Health Care

The Real Conversion Therapy

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Yesterday, Biden signed an executive order to begin banning “dangerous practices like so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” (so-called, indeed!) defined as “efforts to suppress or change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” Never mind, of course, the real conversion therapy — efforts to suppress or change an individual’s sex. Biden specifically seeks to expand that kind of therapy.

Culture

Abortion Increased in America during Covid, the Dangers of Puberty Blockers & More

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2. Grazie Pozo Christie: Pregnancy Care Centers in the Crosshairs

What would it be like to go to work in the morning and find a death threat spray-painted across the façade of your office? What would it be like knowing that a facility just like yours was recently fire-bombed near Buffalo, New York? Would you keep showing up? Would you continue to put yourself in danger?

Maybe you could, if you knew you were saving fragile lives and helping vulnerable women and girls each day. Maybe you could, if you were very brave.

These are the hard questions facing the volunteers and staff at a pregnancy care center in South Florida where I volunteer. It was recently vandalized with spray-painted threats. Like other pregnancy care centers, our facility assists under-resourced pregnant women and families. Our clients are already struggling to make ends meet. Unlike the nearby Planned Parenthood, our center offers real choice. While Planned Parenthood offers exactly one solution for parents in this situation – abortion, and cash up front, please! – our center offers material necessities, parental education, assistance in accessing obstetric care, ultrasounds, and adoption referrals for those who don’t feel they are prepared to parent. All free, of course. And the mothers who nevertheless choose to have an abortion are always welcomed back with open arms for post-abortion grief counseling when and if they need it.

These are the works of mercy that have sparked the ire of hate groups like the one that claimed responsibility for the recent arson at a Wisconsin pregnancy care center.  The vandals scrawl a variant of the same phrase at each site: “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.” The group’s name – Jane’s Revenge – was painted across our facility’s wall. Their communique, as issued via journalist Robert Evans, reads, in part: “We have run thin on patience and mercy…we [shall] adopt increasingly extreme tactics to maintain freedom over our own bodies.” These are the kinds of words used by ideologues and extremists who are, indeed, ready to use violence to cleanse the world of the people who disagree with them.

3. Daily Signal: Churches, Pro-Life Organizations Attacked 41 Times in Past 6 Weeks

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6. Ryan Anderson and others talk about Jay Greene’s new Heritage Foundation study “The Effect of Access to Puberty Blockers and Cross-Sex Hormones on Youth Suicide Rates.” The report is here.

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8. AP: Trans kids’ treatment can start younger, new guidelines say

9. By the Numbers: How Many Men in California Prisons Identify as Women

California’s prison population includes 1,115 biological males who say they identify as women, according to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

About 1 in 3 in that population has requested transfers to women’s prisons, but only about 1 in 10 of those requests have been approved, the corrections department says.

California’s prison agency provided the statistics in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Oversight Project, the government watchdog division of The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

A women’s advocacy group sued the state of California in November to overturn a law allowing biological males to be housed in women’s prisons after a female inmate said she was raped by someone the prison called a “transgender woman with a penis.”

A section of the corrections department’s website devoted to “frequently asked questions” includes this question: “Does a transgender person have to have gender-affirming surgery to be housed at an institution that matches their gender identity?”

The department provides this response: “No. All housing for incarcerated people is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, which includes their criminal history, behavior, rehabilitation opportunities, medical and psychiatric needs, [and] program needs as well as their safety and security.”

Continue reading “Abortion Increased in America during Covid, the Dangers of Puberty Blockers & More”

Music

‘And the Livin’ Is Easy’

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In Madison, Wis., on June 15, 2022 (Jay Nordlinger)

A couple of days ago, I stepped out of the airport in Madison, Wis., and it was hot. About 96 degrees. “Hot one,” I said to a man standing on the sidewalk, having a smoke. “Yup,” he said. “And it’s not even summer yet.” That took me aback. True. Summer does not begin officially until June 21. But I don’t go by the calendar, I guess. I go by weather.

Also, June is pretty much the best month, isn’t it? And not just for weddings. I think of a favorite snatch of poetry: “And what is so rare as a day in June?” (James Russell Lowell).

Before arriving in Madison, and being reminded of summer’s official start, I put together a new episode of Music for a While: here. I begin, “You know what time it is, right? I mean, seasonally.” Then I offer “Summertime,” the lullaby that opens Porgy and Bess (Gershwin).

In the past, I have done full-out summer-music podcasts: the relevant selection from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons; Les nuits d’été, the song-cycle by Berlioz; Im Sommerwind, the tone poem by Webern; “Summer Nights,” from Grease. (Pretty much everyone my age was in love with Olivia Newton-John.)

But in this new podcast, I have just the one summertime piece: Gershwin’s lullaby. And I have Leontyne Price, of course, singing it. She sings it live in Munich in 1968 — on what must have been a cold day: January 27.

As I mention in the podcast, I heard Price sing “Summertime” probably a dozen times, in recital. It was a habitual encore (along with five or ten other habitual encores). She never sang it the same way twice. I have many of her renderings in my head. They are lodged happily, and I hope permanently, in memory.

What else on this new podcast? A little Mozart. A piano piece by Medtner, played by Horowitz. (“Why no one play Medtner?” he once lamented.) A violin concerto by Szymanowski. An aria by Stravinsky. (I may or may not do a little singing myself — but if I do, it’s not enough to ruin the show.) A few viola jokes.

Yes. Musicians love to crack viola jokes. Sample: “Why is lightning like a violist’s fingers?” “Lightning never strikes the same place twice.” Second sample: “How can you tell whether a violist is playing out of tune?” “You see his bow moving.” Third sample: “How do you keep a violin from being stolen?” “Keep it in a viola case.”

Are these jokes absurd, mean, and unjust? Yes. Mainly. Anyway, it’s a subject. For my new Music for a While, once more, go here.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Carbon Tax

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Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute writes against a carbon tax:

The GHG tax supposedly is a climate policy. But the proponents of GHG policies never tell us what impacts on the consequences of climate change are to be expected from implementation of GHG taxes, subsidies, and regulations. If we apply the Environmental Protection Agency climate model, and if we incorporate assumptions that exaggerate the future climate effects of reductions in GHG emissions, the Biden net-zero policy would yield a reduction in global temperatures of 0.173 degrees Celsius by 2100. The proposed GHG tax would yield only a portion of that trivial number. International efforts to reduce GHG emissions similarly would have very small effects. In short, a GHG tax, like almost all seemingly plausible climate policies, would be all costs and no benefits.

Watchful waiting and adaptation over time are the only climate policies that make sense scientifically, economically, politically, and in terms of the preservation of freedom.

David Bahnsen is joined by Oren Cass on this week’s episode of the Capital Record.

Politics & Policy

How’s That January 6 ‘Blockbuster’ Working Out for Dems?

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Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) speaks as the the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol holds its first hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2022. (Jabin Botsford/Pool via Pool via Reuters)

Across all networks, something like 20 million people tuned in to the opening night of the January 6 hearings in Congress. That supposed “blockbuster” video was going to Change Everything. I guessed at the time that only a handful of political obsessives were paying attention. Now, we’ve got several days of polling data and . . . if the needle has moved, these eyes can’t detect it.

In three polls listed on RealClearPolitics quizzing voters starting last Friday, the generic congressional ballot has been Democrats plus two, Republicans plus four, Republicans plus three. Democrats have had an outright lead in this poll dozens of times this year (albeit only one time this month), so not much has changed there. Democrats typically need a large lead in the generic ballot to win Congress; if it’s close, Republicans take the House.

As for President Biden’s job approval rating, his RCP average in polls is at 39.6. In polls that started since last Friday, his approval rating has notched a 40, 44, 40, 39, and 43. So Biden is one tenth of a point above his all-time low, which he hit last Thursday. Do you see a January 6 bounce? I don’t. The Democrats have been trying to make hay of it all year, and the voters don’t seem to be paying it much mind.

Politics & Policy

Why Not Forgive College Loan Debt?

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The Left desperately wants this further giveaway by Uncle Sam. One of the strongest arguments against it is provided in this post by GMU economics professor Bryan Caplan — it will exacerbate our problem of credential inflation.

He explains: “When the share of college graduates rises, the availability of good jobs barely changes.  The more degrees job seekers have, the more degrees job seekers need to keep their applications out of the garbage can.  When formal education expands, students need college degrees to get the same jobs their parents got with high school degrees – and their grandparents got with even less.”

Caplan refers to his incendiary book The Case Against Education, where he set forth his strong reasons for believing that pushing education on society is mostly a waste of resources that benefits the providers but makes the nation worse off.

Read the whole thing.

Culture

Pelosi: Drag ‘Is What America Is All About’

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When Nancy Pelosi appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars to opine that “Your freedom of expression, of yourselves in drag, is what America is all about. I say that all the time to my friends in drag,” she wasn’t entirely off-base. True, drag isn’t as American as, say, exercising one’s freedom to own guns, unless I missed a constitutional amendment on men wearing taffeta ball gowns, but America is certainly all about the freedom to be weird and was in fact founded by weirdos who were much farther out of the mainstream than drag queens are today.

What I would dispute, however, is why there seems to be this pressing urgency to bring drag into every corner of American life. I don’t particularly derive a lot of entertainment value from observing men shrieking and camping and pretending to be caricatures of women. Maybe Nancy Pelosi does, and that’s fine. There could be several cable channels devoted to drag, for all I know, and I don’t care. But, as my friend Charlie asks, why are children suddenly being forced to watch drag performances in schools, where they are a captive audience and where their formation is a matter of public interest? Why is drag everywhere, with public funds being spent on it? For citizens, especially children, to be forced to approve of entertainment that doesn’t necessarily appeal to them in order to advance some sort of ideological agenda doesn’t sound very American at all. It sounds rather Soviet, no? Being browbeaten is not very fabulous.

Politics & Policy

Jane’s Revenge Threats against Pro-Lifers Presage a New ‘Bleeding Kansas’

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Pro-abortion rights activists protest outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I worry that the country is entering a violent time akin to “Bleeding Kansas,” an era during the 1850s when pro- and anti-slavery partisans — most famously, the abolitionist terrorist John Brown — violently contested with each other for political control of the then-territory.

