Media

New York Times Reporter Spreads Lies about the Pro-Life Movement

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(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

On her Instagram account, where she boasts more than 45,000 followers, New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz has taken to sharing false and unsubstantiated attacks on the pro-life movement.

Lorenz is billed as a “technology reporter” who covers “internet culture,” but she appears to spend most of her time on social media, working on such important projects as criticizing tech CEOs with the help of factual errors, complaining about being scrutinized for said criticism and errors, and broadcasting controversial social-media posts from a minor.

Just yesterday, Lorenz shared several posts from pro-abortion feminist Liz Plank, all of which contained inaccurate and intentionally vague assertions about the nefarious pro-life movement. A few examples:

  • “In 2018, pro-life centers posing as clinics that explicitely (sic) lie to patients seeking abortions received a total of $40.5 million in taxpayer dollars across 14 states.”
  • “The pro-life movement doesn’t only spend your money on disenfranchizing you, it’s a war on the poor.”
  • “The pro-life movement has exacerbated a public health crisis disparately hurting mothers and children of color.”
  • “We’ve been conditioned to believe that the pro-life movement protects personal beliefs, but the pro-life movement doesn’t reflect people’s religious beliefs, it created them. The anti-abortion movement was carefully crafted it the 1970s years after Roe, by a handful of racist evangelicals who needed an issue to latch onto and school segregation began losing in the court of public opinion. Google it.”

This last one, my personal favorite, is clearly a callback to this GQ article, which, among other factual errors, insisted that George Wallace was a Republican, and which several of us here at NRO debunked. There are so many absurdities wrapped up in this claim that it’s difficult to pick just a few, but the clearest issues are, first, that the anti-abortion movement in the U.S. most definitely preceded Roe, and second, that it should be obvious to anyone without a vendetta against pro-lifers why an expanded pro-life movement might be required “years after Roe.”

Perhaps most revealing of all is this misconception: “that the pro-life movement protects personal beliefs.” This is, of course, not what any pro-life person has “conditioned” anyone to believe. The contention of the pro-life movement is not, and never has been, that we ought to be left alone in private with our idiosyncratic personal beliefs about abortion. It is that abortion ought to be illegal because it intentionally ends the life of a human being.

Utter falsehoods like those crafted by Plank and spread by Lorenz serve a key purpose of the abortion-rights supporter: to ignore or deny, by any means necessary, the sincerity of the pro-life movement, so as not to have to grapple with the heart of our argument.

I’ve written publicly about this issue for several years now, and one of the most frustrating aspects of our debate is how often abortion-rights advocates refuse to grant that I sincerely believe abortion is wrong because it ends a human life. Instead, they accuse me of opposing abortion because I don’t care about or want to control women — interesting theories, considering my gender — or force my religious beliefs on others.

The converse of this argument would be if I insisted that anyone who supports legal abortion is motivated primarily by a desire to watch unborn babies die by the hundreds of thousands, rather than acknowledging that, though I think they are misguided, most supporters of legal abortion don’t believe in fetal personhood and strongly support women’s autonomy.

These sorts of falsehoods coming from abortion supporters are perhaps the best evidence of the strength of the pro-life argument. It is far easier to spread myths and lies about pro-lifers, dismissing us as crazy religious zealots, than to confront the possibility that our argument is true and that abortion is unjust killing.

It should surprise no one to see these myths coming from an ostensibly unbiased Times reporter like Lorenz.

U.S.

Seven Thoughts for 7/7

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  1.  Symmetrical cowardice: Far too many Democratic leaders are afraid to tell their race extremists to be responsible, and far too many Republican leaders are afraid to tell Trump to be responsible.  So both parties become less attractive to reasonable people.
  1.  It’s hard to take the long, speculative, and serene view on what’s often prescribed for the health of the Republican Party — namely a period without Trump even if it means a period out of power — if you reasonably believe the country is just one Democratic administration away from serious ruin.
  1.  It’s easier to imagine getting through four years of Joe Biden starting in 2021 than it was to imagine getting through four years of Hillary Clinton starting in 2017. But (ironically?) we have mostly the four years of the Trump administration to thank for that.
  1.  In some ways (judges, deregulation, the economy) Trump has been as good as conservatives hoped, but in other ways (personal character, institutional stability, and much foreign policy) he has been as bad as conservatives feared.
  1.  At minimum, the United States should get an award in race relations for “most improved.”  There’s breathtakingly less racism than there used to be and the stereotyping that remains is lamentable but mostly a result of actual statistical differences in behavior. And there’s really nothing to justify big marches, let alone riots.
  1.  Some statues will come down, and some will stay, and the impact on black lives will be precisely zero. The Left has gotten people’s attention about (fictive) “systemic racism,” and its agenda turns out to be defunding the police and tearing down statues — what more do we need to know about how silly it is?
  1.  The pandemic shows how resilient but fragile humans and human society are. And we don’t know a lot of what we’d like to know about the coronavirus and how it spreads, or what medical research will come up with, or how people will act if left to their own judgment, or the economic and human costs of continued shutdowns versus non-shutdowns. Cut everyone some slack.

