be killed off entirely in 2021, but Democrats could be just a Senate seat or two away from having the votes to get rid of the Hyde amendment if they keep the House.
By putting the Hyde amendment on the chopping block in the 2022 mid-term elections, however, Biden could be hurting his party’s ability to maintain control of Congress: Polls have consistently shown strong majorities of American voters support the Hyde amendment.
Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, one of the six Senate Republicans who supported creating an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on Congress, comments on his vote: “Nebraskans know where I stand on this: For the first time in our history, a mob targeted the Vice President and the Congress for following the Constitution by certifying the Electoral College vote. With Congress getting weaker and tribalism getting stronger, we’ve got to rebuild some public trust. Like others in the Nebraska delegation, I think that, if done right, a truly bipartisan commission could complement the work being done in the ongoing criminal investigations. The American people deserve a full account of what happened.”
For the June 14th issue, I wrote about the current and coming fall of Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID at the National Institutes of Health.
Toward the end, we begin to explore the developing theory that, if COVID-19 had leaked from the Wuhan lab, Dr. Fauci himself may bear some responsibility for exercising his authority to approve NIH grant money for gain-of-function research that he deems in the interest of national security. This theory has, until recently, been seen as almost too exotic to touch . . . until Nicholas Wade brought out all the uncomfortable facts in his groundbreaking essay on the origins of COVID-19.
It’s a theory that is also championed by people who were in the Trump administration and who worked on the coronavirus response. Peter Navarro told NR, “My theory is that Anthony Fauci is a sociopath” and that Fauci “knew full well that virus came from the lab.” Navarro continued, “He knew full well that he was the one who reauthorized gain-of-function. And day after day, for nine months leading up to the election, he did not level with the American people.” In the Trump administration, Navarro was an assistant to the president, director of trade and manufacturing policy, and the national Defense Production Act policy coordinator. On Steve Bannon’s podcast, Navarro called Fauci the “father of the virus.”
All I can add to this is that others who were in the situation room with Fauci said on deep background things even more unkind than Navarro did here.
For many Trump admin figures, Fauci was a stumbling block. Fauci opposed masks at first. He opposed travel restrictions. He opposed the therapeutics that are still often prescribed successfully to treat COVID.
With Trump himself partly off the stage, it’s becoming safer to re-evaluate the performance of his antagonists in this calamity of a pandemic. As another columnist pointed out recently, it took years after World War I for the full enormity to sink in, and for the incredible waste and folly of Western leaders to be accepted by the public. Fauci’s harshest critics today may seem mild in the near future.
Please do read “The Fall of St. Anthony Fauci” in the latest issue.
President Biden’s budget request is projecting that the U.S. debt burden will reach its highest level in history this year, surpassing the previous record from World War II.
In 2021, according to the Biden budget, the U.S. debt will reach 109.7 percent of GDP, which would blow past the previous record of 106.1 percent, just as the U.S. was coming out of World War II. It will then exceed the record every year over the next decade, reaching 117 percent of GDP by 2031.
While it is true that Biden inherited a high debt level as a result of the pandemic and the continued flow of Baby Boomer retirements driving up entitlement spending, Biden’s spending binge is exacerbating the problem. He signed a $1.9 trillion “COVID relief” bill in March, even though the pandemic was fizzling out and Congress had already spent $4.1 trillion on the pandemic. He is now proposing an additional $4 trillion in spending just this year.
Overall, Biden’s budget sees $69.2 trillion worth of spending over the next decade, which is $8 trillion more than $61.2 trillion in spending CBO was projecting in February, just a few weeks after he took office.
When the U.S. emerged from the crisis of World War II, Social Security was in its infancy, and Medicare and Medicaid did not even exist yet. Politicians in both parties made a concerted effort to pay down the war debt. Yet for the past several decades, both parties have steadily driven up the debt while ignoring our long-term challenges, and as we emerge from this crisis, Biden is throwing all caution to the wind.
There are some who embrace a new school of economics which holds that high levels of debt don’t matter. We’re now entering an era without precedent in American history that will put that premise to the test.
There’s an apocryphal saying about Cincinnati, Ohio, my hometown. The saying is usually attributed to Mark Twain. And though there’s no concrete evidence he ever said, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 20 years behind the times,” many residents and natives have embraced the description — either ironically, or as a kind of backhanded testament to Cincinnati’s modest, underappreciated character.
But five years ago today, it seemed like the end of the world had come to Cincinnati before it came anywhere else. A young child at the Cincinnati Zoo accidentally had stumbled into an enclosure containing a gorilla named Harambe. In the video of the incident, Harambe is seen dragging and roughhousing with the human child. Seeing this, zoo employees made the decision to kill their own animal. The outcry came swiftly; both locally and nationally (even internationally), there was outrage over what the Zoo decided to do. Harambe was just playing with the child, some said. Why didn’t the Zoo use a tranquilizer dart? others suggested. And what about the child’s mother, who had been careless enough not to keep her child out of the enclosure?
These were some of the more reasonable, if still misguided, reactions. But things got far worse than that. Celebrity and meme culture jumped on the Harambe train as famous blowhards and digital troublemakers condemned Harambe’s death. The child’s mother became the target of online harassment. The Zoo was, and probably still remains, a target of Internet trolls. The memes about Harambe seemed to transcend the incident itself — in summer 2016, Harambe briefly outpolled Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein — to become one of the digital world’s bizarre touchstones. To some extent, he remains so to this day.
He shouldn’t. The Cincinnati Zoo did the right thing by killing Harambe. There’s no concrete evidence Harambe was simply playing with the child. But even if he was, as primatologist Frans De Waal noted, “a gorilla is so immensely strong that even with the best of intentions—and we are not sure that Harambe had those—the child’s death was a probable outcome.” Famed wildlife expert Jack Hanna stressed that a tranquilizer dart would have had a delayed effect, and may have simply aggravated the gorilla, placing the human child in further danger. And Jane Goodall, practically a byword for gorilla expertise, emphasized that the situation had left the zoo no choice. It’s hard to get more authoritative than that.
As for the human child’s mother, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters declined to charge her with anything. This line of argument always struck me as irrelevant, anyway — a kind of post-facto second-guessing (really at play throughout such reactions) that assumes possession of a time machine, or substitutes the supposedly superior judgment and parenting skills of people angry online after the fact in place of people in the middle of a harrowing situation. The circumstances that led to the child’s position in that enclosure seem, to a point, essentially irrelevant to me. The fact was that, at that moment, a human life had been placed in danger by its proximity to animal life. The choice in such situations should be obvious in favor of human life. That to many at the time — and to some still — it wasn’t obvious (Harambe got a vigil, for goodness sake) forces me to consider anew the words not of Mark Twain but of G. K. Chesterton:
There is a healthy and an unhealthy love of animals: and the nearest definition of the difference is that the unhealthy love of animals is serious. I am quite prepared to love a rhinoceros, with reasonable precautions: he is, doubtless, a delightful father to the young rhinoceroses. But I will not promise not to laugh at a rhinoceros. . . . I will not worship an animal. That is, I will not take an animal quite seriously: and I know why.
Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
Senate Republicans today blocked an independent, bipartisan commission to inquire into the January 6 Capitol riot. This will not prevent Congress from conducting its own investigation, but it will be an openly partisan probe rather than one that offers the appearance — and maybe the reality, depending who you ask — of fairness and balance. It’s worth thinking through what purposes a commission would serve.
On the one hand, we do not need a commission to publicize the events of January 6. We do not need a commission to draw conclusions about public events (such as the actions of Donald Trump …