The alleged attempted assassination of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh by a pro-choice fanatic is the most extreme of such recent actions. But partisans on both sides of the political and cultural divides have been pursuing increasingly violent means of promoting their ideological desires. We have seen violence from Antifa, the Capitol rioters of January 6, BLM “protests” in which cities burned and people died, the violence at Charlottesville, the attempted mass assassinations of congressional Republicans that almost took the life of Representative Stephen Scalise, and in years past, the murders of abortionists.

Now, as Kathryn noted earlier, a radical pro-abortion group called Jane’s Revenge — which claims to have burned and vandalized pro-life offices and crisis pregnancy centers, threatening at some locales: ““If abortion isn’t safe, neither are you!” — has just issued a communique threatening worse to come. From “Jane’s Revenge: Another Communique,” addressed to pro-life organizations:

Your thirty days expired yesterday. We offered an honourable way out. You could have walked away. Now the leash is off. And we will make it as hard as possible for your campaign of oppression to continue. We have demonstrated in the past month how easy and fun it is to attack. We are versatile, we are mercurial, and we answer to no one but ourselves. We promised to take increasingly drastic measures against oppressive infrastructures.

Rest assured that we will, and those measures may not come in the form of something so easily cleaned up as fire and graffiti. Sometimes you will see what we do, and you will know that it is us. Sometimes you will think you merely are unlucky, because you cannot see the ways which we interfere in your affairs. But your pointless attempts to control others, and make life more difficult, will not be met passively. Eventually your insurance companies, and your financial backers will realize you are a bad investment.

From here forward, any anti-choice group who closes their doors, and stops operating will no longer be a target. But until you do, it’s open season, and we know where your operations are. The infrastructure of the enslavers will not survive. . . . Through attacking, we find joy, courage, and strip the veneer of impenetrability held by these violent institutions.

Enslavers?” No one forces women to seek help at crisis pregnancy centers, which offer help for mothers both before and after birth — but then, logic and true compassion have nothing to do with any of this.

Hello, Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI, and President Biden: Are you going to do something about this or keep pretending the biggest threats to peaceability and comity in this country are white supremacists?

Monetary Policy

The Fed: More of a Surprise Required

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Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during his re-nominations hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 11, 2022. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via Reuters)

Dominic Pino writes:

Based on market predictions and overall economic conditions, and given that the Fed — both in recent history and over its entire history — is usually behind the curve, a hike higher than the markets were expecting would have been welcome. Instead of talking about how the Fed got surprised yet again, Powell should have been the one doing the surprising.

So, while a 75-basis-point hike was a good thing to do, 100 basis points would have been better. Remember, real interest rates are still well in negative territory, and a 2 percent federal funds rate would hardly be radical.

As always, read all that Dominic has to say, but what is key (to me) is that the Fed needed to surprise, and it didn’t. Last week 75 basis points would have been a surprise. Today, not so much.  Markets move.

I wrote this last night:

The Fed, which was complacent for far too long, now needs to step up with a rate hike to confirm that it, at least, is finally taking inflation seriously. To have a chance of doing that, it should hike by more than expectations, which currently appear to be rising from 50 basis points to 75. Is 100bp unimaginable? Not entirely, but, if the Fed is serious, 50 bp should be.

By this morning, 75bp was more or less priced in. When that number was announced, it sent stocks up (the S&P ended 1.47 percent up), but this move looks (to me) more like  a relief rally — investors were relieved that Powell had shown his seriousness about inflation by rejecting 50bp. And that relief was supplemented by the fact that Powell appears willing to contemplate another 75bp on top of it. That may be interesting for two reasons: It shows that, for now, investors are more worried about inflation than a slowdown (or maybe that they are more worried about stagflation than a slowdown; there’s a thought) and it shows that they are easily pleased: Of course, the next increase should be 75bp. No contemplation required. However, even if the S&P ended higher, it ended the day off its peak, something (short-term profit-taking aside) that might suggest that the relief was not uncontained.

And take a look, as Dominic suggests, at real rates. Even though tightening has an effect equivalent to an additional rate increase on top of the 75bp, today’s announcement can hardly be said to represent a dramatic crunch in any real sense of that word.

Unless of course, assets have been wildly bid up (and too much debt incurred) as a consequence of the ultra-low interest rates of recent years.

And there is no way that that could have happened, not at all.

Politics & Policy

‘How Aggressively Should Liberals Attack the Supreme Court?’ Maybe Not with Gunfire

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The U.S. Supreme Court Building (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters )

“How aggressively should liberals attack the Supreme Court?” That is the headline on a Washington Post article co-bylined by Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent. A sampling:

A debate is heating up on the left about how to communicate with the public about the court’s radicalization and what should be done about it. Grist for this discussion comes from the group Take Back the Court, which has released a new memo suggesting that liberals and Democrats should frontally attack the court as a kind of cancer on democracy. The memo argues for messaging that depicts the court as fundamentally rigged by Republican tactics such as the swiping of Merrick Garland’s seat. . . . The idea of an aggressive attack on the court as a fundamentally damaging force in our politics might push establishment liberal institutions in a direction that makes them uncomfortable.

Here’s a suggestion: If you’re going to call the Supreme Court a “cancer” on our system and debate how people on your side “should frontally attack” it with “aggressive attack” tactics that treat it as “rigged” and “a fundamentally damaging force in our politics,” maybe you should at least remind them not to try to assassinate the justices, at least when one of them was just arrested last week trying to do so. That is certainly the standard that the Post‘s liberals have applied in other contexts, if you recall Max Boot trying to smear me on the basis of things written by a shooter in El Paso, Texas. I don’t hold Sargent and Waldman responsible for the guy who showed up at Brett Kavanaugh’s house with “a black tactical chest rig and tactical knife, a Glock 17 with two magazines and ammunition, pepper spray, zip ties, a hammer, screwdriver, nail punch, crow bar, pistol light, duct tape, hiking boots with padding on the outside of the soles” and an admitted plan to assassinate Kavanaugh. But at the very least, they could mention this fact somewhere in their column as a to-be-sure word of caution against taking this all too far. Instead, so far as I can determine from their columns and Twitter feeds, neither Waldman nor Sargent has yet seen fit to say a word about the attempt on Kavanaugh; to the contrary, just twelve hours after the would-be assassin was apprehended, Waldman published a column titled, “Conservatives, your radical legal revolution will not go unchallenged.” It is enough to make one wonder if Waldman or Sargent actually have any criticism at all to offer against the assassination of conservative justices.

Politics & Policy

The Updated Romney Family Plan

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Senator Mitt Romney asks Antony J. Blinken, a question during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021. (Alex Edelman/Reuters)

Over on the home page, Yuval Levin and Scott Winship heap praise on the new iteration of Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act. This is notable as Winship, the director of poverty studies at AEI, did not like Romney’s first draft of the bill, which had no work requirements.

He wasn’t alone. Oren Cass of American Compass criticized the first iteration along the same lines. Cass, who had advised Romney previously, seems to have had some influence on the new iteration. The new proposal has modest inducements to work and to marriage that the previous version lacked.

Levin and Winship explain some of the political logic:

The earnings requirement would reduce the reach of the benefit, and therefore reduce its potential to support family formation and reduce short-run poverty. Yet it’s a modest requirement, meant to mitigate perverse incentives but not to fully replace the emphasis on work and marriage that defines the TANF program (which would be retained under this new proposal). To us, the balance seems roughly right. This proposal will appeal to reformers who actually want to both support parents and encourage work and marriage — which means it could unite most conservatives, though it is also likely to have less appeal than Romney’s original proposal to some progressives who mostly liked that original version because they saw it as a path toward a universal basic income (UBI).

It’s definitely a bill that more conservatives can support, as it replaces a number of more complex and parsimonious programs with an expanded and simplified support for families.

It’s also been very interesting — and very telling — to see the lines on which liberals and progressives are opposing this bill. They are mad that the bill is paid for by eliminating SALT tax deductions that overwhelmingly benefit affluent liberals.

I’d be very curious to see if a 2024 Republican picks this ball up from Romney and runs on it.

Education

Must Reading on the Peril DEI Poses

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A man walks through an empty campus green at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood has written a superb essay on the terrible effects of the DEI mania (diversity, equity, inclusion) on not just our education system, but on the nation’s future.

Wood lists the following consequences of the DEI agenda:

  • Ethnic division and strife. DEI is an incitement to racial resentment, primarily of blacks against whites, and at another level of whites against blacks.
  • Political opportunism. DEI in schools and colleges is aimed at recruiting students through emotional manipulation into durable allegiance to progressive political loyalties.
  • Cultural impoverishment. DEI displaces from the curriculum and disparages study of the great achievements of Western civilization and the American past. DEI imposes ruthless hostility toward Western values and falsely romantic views of other traditions.
  • Historical amnesia. DEI amplifies accounts of injustices in American history and minimizes American accomplishments. Sometimes, as in the 1619 Project, it sets forth grossly inaccurate accounts of the American past as if they were true, and it provides students with no basis to recognize that there are other accounts better grounded in the facts.
  • Professional incompetence. Because it lowers academic standards and diverts attention from well-established facts, DEI leaves graduates with an inferior education. The problem is compounded at the level of graduate and professional education where individuals begin their careers with significant DEI-caused deficits in their professional knowledge.
  • Impeded international competitiveness. Other nations are not handicapping generations of students by providing them inferior DEI-inflected educations and false maps of the world we live in. America’s international competitiveness is at risk from graduates who think they understand things of which they in fact have only superficial or mistaken knowledge.
  • Destructive orientation. DEI is an essential piece of indoctrination in the social-justice ideology that is now taking hold in the American economy as the “ESG” movement (Environmental, Social, and Governance investing). DEI prioritizes race in all contexts and subordinates all other principled considerations. Graduates carry this into the corporate world, where it has now been elaborated as ESG.

To those, I would add that it undermines the idea among minority youth that they have any agency, teaching that they can look only to politics for any improvement in their lives.

Read the whole thing — and share it with others.

Monetary Policy

The Fed Needs to Exceed Expectations, Not Just Meet Them

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Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell takes questions after the Federal Reserve raised its target interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to stem a disruptive surge in inflation, during a news conference following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in Washington, D.C., June 15, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

The Federal Open Market Committee raised the federal funds rate by 75 basis points at its meeting today. That means the upper limit of the target range now sits at 1.75 percent.

