President Biden is so rigorous about sticking to (slowly) reading off his prompter and ducking reporters’ questions that everything in his messaging depends on what is being written for him.
And the stuff that’s being written for him is bone-chilling stuff. Today he suggested the decisions of the nation’s elected governors must be stamped out by Joe Biden. The president today showed authoritarian, even autocratic, tendencies.
Do I exaggerate? Like Presidents Obama and Trump before him, Biden has repeatedly expressed the idea that should Congress not act the way he prefers, he thereby gains special license to legislate via executive order. Today he baldly stated state governments were a hindrance to the executive branch’s ability to work its will on the American people.
“If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said, shredding the concept of federalism.
Whoever wrote this frightening speech was, I suspect, thinking of Bill Clinton’s 1992 convention speech in which he referred back to the spat between Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan:
A President ought to be a powerful force for progress. But right now I know how President Lincoln felt when General McClellan wouldn’t attack in the Civil War. He asked him, “If you’re not going to use your army, may I borrow it?” And so I say, George Bush, if you won’t use your power to help America, step aside. I will.
Not for the first time, a Democrat sought to bring the aura of wartime emergency, and all of the powers that may come with it, to a non-urgent moment. But Clinton’s remark was merely a defense of big government as a solution to people’s problems. In the mangled version that Biden’s speech writers came up with, the federal government is not merely about helping people, it should overstep the boundaries of the Constitution to overrule and nullify actions of duly elected state governments. It was an amazing revelation of where the Democratic party’s instincts lie today: there is one authority that decides all questions from Juneau to Miami, it is in Washington, D.C., and it sits in the Oval Office. Here’s someone who knows something about the issues at stake:
“Get them out of the way”? Remarkable stuff. It’s an “I have a pen and a phone” moment, but one that threatens federalism rather than the separation of powers—and the sort of rhetoric that many people have been calling “autocratic” or “strongman” in recent years. https://t.co/2oQ4qnx0iU
In mid-October 2020, in an ABC News town hall in Pennsylvania in the heat of the presidential campaign, Joe Biden was asked by George Stephanopoulos about imposing a vaccine mandate. He said there wasn’t authority to enforce that, and that the president would simply have to convince governors and mayors to do so:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And once we get it, if it is safe, if it is effective, will you mandate its use?
BIDEN: The answer is, depending on how clear there’s — vaccines, they say, have a very positive impact, and they are going to affect positively 85 percent of the American public. There’s
Major legislative changes to immigration have in modern times typically involved large, bipartisan coalitions. The 1924 immigration act establishing national quotas, 1965’s Hart-Celler Act (which in many ways laid the foundation for the current immigration system), the 1986 amnesty, and the 1990 expansion of legal immigration all got big congressional majorities.
Democrats’ current effort to insert a major immigration-reform component (including a mass amnesty) into the reconciliation bill threatens that tradition. The Senate parliamentarian is due to hear arguments from Republicans and Democrats about including these immigration provisions in reconciliation under the “Byrd rule.” A parliamentarian ruling that sweeping immigration reform could be included in the reconciliation process could permanently transform the dynamics of immigration policy, making it even more polarized and potentially adding to the dysfunction of the immigration system.
Applying the Byrd rule is an arcane process involving a number of variables. Over the summer, Christopher Jacobs argued that most big-ticket immigration policies would fail Byrd-rule tests for reconciliation, and Ramesh Ponnuru specifically doubted the applicability of reconciliation to an amnesty measure. Proponents of using reconciliation for immigration reform have focused on two key tests: whether a provision has an effect on federal expenditures or revenue, and whether that effect is “merely incidental” to the other policy consequences of that provision. They argue that amnesty would have significant fiscal effects and that these effects are not merely incidental.
Despite a recent coordinated effort to tout the fiscal benefits of a “path to citizenship,” much advocacy for amnesty (especially for categories such as people illegally brought to the United States as minors) has not emphasized dollars and cents but instead an ethical obligation to some vision of America. The headline for the immigration page on Joe Biden’s campaign website was “The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants” — not “The Biden Plan for Using Immigration to Affect the Federal Balance Sheet.” Proponents of amnesty and expanding legal immigration have portrayed these issues as fundamental questions of American identity, not finances.
By setting a precedent to include an amnesty measure in a reconciliation bill because of its fiscal effects (which are regarded as non-incidental), the parliamentarian could very easily be setting a precedent for making vast changes to immigration policy through reconciliation. For instance, a ten-year moratorium on certain immigration categories could also be eligible for reconciliation under this precedent — after all, severely curtailing legal immigration could also affect the federal budget. Whether or not such a decision would be good policy, the fact that it could be included shows how allowing an amnesty through reconciliation opens up many cans of worms.
And here’s an especially big can: Imagine a Democratic Congress does pass an amnesty through reconciliation, and then Republicans pick up a trifecta by the 2024 elections and use reconciliation to cancel or pause this amnesty in 2025. They might pass a law saying that immigrants who received “permanent resident status on a conditional basis” or some special visa through the 2021 reconciliation act were ineligible to transition to “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” or U.S. citizenship after the passage of the 2025 reconciliation bill. Or they might place a 30-year waiting period for amnestied immigrants to transition to U.S. citizenship. Or they could do a host of other things.
On a policy level, this could lay the groundwork for massive civil disruption and all-out legal warfare. One Congress removing millions of people from a path to citizenship that has been granted by another Congress could ignite a firestorm. Past amnesties have avoided this risk by receiving considerable bipartisan backing, and the filibuster means that any amnesty modification would have to garner 60 votes in the Senate (which practically removes an amnesty reversal from the realm of possibility).
In weighing arguments about including immigration in the reconciliation bill in 2021, the Senate parliamentarian is also making a decision about the future dynamics of U.S. immigration policy. Shoehorning transformative immigration reform through reconciliation in an unprecedented way could further polarize immigration policy.
Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia and current candidate for the same job, visited an abortion clinic as a campaign stop today. Xan and John have talked about his abortion extremism today.
Grateful for the opportunity to tour the Whole Woman’s Health facility in Charlottesville this afternoon with @SallyLHudson. I'll always fight to protect women's clinics as gov. No Youngkin Texas-style abortion ban in VA! pic.twitter.com/EmgDvK3AVY
I note this because the crassness of campaigning at an abortion clinic is horrific. Babies die in abortion clinics. “Reproductive freedom” is legal abortion.
I was outside an abortion clinic in New York today, and “freedom” isn’t the word that comes to mind when describing what I saw. Girls I saw walking in and leaving didn’t look like they were exercising freedom. They were sad and scared and resigned. The pressure to have an abortion – especially in a place like New York City – is tremendous.
I also want to apologize on behalf of graduates of the Catholic University of America. (Both McAuliffe and I fall into that category.) Some of us went there because we wanted further formation in the faith. We wanted to be adults in the world who demonstrate in our lives what the Catholic Church teaches (‘demonstrate’ was the verb Cardinal Wilton Gregory used yesterday in reference to Joe Biden – noting that he doesn’t demonstrate Catholic teaching in his abortion position; this was in response to a reporter’s question). We’re all going to do that imperfectly. But Joe Biden has become more extremist with age, a reality that should have us praying for him.
Whenever I stand in front of an abortion clinic to pray, it’s in penance. That we Catholics haven’t been a united front against abortion and for women and children and families, embracing them with resources, is a scandal we are going to answer for. Thank you to everyone who has labored in the vineyards of the pro-life movement for years, loving women and walking with them. More of us need to, immediately.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an initiative called Walking with Moms in Need. There are programs that have launched in response in Texas here and here worth checking out.
