Culture

‘Its Political Nature’

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J. K. Rowling in New York City, 2016 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Today is J. K. Rowling’s birthday. Until recently, the author was most famous for writing Harry Potter, the best-selling book series in history. These days, though, she is more famous for her alleged “transphobia”; i.e., her statements about the biological reality of sex and women’s-only spaces, which have sparked the ire of transgender activists and extremists.

To celebrate her birthday, a woman’s-rights campaigner, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, paid around $1,600 for an advertisement that simply read “I [heart] JK Rowling,” which was put up at the main train station in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

But as happened with Keen-Minshull’s previous billboard campaign displaying the dictionary definition of the word “woman,” the advertisement was soon taken down because of, what Network Rail described as, “its political nature”

Keen-Minshull told The Times of London: “I am astounded that they have found a way to take it down. We are in incredibly sinister times when an expression of love and solidarity is perceived to be hateful.”

Sinister times indeed. . .

Politics & Policy

In Illinois, Take the Corruption, Lose the American History

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Illinois State Representative Michael Madigan holds up a photo of Donald Trump after he was re-elected as Speaker of the House, Springfield, Ill., January 11, 2017. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Democrats have always been a party of special-interest factions without a lot in common, who work together by trading favors that each wants. This morning’s Politico Illinois Playbook perfectly captures the strange-bedfellow dynamic.

The first item is about Illinois’ notoriously corrupt House speaker, Michael Madigan, an old-timey machine pol who for decades has been the only figure who really matters in how Illinois is run. His daughter Lisa was the state’s attorney general for 16 years. Madigan is embroiled in a federal influence-peddling investigation so ugly that even a handful of Illinois Democrats have finally postured publicly in favor of him stepping down, but he’s going nowhere:

The unusual, late-night statement indicates Madigan, a master at counting votes, has the support of at least 60 House members. That’s what he would need to keep his speaker position, which comes up again in January. Before his announcement, seven Democratic lawmakers had called on the speaker to step down from his leadership roles rather than work under a cloud of suspicion. And he had spent the day calling caucus members to gauge their support. . . .

That it’s women in the caucus calling for Madigan’s exit isn’t lost on lawmakers. The sexual harassment complaints that dogged some of his aides in 2018 still haunt. Madigan fired his top lieutenants and now counts a woman as his chief of staff. But a “bullying environment” persists in Springfield, Martinez told Playbook.

Racial politics, the first refuge of the scoundrel, works in Madigan’s favor:

“He wanted to know if I was going to be calling for his resignation,” state Rep. La Shawn Ford told Playbook. “I said, ‘If you can affirm that you’re innocent and that you believe the investigation is not something that will lead to an indictment and conviction, then I’m with you.’” Others in the Black Caucus also stand by Madigan, and there’s good reason: The 22-member group is pulling together a “Black agenda,” a package of legislation being crafted after the police killing of George Floyd, much of which Madigan has endorsed. The members would likely prefer a trusted ally in the driver’s seat over a new speaker who may not help push through their agenda items.

Meanwhile, Ford is busy trying to purge the teaching of American history entirely from Illinois schools until it can be replaced with woke indoctrination:

Watch for State Rep. La Shawn Ford and Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty to announce a new initiative to end U.S. history classes in schools until alternative programming can be developed that gives a full telling of how the United States came to be. “What’s being taught is inaccurate,” Ford told Playbook, pointing to Blacks being “wrongly” depicted only as slaves during the birth of the nation and women not being portrayed much at all. The debate over history classes is a national one too. Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) set off a firestorm when he introduced legislation to bar federal funding for schools that use The New York Times’ 1619 Project. . . . Ford, Hagerty and advocates for women and Black, Latino, Asian, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups are meeting Sunday to address contributions that have been “overlooked” by history books for decades. Instead of teaching “inaccuracies,” said Ford, teachers would do better to focus on civics. This country could use it.

It is not coincidental that the 1619 Project’s educational arm has trained its fire heavily on Chicago schools, where its curriculum was introduced in the fall. Expect more agitprop and misleading narratives. This is the Democratic coalition operating as it is designed.

Elections

Karen Bass? Really?