Members of the committee estimated that inflation will be 5.2 percent overall this year, up from March, when they thought it would be only 4.3 percent. Those numbers might seem low, but the Fed doesn’t use the consumer price index to measure inflation. Instead, it uses the personal consumption expenditure index, which measures inflation to be a few points lower than the CPI. For April, the PCE showed inflation at 6.3 percent over the preceding twelve months.

That means the FOMC still believes inflation will begin to go down quite soon. It will have to if it is to average 5.2 percent on the year. Exactly how remains unclear.

There’s an inconsistency in the Fed’s stance on inflation, as reflected in Jerome Powell’s comments after the meeting. He said, “We have both the tools we need and the resolve it will take to restore price stability on behalf of American families and businesses.” He then went on to talk about supply constraints, commodity prices, the war in Ukraine, and logistics concerns as factors contributing to higher-than-expected inflation.

The Fed does not have any tools to fix supply constraints, commodity prices, the war in Ukraine, or logistics concerns. If those things are causing inflation, the Fed will have a very hard time restoring price stability.

Later on, Powell mentioned that things such as the price of gas affect inflation expectations as well as actual inflation. That’s certainly true, and he expressed a  commitment to keeping the public’s inflation expectations anchored at 2 percent in the long run.

But that still doesn’t resolve the fundamental tension in the Fed’s position. It’s basically, “We got this! — but also there are all these things we can’t control that keep catching us by surprise and driving inflation up.” The first part is difficult to believe if you also believe the second part.

Powell also repeatedly emphasized overly strong aggregate demand in the economy, and that’s something the Fed can control through tighter monetary policy. That’s the direction it’s going in, and Powell said the FOMC continues to think it will need to raise interest rates for the rest of the year.

But nominal GDP for April continued to outpace its pre-pandemic trend by a lot. Interest rates have gone up, but conditions have not really tightened yet, as Ramesh pointed out in the cover story for our June 13 issue.

After being set on a 50-basis-point hike for this meeting, markets had been predicting the possibility of a 75-basis-point hike after the May CPI report came out. Markets had probably already priced in a 75-basis-point hike.

Based on market predictions and overall economic conditions, and given that the Fed — both in recent history and over its entire history — is usually behind the curve, a hike higher than the markets were expecting would have been welcome. Instead of talking about how the Fed got surprised yet again, Powell should have been the one doing the surprising.

So, while a 75-basis-point hike was a good thing to do, 100 basis points would have been better. Remember, real interest rates are still well in negative territory, and a 2 percent federal funds rate would hardly be radical.

Fortunately, Powell didn’t talk about the “soft landing” this time and put the cart back behind the horse where it belongs. “Inflation can’t go down until it flattens out,” he said. Indeed — and better to flatten it out sooner rather than later.

U.S.

Jane’s Revenge Threatens Domestic Terrorism

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They are calling for open warfare on pro-life ministries.

They are accusing people who help women who want to choose to not have an  abortion as violent enslavers who must be shut down. This is not about women. This is not the stuff of a pluralistic society. Where is the common sense and truth? Where are the people of good will who can speak out against this and make clear that these people, if they engage in criminal acts, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? And as Caroline suggests: How is the attorney general of the United States not making this a priority?

Pro-choicers of good will, stand united with us against this evil. We can have different views on abortion and jointly condemn this.

Culture

When, Exactly, Did Drag Queens in Schools Become a Thing?

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(Jupiterimages/Getty Images)

The attorney general of Michigan is having a day:

My question is: How did we get here?

Seriously: How? How did we reach the point at which drag queens in schools became a topic that is routinely debated in domestic American politics? How did drag queens get into schools in the first place? Why does anyone think it’s acceptable — let alone crucial — to keep them there? Why has one of the two major political parties in America decided that this a hill to die on? How did this happen? In the last six months, I have heard more about drag queens in schools than I have heard about the solvency of Medicare. Why?

“A drag queen for every school” is a sentence that, until today, has probably never been uttered before in the English language. Why is an elected official saying it in public? As for “drag queens make everything better,” one can just about imagine circumstances in which a person might say such a thing aloud. But the attorney general of Michigan?

Weird times.

Culture

Good Riddance to the ‘Millennial Consumer Subsidy’

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A car drives past an Uber office at Redondo Beach, Calif., March 16, 2022. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

There are certain stereotypes that attach to the lifestyles of those whom Atlantic staff writer Derek Thompson calls “youngish, urbanish, professionalish.” The twenty/thirtysomethings one thinks of most frequently in such contexts — those who live in cities such as Washington, D.C., and New York and who work in finance, consulting, or (ahem) media — are often thought to live bespoke existences, spending much of their leisure time being ferried via rideshare services between various social outings (especially brunch), ordering food for immediate consumption to be delivered to their abodes (if in D.C., often recently built, hotel-esque constructions with rooftop pools in trendy areas), and generally relying on apps for other assorted needs (getting groceries, arranging out-of-city travel, buying furniture, etc.).

Now, some of this is exaggerated. Not everyone lives this way. I’ve structured my life in D.C. basically to do none of these things, but you don’t have to be a Butlerian Jihad weirdo to avoid ordering Uber Eats to your apartment for every meal. And some of the ways this exaggeration is true stem from the fact that living in this manner can make more sense in the environment of a modern American city. But it is not inaccurate to say the caricature I sketched above is fairly prevalent in such environments. One reason why, as Thompson explains in a recent piece for the Atlantic, is what he calls the “Millennial Consumer Subsidy.” As he describes it:

For the past decade, people like me—youngish, urbanish, professionalish—got a sweetheart deal from Uber, the Uber-for-X clones, and that whole mosaic of urban amenities in travel, delivery, food, and retail that vaguely pretended to be tech companies. Almost each time you or I ordered a pizza or hailed a taxi, the company behind that app lost money. In effect, these start-ups, backed by venture capital, were paying us, the consumers, to buy their products.

It was as if Silicon Valley had made a secret pact to subsidize the lifestyles of urban Millennials. As I pointed out three years ago, if you woke up on a Casper mattress, worked out with a Peloton, Ubered to a WeWork, ordered on DoorDash for lunch, took a Lyft home, and ordered dinner through Postmates only to realize your partner had already started on a Blue Apron meal, your household had, in one day, interacted with eight unprofitable companies that collectively lost about $15 billion in one year.

Alas for its beneficiaries, however, this subsidy is being drawn down. Tightness in the labor market, challenges elsewhere in the economy from supply chains and inflation, and other exogenous factors have ended the previous willingness of investors to bankroll these enterprises indefinitely in the hope that one of them would really take off. As Thompson puts it, until recently “the best way for a start-up to make money from venture capitalists was to lose money acquiring a gazillion customers.”

But no more. The city-dwelling youth whose lifestyles have depended on the cheap availability of services and products through these companies must now contend with “higher prices, higher margins, fewer discounts, and longer wait times.” And I say good riddance — and not just as someone who had long tailored his life mostly to avoid excessive reliance on such things. Whatever their utility in certain situations — a utility that will not expire entirely, even for a stick-in-the-mud like me — inexpensive access to such products by such means enabled a lifestyle for many that prioritized instant gratification, superficiality, and dependence over planning, sustained engagement, and self-reliance. Not to mention the dubious economics behind the whole affair, now being exposed.

If those who once built their lives around these things must now retreat from them somewhat, and others never get the chance to build a life around them in the first place, then I consider that a good thing. The Millennial Consumer Subsidy deserves to be slashed.

Politics & Policy

What’s a Red Tsunami?

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The always-valuable Josh Kraushaar has a good column on how to think about the building Republican wave:

It’s not the number of House seats that Republicans pick up that’s the relevant measure, but the overall number of seats won. So mark the number 248 (or +35 net) on your scorecards as a sign of a true political tsunami. Simply winning 242 seats (+29 net) would match the party’s 2010 standing. And anything at 233 or higher (+20 net) would give Kevin McCarthy enough breathing room to manage his caucus effectively, without having to fear the most extreme House Republicans from disrupting his best-laid plans.

Health Care

Step One: Acknowledge the Controversy

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A long piece in the New York Times Magazine looks into the “battle over gender therapy.”

The writer explains that clinicians and researchers working for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), in formulating its new “standards of care” guidelines, have acknowledged that

part of the rise in trans identification among teenagers could be a result of what they called “social influence,” absorbed online or peer to peer. The draft mentioned the very small group of people who detransition (stop identifying as transgender), saying that some of them “have described how social influence was relevant in their experience of their gender during adolescence.” In adolescence, peers and culture often affect how kids see themselves and who they want to be. Their sense of self can consolidate, or they can try on a way of being that doesn’t prove right in the long run as the brain further develops the capacity for thinking long-term.

This comes as a major concession since Lisa Littman first sounded the alarm in 2018.

Evidently, the warnings about social contagion are now too frequent and persuasive to ignore.

Culture

The Culture of Death Breeds a Culture of More Violence

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Grateful to Kathleen Parker and the Washington Post for this:

It is a terrible irony that the people who want to protect life must put their own lives at risk. Maybe violence is what we should expect when abortion, one of the most-violent acts conceived by humankind, is Ground Zero. Whatever one’s argument for abortion, there’s no debating the utterly inhumane violence inflicted upon a gestating human being.

The entire abortion apparatus is reprehensible on its face, but over time we’ve become accustomed to it. In the process, we’ve found ways to discuss abortion that sidestep its appalling reality. We make the objectionable more acceptable by manipulating language. The object of termination isn’t a “baby,” we’re told. It’s a fetus. The terminology may be accurate, but “fetus,” despite its definition (”unborn offspring of a mammal”), does sound rather reptilian.

Republicans and Democrats have predictably defaulted to their usual crouches, each side accusing the other of insufficient outrage. Usually, the effect is a standoff, but this time Republicans have the stronger case. The public hasn’t heard much from the media about the reported dozens of attacks on churches and crisis-pregnancy centers since May 2, according to the Washington Stand, a news site recently launched by the pro-life Family Research Council. A draft Supreme Court opinion that outlined the end of abortion rights was leaked on that date.

If you go looking for stories about this or that bombing, you’re likely to find them only in religious news outlets, such as the Catholic News Agency or Get Religion. The pregnancy centers that were destroyed or damaged do nothing worse than help vulnerable pregnant women through counseling and resources, as well as provide diapers and other baby supplies. So much for pro-lifers caring for babies only until they’re born.

