Elections

Bloomberg Should Keep Waiting

Michael Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event in Chattanooga, Tenn., February 12, 2020. (Doug Strickland/Reuters)

Mike Bloomberg qualified for tonight’s debate; I wouldn’t go if I were him. Bloomberg is not a particularly compelling stage presence. These are late innings against warmed-up players. His campaign spending spectacles have him up in the polls, and for a week the media has been starting to vet him, with the help of rival Democratic campaigns’ opposition-research teams. I think that the paid-for and earned media saturation, and the unconventional strategy that seems to be working in Florida, have given his campaign a sense of power and even mystery. That aura could be dispelled tonight, when he finally descends into the normal to-ing and fro-ing of campaigning.  Elizabeth Warren is already sending out nastygram tweets about Bloomberg, and this act constitutes an invitation for moderators to cue her up for a prepared attack speech.

Also, Bernie Sanders has had a double-digit lead in Nevada polling for some time. To come out of this weekend with momentum, I think Bloomberg would need a debate performance and an electoral performance that rivaled or exceeded what Amy Klobuchar enjoyed in New Hampshire. Otherwise, his campaign will look like a stumble out of the gate. I don’t think there is enough time to accomplish what he needs, and there’s a significant risk of failure. My advice would be for Bloomberg to keep running his unconventional campaign and to make his real “entrance” in Florida, and campaign as the only viable alternative to a disastrous Sanders campaign.

Politics & Policy

Nazdarovya, Comrade Sanders!

It shouldn’t escape our attention that if Bernie Sanders had suffered his heart attack — the one he refuses to release information about to the public — in any of the Communist regimes he has praised during his long career, he’d likely be dead. That a feeble 78-year-old man can enter a hospital on a Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack, have two stents inserted into a blocked artery by Wednesday, and then leave on Friday to resume a campaign for the presidency is a testament the dynamism of a capitalistic society. Those stents were invented in France and Germany, not Cuba or the Soviet Union, and brought to market and made affordable by competitive profit-driven American companies, not by commissars in Venezuela. Then again, that goes for nearly every device, vehicle, tool, and comfort enjoyed by our most famous professional revolutionary and his excitable fans.

PC Culture

Rooting Out Systemic Racism and White Supremacy

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2016 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

It’s axiomatic among progressives and the mainstream media that the country is awash in racism and white supremacy.

The entertainment industry is obsessed with racism/white supremacy. So too is the educational establishment. More than a half century after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, racism and white supremacy apparently permeate every corner of the country. Indeed, according to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, racism is in the very DNA of America.

So virulent and widespread is racism and white supremacy today that Democratic presidential candidates call for “rooting out” the plague every chance they get. Speaking at a recent event hosted by Al Sharpton, former Vice President Joe Biden said: “We have a lot to root out, but most of all the systemic racism that most of us whites don’t like to acknowledge even exists. There’s something we have to admit — not you, me, white America — has to admit there’s still a systemic racism.” Biden wasn’t asked why he seemingly hadn’t made a dent in rooting out systemic racism in his 36 years as a senator or eight years as Barack Obama’s VP. After all, he has been a member in good standing of The System for a long time.

Elizabeth Warren also wants to root out systemic racism: “We must recognize the systemic discrimination that infects our country, and we must work actively — and deliberately — to root it out and set us on a better path.” Racism is everywhere, affects everything. Warren maintains that “race has totally permeated our justice system” and “our crisis of environmental injustice is the result of decades of discrimination and environmental racism.” Given that racism permeates nearly every facet of society, even the environment, it’s impressive that Warren willingly subjected herself to the scourge by claiming she’s Native American.

Pete Buttigieg maintains that “We are by no means even half way done dealing with systemic racism in this country.” He asserts that “systemic racism and white supremacy in particular…is the force that is most likely to destroy America.” His website proposes “a comprehensive and intentional dismantling of racist structures and systems.”

What, specifically, are these racist structures and systems? How about a few concrete examples supported by evidence? No one in the media seems the least bit interested in asking. It’s simply taken as given that whole institutions, structures, and systems in this country are racist and white supremacist. Asking for examples is, itself, racist. Or, at the very least, an embarrassing demonstration of terminal unwokeness. Racial disparities are presumptively equated with disparate treatment.