 

Culture

Megxit Pains

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Well, they’re back: our favorite celebrity couple who promised in January to take a “progressive new role” in the British royal family (by moving to Los Angeles and developing a woke supremacy complex). On July 1, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared on a virtual anti-racist conference via the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust to discuss the themes and ideas of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Harry said:

When it comes to institutional and systemic racism, it’s there and it stays there because someone somewhere is benefiting from it. . . We can’t deny or ignore the fact that all of us have been brought up and educated to see the world differently. However, once you start to realize that there is that bias there, you need to acknowledge it. You need to do the work to be able to become more aware.

Meghan said:

We have to, in this moment in time, say, we’re going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now, because it’s only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this and find the place, as your pointing out, where a high tide raises all ships. . .  Discomfort [is] like growing pains. Growing pains are painful. This process is painful and it has been for a long time but through that immense pain, what we can have tremendous faith in is knowing that there will be growth and that’s what we’re seeing happen every single day, with all of you out there campaigning, fighting the right fight, being on the right side of history and ensuring that we can get closer to seeing this truly as our past and not something that we have to revisit again and again and again.

But what “work” is it that Harry and Meghan imagine they are doing? How is spouting simplistic and ahistorical cliches helping us to “grow” or to be “on the right side of history”? As a matter of fact, the couple no longer lives in the Commonwealth. Having signed with one of the highest-profile speaking agencies in the United States, they could (according to some reports) be paid up to $1 million per virtue-signaling speech. Harry said that racial division continues because “someone somewhere” benefits from it. Now who could that be, I wonder?

The Economy

Re: There’s Nothing Hypocritical about Small-Government Groups Taking PPP Loans

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David contends that it is silly for some in the press to criticize small-government think tanks for using the PPP loan program. I agree. PPP wasn’t an example of government counteracting the vicissitudes of the market; it was an example of government counteracting government. In form, PPP is more akin to a Takings Clause program than to welfare as traditionally understood. There’s no great inconsistency here.

But I want to add a different point to David’s, rather than just to reiterate it: Namely, that making this sort of argument is pretty much the worst thing that American progressives do — including to their own interests.

In order to garner conservative support for this bill, progressives made exactly the argument that David has. But, now that conservatives have used the law that resulted from that argument, it’s “welfare” again. They do this quite often. Criticize Medicare or Social Security as “welfare” and you’ll be told that it’s just “an insurance program.” Even now, when it isn’t remotely true, recipients are encouraged to view their checks as nothing more than “what they paid in.” But when an old guy shows up at a Tea Party rally with a sign that says “Keep your hands off my Medicare!” he is roundly mocked as an idiot who doesn’t understand the system — by the same people who told him in decades’ worth of political ads that that was how the system worked.

We hear a great deal from progressives about the conservative tendency to prefer “owning the libs” above actually getting things done. And, often, they’re right. But this is an example in reverse. Unlike conservatives, progressives were united in insisting that we shut down the country to slow the spread, and, unlike conservatives, they were united in their conviction that the federal government should pay restitution once we did. But, once they prevailed, they were quick to blame the shut-down country on their opponents, and, now, to recast that restitution as “welfare.” I’m sure it made them feel good to do so, but what exactly was achieved after the endorphin rush? Practical politics is about building consensus. Does this make it easier or harder to do that next time?

Elections

How the Heck Are They Going to Hold Conventions in Circumstances Like This?

