Education

The Fundamental Issue of Our Time

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How will young people be educated? Will their parents be able to direct it, or will it be left up to education “experts” employed by the state?

In this essay, Professor C. Bradley Thompson argues that this is “America’s Alamo.” If the statists prevail, the indoctrination of children will proceed apace, with those “experts” filling their minds with ideas favorable to omnipotent government — all those beliefs about CRT, gender ideology, environmental imperatives, egalitarianism, and so forth.

Thompson concludes that, “If we lose this battle, the republic is gone. If we win, we can begin to reclaim the rights and freedoms that have been taken from us over the course of the last century.”

He’s right. The troubles we face today are rooted in the “progressive” ideas that have been implanted in young minds by statist educators to make them accept the need for ever-expanding government power over the nation.

Education

You Expect State Universities to Waste Money

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Like all government operations, state universities waste money. We are accustomed to seeing them pile on layers and layers of needless bureaucrats, “investing” in fancy new buildings (while older ones are allowed to deteriorate), and hire expensive “star” faculty who spend most of their time working on research projects that are of scant value to anyone.

But here’s a new bit of wasteful spending — the University of North Carolina system is going to relocate from its longstanding location on the Chapel Hill campus to downtown Raleigh. In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson writes about this development. There had been discussion about doing this, supposedly to reduce what was perceived as undue influence in favor of UNC-Chapel Hill by having the system offices there, for some time. Now it’s about to happen.

Robinson is skeptical about the expense of the move, writing that, “While it’s true that UNC-Chapel Hill has, in the past, seemed to exert a special pull over the System as a whole, this move is a sudden and expensive change. The UNC System is already in the middle of moving from the outdated C.D. Spangler Building on Raleigh Road to the Center for School Leadership Development — an additional two miles from UNC-Chapel Hill’s main campus. The new building has ample parking and sufficient facilities to live stream meetings as well as house the UNC System staff in one location.”

Alas, one more higher-education cost for the taxpayers to cover.

Supply & Demand

Strategic Petroleum Reserve Strategery

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, D.C., October 4, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Writing after the announcement that the U.S. will be raiding the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Dominic Pino has fun with the uh, inconsistencies in the Biden administration’s energy policy. There are plenty of those to choose from, as you can see, but releasing some oil from the reserve is one that undoubtedly deserves its time in the spotlight. On the one hand, fossil fuel consumption (and, in the U.S., at least, production), is to be discouraged, but on the other, if the gas price looks like reaching a politically inconvenient level, then something must be done (or be seen to be done) about it, whether it’s begging our always-reliable friends at OPEC to increase production (they weren’t interested), trying to blame the higher prices on some sort of conspiratorial activity, or, now, dipping into the strategic stockpile.

As Dominic notes, only about 50 million barrels will be released, which is a little less than three days’ worth of U.S. oil consumption (the Financial Times gives the figure of 2.5 days), an amount which, even if it wasn’t going to be spread over a couple of months (it is), would have a negligible impact on the oil price. But the president wants to be seen to be doing something, and that’s the thing. The market knows that this means nothing, even if, as is the case, other countries are raiding their reserves too. In fact, in the aftermath of the announcement, the oil price moved, well, up.

The Financial Times:

Oil prices rose on the news, as traders calculated that the total volume to be released would be less than expected, and that Opec+ could retaliate by holding back more oil than planned. Opec did not respond to requests for comment.

Also from the Financial Times:

The US has only tapped SPR reserves on three previous occasions. Two related to wars. The third came in response to Hurricane Katrina. The only emergency Biden faces is a political one.

In a release announcing the move, it was emphasized that “the Administration remains committed to the President’s ambitious clean energy goals.” That may be true, but these goals incorporate an energy “transition” that would inevitably involve significantly higher energy prices for a very long time. Judging by the administration’s current behavior, those looking to implement this transition are clearly not unaware of the political problems that can come with more expensive energy and must be hoping that those prices increase at a considerably gentler rate than we have seen of late, giving voters the time to get used to a grim new normal — lobsters in a pot and all that. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, via the Financial Post:

Developers of Keystone XL are seeking to recoup more than US$15 billion in damages connected to President Joe Biden’s decision to yank a permit for the border-crossing oil pipeline even after construction began.

With a request for arbitration filed Monday, Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. formally opened one of the largest trade appeals ever against the U.S. and asked to put its long-running dispute over Keystone XL in front of an international arbitration panel. The legal claim is being mounted under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement that allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. policy decisions.

“The U.S. decision to revoke the permit was unfair and inequitable,” TC Energy said in its filing, blaming the U.S. for putting Keystone XL on a 13-year “regulatory roller coaster.”

The proposed pipeline, which would have transported up to 900,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude to U.S. refineries, was rejected by then-President Barack Obama after he concluded it would exacerbate climate change. Keystone XL was later revived by President Donald Trump, only to have Biden reject it again, on his first day in office. . . .

World

Lawmakers Question Seven-Month Delay of Uyghur Forced-Labor Legislation

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Outside a “vocational skills education center” in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, September 4, 2018 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop delaying a House vote on legislation dealing with Beijing’s genocide of Uyghurs and crimes against humanity targeting other minority groups in a letter today:

We urge you to stop delaying floor consideration of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). As you know, the House bill passed the Foreign Affairs Committee on April 21, and the Senate bill was received in the House on July 16. Both passed without any opposition….

It was encouraging that bipartisan legislation to designate the CCP’s crimes against Uyghurs as genocide was included in this year’s NDAA via an amendment that passed with a voice vote. Doing so will bring the House into consensus with two successive United States administrations, as well as our parliamentary counterparts in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Czechia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Canada.

It is extremely concerning that no legislation imposing real world consequences in response to this genocide has received floor consideration this Congress. The backlog now includes multiple pieces of Committee-passed legislation, most significantly the [Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act].

This lengthy delay stands in contrast with the Democratic majority’s record on Uyghur issues under the prior administration. Last year, you put the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act up for a vote 12 days after it was received from the Senate. You also put the UFLPA on the floor without waiting for a Committee markup, where it passed with over 400 votes. Both the House and Senate measures would pass the House resoundingly, if put up for a vote.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would impose a near-ban on certain products coming from the Xinjiang region, under the presumption that they were produced using forced labor. While the bill would not by any means convince the Chinese Communist Party to end its campaign to destroy Uyghurs and other Turkic minority peoples, it would help prevent Americans from being complicit in the abuses.

The same goes for a provision quietly stripped from the Build Back Better Act, the president’s $1.9 trillion social-spending package, which the House approved last week.

Democrats advanced the measure, which now awaits a vote in the Senate, following weeks of questions about the quiet removal of a prohibition on sending new science funding to Chinese companies designated as participating in the human-rights abuses under the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. Pelosi’s office has yet to say anything publicly about the matter and ignored National Review’s request for comment. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged when a reporter raised the issue earlier this month.

Psaki also said the administration is working with Congress to provide “technical assistance” for human-rights-focused legislation, though she declined to specify which bills she meant.

Condemning these atrocities is an area of broad bipartisan agreement, and if put up to a vote, the measures would, as the committee members wrote, win near-unanimous support.

Regulatory Policy

Biden’s Trucking Priority: COVID Vaccinations

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Trucks line up to U.S. customs to enter into Blaine, Wash., in Surrey, Canada, March 18, 2020. (Jesse Winter
/Reuters)

The Biden administration announced today that all “essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials” are required to be fully vaccinated by January 22, according to the Associated Press.

That includes, most notably, the longest land border between any two countries on the planet: the U.S.-Canada border. Headline from the Toronto Star: “A trucking nightmare: Supply chain horrors feared as thousands of unvaccinated drivers won’t be allowed to cross U.S.-Canada border.”

On Friday, Canada announced a vaccine requirement for truck drivers entering the True North strong and free, effective January 15. The Star talked to the president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, Stephen Laskowski, and he’s not optimistic:

Based on reports from trucking companies, Laskowski estimates that up to 20 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly cross into the U.S. might not be vaccinated by the time the deadline rolls around.

