Education

A New Liberal Arts College on the Horizon

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There are very few colleges left that still focus on the liberal arts and haven’t succumbed to leftist politicization. Fortunately, there is enough freedom left in America that people who want to offer such education can do so.

In today’s Martin Center article, Marsha Familaro Enright discusses the new school she is creating, Reliance College.

She writes, “If we want to reverse America’s current slide into authoritarianism and actively move towards a fully free society, we need to be as clear about our goals as the collectivists have been about theirs. And theirs have always been power and control — to that end, ingeniously using indoctrination masquerading as education.”

Reliance College will be different. Students will learn from dedicated teachers and the curriculum will be useful knowledge so that they can have successful lives. It’s set to open in Chicago in 2024. Funding will be complete private to avoid getting entangled with the government.

Reliance builds on Enright’s successful Great Connections program. She continues, “Student after student has spontaneously reported to us that their approach to their lives has been transformed by these programs. To this day, we hear from them about their successes due to what they learned at The Great Connections. Students attending our full college program will have the opportunity to learn and develop far more.”

Good luck!

Elections

Georgia 3-0 Election Conspiracy Theorists

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People vote in Fulton County during the primary election in Atlanta, Ga., May 24, 2022. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

A year ago, I wrote about the State of Georgia, which had “become a cynosure for fabulists of all stripes.” Three times in three years, I noted, Georgia’s electoral system had been perniciously lied about. First, by Stacey Abrams in 2018. Then by Donald Trump in 2020. And, finally, by pretty much the entire Democratic Party, which cast the modest reforms that the state made in 2021 as “not just like Jim Crow, but worse.”

Today, I can note the good news that, ultimately, all three of these attempts have failed. Stacey Abrams lost in 2018. Donald Trump’s revenge tour against Governor Kemp and Secretary of State Raffensperger has ended in embarrassing defeat, with Kemp beating Trump’s challenger by fifty points and Raffensperger winning his primary outright. And the many lies that the Democrats have told about Georgia have been so badly exposed that the Washington Post, which spread many of them in the first instance, has been forced to publicly concede that “record-breaking turnout is undercutting predictions that the Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021 would lead to a falloff in voting”

You love to see it.

Elections

Raffensperger Wins by Double Digits, Avoids Runoff

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Polls had shown a competitive race in the Georgia GOP primary for secretary of state, but incumbent Brad Raffensperger is leading Trump-backed congressman Jody Hice 51.3 percent to 34.1 percent with nearly 90 percent of votes counted. According to Henry Olsen, Raffensperger is a heavy favorite to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff election under Georgia primary rules. 

Raffensperger was a top target of Donald Trump following the secretary of state’s decisions to oppose Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. As readers of NRO know, Raffensperger has also refuted false claims made by Democrats about Georgia’s elections and voting laws.

Update: Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report calls the race for Raffensperger.

In his victory speech, Raffensperger says: “My thinking is that the vast majority of Georgians are looking for honest people in elected office. I think people are tired of the lying and bickering, and they’re tired of the incompetence.”

U.S.

Saul Cornell’s Preposterous Rifle Claims

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AR-15 rifles displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pa., in 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A Slate column by Saul Cornell contains a stunning — and, you will not be surprised to learn, preposterously untrue — claim about the rifle used by the killer in the Buffalo massacre: that it was 200 times more lethal than the muskets used in the American Revolution.

This is, of course, pure poppycock.

Cornell’s column links to a post by the Duke Center for Firearms Law, which says nothing about AR-style rifles of the kind used in Buffalo. It does contain a claim that “compared to a revolutionary-era flintlock musket . . . a World War II-era machine gun was more than 100 times as lethal.” Setting aside, for the moment, the issue of quantifying lethality in some meaningful way (I will return to it), crediting these numbers at all would mean that a modern sporting rifle (reported by Cornell to be 200 times more lethal than an 18th-century musket) is twice as deadly as a World War II machine gun (reported by Duke to be only 100 times as lethal as an 18th-century musket). Our friend John Hillen is the expert on vintage military weapons, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say: That is patently absurd.

There were, of course, more than a dozen different machine guns used in World War II, and they varied greatly in firepower, so estimating the lethality of a “World War II-era machine gun” is a meaningless exercise. But even if we just consider the most common U.S. machine gun of that era, the Browning M2 (“Ma Deuce”), the claim that a modern AR-style rifle is something twice as lethal is impossible to take seriously. The M2 was chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, which in common loadings is roughly twice as powerful (as measured by muzzle energy) as the common 5.56mm NATO round used in most modern sporting rifles, including the one used in Buffalo. (CORRECTION: The M2 was a .50-caliber machine gun, meaning considerably more powerful than indicated above; it was the earlier M1919 that was chambered for the .30-06. Military loadings of the .30-06 were sometimes designated M2, which was the source of my confusion. My error understated my case.) An AR-style rifle is semiautomatic, meaning that it fires one round every time the trigger is squeezed, with a well-trained shooter using 30-round magazines (as in Buffalo) able to take possibly 50 reasonably well-aimed shots in a minute; the M2, by comparison, has a rate of fire of more than 1,200 rounds per minute. The U.S. military estimates the effective range of its 5.56mm rifles at 600 yards; the effective range of the M2 is more than 1,000 yards. Or, to put it qualitatively rather than quantitatively, the 5.56mm rifle used in Buffalo is widely considered insufficiently powerful even for deer hunting (and in some jurisdictions it has been prohibited for that purpose for that reason) while the M2 was used to shoot down airplanes and to disable light-armored vehicles. The idea that a semiautomatic 5.56mm rifle is twice as lethal as a World War II–era machine gun — and there were bigger and more powerful machine guns than the M2 on the battlefield — is preposterous.

And it is not a claim that the Duke Center for Firearms Law makes, as far as I can tell. The Duke post cites the work of military historian Trevor N. Dupuy, who proposed to established a standard measure of lethality for military weapons. Never mind that Dupuy’s estimates were intended to apply to battlefield conditions — which are, presumably, different from grocery-store conditions — his work was published in 1964, a decade before the 5.56mm round used in the Buffalo shooter’s rifle was actually developed. (The 5.56mm NATO is similar to, but not identical with, the .223 Remington.) Dupuy’s study, linked by the Duke Center, makes no mention of the AR-15 or the 5.56mm round it uses.

Saul Cornell’s reporting is by all appearances erroneous if not fictitious, and one might even be forgiven for believing it to be meaningless bullsh**. Slate should either document the claim, in which case I will be happy to be corrected and very interested in the underlying data, or retract it.

Politics & Policy

Re: Kemp Crushes Trump-Backed Perdue 

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In response to Brian Kemp Crushes David Perdue

“I guaran-damn-tee you we are not down 30 points,” David Perdue told reporters last week in response to a Fox News poll that showed him trailing GOP governor Brian Kemp. 

With half of the votes counted in Georgia’s gubernatorial primary tonight, the Trump-backed Perdue is trailing incumbent GOP governor Brian Kemp by 50 points.

Trump recruited and endorsed Perdue simply because he was angry that Kemp did not try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Perdue had said he would not have certified Biden’s Electoral College victory in the state. As Politico reported last month, Trump made his first campaign investment in 2022 in a super PAC trying to defeat Kemp. But a strong majority of Georgia GOP primary voters simply weren’t animated by Trump’s 2020 election grievances.

Elections

Brian Kemp Crushes David Perdue

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Republican gubernatorial candidate David Perdue walks off the stage following his concession speech after losing to incumbent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in Atlanta, Ga., May 24, 2022. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

It’s early yet in the vote-counting in today’s primaries in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, but this much is clear: Brian Kemp has steamrolled David Perdue, who just conceded the race. Early vote tallies have Kemp up by even larger margins than Herschel Walker, who has already been called the winner of Georgia’s Senate primary against little-known opponents. Donald Trump staked a huge amount of his personal prestige and influence on toppling Kemp purely out of spite over Trump’s loss of Georgia in 2020, and while the jury is still out in some of the other Georgia Republican primaries, common sense and Kemp’s conservative record have triumphed tonight over the most debased forms of Trump sycophancy.