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Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 17, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters)

I have a gut feeling that most Americans will not react enthusiastically to a vice-presidential selection that they’ve never heard of before. This is a separate question from whether someone with low name recognition would make a good vice president. I just think that if someone’s first reaction to a running mate announcement is, “Wait, who?” then that selection will have some skepticism or wariness to overcome. I think many Americans just instinctively believe that if you’re going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, they should have heard about you by now.

CNN reports that Representative Karen Bass of California, “the 66-year-old chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has gained real traction in the late stage of the search.” If selected, few modern running-mate selections could compete for the surprise factor, other than perhaps John McCain selecting Sarah Palin in 2008.

Yes, Karen Bass been in elected office since 2004 and spent two years as speaker of the California state assembly, but her nationwide name recognition must be close to zero. I can’t give you numbers on Karen Bass’s name recognition nationwide, because as far as I can tell, no pollster has ever asked about her outside of California. I suspect many self-identified political junkies couldn’t name more than one or two facts about her.

If selected, Bass would be something of a blank slate. That is not inherently bad, but her selection would set off a mad dash to define her in the eyes of the electorate, with the Trump campaign spotlighting everything bad and controversial and the Biden campaign spotlighting all of Bass’s career highlights. Biden and his allies in the media probably would win that battle . . . but maybe not.

Maybe the Biden campaign wants to do something surprising. Perhaps his team believes that despite Biden’s current lead in the polls, he could still be sunk by a lack of enthusiasm among the Democratic grassroots and a sense that he’s running a very boring, cautious campaign that mostly focuses on the fact that Biden is not Donald Trump. But a surprising veep pick would be a really odd decision, as Biden won the Democratic nomination in large part because he is the familiar, trusted old reliable. Biden won, I suspect, in part because he’s relatively boring and vanilla in a world where we’ve had one giant shock after another, and because in the Trump presidency, every day is a circus.

There’s a long tradition of trying to “balance the ticket” in American politics. That phenomenon always has an odd subtext of, “God forbid, if something ever happens to me and I cannot perform the duties of the presidency, the best person to take over is someone who is really different from me in a lot of ways.”

Elections

Biden and Taxpayer-Funded Abortion

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., July 14, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

As John McCormack noted earlier this morning, several House Democrats are pushing a bill creatively titled the “Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020,” which they describe as the first legislative effort to repeal the Helms amendment.

Since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, Congress has routinely attached the Helms amendment to fiscal bills to prohibit U.S. foreign aid from directly funding “performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions,” a policy that the Democratic sponsors of the new legislation decry as “deeply rooted in racism.”

The Helms amendment goes hand in hand with the Mexico City policy, which every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan has enacted to prevent non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion overseas from receiving U.S. funding. Under President Trump, that policy was expanded to apply to all foreign-health assistance provided by government agencies, including the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and the Defense Department.

According to the Washington Post, if elected, Joe Biden will follow the example of his Democratic predecessors in reversing the policy as soon as he takes office. “Biden will use executive action on his first day in office to withdraw the Mexico City ‘global gag rule,’” his spokesperson said, using the parlance of those who promote unlimited legal abortion.

Meanwhile, in his “unity taskforce” recommendations developed in cooperation with Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden asserts, “Democrats believe that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion.”

The vague wording leaves room for Biden to claim he’s telling the truth, but public opinion on abortion is actually much more complex than he makes it sound. A Gallup poll from last summer, for instance, found that less than 40 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, it’s certainly not the case that Democrats favor taxpayer-funded abortion, let alone overseas. According to a 2018 survey from Marist/Knights of Columbus, Democrats were almost evenly split on whether taxpayer dollars should fund abortion in the U.S., with about 45 percent saying they oppose the practice. In 2017, the same survey found that an overwhelming majority of Democrats (70 percent) opposed taxpayer-funded abortion around the globe.

On this element of abortion policy, as with abortion policy more generally, Biden is out of step not only with the average American, but with voters in his own party.

Culture

Why Moralistic Film Criticism?

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“Morality? What’s morality?” Armond White asks sarcastically in his disquisition on the “Antifa Film Syllabus.”

With respect, it seems to me that this kind of moralistic evaluation of films is very much in the same spirit as the moralistic evaluation of statuary (and films and young-adult novels and everything else) we are seeing from the mob of the moment. I have never been exactly clear on what the moralistic criticism of films or other such works is intended to accomplish. Are we supposed to think Joker is a poor film, or a film we should think poorly of, because it is consonant with the nihilistic mood of the moment?