“Even if every single company gets their vaccination rates up to 90 per cent, that’s still 12,000 drivers,” said Laskowski, who’s calling on both governments to delay the deadline.

We need every driver we can get right now, and then some. In 2020, $309 billion of freight traveled by truck between the U.S. and Canada, which was 58.8 percent of all northern-border freight, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That was 9.9 percent less than 2019. Between the pandemic recovery and the surge in spending on goods, we can expect much more than $309 billion of truck freight for 2021. Steve Bamford of the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association is quoted by the Star: “The supply chain is already broken. You can’t take 20 per cent of the workforce out of the mix and expect it not to have a major impact.”

The vaccines are good and safe, and people should get them. That doesn’t mean the federal government should mandate them, especially for truck drivers at the current moment. The administration’s priority should be waiving regulations on trucking, not adding more.

As for our other land border, with Mexico, this mandate will have little effect. As a protectionist measure to please U.S. labor unions, Mexican trucking companies are not allowed to operate freely in the U.S. When goods are shipped from Mexico to the United States, they are either transported the entire way by U.S. truckers or brought to the border by Mexican truckers and switched to a U.S. truck for the final leg of the journey.

From Pete Buttigieg blaming a lack of child care for the supply-chain crisis to Biden being more concerned with truck drivers’ vaccination status than the fact that we don’t have enough of them to begin with, it’s clear this administration is not serious about improving our transportation situation.

U.S.

American Airlines Is the Worst: A Series

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An American Airlines Airbus A321 plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX), March 28, 2018. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

And now, for another installment in my long-running series, “Screaming into the Void.”

Commercial airline travel is terrible, of course, but American Airlines goes out of its way to make it worse in a couple of key ways. My least-favorite of them is the credit-card shilling.

If you fly American, you know this pitch: Limited-time offer for a Barclays card, enough free miles to get you two round-trip tickets anywhere in the continental United States, etc. See if you can actually book two round-trip flights to any place you’d want to go with 60,000 miles and let me know.

The awfulness of this is multifaceted. For one thing, there is the Clockwork Orange sensation of being literally strapped into a seat while someone screams corporate banalities at you on a loudspeaker fifteen inches from your head. That is beyond bad manners — it is positively abusive. The mandatory face mask, a recent innovation, adds to the totalitarian mood.

It is also — and this cannot be emphasized enough — a lie. It is a “limited-time” offer in the sense that the sun eventually will run out of gas and become a dying star, first engulfing the Earth in fire and then leaving the wreck of the solar system a sterile plane of interstellar cold and utter silence, which will be interrupted only by some addled flight attendant screeching about the limited-time Barclays card offer.

This “limited-time” offer has been running for years and years and years. I cannot remember a time before this limited-time offer.

Stop it, you ridiculous corporate monkeys. Knock it off.

Elections

School Closures Drove Suburban Biden Voters to Youngkin, Focus Group Finds

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Then Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin gives a thumbs up to the crowd during a campaign event in Leesburg, Va., November 1, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

A few weeks ago, I speculated that the endless school closures provided the initial spark for the backlash among Virginia’s parents that played a key role in Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory. Since then, a Democratic polling firm has conducted focus groups with voters in the Virginia suburbs who switched from Joe Biden to Youngkin, and found pretty much the same thing.

“These swing voters didn’t agree with what they thought the liberal position on race in schools was,” ALG Research writes in a summary report. “However, it wasn’t as salient as the fact that they felt Democrats closed their schools and didn’t feel bad about it. They also knew about his debate quote on parents; it clearly burned in and resonated with them.”

The report also notes:

School closures + COVID policy were a bigger factor than CRT. These voters were more animated talking about their dissatisfaction with their local school districts’ handling of COVID. They felt buffeted by changing and inconsistent policies and concerned about the impact on student learning loss, and there was a sense among some that Virginia was not following the science by keeping schools closed later than other states. One participant, a Biden voter, stated flat out that her vote for Youngkin “was against the party that closed the schools for so long last year.”

School closures turned out to be completely unnecessary from the perspective of reducing COVID-19 spread, and as Robert VerBruggen noted yesterday, another new study has show that remote learning was a complete disaster.

I saw the focus group results via Jon Favreau, the liberal Pod Save America co-host and former Barack Obama speechwriter, who was urging his Democratic followers to take a close look at it.

If the takeaway of the Virginia race is to make Democrats at least slightly more skittish about COVID-19 restrictions in the future, that alone will have made it worthwhile.

Elections

Poll: Arizona Senator Mark Kelly’s Favorability Rating Is Underwater

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Senator Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) arrives before the start of opening arguments in the impeachment trial of then-President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 10, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Arizona Democratic senator Mark Kelly, husband to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and a former astronaut, won his first Senate race in November 2020—a special election to serve out the final two years of the late John McCain’s term.

Kelly defeated Republican Martha McSally by 2.4 points in a state that Biden carried by only 0.3 points. He has kept his head down and has served as a generic Democrat during his first year in the Senate, and voters appear to be souring on him. 

According to a new poll by OH Predictive Insights, “the freshman Democratic Senator’s favorable numbers are underwater by seven percentage points – he is viewed favorably by 41% of Arizona voters, and unfavorably by 48%.” 

In September, the same pollster found that Kelly had “overall net positive favorability rating of +4%. Forty-seven percent of voters hold a favorable view of the freshman Senator, while 43% view him unfavorably.”

The new poll shows Kelly polling 40 percent to 39 percent when matched up against a generic Republican.

In the GOP primary, meanwhile, “Attorney General Mark Brnovich continues to lead the pack with 27% of Arizona Republicans’ vote, followed by Major General Michael McGuire’s 12%. Businessman Blake Masters pulls in 9%, and the rest of the field is registering at 5% or lower. Forty-six percent are undecided.”

Books

Could We Assemble a Liberal Coalition?

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(CoryUlrich/Getty Images)

Statism is failing, and more and more people are starting to realize that.  Draconian COVID policies are doing far more harm than good; profligate government spending is sending prices soaring; parents are starting to notice that the public schools are bad at teaching the three R’s but are focused instead on leftist indoctrination; respect for the law and the rights of peaceful individuals is plunging; the U.S. is once again an energy importer — and just wait until a snowpocalypse or huge volcanic eruption shows the folly of relying on “green” energy.

The recent elections suggest that a big coalition of people who dislike and distrust big government (what Grover Norquist calls the “leave us alone” coalition) is ready to be assembled. It’s a liberal coalition, using “liberal” in its original sense of respecting each person’s liberty to run his or her life.

Brad Lips of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation has written a book that will help to put that coalition together: Liberalism and the Free Society in 2021.

It’s an optimistic book, full of sage advice. He writes, “We need more interactions with people not like us, not less. Such fluid interaction tends to breed more empathy for the challenges we each grapple with, as well as genuine respect for the know-how and problem-solving strategies that diverse people have developed to get by and thrive.”

Yes. The statists want to keep huge minority voting groups angry and clamoring for government favors, but we can readily convince them that their futures will be far better if they ally with the liberal coalition.

What must authentic liberalism strive for? Lips gives us a good agenda, including the end of corporate welfare, downsizing of the D.C. leviathan and locating many major bureaucracies out in flyover country, creating educational savings accounts so parents can fund the optimal kind of education for their children, strengthening protection for constitutional rights, especially the First Amendment, free trade, and so on.

I strongly recommend the book.

Law & the Courts

Progressive Prosecutor Project Strikes Again

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Chairs are left folded on Main Street after a car plowed through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wis., November 22, 2021. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

Progressive prosecutors always have the courage of their convictions as long as they’re just gasbagging about their lofty aspirations for society . . . which is to say, right up until their abstractions about “equity,” “systemic racism,” and the need to “reform” our “broken system” crash into the reality of violent, recidivist crime that destroys the lives of flesh-and-blood Americans.

At that point, it’s always some underling’s fault — some nameless bureaucrat who didn’t get the subtle, oh-so-thoughtful nuances of the boss’s position.