Despite these attacks — and the alleged attempted assassination of Kavanaugh — President Biden hasn’t been moved to condemn them. Kavanaugh’s would-be assassin, Nicholas Roske, 26, told police he was upset about the leaked opinion and concerned that Congress would tighten gun restrictions in the wake of the Uvalde, Tex., school shooting. He arrived at Kavanaugh’s home equipped with a Glock 17 pistol, ammo, a knife, zip ties, pepper spray and duct tape and said he intended to break in, and kill Kavanaugh and himself to give his life meaning.

The National Review points out that Biden had three opportunities before large audiences to condemn these events. Instead, he apparently delegated that job to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who has said that the president condemns all political violence.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Inflation, Welfare, and Crises

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Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute writes about the inflation problems facing Europe:

After having been in inflation denial over the past year, the ECB has finally taken some tentative measures to address the inflation problem. It announced that beginning on July 1, it will cease its bond-buying activities and will raise interest rates by 25 basis points. It also announced that it will again raise interest rates at its September meeting, perhaps by more than 25 basis points depending on how inflation develops.

While the ECB’s move on interest rates at least constitutes a start to what is likely to be a long interest-rate-hiking journey to regain control over inflation, it is far from obvious that it will make much of a dent on inflation. After all, even after the ECB’s proposed move, the ECB’s interest rates will still remain a negative 25 basis points — at a time when inflation is above 8 percent.

Representatives Rodney Davis (R., Ill.) and Jake LaTurner (R., Kan.) write about welfare reform:

It’s time to fix welfare again. Since the historic reforms of the 1990s, welfare has been steadily divorced from work once more. Today, hardly anyone on welfare is required to pursue employment or an upward path in life. Not only is this disastrous for welfare recipients themselves, but it’s also driving America’s record worker shortage. On June 9, we introduced two bills that will restore a welfare system that works in every sense of the word.

Wayne Crews and Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute write about a new report on preventing government overreach during crises:

Rainy-year funds and the rule of law in monetary policy are just two ways to prevent abuses of future crises. People have already suffered enough this century from terrorist attacks, a financial crisis, and a pandemic. Hasty, expensive “flash policy” made things worse each time. When the next crisis hits, people will be better off if they have some institutional safeguards against flash policy. The time for an Abuse-of-Crisis Prevention Act is now.

Politics & Policy

House Dems Blocking Public Oversight of Afghanistan Disaster: GOP Lawmakers

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Rep. Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) speaks during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. (Al Drago/Reuters)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Democratic leadership is blocking public oversight of the Afghanistan withdrawal, GOP members alleged, prompting a blunt rejoinder from the committee’s chairman.

This morning, committee lawmakers are receiving a briefing from State Department officials on the U.S. government’s handling of Afghanistan from 2017 through last August. But that briefing was slated to take place behind closed doors, and the committee’s majority leadership has made the question and answer portion classified, the committee’s GOP members said in a statement yesterday:

Even though the State Department had a large part of the responsibility for the noncombatant evacuation operation that ultimately resulted in the death of 13 U.S. servicemembers and the abandonment of more than 700 American citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies in the Taliban-controlled country, our committee has to date only had one open, full committee hearing with an official from the Biden administration. Holding a closed briefing where the question-and-answer portion is classified at the highest level – even though the vast majority of the information sought should not be classified – is not the transparency the American people deserve.

In addition, the briefing’s question portion was expected take place under one of the highest levels of classification, TS/SCI, according to the statement.

The GOP committee members also alleged that while the State Department offered to make part of the hearing unclassified — therefore enabling members to publicly share information about unclassified portions — the committee’s leadership declined to do so. Asked about this, a department spokesperson only referred National Review to the committee and offered no additional information that could be published.

In an email to NR, a spokesman for Representative Gregory Meeks, the committee chairman, assailed the “patently false” claim by Republican ranking member Michael McCaul that Meeks “was offered and rejected an open session for this briefing.”

“Our conversations with the State Department had not entailed discussions of such an open setting, since the purpose of this briefing is to ensure that Members have access to the most detailed information available — including information that cannot be disclosed in an unclassified setting,” the spokesman wrote, adding that Meeks intends to continue to conduct oversight of the Afghanistan withdrawal in open and closed settings.

Several senior State Department officials are addressing the committee’s lawmakers today. The briefers are expected to include deputy secretary of state for management and resources Brian McKeon, under secretary of state for management John Bass, and State Department counselor Derek Collet, among others. Bass served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2017-2020, and McKeon, a few months ahead of the withdrawal, reportedly ordered the dismantling of a key State Department bureau that had carried out the evacuation of U.S. citizens from global hotspots.

Culture

Matthew Yglesias Does Not Understand Free Speech

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Performers in costume as Jessie and Buzz Lightyear at the premiere of Toy Story 4 in Los Angeles, Calif., June 11, 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Matthew Yglesias tweets:

This is nonsense. There’s no conflict between defending free speech and deciding what speech you wish voluntarily to consume (or you wish your minor children to consume). On the contrary: the ability to determine what speech to engage with and what speech to avoid is, itself, a key part of free speech.

Conservatives who object to cancel culture are not bothered by the existence of people who dislike — or, even, who are mortally offended by — figures such as Dave Chappelle. Conservatives who object to cancel culture are bothered that a significant number of the people who dislike Dave Chappelle seem to believe that, because they do not like Dave Chappelle, he should be banned, de-platformed, rendered unemployable, or even physically hurt. Or, to put it another way: The conservative objection to cancel culture is not that its adherents wish to make decisions for themselves and their children, or that they wish to persuade others to their viewpoint, it is that that they wish to bypass all that and make decisions for everyone else in the name of the “greater good.”

Is this what Ben Shapiro is doing? No, it is not. In the tweet to which Yglesias is responding, Shapiro has offered up a sharp criticism of Disney and its new movie, and he has proposed that parents should “keep that in mind before deciding” — note the word deciding — “whether to take their kids” to see it. That isn’t an attack on “free speech”; it is free speech. You can tell this because, at no point has Shapiro made any claims on anyone except for himself. He hopes to persuade, yes, but he leaves it at that.

There is nothing in small-l liberalism that requires small-l liberals to like everything. The demand is that they say their piece, and then agree to live and let live. For example: Small-l liberalism demands that I respect Matt Yglesias’s right to run his blog, and it encourages me to disdain those who would pressure his host, Substack, to summarily expel him from their platform. It does not require me to read Matt Yglesias’s blog, to like Matt Yglesias’s blog, to pay for Matt Yglesias’s blog, or to recommend that others do any of those things, and it certainly does not require me to agree with Matt Yglesias or to decline from criticizing him (as I am now). To say, “If I were you, I wouldn’t pay for Matt Yglesias’s blog” would be a position consistent with the broad support of free speech. To say, “Matt Yglesias should be arrested or fined or fired or canceled or deplatformed or marginalized” would not.

When making their decisions as to whether to listen to Matt Yglesias, parents should keep that in mind.

Politics & Policy

I’ll Keep Repeating This until It Sinks In

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About 2 percent of the criminals who use guns in their crimes get those guns at retail gun stores.

About 80 percent of the murders are committed by people with prior arrest records, in most cases including a criminal conviction.

The problem isn’t the regulations that apply to sporting-goods stores. The only reason to focus on the 2-percent correlation rather than the 80-percent correlation is political cowardice and intellectual dishonesty.

The population of violent-crime offenders is about 1 million a year. The population of gun-store customers is about 40 million a year. Do we want to go looking for a needle in a haystack or a needle in 40 haystacks?

Education

Helping Students Avoid Bad College Choices

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Time was, and not so long ago, that most Americans believed that a college degree was necessarily a good investment. Getting a degree — any degree! — would put you on the path to success. That badly mistaken idea led us to a bloated higher-education sector and large numbers of graduates struggling to repay loans they took out to pay for degrees of minimal value.

In today’s Martin Center article, economics professor Roger Meiners looks at this problem.

He writes, “When we invest in a retirement fund, we see lots of data about rates of return. There is no guarantee about the future, but you can see the returns on various funds and stocks from previous years. No one buys expected losers. Colleges, however, generally avoid providing information about their return on investment. Instead, there is happy talk about how ‘rewarding’ college is, though the truth is that some degrees are almost sure losers.”

Meiners points to two factors that will help to alleviate the bad-college-choice problem. One of them is the proliferation of data on degree returns. We now have good numbers on how well the average student does with his or her degree in X, Y, or Z. Some generally lead to pleasing outcomes while others are almost certain to leave the student in the red. With better data, fewer students will blunder into low-value programs.

The other factor is the rise of a new financing mechanism, the Income Share Agreement. Meiners explains:

A loan program that implements an Income Share Agreement (ISA) would help impose degree discipline. ISAs would impose market-like discipline on the student loan system. An investor pays the student’s college costs, and the student agrees to pay back a set percentage of his or her income for a fixed time after graduation. This percentage differs based on what students want to study and what the investor expects their future earnings to be. Just as with down payments on houses, students who contribute a larger portion of their college costs up front are likely to get a better deal, as they have more skin in the game, a good signal to investors.

We’ve had tremendous waste in higher education, thanks to easy government money and a clever sales pitch. But if Meiners is right, we might be in the recovery phase.

Religion

Bart Barber Is Elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention

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Members of the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee vote on a motion during their meeting in Nashville, Tenn., June 14, 2021. (George Walker IV/USA Today Network via Reuters)

The Southern Baptist Convention is holding its annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. President Ed Litton, elected last year, was eligible for another term, and presidents traditionally serve two one-year terms, but he removed himself from consideration in March to focus on his ministry in racial reconciliation. (You can read my profile of Litton from last year here.)

The major candidates to succeed him were Bart Barber and Tom Ascol. Barber is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, located near the Oklahoma border in the northeastern part of the state. Ascol is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla. Unusual for the presidential election, neither of them is pastor of a megachurch.

Barber was elected with 60.87 percent of the vote in a runoff against Ascol, who won 38.88 percent. 5,587 total votes were cast, out of 8,098 eligible voters.

Ascol’s candidacy was supported by the Conservative Baptist Network, which believes the SBC is drifting into theological liberalism. The CBN-supported candidate from last year, Mike Stone, was defeated by Litton in a runoff. Barber is seen as a natural successor to Litton. Neither Litton nor Barber is theologically liberal.