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People understandably wonder and worry about how the Republican Party will be able to hold anything resembling a traditional political nominating convention in Jacksonville from August 24 to 27. The city just enacted a mask requirement with criminal penalties for violations, intends to run daily coronavirus tests of attendees, is scrambling for funding, and may be missing some elderly GOP figures like Chuck Grassley because of coronavirus fears.

It’s also fair to wonder just what the Democrats will manage to hold with their “virtual convention” in Milwaukee August 17 to 20 if the situation doesn’t improve. Delegates will not attend, but Joe Biden is still scheduled to give his acceptance speech there. Will the Democrats have any gathering of any group at all? Or will it be four nights of speeches that resemble the quiet, applause-free, laughter-free opposition response to the State of the Union Address? The convention has already been moved from the Fiserv Forum basketball arena to the Wisconsin Center . . . a building that just reopened June 30.

The good news is that Wisconsin hasn’t had as many deaths lately, but the state still ranks Milwaukee County as “high” in the number of coronavirus cases. The city characterizes its trend for cases as condition red, or a “statistically significant positive slope” and positivity rate (12.2 percent). (The rate of testing, hospital capacity, and supply of personal protective equipment in the city are in pretty good shape, though.) Milwaukee is contemplating a mask ordinance as well, and some local restaurants are temporarily shutting down after employees tested positive.

As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, medical researchers believe the mutated version of the virus is much more contagious, but thankfully, not more deadly, than earlier versions. But in that light . . . do Democrats want Joe Biden interacting with anyone who hasn’t been tested recently? And how the heck do you hold a political convention where the nominee can’t interact in person with anyone?

The Economy

There’s Nothing Hypocritical about Small-Government Groups Taking PPP Loans

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“Norquist’s Anti-Spending Group Took Small Business Relief,” reports Bloomberg. The Ayn Rand Institute also took out a Paycheck Protection Program loan somewhere between $350K and $1 million. The Daily Caller and PragerU also allegedly obtained PPP loans, according to Small Business Administration data.

LOLs all around from our unbiased press. Oh, the hypocrisy! Jonathan Swan notes: “Lotta folks who make a living banging on about how “big government sucks” got themselves some sweet PPP money.”

Whether those who bang out these columns are hypocrites or not, doesn’t change the underlying argument about big government sucking any more than a highly paid New York Times columnist taking his sweet tax cut changes the arguments about taxation. I’d wager that many small-government conservatives believe that a pandemic is one of the few times the citizenry needs serious state help. Especially given that it was the government that forced The Ayn Rand Institute and others to shutter their doors. It was government that stopped them from “making a living.” If the state can demand everyone live by its edicts, surely these institutions can be excused for using government to try counterbalance the harm done.

(This post originally listed Turning Point USA as being a recipient of a PPP loan, but the group rejected relief after applying for it.)

Law & the Courts

Controversial Police-Shooting Study Retracted

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New York Police Department (NYPD) officers stand guard in riot gear on City Hall as demonstrations continue in the “City Hall Autonomous Zone” established to protest the New York Police Department in support of “Black Lives Matter” in New York, N.Y., June 30, 2020.  (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

This has to be one of the weirdest things I have ever seen. The authors of an often-cited study about racial bias in police shootings have asked for it to be retracted, while standing behind the data and statistical analysis. They’re retracting the paper only because they don’t like the way it’s being discussed in the media.

As I explained last year, the study has been controversial because of the roundabout way it approached the issue: It checked to see if, when police kill civilians, there is a correlation between the officers’ races and the suspects’. The idea is that if white cops are killing blacks out of bias, white cops should disproportionately be involved in killings of blacks.

As I wrote:

In the simplest analysis, the opposite is actually the case: Black suspects are disproportionately killed by black officers. But this isn’t as odd as it seems, because some parts of the country have higher black populations than others. In those places, both suspects and officers are more likely to be black.

The study addresses this by statistically controlling for the demographics of homicide victims in each county where a shooting happened — and the correlation between officer and suspect race disappears. In other words, someone shot by the police is more likely to be black if the area has a lot of black homicide, but not if the police officer involved happened to be white. This is inconsistent with the idea that white cops are killing black suspects out of anti-black racism.

