U.S.

Hey, Remember Building the Wall?

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New bollard-style fencing next to vehicle barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border in Santa Teresa, N.M., March 5, 2019. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

This morning, Dr. William Figlesthaler, a candidate for Congress in Florida’s 19th district, sent out an email with the subject line, “it’s time to build the wall.” (In one of Figlesthaler’s campaign videos, the candidate declares, “in Congress, I will fight to build something new, a massive wall along our southern border, one that keeps the criminals, rapists, and drug lords forever.”) Figlesthaler is one of ten Republicans competing for the nomination in this R+13 district; incumbent Francis Rooney is retiring.

In ordinary times, it would be a bad sign for an incumbent president running for a second term that members of his own party are running on the same promise that drove him to a first term. But these are not ordinary times.

As of May 22, the U.S. government has built three miles of primary border fencing where none existed before, and 13 miles of new secondary fencing. Roughly 167 miles of new border fencing has replaced old primary barriers that had holes or were otherwise substandard, and another eleven miles replaced old secondary barriers. Altogether, so far the government has put up 194 miles of new fencing — but only 16 miles in spots where the fencing didn’t exist before.

Most people who are eager to see a new border fencing or wall will give the president credit for what has been done so far. (A notable exception is Ann Coulter, who sees the meager progress on the wall after three and a half years in office as an indictment of an unserious, perpetually distracted, too-much-talk-and-too-little-action presidency.)

Joe Biden’s immigration plan does not include any funding for border-fencing construction. In November, those who want to see more physical barriers on the southern border to prevent illegal immigration will have the option of the incumbent’s slow progress, or the challenger’s no progress at all.

PC Culture

For Looters, Looting Is Fun

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One important thing to realize about looting is that it’s usually enjoyable for those engaged in it, who exult in the momentary suspension of any rules.

Just a couple of examples from the last couple of days (language alert):

 

law enforcement
Rioters Arrested in Minnesota Are Mostly Local Residents

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Elected leaders in Minnesota have falsely claimed that out-of-state instigators are mostly to blame for the vandalism, looting, and violence in their state.

“The people that are doing this are not Minneapolis residents. They are coming in largely from outside of this city, outside of the region, to prey on everything we have built over the last several decades,” Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey said at a press conference on Saturday.

“Our best estimate right now that I heard is about 20 percent, is what we think are Minnesotans, and about 80 percent are outside,” Governor Tim Walz said.

“Every single person we arrested last night, I’m told, was from out of state,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of those arrested have provided Minnesota addresses:

Politics & Policy

Thin Blue Line

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Definition of bad optics: The Philadelphia police hold the line where it really matters — around a statue of Frank Rizzo, the patron saint of police brutality.

Politics & Policy

The Idiotic Theory of Police ‘Escalation’

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A common argument on the Left is that if the police show up in force, it “escalates” the situation. Here is Jamelle Bouie:

But the fact is that it is only when police show up in force that rioting and looting stops, and order is restored. If the theory of police escalation were correct, for instance, Minneapolis would have been at its very worst last night, when the authorities finally got serious. Of course, it was much better than the prior nights.

Politics & Policy

The Astonishing Hypocrisy on Social Distancing

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This isn’t anywhere close to the most important thing that been going on over the last week, but the hypocrisy on social distancing has been extraordinary. Just about a month ago, when protestors surrounded the Michigan state capitol from the safety of their cars, with about 75 or so people scattered outside on the capitol grounds, all we heard is that they weren’t social distancing, that it was extremely reckless, that Michigan would pay the price in a new outbreak of infections.

Now that we have enormous crowds gathering in cities all over the country to protest the death of George Floyd, the talk of the importance of social distancing has almost completely disappeared in the media, and Democratic officeholders don’t talk about it anymore, either.

Just another example of how the rules they establish are usually in service of their political and ideological agenda, and as soon as the rules are no longer useful, they are changed or dropped.