I mean, how could subordinate prosecutors in the office of Milwaukee district attorney John Chisolm have possibly thought that when, for years, he donned the mantle of self-styled progressive crusader against cash bail and in favor of diverting criminals away from incarceration, he meant that criminals should be given low bail to keep them out of jail?

Maybe it was because Chisolm proudly said so himself?

In 2007, when he was elected DA, Chisolm told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that it was inevitable — “guaranteed” — that some criminal who had avoided being detained due to Chisolm’s, er, enforcement philosophy would use that opportunity to go out and commit murder, but that even such a horrific crime would not make him reconsider his approach. As he put it:

Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody? You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.

So thoughtful! So compassionate! So . . . recklessly irresponsible.

Naturally, now that the policies he’s spent his career championing have apparently enabled a violent career criminal, Darrell Brooks Jr., to murder five people and injure dozens of others in an unspeakably horrific mass-casualty attack on Sunday in Waukesha, Chisolm is singing a different tune.

Suddenly, he has decided that the paltry $1,000 bail to which his office agreed three weeks ago when Brooks allegedly assaulted the mother of one of his children — including running a car over her leg in a gas-station parking lot — was too low, after all.

Chisolm can’t imagine how that happened, especially given that Brooks had a long criminal record of violent offenses, was already on bail in Milwaukee in connection with violent crime and firearms offenses (on which Chisolm’s office had agreed to drastically reduced bail when it failed to timely bring the case to trial), and was also the subject of a pending Nevada warrant arising out of his failure to comply with sex-offender provisions. (Yup, Brooks is a sex-offender, too — and the warrant was pending on both occasions when Chisolm’s office recently released him on low bail.)

So now Chisolm says Brooks’s latest bail was “inappropriately low,” and he’ll be conducting an internal investigation into why his office would agree to such a thing. Don’t you feel better now?

I wonder what the internal investigation will find. It couldn’t possibly be that agreeing to low-bail or no-bail arrangements is exactly what junior prosecutors understood the boss expected, right? The boss who has argued that cash bail “criminalizes poverty.” The boss who brags that, when other progressive prosecutors across the country implement non-enforcement policies, they are following the trail he blazed.

This is how it always goes. When it’s the political season for progressives, there are no criminals. There is just a “system” that is inherently racist — notwithstanding the prominence of progressives at the helm of that system for a century. Since it is society, not the offender, who is to blame, then obviously we must reject such measures as requiring bail to be posted (to protect the society and encourage compliance with its court procedures) and mandating that convicted criminals be incarcerated (again, to protect the society).

Then, we’re supposed to look the other way when, as predictably as the morning sun, something like the Waukesha massacre is carried out by a violent career criminal who is at liberty to prey on the community solely because of a preening progressive prosecutor.

At that point, the fearless, truth-telling reformer tells you that five innocent people were murdered in cold blood at a holiday celebration because of an unfortunate bureaucratic snafu. “It does not invalidate the overall approach.”

The Economy

Inflation Watch: Dollar (and a Quarter) Tree

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A customer walks out of a Dollar Tree discount store in Austin, Texas, February 27, 2017. (Mohammad Khursheed/Reuters)

Just in time for the holidays, Dollar Tree has some news (here relayed by the Financial Times):

Rapid inflation in the US economy has reached Dollar Tree, the discount store chain known for its “Everything’s $1” slogan, which on Tuesday announced it would raise prices for most merchandise to $1.25.

The US retailer plans to raise prices in more than 2,000 stores in December and complete the $1.25 rollout in all of its nearly 8,000 stores by the end of its first fiscal quarter next year. Dollar Tree sells a wide variety of household items, from paper plates to toothbrushes to Christmas decorations.

The tipping point (one way or another) appears to have been the current supply crunch:

New York-listed Dollar Tree cited “historically-high merchandise cost increases, including freight and distribution costs, as well as higher operating costs, such as wage increases,” as it announced the price increases.

“For 35 years, Dollar Tree has managed through inflationary periods to maintain the everything-for-one-dollar philosophy that distinguished Dollar Tree,” the company said. However, “this is the appropriate time to shift away from the constraints of the $1.00 price point in order to continue offering extreme value to customers”, it added . . .

The price increase “is permanent and is not a reaction to short-term or transitory market conditions”, Dollar Tree said. The company noted that it believes much of the current freight challenges are temporary.

The company’s name will thus move from the (more or less) literal to the symbolic. To take another example of this, Motel 6, a chain that began, some 60 years ago, with a room rate of $6 a night, has long since gone down a similar route, as, of course, has Dollar General. From the look of things, Dollar Tree had been planning this move for a while (the company had been testing the price increase in various stores since September), not least because of the constraints it put on what they could offer for sale. Understandably enough, investors liked the news (at the time of writing, the stock was up up 9 percent).

At the same time, it’s hard not to suspect that the company reckoned that, with so much talk about inflation in the air, now might be a good time to put up prices, even if the reasons for that increase were only partially linked to the current squeeze. A fairly common characteristic of gathering inflation is the way that it can provide cover for more general price increases that it would otherwise have been difficult to push through. To take a local example, the price of “everything on the lunch menu” at my local bodega has recently increased by $1, suggesting that some distinctly rough and ready math is being used.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of Dollar Tree’s customers say that they will keep shopping there:

When Dollar Tree polled shoppers, 77 per cent said they were almost immediately aware of the price increase, according to the company. But 91 per cent of those surveyed indicated they would continue shopping at Dollar Tree with the same frequency or more.

And so the ratchet turns.

Film & TV

Turns Out Frank Sinatra Was Offered the Role of John McClane in Die Hard

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A mural of Frank Sinatra in an alley in Hollywood (Sam Mircovich/Reuters)

Given that we’re about to enter the season during which everybody debates whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, I thought I’d use it as an opportunity share one of the favorite facts I learned about recently: It turns out that a 70-plus Frank Sinatra was originally offered the role of John McClane.

I figure since I had never heard the story, other fans of the movie may not have been aware either. So here’s what happened.

As told in the Netflix show The Movies That Made Us, the early origins of Die Hard date back to a 1968 Sinatra film called The Detective. The movie ended up being such a big hit that Sinatra tried to convince Roderick Thorp, the author of the novel on which it was based, to write a sequel to it. But the author didn’t get around to releasing one for another decade.

When it was finally released, Thorp’s novel Nothing Lasts Forever ended up depicting a now retired NYPD detective visiting his daughter’s office building for a Christmas Eve party, when a group of terrorists take over, and he manages to hide from them and kill them off one by one. The studio sat on the idea of adapting it until the late 1980s. But once the movie was finally green lit and it was time to cast, there was a snag.

“They were legally obligated to offer the part to Sinatra first,” screenwriter Steven E. de Souza, recalls in the Netflix documentary. At the time, Sinatra was in his early 70s and so fortunately for everybody involved in the project, declined. De Souza joked that, “otherwise the chases in the building would have been on Rascal scooters.”

Producers offered the role to a number of more conventional leading men (Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Gere) before ending up with Bruce Willis.

But it does leave us to reflect on what could have been were an aging Ol’ Blue Eyes to have starred. I suppose he could have belted out some Christmas tunes while gunning down terrorists and settled all debates from here to eternity.

Film & TV

Impeachment: American Crime Story

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For people looking for a decent binge watch over the Thanksgiving weekend, one option is FX’s newest season of its American Crime Story series. The first season dramatized the O. J. Simpson trial and was riveting. This second season follows the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal.

I’m only part-way through. But somewhat surprisingly, the drama really focuses on Monica Lewinsky herself and Linda Tripp, her confidante, who eventually put her story out to the people investigating the Clinton White House.

Lewinsky’s somewhat juvenile passions around the president are on full gaudy display, alongside all the 1990s set pieces and obsessions.

The portrayal of Tripp in the series has generated a lot of commentary.

In the New Yorker, Doreen St. Félix tries to rescue the view that Tripp was a contemptible villain:

Thoughts of revenge provide the only warmth in her lonely days, which end with frozen dinners consumed in front of the television. Her aggrievement is generally that of the conservative white woman at the end of the century, sensing her creeping obsolescence. But it’s deeper than that; Tripp considers herself unappreciated as if by fate.