The election of president is decided by paper ballots cast by delegates of SBC churches, called messengers, who are assembled in person at the annual meeting. Proxy voting is not allowed, and if messengers miss a vote, they don’t get to cast a ballot.

In the first round of voting, 6,847 messengers voted, well down from the nearly 15,000 votes cast last year. The decline is likely partially explained by the convention being in California, rather than Nashville as it was last year. Barber received 3,258 votes for 47.58 percent of the total and Ascol received 2,332 votes for 34.06 percent. There were two other candidates. Frank Cox (who announced his candidacy earlier today) received 887 votes, or 12.95 percent of the total, and Robin Hadaway received 340 votes for 4.97 percent. Since no candidate secured a majority, Barber and Ascol advanced to a runoff.

Earlier in the day, the convention voted to approve reforms in response to a report about how the denomination mishandled sexual abuse in the past. The convention approved a recommendation to make public a database of credibly accused abusers so churches can know not to hire them for ministry roles. The full list of recommendations adopted is available here.

The editors of National Review said the sex-abuse report demanded action. It demonstrated a consistent pattern of institutional failure to deal with allegation of sexual abuse appropriately. The messengers’ actions were needed and welcome, but now the convention must implement the changes in accordance with the messengers’ wishes and SBC polity. It will be one of the major challenges for Barber’s presidency.

In the morning sessions, questions over the ordination of women were prominent. The Baptist Faith and Message, the denomination’s statement of faith, says that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” The vast majority of Southern Baptists are on the same page about that, but there are a few churches affiliated with the SBC, most notably Saddleback Church in California, that have women who are called pastors. The CBN would like to see those churches “disfellowshipped,” essentially expelled, from the convention over ordaining women.

There is, however, a constitutional hurdle. The SBC is a convention of independent churches, and churches are allowed to be part of the convention if they are in “friendly cooperation.” The relevant part of the definition of “friendly cooperation” in the SBC constitution is that member churches must have “a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.” Whether ordaining women is disqualifying is unclear. It’s clearly contrary to that part of the Baptist Faith and Message, but as messenger Todd Benkert pointed out during the meeting, many individual churches diverge from various parts of that document, including on such important topics as the Lord’s Supper.

Baptist churches use congregational polity, which makes national-level discipline difficult. Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned against the creation of a “Baptist magisterium” if churches ordaining women were disfellowshipped on those grounds alone. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, on the other hand, spoke on the floor and said in a Twitter thread that “the Southern Baptist Convention is a confessional body” and “it has every right and power to define its own association.”

Barber’s election means that, for the second year in a row, the vocal CBN faction of the SBC came in with high hopes for its candidate only to find that it didn’t have the numbers among the rank-and-file. Barber’s victory shows that the CBN’s deliberately factional strategy is not working to sway the denomination, and most messengers do not think the SBC is drifting into theological liberalism.

Editor’s note: This post initially stated that Ascol was a leader of the CBN. He is a leader of Founders Ministries. His candidacy was supported by CBN.

Law & the Courts

The Double-Jeopardy Clause’s Protections Are Troublingly Narrow

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(trekandshoot/iStock/Getty Images)

Yesterday’s Supreme Court’s decision in Denezpi v. United States is a reminder that the constitutional protection offered by the Fifth Amendment’s double-jeopardy clause is much narrower than many people think. The Fifth Amendment promises that “No person shall . . . be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Non-lawyers may be under the impression that this means that you cannot be prosecuted twice for doing the same thing. Not so fast! The Fifth Amendment says “offence,” and that means prosecuted under the same law for the same crime. There are two big ways in which prosecutors get around this.

The big one is the dual-sovereignty rule: A criminal defendant can be prosecuted by two different governments for essentially the same crime, because the violation of the law of two different sovereigns is a different “offence.” The classic example is federal and state prosecution, but if a crime crosses state lines, there may also be the possibility of prosecution by two different states. Things really get slippery when a Native-American reservation is involved, because each tribe is its own separate sovereign. In theory, a drug smuggler or a kidnapper crossing two state lines and entering a reservation could be prosecuted four separate times — once by the feds, once by each state, once by the tribe — and could go to jail for a very long time even if acquitted three times. So much for the sanctity of the rule against double jeopardy.

A criminal defendant can also constitutionally be prosecuted by the same government twice for two different “offences” arising from effectively the same set of facts; while there are some limits to this in non-constitutional rules, the principle federal constitutional limitation is the Blockburger rule. Under Blockburger v. United States (1932), the two offenses are distinct if each “requires proof of a different element,” that is, each crime requires proof of something (a state of mind, an additional overt act, even a different jurisdictional hook such as the distinction between mail fraud and wire fraud) that the other doesn’t. Even then, the government may charge a “lesser included offense” that overlaps, but when it does that, it has to charge the two together, and a defendant cannot be subjected to a separate sentence if convicted on both the greater and lesser included offenses. (The Blockburger doctrine has a number of other wrinkles; it’s often a technical area.)

This is not ideal, and it may not be what the Founders would likely have wanted, had they envisioned a world with a vast and overlapping federal criminal code, mechanical forms of transit that traverse state lines on a daily basis, and Native-American tribes living on reservations ruled in a regulatory partnership with the federal government. But, at least with regard to the dual sovereignty rule, it is what they wrote: The meaning of “offences” was fairly clear and well-known in 1791. In Gamble v. United States (2019), the Court rejected an effort to overturn the dual sovereignty precedents, with only justices Neil Gorsuch and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting. As Justice Clarence Thomas observed:

The founding generation foresaw very limited potential for overlapping criminal prosecutions by the States and the Federal Government. The Founders therefore had no reason to address the double jeopardy question that the Court resolves today. Given their understanding of Congress’ limited criminal jurisdiction and the absence of an analogous dual-sovereign system in England, it is difficult to conclude that the People who ratified the Fifth Amendment understood it to prohibit prosecution by a State and the Federal Government for the same offense.

The wrinkle presented in Denezpi was that it involved a prosecution under federal law following a prosecution under the law of a tribe, the Ute Mountain Utes, that does not operate its own court system; it allows a Bureau of Indian Affairs court to handle the enforcement of its laws. Merle Denezpi, a member of the Navajo Nation, was prosecuted for a rape under Ute law, but given the charge to which he plea-bargained, the maximum sentence was only six months, and he was sentenced to four and a half months. He was then indicted under federal law, convicted, and sentenced to 30 years. The second bite at the apple took a much bigger bite. The Court, in a 6–3 opinion by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, adhered to Gamble, and ruled that the dual-sovereignty doctrine applies even when two different sovereigns (the Utes and the federal government) have their laws enforced in the same sovereign’s courts by the same sovereign’s courts. As Gorsuch put it in his dissent, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor: “Federal agency officials played every meaningful role in his case: legislator, prosecutor, judge, and jailor.”

The Denezpi Court got the law right, but the rule remains inadequate to protect the civil liberties of Americans against successive prosecutions. Some states, such as New York, have more rigorous protections in their state constitutions (New York courts resisted an effort to water that rule down just to get Paul Manafort). Both state and federal law can restrict prosecutorial powers without relying on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, as originally understood. A more vibrant protection against successive prosecutions would require that kind of action.

Business

Caterpillar Moves HQ from Illinois to Texas

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CAT equipment on a lot at Milton CAT in North Reading, Mass., in 2013. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Caterpillar, long based in Illinois, announced today it will be moving its headquarters to Texas. The manufacturer of construction and mining equipment said today in a press release that its offices in Irving, Texas (near Dallas), would now be the company’s headquarters instead of its current home in Deerfield, Ill., just outside Chicago.

“We believe it’s in the best strategic interest of the company to make this move, which supports Caterpillar’s strategy for profitable growth as we help our customers build a better, more sustainable world,” said chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby in a statement from the company today.

This news comes right after Boeing announced it would be moving its headquarters from downtown Chicago to Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., in May.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Tesla, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard have all moved their headquarters in the past two years as well, as companies take advantage of cheaper real estate and remote-work arrangements to cut costs.

Caterpillar’s move is especially notable for Illinois. Caterpillar is an institution in the state, with not only the Deerfield headquarters but also a massive facility in Peoria that includes a museum of the company’s 97-year history. The Journal notes that the move will only affect about 230 employees, and that Caterpillar will continue to employ around 17,000 people in Illinois.

But the message is clear: Even a company with deep historical ties to a state will eventually move elsewhere if that state become uncompetitive. And doing business in Illinois isn’t as easy as it is in Texas.

The Journal notes that Caterpillar did not receive any economic or tax incentives from Texas to encourage its move. (Republican governors should take note of that fact; it’s possible to get companies to move to your state by simply being a great place to do business without granting special favors.) Moving to a place with less intrusive regulation, lower taxes, lower crime, lower real-estate prices, and lower fuel prices is a no-brainer, especially when your employees can work from anywhere with the aid of technology.

Blue states, beware.

Markets

Into the Bear Garden

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(lucadp/Getty Images)

Whether markets sell down 19 or 21 percent is not that much different from a 20 percent decline, but a 20 percent sell-off is how a bear market is defined, so yesterday the S&P returned to the bear garden for the first time since March 2020 (did something happen that month?). The S&P 500 closed on Monday at just under 3,750, or down nearly 22 percent since its all-time high on January 3, 2022. It edged down a bit more on Tuesday, closing at just over 3,735. Mean-spirited types will note that all gains since President Biden took office have now been wiped out. That would have been bad news for anyone who had had to pay tax on unrealized capital gains (if you remember that idea, as destructive as it was vindictive) on stock in 2021 that they still hold now.

January 20, 2021, seems so far away. Here’s an extract from an NPR account of that day:

The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all hit new records as markets closed on Wednesday afternoon.

The achievement was notched right in the middle of Inauguration Day celebrations, as the Biden administration played a montage of dancing and singing across America. There just may have been some celebratory shimmies on Wall Street, too.

Turn to Monday’s reliably bleak Grant’s Almost Daily to learn that:

CME Group, Truist Financial Group, Duke Realty Corp., McDonalds and Dominos Pizza, come on down.  That quintet represents the totality of S&P 500 members that managed a green finish today, with each of those four winners settling higher by less than 2%.  In contrast, 87 S&P 500 constituents saw losses in excess of 6% on the session, with a dozen of those down by at least 8%.