Now, there are real limits to this approach, as I also laid out:

Black cops might disproportionately patrol black neighborhoods even within counties. If this is the case, black suspects and black officers might encounter each other more — above and beyond what’s accounted for in the statistical controls — which could cancel out the effects of white cops’ racism. To put it differently, black cops could shoot black suspects simply because they encounter a lot of black suspects, while white cops could shoot black suspects out of racism. And if these two phenomena occurred to roughly the same degree, the study would indicate that black and white cops are about equally likely to shoot black suspects.

But it seems the real issue is that the results are hard to describe. The study doesn’t calculate the chance that someone was shot — in the data the authors used, every suspect was shot. Instead, it calculates the probability that someone who was shot was of a given race, and how that probability changes depending on the cops’ races.

The authors previously made a correction to their own wording, changing “White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers” to “as the proportion of White officers in a fatal officer-involved shooting increased, a person fatally shot was not more likely to be of a racial minority.” And now they take issue with Heather Mac Donald’s description of the study in the Wall Street Journal: She wrote that “the more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that a member of that group will be fatally shot by a police officer”; I imagine they’d prefer something like “when someone has been shot by the police, that person is more likely to be black if homicide victims in the surrounding county are heavily black, but not if the officer involved is white.” Even my own post quoted above toes the line by referring to how “likely to shoot black suspects” officers of different races are; despite the surrounding context that clarifies what I’m talking about, it might have been better to say “neither black nor white cops are disproportionately involved in shootings of blacks” or some such.

I’m all for using precise language and correcting the record when you fail to, but retracting the entire study is a bad decision. The lack of a correlation between officer and suspect race is noteworthy and deserves to be a part of the discussion.

For a different study reaching the opposite conclusion, see another post of mine here.

Culture

Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Michael Hickson, Foster Care, Syria, Hamilton & More (July 6, 2020)

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1.

2. Wesley J. Smith: The Deadly “Quality of Life” Ethic

The doctor did not base his decision on the seriousness of Michael’s illness, but on his continuing disability. This is a classic example of applying the invidious “quality of life” ethic, which deems people with disabilities, the elderly, the chronically ill, and the dying to have a lower moral worth than the healthy, able-bodied, and young; this ethic sometimes translates into denying the weak and vulnerable medical care that others would receive readily.

3. Sarah Zagorski: The Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to low-income women by siding with the abortion industry

In Louisiana, abortion proponents argued that laws such as Act 620 disproportionately affect low-income women. Poor women don’t have the resources to take off work and travel across state to a qualified practitioner, they argue.

But they cleverly forget to mention that it is precisely low-income women who are the ones disproportionately affected by sloppy abortion physicians because these women are the most vulnerable in crisis.

This week’s decision by the Supreme Court is no victory for low-income women. Women like my mother are in need of protection from an abortion industry that recognizes their vulnerability can be used for profit. This decision, in fact, will set women back decades, to a time where powerful individuals, such as doctors and judges, wield power over vulnerable populations because no one, not even the highest court in the land, will protect them.

4.  Carter Snead: The Way Forward After June Medical

June Medical Services was a grave disappointment and a missed opportunity. But Chief Justice Roberts’s concurrence—the controlling opinion for purposes of precedent—leaves pro-life litigants on a better jurisprudential footing than before.

5. Sister Norma Pimentel: Covid-19 has come to our migrant camp. It makes ending the MPP policy even more urgent.

This MPP policy fails to address people with dignity. We should not have people forced to wait for asylum — trying to find safety for themselves and their families — while camped outside in the elements for months at a time. It is contrary to our laws and the dictates of humanity. The story of these asylum seekers has faded from the front pages of U.S. newspapers and from television screens but the cruel and unfair situation continues.

6. Politico: Pandemic unleashes a spike in overdose deaths

The pandemic-fueled uptick in overdose deaths also coincides with the Trump administration’s legal battle to strike down the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court. Eliminating the law without a replacement would, among other things, eliminate protections ensuring coverage of benefits including addiction and mental health services.

7. Rebecca Smith Masterson: There’s a better way to do foster care

I do not envy the judge faced with a choice between allowing a three-year-old to remain where he has lived for almost two years, but losing the opportunity of living with his biological half-siblings, versus placing siblings together, but removing a child from the only mother he’s ever known. While I don’t envy this decision, I do firmly believe that both options should be equally available to every judge faced with this situation. Right now, they are not equally available.

Currently, the laws in the majority of states favor blood ties in every situation without regard for the individual circumstances of the child.