History

Larry Kramer and George Washington

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Larry Kramer, gay author and agitator who died Wednesday, believed passionately that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were lovers. The rhetoric of sensibility, popularized by Richardson and Sterne, and used by Hamilton and other young Revolutionary officers in their letters to each other, has led the curious and the interested to look for homo- and bisexuality, probably too zealously. But the notion of Washington and Hamilton being literal BFFs seemed new.

It is an old form of projection, and assimilation. Since Washington is the archetypal All American, if he is like me, then I am All American, too. So Shakers claimed that Washington conversed with them in their ecstatic trances. Catholic magazines of the early 19th century revealed that Washington not only prayed at Valley Forge but received a Marian vision. The descendants of West Ford, slave of Washington’s elder half-brother John, believe that he was Washington’s black child (I have met two such, who disarmed me by saying how much they liked my Washington bio). I have never read an argument that Washington was Jewish, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one out there.

In a recent interview in the New York Times Book Review, Kramer said that Gore Vidal first tipped him to the Washington/Hamilton romance. But when I interviewed Vidal for Michael Pack’s film Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton, Vidal told a different story. “Hamilton,” he said, “had a knack that many young men on the make have, of making older men fall in love with them. (Look of disdain.) I’m not talking about gay liberation. (Back to normal.) They supply a need in the older man.”

Need for what? Replication (I was like that when I was his age). Pride (I’m a good talent-spotter, aren’t I?) Relief, with a touch of self-pity (Finally, someone can help me get all this crap done!). And there we should leave the commander in chief and the young colonel.

Law & the Courts

Riot Fallacy No. 3: Well, You Didn’t Like Kaepernick’s Protest, Ergo . . .

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Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins began her column this way. “Two knees. One protesting in the grass, one pressing on the back of a man’s neck. Choose. You have to choose which knee you will defend. There are no half choices; there is no room for indifference. There is only the knee of protest or the knee on the neck.”

Others state it, “You didn’t like Kaepernick’s peaceful protest, what did you expect was coming next?”

Well, it doesn’t actually work this way. Some conservatives have tried to make this argument. “You could have had nice Romney, now you get nasty Trump. What did you expect would happen?” It’s an obnoxious form of moral blackmail, and no other activists enjoy it for a good reason. Pro-lifers don’t get to say, “We’ve marched peacefully in DC for 50 years,  now it’s time to start looting.” Vegans can’t say, “You didn’t like my pamphlets, try some Molotov Cocktails.” Agree with me, or else.

I don’t care about the NFL and can’t remember ever developing a feeling about Kaepernick’s protest. But disapproval of Kaepernick’s form of protest doesn’t even imply indifference to police brutality. And it certainly doesn’t justify violence done to others — cops, store owners, random strangers-whose opinions on Kaepernick are not being solicited anyway.

Law & the Courts

Riot Fallacy No. 2: Big Corporations Aren’t Part of Our Community

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A writer at Mother Jones ventures an argument along these lines: “The myth is that chain stores and franchises are somehow part of Black communities. Target isn’t ‘ours’ in any substantive way. AutoZone isn’t some cherished neighbor, saving us from bad alternators and racism.” She writes, “The franchise chains aren’t some engine of Black capitalism that will redress the grievances of the people in Minneapolis’ streets.”

Well, maybe that’s expecting a little too much of Starbucks and Target. There’s a perfectly legitimate case for people to make that giant chains thrive by providing uniformity of product and service that can feel alienating to those who search out locally owned shops that have more personality and a deeper relationship to their communities. But it doesn’t follow from any of this that these chains are legitimate targets for destruction. Not any more than me saying, “What has Toyota ever done for me?” to explain why I firebombed a truck on its way to pick my neighbor up for work.

Law & the Courts

Riot Fallacy No. 1: You Only Care about AutoZone

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I thought it might be fun to pick at some of the apologetics offered on behalf of rioters these days. Here’s the first.

We are told that objecting to arson reveals us as indifferent to justice, and partial only to property. This is not true, of course. People who hate the rioting, from Black Lives Matter activists to National Review to the president, all expressed a desire to see Floyd get justice before the riots. And burning the AutoZone has no notable relationship to expediting the arrest of Floyd’s killer.