By the way, here’s something from the FAQ of that abortion clinic’s website:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ABORTION
How soon can I have sex after an in-clinic abortion?
You can have sex as soon as you feel ready.
Well, there you are — in case you had any doubt we use abortion as birth control in America. If we actually cared about women and girls, we’d point out that they deserve better than having sex with men and boys who have made no commitment to them and who are not interested in being fathers, only using them for sexual gratification — and worse. Also, the clinic’s website says that “most people don’t have any problems after their abortion. Recovery is usually quick and easy.”
Many women will tell you life after abortion was torture. If you need help healing — however recent or many years ago your abortion(s) might have been — there are people who will help you.
Here’s a snippet of Joe Biden’s statement on the withdrawal of David Chipman’s nomination as the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF):
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have made clear that they intend to use gun crime as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it. That’s why they’ve moved in lockstep to block David Chipman’s confirmation, and it’s why they side with gun manufacturers over the overwhelming majority of the American people in opposing commonsense measures like universal background checks.
Chipman was ideologically, temperamentally, and professionally unsuited for the job of running the ATF — which is a law-enforcement agency, not a place for anti–Second Amendment advocates to circumvent Congress on gun policy. Yet, that’s exactly what Biden had in mind. After all, what does “commonsense measures like universal background checks” have to do with Chipman’s job? Nothing.
And, as Charles points out, Chipman’s nomination wasn’t killed by solely Republicans, but Democrats. Biden is accusing Angus King (who caucuses with Dems), and likely Joe Manchin and Jon Tester, and perhaps others, of siding with gun manufacturers over “the overwhelming majority of the American people.” Fortunately, unlike Chipman, these senators answer to their constituents in Maine, West Virginia, and Montana, not the activists at Giffords.
He says the Taliban executed his father. And his brother. Now, they are hunting for him.
“Please do something,” he wrote in a plea to CNA.
He is a young Afghan, one of countless thousands still desperate to escape his country.
He is a doubly marked man. First, because he briefly worked for the U.S. military and other allied forces. Second, because he is a Muslim convert to Christianity. That is a capital crime in Afghanistan.
15 years ago, Mexican Catholic actor Eduardo Verástegui convinced a couple not to abort their child. That child is now 15. Recently during an event entitled 'International Forum on Pregnant Women in a Vulnerable State,' at the Mexican senate, Eduardo invited her to the stage. pic.twitter.com/lv2eid78xf
It might seem obvious that children reported for maltreatment are more likely to be in danger, and that removing them from dangerous situations reduces their likelihood of death. But a growing chorus of activists argues that the child-welfare system is unnecessary and harmful. The upEND movement, for instance, proposes repealing all mandatory reporting laws. The authors of the group’s recent manifesto note, “Reporting families to family policing systems opens the door for increased policing and surveillance, and ultimately begins the process through which families experience harm, trauma, and punishment.”
The magical thinking offered by these advocates flies in the face of what we know about families reported for maltreatment. They are not simply the targets of a racist system that wants to punish poor minority families. Maltreatment, particularly in young children, is dangerous. And neglect, far from being a byproduct of poverty, is often the result of substance abuse or mental illness.
What I didn’t mention was that later in the day I learned why Barbara Olson was on a plane to California. She was going to be on Politically Incorrect, Bill Maher’s show at the time. I had actually been booked for the same show, but had to cancel for a family medical situation (that was by then resolved). Now, I wouldn’t have been flying out of D.C. but New York, so it was not so much that I could have died that day, but had I stayed booked for the program, her life may have been spared. Of course, someone else would have likely died in her place. Years past, as we pray for all those who mourn, and the eternal souls of those who died and family members and friends who have since joined them, it’s an added layer of how fragile life is, how devastating hatred is, and how our lives are so much more intertwined than we realize. I don’t think the pandemic has resulted in making that lesson sink in. As we take some at times draconian measures against COVID-19, we forget that each and every one of us will die, and we don’t know when. Love well!
Anyway, my reflection is here, in case it’s helpful in any way to anyone, as we remember.
Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak has written a buzzy column featuring an interview with former senator Barbara Boxer. The longtime lawmaker, who retired in 2017, offered her thoughts on abortion, the filibuster, and the Supreme Court, as well as details about her life in retirement. “Thank God for Siri,” she told Barabak, who penned the very sympathetic profile about her post-Senate life.
What goes totally unmentioned in the piece is Boxer’s short stint last year as a foreign agent representing a Chinese video-surveillance firm implicated in mass atrocities.
The Daily Caller reported in January that Boxer registered to represent Hikvision, which was blacklisted by the Trump administration for its complicity in the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of Uyghurs. According to the filing she registered with the Department of Justice, her role would have been to “provide strategic counsel” to the company.
Presumably, Boxer’s expertise would have helped Hikvision to navigate the Trump-era regulatory minefield that barred U.S. entities from doing business with it. But Hikvision is no ordinary company. IPVM, a video-surveillance firm, has documented Hivision’s extensive complicity in developing the mass-surveillance state with which Beijing has orchestrated a genocide of Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. This includes, among many other things, Chinese government contracts with Hikvision to supply video-surveillance systems in the region’s concentration camps and the “Integrated Joint Operating Platform” used throughout the region.
So, naturally, her registration was a small scandal. Boxer registered as a foreign agent on January 8. After word got out, the Biden inaugural committee refunded a $500 donation by saying the donation violated its rules against taking money from foreign agents. Then, on January 12, Axiosreported that Boxer would resign; she explained in a statement to the outlet:
My intent in agreeing to provide strategic advice to the company was based on my desire to help make them better in every way and preserve American jobs. However, due to the intense response to my registration, I have determined that my continued involvement has become a negative distraction for the effort so I will be deregistering.
Just a week after Boxer resigned, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a determination that the Chinese government is perpetrating crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang, a decision that his successor, Antony Blinken, swiftly endorsed. Well before that determination was implemented, Beijing’s Xinjiang atrocities were common knowledge and written about in frontpage stories.
Yet despite rising awareness of the Chinese Communist Party’s global assault on international order and human dignity, still too many former lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — lobby for firms linked to Beijing’s military buildup and human-rights abuses. Money knows no partisan affiliation. Boxer deserves credit for deregistering, but she hasn’t expressed any regret for attempting to work with a firm complicitity in ongoing atrocities.
That disgraceful incident should be a permanent part of her legacy, too, and a prominent part of a profile of what she’s done in private life.
The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA. They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step.
There’s one scenario where the administration’s constant ludicrously generous public statements of the Taliban make sense, and that’s if the Taliban has communicated their willingness to harm or detain Americans in Afghanistan, and the Biden administration is buttering them up. As Will Rogers once said, “diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”
If this bit of public praise for the Taliban is not being offered with metaphorical or literal guns to heads, and the administration really thinks it does any good to sing the Taliban’s praises to the world, then this is just one more abject humiliation of the United States, brought to you by this president and this administration.
Mona Charen’s words should be read and be a rallying cry:
It would be far healthier for our society if citizens were asked to debate and decide these matters for themselves, in their own states, without the help of nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. These are exactly the sort of issues that free people must grapple with if they want to be considered self-governing. Nearly everypoll on abortion has found that most Americans favor legal abortion in the first 12 weeks and oppose it (to varying degrees) thereafter. Polls asking whether Americans support Roe are useless because few know what it says.