8. Inez Feltscher Stepman: The Last Fourth of July?

Just two years ago, the media laughed at the president for wondering where the movement to remove historical statues would end, and whether it could distinguish between Jefferson Davis and Thomas Jefferson. Today, rioters have destroyed monuments to abolitionists alongside Confederate generals; Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln are targeted alongside Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. It’s not merely symbols of the CSA that protesters find offensive, it’s any hero of the United States who is now the enemy.

….

But it’s not just historical inaccuracies that plague the 1619 Project and its rioting adherents. Their central narrative is wrong. America was founded in 1776, and at the cornerstone of the American system rests not slavery, but the fundamental equality and dignity of every human being, naturally endowed with inalienable rights. The United States, like all fallible human civilizations, has not always lived up to the greatness of its creed. Its heroes, like all men in all eras and countries, are flawed and made terrible mistakes.

As a first-generation American, my ancestors didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; they neither kept nor fought to free slaves, and they didn’t storm the wide beaches of Omaha under the American flag. But I consider George Washington to be my Founding Father, and 1776 to be the birthday of my country, which well deserves fireworks to celebrate 244 years.

9. Archbishop Broglio Issues Statement on U.S. Naval Orders Prohibiting Participation in Off-Base Indoor Religious Services

Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics.  It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Certainly, the Navy personnel who fall under this restriction are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, because no one can be required to do what is impossible.

10. Francis X. Maier: Escape Clause

There’s a curious quality of theater to the current wave of street demonstrations, monument desecrations, public confessions of guilt, news media hysteria, official cowardice, the irrelevance of the Church to the angry young, and Big Tech’s shoveling money at organizations committed to upending their economic system.

The wind is strong.  I find myself bouncing from fear, to fury, to emotional fatigue.  And there’s a small part of me, and I’m not alone, that longs irrationally for a purifying fire: Burn it all down, and start over.  “The worse, the better” – the line so often (and wrongly) attributed to Lenin – starts to make sense.  But that road leads into very dark corners of the heart.

Continue reading “Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Michael Hickson, Foster Care, Syria, Hamilton & More (July 6, 2020)”

Education

Meritocracy without Meeting

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Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., March 10, 2020. (Brian Snyder -/File Photo/Reuters)

Harvard University announced that it was canceling in-person classes for the entire upcoming academic year because of COVID-19. Students can attend digital Harvard for the exact same price.

Some of my fellow conservatives are wondering if the stresses of pandemic conditions will finally pop an over-inflated college bubble. The student-age population is already starting to shrink. Tuitions are at all-time highs, and the conventional wisdom is starting to catch up to the reality that the college-premium on salaries may not be worth the debt. And I do think smaller colleges and third-tier schools may be entering a world of hurt. They look at this new “offering” from Harvard and laugh.

But there is not some robust job market that is more attractive than school right now, so I’m not sure that elite universities will suffer.

Many people claim that the value of going to Harvard is really in the networking that Harvard enables on campus, off-campus, and after graduation. Ambitious people of talent meet the elites who buy into institutions like this, and out comes enterprises such as Facebook or the latest NGO. Without the in-person networking, the whole enterprise is worth less, they argue.

I’m not so sure. A huge part of the Harvard “offer” is that being accepted by Harvard and graduating from it confers most of the merit and the networking abilities a prospective employer may seek. This is a change for Harvard students to complete one year of Harvard while not going into debt for student housing. If the classes are not really all that valuable, maybe the digital Harvard will be more popular than we think.

Law & the Courts

Supreme Court Rules States May Crack Down on ‘Faithless Electors’

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A pedestrian holding an umbrella walks past the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., July 6, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

It looks like we did not get the boffo day some Supreme Court watchers were expecting.

On Monday morning, the Court announced decisions in two matters (involving three cases). The more anticipated one was the so-called Faithless Electors case. In a ruling that was basically unanimous, the Court held that a state may enforce the pledge of an Electoral College elector to vote for the presidential candidate who won the state’s popular vote. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the Court’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a separate opinion concurring in the result (joined in part by Justice Neil Gorsuch). There were two cases involved. The main ruling was issued in Chiafalo v. Washington; a related case, Colorado v. Baca, was summarily reversed based on Chiafalo.