What’s more likely true is that the person who apologizes for the riots cares only about the AutoZone as an abstract symbol. The corporate entity is likely to be made whole by insurance but still close down. The mechanics and clerks who will lose their jobs are done a serious injustice.

The Tea Party and the ‘New Untamed’

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A woman wearing a face mask holds a placard as hundreds of supporters of the Michigan Conservative Coalition protest against the state’s extended stay-at-home order at the Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., April 15, 2020. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

My colleague Rich Lowry pens an excellent column that draws comparisons between those publicly protesting the excesses of the pandemic lockdowns and the Tea Party movement that erupted in 2009 in response to Big Government’s push to get much bigger, and quickly.

The column serves as a timely opportunity to draw attention to a new study — conducted by Anne Sorock Segal and Jack Sorock of the Frontier Center (I am a board member) — on what they are calling the “Reopen Movement.” Their research seeks to understand and convey the motivations of citizens who are the strongest advocates — including those engaged in defiant public protesting — for reopening states under government-imposed “stay at home” orders. Segal and Sorock say that critics of the Reopen protestors are “getting it wrong.” Very much so.

The study’s methods include polling (of 974 respondents) and, from a smaller contingent, “behavioral event modeling” — a drill-down method that unveils the deep values that motivate either public action or vocal support for the protestors. In essence, the undertaking answers the fundamental question: Just who are these Reopeners? And the obvious comparison: Are they Tea Party 2.0? There are great similarities but also some major differences. Indeed, among the Reopeners, there is even a goodly amount of indifference to Tea Party 1.0.

Here are the four key finding the study (the abstract is here) has discovered:

  1. Reopeners learn the expanse of their own strength, which is energizing and that results in a sense of freedom. This is aided by experiencing the “felt freedom” alongside others.
  2. They want to match their actions with their sentiments and are compelled to rise to the occasion in the face of perceived tyranny.
  3. They want accountability and justice for what they believe has been a lack of transparency, flawed science, and unacceptable infringements of civil rights. They believe that protecting and restoring those rights must be foundational to the next steps forward for America.
  4. A majority believe they have a Christian duty to model behavior that encourages others, defends victims of government oppression, and serves as a wake-up call that will empower others.

This movement is not so much political as it is personal and self-definitional (a gut check on values that activate one to enter the public foray), selfless (this is not about getting my favorite bar back in the business of pouring pints), and also communal, all of it prompted by and occurring within a historical crisis for America. From the findings:

Reopeners said that, while this moment of crisis challenges their sense of who they are, their actions of defiance allow them to take pride in who they are. The tone of their defiance is bold, with two outcomes: First, their boldness works — it causes authorities to back down. Second, their boldness matches the moment — the scale and disposition of government action has been monumental, and Reopeners believe they are showing they understand the importance of this challenge to freedom. Reopeners say achieving a political victory in the short-term, though important, is secondary. The primary objective is to answer the question “who am I?” during what feels like a watershed moment. Reopeners are concerned they might not live up to the precedents of others who rose to meet similar moments in American and world history. For those who took action, they experienced boldness and courage, and learned they might be able to contribute or sacrifice going forward in ways that had never before been tested.

The study, which surveyed nearly 1,000 subjects, provides worthwhile numerical findings on make-up, where Reopeners stand politically, and on Trump, their views of the Tea Party, and more. Among the results:

  • Over 68 percent are registered Republicans, and nearly 23 per cent are Independent or unaffiliated.
  • 87 percent voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and nearly 97 percent say they will vote for him in November
  • There’s a 17 percent growth in support for Trump among Independent Reopeners
  • 83 percent had never attended a Tea Party rally, and 39 percent were “either neutral, unsure, or opposed to the Tea Party movement” — the “opposed” though being a small 2 percent.
  • This is a very religious/spiritual movement in makeup: 91 per cent of Reopeners described themselves as “having some religion,” with 80 percent self-defining as Christians (and mostly unaffiliated; i.e., not Catholic, Evangelical, or “Mainline).