Racism and white supremacy became particularly acute, of course, after November 2016. Nearly every racial malady since then has been attributed to Donald Trump and his hordes of white supremacist minions. It’s curious, however, that there hasn’t been the expected spike in the data related to racism. Just the opposite. For example, the number of race discrimination charges filed with the EEOC reached a 25-year high of 35,890 in 2010 during the Obama administration, compared with 23,976 filed (merely filed, not even determined to have probable cause) in 2019. Similarly, the FBI reports that 7,120 hate crimes were committed in 2018, fewer than even a decade ago, when the U.S. population was millions smaller and far fewer agencies were reporting hate crimes.

These data points don’t necessarily disprove Democratic/media assertions that racism and white supremacy abound. But it’s a far easier lift than proving racism and white supremacy are ubiquitous.

Not to worry. There’s at least one clear and unequivocal example of systemic racism in America today, but you’ll never hear Democratic candidates utter a word about it: the staggering racial preferences awarded by colleges to black and Hispanic applicants over white and Asian applicants. Systemic racism is OK, provided it’s approved by progressives, and they’re running the system.

Elections

Bloomberg: Not a Vanity Campaign, But Vanity-Plus

Michael Bloomberg at a campaign event in Compton, Calif., February 3, 2020. (Andrew Cullen/Reuters)

Tom Scocca writes in Slate:

The morning after President’s Day, a new poll found that Michael Bloomberg had captured enough public support to claim a place onstage in the next Democratic presidential debate. On Wednesday night, the business-information tycoon and former Republican mayor of New York City will appear alongside candidates who have spent months or years trying to win over Democratic voters — shaping their policy proposals, cultivating armies of donors and volunteers, gathering support door-to-door — having himself spent only money, a tsunami of it: more than $400 million of his own fortune on campaign expenses, including saturation ads across TV and online media.

It may look as if Bloomberg is simply joining the presidential race a little later than the others. But what he’s really there to do is shut down the presidential race entirely. Yes, everyone running wants to win. But the other people in the race are asking voters to choose them. Bloomberg is asking — or telling — the public to give up on the idea that anyone really has a choice . . . Bloomberg’s message is that it’s too late for any of that. Michael Bloomberg is the only person who can beat Donald Trump, because he has the power to beat Donald Trump, because he has the money. The voters’ preferences don’t matter.

If that were Bloomberg’s appeal, it would be a false one: There are all sorts of reasons Senator Bernie Sanders might lose to President Trump, but an inability to raise enough money for his campaign is probably not going to be one of them, even though the president is far ahead right now. Sanders’s less-than-$20-a-pop method of mass-fundraising may involve a little more labor than Bloomberg’s rummaging around in his sueded baby-seal-skin couch cushions for a billion bucks or so, but he can raise the money. And, if Bloomberg is to be believed, the Democratic nominee will have the benefit of Bloomberg’s resources irrespective of who ends up carrying the asinine banner of Team Jackass in the general.

But I don’t think the Scrooge McDuck thing is really what Bloomberg is offering. There are a lot of lefty billionaires out there who might like to be president. What Bloomberg offers Democrats is the fact that he has real executive experience that produced pretty good results in New York City, and the fact that he is not a socialist kook or a lightly qualified neophyte. Bloomberg has been in politics for a while now — he isn’t Howard Schultz, or Mark Cuban, or some other billionaire tyro with too much ego in his pants and too much time on his hands.

Scocca contrasts Bloomberg’s spending with other Democrats’ efforts aimed at “shaping their policy proposals, cultivating armies of donors and volunteers, gathering support door-to-door,” etc., but, of course, that’s exactly what Bloomberg has been doing, on his own dime, for years, from his batty and fruitless gun-control campaigns to his substantial financial support for Democratic campaigns and progressives causes. That’s not my personal cup of English breakfast, but for the Democrats who live in Cleveland and Philadelphia rather than on Twitter, that might be of some interest. And though I find it impossible to get inside the mind of a Democratic partisan, I can’t help thinking that if I were a degraded specimen of that sort, then I might welcome the prospect of my party’s out-Trumping Trump with a vicious billionaire megalomaniac of its own.

The Democrats — and Republicans, if it comes to that — who want to beat Bloomberg would do themselves a favor to genuinely appreciate that his is not an out-of-nowhere campaign with nothing behind it except $64 billion — it is a natural outgrowth of Bloomberg’s political and philanthropic interests and his vanity and his neuroses…with $64 billion behind it.

Politics & Policy

Apparently Voters Aren’t Allowed to See Candidate Health Records Anymore

Bernie Sanders speaks during the MLK Day festivities in Columbia, SC. January 20, 2020. (Sam Wolfe/Reuters)

Bernie Sanders declared during a CNN townhall yesterday that he had changed his mind and will not release any more of his medical records. Sanders is a 78-year-old man who had a heart attack in October; at the time, the senator’s campaign said he had been hospitalized with “chest pains,” and three days later announced he had a heart attack and that doctors had inserted two stents.