In the second matter, the Court in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants invalidated an exemption in a federal statute that bars robocalls. Congress had carved out the exemption to permit robocalling for the purpose of collecting government-backed debt. The justices ruled that this prioritized commercial (debt-collection) speech over political speech, in violation of the First Amendment. There is a jumble of opinions, with the main one written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but the bottom line is that the Court saved the overarching statutory prohibition on robocalling by severing out and invalidating the exemption for debt-collection speech. That is, it did not hold that the overall prohibition was unconstitutional due to the suppression of political speech as long as all speech was treated the same way.

There are still important decisions to come, including those involving President Trump’s tax-return information (i.e., whether their production can be compelled by congressional committees and by a New York district attorney conducting various investigations), and the enforceability of the Obamacare contraception mandate on employers who opposed contraception on religious grounds.

Expect the remaining decisions in the coming days. It is unusual for the Court to be issuing opinions once July rolls around . . . but there is nothing normal about 2020 — a year in which the Court closed business for several weeks due to the coronavirus, held oral argument by tele-conference, and is issuing opinions by website announcements rather than in-court proceedings.

International

Germany and the Euro Zone: ‘Everyone’ Blinked

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An illustration of Euro coins in front of a flag and map of the European Union, May 28 2015 (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

When Germany’s constitutional court (the BVG) ruled (a) that the European Central Bank (ECB) had not properly weighed the “proportionality” of its first, now renewed QE program and (b) that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had not properly analyzed whether the ECB had done its job, there were plenty of predictions of catastrophe. The BVG’s ruling, worried some, not only represented an existential threat to the supremacy of EU law, but, if it was followed, the Bundesbank (Germany’s central bank) would be obliged to pull out of the first of the euro zone’s QE programs.

Precedent suggested, however, that this was not what was going to happen, despite the heightened rhetoric that followed the ruling, and despite a deeper crisis within the euro zone that can neither be wished nor spent away. The BVG has been making the same fundamental point about its responsibility to protect the German constitution for half a century or so now. It is well aware that its stance is incompatible with the way that EU law is generally understood, but it has always found ways of avoiding this clash moving from the theoretical to (in any material sense) the real.

In this case, the BVG left open the route to a solution that could both keep the QE going and, once again, leave the fundamental conflict of laws unresolved.

And, judging by this Financial Times report, that’s (more or less) what has happened:

Germany’s central bank is set to keep buying sovereign bonds from next month, defusing an explosive ruling by the country’s constitutional court that had threatened to destabilise the European Central Bank’s flagship asset-purchase scheme.

The Bundesbank is facing a deadline of August 5, when the constitutional court ruled it would have to stop buying bonds unless the country’s government and parliament showed they had fully scrutinised the economic and fiscal impact of the ECB’s asset purchases.

Two officials briefed on the matter told the Financial Times that the Bundesbank will later this month formally decide to take its lead from the finance minister and parliament in Berlin, which both declared last week that the ECB had satisfied the court’s requirements. The ECB and Bundesbank declined to comment….

While the [BVG] stopped short of ruling that the ECB had been illegally financing governments, it gave the German government and parliament three months to ensure that the ECB provided a “proportionality assessment” of its €2.2tn sovereign bond-buying scheme. Otherwise, it said, the Bundesbank would have to stop buying bonds on behalf of the ECB and draw up plans to sell the more than €500bn it owned.

Peter Huber, one of the judges who drafted the court’s ruling, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper it would not sit again to determine whether its conditions had been satisfied and instead it would leave it to the Bundesbank to decide.

“The Bundesbank is bound by our decision, but it must determine on its own responsibility whether the ECB’s statement of reasons fulfils our requirements or not,” Mr Huber said. “The federal constitutional court is no longer involved.”

In the end, the Bundesbank played a vital role in helping to resolve the legal stand-off by acting as an intermediary between politicians in Berlin and the ECB, which refused to respond directly to national institutions out of concern over its independence.

As well as debating the “proportionality” of its bond-buying at its last monetary policy meeting a month ago, the ECB provided the Bundesbank with unpublished minutes of previous meetings where it analysed the pros and cons of its flagship policy.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the most likely flashpoint for a euro zone crisis later this year, pawnshops are, the New York Times reports, doing good business:

The economic picture for Italy, and for Italians in need of cash, does not look good. Banks, laden with debt and wary of taking on toxic loans, are unlikely to extend credit. The government’s aid packages and job security measures that have delivered billions of euros to struggling Italians are set to expire at the end of the summer, though the government is considering extending benefits. The Italian economy is estimated to contract by nearly 13 percent this year….