(Surely it is too much to think that these films are individually or collectively the cause of that mood.)

If given a choice between a moralists’ cinema that excludes No Country for Old Men — one of the greatest and most morally serious films of our time — and an “Antifa syllabus” that includes it, I suppose have a black bandana around here somewhere. If our political commitments mean that we cannot enjoy Pulp Fiction or The Dark Knight (which is esoteric Straussianism anyway, right?) or — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — Vertigo, then maybe our political commitments are too restrictive.

Politics & Policy

Speaking of George Wallace . . .

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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about his plans to combat racial inequality at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Barack Obama is, of course, free to compare Donald Trump to Bull Connor or George Wallace for sending federal police to protect a courthouse in Portland — even if the violence in that city is largely perpetrated by white Marxist Antifa types and has nothing to do with equality.

But since Obama brought it up, it’s worth noting that the only person in modern American politics to have repeatedly praised Wallace and other segregationists is Joe Biden. It was Biden who bragged that in 1973 Wallace considered him “one of the outstanding young politicians of America.” It was Biden who wrote in 1975 that the “Democratic Party could stand a liberal George Wallace.” It was Biden who in 1981 told a black witness in the Senate that “sometimes even George Wallace is right.” It was Biden who, while campaigning for the presidency in Alabama in 1987, claimed that he’d been the recipient of an award from Wallace in 1973 (it probably wasn’t true; but what a thing to brag about!), and then boasted that Delaware was “on the South’s side in the Civil War.”

Not long ago, Biden alleged that his relationship with pro-segregationist senators such as James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge was nothing more than a matter of “civility.” That contention is easily debunked. “Eastland was particularly anxious to mentor young members,” historian J. Lee Annis notes in his book Big Jim Eastland: The Godfather of Mississippi. “One favorite over the last term was Joseph Biden, who then was best known for having lost his wife and young daughter in an automobile accident.” Annis goes on to write that Biden showed “considerable deference” to the racist senator, allying with him on numerous bills and seeking his mentorship. Biden confirmed the relationship himself, writing in his 2007 biography, “I started by asking him questions. He was proud of his standing as the longest-serving senator and of his reputation as a keeper of the institutional flame. I think he was flattered by the deference I showed him, and his answers to my questions often surprised me.” (Italics mine.)

Biden was also buddies with J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a segregationist and anti-Semite who would later become a mentor to the Clintons. Biden eulogized Strom Thurmond, and at one point called the one-time Dixiecrat candidate and later Republican one of his “closest friends.” It was more than friendship. Nadine Cohodas notes in her book, Strom Thurmond & the Politics of Southern Change, that: “Biden had developed a genuine fondness for Thurmond. The young Democrat appreciated Thurmond’s political skill — he realized he was sitting next to a living piece of history — and he respected the straight-up way they could deal with one another. When Biden became Judiciary’s senior Democrat, he had promised Thurmond he would never do anything to undercut him. Thurmond had always reciprocated.”

All of this history deserves context, but it’s indisputable that in the 1970s the senators were friendly. (Though, I guess, I should also mention that the last time black kids were kicked out of a school by the federal government, it was the Obama administration shutting down the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.) But if every media outlet is going to gleefully quote Obama on Wallace, let’s talk about it. I get the sense that if a GOP presidential nominee had a similarly sordid history, it would be far more newsworthy — especially in an age of “racial injustice reckoning.”

Politics & Policy

Barr-room Brawl

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Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 15, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

I’ll confess that I did not watch the entire Judiciary Committee hearing with Bill Barr; I’m grateful that Andy and Rich did the work for me. But I have seen enough of it to fully agree with their sentiments. It was a circus, full of gross process fouls, and everyone who is familiar at all with Congress knows it.

I was chairman of a House committee for four years. The best chairman I ever served under before or since was Ron Dellums of California, who chaired the House Armed Services Committee during my first term. Ron was pretty much an open socialist, and I didn’t agree with him about anything. But he was a gentleman and smart as a whip, and watching him chair a committee was a great lesson for anybody who had the sense to realize it.

The chairman of a committee is and should be a partisan for his own policy agenda. He expresses that by the subjects he chooses to investigate or legislate, the witnesses he chooses to testify, the timing of hearings, and the activities of the staff he directs.