Given the last point, it should not come as a surprise that the cancellation of church services on Easter played a big role in engendering this movement:

When Easter Sunday fell in the middle of the coronavirus shutdowns, many of the Reopener churchgoers took one of three paths: (1) they sought out a new church, often further away; (2) they held their own spiritual gathering in someone’s home, or; (3) they had time available to catch up on the news.

The research sought to get to the root of what made an individual actually take to the streets to protist. Numerous emotional factors and states of mind bear on this, but the study found that three events or circumstances in particular proved key to motivation. One is that Reopeners witnessed harm to others, which led them to take on the role of becoming advocates for others. Another: Reopeners “formed the opinion that data and science presented to them were false, misleading, or inconclusive.” And last: As the shutdowns provided people with time to reflect, investigate, and communicate, they increased the exchange of opinions with others, which in turn “led them to seek out a broader community to evaluate the data, provide and receive support against hostility, and discuss next steps.”

The study’s appendix provides an interesting comparison of attributes between the Reopen Movement (“required mental strength to defy”) and the Tea Party (allows me to be proactive”) — and also with other recent mass movements, such as the anti–Scott Walker protests in Wisconsin, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. It’s worth the read.

So, if it’s not Tea Party 2.0, then . . . how best to describe the Reopeners? Segal and Sorock suggest considering them as “The New Untamed.” Here’s the study’s conclusion:

The conventional media narrative is that America is a fractured nation, perhaps irreparably. Media characterize competing views about Coronavirus as a divide between the selfish and the selfless, and view Reopeners as putting their self-interests first.  Study 2 shows that they are generally, in fact, isolated — and seek out others to express dissent quietly so as not to be shamed for their questions. Based on the panel survey data, we conclude that the Reopen movement does not appear to be a re-hash of conservative mass movements like the Tea Party, and that Reopeners are strongly faith-driven and new to political activism.

This is consistent with an “untamed mindset” that the Frontier Center is tracking across many mass movements, ideologies, and topics. This mindset has many facets. Americans have been opting-out of “safe and narrow” paths in other areas, including by homeschooling, adopting cost-sharing plans to replace health insurance, and establishing home churches. The Frontier Center has also tracked a second pathway of compliance toward safety and peace of mind. Our values research with the Reopeners revealed a paradox: They find peace of mind through defiance, because it results in felt-freedom, understanding of their own mettle, holding authorities accountable, and standing up for others.

The data reveal that critics of the Reopen protesters are right that America needs renewed selflessness, but that they are wrong if they imagine that this results from compliance with flawed science and restricted freedom. A new selflessness can come from citizens who seek to remain untamed by authority. The Reopeners make clear that selflessness can be found in these everyday Americans who, while they do not seek to be political activists or agitators, feel compelled to act at what they believe is a defining moment in our history.

The protesters are demonstrating a new selflessness — a sacrifice different from staying at home and closing nonessential businesses. Their selflessness requires moving into untamed territory, which in this case risks very real conflict with authorities. These Untamed are resisting out of duty to what they say is unlawful infringement of their rights based on unscientific, flawed premises that result in deeply troubling collateral damage to the American community.

The new untamed territory is a mindset. First, American society is profoundly divided over who is the hero and who is the antihero in our modern story. The threat of a pandemic reveals that “selflessness” based on fear isn’t necessarily selflessness — it may in fact be selfishness. Reopeners are demonstrating selflessness by their determination to overcome fear for what for them is a greater cause. The Frontier Center has found that this is a consistent factor in recent mass movements, and that the “untamed mindset” can be found across years, movements, political issues, and ideologies.

The New Untamed framework is critical for how we understand the meaning of the coronavirus conflict, and for what actions we take in the name of protecting America. Aggressive government efforts to stop the spread of Coronavirus makes sense if America’s health is defined by being protected from the virus. If that is an incorrect measure of America’s health, however, then shutdowns and restricting rights are counterproductive and harmful. They may weaken freedom, the true foundation of America’s health.