If Americans are somewhere in the mushy middle, the two political parties have arrayed themselves at the extremes.
The past five years have demonstrated the dangers of excessive polarization. We are tearing each other apart over mask mandates, for God’s sake; how well-equipped are we to debate and discuss an issue that is even more emotionally volatile? Progressives are certain that conservatives don’t actually care about life, but only want to limit women’s options. Conservatives are convinced that progressives are heartless hypocrites, ready to ignore the humanity of unborn babies even as they fret about the climate or immigrant children at the border. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe and Casey, or limits their scope, the ball will be back in the citizens’ court.
I’m not optimistic that compromise or mutual understanding is possible on this issue, but let me offer some personal recollections that may help. My husband and I, as adoptive parents, were active in adoption charities and advocacy for many years. Adoption brings together people from both sides of the abortion divide. We met Hillary Clinton and Mary McGrory, a fierce liberal columnist who was on Nixon’s enemies list, at adoption events, as well as former Republican congressman and House majority whip Tom DeLay. He and his wife had raised three foster children.
I was honored to help Erica Pelman launch In Shifra’s Arms, a Jewish charity dedicated to helping women who experience crisis pregnancies. ISA was clear from the outset that its goal was to help women, not to lobby about changing laws. There were pro-choice and pro-life women on the board, united in the desire to let women know that they were not alone. ISA provides counseling, cash assistance, material support, and referrals to other resources including government programs, religious institutions, and adoption agencies. The assistance is provided throughout the pregnancy and for the first year of the baby’s life.
An Alan B. Guttmacher survey on women’s reasons for having abortions noted that more than one third of the women in the study had considered placing their children for adoption but rejected it because they believed it was “morally unconscionable” to give a child away. It seems highly doubtful that the seven million Americans who are adopted would agree. An estimated 1 to 2 million couples are waiting to adopt children. In 2018, there were about 619,000 abortions.
Most people are shocked to learn that there’s even a registry for couples waiting to adopt Down Syndrome babies.
Adoption is a loving alternative to abortion. Perhaps we can begin to listen to and hear each other if we start there.
President Biden’s “new strategy” for dealing with COVID-19 apparently consists of requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated. Earlier, federal workers could opt out and submit to regular testing for the virus.
But in a country where 208 million Americans have at least one dose, and 75.2 percent of all American adults are vaccinated, one wonders if the effects of this action will even be noticeable. There are about 2.1 million federal workers; if they’re vaccinated at the same rate as U.S. adults, that means about 1.5 million are already vaccinated, and about 500,000 federal workers will get vaccinated because of this new order. That will help, but the effects will not be easily discernible in a country with more than 330 million people.
If the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is going to become endemic – that is, around for a long time – that provides an opportunity to alter our message. It would mean admitting we can’t mask, social-distance, capacity-restriction and quarantine and our way out of this pandemic. Avoiding the virus is not really a long-term strategy, if it ever was. Just about everyone will run into it at some point.
And that offers an opportunity to change the messaging. If everyone is going to run into the virus sooner or later, how prepared do you want your body to be? Yes, if you’ve had COVID-19 before, your immune system is probably well-prepared to fight off another infection. But there are some indications that natural immunity from a past infection, coupled with the additional protection of the vaccination adds up to “super immunity” that protects against all variants. That sounds really appealing!
Instead, it appears the Biden approach is to encourage “get vaccinated or you’re fired” policies as far and wide as possible, and hoping that social and economic pressure gets roughly 13 percent of American adults to accept a vaccine that they have insisted, passionately and vehemently, they do not want.
After yesterday’s Morning Jolt, I heard from a reader who concurred that the cacophony of public health advice and sometimes conflicting restrictions and rules have prompted segments of the public to tune out all the messaging.
I’m a county official in a red state in the West. I recently met with our county health department, the heads of the local hospitals, and several doctors. To say the messaging they were pushing is problematic is understating the issue by orders of magnitude. We are having ER capacity issues and trying to figure out ways to head a few folks off at the pass…increase vaccination uptake, early monoclonal antibody treatments, etc. If we can keep 10 percent of the ER admissions out of the hospital, we are in pretty good shape. Not great, but long term sustainable….
As I explained to them, when I meet someone who speaks Spanish, I always end up shouting when I repeat myself, to make sure they understand what I am saying. It hasn’t worked yet but that’s probably because I’m not yelling loud enough. I followed that up with asking if maybe they could help us change the messaging here. They are just yelling louder and most folks are just tuning them out. It was like pulling teeth to get them to understand. I’m hopeful we can make some progress.
The U.S. government could change its messaging to, “everyone’s going to get exposed to this virus eventually, so prepare yourself with a vaccination.” But instead, Biden would prefer, “get vaccinated or you’re fired.”
To what David Harsanyi and Charlie Cooke have said, let me just add the wise words of Abraham Lincoln in a series of letters to his stepbrother, John D. Johnston. Here is Lincoln in December 1848, when Johnston was 38 years old, widowed, and had seven children to support; Lincoln refused to give him money except as a match to wages Johnston earned himself:
Your request for eighty dollars, I do not think it best, to comply with now. At the various times when I have helped you a little, you have said to me “We can get along very well
I stay out of the media wars about which therapeutics for COVID work, which don’t, and which are quackery. If it ever comes to having a personal stake in that question, I will trust my doctor.
But I couldn’t help notice the screeching media hysteria about people supposedly taking a horse deworming medicine called Ivermectin — without mentioning it has a human version — and the false stories of ERs so stuffed by people suffering adverse side effects from the veterinarian medication that other patients couldn’t be treated. The inexcusable baloney was launched by Rolling Stone and amplified by the usual left-wing suspects, such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Well, a recently published study found that ivermectin exhibits efficacy against COVID! That’s the clear import of the title: “Ivermectin: a multifaceted drug of Nobel prize-honoured distinction with indicated efficacy against a new global scourge, COVID-19.” Look at the findings, as stated in the paper’s abstract:
In 2015, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, in its only award for treatments of infectious diseases since six decades prior, honoured the discovery of ivermectin (IVM), a multifaceted drug deployed against some of the world’s most devastating tropical diseases. Since March 2020, when IVM was first used against a new global scourge, COVID-19, more than 20 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have tracked such inpatient and outpatient treatments.
Six of seven meta-analyses of IVM treatment RCTs reporting in 2021 found notable reductions in COVID-19 fatalities, with a mean 31% relative risk of mortality vs. controls. During mass IVM treatments in Peru, excess deaths fell by a mean of 74% over 30 days in its ten states with the most extensive treatments. Reductions in deaths correlated with the extent of IVM distributions in all 25 states with p < 0.002. Sharp reductions in morbidity using IVM were also observed in two animal models, of SARS-CoV-2 and a related betacoronavirus. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains. [Emphasis added.]
And consider the conclusion:
We believe that the evidence to date supports the worldwide extension of IVM treatments for COVID-19, complementary to immunizations. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, as reviewed [, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains.
IVM has been safely used in 3.7 billion doses since 1987, well tolerated even at much greater than standard doses and used without serious AEs in the three high-dose COVID-19 treatment studies noted above. In the current international emergency of COVID-19, with mutant viral strains, vaccination refusals and potentially waning immunities over months presenting new challenges, IVM can be an effective component of the mix of therapeutics deployed against this pandemic. [Emphasis added.]