It’s the privilege of the majority to set and pursue its agenda. But when the hearings begin, the chairman has to act in a more balanced way, like a judge in a courtroom.

Of course styles vary; I was always very informal, for example, and I bent the rules to encourage lively discussion and a debate-like atmosphere. That was partly selfish on my part. Chairmen have to sit through the entire hearing; hearings are, generally, long and dull affairs; and I am easily bored. I liked to stir things up.

But whatever a chairman’s stylistic preference, he has to be even-handed in executing it. Everyone deserves a chance to participate and to advance and defend their views, and the chairman is the guardian of that equity. That’s not just basic fairness; it’s a matter of respect for the constitutional processes, and of the verdict of the people, by which both elected and appointed officers hold their positions.

The five-minute rule was much in display in the Barr hearing. It’s a necessary rule, because otherwise the more junior members would never get the chance to ask questions. But it’s not a straitjacket. The chairman has discretion to give colleagues or witnesses a little more time when it advances the purposes of the hearings.

If the witness is filibustering rather than responding — and that tactic is quite commonly used by seasoned cabinet secretaries and sub-cabinet officials — the chairman should simply remind them that if they don’t respond to the question within the five-minute limit, he’ll allow the member more time to pin the witness down.

Another possibility is for the chairman to take a few minutes himself to follow up on an intriguing question before recognizing the next member. I always reserved to myself and the ranking member the right to ask as many questions as either of us wanted. Usually we would both wait until the end of the hearing out of courtesy to our colleagues, but if a more timely intervention was helpful to establish an important point, I didn’t hesitate to make it, and I never denied the ranking member that opportunity either.

Here is what a chairman should not do.

He should not allow repeated interruptions of witnesses, whether in the name of “reclaiming my time” or not. Members don’t have to ask questions with their time — they can use their entire five minutes to make a statement if they want — but if they ask a question, the witness has to be allowed to answer it.

He should never allow either members or witnesses to be attacked without giving them a chance to respond. It’s fine for members to get rough with witnesses who are professionals, such as government officials, representatives of special-interest groups, or big-shot public figures — as long as the member is willing to take it as well as dish it out. Any member of either party who is afraid of a devastating response should not initiate the attack.

One other ironclad rule for chairing a committee hearing: If, after hours of testifying, a witness needs a bathroom break, you have to give it to him.

Nobody is perfect of course, and occasionally hearings get out of hand, especially in highly partisan committees such as Judiciary. The Democrats on the committee were probably upset by the fact that Barr had dodged testifying for a year. I understand that, but the way they handled the hearing just vindicated Barr’s reluctance.

An able witness is an able witness, and the current attorney general is very accomplished in what he does. He may beat you if you treat him fairly, but he’ll certainly make you look foolish if you don’t.

As I said, this is all a matter of basic fairness and respect for the Constitution. But it’s also important to the effectiveness and reputation of the chairman and the party he represents. There is a reason stories about the Barr hearing received such play on conservative media. Nobody who watched the hearing, and who was not a convinced Democrat, came away from it with a good opinion of the House majority. And I suspect even Democratic partisans realized it was an unforced error and an epic fail.

Politics & Policy

What Would Be the Best Way to Run against a Biden-Rice Ticket?

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Over on the home page, I take a look at 20 things you probably didn’t know about Susan Rice — and Benghazi isn’t one of them, because you almost certainly already know about that. In about a week, that list is going to look prescient and important . . . or quickly forgotten. And I noted in today’s Jolt that if Joe Biden instinctively surrounds himself with familiar faces he already knows and trusts, then I think Rice is the most likely selection.

A smart mind asked me whether the Trump campaign would hammer a Biden-Rice ticket on Russiagate. That’s a likely scenario, but I’m not convinced a focus on Russiagate would be the right message for Trump and the GOP in the circumstances of a pandemic, a steep uphill climb on the economy, etc. Trump and Mike Pence would be better served by talking about the future and what he’ll do in a second term, etc. Although maybe the Trump campaign could get some traction with the argument, “If this crew was willing to break the law and investigate me and demonize me, imagine what they could do to you if they get back into the White House again!”