Oh.

The sell-off (which has been accompanied by a fall in the NASDAQ of over 30 percent over the same period) has been driven by a number of factors, but, above all, by the realization that inflation has not yet been contained (on the contrary) and by fears that the Fed’s response might push the country into recession (in fact, I’d be surprised if it didn’t).

History doesn’t provide as much comfort as it might, especially to anyone soothed into complacency by the speedy bounceback after the pandemic crash (six months or so).

Reuters:

It has taken a little over a year on average for the index to reach its bottom during bear markets, and then roughly another two years to return to its prior high, according to CFRA. Of the 13 bear markets since 1946, the return to breakeven levels has varied, taking as little as three months to as long as 69 months.

If I had to guess (please note that we don’t give any investment advice here at Capital Matters), our current sell-off has a while to go, although like any sell-off it probably won’t be uninterrupted. One wild card is the Russo-Ukrainian war, which could make matters worse in any number of ways, but, if a resolution were found that relaxed restrictions on Russian oil and gas and freed up Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain and other food exports, it could ease some of the current supply shock in both fossil fuels and food. It wouldn’t bring an end to high inflation (the current mess owes rather less to Putin’s price hike ™ than the Biden administration wants us to believe), but it might blunt some of its sharpest edges.

One immediate reason for worry is that the country is being run by an administration that appears to be more concerned with finding scapegoats (‘price gougers’) than demonstrating that it takes inflation seriously. And it’s the latter that companies, individuals, and the Fed (no Fed is as apolitical as it might claim) all need to see. And ‘seriously’ does not mean proposing higher corporate taxes. That would not be a good idea in the best of times, but an attack on the supply side (which is what such a tax hike would be) makes no sense at all when supply and demand are mismatched in the way that they now are. And to suggest that those taxes should include a ‘windfall’ tax on oil companies, well . . .

NR published an editorial on some of this here.

It’s also worth remembering  that we have been living through a long period in which money has been severely underpriced. Underpriced capital (including its flipside, a desperate search for return) is an invitation to malinvestment, which, as usual, has been eagerly accepted.

To borrow, inevitably, from Warren Buffet:

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.

And we’ve had a very high tide for a very long time. The disaster in crypto will not be alone.

The Fed, which was complacent for far too long, now needs to step up with a rate hike to confirm that it, at least, is finally taking inflation seriously. To have a chance of doing that, it should hike by more than expectations, which currently appear to be rising from 50 basis points to 75. Is 100bp unimaginable? Not entirely, but, if the Fed is serious, 50 bp should be. We’ll see at 2 p.m., Eastern on Wednesday.

Politics & Policy

McConnell Is Going the Wrong Way on Guns

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks to the media after the Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, June 22, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

With all due respect to Mitch McConnell, Republicans shouldn’t even be talking about a gun-control deal unless that deal includes doing something about the fundamental problem: The utter refusal of the federal government and most Democrat-run states and counties to prosecute ordinary, common gun crimes.

Take any example you like: In Philadelphia, the majority of gun cases — 60 percent — are simply dismissed with no prosecution, according to the local district attorney’s office. That’s double the dismissal rate of 2016 — and the district attorney is bragging about how few gun crimes get prosecuted.

Straw-buyer cases are almost never prosecuted unless they are part of a big organized-crime investigation. “Lie and try” cases — in which prohibited buyers attempt, often successfully, to beat the background-check system — are almost never prosecuted at all, which is why Hunter Biden is not in prison on federal gun charges. Possession cases are routinely dismissed without prosecution. In Illinois, the clearance rate for gun crimes short of murder is a measly 33 percent — meaning that two-thirds of cases go unresolved. A third of the murderers in Baltimore are already on probation or parole for another crime. Etc.

Passing new gun laws that we are not going to enforce is not going to do anything. And we certainly are not going to solve the problem of murders committed by habitual criminals — about 80 percent of murderers in the United States have prior arrests records and more than half have a prior conviction, often on a violent-crime charge — by passing new regulations on sporting-goods stores.

Less than 2 percent of the prisoners in custody today were in possession of a firearm obtained from a retail source at the time they committed their crimes — the only crime involving licensed firearms dealers that really matters is straw-buying, which licensed dealers don’t have the discretion to police on their own and which our police and prosecutors insistently ignore because it would be politically unpopular to prosecute these sympathetic criminals, almost all of whom are, on paper, first-time offenders.

There are a few things that could be done unilaterally by President Biden, such as directing U.S. attorneys to prioritize straw-buyer cases and to direct ATF to actually deal with the delayed-denial problem by retrieving something approximately 100 percent of the firearms that are sold to prohibited buyers because of deficiencies in the background-check system. Senator McConnell should not lift a finger until President Biden has done what he can do on his own on those fronts.

Congressional action should include conditioning federal grants and other aid — money for law enforcement, HUD money, etc. — on getting those gun-crime dismissal rates below 5 percent instead of above 60 percent. Reforms are needed across-the-board, from policing practices to parole and probation.

If we aren’t dealing with the habitual-criminal issue – the only issue that really matters when it comes to the overwhelming majority of our violent crime — then we aren’t dealing with the problem at all: Republicans would only be selling out law-abiding Americans’ gun rights by inches. And there will be hell to pay for that.

Politics & Policy

Suite-Level Roe v. Wade

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A doctor at Planned Parenthood prepares for patients inside a consultation room in Sacramento, Calif., February 1, 2022. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

As we await the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, here’s a story about what happens when people proceed from suite-level understanding that doesn’t connect with street-level reality.

During the 1950s, Justice-to-be Harry Blackmun was “resident counsel” at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. In 1972, as Blackmun contemplated writing the Roe v. Wade decision, he spent two quiet weeks in the Mayo library. Blackmun read about the history of state abortion statutes, attitudes toward abortion among medical and professional groups, and speculation concerning the history of the Hippocratic Oath.

As pro-life lawyer Clarke Forsythe put it, “when Justice Blackmun thought of abortion providers, he thought of his [Mayo] friends and colleagues. . . . He assumed that doctors just like them would step in to do abortions.” Abortion-supporting historian David Garrow reports similarly that Blackmun thought of abortion “in the medical framework of Rochester, Minnesota. He imagined abortions would be performed by a family physician or in a hospital.”

Anyone who played a Roe drinking game that included a toast to every mention of “physician” would soon be staggering. Justice Blackmun listed psychological and physical “factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.” He noted decision-making by “the woman and her responsible physician . . . the attending physician in consultation with his patient . . . the medical judgment of the woman’s attending physician,” and so on.

It’s too bad Blackmun didn’t break away from his library research for even a day to visit an abortion center in a state that had already legalized widespread abortion. For example, he could have visited the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health (CRASH) in a converted townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. New York’s liberal abortion statute went into effect on July 1, 1970, and six months later the center was doing 120 abortions a day.

Physicians performed ten or 15 abortions daily, and were paid at the rate of $70 to $90 per hour. One obstetrician-gynecologist would practice his specialty in Lexington, Ky., from Monday to Friday, then fly up to New York City, work five shifts of eight hours each at the clinic over the weekend, and then fly back to resume his practice on Monday morning. He earned $185,000 in the one year he worked at the clinic.

The street-level reality mocked the “responsible physician” language in Blackmun’s opinion. Doctor-patient consultation? Typically, zero. Consideration of psychological factors? The abortionists knew nothing about the psychology of the women they first saw with their feet in stirrups.

Blackmun’s opinion concluded: “The decision vindicates the right of the physician to administer medical treatment according to his professional judgment. . . . The abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision.” No: at street-level it was an assembly-line (actually, a disassembly line) decision.

Georgetown University law professor Mark V. Tushnet, in 1973 a clerk for abortion-supporting Justice Thurgood Marshall, said the justices “were not thinking long-term with an overall vision.” But all they needed was the willingness to leave the library, and enough vision to see what was already occurring at street level: “Few women sought abortions from their family or personal physician and most sought abortions from high-volume abortion providers whom they had never seen before.”

Marvin Olasky is co-author of the forthcoming The Story of Abortion in America: A Street-Level History, 1652– 2022.

Economy & Business

Top Senate Democrat Proposes New 21 Percent Tax on Oil Companies

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) on Capitol Hill, October 19, 2021. (Rod Lamkey/Pool via Reuters)

Democratic senator Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Finance Committee, wants a new 21 percent surtax on oil companies. Wyden somehow believes a new tax on oil companies will be good for consumers, Bloomberg reports

The proposal by Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who chairs the tax-writing Finance Committee, would mean oil companies face federal taxes of as much as 42% on profits considered excessive — the 21% US corporate tax rate plus a new 21% surtax, according to two people briefed on the proposal.

Wyden has yet to release his plan publicly, and he’d likely need all 50 in the Senate Democratic caucus to support it in order to overcome united Republican opposition. He’s among several Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Peter DeFazio, who have discussed targeting what they consider excessive oil-company profits.

“The proposal I’m developing would help reverse perverse incentives to price gouge, by doubling the corporate tax rate on companies’ excess profits, eliminating egregious buybacks and reducing accounting tricks,” Wyden said about the proposal he plans to introduce in the coming weeks. “By contrast, companies that provide relief to consumers by either reducing prices or investing in new supply would not be affected.”

A White House official says of Wyden’s proposal: “We’re not ruling that out of consideration.”

Economy & Business

Have You Heard of Diesel Exhaust Fluid?

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All recently manufactured diesel trucks are required to use diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which reduces exhaust emissions. The trouble is that we are about to experience a severe shortage of the stuff. No DEF and trucks don’t move. Read all about it here.

Will the greenies in the Biden regime do anything? I wouldn’t count on it.

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.

Politics & Policy

House Finally Passes SCOTUS Security Bill

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People take photos through a protective fence outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., May 5, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

More than a month after the Senate unanimously passed a bill to provide security for the families of Supreme Court justices, the House has finally approved the measure:

The Senate passed the bill on May 9, less than a week after the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion in the Dobbs case, which would overturn Roe v. Wade. But House Democrats dragged their feet for a month, ostensibly because they wanted to add funding for the security of Supreme Court clerks and staff (a provision that was not included in the bill that passed the House with overwhelming support).