People should only take strong medicines if prescribed by their doctors, of course, but good grief!
What a debacle for journalism. From now on, maybe the usual media suspects will think twice before slamming medicines because they think the story (or rumor they heard) somehow shames “the deplorables” they so despise.
Ha, Wesley! Who are you kidding? This episode was about fighting the culture war, not reporting about the epidemic.
One of the more unexpected sequel announcements of recent years was the news of a fourth entry in the Matrix franchise. The first movie, released in 1999, was and remains a fairly entertaining combination of dorm-room-level philosophizing, cool-looking special effects, and well-choreographed action. There are some entertaining moments in the two sequels that followed, but . . . for the most part, they weren’t great. And, more relevant for sequel purposes, they seemed to end the story of The Matrix: Neo (Keanu Reeves) had ‘died’ defeating the rogue program that had taken over the fake world of the Matrix, and the machines trapping humans in that fake world while trying to kill them in the real one had relented.
But . . .
Anyone who had the misfortune of making it through the end of The Matrix Revolutions knows that Neo’s ultimate fate had been left slightly ambiguous. And that ambiguity apparently left enough room for a sequel, The Matrix Resurrections, to be released in December of this year. A trailer for it just came out:
The choice of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplaine as backing music for this is perhaps the most inevitable accompaniment in trailer history, given the Matrix movies’ obsession with pills and distorted reality and whatnot. Beyond that, though, what we seem to have is a classic ‘reset’ scenario, often used by sequels released long after the movie that preceded them. That is, to justify their existence, such movies must somewhat undo the resolution achieved by a prior entry (or series) and resubmit beloved characters into familiar travails. If this trailer is any guide (which it may not be), Reeves’s Neo, now going by his original name of Thomas Anderson once again, is still alive (or alive again?) but has forgotten who he is (or was?), thanks to a steady diet of reality-suppressing blue pills (as opposed to the reality-uncovering red). Amusingly, one scene appears to show peoples’ obsession with digital devices keeping them unaware of the fact that reality itself is digital. The Matrix Resurrections is likely to show Anderson becoming Neo (again). “After all these years, to be going back to where it all started . . . back to the Matrix!” as one character in the trailer metafictionally asserts.
Whether this movie is more than just a rehash or a nostalgia trip (Reeves is not the only actor from the original trilogy to return; he’s not even the only actor performing a character thought killed to be returning), and whether it actually proves novel and good enough to be worth doing remain to be seen.
Supreme Court writer Linda Greenhouse has a New York Times column this morning indulging in the lazy argument that those who favor pro-life policies wish to impose their religion through the law. Because of pro-lifers we are, in short, “lurching toward theocracy.”
“Republican politicians used to offer secular rationales for their anti-abortion zealotry: They claimed that abortion hurt women or that abortion procedures demeaned the medical profession,” Greenhouse writes, adding,
I could go on with this list, but these examples are sufficient to raise the question for those of us not on board with the theocratizing of America: Who let God into the legislative chamber?
The answer is that we did. Our silence has turned us into enablers of those who are now foisting their religious beliefs on a country founded on opposition to an established church.
She enumerates the Catholic justices on the Court, and while she notes that two of them voted the way she would have preferred on the Texas Heartbeat Act, she fails to acknowledge that this undercuts her case. She admiringly cites former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who pioneered the incoherent notion that a politician could “personally oppose” abortion because of his religious beliefs while prudently refusing to “impose” his own morality on the populace. This argument makes no more sense now than it did when Cuomo debuted it in 1984.
For one thing, all laws impose some vision of morality. Laws against theft, murder, and slavery similarly echo the theology of several major religions — and are based on a certain notion of right and wrong, ie., morality — yet few would oppose those laws on the grounds that they improperly inject religion into public life. This argument rarely arises in the context of any law other than those regulating abortion, and it would be dismissed out of hand if it did. It functions merely to silence abortion opponents without addressing their actual arguments.
Meanwhile, only ignorance or intellectual dishonesty could explain Greenhouse’s refusal to acknowledge that the central arguments against Roe v. Wade and legal abortion are not religious in nature and are shared by any number of non-religious Americans. Roe is an anti-constitutional travesty. It’s bad law. Legal scholars across the political spectrum and with divergent views on abortion have said as much. Arguments in favor of striking down the Court’s groundless and unworkable abortion jurisprudence have nothing to do with religion.
Likewise, one need not be religious to acknowledge biological reality: The unborn child is a distinct, living human being. Abortion therefore is an act of violence. It is a procedure that, when successful, kills that distinct, living human being. It should be obvious that attempting to restrict or abolish such a procedure does not require imposing God or religion on other citizens; it doesn’t even require belief in God.
Greenhouse is far from the first commentator to insist that opposition to abortion stems from a desire to impose one’s faith on others. It’s a highly unoriginal argument most often advanced by zealous abortion-rights activists, who disparage their opponents in lieu of defending their own position — and Greenhouse should know better than to indulge in it.
Not too long ago, supporters imagined Joe Biden might be the next LBJ, and perhaps they were right — just not how they thought.
Biden bears no resemblance to the Lyndon B. Johnson who entered office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 with a 75 percent approval rating and over the next couple of years passed a raft of historic legislation. No, if there’s any comparison it is to the LBJ who by 1967 had seen his approval rating dip underwater in a deeply riven country.
After a lot of happy talk over the past half-year, the real Biden presidency has emerged. It is not a colossus bestriding the political universe, rather a middling administration, at best, that will have trouble imposing its will even on its own party in Congress.
Joe Biden’s bad summer gets worse. Per Politico, the president is planning to withdraw his nominee to head up the ATF, David Chipman:
The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to three sources close to the process.
Chipman is currently a senior policy advisor to Giffords, a gun control group, and faced an uphill battle to Senate confirmation as President Joe Biden’s point person on firearms regulation.
As Politico notes, Biden’s pick proved unacceptable to his own party, let alone to Republicans. Senator Angus King of Maine opposed him, as, it seems, did Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Jon Tester of Montana.
Much of the commentary around this selection has focused on how difficult it is to find an acceptable choice for ATF chief in the current era. Indeed, as Politico notes, “the Senate has confirmed only one ATF nominee, in 2013.” Given this, though, one suspects that it might have been advisable for the White House to pick someone who isn’t an outspoken gun-control loon who is disliked by his own colleagues.
I just realized that President Biden tapped Owen Herrnstadt to serve on the board of directors at the Export-Import Bank. Herrnstadt is chief of staff to the president at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).
That’s not just a union seat, that is a Boeing seat on the board with IAMAW representing some 22 percent of Boeing employees. Some 35 percent of Boeing employees are in a union.
Many of us over the years have referred to Ex-Im as the Bank of Boeing since the manufacturer is Ex-Im’s favorite domestic beneficiary. It was just a matter of time before Boeing formalized the relationship with a seat on the board.
Now, I cannot wait to hear how Herrnstadt will rationalize the bank’s continuing to throw money at a large corporation that raised $25 billion on private capital markets in April 2020 — just as the pandemic was unfolding — while small businesses were going through the headache of applying for a PPP loan.
Hernnstadt’s nomination is another win for the big guy.
The latest skirmish in the blue media vs. red state wars started when Florida governor Ron DeSantis had the temerity to suggest that vaccination against COVID-19 should be a personal choice. As I wrote over on the home page, the blue media promptly rolled Dr. Anthony Fauci out to contradict the governor.