David Perdue was a good senator. He didn’t have to end his career this way. But he chose this path, and he richly deserved this ending.

Law & the Courts

State Supreme Courts Are on the Ballot

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In last Tuesday’s primary, North Carolina voters chose their candidates for many offices. One of those was the state’s supreme court. Democrats presently hold a tenuous 4-3 majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court, and two incumbents are up for reelection in November. Republican Richard Dietz faces Democrat Lucy Inman, and Republican Trey Allen faces Democrat Sam Ervin IV (a family name that should be familiar: His father, Sam Ervin III, was a federal appeals judge on the Fourth Circuit, and his grandfather represented North Carolina in the Senate from 1954 to 1974 and became familiar to national audiences during the Watergate hearings).

The early polling is encouraging, showing Dietz up 45 percent to 39 percent, and Allen up 46 percent to 42 percent. North Carolina is, however, only the tip of the iceberg in judicial races that will determine the fidelity of state courts to the federal and state constitutions as well as court resolution of divisive issues such as voting and election laws and abortion:

The stakes are most transparent in the four states where the partisan balance of their supreme courts is on the line this fall—Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio. But the 2022 cycle could also shift jurisprudence across the country if the fragile balance of power is altered in some state supreme courts. In Arkansas, Montana, and New Mexico, for instance, conservative lawyers are running to push the bench further to the right. In Washington State, justices who have formed a narrow progressive bloc are up for re-election.

Politics & Policy

Roe Mythology in the Washington Post

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Rene H., right, holds a sign in support of abortion rights as Mark Lee Dickson, of Texas, left, and Mauricio L., of California, hold anti-abortion signs outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

I have not been able to keep up with all of the misleading coverage of abortion in the press, but I wanted to flag this especially egregious passage from the Washington Post. In an op-ed, Democratic strategist Lis Smith writes,

There is not a single Democratic member of the House or Senate, nor a single Democratic governor in the country, who supports the right to an abortion without limitations. Even the failed Senate measure upheld the basic framework of Roe, which prohibits late-term abortions except under the most limited of circumstances.

Roe does not prohibit late-term abortions. It does not prohibit them in any circumstances. It purports to allow legislatures to prohibit abortion after viability, but only so long as the legislatures make an exception for abortions that are needed for the mother’s health — which Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, says includes “all factors–physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age–relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.”

Bans on abortion late in pregnancy are thus effectively unenforceable even where they remain on the books. (The only two successful prosecutions against late-term abortionists I have ever run across in research for the entire post-Roe period involved defendants who had so many other charges against them that they did not mount a constitutional-law defense on the charge: Kermit Gosnell and “the butcher of Avenue A.”) In 2016, Hillary Clinton was asked whether an unborn child “just hours before its delivery” had a right not to be killed. She correctly explained that the answer under U.S. law was no.

The CDC reports roughly 13,000 abortions after the 18th week of gestation for 2019. A 2013 literature review found that most late abortions are not done because of fetal abnormalities or threats to the mothers’ lives. The bill that nearly every Democrat in Congress supported includes a post-viability health exception and says that the terms of the bill should be “liberally construe[d].”

For years Democrats have tied themselves to a position that is substantively extreme but can easily be disguised. (Most people favor Roe v. Wade; most people oppose elective abortion after the first trimester.) Smith’s article is an attempt to offer political advice to Democrats on winning the abortion debate. Some of her explicit advice strikes me as sound. But her best advice is implicit: Democrats should keep misrepresenting the abortion policies they support.

Politics & Policy

Uncommon Knowledge: Harvey Mansfield Counts His Blessings

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The political philosopher Harvey Mansfield first arrived at Harvard University in the fall of 1949. He has remained at that august institution of higher education and is still teaching at age 90. In this special edition of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, recorded in the Baker Library at Dartmouth College, Dr. Mansfield answers five questions about America today from his perspective of observing and writing about the country for more than half a century.

Recorded on April 15, 2022

 

Economy & Business

The Economic Turmoil Just Ahead

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Writing on American Greatness, Adam Mill (a pen name) explains that we are heading into an “economic doom loop” owing to years of folly by the Fed, Congress, and the White House. Inflation will accelerate, but the usual counter-inflationary policies will cause other miseries that officials won’t want to inflict.

We are in for a lot of economic pain, much like a drug addict who must either quit the habit or die of an overdose.

We went through a great deal of economic pain in the 1930s and the “progressives” managed to convince most of the public that the cause was free-market capitalism and the solution was government regulation. That was completely wrong and we have been suffering adverse consequences ever since. We’re about to have the same scenario and the “progressives” will again claim that the combination of high inflation and falling output is the fault of anything but their policies. They’ll demand even more power to cure the crisis they’ve caused.

We will have to do everything we can to persuade the people that government is the cause and freedom is the solution.

Elections

Count the Disputed Mail-In Votes in Pennsylvania Primary for GOP Senate Nomination

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Workers scan mail-in and absentee ballots following the Pennsylvania primary elections in Philadelphia, Pa., May 18, 2022. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

As the Wall Street Journal relates in an editorial published Monday evening, a dispute has arisen over the counting of mail-in ballots in the closely contested Republican primary election in Pennsylvania between David McCormick and Dr. Mehmet Oz. The candidates seek the party’s nod to run against ailing Democratic nominee, John Fetterman, for the seat now occupied by retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

Clearly, the ballots should be counted.

The dispute boils to ballot envelopes. By state law, voters are supposed to write the date on the outside envelope into which the mail-in ballot is inserted. It is a frequent occurrence, however, that voters neglect to write the date, or write the wrong date — indeed, sometimes they write their date of birth, mistakenly believing that that is the datum being sought. A court decision by the Commonwealth’s highest court holds that mail-in voters must comply with technical requirements, including the dating requirement, in order for their votes to count.

That, however, is not the end of the matter. The federal Constitution (Article I, Section 4) provides that, while state legislatures are responsible for prescribing the “Time, Place and Manner of holding Elections” for Senate and House seats, “Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

Congress has exercised that power in the civil-rights laws. Specifically, Section 10101(a)(2)(B) provides that no federal or state official shall

deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election[.] [Emphasis added.]

In this instance, a voter’s omission in writing the date on the envelope is clearly not material to the voter’s qualifications. First, regardless of the date on which votes are cast, voters either meet the age, citizenship, and residency requirements to vote or they don’t. Second, to the extent the date could be relevant to ensuring that the ballot was cast within the time-limits prescribed by state law, each vote is time-stamped when the state election officials receive it by mail.

The only votes at issue in the Republican primary are those stamped as received on or before Election Day. So we are not talking about streams of undated, potentially fraudulent votes arriving after the fact.

If all this were not clear enough, it is cinched by a federal appeals court decision last Friday, in a case involving a county judgeship election from 2021. As Politico reports, the Third Circuit ruled that hundreds of undated mail-in votes should be counted because they were received on time. The court has not yet issued its formal opinion explaining the ruling, but it did make clear that the dating requirement is “immaterial” under federal law — specifically, the civil-rights law excerpted above.

Media reports indicate that Dr. Oz’s slim lead could be withering away. McCormick appears to be benefiting from the mail-in vote more than Oz, so his camp wants the votes counted, while Oz opposes.

Those political calculations are understandable. Legally, though, they should make no difference. If the Commonwealth permits mail-in voting, which it does, and there is no question that ballots arrived on time, which there is not because of the date-stamping, then the votes should count. End of story.

The Journal’s editors fret over the prospect of the courts’ appearing to determine the outcome of the election. Respectfully, that invites the kind of hand-wringing that caused the Supreme Court to duck important election-law questions in 2020. This is not a matter of the courts’ deciding an election, but of letting voters decide it by counting valid votes. Regardless of what the Pennsylvania state supreme court has said, the Constitution empowers Congress to weigh in. It has done so with a clear statute, and the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Pennsylvania has correctly interpreted that statute to require that votes be counted in a case that is directly on point.

Count the votes.

Energy & Environment

Are You Ready for the Advent of ‘Fossil Gas’?