Afterwards, Sanders pledged to release his full medical records, telling reporters, “I want to make it comprehensive.” At the end of 2019, his campaign released a letter from his doctor noting that he experienced “modest heart muscle damage” but that his heart function was now “stable and well-preserved.” Sanders has decided the letter from his doctor is comprehensive enough and that requests for the full records constitute a “smear campaign.”

In normal circumstances, this would be a target-rich environment for a Republican opponent in the general election. But in normal circumstances, the incumbent Republican president would not have dictated his own health assessment to be transcribed by his doctor, as Harold Bornstein, a gastroenterologist from Lenox Hospital in New York, described in 2018.

About a year ago, U.S. Navy Commander Sean P. Conley issued a statement after President Trump’s annual physical: “While the reports and recommendations are being finalized, I am happy to announce that the President of the United States is in very good health, I anticipate he will remain so for the duration his presidency, and beyond.” In November, Trump had an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; Conley later issued a statement saying it was a routine “interim checkup.”

The standard comparison here for candidates’ health secrecy is Paul Tsongas.

 In 1992, Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas was one of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination. He had been treated for a form of lymph-node cancer, or lymphoma, from 1983 to 1986, but when he ran in 1992, he declared himself “cured.” Tak Takvorian, Tsongas’s doctor at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told reporters, “I’m very confident that he’s fine.”

Tsongas won the New Hampshire primary but lost ground to Bill Clinton and withdrew from the race in March. It did not take long before it became clear that had he won the race, the best-case scenario was that the new president would have faced enormous challenges. In December 1992, he announced that a new growth in his abdomen was cancerous, and he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He spent a good portion of the next four years in hospitals, dealing with complications from the treatment. Had Tsongas been elected in 1992, he would not have lived to the end of his first term: He died on January 18, 1997, two days before Clinton’s second inauguration.

Every candidate who seeks to hide, downplay, or obscure his or her health issues is forgetting something: Hiding the problem from the electorate doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. At some point, the body of the president or candidate gets to speak about what ails it in its own way, in a manner not easily hidden from the public.

Elections

Poll: Bloomberg Gains Support among African-American Voters

Michael Bloomberg attends a campaign event in Houston, Texas, February 13, 2020. (Go Nakamura/Reuters)

New data from Morning Consult indicate that, among African Americans who are likely to vote in the Democratic primaries, Michael Bloomberg is picking up steam. Ahead of the New Hampshire primary, former vice president Joe Biden led the field considerably among these voters, with 35 percent support. Trailing Biden among African Americans was Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), with 27 percent, followed by Bloomberg in a distant third with 16 percent.

After the New Hampshire primary — which Sanders won by a small margin over former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, and in which Bloomberg did not participate — African-American support for Biden has dropped a bit and risen for both Sanders and Bloomberg. According to the new polling, Biden now receives 33 percent of the black vote, Sanders gets 30 percent, and Bloomberg gets 20 percent.

Here’s more from the Morning Consult analysis of these numbers: “Older black voters are more likely to support Bloomberg than younger black voters, though his standing with those voters is still well below Biden’s. Sanders, meanwhile, has a huge advantage with the youngest black voters, nearly half (47 percent) of whom back the Vermont independent.”

The same survey found that only 6 percent of Democratic-primary voters remain undecided, and when asked to choose a candidate, they split evenly between Biden, Sanders, and Bloomberg.

The shift in African-American support is notable particularly because of Biden’s poor performance in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. One of the former vice president’s chief strengths as a leading candidate has been his consistent ability to poll well among black voters. That might change if he continues to fall behind in early contests.

Though he has remained atop the field in most surveys of voters in South Carolina, which holds its primary on February 29, his grip seems to be weakening: The most recent state-level poll shows him tied with Sanders.

PC Culture

Britain’s ‘Hate Incident’ Problem

Since 2015, Police Scotland has logged more than 3,300 “hate incidents.” These are jokes, statements, or behaviors that do not involve any criminality, but which someone else perceives to be motivated by hatred (usually on account of race, religion, or — what else? — gender identity). “An offensive joke may be reported by someone, but not amount to any criminality, so we would log this as a hate incident,” Police Scotland explained.

But how, exactly, do the police decide what constitutes “hate”? According to official guidelines, that doesn’t matter. “Hate incidents” should be filed “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element.”