The governor was in Pensacola promoting a state program that provides monoclonal antibodies (such as Regeneron) to sick Floridians for free, a program that deserves much more attention than it has gotten. (Video of the event is here; I wrote about the promise of Regeneron and similar therapeutics almost a year ago).
The governor was answering a question about businesses requiring vaccine passports. His answer is worth reading in full. Here is a roughly corrected transcript of what he said (apologies for any mistakes):
Vaccine passports. One, I’m vaccinated. I’m offended that someone would make me show something just to go to a restaurant or just to live life. And there’s a lot of people who have already recovered from Covid who do have immunity. You actually are saying, me with a Johnson & Johnson shot can go in, but someone who’s recovered from Covid and probably a stronger immunity, they can’t go in? I’m sorry. That is anti-science.
I also don’t want two classes of citizens. We have some people in our communities who just made the decision, [that] this is something that they’re not going to do. So what, you’re going to write them out of society? They’re not going to be able to go show their face? And some of these places that have vaccine passports – because the little kiddies are ineligible for vaccine — some of them are saying if you’re under 12, don’t even come in.
And it’s also the case that as much as I am happy to see vaccinated people get good protection against hospitalization, it definitely has been good, the fact is it is spreading regardless of vaccination. That’s just the reality. The theory behind the vaccine passport is: Okay, if you force everyone to have it in order to kind of live in society, then you’ll be able to basically just nuke Covid. We know that that’s not the case. You know [you have] very, very high vaccination rates, you still have big waves. So, it just doesn’t make any sense.
And my view is, we got to protect people’s ability to live their lives. I don’t want a biomedical security state in which are we constantly having to do this just to be able to live everyday life. At the end of the day, the vaccines have helped people ward off severe illness. And we obviously worked very hard to distribute it. At the end of the day, though, it is what somebody, it’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else because we’ve seen the data on this. And so the theory behind it, I think has gone totally up in smoke.
And I also just think that there’s been huge mistakes made along the way with some of these authorities lecturing people about this. I can tell you there’s a lot of folks that when they hear that uh if they’re on the fence that pushes them in the other direction, that is not the way that you do it. And what I try to do is just give the data, give it honestly, I’m not going to sugarcoat it and I’m not going to tell somebody something that that is not true based on the data, just because I want them to behave in a certain way.
A lot of these folks, they tell these noble lies because they want you to behave in a certain way. And so they don’t give the whole truth.
Then, referring to the state’s ongoing efforts to publicize the availability of monoclonal antibodies as an early treatment for potentially severe COVID-19 disease, the governor says:
You look at the fact that we’re even having to do this with this early treatment. That should not — we’re happy to do because we want to help — but this should have been something that was screamed from the rooftops from HHS and CDC since last December. Can you imagine if 100 percent of Americans knew that this was something that was available? You know how many people we would have kept out of the hospital? You know how many people that would not have died over the last nine months? That’s just a fact.
And we’re obviously correcting that in Florida and we’re actually helping other states too, because we put a lot of emphasis on it. You know, I look at that and I wonder why if you have an effective treatment — I mean this treatment was used on an experimental basis to the President of the United States in October and very effectively — why would you not be talking about it? And I think one of the reasons that … some didn’t think that they should talk about it is because they didn’t want people to think, okay, maybe you don’t need to get vaccinated, maybe you just get the treatment. And they worry that people would take that message. And my view is, you know, we’ve never said it’s either-or. We think that they complement each other. But if someone does do that, that’s not a reason to not give them the full information. That’s not a reason [not] to provide this, you know, for everybody.
So, you know, I think some of the stuff with the vaccine passport, I mean it’s an overreach. It’s too intrusive. And at the end of the day, my philosophy is, as governor, my job is to protect your individual freedom. My job is not to protect corporate freedom. That is not what I’m here for. I mean, we have a good business climate, we have everything, but this idea that businesses can just do whatever they want and invade your privacy and doing all that. No, I’m not signing up for that. I’m signing up for protecting your freedom and making sure we have a society in Florida where people can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.
And that’s what we’re doing by protecting against these mandates and making sure that that’s done based on what people believe is best for them and their families, but not something that’s imposed either by government or in some respects, in some instances by very, very powerful private entities.
Last summer, The Onion published an article with the ingenious headline: “Teens Flock To New App Where They Just Enter Own Personal Data Into Form.” I think about this article a lot these days, particularly when the social-media app TikTok is in the news. At 28, I’m not that old (yet), but I’ve already reached an age when I simply do not (or refuse to) understand some of the newest technology. But, as best as I can understand it, TikTok is an app that enables people to create and share short videos. It is popular among Zoomers, the generation that follows my own, which is itself a reason not to trust it. But there are also reputable reports that the app is compromised by the Chinese government.
Despite these defects, the Biden administration saw fit to use TikTok to promote coronavirus vaccination (to be sure, a worthy goal), despite the superior alternative of using a . . . shall we say . . . generous interpretation of public-health and national-security powers to resurrect Vine, the similar, homegrown social-media app killed by Twitter a few years ago and still fondly remembered by many. Team Biden essentially promoting TikTok (by paying its most-popular users to promote vaccination) is quite the executive whiplash from this time last year, when the Trump administration made an effort to force ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, to sell the app, first to U.S.-based Microsoft, then to Oracle. President Biden — who, at age 78, is probably even less capable of understanding TikTok than I am — backed off of this effort earlier this year.
At any rate, I still don’t trust TikTok. And a recent report in the Wall Street Journal provides ample reason to believe that this app might be a tick worse even than the other apps and platforms so prevalent in modern life. For “How TikTok Serves Up Sex and Drug Videos to Minors,” the Journal created some bot accounts on TikTok to get a sense of how the site’s algorithm worked:
An analysis of the videos served to these accounts found that through its powerful algorithms, TikTok can quickly drive minors—among the biggest users of the app—into endless spools of content about sex and drugs.
TikTok served one account registered as a 13-year-old at least 569 videos about drug use, references to cocaine and meth addiction, and promotional videos for online sales of drug products and paraphernalia. Hundreds of similar videos appeared in the feeds of the Journal’s other minor accounts.
TikTok also showed the Journal’s teenage users more than 100 videos from accounts recommending paid pornography sites and sex shops. Thousands of others were from creators who labeled their content as for adults only.
Still others encouraged eating disorders and glorified alcohol, including depictions of drinking and driving and of drinking games.
What makes TikTok particularly insidious is that it takes the monitoring-learning function of other apps and websites, which “learn” about users by what they actually click on, to the next level:
An earlier video investigation by the Journal found that TikTok only needs one important piece of information to figure out what a user wants: the amount of time you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or re-watch, the app tracks you.
Through that one powerful signal, TikTok can learn your most hidden interests and emotions, and drive users of any age deep into rabbit holes of content—in which feeds are heavily dominated by videos about a specific topic or theme.
The whole article is worth reading. TikTok claims to be actively moderating its content, but the sheer volume of content available, as well as its growing user base, complicate its efforts. And even a less lewd TikTok is still an app designed to entrap users, particularly younger ones. Fortunately, the choice is always theirs — and, if not theirs, then that of parents or others in their lives — to stop using. As for me: I have no intentions of ever starting in the first place. And not just because I don’t understand exactly what TikTok is.
Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and MBD discuss the uproar over the Texas heartbeat bill, the ridiculous commentary on Ivermectin, and Joe Manchin’s latest play. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.