But the managers of the collateral loan sector — the institutional name for pawnshops — aren’t complaining. Activity increased from 20 to 30 percent immediately after the lockdown, as clients wanted to make sure they met their interest payments but also sought new loans. And with emergency benefits about to wind down, they expect business to surge.

Culture

How Long Will Margaret Sanger Last?

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A man holds a sign during an anti-Planned Parenthood vigil outside the Margaret Sanger Health Center in New York, February 11, 2017. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Much of the radical Left is at present consumed by a feverish desire to erase from U.S. history anyone whom they’ve deemed in some way insufficiently loyal to the progressive creed of 2020. The statue-toppling brigades have exercised little discretion in determining which of our leaders are no longer fit for public display, targeting everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant to Thomas Jefferson to Frederick Douglass to this elk.

In many cases — and in none so clearly as that of the elk — the attacks on statues appear to have been motivated primarily by a riotous desire to destroy anything that can easily be overturned. But in others, one can see a puritanical pseudo-morality at work, a mob mentality demanding that we capitulate to their view of history and permit them to remove offenders and refashion the public square according to their values.

There is plenty to criticize about this rather frightening campaign to obliterate men and their monuments for having been imperfect, not least of which is the willful ignorance required to attempt to “cancel” the Founding Fathers, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, and leading abolitionists in the name of racial justice.

But I wonder, too, whether these crusaders will train their gaze on one of our nation’s far more serious offenders of racial equality: Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. She was, after all, a foremost proponent of the eugenics movement — motivated by her particular animus toward poor non-whites — and her campaign to legalize birth control was motivated in large part by her desire to prevent the “unfit” and “feeble-minded” from reproducing.

After several decades of brushing aside pro-life critiques of its tainted history, Planned Parenthood is now fielding similar complaints from some of its own employees. Just last month, more than 350 current and former staffers of Planned Parenthood’s Greater New York affiliate — along with several hundred donors and volunteers — published an open letter condemning Sanger as “a racist, white woman” and arguing that the organization is guilty of “institutional racism.”

“We know that Planned Parenthood has a history and a present steeped in white supremacy and we, the staff, are motivated to do the difficult work needed to improve,” the letter added.

If removing offensive statues is the new norm, perhaps the bust of Sanger in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery should be the next to go.

World

‘Presidents,’ Masks, ‘Karens,’ and More

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Russian leader Vladimir Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, December 23, 2016. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I touch on a variety of issues, as usual: some grave, some light (some in between). I begin with a discussion of Putin, which leads to Castro (Fidel, I mean, although one could do Raúl, too, who is smaller beer).

Putin wants to be known as “President” — which implies a certain democratic legitimacy. Fidel Castro wanted the same — which burned a lot of Cubans and Cuban Americans I knew.

For years, I heard from the Left that Castro was popular with “his people.” That was a funny contention: in that Castro prohibited a free press, competing parties, free elections, and so on. He maimed, imprisoned, and killed his critics. That does not sound like a man very confident in his popularity.

Today, from the Right, I hear that Putin is popular. Same.

Another issue in my column today is mask-wearing, and resistance to it. I cite an interesting notice from the City of Portland, Ore., published during the 1918–20 pandemic. Everything old is new again.

“We appeal to your civic patriotism to co-operate with us in our effort to stamp out the Spanish influenza or ‘flu’ plague in Portland by wearing a mask,” the city said. “You should willingly co-operate in doing this and not necessitate the passage of an ordinance which will make the wearing of a mask compulsory.”

I further cite a letter from a judge in Beaumont, Texas, written just a couple of weeks ago: a heartfelt letter, a cri de cœur, practically. “I pray for your cooperation,” he ends: cooperation in mask-wearing.

This morning, something else came to my attention — an article out of Topeka. The headline read, “Newspaper owner: Sorry for equating mask rule to Holocaust.” The article explained that “a Kansas county Republican Party chairman who owns a weekly newspaper apologized Sunday for a cartoon posted on the paper’s Facebook page.”