In Vanity Fair, Tripp’s daughter, Allison, is found to be grateful for the humanizing portrait of her mother.

There’s also a portrayal of right-wing D.C. life in the 1990s, with a fun turn by Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter. The portrayal of Clinton so far by Clive Owen is pretty chilling. He turns on a sinister warmth and anger at will, to manipulate the people around him.

Science & Tech

Cannabis Skeptics Persist

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It’s curious how touchy some people get when you point out the possible ill effects of cannabis. Nevertheless, cannabis skeptics persist!

Clare Foges had an excellent piece in the Times of London yesterday. She writes:

Ask those working in the criminal justice system, too, if cannabis is a soft drug. A website called “Attacker Smoked Cannabis” keeps a record of savage crimes committed by users, and it is updated with alarming regularity. Recent cases include the Gateshead teenager who was so paranoid that another woman was laughing at her that she bit a chunk of her ear off; the knifeman who went on a stabbing rampage in Birmingham killing one man and injuring seven others; and a man who stabbed a university lecturer in a random attack, then was bailed only to stab someone else. All were under the influence of gentle old pot when they transformed into demons.

Sir Robin Murray, a leading psychiatrist and professor of psychiatric research at King’s College London, responded to her article in a supportive letter to the editor, noting that “one third of young people who develop schizophrenia-like psychosis in London do so because of their heavy use of high-potency cannabis (skunk).” And yet, Murray adds,

 . . . although we regard [British] “skunk” as high potency, it has an average concentration of only about 15 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. However, cannabis products with 60 to 80 percent THC are now commonly available in US states such as Colorado. Everywhere that cannabis has been legalized, the use and potency of the drug have increased, and more cannabis-induced disorders have followed. Most worryingly, tobacco companies that have experienced falls in the sales of cigarettes are now buying into cannabis companies with the aim of selling as much cannabis as they once sold tobacco. [Emphasis added.]

Regulatory Policy

A Fun Game with Democrats’ Energy Policy

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President Joe Biden delivers a speech during a visit to the Port of Baltimore, Md., November 10, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Biden administration has released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a bid to reduce gas prices. It won’t work.

They’re releasing 50 million barrels, which is a little less than three days’ worth of American oil consumption. But it gives the shiny veneer of Doing Something, which is all Democrats can do given their completely incoherent energy policy.

Say what you will about Republicans, their energy policy is fairly easy to understand. Energy should be cheap, and it should come from every source that’s economically feasible. As far as possible, it should be produced domestically, or at least within North America.

Democrats, on the other hand, seem to hold to a set of beliefs that is completely incoherent:

  1. Americans use too much fossil fuels. The government should subsidize green energy to speed Americans’ transition away from fossil fuels.
  2. Gasoline should be as cheap as possible. The federal gas tax should not be increased. The government should release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down gas prices.
  3. The federal government should fund more highway infrastructure, which will make it easier to travel by car.
  4. Infrastructure that transports petroleum, refined petroleum products (such as gasoline), and natural gas should not be built. Cancel Keystone XL, and make it harder to build new pipelines.
  5. Domestic production of fossil fuels should decrease. Oil and natural-gas companies are evil, and their profits are too high. Fracking is bad. Offshore drilling is bad. The federal government should use every tool available to put coal companies out of business.
  6. Foreign production of fossil fuels should increase. OPEC should pump more oil to bring down the global price. Developing countries — including China, home to about one-fifth of the world’s population — should not be held to the same emissions standards as developed countries.
  7. Fossil-fuel use is a global problem that demands a global solution.
  8. Nuclear power is bad. Chernobyl!
  9. There should be a carbon tax. There’s a social cost of carbon that is not internalized by the current market system.
  10. We will not seriously try to pass any legislation to actually implement a carbon tax. It’s unpopular and regressive.

A fun game is to see if you can coherently believe more than four of these items simultaneously. I think 1-4-5-9 probably works. It’s also probably the least-popular combination possible. See what you can come up with!

Politics & Policy

On Child Care Plan, Why Not Cut Out the Middleman?

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President Biden says:

So let me get this straight. My wife, who stays at home to care for our kids — because she wants to, not because she “has to” — is “locked out of the workforce” and, ideally, would “get back to work.” To remedy this, the federal government intends to raise my taxes in order to pay other people to look after my children — which, unlike my wife’s efforts with her own children, would count as “work.”

If this is to be the model, why not just send my wife a check directly? Could it be, perhaps, that Biden thinks that the government would do a better job?

 

The Federal Bureaucracy Will Never Be an Effective Tool for Conservative Goals

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The Department of Health and Human Services building in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

A word of warning to conservatives who have stopped wanting to shrink, reduce, limit, or scale back the federal government, and who, in recent years, decided want to use the sprawling and far-reaching power of the federal government to serve their own agenda. . . .

In case you haven’t noticed, the federal government is often incompetent. Or perhaps I should specify the federal bureaucracy — the one I wrote a book about — is a spectacularly inefficient institution that at best slowly and erratically lumbers towards its goals, hampered by its own red tape, inertia, waste, overhead costs, complicated regulations

U.S.

‘The Shoplifting Capital of the U.S.A.’

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I wrote today about the brazen thefts in San Francisco and other places in the Bay Area:

It ought to be possible to operate a retail store in one of America’s largest and most iconic cities, but this most basic commercial proposition is in doubt in San Francisco.

The erstwhile Golden City is beset by an ongoing tide of theft that is closing down retail locations and demonstrating again the city’s unwillingness to govern itself.

Cities around the country dub themselves “the capital” of this or that signature product: artichokes in Castroville, Calif.; earmuffs in Farmington, Maine; spinach in Alma, Ark.; fried chicken in Barberton, Ohio.

San Francisco, and the larger Bay Area, could now easily claim the title of Shoplifting Capital of the U.S.A., should it want the honor.

Monetary Policy

The Fed: Jay Stays

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell (Al Drago/Reuters)

It is not always (#understatement) that President Biden gets something right on the economy but given the alternative, nominating Jerome Powell for another term as Fed chairman was the correct decision to make, not least as a nod to continuity before what may well be rough seas ahead. Given that outlook, reappointing the man who was at the helm when the Fed came to the rescue of a tottering Treasury market in March 2020 makes particularly good sense. Perhaps some market fundamentalists might object to that rescue, but if the Treasury market had been allowed to collapse, it would have set off a spiral of catastrophe that could have led who knows where — well, nowhere good anyway. Equally, many of the other extraordinary measures taken by the Fed at that time can be justified by the exigencies of the moment, not a few of them, of course, the product of government reaction to the pandemic rather than the coronavirus itself.

The fact that Powell successfully handled one profoundly dangerous situation is a good reason to keep him in charge, but so is the reassurance that his track record ought to bring with it, reassurance that might help either calm or even avoid panics to come.

Turning to a different topic, Powell also made some effort to push back against the idea that the Fed should get involved in climate policy. However, he has clearly seen the way that the politics have been shifting on this topic, and decided that this was not the hill on which his candidacy should die. In the last year or so, the central bank has gradually positioned itself to take a much more activist line on this issue, a positioning that would have turned into a charge had the other candidate, Lael Brainard, been given the top job. And what “activist” means in this context is the imposition of a regulatory regime designed (directly or indirectly) to increase the cost of capital for fossil fuel companies, the justification for which would have been the supposed risk that climate change poses to the financial system. Anyone who thinks that this risk is real in any material sense — please remember that this is a discussion about the risk that climate change may pose to the financial system, not about climate change itself — should read John Cochrane’s latest Supply & Demand column. I discussed Cochrane’s column (and related matters) here. This risk is a confected, bogus risk, but as a device to implement policy in a way that avoids the usual democratic controls, it will do very nicely.

Under the circumstances, it was not, therefore, reassuring to read this in the Wall Street Journal:

The president, in his remarks at the White House on Monday, said Mr. Powell told him that he would make accelerating the Fed’s efforts to address the risks that climate change pose to the U.S. financial system a priority. . . .