A new survey out yesterday from Rasmussen Reports has found that a plurality of Americans supports the Texas Heartbeat Act.
The poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters across the country on September 5 and September 6 and found that 46 percent of respondents said they support the Texas law. Forty-three percent, meanwhile, oppose the law, while 11 percent remain undecided on the question.
In 2019, when a number of states passed heartbeat bills that, like the law in Texas, protected unborn children after a heartbeat could be detected, some polling suggested that a slim majority of Americans was supportive of such laws — especially after learning that a heartbeat could be detected as early as six weeks’ gestation.
Rasmussen Reports also found that a plurality of Americans (46 percent) would rather have laws governing abortion determined by state governments than the federal government. Plurality support for state governments setting abortion policy held consistent across all age demographics, among both men and women, and among both white and black respondents. About a third of respondents said they’d prefer the federal government to decide.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said today that he’s going “full speed ahead” on Democrats’ proposed spending package. In addition to the $550 billion in new spending from the bipartisan infrastructure package, Schumer supports spending another $3.5 trillion.
“Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion” was the headline on West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s September 2 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, so Schumer is going to run into some problems.
“We’re going to work very hard to have unity, because without unity, we’re not going to get anything,” Schumer said. He’s certainly right about that, but they can’t have the requisite unity without Manchin.
Democrats plan to pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which means it would only require 50 senators plus Vice President Harris to pass. “Only” 50, but that’s not easy — every Democrat in the Senate needs to vote for the bill for it to pass. That must include Joe Manchin, who isn’t particularly interested in pleasing anyone outside his roughly R+40 state. His voters don’t want to give Democrats their entire agenda in one massive bill.
Manchin’s op-ed is unremarkable. Its opening sentence — “The nation faces an unprecedented array of challenges and will inevitably encounter additional crises in the future” — is the kind of thing a college freshman writes when he’s trying to make a word count, and there’s not a single memorable line in the whole thing. Manchin doesn’t have to put together a flashy argument. His stance boils down to the shortest sentence in his op-ed: “I disagree.”
That’s his right. He’s a United States senator. He gets to disagree. And with the current partisan composition of the Senate, his disagreement is an insurmountable problem for Chuck Schumer.
The problems for Democrats don’t end there, either. All the focus is on the Senate, but after special elections, the Democrats’ House majority is tiny. If three House Democrats defect, they can’t pass legislation.
If there’s one thing politicians love doing, it’s spending other people’s money. Schumer is likely betting that impulse will eventually take hold and Manchin will be forced into submission. The Democrats have put their entire agenda into the reconciliation bill; if Manchin and other moderate Democrats in Congress are at all sympathetic to their own party, they’re unlikely to ultimately vote against the bill.
But as it stands currently, they have hang-ups, and Manchin’s hang-ups are the first priority. Schumer’s comments today signaled that he doesn’t take Manchin seriously. As long as he doesn’t, though, discussions of the reconciliation bill are purely academic. It’s not going to pass without Manchin’s vote.
Schumer can say he’s going “full speed ahead” all he wants. He currently does not have the votes to go anywhere at all.
Iceland, of course, is on the Biden administration’s list of countries where entry is restricted. Malta, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, San Marino, France and Ireland are all pretty high, with at least 69 percent of all citizens fully vaccinated… but they’re all on the Biden restricted list.
In a 2001 interview, Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told host Chris Matthews that he supported elective abortion, without a single restriction, throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
“Are you for abortion rights all the way down the line?” Matthews asks McAuliffe, who interrupts the host to respond, “Yes.”
The old interview footage shouldn’t be especially surprising to anyone following McAuliffe’s current gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. In a WVTF radio interview on Monday, the former Virginia governor again implied that he supports abortion without a single legal restriction.
“People on the other side of this issue say, ‘Are there any limits? Like in 2019 there was this controversial Kathy Tran bill that seemed to open the door to abortion right up to the moment of birth,” the host noted. “Is that a bright line? Are there any boundaries that you could see for restrictions on any kind of abortion?”
“Terry McAuliffe, as governor, as I was before, will be a brick wall to protect women’s individual rights,” McAuliffe responded. Just a few years ago, McAuliffe said in another interview that he would’ve supported a heinous bill in Virginia that would’ve legalized abortion up to the moment of birth, including during labor, with no limits, as long as a doctor certified that it was necessary.
As our own John McCormack reported in a piece on the homepage earlier today, McAuliffe refused to tell National Review at a Tuesday press conference whether he would veto permissive abortion legislation in Virginia as governor. From John’s piece:
“I support the existing laws on our books,” McAuliffe told National Review when asked if his position on vetoing Tran’s bill has changed. “The one change I would like to see as governor — and I’ve already talked to [Democratic state] Senator McClellan about it — I want to see a bill sent to me that would enshrine Roe v Wade in the [Virginia] constitution.”
Here’s the short clip of McAuliffe’s 2001 interview with Matthews:
The expectation that a capable American will do their best to find work rather than rely on the state is a healthy norm in American society.
Or it was. After suggesting that those who lost their COVID emergency unemployment benefits should go find work, Ted Cruz was subjected to major blowback on social media. Progressives have a corrosive need to portray workers as helpless victims of capitalism. One of the common gripes is that positions available for would-be employees are beneath them — unglamorous work with “crap hours.” Essentially, progressives childishly argue that there is more honor in being dependent on government than in taking a job you don’t want.
Of course, there’s nothing disreputable about working as a cook or waiter or front-end manager. Many of us have done it in our lives. I see restaurants all over the place looking for help, offering bonuses and salaries above the Left’s proposed minimum wage. Those jobs are typically transitionary. Yet, setting that aside, the fact is that most jobs available in the United States today are in professional and business services, followed by education and health, wholesale and retail trade, and then leisure and hospitality. There are nearly 11 million job openings in the country right now — over a million more jobs than people unemployed. There are more job openings in the country than at any time in our history.
There will always be those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. There will always be victims of circumstance and creative destruction. It’s also probably true that some pre-COVID jobs are gone forever, as industries implemented efficiencies during the pandemic. But the COVID emergency was the man-made downturn. Enhanced benefits for unemployed workers, especially when the check is bigger than a potential paycheck, were likely holding back the recovery. Stories about the sunsetting benefits are littered with concerns over the “dwindling options” for the jobless. One particularly partisan Associated Press piece — “Jobless Americans will have few options as benefits expire” — cherrypicks a report from a couple of economists that tells us — contra the laws of economics and human nature — that emergency benefits do nothing to disincentivized anyone from looking for work. But the job market is in a boomtime disposition. We are experiencing a labor shortage. If we really need emergency checks in a robust labor market, that would mean we need them in perpetuity — which, of course, is the entire goal of those offended by the notion of “get a job.”
Two top officials at the ACLU wrote an op-ed the other day arguing that mandatory COVID vaccination would advance civil liberties. They have gotten some criticism, including here. One oddity of this situation, though, has not drawn any remark, at least from what I’ve seen: These civil libertarians are urging governments to seize more power than the governments themselves seem interested in taking.
They appear to be talking about government policies that would require most people who are eligible for COVID vaccines to take them. They are not, that is, merely talking about requiring some or all government employees to be vaccinated or about allowing private-sector employers to require their employees to be vaccinated. The broader mandate they appear to have in mind is one that isn’t being pursued in even the bluest or most COVID-fearful state in the country. It isn’t (to my knowledge) being urged by public-health agencies either. The people who are most enthusiastic about this infringement on freedom — sorry, this enhancement of freedom rightly understood! — are professional civil libertarians.