On May 20, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate said he was very concerned the House hadn’t taken up the legislation. Last week, an armed man carrying burglary tools was arrested outside of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home and charged with attempted murder. Police said the alleged would-be assassin told them he was upset about the the potential abortion ruling as well as other rulings on the Second Amendment.

Law & the Courts

Court Rules Elephant Does Not Have Rights

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An elephant named Happy at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, in an undated social media photo. (Gigi Glendinning/via Reuters)

I have written here several times about the attempt by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NHRP) to “break the species barrier” by having animals declared “persons” entitled to enforceable rights. The first cases involved chimps. The latest attempt involved Happy the elephant, a denizen of the Bronx Zoo.

The case should have been tossed out of court and the NHRP sanctioned for filing a frivolous case. But we live in surreal times, so a case seeking a writ of habeas corpus for an elephant made it to New York’s highest court.

Happily, Happy is not akin to a human being under New York law. From the ruling (citations omitted):

The great writ protects the right to liberty of humans because they are humans with certain fundamental liberty rights recognized by law. Nonhuman animals are not, and never have been, considered “persons” with a right to “liberty” under New York law

The majority’s logic is impeccable:

Significantly, courts have consistently determined that rights and responsibilities associated with legal personhood cannot be bestowed on nonhuman animals. As these courts have aptly observed, legal personhood is often connected with the capacity, not just to benefit from the provision of legal rights, but also to assume legal duties and social responsibilities. Unlike the human species, which has the capacity to accept social responsibilities and legal duties, nonhuman animals cannot—neither individually nor collectively—be held legally accountable or required to fulfill obligations imposed by law.

The court also makes short work of the usual deflection by animal-rights activists that, because corporations have rights, animals should too:

Nor does any recognition of corporate and partnership entities as legal “persons” lend support to petitioner’s claim. Corporations are simply legal constructs through which human beings act and corporate entities, unlike nonhuman animals, bear legal duties in exchange for legal rights.

Exactly!

And don’t give me the baloney that since some humans are unable to assume duties, animals should have rights too. We, unlike them, are a moral species by nature. That is an inherent human trait that no animal possesses. Which is why no animal can ever be convicted of a crime, as the ruling noted.

Yes, certain individuals may not be able to exercise that human attribute because of impediments caused by immaturity, illness, or injury, but that does not subtract from their intrinsic humanity or their entitlement to rights as human beings. Otherwise, we would have to earn our status — which would be the kiss of death for universal human rights.

The Court also noted the adverse impact that breaking the species barrier would have:

A determination that Happy, an elephant, may invoke habeas corpus to challenge her confinement at the Bronx Zoo—a confinement both authorized and, by all indications, compliant with state and federal statutory law and regulations—would have an enormous destabilizing impact on modern society. It is not this Court’s role to make such a determination.

Everything above should be axiomatic. But two judges dissented, for a 5–2 ruling. Their reasoning compares the history of the law as applied for women, children, and slaves with animals — a typical example of animal-rights sophistry:

Most fundamentally, the writ was used to grant freedom to slaves, who were considered chattel with no legal rights or existence. Indeed, the various rights held by animals today [misnomer alert for animal-welfare laws] . . . are far greater than those held by enslaved persons in England or America, who had none.

Similarly, the writ was used to grant freedom to wives and children, who, though not chattel, had few or no legal rights and legally were under the dominion of husbands and fathers. They, too, had rights that paled in comparison to those held by animals today. . . . Not only does the history of the writ’s usage destroy the foundations of the majority’s contention, it shows how the writ was used by enlightened judges to nudge advances in the law.

Right. For humans! The comparison of those formerly oppressed human beings —  inherent equals — with animals is misanthropic and offensive.

Bottom line. It should have been 7–0, but I am most pleased by the outcome. The ruling is clear and persuasive, and it should offer a compelling precedent the next time — and there will be one — the Nonhuman Rights Project or another animal-rights group contends in court that animals are people too.

Politics & Policy

McConnell Says He’d Vote for Gun Bill That Reflects Cornyn–Murphy Framework

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Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said at a press conference on Tuesday that he would vote for a bill that reflects the bipartisan framework backed by a group of ten Republican and ten Democratic senators: 

The bipartisan framework includes enhanced background checks for adults under 21 and funding for states to pass “red flag laws,” as well as funding for school security and mental-health services.

Elections

Tom Cotton’s White House Dreams

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Sen. Tom Cotton speaks at the National Review Institute conference “The Case for American Power,” May 9, 2022. (Anthony Bolognese/Capitol Hill Photo)

According to Alex Isenstadt of Politico, Tom Cotton

huddled with two dozen of his top donors Tuesday morning to describe his planning for a potential 2024 White House campaign, telling them a comeback bid by former President Donald Trump wouldn’t deter him from running. . . .

Brian Colas, Cotton’s top political adviser, . . . concluded that early national recognition and attention had little bearing on the eventual success of candidates.

What was determinative, Colas argued, was performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, which host the first two nominating contests.

On the one hand, there is no harm in Cotton’s being prepared for a national run. He’s not up for reelection until 2026, and he has plenty of money in the bank. Cotton is 45, so he can afford to prepare a run and then decline or bail out very early without unduly damaging his chances of a later bid. It will be no great surprise if he is on a national ticket sooner or later. He’s smart, conservative, relatively sober-minded, and has a foot in several different camps across the party. He’s a veteran, a hawk with real foreign-policy credibility, and a law-and-order guy. Few people came out of 2020 looking better in terms of both his prescient early Covid hawkishness (back in early 2020 when few people were talking about it) and his strong anti-riot stance during the summer, while keeping a safe distance from the “stop the steal” nonsense. The last two presidential candidates to come out of Arkansas, Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee, both went further than most observers imagined. In the event that Trump runs and Ron DeSantis decides to pass on 2024, somebody has to lead the opposition to Trump, and Cotton could credibly do so with less pro- and anti-Trump baggage than, say, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, or Chris Christie.

On the other hand, past precedents may not fully explain the terrain of running in a crowded field against Donald Trump. In today’s national media environment, retail politicking is secondary even in Iowa and New Hampshire, and unlike South Carolina, neither state is especially hospitable terrain for a foreign-policy hawk.  Moreover, while Cotton comes across as a serious guy, he also comes off as fairly dry; he’s more Scott Walker than Trump in terms of personality. He’d be a safe choice, but not an exciting one. The only thing that would help him immediately stand out on a ten-candidate debate stage is his height. And if Trump is in the race, it will be essential to narrow the field very, very quickly to two candidates. Cotton could easily get in the way of a better option.

Cotton’s best path to the nomination would look like the John Kerry route: draw a weak field in a year when foreign policy is predominant, a lot of potential heavyweights pass on a run, and the party is hungry for a credible candidate. That probably does not describe the Republican field in 2024.

World

The U.S. Is Right to Help Ukrainian Refugees

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Ukrainian refugees board a bus to take them to a temporary shelter outside Przemysl Glowny train station in Przemysl, Poland, March 24, 2022. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

The war in Ukraine has created chaos in eastern Europe and has tremendously disrupted the lives of Ukrainians, displacing millions. Over 7 million Ukrainians have crossed the border from Ukraine since the first Russian attack. Several nations, such as Britain and Poland, have offered help and housing to these Ukrainian refugees. Moreover, the European Union has granted Ukranians the right to stay, work, receive medical care, and access education in its 27 member states for up to three years.

The U.S. is also taking steps. The newly created Ukrainian-refugee program in America accepts refugees through various mechanisms, such as humanitarian parole with a dedicated U.S. supporter. The ultimate goal is to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also announced that Ukranians living in the United States already will be granted Temporary Protected Status, which makes them eligible for work authorization and freedom to leave the country and come back. The refugee-sponsorship program is unprecedented in the scope of its goal; it is “the largest sponsorship of refugees in decades,” according to the Niskanen Center.  

The program provides refugees the opportunity to live in America for up to two years – a decision at the discretion of the Biden administration. If admitted, the refugees will be welcomed by American volunteers, who will help them integrate into our society and lifestyle. Advocates and scholars such as Niskanen Center’s Matthew La Corte have argued for a more-comprehensive program that provides long-term refugee resettlement. The intentions of the program would be to revitalize American communities, resettle refugees, foster robust engagement within the Ukrainian-American community, and spread fundamental American values. 

There is ample evidence that refugees are also beneficial for the American economy and society. Refugees tend to complement the American job market instead of competing for other American jobs because they possess unique skill sets and knowledge. As a result, they can stimulate the economy by paying taxes, establishing businesses, and overall contributing to the marketplace. Refugees can also strengthen cross-cultural understanding by exposing Americans to shared values and beliefs. Moreover, they adopt many fundamental American values, such as freedom and tolerance, potentially acting as ambassadors of these values if they eventually return home.

Supporting Ukrainian refugees is important for defending the world against authoritarianism and illiberalism. While a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia would be costly and prolonged, accepting refugees into the United States is a strong and more suitable way to promote freedom, democracy, and sovereignty. A more welcoming refugee policy would bolster our global reputation as stalwart protector of the free world. Contrary to the views of more isolationist critics, the American imperative for defending democracy on the world stage is crucial; an American withdrawal from the world would precipitate a vacuum that would invite more autocratic and oppressive hegemonic powers such as China and Russia to fill. Welcoming refugees who flee authoritarianism and oppression is the first step.

Politics & Policy

Nancy Mace Is Not a Reagan Conservative

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Rep. Nancy Mace (R., S.C.) talks to reporters in Washington, D.C., October 21, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Nancy Mace, a freshman Republican from South Carolina’s first congressional district, faces off against a Trump-endorsed challenger in tonight’s primary election. According to the Washington Examiner’s James Sweet, “the roots of this challenge run far deeper than loyalty to Trump. Mace is targeted because she embodies a fusion of libertarian and conservative ideals that anger the emerging populist wing of the GOP.”

It’s not entirely clear why Mace is the future “leader of a fusionist movement that yearns to regain its influence in the GOP,” as Sweet argues. Sweet’s Examiner column cites the fact that Mace “harnesses traditional conservative values such as law and order by co-sponsoring legislation to investigate the role of antifa during the 2020 summer riots” and “has taken a stance on social issues that draw the ire of socially conservative Republicans.” But of course, the populist wing of the GOP that Mace is ostensibly at odds with is just as happy to champion law and order and go after Antifa, so it’s not clear how that stance distinguishes Mace from her counterparts. And if anything, Mace’s social liberalism is at odds with fusionism; fusionism’s stated political philosophy, after all, is a fusion of social and economic conservatism. “Angering social conservatives” is not evidence of Mace’s principled Reagan conservatism.