I think if I were trying to run against Biden-Rice, my message would be something like, “You know Joe Biden is likely to be out in one way or another within a year or two, and then in a President Susan Rice, you’ve got everything you didn’t like about Hillary Clinton — dishonesty, arrogance, self-righteousness, entitlement, disregard for others and the law, right in the Oval Office, which is what you voted to prevent back in 2016!”

Politics & Policy

Paine

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If your mind is your church, you’re probably worshipping a false god.

Culture

The Progressive Patriarchy Advances

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(Demetrius Freeman/Reuters)

A while back, I wrote a piece here at NRO about why I believe feminism and radical gender ideology are incompatible. The occasion for those thoughts was the participation of Angela Ponce, a biological male who identifies as a woman, in the 2018 Miss Universe pageant and the general acclaim with which most of the media greeted this individual.

On entering the pageant, Ponce wrote on Instagram: “Today I am here, proudly representing my nation, all women and human rights,” and later said of the possibility of winning the competition, “Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. If they give me the crown, it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.”

In response to this, I posed the question (which is enough to get you drummed out of polite company and off of most social-media platforms these days): Can Ponce actually “represent all women” without being a woman at all?

Since I wrote that article, developments on this front have only escalated, with this recent CNN tweet as a prime example:

For those who aren’t up to date on the latest intersectional lingo, “individuals with a cervix” is one of the approved progressive ways to refer to biological women, as it supposedly takes into account transgender and “non-binary” individuals. So, for instance, a biological woman who identifies as a man might still be an “individual with a cervix,” and using this phrase includes such a person, while the word “woman” would not.

Likewise, “individuals with a cervix” might, from the perspective of radical gender theory, be taken to include biological men who identify as women and who, despite not having a cervix, need to be included in the category of what we’d typically consider “women” and yet might be excluded by the use of the word “women.”

In short, transgender ideology demands that, in the name of equality and inclusion, we refrain from using the words “men” and “women,” “boys” and “girls,” because to do so might offend or exclude those whose self-identification or expression of gender doesn’t line up with their biology. And, if CNN is any indication, the media appear ready to conform.

There are quite a few things wrong with this upside-down state of affairs, but one of the most interesting is the way in which it contradicts another of the Left’s reigning dogmas: radical feminism. If you’ll forgive me for quoting myself, here’s how I put it back in that piece from December 2018:

And what does this new frontier of progressivism mean for other planks of the platform? The unassailable dogma that women are constantly oppressed and subjugated by the patriarchy — that we can only be free if we recognize and disempower the tyranny of white male privilege that prevents women from expressing ourselves and taking control of our lives — requires that there is such a thing as womanhood, and that it can be defined consistently.

Ponce’s much-hailed appearance in the Miss Universe contest, on the other hand, implies societal acceptance of the idea that men can in fact be women.

These two doctrines of progressivism are in fundamental tension. Even if one accepts the notion that some biological males can feel so female that they essentially are, in some intangible way, women, such a view necessarily conflicts with the feminist claim that there is something unique about being a woman — and that womanhood deserves to be shielded from the encroachment of male power.

The wholehearted embrace of transgender ideology necessarily, and quite intentionally, erases womanhood. It allows biological males to don the mantle of femaleness simply by asserting that it is their birthright. There has never been a more patriarchal claim.

I titled that article “The Progressive Patriarchy,” and this casual use of the phrase “individuals with a cervix” to refer to women seems to reinforce that characterization. We are now being told — by the very same ideologues insisting that conservatives are sexist misogynists who are evil for recognizing the immutable realities of biology — that we can no longer use the word “woman,” because to do so might contradict the notion that biological men can be women, and vice versa. They are, in short, erasing the concept of womanhood for the sake of ratifying the fiction that being a man or a woman means nothing at all.

Politics & Policy

The Fed and Racial Equality

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Biden says that he wants to add to the Federal Reserve’s mission: It should promote economic equality among races as well as low inflation and unemployment. This idea hasn’t gotten much attention — CNN’s write-up of the speech where Biden unveiled it didn’t mention it. At Bloomberg Opinion, I argue that it would be a mistake to distract the central bank from its basic mission of stabilizing the business cycle.

Education

UCLA Beclowns Itself in Fighting ‘Racism’

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Academic freedom now takes a back seat to the tender feelings of social-justice warriors on campus. Just how bad have things gotten? A recent incident at UCLA tells us.

Education writer and former UCLA faculty member Walt Gardner writes about it in today’s Martin Center article. 