Far from being a threat to America’s health, Reopen protests may be its medicine—suggesting that American culture does not flourish by looking back but by retesting its convictions.

World

Sweden’s COVID Death Rate Now Ten Times Higher than Norway’s

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Tantolunden park in Stockholm, Sweden, May 30, 2020 ( TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery/Reuters)

There have now been ten times as many COVID-19 deaths in Sweden than Norway on a per capita basis.

According to the Worldometers website, 435 out of every one million Swedes have died from the virus, while the virus has killed 44 out of every million Norwegians.

Norway imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus early on March 12, but the country reopened schools early in May. “Our goal is that by June 15 we will have reopened most of the things that were closed,” Norway’s prime minister said at a press conference earlier this month.

Its neighbor Sweden, by contrast, took a more lax approach: The government banned events with more than 50 people and shut down universities and secondary schools but imposed few other restrictions.

Swedish government officials said lockdowns could do little to save lives over the long term and that their more lax approach would let their society reach herd immunity more quickly and lessen the economic pain the country would endure. “About 30 percent of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity,” Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter, the Swedish ambassador to the United States, told NPR on April 26. “We could reach herd immunity in the capital as early as next month.”

But a recent study found that just 7.3 percent of Stockholm residents tested positive for coronavirus antibodies at the end of April. “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it,” Bjorn Olsen, professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University, told Reuters.

And it’s not clear Sweden’s economy will be better off than Norway’s this year. “Economists at Swedish bank SEB estimate Sweden’s GDP will drop 6.5 per cent this year, about the same as the US and Germany, but a little better than Norway and ahead of 9–10 per cent falls in Finland and Denmark, all of which have had lockdowns,” the Financial Times reported May 10. A Reuters poll from April found economists predicting the Scandinavian economies would all fare about the same in 2020.

Law & the Courts

Atlanta Mayor Condemns Rioters

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At a press conference Friday night, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, unlike many political leaders across the country, provided moral clarity on the riots:

Politics & Policy

NR’s John O’Sullivan Interviews Jeff Sessions

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In a new video, National Review editor-at-large John O’Sullivan interviews former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions about his recusal in the Russia investigation, President Trump, the coronavirus pandemic, and more as part of the Danube Institute’s Lockdown Diaries series. Toward the end they discuss Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

Watch it here:

Sports

Boston Marathon Canceled for the First Time in Its 124-Year History

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Lawrence Cherono (Kenya) crosses the finish line to win the 2019 Boston Marathon in Boston, Mass., April 15, 2019. (Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports)

Well, it was a good run. But after 124 consecutive years, the Boston Marathon will not be held in 2020. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

Organizers canceled the Boston Marathon on Thursday for the first time in its history, bowing to the social distancing requirements of the coronavirus outbreak and ending a 124-year run that had persisted through two World Wars, a volcanic eruption and even another pandemic.

Earlier this year, race organizers had delayed the race to September 14, joining many other springtime races that punted to the fall in the hope that something like normal life would resume by then. But for Boston, it was only that: a hope. And Boston mayor Marty Walsh concluded that “it became clear as this crisis developed that Sept. 14 was less and less plausible.”

This is an understandable decision. Having raced Boston last year (somewhat fortuitously, in hindsight), I can attest that the whole experience depends on the kind of close contact and common usage not ideal for a pandemic: Thousands of runners in intense proximity, not only on the starting line and in the race itself — with plenty of sweating and expectorating throughout — but also in the buses on the way from downtown Boston to the Hopkinton starting line outside of the city. Not to mention people using the same portable restrooms. And of course, thousands of spectators. I get why all of this would be a dicey proposition in the biggest city of a state still dealing with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in America.

None of this means Boston’s cancellation isn’t a sad occasion. It is, of course. For virtually its entire history, the race has been one of the most important parts of running culture, serving both as a showcase for the sport’s best talent and perhaps the most prestigious race that a hardworking but otherwise unheralded runner could reasonably hope to reach. I was not planning to race Boston this year, though I know many people who were. Now, the earliest anyone can hope to make that 26.2-mile journey is April 2021.