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The Left spends a lot of time coming up with new words that it believes advance its agenda, and now it wants to rename natural gas, which it worries sounds too natural.

 

Economy & Business

Woke Capital Blinks

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A State Farm logo is shown on the basket support before the game between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Missouri Tigers in Oxford, Miss., January 18, 2022. (Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Yesterday, Caroline Downey reported that State Farm, the insurance mega-corporation that had recently launched an initiative sponsoring the distribution of LGBT literature to children as young as kindergartners, was having second thoughts:

State Farm, the household-name insurance company, has abandoned its program to distribute LGBTQ-themed books to teachers, community centers, and libraries, explicitly targeting children as young as kindergartners, after a media exposé based on a whistleblower email caught the company by surprise on Monday.

In an email to all State Farm agents and staff members sent just hours after multiple news outlets revealed the book initiative, Victor Terry, chief diversity officer and vice president of public affairs, announced the cancellation of its collaboration with GenderCool, an organization that promotes LGBTQ teaching via speaking events, mentorship programs, DEI/HR consulting, and advising for parents of transgender children.

“State Farm’s support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool, has been the subject of news and customer inquiries. This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity,” the email, obtained by Libs of TikTok, read. “We will no longer support that program.

It’s not the first time in recent months that a large corporation has snubbed left-wing activists. In March, Disney’s ill-considered decision to go to war with Ron DeSantis over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill backfired so badly that the entertainment company decided to withdraw from political activism altogether. As I wrote at the time:

DeSantis didn’t cave. As Phil Klein wrote, “Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek made a public show of calling DeSantis in protest about the parental-rights bill. . . . Some suggested that this put DeSantis in a tight spot, given that Disney is one of the most powerful businesses in the state and one of its major employers. But the governor not only told Disney to pound sand, he made a public show of it.”

And then? He won. Rather than lean into the fight, Chapek announced that Disney would be “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida.” In an open letter detailing the decision, Chapek apologized to progressive activists: “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.” In the end, it was all talk. DeSantis’s courage actually de-politicized the company. Go figure.

Then, in April, Bloomberg reported that Exxon-Mobil planned “to prohibit the LGBTQ-rights flag from being flown on the corporate flagpole outside its offices during Pride month in June,” updating “company guidance on what flags can be displayed outside its offices” to ban “‘external position flags’ such as PRIDE and Black Lives Matter.” It was a symbolic move, to be sure, but significant nonetheless. I wrote:

Big business’s relatively recent entry into the culture wars was at least partially a question of basic incentives: Progressive activists, armed with the enormous institutional power of the media, Big Tech, the culture industry, the universities, and one of the nation’s two major political parties, were increasingly demanding that corporations use their considerable economic power to go after their enemies. Conservatives, on the other hand — traditionally more deferential to the business community — were reluctant to respond in kind.

But we’re beginning to see a shift in that dynamic. The Republican base is now demanding that their leaders show some backbone in the culture wars, and is making it politically unacceptable for party elites to cave to corporate interests. Conservatives — particularly those of the social-conservative variety — are realizing that big business is often not their friend, and responding in kind. As a result, the incentive structure is changing before our eyes.

Then, on the heels of the leak of the draft Roe decision, large corporations — many of which had become vocal proponents of any number of boutique social-justice issues in recent years — were conspicuously silent. “Among most Fortune 500 companies, substantive statements were few and far between, whether in support of or opposition to the court’s draft opinion,” the New York Times reported. Their old allies on the activist left noticed: “The silence is deafening from corporate America in Roe v. Wade,” one PRWeek headline declared.

Then, just last week, Netflix went on the offensive against the woke activism within its own company. Caroline Downey reported

Netflix recently canceled several social justice-oriented projects and on Tuesday laid off 150 employees, many of whom created content that catered to various racial and sexual identities, in an apparent effort to steer the business model away from prioritizing the interests of progressives.

On top of the layoffs, Downey wrote, “Netflix published an update to its corporate culture memo for the first time in nearly five years . . . which declared that the company would be embracing a big tent content strategy regardless of whether staff find some of it objectionable. Rather than indulge the protestations of woke employees, Netflix encouraged them to seek a different workplace more compatible with their values.”

And now, State Farm — all in all, a bad few months for the activists who had grown accustomed to having corporate America do their bidding. Whether it lasts, of course, remains to be seen. But it’s a step in the right direction. 

Law & the Courts

The Stare Decisis Case against Roe

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A pro-life protester holds an issue of National Review, End Roe, ahead of arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Anthony Bolognese/Capitol Hill Photo)

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Adam White has an excellent op-ed arguing that the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade precisely for the sake of stare decisis. Supporters of Roe often argue that the Court would be doing a disservice to the importance of precedent if it overturns its 1973 ruling, but White makes the case that not to do so would be the real stare decisis error:

Critics of Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion charge that overturning Roe would condemn other precedents: Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), establishing the right to contraception; Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the right to same-sex marriage; even Loving v. Virginia (1967), the right to marry regardless of race.

Yet Roe v. Wade is in a class by itself. No modern Supreme Court precedent has less connection to the Constitution’s text; none stir greater moral and political disagreement. And if some take Roe as the epitome of precedent, that is one more reason to overturn it. The doctrine of precedent is too important to be defined by such a poorly reasoned and divisive case.

Precedent, or stare decisis, is fundamental to our constitutional system. Alexander Hamilton urged in Federalist No. 78 that “to avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts, it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents.” America’s judicial power reflected its English common-law heritage: By giving weight to earlier judges’ decisions, each new generation of judges would acknowledge their own fallibility and practice self-restraint.

The rest of the article is well worth reading in full, as he dismantles the notion that the Court is duty-bound to keep the travesty of Roe in place. While you’re at it, you should also read this piece by Clarke Forsythe from the “End Roe” special issue of the National Review print magazine late last year, in which he explains why Roe remains so unsettled and why it fails to meet the criteria for being upheld on stare decisis grounds.

The Economy

Gas Prices and the ‘Incredible Transition’

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Gasoline prices art a Chevron station in Garden Grove, Calif., March 29, 2022. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

There was a time when the Biden administration used to claim that the surge in inflation was a brief “transitory” thing, something to be deplored, but something that did at least have the merit of being temporary.

That didn’t work out.

And now, gas prices. . . .

The New York Post quotes President Biden as follows:

“[When] it comes to the gas prices, we’re going through an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when this is over,” Biden said during a press conference in Japan following his meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Now, of course, the president and his team do not appreciate the current spike in gas prices, an inconvenient development at a politically inconvenient time: Midterms and all that.

The Post:

The president then insisted that his administration’s actions, rather than increasing the price of gas, had actually been able to “keep it from getting worse — and it’s bad.”

CNET (May 22):

On Friday, the national average for a gallon of gas swelled to $4.59, according to AAA. That’s about a quarter more than the previous all-time high of $4.33, reached on March 11, and a 50-cent jump from just a month ago.

Oh.

Well, it’s good that Biden acknowledges that the situation is “bad.”

Not only that, he accepts that “it’s affecting a lot of families.”

Who knew?

The reality of the “incredible” (in more senses of that word than one) transition, is that, if it is pursued as currently contemplated, energy — whatever the price of oil may do in the short term — is going to be becoming more expensive (and probably more unreliable, too, but that’s a different story), and for the foreseeable future. To climate warriors (and there are quite a few of those in the Biden administration) that’s a feature, not a bug. But the smarter among them them also appreciate the political dangers (which are not confined to the midterms) that come with this. Ideally, they would prefer transition-related increases in the cost of energy to be relatively slow, and relatively steady. Frogs in a pot — that was the model.

Well, if we’re the frogs, the unexpected disaster at the gas pumps has just given us a preview of what, on our present course, will be coming our way.

“Incredible” is not the word I’d use to describe it.

 

 

Note: Amended to reflect the fact that I should have referred to frogs, not lobsters. What’s more, I have learned that the story about frogs is, although widely used, a myth, unlike, of course, the prospect of a cheap carbon-free energy world being only just around the corner. 