A lecturer in political science made the horrible mistake of quoting Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it, King himself used the n-word. The lecturer mistakenly assumed that his students were adult enough to understand that he was just quoting the letter, not making any racial slur himself. Now he is in hot water with the school’s Discrimination Prevention Office. No one in a position of authority seems willing to speak up for him.

Colleges and universities proclaim that he want their students to develop “critical thinking” skills. But, Gardner asks, “How can students be expected to develop critical thinking if the material they are exposed to has been bowdlerized?”

One has to wonder if students actually felt hurt that the lecturer exposed them to that word — or has it simply become a kind of sport among “woke” students to see how many scalps they can claim through their whimpering?

Gardner sums up the situation up: “No one is suggesting that slurs, epithets, and the like deserve a forum. But censuring an instructor who quotes directly from original sources — sources opposing racism, no less — just because the words he recites offend some students makes a mockery of real education and academic freedom.”

Politics & Policy

House Democrats Introduce ‘First-Ever Bill’ to Fund Elective Abortions in Foreign Countries with U.S. Tax Dollars

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Since 1973, the year Roe v. Wade asserted a constitutional right to abortion, the Helms Amendment has banned the use of U.S. tax dollars to pay directly for elective abortions in foreign countries.

This week, several House Democrats introduced what they are describing as the “First-Ever Bill to Repeal the Helms Amendment.”

In a press release, the original cosponsors of the new bill say the prohibition on funding abortion overseas is racist: 

“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism. It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions Black and brown people around the world. Just like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color. But enough is enough, and both amendments must fall if we want to realize true health equity and reproductive justice,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “I am proud that my sisters Representatives Lowey, Lee, Speier, Pressley, DeGette, and Torres are joining me to introduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which will finally repeal the Helms Amendment. Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right.”

In January of this year, a Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus asked Americans if they supported or opposed “using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries.”

The result: 76 percent of Americans oppose using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries, while 21 percent support it.

Education

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Beautiful

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Carl Schurz, 1829–1906 (Library of Congress)

Who is that stern-looking man up there? That’s Carl Schurz, but I’ll get to him in a moment. My Impromptus today raises a number of issues, as usual, most of them very sensitive, as usual.

I begin with this: For 50 years, Bill Buckley labored to separate conservatism from kookery. How’s that going? I touch on the issue of President Trump and Dr. Stella Immanuel (she of the “demon sperm”). Do young people today look at Trump and TrumpWorld and think, “This is conservatism”? If so, what does that mean?

There is also the issue of Trump and Russia — Putin’s Russia. Repeatedly, the president draws a moral equivalence between the United States and this Russia. Why? Who can explain it?

I further discuss an ugly episode at a 7-Eleven. The late, joyous Regis Philbin. And more. See what you like (and dislike).

Here is a podcast — a Q&A — with David Pryce-Jones. His new book is Signatures: Literary Encounters of a Lifetime. I talk with DP-J about some interesting people he has known: including Aldous Huxley, W. H. Auden, Rebecca West, Saul Bellow, Erich Segal — the list is pretty wonderful.

For many years, people have been debating the question of U.S. history and how to teach it in the schools. That debate has come to a boil in recent days. Here in the Corner, I’d like to offer a few basic thoughts.

You know the expression “warts and all” (which arises from portraiture). Well, I think history should be taught warts and all — but don’t make it merely warts.

Bernard Lewis, the late Middle East scholar, once said, “There is an old saying: ‘My country, right or wrong.’ It seems that many Americans have changed that into, ‘My country, wrong.’”

Which leads me to Carl Schurz — the German immigrant who became a Union general, a U.S. senator, and other things in his interesting, productive life. I cherish something he once said: “‘My country, right or wrong’: when right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be set right.”

I also cherish something that Jeane Kirkpatrick said: “Someday Americans will have to face the truth about themselves, no matter how pleasant it is.”

I’m all for teaching the warts, believe me — even stressing the warts, if you like, in order to illustrate the gap between ideals and reality. But do not forget the rest.

Have a good one.