The cartoon in question showed the governor of the state, Laura Kelly, wearing a mask with a Star of David on it. Behind her was an image of people being loaded into a train. And the caption? “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask…and step onto the cattle car.”

Say what you will about mask ordinances: They are designed to save lives, whereas the perpetrators of the Holocaust were eager to snuff them out.

On to something lighter (as what could not be?). In the current issue of NR, I have a piece called “‘Scandalize My Name’: The use and abuse of ‘Karen,’ etc.” The name “Karen” has been appropriated to mean a middle-aged white lady who is bossy, ignorant, and probably racist. You will find this use in the social media.

A distinguished scholar writes to me, “When I was a nipper, the term that covered what ‘Karen’ now covers was ‘Miss Anne.’ At least this was so among Afro-Americans.” Example: “If you do that, Miss Anne will certainly have something to say about it.”

My piece in NR touches on Dicks, Johns, and others, as well as Karens. A reader writes,

You reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother-in-law many, many years ago. At that point, both my husband’s sisters were getting married, one in February, one in May. Both fiancés — now for many years husbands — were named John. Anyway, Mom and I were talking about the upcoming weddings, and Mom said “the girls and their Johns” — at which point she abruptly stopped. After a pause, we both started laughing hysterically.

A friend of mine in California has sent me a news article: “California college professor on leave after asking student to ‘Anglicize’ name.” The article begins,

A professor from Laney College in Oakland has been placed on administrative leave after asking a student to “Anglicize” her name.

On the second day of class, Laney College mathematics professor Matthew Hubbard asked Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen to “Anglicize” her name because “Phuc Bui sounds like an insult in English,” Hubbard told Nguyen in an email obtained by CNN.

The young lady refused. “I decided to fully embrace it,” she said, referring to her name, “and let everyone know that they should be proud of their name.”

A name is such a personal, sensitive thing: not to be abused, and a rich topic for writing (I find).

Law & the Courts

Hurrah for the Supreme Court’s Rebuke to Faithless Electors

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Hurrah for the Supreme Court’s 9–0 decision upholding state penalties against “faithless electors” in the Electoral College.

Faithless electors could be shrugged off as oddball gestures of political defiance back when it was a rare gadfly voting for “John Edwards for president, John Kerry for vice president” or some other similar inconsequential act — footnotes to history. But one of these cycles we could see another close finish, akin to the 2000 election’s 271 to 266 result. If a candidate won more than 270 electoral votes on Election Night, but then ended up with fewer than 270 because of faithless electors — or flipped to the candidate who finished a close second! — the country would be in a genuine political crisis.

Perhaps in past cycles, a stronger sense of duty and honor prompted electors to keep their word, no matter how they personally felt about the winning candidate. In today’s more narcissistic culture, perhaps some addle-minded electors see changing their vote as a step to fame. The 2016 election saw seven faithless electors — costing Hillary Clinton five she should have won and Donald Trump two. As I wrote back in 2016:

Our elections run on trust. These faithless electors have publicly pledged to support a nominee and in some cases signed written pledges. Once the election results were in and it was too late for them to be removed from their positions as electors, they announced that they intended to vote for someone different. If this phenomenon becomes more common every four years, people will justifiably ask whether their vote matters at all.

The existing penalties may not be sufficient deterrent against faithless elections. Or perhaps this year all the electors will take their duties seriously, and the trend of faithless electors will wane. But the unanimous decision probably increases the odds that electors will recognize that no message justifies breaking their promise. Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her majority opinion that states may instruct, “electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens . . . That direction accords with the Constitution — as well as with the trust of a Nation that here, We the People rule.”

How often do we get to say, “Amen, Justice Kagan”?

U.S.

‘Patriotism Is Becoming “White Supremacy”‘

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I’m on the same page as Charlie regarding Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech that has been lied about relentlessly, with ominous implications, I believe. I wrote about it on the homepage today:

Never before has a speech extolling America’s virtues and the marvels or the nation’s heroes played to such poor — and completely dishonest — reviews.

At Mount Rushmore on Friday night, President Trump gave a speech that was very tough on the woke Left, while largely celebrating America — its Founders, its ideals and freedom, its capacity for self-renewal, its astonishing variety of geniuses, adventurers, warriors, inventors, and great musicians and athletes.

Then, his speech ended, and the press piled on with one of its most its unhinged and dishonest performances of his presidency, which is saying something.

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