Last week I observed that between July 6 and August 31, the number of active cases of COVID-19 infection in the state of Vermont increased 23-fold — from 114 to 2,668. But I noted the state is not really in a public-health crisis — hospitalizations and daily new deaths remain low in Vermont, in large part because the state is heavily vaccinated, and in part because Vermont is one of the least-populated states in the country.
The state’s largest hospital is straining to care for “a very high number of patients” amid Vermont’s rising coronavirus cases, according to information the hospital provided on Friday afternoon.
The rise of Covid-19 cases “as the Delta variant spreads,” plus other critically ill patients and those seeking care that was delayed earlier in the pandemic, has prompted staff at Burlington-based University of Vermont Medical Center to reschedule some non-urgent procedures to make space, according to an email from spokesperson Neal Goswami.
The hospital is “utilizing a high percentage of inpatient beds at this time,” he said, although the number varies throughout each day.
Mind you, as of this morning, Vermont has just 33 people in hospitals because of COVID-19, and just 13 in the ICU. Then again, having 30-some people in Vermont hospitals can still be a lot for a tiny state; the worst date appears to have been February 7, when the state had 65. The state had less than 12 people in the hospital on any given day from May 14 until August 6.
Eighteen months into the pandemic, the situation has reached a crisis point. Now, patients sometimes wait up to a year to see specialists.
Seven Days asked UVM Medical Center for the average number of days new patients wait to be seen in each of its 85 specialties. The hospital refused to provide data for all but two areas: urology, which is now scheduling two months out; and ear, nose and throat, where the current delay ranges from 20 days to see a pediatric specialist to 175 days for an ear specialist.
So perhaps the situation in Vermont represents a tiny state with 14 hospitals attempting to handle the health-care needs of roughly 623,000 people, where even a mild increase in the number of people who need hospitalization can leave hospitals carefully counting the remaining unused beds.
The sharp rise in serious COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks has forced Maine hospitals to think once again about capacity, highlighting the continued challenges the pandemic poses for health care providers as long as the virus is broadly circulating.
On July 23, there were just 25 patients hospitalized in Maine with COVID-19. Five weeks later, that figure had increased more than fivefold. Similar trends have played out in other highly vaccinated states — Vermont, which saw hospitalizations drop into the low single digits in June, was up to 34 patients hospitalized as of Monday, according to the state’s health department.
In both states, more than 70 percent of critical care beds were occupied as of last week, according to federal data, a trend that led Maine hospital leaders to call on residents to take precautions and get vaccinated to prevent additional spread of the disease.
The lesson is not that vaccinations don’t work; the lesson is that even a very small sliver of the population being unvaccinated and thus vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 can fill up a hospital’s beds pretty quickly. Avoiding scenarios of crowded hospitals in any given state would require a near-universal eagerness to get vaccinated.
One other minor point of concern: While it is still generally true to call this a pandemic of the unvaccinated, the latest numbers in Massachusetts illustrate that the percentage of COVID-19 patients in Bay State hospitals that are fully vaccinated is . . . not quite as minuscule as past rhetoric might suggest: “Data shows that 160 of the 601 hospitalizations are people who were fully vaccinated — about 26 percent of all COVID hospitalizations. The vast majority — 74 percent — are among unvaccinated individuals, despite the fact that they account for a minority of the population. Data from the state shows the percentage of vaccinated people hospitalized for COVID has dropped in the past week after hitting around 30 [percent].”
So if Vermont and Massachusetts and Maine have problems like this . . . every other state is going to have problems with overcrowded hospitals, too.
Everyone knows that President Biden’s national approval numbers have skidded downward in the wake of the Afghan debacle. But if those numbers continue to be weak, what does that portend for the 2022 elections and which party controls the House?
The American Action Network, a GOP-linked group, conducted its own surveys in seven key marginal congressional districts currently held by Democrats. They range from a suburban Detroit district to a seat in California’s Central Valley.
In each of the seven districts, Biden’s approval rating is below 50 percent in both foreign policy and in handling of the economy.
Republicans lead the generic ballot in the districts by an average six percentage points, and most importantly, by an average of nearly 20 points, those surveyed said that they viewed the Democratic $3.5 trillion spending plan as unnecessary and wasteful.
Since a president’s approval numbers track closely with his party’s vote in the midterm elections, the results should make Democrats question the wisdom of following Speaker Nancy Pelosi in support of the Bernie-Biden Budget-Buster Bill.
A great many terrible ideas for K-12 education have originated in our colleges and universities. That is where the “research” and “deep thinking” into how best to teach young students is done. To paraphrase a bumper sticker, “If Kids Can’t Read, Thank a Professor.”
In today’s Martin Center article, Duke University professor John Staddon looks at the way one of the supposed experts on the teaching of math turns it into an exercise in racial politics. Specifically, Staddon analyzes a presentation by Professor Deborah Lowenberg Ball of the University of Michigan School of Education. He writes, “Ball sets the scene with a slide that reads: ‘But our efforts to make change are still high-risk for reproducing patterns of racism and marginalization. Let’s look.’ Apparently we are to see in the children’s answers and teachers’ responses to questions about fractions, ‘patterns of racism and marginalization.’ Racism, omnipresent, like a virus, infects us all.”
Rather than explaining how best to teach fractions to students, the focus becomes a host of lefty cliches about racial groups and oppression. How does any of that help? It just makes Ball look virtuous to her audience.
The radical presumptions of education research leader Deborah Ball are amply documented and probably widely accepted in the field. They seem to be as follows.
Math education is not about math, but about “racial justice”. Any disparity disfavoring blacks or women is unjust.
The most important thing about both students and teachers is their race.
Students are all equally able, indeed “black girls are brilliant.” Tests that seem to reveal differences reflect the “scientific racism of measurement.”
The teacher’s primary role, even in math, is to discern each student’s “contribution”, so as not to “position” the student as failing—only positive reinforcement is allowed.
The teacher and the student are collaborators in the “collective work” of the class. Evidently math competence is a group skill, like marching in a band, not an individual competence.
It is wrong for a teacher to correct a student if her behavior does not bother other students: the students set the rules, not the teacher.
With educational friends like Ball, minority students don’t need any enemies.
Today, I’ve done a piece called “Refugees and America.” There are several aspects to the refugee question: national interest, national identity. People speak of “American greatness.” What is included in that greatness? Acceptance of refugees? Is America a haven for the persecuted and hounded? Or is that just romance?
Anyway, this question is very important.
Switching gears now, I will throw another link at you: “Living with Falstaff: On a fat knight and night thoughts.” In a tweet the other day, I quoted a couple of words from this opera’s libretto. A musician decided he would dump on me. I wasn’t in the mood, I guess you could say. Anyway, I’ve jotted a post.
On Monday, I had a Corner post titled “The Play of Memory.” I have received many interesting responses to this. I will publish quite a few, another day. Let me tell you now, however, that two readers mentioned Itzhak Perlman, the violinist — hearing him play, long ago. And you want to know something odd? I saw him on the street this week and said hello. He looks exactly as he always has — though with a snowy, rather than a dark, ’fro.
This morning, I would like to publish one letter. It is from Paul Nolan, and it has a striking autumnality. In fact, it is damn near haunting.