Fiscal Policy

Congress Is Blowing Its Deadline for COVID Relief

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A man who lost his job leaves an Arkansas Workforce Center after filing for unemployment amid the spread of the coronavirus in Fayetteville, Ark., April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

On Wednesday I had a piece that started this way:

You can give House Democrats credit for one thing: When they realized that another COVID-19 relief bill would be necessary, they got right on it. Their HEROES Act — I won’t bore you with the full name — has been passed and sitting on the shelf for a couple of months now. Senate Republicans, by contrast, just unveiled their HEALS Act proposal this week, as the previous round of unemployment relief approached its end-of-July expiration date.

Thus, we’re in for another one of those confusing bursts of last-minute legislative chaos, in which major provisions change constantly as the House, the Senate, and the White House try to whip up something they can all agree on. More than likely, we’ll find out too late about a bunch of drafting errors and unintended loopholes, but that’s Washington for you.

I was too optimistic. Instead of passing a rush job or even just temporarily extending the status quo while working out the next step, Congress is blowing the deadline. Reports The Hill:

Enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire as congressional negotiators are deadlocked over a coronavirus relief deal.

The additional $600 a week in unemployment insurance that Congress provided in late March will sunset on Friday at midnight, dealing a significant financial blow to millions of jobless Americans amid a weakening labor market.

Lawmakers had hoped the deadline, which was known for months, would result in the kind of eleventh-hour agreement that was once commonplace in Washington. But in a sign of how far apart negotiators are, the Senate left town for the week on Thursday, ensuring Congress will careen over the looming unemployment cliff.

And while the GOP Senate waited until the last possible second to get moving, the Democrats rejected a lengthy extension of the $600-per-week unemployment boost, per Politico:

[White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows made an offer to extend enhanced unemployment at $600 per week for four months as a stand-alone bill. This is a new offer from the White House, and further than Republicans have gone thus far. It’s an extension of current law — something the GOP has railed against. Pelosi and Schumer rejected the offer, and countered with extending enhanced unemployment insurance at the same rate — $600 per week — through the first quarter of 2021.

Bang-up job, everyone!

Most Popular

What to Make of Sally Yates’s Senate Testimony

Former Obama administration deputy attorney general Sally Yates will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. The Committee chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, has said her appearance might provide insight into the Russiagate probe -- i.e., the Obama administration’s monitoring of Donald Trump ... Read More

What to Make of Sally Yates’s Senate Testimony

Former Obama administration deputy attorney general Sally Yates will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. The Committee chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, has said her appearance might provide insight into the Russiagate probe -- i.e., the Obama administration’s monitoring of Donald Trump ... Read More

What Next?

Imagine this: You have a friend who has never saved a penny for his retirement. You ask him about it when he is in his twenties, and he says, “No problem — I’m going to win the lottery.” Years go by. You ask him about it in his thirties, in his forties, in his fifties, etc., and get the same answer. At ... Read More

What Next?

Imagine this: You have a friend who has never saved a penny for his retirement. You ask him about it when he is in his twenties, and he says, “No problem — I’m going to win the lottery.” Years go by. You ask him about it in his thirties, in his forties, in his fifties, etc., and get the same answer. At ... Read More

The Swedish Exception (?) — and New York City

As discussed in the latest Capital Note over on Capital Matters, Sweden came out with (under the circumstances), bearable economic numbers today. Quarter-on-quarter GDP fell by 8.6 percent (and 8.2 percent year-on-year). While these numbers were in no sense good (Statistics Sweden notes that “the decrease in ... Read More

The Swedish Exception (?) — and New York City

As discussed in the latest Capital Note over on Capital Matters, Sweden came out with (under the circumstances), bearable economic numbers today. Quarter-on-quarter GDP fell by 8.6 percent (and 8.2 percent year-on-year). While these numbers were in no sense good (Statistics Sweden notes that “the decrease in ... Read More

Republicans Could Hold the Senate Even If Trump Loses

Republican fears of an electoral disaster for the Senate GOP are well-founded. They could narrowly lose control of the upper chamber. They could suffer a Chernobyl-like meltdown. But the conventional wisdom seems to have grown too bearish on the GOP odds of holding the Senate. The defeat of the deeply ... Read More

Republicans Could Hold the Senate Even If Trump Loses

Republican fears of an electoral disaster for the Senate GOP are well-founded. They could narrowly lose control of the upper chamber. They could suffer a Chernobyl-like meltdown. But the conventional wisdom seems to have grown too bearish on the GOP odds of holding the Senate. The defeat of the deeply ... Read More