In England, meanwhile, an ex-cop, Harry Miller, won his court battle against Humberside Police at London’s High Court. Miller took the issue to court after police showed up at his workplace to “check his thinking.” He had involved himself in the online transgender debate, someone had reported him for a hate crime and — after investigation — the police found an additional 30 “transphobic” tweets.

“In Great Britain, we have never had a Cheka, a Stasi, or a Gestapo,” Justice Julian Knowles told the courtroom in siding with Miller. Nevertheless, the court also made it clear that the police guidance itself — i.e. recording “hate incidents” — was lawful. That ruling needs to be challenged. If only Brits had a First Amendment…

Education

Is ‘Food Insecurity’ a Big Problem for College Students?

Some claim that a great many American college students are suffering from “food insecurity” and want government to alleviate it. Others say it’s vastly overblown, and if anything should be done about it, it should be handled by schools, not by the government.

Today, the Martin Center offers a pro and con on this issue.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University and founder of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice argues with three associates that food insecurity is a serious problem among American college students. Her solution is an expansion of federal food aid.

James Bovard, a journalist who routinely clashes with those who favor big government, takes the position that few American college students are going hungry and the feds should leave this supposed problem alone.

 

Elections

Andrew Yang Joins CNN, So They Will Finally Ask Him Some Questions

Andrew Yang, freshly off the campaign trail, is joining CNN as a commentator.

Apparently, that’s what Yang needed to do to get any speaking time on the network. In the July debate hosted by CNN, Yang spoke for a little less than nine minutes, while Joe Biden spoke for more than 21 minutes, Kamala Harris spoke for 17 minutes, and Cory Booker spoke for 13 minutes. Then, in the October debate on CNN, Yang spoke for about eight and a half minutes, while Warren spoke for almost 23 minutes, Biden spoke for almost 17 minutes, and Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke both spoke for a little more than 13 minutes. Yang did not make the cut for CNN’s January debate.

Health Care

Keep Medicine Medical

The limited resources of medicine are increasingly being diverted to alter healthy bodies to boost one’s inner satisfaction, or for non-medical purposes such as cosmetic (as opposed to reconstructive) purposes.

The trend is growing more extreme. Here’s an example. For $100,000, short people can have their healthy legs broken so that they can be made taller. From the Neoscope story:

Officially called distraction osteogenesis, the leg extension surgery involves cutting either the femur, tibia, or both, and using metal braces to extend the bones. Over time, new bone cells will grow, effectively making each leg up to three inches longer.

For nearly a century, doctors have used it to help patients with congenital defects or after traumatic injuries — but now, it’s become the latest trend in extreme cosmetic surgery.

Any doctor who does this should lose his or her license. I don’t care if the customer wants this procedure — these people are not “patients” because there is nothing wrong with them and no malady is being treated. This is serious surgery. Lives are put at risk. Doctors should not break healthy body parts for reasons that are altogether non-medical.

Moreover, it opens the door to other harming interventions, such as intentionally disabling “transable” people because of their inner obsessions.

Transhumanists will love this idea of radical personal recreationism. But “do no harm” has to mean something — even in our decadent times. Doctors are being increasingly deprofessionalized. It’s time to draw some lines to keep medicine “medical.”

 

Religion

Pope Francis, Man of the Right?

Pope Francis waves during the weekly audience at the Vatican, February 19, 2020. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

Declan Leary makes the case that in his post-Synodal exhortation, Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis reveals himself a deeply traditional Catholic, and possibly a “man of the Right.”

First, it’s important to concede a few things up front. It’s true that many of Pope Francis’s progressive cheerleaders have expressed disappointment and even betrayal at the fact that the document did not open the priesthood to married men, or the diaconate to women. And I appreciate Leary’s clear-eyed and generous assessment that Francis sometimes suffers unjustly by comparison to his immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who had, respectively, a brilliance and a charisma that are unusual in popes.

But I suspect that in the filial desire to cover a father’s nakedness, some conservatives are just squinting so hard they end up distorting their own perception. Like the vast majority of Churchmen in the West, Francis would be anxious to reject a label placing him on the political right, and not merely because of the American right’s devotion to liberal (in the European sense) economics.

Leary compares Francis’ socioeconomic views to those of Richard Weaver and the Southern Agrarians. It’s hard to know what unites these figures, save for thunderous rhetoric and an aesthetic revulsion at consumerism that never quite develops into economic thinking.  But my other objection is that Leary doesn’t stop to ask whether Francis’s view of Amazon deforestation is accurate. Francis blames extractive industries such as mining or oil — bugbears of the left. But in fact, the greatest part of deforestation is being done by a kind of laborer and enterprise many of the Agrarians would have admired, and that has its own traditions and relationship to nature: cattle ranchers.