Sweet also notes that some conservatives dislike Mace’s votes “to certify the 2020 presidential election and to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress.” Katie Arrington, Mace’s primary opponent, has said she does “believe [the 2020 election] was stolen,” and though she accepts Biden as the “duly elected” president, she faults Mace for not objecting to the certification of the election. But after initially condemning Trump following the events of January 6, Mace has since pivoted to working embarrassingly hard to regain Trump’s favor.

Sweet’s Examiner piece raises serious questions about his understanding of the fusionist doctrine. He writes that “fusionism led to the rise of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the tea party movement, and politicians declaring themselves ‘fiscally conservative, socially liberal.’” I don’t know where he got the idea that fusionism is “fiscally conservative, socially liberal,” but it’s not from Frank Meyer. Whatever one’s opinion of Meyer’s fusionist philosophy, it was not “socially liberal” in the sense that Sweet describes. Meyer saw freedom as a crucial component of virtue but recognized that freedom was legitimate only within the bounds of natural law. The Founding Fathers, Meyer wrote, were concerned with

the establishment of freedom and its preservation, but they understood that freedom is meaningless unless founded upon “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The protection of the free energies of free individuals, so that they might in liberty strive to live according to those laws, was their most intimate concern. But they knew that in the defense of liberty a properly constituted state is necessary, not only to “establish Justice [and] insure domestic Tranquility” but also to “provide for the common Defense.” They did not content themselves with abstract analyses of liberty; they proclaimed in unambiguous tones, “Give me liberty or give me death.” To that wager of fate, “with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence,” they pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

That is distinct from Mace’s social liberalism, which often veers into an affront to natural law. Not only that, but Mace has often championed a kind of progressivism that is not only at odds with social conservatism, but with limited-government conservatism, too.

This is where Sweet really loses his way. He writes that, “when it comes to the LGBT community, Mace takes a libertarian position as well. She co-sponsored the Fairness For All Act, which sought to provide anti-discriminatory protections to LGBT people while giving exemptions to faith-based organizations.” I know that Sweet has read my criticisms of the Fairness for All Act (FFAA), because he cites them in the piece: “Nate Hochman was one of the first to call out Mace and other Republicans’ support for the bill. He issued a scathing rebuke of the legislation and targeted the 21 Republicans supporting the bill, causing members of Congress such as Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to drop their support for the legislation following the ensuing social conservative outcry.” So it’s confusing how he could have arrived at the conclusion that there is anything libertarian about the legislation. As I wrote in the piece he cites:

FFAA protects the conscience rights of defined religious institutions — churches, religious charities, and so on. It does not protect most individuals, even if those individuals object to something like gender ideology on an authentically religious basis. Most businesses with more than 15 employees are subject to the legislation’s definition of “public accommodations,” meaning that they would run afoul of civil-rights law for objecting to the progressive line on gender and sexuality. Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who was dragged all the way to the Supreme Court for neglecting to custom-make a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage, might be safe so long as his business does not exceed 15 employees; but were he to expand to 16, he would be subject to the punitive whims of progressive bureaucracies such as the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, whose members have already made it their personal mission to drive Phillips’s small business out of existence.

But FFAA’s threats to the American constitutional order go above and beyond the rights of religious individuals and business owners. So-called “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” who reject gender ideology on the grounds that it erases women, physicians who do not want to mutilate children’s bodies by prescribing puberty blockers or performing irreversible sex-change surgeries, coaches who want to protect their female athletes from biologically male competitors, and any number of other secular dissenters from gender ideology are not afforded rights under FFAA’s framework. Rather, acting on the belief that men and women exist as distinct biological categories — let alone the belief that men and women exist for one another, both in terms of sexual ethics and the definition of marriage — would be viewed as legitimate only on religious grounds, and relatively narrow ones at that.

How, exactly, is any of that libertarian — let alone fusionist? As I wrote in the piece, “unless one has embraced the left-wing framework construing ‘civil liberties’ and ‘rights’ as affirmative entitlements to the use of coercive state power, bills such as FFAA are not protecting ‘civil liberties’ in the traditional sense of the word, nor are they balancing legitimate competing claims for ‘rights.’” Sweet seems to have embraced that framework as well. He’s free to do so, but he shouldn’t shroud progressivism in the language of traditional conservative principles. 

As Sweet notes, Mace describes herself as a “limited government fiscal conservative.” She has yet to provide an adequate explanation for how her stated “limited government” principles square with her support for a sweeping expansion of the power of the federal government, and a radical constriction of the conscience, speech, and associational rights of private citizens. Voters in South Carolina’s first congressional district will have to decide for themselves tonight if they’re comfortable with that position; as an incumbent, Mace may well prevail. But conservatives like Sweet should know better.

Politics & Policy

The Intercept Sells Out to the Chamber of Commerce

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(shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

Over at the Intercept, a privileged, cisgendered, straight, white person-who-does-not-menstruate named Ryan Grim has penned a fascist screed against the progressive working class that has to be read to be believed. Grim’s core complaint is that “internal strife” has led the American “progressive advocacy space” to a position in which it has “more or less, effectively ceased to function” — a development that, in Grim’s view, is attributable to “meltdowns” from self-indulgent staff members who have been “focusing only on themselves,” rather than on the broader systemic injustices that they are being paid to address. Throughout his piece, Grim repeatedly centers Western imperialist conceits such as “effectiveness,” while ignoring the lived experience of the marginalized people he has elected to attack. In an irony that has clearly been lost on the author, Grim’s piece ends up demonstrating exactly why the debilitating internal revolts that he disdains have become so just and so necessary.

Educated readers will recoil in disgust at Grim’s deliberate and repeated use of the word “function” — a hateful, politically loaded term, which carries with it more than three centuries of privileged, white supremacist, heteronormative, patriarchal assumptions, and which continues to inflict genuine harm on the folx whose truths Grim is attempting to erase. Over and over again, Grim hurls this word at his victims — whom he blames for their own pain. The free speech of minorities, Grim suggests, can no longer be indulged “by a progressive movement that wants organizations to be able to function.” To bolster this claim, he quotes a member of America’s fragile management class, who says that “organizations naturally have rank and authority that is respected” and insists that, if it is to fulfill its purpose, his own outfit “has to function.”

And there we have it: To be “effective,” an organization “has to function.” Has to. Here we see the authoritarian logic of globalized capitalism, which demands “efficiency” and “functioning” and “results” and “impact,” at the expense of love and respect and safety and community and discourse. The opposite of “functioning,” Grim writes, is being “paralyzed,” which, in addition to representing a cramped, neo-Confederate approach to evaluating success, shows you the unexplored ableist assumptions that underpin America’s revanchist economic framework. In a particularly notable passage, one of Grim’s interviewees complains that for the “last nine months, I was spending 90 to 95 percent of my time on internal strife. Whereas [before] that would have been 25-30 percent tops.” Well, let me tell you something, paledudebro: That’s your job. It’s not on your bone-weary, underpaid, traumatized, semi-hermeneutized employees to process your emotional labor for you. They’re exhausted. They’re broken. They’re suffering from a deconstructed, non-exigent, commodified economy that has chewed them up and spat them out. The least you can do is help heal them — and maybe throw a few dollars into their Reparations Venmo while you’re at it.

The most openly violent part of Grim’s essay is his conscious platforming of a manager who explains that, when he is making hiring decisions, he now asks himself “how likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?” This rhetoric — which compares Labor to international terrorism — is classic metacognitive pathologizing, the clear aim of which is the otherization and problematization of people who have a non-standard approach to work. Sadly, it is typical of the genre. Among the other culturally disenfranchising words that Grim and his anti-democratic friends use to describe those of us who are just trying to interrogate their work sphere are: “complaints,” “zealous,” “schisms,” “tension,” “raging,” “wrenching,” “debilitating,” “turmoil,” “abuse,” “strife,” “shaken,” “shocking,” “anger,” “infighting,” and “bullshit.” It can be no accident that the philosopher and fascism expert, Jason Stanley, recently identified exactly these words — in exactly this order — as prerequisites to the impending imposition of white Christian nationalism, and confirmed that the only way to avoid such an outcome is for me and my friends to get a raise.

Politics & Policy

Did D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Violate the Flag Code?

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(spukkato/iStock/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser hung 51-star flags along Pennsylvania Avenue to advocate for the district’s ascension as the newest state in the Union.

“Ahead of Flag Day, I directed our team to hang 51-star flags along Pennsylvania Avenue as a reminder to Congress and the nation that the 700,000 tax-paying American citizens living in Washington, DC demand to be recognized,” she wrote in a statement.

“On Flag Day, we celebrate American ideals, American history, and American liberty. But the very foundation of those ideals, and the basis for our liberty, is representation,” she continued.

Bowser goes on to call the government’s reluctance to give statehood to the district “a stain on American democracy” and implores the Senate to pass the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which the House has already done.

Using Old Glory to make such a political statement is probably a violation of the United States flag code passed in 1947 and amended in various years thereafter.

In addition to the thirteen alternating-red-and-white stripes that represent the original 13 colonies, the code stipulates that “the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field” and that “on the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag.”

The code also lists certain prohibitions on what people can and cannot do with the flag. “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature,” it reads.

No matter how much Bowser may want it to be true, D.C. is not currently a state and, therefore, not deserving of a new star on the flag.

The code contains no enforcement mechanisms for its provisions and is generally thought to be voluntary and advisory, as punishing people for mistreating the flag is dubious under the First Amendment.

Still, while Bowser should not be prosecuted for this stunt, Washingtonians and Americans in general have a right to demand that their elected officials respect symbols of our nation. Using them for political statements on days that are meant to celebrate them is unhelpful to the country.

There are certain symbols that we need to treat as forces of unity that are off-limits for political statements, and the flag should be one of them. Bowser is not the only politician to pull this type of stunt, but it feeds into the political polarization of the public when the flag and the ideas it represents become a battleground for debate. 

We can discuss the merits and demerits of giving statehood to Washington, D.C. without disrespecting the Stars and Stripes. If Bowser’s side wins out, and the district becomes a state, then we can add a new star. Until then, 50 is a good number.