 

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: FDA and Diesel

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David Gortler of the Ethics and Public Policy Center writes about how the FDA helped cause the baby-formula shortage:

Abbott, the largest manufacturer of baby formula in the USA, has cooperated with the FDA and CDC in conducting a thorough investigation. Today we are told that all investigating parties have concluded that no bacteria-tainted baby formula originated from the Abbott facility.

In a long series of eleven different tweets (which are worth reading through), Abbott affirms that: “a comprehensive investigation by Abbott, FDA and CDC found no evidence that our formulas caused infant illnesses.” Despite these conclusive findings, the Abbott plant still remains closed at the behest of the FDA.

Abbott appears to be another victim of the disproportionate targeting by the FDA of the few remaining domestic manufacturers of FDA-regulated products. Since Covid-19, the FDA still hasn’t fully resumed inspections of drug-manufacturing plants in China and India. Instead, the many inspectors otherwise sitting idle have focused their ire on the few remaining domestic FDA-regulated manufacturing plants. Shutting down FDA-regulated facilities always seems to happen a lot faster than reopening them, even if FDA accusations are unfounded — as Abbott has abundantly made clear.

Roy Mathews of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure writes about high diesel prices:

It was only five months ago that Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm laughed at Bloomberg host Tom Keene’s question about increasing domestic oil production, calling it “hilarious.”

No one’s laughing now.

Culture

Ricky Gervais Dares to Joke about Transgenderism

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Ricky Gervais’s Netflix comedy special SuperNature dropped last night and is already attracting criticism for “transphobic” jokes.

Gervais begins the special with jokes about women not being funny and not being able to take a joke, then swiftly moves on to transgenderism:

Not all women, I mean the old-fashioned ones. The old-fashioned women, the ones with wombs. Those f***ng dinosaurs. I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they? The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and c***s. They’re as good as gold, I love them. And now the old-fashioned ones say, “Oh, they want to use our toilets.” “Why shouldn’t they use your toilets?” “For ladies!” “They are ladies — look at their pronouns! What about this person isn’t a lady?” “Well, his penis.” “Her penis, you f***ing bigot!” “What if he rapes me?” “What if she rapes you, you f***ing TERF whore?”

Later, when discussing cancel culture, Gervais said that “you can’t predict what will be offensive in the future” because “you don’t know who the dominant mob will be.”

Like, the worst thing you can say today, gets you canceled on Twitter, death threats, the worst thing you can say today is, “Women don’t have penises,” right? Now, no one saw that coming. You won’t find a ten-year-old tweet saying “Women don’t have penises.” You know why? We didn’t think we f***ing had to!

Funny because it’s true?

Gervais also took aim at so-called woke comedy, saying, “I’d rather watch Louis CK masturbate.” Evidently, Netflix has made a similar calculation that controversial comedy is more popular (and lucrative) than woke content. Last week, the streaming giant fired 150 employees “many of whom created content that catered to various racial and sexual identities,” our Caroline Downey reported.

World

Has Germany Been Naïve or Cynical?

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This useful thread argues the latter:

Politics & Policy

Princeton Should Be Ashamed of Itself

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Princeton University campus in 2013. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Joshua Katz, a tenured classics professor at Princeton whose criticism of left-wing activism at the university provoked outrage and protests on campus, has officially been fired. Zachary Evans reports:

Princeton University’s Board of Trustees fired classics professor Joshua Katz, the university said in a Monday statement, claiming that the longtime faculty member “failed to be straightforward” during a 2018 investigation into a relationship between Katz and an undergraduate student.

Katz told National Review that he learned that he’d been fired only after the New York Times called his wife, and said the university sent his notice of termination to the wrong email address. The Washington Free Beacon first reported that Princeton was planning to fire Katz.

Katz was briefly suspended from the university in 2018 over the consensual relationship with a student, which occurred about 15 years ago.

But for anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s pretty obvious that the real reason for Katz’s termination was political. In particular, as Evans notes, allies of the professor “have claimed that the firing was motivated by the professor’s criticism of Princeton’s ‘anti-racism’ initiatives. In a 2020 essay for Quillette, Katz criticized a faculty letter stating that ‘Anti-Blackness is foundational to America,’ and referred to a student group called the Black Justice League as ‘a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the many (including the many black students) who did not agree with its members’ demands.’”

As a result of the activist-led backlash to those comments, the Princeton administration has been gunning for Katz’s head for some time. Katz’s controversy-inducing comments about the Black Justice League being “a small local terrorist organization” were added to Princeton’s mandatory freshman-orientation course on the university’s legacy of racism, posted on the school’s official website. The section added denunciations of Katz from his colleagues and the university president himself, noting that “President Eisgruber condemned the words used by Katz” and that “the Classics Department made a strong statement against his views as well, arguing that they were ‘fundamentally incompatible with our mission and values as educators.’” But most scandalous of all, the portrayal of the comment itself was dishonestly edited to make it sound more provocative. As I reported earlier today:

The line that was initially included on the webpage conspicuously omitted the parenthetical clause “(including the many black students),” without any ellipsis to indicate that part of the sentence had been excluded, thus framing Katz’s comments in more racially charged terms.

In October, eight Princeton professors filed an internal complaint demanding “an investigation into who doctored Professor Katz’s quote and who edited and posted the page without identifying and correcting that error.” The Princeton website has quietly revised the passage, adding the “(including the many black students)” clause back to the quote. But no investigation appears to have occurred, and the school has not issued a public correction or an apology, nor has it contacted the freshmen who went through the orientation to notify them of the omission. It has subsequently refused calls to take the quote down, with Eisgruber saying earlier this year that he would “resist any suggestion” to edit the website.

And not only did Princeton not give Katz the courtesy of notifying him before publicly announcing his termination; administrators didn’t even allow him to resign. As I wrote today, Katz “was in talks about a tentative deal that would have allowed him to resign — but negotiations broke down after the university administration insisted it retain the right to publicly say the president had recommended his dismissal, the professor’s lawyer confirmed to National Review. . . . Katz offered to resign weeks ago — but the administration was not willing to go forward without the ability to note his impending termination.”

Shameful, cowardly stuff. But what else can we expect from the leadership of our elite universities these days?

Politics & Policy

Providence, R.I., Spending Federal Covid Relief Funds on Reparations

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The Rhode Island state capitol building and lawn on Capitol Hill in Providence (sgoodwin4813/Getty Images)

More than 18 months after the economic crisis caused by lockdowns ended, there is still an enormous amount of unspent funding hanging around. The city of Providence, R.I., has hit on a seemingly new reason for spending the money: reparations for black and indigenous people.

The American Rescue Plan Act — a gargantuan $1.9 trillion spending package meant to enable the Biden administration to claim credit for taking bold and decisive action to end an economic crisis that was already over as of early 2021 (GDP growth was 6.3 percent that first quarter, following growth of 33.8 percent and 4.5 percent in the last two quarters of 2020) — shoveled so much money out to the cities that it has taken them some time to puzzle out what to do with the windfall. Providence is spending a $124 million federal grant on housing, infrastructure, and other things that have nothing to do with the pandemic, plus $10 million on reparations, via a yet-to-be-determined method.

Mayor Jorge Elorza says, “Reparations can take a lot of different shapes. We know that $10 million is not enough. We can’t right all the wrongs of the past, but we can take an important first step.”

Providence is a city of about 181,000, of whom about 18 percent are black or indigenous. A $10 million reparations package would, if distributed via direct cash payouts, amount to about 33,000 people getting a check for $300 each.

Media

AP Gives PR Boost to Black Lives Matter

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A protester carries a Black Lives Matter flag in Elizabeth City, N.C., April 27, 2021. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

We often hear about the nexus between progressives and the media. Make no mistake, there is most certainly a bias. And the relationship was on full display in last week’s Black Lives Matter newsbreak by the Associated Press.

The scoop in question concerns a 63-page financial disclosure form about BLM financial flows, given its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Per the IRS, these forms — termed 990s — are a matter of public record, so the public can scrutinize nonprofits operating tax-free. BLM recently filed its 990 for the year 2020-21, during which its expenditures came into question. Watchdogs had been awaiting the recent filings, to get a better look at BLM’s finances.