The best, I think, that those who would prefer climate policy be decided by legislative action rather than administrative fiat can hope for is that Mr. Powell will be able to moderate or slow what is coming. That might be difficult.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Biden can put his stamp on the central bank with three additional appointments. There is already one vacancy on the Fed’s seven-member board of governors, and Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida’s term as governor will expire in January. The four-year term of the vice chair of bank supervision, previously held by current Fed governor Randal Quarles, expired in October and he plans to retire around the end of the year. Mr. Biden will announce those nominations in early December, the White House said Monday, likely prompting renewed efforts by progressive Democrats to influence the president’s picks.

Then there’s the small matter of inflation. A Fed with Powell, rather than Brainard, in charge is more likely to take action to deal with that formerly transitory problem, but that is a low bar. Complacency still seems to be the name of the game, but that has to change, and change soon, something that will not be easy.

To be sure, the Fed is starting to reduce its asset purchases, but the retreat from Quantitative Easing (QE) will not be completed until the middle of next year. Memories of the taper tantrum linger on, but they need to be overridden by memories of the inflationary past, a past that Mr. Powell is old enough to remember, and, hopefully, wise enough not to want to relive. To put it another way, the pace of this current taper needs to be sped up, opening the door to rate hikes sooner than is currently expected. With asset prices at the level they now are, that may well lead to those rough seas, but (to take the nautical analogy further, possibly, than it should go) they may well be the only route away from the inflationary storm.

Politics & Policy

Why the University of California System Is Wrong to Ditch the SAT

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The University of California system has taken a step that should surprise nobody — declaring that its admissions will henceforth be “test-free.”  Use of the SAT was suspended a couple of years ago and now we get the announcement that there is no satisfactory alternative.

Supposedly, high-school grades are the superior predictor of academic achievement, but that strains credulity. Some high schools have high standards and lots of motivated students; others have low standards and a barely literate student can look like a superstar. Mixing them at a UC campus is very problematic.

What UC is aiming at is a poorly disguised racial-quota system so the top schools won’t have too many Asians.

Culture

Glenn Loury’s Journey from Chicago’s South Side to the Ivy League and Beyond

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Professor Glenn Loury is in social sciences and economics at Brown University. Before that, he became a tenured professor of economics at Harvard at the age of 33. How he got from there to here is an inspiring and fascinating story of hard work and accomplishment that is explored in great detail in this interview. Professor Loury also explains the crucial role his parents and his extended family played in his education and his opinions. Now, in his 70s, Loury has become a leading spokesman on the right, often speaking out against woke culture prevalent on many campuses and other institutions. He also explains his radical (for an academic institution, at least) reading list and syllabus for the courses he teaches at Brown and how an undergraduate student/teaching assistant inspired Professor Loury to create a course intended to liberate his students from the “groupthink” that is far too prevalent at most universities.

Recorded at Fox News in NYC on October 28, 2021

Fiscal Policy

Cornyn Asks for CBO Score of Build Back Better without Gimmicks

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Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) speaks during the second day of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing before on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 13, 2020. (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

Senator John Cornyn today asked the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to provide a score of Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation with all provisions made permanent. In a letter to the CBO director and the chief of staff of the JCT, the Texas Republican writes, “I am concerned that the CBO score of H.R. 5376 is artificially low because of a number of timing gimmicks. Specifically, the legislation includes a number of arbitrary sunsets and expirations of several expensive programs, which disguise the true cost of making these policies permanent.”

He doesn’t accuse the CBO or JCT of being biased; on the contrary, he thanks them for their nonpartisan analysis. He’s right to do so. The CBO and JCT make mistakes, but they are not systematically biased against one party. Democrats complained mightily about Republicans using arbitrary sunsets and expirations in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. Both parties know the rules of budget scoring and use them to their advantage when writing legislation.

The CBO and JCT work for Congress. It’s entirely reasonable for members of Congress to ask them for specific reports. One user of their services has been Bernie Sanders, who has requested CBO reports on issues such as prescription drug prices and tax avoidance by the wealthy. It’s good to have an independent, nonpartisan research body that members of Congress can go to for answers to specific questions.

Cornyn’s question is solid. The CBO estimated that Build Back Better would increase the deficit by $160 billion over ten years, but that estimate was based on taking Democrats’ claims about temporary programs at face value. That was the proper thing to do based on Congress’s budget-scoring rules, but it doesn’t give an accurate picture of the cost of the legislation. Democrats do not actually intend for the programs to expire. If given the chance down the road, they will certainly extend them.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that with all programs made permanent, the cost of Build Back Better would roughly double, from $2.4 trillion to $4.9 trillion. The committee also found that the extensions of supposedly temporary programs would make the legislation more costly each year from 2027 through 2031.

The CBO would find something similar. Cornyn knows that, which is why he’s asking for the new report, so it’s all a bit of a political charade. It would nonetheless be beneficial to have an estimate from the CBO of Build Back Better with everything made permanent. The CBO is Congress’s only official scorekeeper, and there should be an official score of Build Back Better that treats the legislation as Democrats actually intend to implement it.

Elections

Al Gore Wasn’t ‘A Man’ about Losing

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Then-Vice President Al Gore gives his election concession speech from the Old Exexcutive Office Building in Washington, D.C., December 13, 2000. (Reuters)

Federal senior district judge Reggie Walton contends that Al Gore, unlike Donald Trump, was “a man” and “walked away” from the 2000 presidential election after losing. That’s not how I remember it. I remember Gore setting a destructive precedent, attacking the integrity of the system and then dragging the country through an unnecessarily divisive legal battle. Gore “walked away” only after the Supreme Court deprived him of any other legal path to try to claim Florida.

Like Trump and Hillary Clinton, Gore has never, as far as I can tell, definitively accepted his loss. The well-worn myth that the 2000 election was “stolen” from Gore is, in fact, still quite popular among conspiracy theorists on the left. When confronted with his past comments on the topic, Terry McAuliffe (who thought the 2004 election also was stolen) says that he wished “the United States Supreme Court had let them finish counting the votes” in 2000.

“They” did finish counting the votes. Bush won, and then Gore demanded selective recounts in the most heavily Democratic counties — without offering any genuine cause for the recount other than its being close. Democrats soon settled on the “hanging or dimpled chad” hysteria, and the media went about uncovering confused voters who made contentions that could never be verified. Gore’s lawyer Mark Herron also instructed Democratic recount observers to challenge Republican-heavy military overseas absentee ballots. (Democrats would later pretend this memo was overblown. But Ron Klain, the Gore campaign’s general counsel, led the charge in trying to exclude military votes.  “The idea that people were going to vote after the election and have those votes count,” he said, “that’s a pretty irregular idea.”)

Gore decided to throw it to courts. That’s when seven U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed that there was an Equal Protection Clause violation when attempting to use different standards of determining the validity of votes. And five of the justices decided that the law still mattered, finding that no constitutional grounds existed for ignoring state law and allowing recounts to go past a December 12 deadline. Only then, when all legal options were exhausted, did Gore walk away. He had no choice.

It is also always worth mentioning that even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed a hand recount to go on, using the loosest standards — counting partial punches and dimpled ballots — Bush still would have won. When the Miami Herald and USA Today recounted, they found that Bush expanded his 537-vote margin to 1,665. The National Opinion Research Center — which recounted the votes for the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others — also found that Bush would have won.

But like Donald Trump, Democrats have a tough time accepting a loss.

Education

Remote Learning Was a Disaster

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From a new working paper, out today via the National Bureau of Economic Research (emphasis mine):

We combine Spring 2021 state standardized test score data with comprehensive data on schooling in the 2020-21 school year across 12 states. We find that pass rates declined compared to prior years and that these declines were larger in districts with less in-person instruction. Passing rates in math declined by 14.2 percentage points on average; we estimate this decline was 10.1 percentage points smaller for districts fully in-person. Changes in English language arts scores were smaller, but were significantly larger in districts with larger populations of students who are Black, Hispanic or eligible for free and reduced price lunch.