It’s also a reminder of how far we still have to go for normal life to return. Running is, in some senses, immune to the restrictions and closures that have affected other sports and activities; its simplicity allows it to be done just about anywhere, and it can be done alone. I have derived considerable solace — and sanity — in this strange time from running because of this. But Boston’s cancellation is a sober reminder that, in its more complex forms, running is subject to the same cautions and hesitations that are likely to complicate and prolong the return to normalcy for football, baseball, and other sports. The best one can hope for, at this point, is that 2020 ends up as the sole interruption in the storied history of this race.

Most Popular

The 1619 Distortion of the Second Amendment

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones had some thoughts on the Second Amendment yesterday: https://twitter.com/nhannahjones/status/1267604715434639360 It’s not really a “head scratcher” to comprehend why Americans want to protect their property and lives from looters and the mob. Why a ... Read More

The 1619 Distortion of the Second Amendment

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones had some thoughts on the Second Amendment yesterday: https://twitter.com/nhannahjones/status/1267604715434639360 It’s not really a “head scratcher” to comprehend why Americans want to protect their property and lives from looters and the mob. Why a ... Read More

‘Dominating’ the Streets

Since the revolution in policing that began in the early 1990s, we have had a generation of peace and prosperity. Without the rule of law -- i.e., without order, without the presumption that the laws will be enforced -- that kind of societal flourishing is not possible. We are seeing now what happens when the ... Read More

‘Dominating’ the Streets

Since the revolution in policing that began in the early 1990s, we have had a generation of peace and prosperity. Without the rule of law -- i.e., without order, without the presumption that the laws will be enforced -- that kind of societal flourishing is not possible. We are seeing now what happens when the ... Read More

We Need Law and Order, but Not Necessarily Federal Troops

In the Rose Garden yesterday evening, President Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to restore order in the American cities if mayors and governors fail to do it. In his brief speech, Trump said the appropriate things about the George Floyd case (he called it a “brutal death”) and about the legal ... Read More

We Need Law and Order, but Not Necessarily Federal Troops

In the Rose Garden yesterday evening, President Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to restore order in the American cities if mayors and governors fail to do it. In his brief speech, Trump said the appropriate things about the George Floyd case (he called it a “brutal death”) and about the legal ... Read More

Yes, Meet Rioters with Overwhelming Force 

Restoring order to America’s cities isn’t a complicated proposition. All it requires is resources and determination and a firm rejection of the longstanding progressive fallacy that an overwhelming police presence is “provocative” and “escalatory” and must be avoided. As has been established ... Read More

Yes, Meet Rioters with Overwhelming Force 

Restoring order to America’s cities isn’t a complicated proposition. All it requires is resources and determination and a firm rejection of the longstanding progressive fallacy that an overwhelming police presence is “provocative” and “escalatory” and must be avoided. As has been established ... Read More

The Left Should Be Careful with Its Riot Rhetoric

Last week, the nation was stunned by the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle decried the slaying, and it didn’t take long for protestors across the country to take to the streets. Sadly, some recent ... Read More

The Left Should Be Careful with Its Riot Rhetoric

Last week, the nation was stunned by the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle decried the slaying, and it didn’t take long for protestors across the country to take to the streets. Sadly, some recent ... Read More

The ‘Institutional Racism’ Canard

About twice as many white people as black people are killed by police. In fact, in about 75 percent of police shootings, the decedent is not black. Of course, that is not what you would grasp from consuming media. Take the website statista.com, specifically its breathless focus on “Hate crime in the United ... Read More

The ‘Institutional Racism’ Canard

About twice as many white people as black people are killed by police. In fact, in about 75 percent of police shootings, the decedent is not black. Of course, that is not what you would grasp from consuming media. Take the website statista.com, specifically its breathless focus on “Hate crime in the United ... Read More