Before the report was to be released, though, BLM leaked it to the Associated Press. This gave the AP an “exclusive” story that no other outlet possessed — a story that would minimize criticism and maximize the (few) positives. This story would then be picked up by other outlets, whose coverage would riff off the AP in an effort to run something as quickly as possible.

In short, BLM did this to lay the groundwork for more favorable coverage of itself. Indeed, while the document was factual, and the AP’s report gave readers insight into BLM finances, the analysis was skewed. The report touted BLM’s “scrappiness” as a young foundation and assumed that “black charities” are often wronged by the “white philanthropic landscape.” This, while including details such as the following:

The tax filing shows that nearly $6 million was spent on a Los Angeles-area compound. The Studio City property, which includes a home with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a soundstage and office space, was intended as a campus for a Black artists fellowship and is currently used for that purpose, the board member said.

This arrangement was essentially public. As the AP’s copy reads: the “Form 990 [was] shared exclusively with The Associated Press” — moments before it was to be shared with the world. Plus, curiously, BLM has also been promoting the AP’s story on its own website — encouraging viewers to read it in order to combat “misinformation” about the group.

So this worked out well for them.

International

Finland’s Greens Now Fully behind Nuclear Power

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AREVA project lead Jean-Pierre Mouroux inside the OL3 EPR nuclear reactor being built at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Eurajoki, Finland, in 2016. (LEHTIKUVA/ Martti Kainulainen/ via Reuters)

First, Finland applies to join NATO, now this.

In a historic shift, Finland’s Green Party voted overwhelmingly to adopt a fully pro-nuclear stance at its national meeting.

The party manifesto now states that nuclear is “sustainable energy” and demands the reform of current energy legislation to streamline the approval process for SMRs (small modular reactors). Finland’s is the first Green Party to adopt such a position.

“I am very happy and proud,” said Tea Törmänen, who attended the conference as a voting member as chair of the Savonia/Karelia chapter of Viite, the pro-science internal group of the party. “This is a historical moment in the history of the green movement, as we are the first green party in the world to officially let go of anti-nuclearism.”

The action was taken at the two-day Vihreät De Gröna (Green Party) party conference, which included 400 participants representing local party groups and other interest groups from across the Nordic country. It ended yesterday in the town of Joensuu. . . .

Finland’s Green Party holds 20 seats in the national parliament and is part of the government coalition, holding the foreign ministry, the internal ministry and the ministry of environment and climate.

And for a bonus point:

The Finland branch of Fridays for Future, the group started by Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, released a statement last December disavowing an anti-nuclear statement by Greta and other climate youth leaders.

The Finnish Fridays for Future group wrote in response that: “Opposition to nuclear power will complicate and increase the already enormous task [of addressing the climate emergency].” They continued: “If we want to stop global warming below 1.5 degrees, we need every possible means, including nuclear power, to achieve that goal.”

Incidentally, my opening sentence should not be read to suggest that there is a direct link between the shattering of the two taboos. Finland’s Greens have been moving in this direction for a while.

See this for example (from 2020):

The Greens are not categorically against building small nuclear reactors as a means of combatting climate change, Green Party Chair and Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said on Saturday’s morning show broadcast by the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

Essentially, Finland’s Greens appear to be recognizing that the strain of 1970s environmentalism which was centered on opposition to nuclear power is not compatible with belief in a climate “crisis” (and dealing with it). Whatever one may think about the reality of a climate crisis (something different from an acceptance of climate change), at least Finland’s Greens are recognizing that attempting to manage it will involve trade-offs of the type that many climate fundamentalists refuse to recognize, either through stupidity, or because at some level they regard net zero as a form of punishment for a sinful mankind: It is supposed to hurt.

It’s encouraging that the EU Commission’s proposed “green taxonomy” is following a similar logic. We’ll have to see if it gets through. Meanwhile, Germany continues to stick with its anti-nuclear stance, one largely embedded in longstanding superstitious dread and an even more longstanding German obsession with “nature.” The latter, of course, has been part of the country’s political and psychic landscape for a long time, not always in a good way.

But back to Finland:

The latest public opinion polls from Finland show a strong majority in support of nuclear power in the country as a whole. The latest poll, conducted in 2021, showed 74 percent backing nuclear, with only 18 percent opposed. This represents a huge shift from 2011 — in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster — when 42 percent opposed the technology.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is also likely to have solidified support for nuclear, as Europe rushes to extract itself from a dependence on Russian oil and gas…

Politics & Policy

The Pence Mission

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Former vice president Mike Pence sits for an onstage interview at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., November 30, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Jonathan Martin reports on the groundwork that Mike Pence is laying for a 2024 presidential run with a special focus on how Pence is separating himself from Trump. For instance, Pence is campaigning with Georgia governor Brian Kemp, who similarly refused to let Trump cajole him into disputing the 2020 election results. Pence also refers in his speeches to his gratitude toward people who thank him for standing up for the constitutional process on January 6, 2021. He also refuses to rule out a run if Trump decides to run.

Now, I personally don’t think Pence would stand a chance against Trump one-on-one. In his days as governor of Indiana, I wish Pence had been as defiant in defense of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with Apple Computers as Ron DeSantis has been on the Florida education bill with Disney.

Also, it may be tiresome for Pence, but naturally the media will focus relentlessly on his relationship with Trump and try to elicit more and more from him about his willingness to run against Trump.

If I were Ron DeSantis, Bill Lee, or another ambitious Republican and wanted to run for president in 2024, come what may, I’d want Pence to be in the field. Pence is likely to be a focus for Trump’s ire. And the drama between Trump and Pence would be a great opportunity to present oneself as a candidate for looking ahead in hope, rather than back in anger.

Religion

Whoopi Goldberg Does Theology Wrong

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Whoopi Goldberg at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2016. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Presumably because of her role in Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg feels an expertise in Catholicism. This morning on The View, she weighed in on the Nancy Pelosi Communion issue.

She told San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that it’s not his job to tell her not to present herself for Communion. Except that is his job. He’s the pastor of the souls in his care. Goldberg went on to say that Communion is bread for sinners.

First of all, Catholics believe that bread becomes the Body of Christ during the consecration of the Mass. So that ups the stakes of what we are talking about — God Himself. Pelosi has written previously about how it is hard to believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist — even going so far as arguing with her granddaughter about it on her First Communion day. Which suggests Pelosi is more Protestant in thinking about Communion — and she wouldn’t be alone. But the Real Presence is Catholic doctrine. And a lot of the things we Catholics spend time doing in the Church (Eucharistic adoration I’m about to head to; why some of us were in agony not being present at Mass during the Covid shutdown) don’t make sense if that isn’t true.

Secondly, Catholics are supposed to be in the state of grace when we present ourselves for Communion — no mortal sins on our souls. And to receive the grace of reconciliation in Confession, we need to be truly sorry and seek not to sin again. After Confession — as has been my experience as a human being — I will sin again, but I actually really don’t want to. Which is why I need God’s grace to do better; to change.

Pelosi is in the position where not only is she supporting legal abortion and confusing people by saying that’s quite fine for a Catholic, she’s now pushing for more abortion. By everything we can see in her public positions, she isn’t looking to be forgiven and stop what she’s doing on this front. Which is why her archbishop felt he had to do something.

In an interview with Gloria Purvis for America magazine, Cordileone spoke with great reverence about the person and soul of Nancy Pelosi. The pastor is doing his job. Much of the politics and commentary around this is hurting, not helping, people hurting and confused and miserable and angry because of legal abortion.

Education

The Diversity Mania Swallows Up Another School

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These days, almost every academic opening winds up being filled by someone who is throughly imbued with “progressive” ideology. If you’re not “woke” don’t bother applying.

A case in point is the School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins writes about the school’s new dean, Raul Reis. He has announced that DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) will “permeate everything the school does.”

UNC’s J-school was already far gone, but it’s clear that DEI will now utterly saturate the school. The “journalists” it graduates will be even more zealous than ever in pushing the leftist agenda. Watkins points out that academic freedom will take a beating as faculty members will be expected to pledge allegiance to the diversity ideology.