Everyone age five and up has access to vaccines now — and kids were never at much risk to begin with. In the face of consequences on this scale, there are no more excuses for remote instruction, try as some districts might to find one.

Law & the Courts

What’s Wrong with a ‘Living’ Constitution?

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One of the most adroit bits of leftist phrase-mongering is the contrast between a “living Constitution” (what they want) and the “dead” one (which puts many obstacles in the way of big government).

Professor David Eisenberg of Eureka College has written an excellent essay on the “living Constitution” idea. The difference between the leftist conception and the actual Constitution is not that the latter is dead, but that it was meant to endure.

Eisenberg hits upon the truth when he observes that the “progressive” idea of an easily malleable constitution gives us “illimitable government.” We have been moving in that direction for the last century and, under Biden, we’re moving at nearly the speed of light. Politicians (and too many of the public) assume that any and every problem can and must be solved through action by the federal government.

In hindsight, the Founders look very wise in their efforts at creating a federal government of strictly limited powers.“

U.S.

Was the Waukesha Killer a Stoner?

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A person walks past a police car blocking Main Street the morning after a car plowed through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wis., November 22, 2021. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

“Person of Interest” Darrell Brooks Jr. has been taken into custody in connection with the Waukesha Christmas parade massacre. The news site Heavy.com has reported on Brooks’s social-media accounts, some of which have already been deleted, in addition to his lengthy criminal record and open felony cases in Wisconsin’s court system. According to the site’s story, among Brooks’s prior convictions are several instances of marijuana possession. And on one of his Twitter pages, he describes himself as a “stoner.”

Cannabis use is an often overlooked commonality among mass murderers and other violent offenders — one that the British journalist Peter Hitchens has warned about for some time. “No, not every marijuana smoker goes out and kills. So what?” Hitchens wrote in a piece for the Daily Mail, discussing the U.K.’s growing knife-crime problem. “Not every boozer gets into fights, or commits rape, or kills people with drunken driving. Not every cigarette smoker gets cancer or heart disease. But we act against these things because of the significant minority who do cause or experience these tragic outcomes.”

Hitchens argues that no normal-minded person commits what are objectively irrational and heinous acts. But drugs make for abnormal-mindedness. The scientific links between cannabis use and psychosis are well established. As I documented in a piece for The Spectator earlier this year:

A 2008 article in World Psychiatry, the top journal in the field, outlines the results of a 15-year prospective study in Sweden examining schizophrenia in over 50,000 Swedish conscripts. It found during its 27-year followup that, if the association they identify was indeed causal, ‘13 percent of cases of schizophrenia could be averted if all cannabis use were prevented’. A more recent 2019 study in the Lancet Psychiatry examined patterns of psychotic incidence across Europe in connection to cannabis use, and found that ‘daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users, increasing to nearly five-times increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis’. Moreover, they concluded that, assuming this association was causal (which the authors consider highly credible), as much as ‘20 percent of the new cases of psychotic disorder across all our sites could have been prevented if daily use of cannabis had been abolished’.

Researchers have also noted that: “Considerable evidence suggests that much of the violent behavior observed in the mentally ill is not random but is motivated and directed by psychotic symptoms. In many cases, the behavior appears to be a predictable and in some ways rational response to irrational beliefs (delusions) and perceptions (hallucinations).”

So how many mass murderers in the U.S. were also drug users? It’s an interesting question. Oddly, however, the police don’t seem particularly interested in the answer — policy-makers and the media, even less so.

The FBI found no motive in the Las Vegas massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — when Stephen Paddock killed 60 people and wounded 867 others. We know from the autopsy that he had anti-anxiety medication in his system. Was he using anything else? Devin Kelley, the Texas shooter who killed 26 people at First Baptist Church, was a marijuana user. Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the 21-year-old gunman in the Boulder supermarket shooting, was “paranoid” and socially awkward according to his brother. Given that paranoia and social isolation are common characteristics among chronic weed users, might he also have been a pothead?

Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured 53 more at a gay bar in Orlando, also admitted to marijuana use. Nikolas Cruz, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter, was a daily cannabis user. In his post-conviction comments, Cruz said, “I hate drugs, I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana.”

Of course, drugs are not the only driving factor behind senseless evil. Sometimes it’s ideology. Sometimes impenetrable badness. But our incuriosity on the subject is strange, to say the least.

Politics & Policy

Illinois to Repeal Pro-Life Parental-Involvement Law

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Pro-life activists carry a banner during the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Last month, both the Illinois State House and the State Senate voted to repeal the state’s pro-life parental-notice law. The legislation is currently on the desk of Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker, who has indicated that he will sign the repeal measure into law.

Sadly, Illinois minors soon will be able to obtain abortions without notifying their parents. Even worse, since many Midwestern states enforce parental involvement laws, minors from nearby states are likely to seek abortions in Illinois.

The parental-involvement law in Illinois has an interesting history. It was signed into law by Republican governor Jim Edgar in 1995, but because of numerous legal challenges, the law did not take effect until August 2013.

According to the most recent data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the number of abortions performed on minors in Illinois fell by more than 50 percent between 2012 and 2018. This is consistent with an extensive body of academic and policy research showing that parental-involvement laws reduce abortion rates among minors.

It should also be noted that these laws confer other important public-policy benefits. Peer-reviewed studies show that such laws lower teen pregnancy rates, teen suicide rates, and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among teens. This makes the forthcoming repeal of this Illinois law especially disappointing.

This is just the latest example of a blue state repealing a pro-life law in recent years. Both Illinois and Maine have begun paying for elective abortions through their Medicaid programs. In 2020, Massachusetts weakened its pro-life parental-involvement law, allowing 16- and 17-year-old girls to obtain abortions without parental consent. Also in 2020, Virginia repealed both its waiting-period requirement and informed-consent law.

In recent decades, the Democratic Party has significantly shifted to the left on life issues in recent years, jeopardizing the Hyde amendment at the federal level and state level pro-life laws in blue states. As always, pro-lifers would do well to be diligent.

Elections

The Professional Resistance Desperately Wants Trump to Be the Republican Nominee in 2024

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Former President Donald Trump looks on at his first post-presidency campaign rally in Wellington, Ohio, June 26, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

A lot of people publicly said they were horrified by Donald Trump’s rise in American politics. Some of us meant it. We may talk about Trump and the events he inspired because they are still newsworthy, but fundamentally, we are looking forward to a post-Trump Republican Party. For others, however, Trump was either just a convenient club with which to bash Republicans, or a meal ticket. It has been obvious for quite some time now who is in the latter camp: those people in the Resistance or the Never Trump factions who won’t stop obsessing over Trump and won’t let him go away. We saw that in people who actually preferred Trump to Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio in 2016. We saw it in people who opposed Glenn Youngkin’s brand of post-Trump rather than against-Trump Republicanism.

Talking to CNN’s Gabby Orr and Steve Contorno, Rick Wilson of the Lincoln Project gave the game away:

Some Trump foes have picked up on the former President’s jealousy and are using it to advance their own objectives. Next week, Palm Beach televisions, perhaps including those in Mar-a-Lago, will once again air a commercial by the Lincoln Project intended to remind Trump that DeSantis is the new GOP “it” guy. Rick Wilson, one of the ex-Republicans behind the Lincoln Project, is hoping to provoke a very specific reaction from Trump. “We want Trump to kill his own babies,” Wilson said. “We believe if we narrow the field and it’s only Trump in 2024, it’s an easy choice for Americans to say ‘no.'”

As with a number of Resistance and Never Trump organizations, the Lincoln Project’s fundraising is so pervasively built around being Against Trump that its leaders cannot abide by the idea of having no Trump around to be against. Just remember, the next time these folks lecture people about what a bad thing it is to have Trump in American politics: They want it that way.

Music

Tuning In

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A student practices on her cello before competing in the annual Feis Ceoil classical-music competition in Dublin, Ireland, April 2, 2019. (Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters)

A couple of links for you: to my latest Music for a While and to my latest Q&A. About the former first: The new episode is titled “Joy in Music,” in homage to Nelson Freire. A Brazilian pianist, he passed away this month. Here is a portion of the relevant obit in the New York Times:

In “Nelson Freire,” a 2003 documentary film, he is shown watching a video of a joyous Errol Garner playing jazz piano. “I’ve never seen anyone play with such pleasure,” he said.