It’s true that some of Francis’s rhetoric can be made to match certain schools of conservative thought — the ones of two-or-fewer cheers for capitalism. But he refuses to use them, instead asserting that indigenous communities of the Amazon inhabit “their surroundings in a non-deterministic symbiosis which is hard to conceive using mental categories imported from without.”

This romanticization takes the form of projecting onto indigenous communities longstanding Western critiques of Western culture. “The ethnic groups that, in interaction with nature, developed a cultural treasure marked by a strong sense of community, readily notice our darker aspects, which we do not recognize in the midst of our alleged progress.”  If you think discrimination and inequality are defects in modern society, just wait until you encounter them in a non-modern one.

Leary is correct that Francis may technically be less “liberal” than his predecessors. But I think we also get glimpses of the man when he humiliates Cardinal Burke, or strikes back at Cardinal Sarah’s attempt to rescue the Church’s liturgy from modern banality. We get a glimpse of his instinct when he empowers men like Cardinal Cupich and passes over men like Archbishops Gomez and Chaput. Or when he indulges the dangerously modernist theology of Cardinal Kasper. Or when his Vatican destroys congregations of religious nuns for living a charism deemed too traditional or contemplative. These are not the actions of a “man of the Right,” nor were they right at all.

Politics & Policy

‘Bill Barr Derangement Syndrome’

I wrote today about the absurd campaign against Bill Barr. (Of course, should Barr actually quit in frustration over Trump’s tweets, he’ll instantly become a media hero and the gold standard for Trump AGs.)

Music

‘Mozart. Holy Smokes.’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, by Barbara Krafft (1819) (Wikimedia)

The latest episode of my Music for a While is titled “From Rosa to Mirella.” Who are they? Rosa Feola, a young Italian soprano, and Mirella Freni, a legend of an Italian soprano, who died earlier this month. She was from the same town as Pavarotti — Modena. Indeed, one of the most cherished, most cited facts in all of opera is that Freni and Pavarotti had the same wet nurse. TMI?

In between Rosa and Mirella, I have music by Haydn, Mozart, and others. There are even two Yeats poems, not by design but by coincidence. I wanted to play and comment on two songs, and they both happen to set verses by Yeats. One of the songs, or poems, is “Down by the Salley Gardens.” This leads me to mention John Salley, the onetime Piston great.

Are the Detroit Pistons — is the NBA at all — typically mentioned in classical-music podcasts? In mine, maybe.

I would like to cite you the reaction of a friend of mine, who had listened to this episode. She reacted to a portion of Mozart’s C-minor Mass in particular. Her text read as follows: “Mozart. Holy smokes. I know this is the understatement of the millennium, but he is so good.”

I loved that text, which put me in mind of Robert Graves: “The thing about Shakespeare is, he really is good.” It is important to remember and stress these things.

Again, my ’cast is here.

Culture

Twelve Things That Caught My Eye Today: (The Collapse of International Adoption, a Rallying Cry to Foster Care, Catholics in China & More; February 18, 2020)

Weekend mass at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin, China, November 2013. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

1. The Collapse of International Adoption is a Tragedy

2. Amidst Plagues: The Church’s Call to Foster Care and More | Church Life Journal | University of Notre Dame

3.

4. New York Times: ‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises

5. Bill McGurn: The Vatican’s Unholy China Deal

6. Why the U.S. Government Should Prioritize the Release of Christian Pastor Wang Yi

7. China’s ‘War on Terror’ uproots families, leaked date shows

8.  After abuse scandals, seminarians pledge to ‘get it right’

9. The Deeper Roots of Youth Anxiety

10. From a family therapist:

Families have brought in their children to our clinic, boys and girls, ages 6-11, who were addicted to internet pornography. By addicted, I mean they were “hooked” after one or two exposures to pornography and would go to great lengths to gain access. For example, one little girl was getting in trouble at school for stealing iPhones from women’s purses to gain access to pornography and acting out the scenes she had seen on an infant sibling. An 11-year-old boy who could not get access to pornography at home was breaking into a neighbor’s home in the middle of the night to access their computer. These were good kids from good homes whose developing brains had been hijacked by a highly addictive and traumatizing material. Their parents also noted that their children were “different” in that they had become unable to bond, had normalized views about sexual violence against others, and their personalities had become eerily flat.

11. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik: What the Bible Taught Lincoln About America

12. About Fra Angelico, who died 565 years ago today

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