Perhaps UNC’s Board of Governors will exercise some oversight and not allow Reis to turn UNC’s J-school into his leftist utopia, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Politics & Policy

How One City Will Use Federal Covid Money

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Providence, R.I., is going to squander millions coming from Uncle Sam on reparations, “affordable housing,” and other leftist boondoggles, as we read here.

Of course, the Constitution gives Congress no authority to toss money around to cities for any reason. Too bad that the limits on its power to tax and spend were eviscerated back in the 1930s.

Some grifters will pocket lots of money. The city’s problems will be as bad as ever. And the government’s debt will go up some more, burdening future generations. But so what? This is “good politics” for the Dems.

Hat tip: Bill Jacobson.

Religion

Mary Eberstadt on Pelosi and Her Archbishop

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In the Washington Post:

Everyone sins, and there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. But leading others to sin, repeatedly and impenitently, is uniquely grave. . . .

For many years, some Catholics in public life have been enjoying illicit dual religious citizenship — pro-church on Sunday yet followers otherwise of a gnostic creed that deems abortion an untouchable totem.

Now, thanks to Archbishop Cordileone, the “personally opposed” option is less viable. Public figures who want simultaneously the political benefits of “choice” and the personal consolations of being Catholic might have to decide once more which of these two masters they will serve. A new kind of choice is upon them.

Politics & Policy

State of Abortion in the U.S.

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A few minutes of commentary on Montse Alvarado’s excellent EWTN show In Depth Friday night:

Politics & Policy

FBI Appears to Have Referred to Sussmann as ‘the US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE’ in Document Opening Investigation of Supposed Trump–Russia Back Channel

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J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building in Washington, D.C. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

I have a column up on the homepage this morning about the curious fact that Michael Sussmann, currently on trial for making false statements to the FBI, had a badge that permitted him to enter FBI headquarters and roam around the place. As I detail, that seems awfully peculiar since Sussmann has not been a Justice Department lawyer for many years — he is a highly paid private attorney whose clients (famously, the DNC with respect to its hacked servers, which were withheld from the FBI) sometimes take positions opposed to the government’s.

This intriguing fact seems to have escaped much notice at the trial last week. I theorize that this is because neither Sussmann lawyers nor Special Counsel John Durham’s prosecutors see upside in highlighting it. Regardless of that, I conclude, “the public deserves an explanation of why Sussmann had a badge allowing him to enter and wander around FBI headquarters, and why the FBI brass took such extraordinary measures to conceal Sussmann’s identity as the source of the Trump–Russia information.”

On that last point, this morning we have this remarkable report from the Washington Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy. Astonishingly, when the FBI wrote up its standard “EC” (electronic communication) that opened the investigation into the allegation that Donald Trump had established a communications back channel with Russia, it claimed that the information had come to the bureau from “the US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.” In fact, it came from Sussmann, a lawyer for the Clinton campaign.

As I said when asked by the Examiner for comment, this seems outrageous to me. It was one (maddening) thing for the FBI’s top officials to decide to conceal Sussmann’s identity from the agents who were tasked with assessing the information that Sussmann had provided. But it is quite another thing to say that the information came, not from a confidential informant, not from a Clinton campaign lawyer, but from the Justice Department.

The trial is continuing this week and some of the agents involved in the investigation-opening document may be testifying. Perhaps there will be some explanation.

Culture

The House of Lord’s Only ‘Female’ Hereditary Member

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There are many quirks to the British political system. One such is the system of hereditary titles and male primogeniture in the upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords.

Take Matthew Simon, born in 1955, the inheritor of the Barony of Wythenshawe. Matthew now identifies as a woman and goes by Matilda. And yet, the Telegraph reports, “Matilda Simon was this week given permission to contest the next by-election for one of the upper chamber’s remaining 92 hereditary seats.” Simon is actively seeking out this title, in other words. And if Simon wins, the House of Lords will ostensibly change from having zero to one “female” hereditary member.

Sam Leith, writing in The Spectator, notes:

Whichever side of the trans debate you stand on – whether you think that biological sex is an immutable characteristic that needs recognition, or that a self-declared gender identity is enough to make you a woman in fact as well as in law – it is surely impossible to have it both ways. If Matilda Simon is a woman, she doesn’t qualify to inherit a male peerage. Indeed, if she’s a progressively minded person you might wonder why she’s so keen to take advantage not only of a hereditary membership of the upper house, but of the still more reactionary custom of male primogeniture. In so doing, be it noted, she leapfrogs her elder sibling Margaret – who as a natal woman is unable to inherit the title.

As many of its critics have pointed out, the trans movement is not really about equal rights but about special privileges. About entitlement, no matter how illogical or sexist.

White House

Ron Klain’s Desperate Spin

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Ron Klain and then-vice president Joe Biden at a meeting with organization leaders responding to the Ebola crisis at the White House in 2014. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Polishing a turd isn’t easy, but White House chief of staff Ron Klain gives it a good try:

In the CBS News poll he’s discussing, Biden’s job approval indeed moved up… from 42 percent to 44 percent — with 56 percent still disapproving. In the CBS News poll from May 2018, President Trump’s job approval was 4o percent… and we all know how the 2018 midterms turned out for Trump’s party.

And as you might suspect, Klain is really cherry-picking when he points to “solid public confidence” on Covid and jobs.

On Covid, the pandemic is no longer a major factor in American life, which has more to do with the vaccines and tens of millions of American catching Omicron this winter than any particular Biden policy. And yet even here, just 53 percent say Biden is doing a “very good” or “somewhat good” job. The other 47 percent are “somewhat bad” or “very bad.”

On the issue of jobs, Klain is rephrasing the question, “looking ahead to the next few months, are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about jobs in your community?” In the survey, 52 percent say optimistic, 48 percent say pessimistic. As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, there are 11.5 million unfilled jobs in the country right now. We don’t lack job openings, we lack workers and applicants for those jobs. We are learning the hard lesson that an avalanche of new job openings does not necessarily mean a thriving economy and prosperity for everyone.

And other questions reveal that even if a slim majority of Americans feel good about job creation in their community, they don’t feel good about the economy as a whole. Just 26 percent say they feel “very good” or “fairly good” about the economy — only 6 percent say “very good” — while 69 percent say they feel “fairly bad” or “very bad about it, with 39 percent saying “very bad.”

Biden’s job approval on the overall economy is just 36 percent, and just 30 percent of respondents approve of how he’s handling inflation. Biden is at 40 percent approval on immigration, crime, and abortion. It’s a terrible poll for a president six months before the midterm elections, and no amount of hand-waving by Klain will change that.

Elections

Who Lied to This Lady? Pretty Much Everyone 

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The Washington Post ran an article on the surge in early voting in Georgia, which was supposed to be in the grips of Jim Crow 2.0. It ended with this anecdote:

Patsy Reid — 70 years old, Black and retired — said she was surprised she didn’t encounter problems when she voted early this month. Reid cast her ballot for Abrams in the Democratic primary but feared that her vote could be discounted given reports of voter suppression against people of color in Georgia.

“I had heard that they were going to try to deter us in any way possible because of the fact that we didn’t go Republican on the last election, when Trump didn’t win,” Reid said. “To go in there and vote as easily as I did and to be treated with the respect that I knew I deserved as an American citizen — I was really thrown back.”

As I note in a piece over on the home page, that’s the voice of someone who’s been repeatedly lied to. Of course, the army of disinformation scolds and fact-checkers haven’t been out in force, or out at all, lamenting all the misinformation that was spread from the president on down about the Georgia electoral system.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: FTC Troubles and Housing

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Joshua Wright and Derek Moore, former FTC officials, write about how the agency can repair the broken trust between employees and leadership:

Morale at the agency is extremely low, and the situation is dire. But we think there are ways [Lina] Khan can repair the breakdown in trust that has occurred between her and the career civil servants that staff the commission. And she must. The role of the FTC in protecting American consumers is simply too important for lawmakers and the public to watch as its institutional capital rapidly circles down the drain.