“That’s how I found the piano,” Mr. Freire continued. “The piano was the moment, when I was little, when I felt pleasure. I’m not happy after a concert if I haven’t felt that kind of pleasure for at least a moment. . . .”

The Q&A is with Daniel Asia, a composer, educator, and activist, in a sense. He wants to defend music against the philistines and barbarians. He is a professor at the University of Arizona, and the president of the American Culture and Ideas Initiative. Not long ago, he published a collection — a collection of articles, I mean (apart from his symphonies, operas, chamber works, etc.): Observations on Music, Culture, and Politics. (I wrote the foreword.)

Dan is from Seattle, like Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones. Did he ever know them? No, he tells me in our podcast. But look: He was in the same class as Paul Allen, one year ahead of Bill Gates. Those two — Gates and Allen — went on to a career in computers or something.

Daniel Asia has had any number of interesting life-experiences. For instance, he studied in Berlin — West Berlin — where he was told that there was no real difference between the eastern part of the city and the western. That’s odd, he thought. They shoot people who try to get over the Wall, from east to west. No one tries to get over the Wall the other way. And if they did, no one would shoot them.

I think of Caspar Weinberger. (Some of my critics accuse me of “zombie Reaganism.”) While defense secretary, he made the point that soldiers along the border between West Germany and East Germany — NATO soldiers and Warsaw Pact soldiers — were all facing the same way: east. Funny, that.

Anyway, back to music: The state of music education is deplorable, says Dan Asia. He would know. He has a front-row seat. American young people may be well-informed in some areas, but, about music, they know nothing. I mean, squat. Does it matter? And what can be done?

Also, what is the threat of “wokeness”? (Terrific.)

You will very much enjoy getting to know Daniel Asia. Again, he is here, and that Music for a While, here.

Law & the Courts

Kenosha Misinformation

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A thread listing 15 widely believed falsehoods about the Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse cases.

Culture

Our Social Pathologies Are Changing — and Maybe for the Worse

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(Sneksy/Getty Images)

Yuval Levin has an excellent essay in The Dispatch in which he describes the changing nature of our underlying social pathologies.

For many decades in America, it seemed like the chief obstacle to human flourishing was our impulsive recalcitrance—an excess of dynamism and energy that our society failed to shape into responsibility and constructive action. Chaos broke down the lives of millions and denied the promise of the free society to countless children, who then seemed destined to fall into chaos for another generation. Too many Americans were living their lives out of order—having sex too soon, becoming parents too early, jumping into life too quickly and without restraint or preparation.

That is certainly a dangerous kind of disorder, and one that is still very much with us too. It has not gone away by any means. But it has been joined by a more profound and fundamental problem that might be best described as a disordered passivity—a failure to launch, which leaves too many Americans on the sidelines of life, unwilling or unable to jump in.

The pathologies of passivity are more fundamental challenges to flourishing because they strike deeper and earlier than the dangers of unruliness. Habits and institutions of restraint can work like sculptors of the social order—selectively chipping away at our wild, boisterous pursuit of happiness to shape it into more beautiful forms of energetic human action. But what if we fail to act on our longings to begin with? What if there is nothing to restrain, and so no raw material for the sculptor to work with? The right to pursue happiness won’t do us much good if we don’t exercise it.

Levin, my colleague at AEI, links this to politics:

Social inertness is surely a response in part to the breakdown of the traditional social order itself: The waning of the life scripts provided by family, religion, and widespread traditional social norms leaves younger Americans less sure of where to step and how to build their lives.

Among other things, this likely contributes to the growing tendency to look to politics for such scripts, and so to seek more assertive and moralistic social agendas, whether of the left or right. The case for such agendas easily becomes too strident and desperate, and it runs the risk of drawing some among the young into a depraved and vicious vitalism. But it is rooted in the valid perception of a moral void that is surely at the bottom of much of the pathological passivity we now encounter.

But perhaps more so:

While these cultural and material forces do drive a few young Americans toward combative modes of political rhetoric, they mostly add up to a rising generation acutely averse to risk, and so to every form of dynamism. Excessive risk aversion now often deforms parenting, education, work, leadership, and fellowship in our society. It is intertwined with a more general tendency toward inhibition and constriction—with Americans walking on eggshells around each other in many of our major institutions, and with codes of speech and conduct becoming increasingly prevalent. We live in a time that is prudish yet not prescriptive—that stifles the public arena while denying us recourse to private arenas and tells us how not to behave without showing us how to thrive.

“Seeing it doesn’t mean we know what to do about it.” But in the essay, Levin sketches a vision that is well worth considering.

Law & the Courts

No, Self Defense Isn’t a Tool of White Oppression

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Glenn Greenwald notes two cases that cut against the Left’s narrative of the Rittenhouse case and that, of course, haven’t gotten any significant air-time:

Law & the Courts

‘Woke Racialism Is a Clear and Present Danger to the American System’

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I wrote today on the home page about the reaction to the Rittenhouse verdict:

At the end of the day, many of the people outraged by the Rittenhouse verdict have no use for the notions of armed self-defense, trial by jury, and reasonable doubt — long-standing bulwarks of our system — if they are obstacles to punishing and acquitting people based on a grand woke narrative of America.

In this worldview, Kyle Rittenhouse is what was once known as a class enemy — guilty by definition.

What woke progressives ultimately want is a justice system that looks more like campus sexual-assault tribunals, where the accused is presumed to be guilty based on his status and the tried-and-true practices of our adversarial system have been discarded. Then, Kyle Rittenhouse wouldn’t have stood a chance, and a righteous blow would ostensibly have been struck against white supremacy.

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden Can’t Deter Anyone

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks after touring the General Motors ‘Factory ZERO’ electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, Mich., November 17, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Apparently, U.S. allies are noticing the growing gap between Joe Biden’s “America is back!” rallying cry, and the actions of his administration.

From Afghanistan to the Jan. 6 insurrection to congressional paralysis, attendees expressed their fears and doubts about the health of American democracy and questioned Washington’s commitments to countering Beijing or Moscow. It turned the 2021 Halifax International Security Forum into less of a celebration of President Joe Biden’s agenda and more of a global intervention for a nation in crisis.

As we look around the world, it may not just be American allies who see the Biden administration offering a lot of tough and confident talk, but not much tough and confident action. The administration wants to deter a lot of hostile states from taking more aggressive steps . . . with very limited results so far.

Bloomberg: “Intelligence has been conveyed to some NATO members over the past week to back up U.S. concerns about Putin’s possible intentions and an increasingly frantic diplomatic effort to deter him from any incursion [into Ukraine], with European leaders engaging directly with the Russian president. The diplomacy is informed by an American assessment that Putin could be weighing an invasion early next year as his troops again mass near the border.”

U.S. News and World Report:

The People’s Liberation Army, China’s name for its military, is capable of landing at least 25,000 troops on [Taiwan] to establish an initial beachhead, according to the newly released annual report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressionally appointed agency designed to provide specific and nonpartisan national security and economic advice to Congress and the president.

Further complicating existing U.S. efforts to deter China from seizing control of Taiwan by force are new tactics the PLA has employed that offset some of the U.S. military’s potency in the region. The report documents that the Chinese military has trained with barges, ferries and other civilian vessels to transport military troops across the Taiwan Straits or elsewhere — in addition to more conventional military transports.

“Given these deployments, it has become less certain that U.S. conventional military forces alone will continue to deter China’s leaders from initiating an attack on Taiwan,” the report concludes.

The Financial Times:

Experts at DARPA, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, remain unsure how China managed to fire countermeasures from a vehicle travelling at hypersonic speeds, said the people familiar with details of the demonstration.