Earlier this month, the Office of Personnel and Management released results from its yearly survey of federal employees. Normally, this is an opportunity for FTC leaders to take a victory lap. Over the course of more than a decade and until this year, the FTC ranked consistently toward the top of a list of similarly sized agencies.

This year’s results are quite different. Suddenly, the FTC’s rankings are at or near the bottom. From our perspective, the most concerning results reflect a sharp disconnect between FTC staff (mostly apolitical federal employees) and management (presidential appointees and their hand-picked senior staff). In 2020, prior to the change in administrations, 87 percent of FTC staff answered favorably when asked whether senior leaders “maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.” In 2021, after Khan and her team took over, that number dropped to 53 percent. Similarly, the number of staff who answered favorably to the question of whether “senior leaders inspire motivation and commitment” moved from 80 percent to 42 percent. These declines are substantial and concerning, and they reflect a sharp break from consistent and positive results over a long period.

Kevin Hassett writes about the housing market, and how it could wind up with the Fed’s monetary policy:

The economics of the near future of the housing market is not as scary as one might think given the large increase in prices and the coming additional tightening of the Fed. New construction will slow sharply, and the downward pressure on the price of existing homes from new supply will moderate sharply as well. Stagflation is a strange thing in the housing market. The low growth wants to push the price down, but the inflation wants to push it up. If history is a guide, then, one shouldn’t panic about the state of the housing market.

For the recession we are probably entering, the most likely outcome is that home prices decline somewhere between the 1982 rate and the rate from 2008. After a 19.8 percent increase over the past year, the odds are that most American homeowners will end the recession playing with house money.

White House

Think of Those Poor, Struggling White House Staffers

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Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a media briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 29, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Bloomberg:

President Joe Biden’s decision on whether to forgive student debt will be personal for many of his aides, who are among the millions of Americans carrying loans for college and graduate school.

At least 30 senior White House staffers have student loan balances, according to 2021 financial disclosures Bloomberg News obtained from the Office of Government Ethics, including Biden’s new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Collectively, they owe as much as $4.7 million, the documents show, including one legislative aide who reported owing between $500,000 and $1 million. Generally, only senior or well-paid White House staff have to file financial disclosures, and they don’t have to report debt less than $10,000, meaning the total number of Biden’s aides with loan balances is certainly higher.

From a May 6 profile of Karine Jean-Pierre:

According to the 2021 Annual Report to Congress on White House Personnel, as the deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary and senior adviser, Jean-Pierre’s salary was $155,000 per year. She will get a bump in pay upon taking over Psaki’s assistant to the president and press secretary roles and will make $180,000 a year, which places her among the most highly compensated staffers in President Biden’s administration.

Jean-Pierre joined the faculty of Columbia University in 2014 as a lecturer at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), teaching courses on campaign management. According to Glassdoor and Indeed the typical Columbia University Lecturer salary sits around $65,000.

As a staffer for Elizabeth Warren, Ramamurti made $91,874.88 in the 2016 fiscal year, $108,833.25 in the 2017 fiscal year, and $111,999.92 in the 2018 fiscal year. He then moved to the Warren presidential campaign, and from there, Senator Chuck Schumer appointed him to the Congressional Oversight Commission to oversee pandemic spending.

Commission members who were not federal employees were paid “at a rate equal to the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay for level I of the Executive Schedule for each day (including travel time) during which such member is engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Oversight Commission,” and reimbursed for travel expenses. For fiscal 2020, Level I of the Executive Schedule is $219,200 annually.

In Biden’s 2021 disclosure of White House salaries, Ramamurti is being paid $130,000 per year. (In the Trump administration, the deputy director of the National Economic Council was paid $165,000.)

National Review

NR Is Hiring a Part-Time Editor

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National Review is hiring a part-time associate editor. Primary duties include editing articles, blogposts, and newsletters for NationalReview.com — as well as feature-length articles and other copy for the print magazine as needed. This position can be remote. Applicants should be familiar with, and enthusiastic about, National Review, its history, and its mission.

The part-time associate editor will be part of a team of editors handling copy from a range of in-house writers and contributors, including economics pieces from our Capital Matters unit. The ideal applicant will have excellent writing and editing skills; experience with digital and print publishing; the ability to balance a wide range of tasks on short deadlines and work well with writers, editors, and Web producers; and a strong interest in and understanding of politics and policy. The ideal applicant is also versatile and able to handle a range of duties (including editing news copy) when needed.

Some nighttime and weekend work will be required, in order to respond to content needs. This is a part-time, freelance position, though would likely require at least 20 hours a week.

Applicants should submit a résumé and a cover letter explaining their interest to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Place “Associate Editor – YOUR NAME” in the subject line.

Culture

Bill Maher Transcends the Culture War

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In response to Bill Maher: Trans Kids Are ‘Cannon Fodder’ in the Culture Wars

Kyle highlights Bill Maher’s Friday monologue, expressing liberal skepticism of the transgender craze affecting children. Kyle describes Maher as a “National Review kind of Democrat.” I think of Maher’s positioning in this debate more as a European kind of liberal. The easiest way for American liberals to question trans orthodoxy is to align themselves with what their European counterparts are doing, i.e., putting the brakes on the trans train. As I wrote in reference to Florida, this is also the most strategic move for conservatives since it transcends the pettiness and parochialism of the culture war.

Capital Matters

Labor Relations and Thought Control

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The notion of the exploitative employer has been a standard critique of capitalism, and not always without reason (curiously, the way that communist states treated workers in their factories has been subject to a rather less sustained critique, in the West anyway), but the degree of intrusiveness of some contemporary employers, who appear to be engaged either in changing the way that their employees think or, at least, pretend to think, goes beyond anything that could have been dreamt up by the robber barons of old.

There are plenty of stories to pick from, but here’s a recent one (via the Daily Telegraph) from KPMG, in the UK:

KPMG will make unconscious bias training mandatory and linked to bonuses from next month, just over a year after its previous boss called the idea “complete c–p”.

The accounting giant’s 15,300 UK staff could have their bonuses slashed if they refuse to attend future lessons on bias, which will highlight how discussing skiing holidays, gap years and private schooling can isolate others.

The move, which marks the first time KPMG has made this training compulsory, comes just over a year after its former UK chief Bill Michael stepped aside following an outburst in which he told workers to stop “playing the victim card”.

His remarks also saw him call unconscious bias “complete c–p”, triggering a backlash from staff who argued that dismissing the concept was “reckless” and reflective of his own privilege. Mr Michael later apologised for his comments. . . .

That some would-be commissars within KPMG’s staff appear (for one reason or another) to support the ideological indoctrination of their colleagues is neither here nor there — there are fanatics and opportunists within any organization — but it would be good if some of those who pride themselves on their support for employee rights started pushing back on the extent to which some employers are currently attempting to get into the heads of those who work for them.

I’m not holding my breath.

Culture

Bill Maher: Trans Kids Are ‘Cannon Fodder’ in the Culture Wars

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Bill Maher (HBO/YouTube)

Bill Maher is still a Democrat, but he’s become the kind of Democrat who posts NR headlines on Real Time and makes points that echo the ones we make all the time here. In other words, he’s a National Review kind of Democrat. Welcome, Bill.

In a piercing and astute Friday monologue on his HBO talk show, Maher noted that “if something in the human race is changing at a previously unprecedented rate, we have to at least discuss it,” and cited polls showing that the percentage of Americans identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual is roughly doubling every generation, now surpassing 20 percent: “If we follow this trajectory we will all be gay in 2054. When things change this much this fast, people are allowed to ask, ‘What’s up with that?’ All the babies are in the wrong bodies? Was there a mix-up at the plant?” He noted that when adults used to ask children what they wanted to be when they grew up, “They meant what profession.”

Maher said he was happy for gay (etc.) people who get to openly be their authentic selves, adding, “We should all be mindful of respecting and protecting. But someone needs to say it: Not everything’s about you. And it’s okay to ask questions about something that’s very new and involves children.”

Maher worries that “we’re literally experimenting on children. Maybe that’s why Sweden and Finland have stopped giving puberty blockers to kids.” As he spoke, Maher posted the headline of this NR piece.

What are we doing to kids who say they’re transgender?

We just don’t know much about the long-term effects although common sense should tell you that when you reverse the course of raging hormones there’s going to be problems. We do know it hinders the development of bone density, which is kind of important if you like having a skeleton. Fertility and the ability to have an orgasm seem also to be affected. This isn’t just a lifestyle decision. It’s medical. Weighing tradeoffs is not bigotry. Yet when a book questioning the sudden uptick in transitioning children was released, a trans lawyer with the ACLU tweeted, ‘Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100 percent the hill I will die on.’ How very civil liberties of him.

Maher said that increased frankness is likely a factor in the polls showing more and more sexual minorities, saying, “And that’s all to the good.” But he added, “Some of it is: It’s trendy. ‘Penis equals man? Okay, boomer.’ Remember, the prime directive of every teen is: Anything to shock and challenge the squares who brought you up . . . And if you haven’t noticed that with kids, doing something for the Likes is more important than their own genitals, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Maher pointed to the skepticism of Dr. Erica Anderson, a transgender 71-year-old psychologist who questions the spike in transgender children. “The L.A. Times summarizes, ‘She’s come to believe that some children identifying as trans are falling under the influence of their peers and social media.’ If you attend a small dinner party of typically very liberal upper-income Angelenos, it is not uncommon to hear parents who each have a trans kid having a conversation about that.”

Why are kids in major liberal enclaves suddenly announcing they were born in the wrong bodies in numbers never dreamt of even a decade ago? Maher suggests there is a mind contagion at work. He asks, “What are the odds of that happening in Youngstown, Ohio? If this spike in trans children is all natural, why is it regional? Either Ohio is shaming them or California is creating them.”

Maher thinks a little frankness is in order: “If we can’t admit that in certain enclaves there is some level of trendiness to the idea of being anything other than straight, then this is not a serious science-based discussion. It’s a blow being struck in the culture wars using children as cannon fodder.”

When it comes to the long-term health of our kids, some parents seem to think gender transitioning is the one safe thing that children can do: “I don’t understand parents who won’t let their nine-year-old walk to the corner without a helmet, an Epipen and a GPS tracker — and God forbid their lips touch dairy — but ‘hormone blockers and genital surgery? Fine.’”

To summarize: “Never forget children are impressionable and very, very stupid . . . Maybe the boy who thinks he’s a girl is just gay. Maybe the girl who hates girly stuff just needs to learn that being a girl doesn’t mean you have to act like a Kardashian. Maybe childhood makes you sad sometimes and there are other solutions besides ‘hand me the d*** saw.’’

And we seem to have forgotten that kids have phases: “They’re kids, it’s all phases. The dinosaur phase, the Hello Kitty phase . . . genderfluid? Kids are fluid about everything. If kids knew what they wanted to be at age eight, the world would be filled with cowboys and princesses. I wanted to be a pirate. Thank God nobody took me seriously and scheduled me for eye removal and peg-leg surgery.”

Politics & Policy

Who Among Us Has Not Chased Down an Unarmed Black Jogger with a Shotgun?

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Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman speaks to striking healthcare workers from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center outside the corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa., November 18, 2021. (Quinn Glabicki/Reuters)

The media really, really want a far-left Democrat named John Fetterman to win a Senate seat in Pennsylvania this fall, facing off against either Dr. Mehmet Oz or former hedge-fund CEO David McCormick, one of whom will be the GOP nominee.

Fetterman stands 6’8” and dresses like a mechanic/lumberjack, and the media’s hope is that a set of Bernie Sanders–like policy positions can be slipped past the electorate provided that their advocate looks like a guy who has multiple Trump flags draped over his house. Fetterman supports Medicare for All (i.e., abolishing your health-insurance plan and dumping you onto a federal one), says there should be no legal limits on abortion, backed Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, calls Elizabeth Warren a “luminary,” thinks biological males should be allowed to participate in girls’ and women’s sports, and wants a “de facto” moratorium on fracking.

Oh, and he chased down a black jogger with a loaded shotgun in 2013. The jogger said Fetterman pointed the shotgun at his chest; Fetterman denies this but allows that his intent was to detain the jogger. At the time, Fetterman was mayor of a small town in Pennsylvania. Trip Gabriel of the New York Times frets, “The GOP use of this 2013 incident . . . has begun.” Gabriel previously published a detailed account of this episode that puts the gentlest imaginable spin on events but . . . Fetterman chased down an innocent, unarmed black jogger with a shotgun and detained him. 

Gabriel thinks the GOP is opportunistically publicizing this episode which, as ancient history (way back in 2013, when the earth was young and before chasing down unarmed black people for no reason was discovered to be wrong), should be forgotten by all involved as it gives us no useful information about the character of a man running for the U.S. Senate. In other words, this is a “GOP pounces story,” or Gabriel wishes it were. The media would have us believe it is unfair for Republicans to draw attention to a Democrat chasing down an unarmed black jogger with a shotgun; naturally, Democrats would not be opportunistic about the situation and would quietly let the matter rest were Fetterman a Republican.

World

‘I Would Never Have Him Any Different’

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Vladimir Kara-Murza (Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters)

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a political prisoner, arrested on April 11. National Review readers are well familiar with him. He is a Russian politician, journalist, and democracy advocate. I have written about him, and podcasted with him, several times. I will have a piece about his case in our next issue. In the meantime, I have done a podcast with his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza: here. She is doing all she can to sound the alarm about her husband and win his release.

For 15 years, Vladimir Kara-Murza worked alongside Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader. They were very close friends. Nemtsov was godfather to one of the Kara-Murzas’ children. He was murdered in February 2015, gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin. Kara-Murza himself was almost murdered — twice, in poison attacks. Yet he would not leave Russia, for exile. He insisted on continuing his work in his own country, despite the obvious dangers.

In 2017, I asked him what his wife, Evgenia, thought. He said, “If you ask her, she’ll say, ‘I knew what I was signing up for.’” He then said — blushing slightly — “I’m grateful to have such a woman in my life.”

Here is Evgenia herself, speaking in our podcast: “When we were dating, 20 years ago, I was looking at him and thinking, ‘You know, I can imagine spending my life with this man. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s honorable. He has so much integrity.’ Later, when the poisonings and persecutions began, I thought, ‘I wish our lives could be a little more boring.’ But I do admire Vladimir. I’ve always admired and respected him for his principled stand, and I would never have him any different.”

About Vladimir’s insistence on working in Russia, rather than abroad, Evgenia says this: “He believes that he would not have the moral right to call on people to fight if he were not sharing the same risks.”

Evgenia Kara-Murza worked for a time as a translator: between Russian and French, and between Russian and English. Eventually, however, she joined Vladimir in his political work and his human-rights work. He was “drowning in projects,” she says. And how could you choose? How could you choose between, for example, advocacy of personal, targeted sanctions against wrongdoers, and advocacy in behalf of political prisoners? Vladimir thought it necessary to do it all.

On March 15, he gave a speech to the Arizona legislature. “These are very dark times in Russia,” he said. “These are times when we have hundreds of political prisoners, and that number is only going to grow.” Less than a month later, Kara-Murza himself became a political prisoner.

“I’m continuing his work while he cannot do it,” says Evgenia.

I think of Avital Sharansky, wife of Natan, or Anatoly, as he was in the Soviet Union. She married him in 1974. The next day, she left for Israel. She had a visa, he did not. (Hence, he was a refusenik, someone denied an exit visa.) In 1977, he was arrested, and spent nine years in the Gulag. Brutal years. Abroad and free, Avital campaigned for him. She was very effective at it. A few years ago, Natan remarked to me, “The biggest mistake the KGB made was letting Avital out.”

Today, Evgenia Kara-Murza tells me, “I’ve never been a public person, and I’ve never enjoyed being in the public eye. I am a quite introverted person, so I like working from home, and I like taking care of the kids, but unfortunately the situation sometimes changes, and I emerge when my husband is either poisoned or thrown in jail, because this is my partner, my soulmate, and I am prepared to do everything I can to bring my children’s father home.”

Again, to hear her, in a podcast, go here.