The New York Times:

American intelligence officials and international inspectors say the Iranians have quickly gotten the facilities back online — often installing newer machines that can enrich uranium at a far more rapid pace. When a plant that made key centrifuge parts suffered what looked like a crippling explosion in late spring — destroying much of the parts inventory and the cameras and sensors installed by international inspectors — production resumed by late summer.

One senior American official wryly called it Tehran’s Build Back Better plan.

And over in Afghanistan:

The Taliban is hoping to expand its drug income as much as possible. Since its takeover, prices of opium in Afghanistan have more than tripled. In India — which is situated between the world’s two main opium-producing centres, the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran “Golden Crescent” and the Myanmar-Thailand-Lao “Golden Triangle” — seizures of Afghan-origin heroin have increased.

As the UN Office on Drugs and Crime warns, the economic crisis Afghanistan currently faces will only increase the appeal of illicit crop cultivation for local farmers.

The problem extends beyond opioids. In recent years, Afghanistan has drastically expanded its production of methamphetamine. The appeal lies in the fact that meth offers producers a higher profit margin than heroin, owing to lower overhead costs and inexpensive ingredients, especially now that its chemical precursor, pseudoephedrine — a common ingredient in cold medications — is being produced locally.

And all of these stories are in the last few days.

Politics & Policy

History Professor’s Follies Revealed Once Again

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Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean has become famous for her ad hominem attacks on economists who advocated limited government. First she went after James Buchanan, and then most recently, Milton Friedman.  Her “scholarship” is not meant to elicit truth but to advance the leftist claim that anyone who argues against their omnipotent government agenda must at heart be an evil person.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Phil Magness, who has been quite busy refuting her for a few years now, responds to her attack on Friedman with a letter, “Smearing Milton Friedman, Excusing the Teachers’ Union.”

But it would be too much to expect an admission of error from MacLean, much less an apology for having besmirched the character of an upstanding man.

Politics & Policy

‘Build Back Better’ Won’t Bring Back Low Inflation

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My latest column:

President Joe Biden has taken to saying that the Democrats’ “Build Back Better” legislation will reduce inflation. This spin isn’t just unconvincing. It underscores the absurdity of the Democrats’ political project.

The first weakness of Biden’s argument is that the timing is all wrong. On Nov. 10, the White House issued a prepared statement from Biden claiming that “17 Nobel Prize winners in economics have said that my plan will ‘ease inflationary pressures.’ ”

What they actually said is that it will “ease longer-term inflationary pressures.” . . .

PC Culture

J. K. Rowling Won’t Back Down

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J. K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, recently shared with her 14 million Twitter followers that she has been doxed by transgender activists. “I’ve now received so many death threats I could paper the house with them, and I haven’t stopped speaking out,” the billionaire author wrote. “Perhaps — and I’m just throwing this out there — the best way to prove your movement isn’t a threat to women, is to stop stalking, harassing and threatening us.”

Politics & Policy

FDA Will Take 55 Years to Answer FOIA on Vaccine-Approval Data

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The FDA headquarters in White Oak, Md., August 29, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The other day, outgoing NIH head Francis Collins griped that people don’t place enough trust in public-health officials. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because the public is being denied the information needed to judge important questions of policy and competence.

Case in point: Some activists sent the FDA a Freedom of Information Act request about the data that went into approving the vaccine. The FDA agreed to provide said data — in 55 years! From the Reuters story: 

Freedom of Information Act requests are rarely speedy, but when a group of scientists asked the federal government to share the data it relied upon in licensing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, the response went beyond typical bureaucratic foot-dragging.

As in 55 years beyond.

That’s how long the Food & Drug Administration in court papers this week proposes it should be given to review and release the trove of vaccine-related documents responsive to the request. If a federal judge in Texas agrees, plaintiffs Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency can expect to see the full record in 2076.

Excuses, excuses!

The plaintiffs, a group of more than 30 professors and scientists from universities including Yale, Harvard, UCLA and Brown, filed suit in September in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, seeking expedited access to the records. They say that releasing the information could help reassure vaccine skeptics that the shot is indeed “safe and effective and, thus, increase confidence in the Pfizer vaccine.”

But the FDA can’t simply turn the documents over wholesale. The records must be reviewed to redact “confidential business and trade secret information of Pfizer or BioNTech and personal privacy information of patients who participated in clinical trials,” wrote DOJ lawyers in a joint status report filed Monday.

The FDA proposes releasing 500 pages per month on a rolling basis, noting that the branch that would handle the review has only 10 employees and is currently processing about 400 other FOIA requests.

Yeah, well call it “FOIA Infrastructure” and hire more people!

How ridiculous can you get? And how likely to sow greater distrust — by the very people who continually bleat, “Trust the experts!”

Politics & Policy

Another Medical School Goes ‘Woke’

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(Zoran Zeremski/iStock/Getty Images)

The Left’s “long march through the institutions” continues. Higher education started falling into line decades ago. And in recent years, professional schools have started doing so. Yes, that includes medicine.

In today’s Martin Center article, John Sailer writes about the conquest of the University of North Carolina’s medical school by the forces of “social justice.”

Sailer writes, “In June of 2020, the School of Medicine created a ‘Task Force to Integrate Social Justice into the Curriculum.’ As the title suggests, its purpose is to make social justice an omnipresent feature of the School of Medicine. It was charged with making recommendations regarding faculty development, curricula, and the general learning environment. The Task Force delivered its Final Report in October of 2020. The report lists and elaborates on 42 recommendations. These include requiring students to engage in political advocacy, integrating a list of social justice concepts into teaching, creating a mandatory social justice curriculum, and overhauling the school’s approach to assessment.”

This clearly is not mere virtue-signaling by officials. They mean it.

Take a look at the new promotion and tenure guidelines:

Application of material learned in DEI trainings (e.g. Safe Zone, Unconscious Bias, Implicit Bias, etc.) to promote an environment of cultural awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity.

Performing DEI or social justice-focused lectures to students, residents, or peers.

Leading a discussion or professional development activity on DEI topics.

Participating in local postgraduate or continuing medical education DEI courses.

Preparing DEI or social justice curriculum materials.

Either put your efforts in “social justice” stuff or out you go.

Health Care

End ‘COVID Apartheid’

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Jamie Horning raises a sign to protest against the coronavirus vaccine mandates at Summa Health Hospital in Akron, Ohio, August 16, 2021. (Stephen Zenner/Reuters)

We continue to be humbled by the COVID learning process, and unfortunately one of the things we’re learning is that, though the vaccines provide strong protection against death and serious illness, initial hopes that they would also guard against infection and transmission have been pretty comprehensively rebutted by facts. Sad, and maybe surprising, but true: Vaccinated people get infected and pass on the virus. As Bill Gates put it, “We didn’t have vaccines that block transmission. We got vaccines that help you with your health, but they only slightly reduce the transmission. We need a new way of doing the vaccines.”

If anything, vaccinated people pose more of a danger to get infected, at least in the U.K. right now. The Spectator columnist Lionel Shriver notes, “In every age group over 30 in the UK, the rates of Covid infection per 100,000 are now higher among the vaxxed than the unvaxxed. Indeed, in the cohorts aged between 40 and 79, infection rates among the vaccinated are more than twice as high as among the unvaccinated.”

Shriver brings up a fine point: Why do we bother with this elaborate process of separating the vaccinated and the unvaccinated? If you’re sitting in a room with lots of vaccinated people, you are at much the same risk you would face among lots of unvaccinated people. Granted, if you are vaccinated, the risk of suffering serious illness if you get infected is minimal. But this impulse to shun and banish the unvaccinated seems utterly pointless.

Shriver calls what we’re doing “COVID apartheid” and says it must end. Is she wrong? If vaccinated people can spread the virus nearly as easily as the unvaccinated, why bother making sharp distinctions? The answer, it seems obvious to both me and Shriver, is that elites simply have a knee-jerk loathing of unvaccinated people and want to socially sanction them with all possible weapons. “The myth of ultra-contagious anti-vaxxers dispersing plague like rats in the Middle Ages has fostered gratuitous rancour and division,” Shriver writes. “A friend in New York declared recently that she hoped all the unvaccinated would simply die.”