My family always had a family reunion at a group of cabins we rented from old family friends on a lake in Michigan, Clark Lake. It was always held the second weekend in October, my late great-grandmother’s birthday. My father’s family, my grandmother, all my great-uncles and their wives, my grandmother’s companion, whom I considered an uncle — how I loved them all, sitting around the dinner table chatting for hours. (There was, tellingly, no television at the lake, no radio, and certainly no cellphones.)
It was one of the rare occasions when my parents did not fight constantly. They seemed to be a normal couple for three days each year. Though looking back decades later, I wonder whether their truth was apparent to all.
Years later — a year after my father died, in fact — my mother and I stopped by the cabins on the lake as we were returning from a trip to Toledo. All was still as it once was — except me. I had been a child and now was an adult. I was shocked to see how small the lake was. As a child, I knew a strong swimmer could swim across it with a boat — a rowboat — accompanying, but I never considered myself, a child, capable of such a feat. Now, as a man, I silently snorted, “You could almost swim it underwater.” . . .
Decades after that, looking at Google Maps, I saw my grandmother’s apartment building, the only other place where I had experienced the few happy hours of my youth, being demolished to be replaced by a grassy lot too small to be called a park. And I tried to find those old, simple lakeside cottages, and they were all gone, replaced by enormous mansions, crowded elbow to elbow, not much more than a walkway between them.
And soon enough I and the members of my generation will be gone too. Such is life.
Secretary Blinken, quoted below from Doha on September 6, is dissembling. He is talking in gibberish and the press is not holding him to account.
(1) “We’ve assigned case-management teams to each remaining American citizen who has expressed an interest in leaving.”
“Each remaining American citizen” means State is in touch and knows the exact number! Yet State claims not to know the number.
It is infuriating that he suggests many do not want to leave, without ever citing a single case.
(2) “We continue to process as many SIV applications as possible. So applicants don’t have to wait in Afghanistan until we’re finished but instead if they can get to a third country for additional processing before coming to the United States.”
This implies State is in contact with thousands of SIV applicants inside Afghanistan. And once State clears them, they can go to an airport to fly to a third country for additional processing. This makes no sense. It is gibberish.
3) “We will partner with veteran organizations on how to help SIV candidates; they have ideas that we’ll be incorporating.”
Listening to “ideas” is a dodge, not a partnership. A partnership means the organizations would be included inside, not outside, the State task force.
The Taliban’s leaders claimed yesterday that they conquered Panjshir, where former Afghan vice president Amrullah Saleh had fled and Ahmad Massoud, son of an anti-Taliban leader who fought the Islamist government in the 1990s, organized the remnants of Afghanistan’s defense forces to defend against Taliban advances on the valley that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last month. Saleh and Massoud haven’t admitted their defeat, though there are indications that the Taliban captured the province’s capital this week.
In a statement this afternoon, Massoud’s National Resistance Front called on the U.N. and foreign governments to “stop the genocide happening in many parts of the Panjshir Valley,” acknowledging that the Taliban are currently in the province.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Long War Journal, which has assiduously tracked the war in Afghanistan, examined the apparent defeat of the resistance in a piece yesterday:
The Taliban had nearly all of the advantages in its favor, including numbers, equipment, and the quality of its fighting force. The Taliban’s military has been forged in 20 years of war against the U.S. military, NATO, and Afghan forces, while Massoud’s forces were safe in Panjshir and Saleh’s remnants were demoralized during the final Taliban offensive. The Taliban was able to mobilize its forces from across Afghanistan, while the resistance’s numbers were limited. Additionally, the Taliban was flush with weapons, munitions and gear that it seized from the Afghan military.
In addition to that, the opposition forces lacked any sort of meaningful support. Although some members of Congress, such as Representative Mike Waltz, called on the Biden administration to assist the Panjshir rebels in their efforts to defend the valley as a safe haven for groups persecuted by the Taliban, U.S. officials all but looked the other way as the Taliban advanced last week.
Now, the Taliban’s victory in the Panjshir Valley has left them free to consolidate their rule over Afghanistan.
Earlier today, the Taliban announced a new government consisting of longtime veterans of the group. The newly appointed hard-line government will include Sirajuddin Haqqani, serving as Afghanistan’s interior minister. The FBI is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest for his role in terrorist attacks, including a 2008 assassination attempt targeting then-Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
But while Massoud’s forces have been hobbled, that doesn’t mean the Taliban will have an easy time ruling over Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov reported on demonstrations that preceded the Taliban’s announcement of the new government:
Hours before the press conference, Taliban fighters violently dispersed the largest protest so far against their rule in Kabul, shooting in the air and using truncheons to beat back hundreds of demonstrators, most of them women, who marched through the city and chanted “Death to Pakistan.” Pakistan has supported the Taliban since the Islamist movement was formed in the 1990s, and many Afghan opponents of the Taliban paint the group as Pakistan’s proxies. More protests led by women were planned for Wednesday.
The demonstrations are sure to be one of numerous challenges to the Taliban’s efforts to solidify control over Afghanistan. But the main obstacle, armed resistance from forces defending Panjshir, seems to have been dispensed with as Washington stood idly by.
When white-male progressive journalists denounce white males as a class, I usually roll my eyes and don’t bother to dissect what they’re saying, but writer Freddie deBoer has done a superb job of breaking down what white-male writers are really saying when they bemoan white males.
Citing, for instance, the tweets of David Roberts, a former writer for the lefty young-adult site Vox.com, deBoer notes that Roberts obviously does not mean what he says when he categorically states that “white dudes came to their theories & worldviews not solely through the vigorous application of Reason, but because of where & when they are embedded through history, shaped by forces they do not control or fully understand.” Roberts adds that the notion, which he supports, that “You just think what you think & say what you say because you’re a white guy in the 21st century” is “absolutely maddening to white guys” because it represents “a violation of their deepest self-definition.” (To any white guys out there who may be reading this: Are you “maddened” by what Roberts is saying, or do you merely snort in derision? I wonder if Roberts can tell the difference between rage and dismissal.)
If Roberts believed these statements to be categorically true, it would undermine his value as a thinker as well. If he is a mere feather on the winds of white-male history, tossed this way and that by forces he does not control nor understand, his writing is not terribly useful, is it?
So Roberts is implicitly asking his readers to believe that he is an exception to the rule of the intellectual deficiencies of white guys. But if there are exceptions to the rule, why bother making such a sweeping statement? DeBoer:
Once you admit exceptions to the “white man” designator, you’re really just saying “conservative white men” or “unenlightened white men” or “white men who don’t think exactly like I do.” If you’ve done that, why bother with the categorical at all? Why not just restrict your critiques of believing stupid s**t to people who believe stupid s**t, which yes includes many white men but also includes Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza and those two Black Trumper ladies with the WWF tag team names I can never remember? I don’t understand why people make a big show of condemning entire classes of people while also making it very plain that they believe there are exceptions, most importantly themselves.
Since Roberts, and presumably most of his white-male pals and coworkers at young-adult policy websites, and in activist circles, and in entire neighborhoods of Brooklyn are notable exceptions to the rule, he’s really just telling us he disagrees with people who think in a way he ascribes to certain white males. Which is just another way of saying he disagrees with those with whom he disagrees, regardless of their whiteness or maleness. He makes such claims to curry favor with the identity-politics-obsessed progressive Left, to announce to these people that he is one of the good white men. Don’t hate me; I hate the right people too, even though that means hating myself!
Roberts is trying to build his brand in a dying media industry, and no matter how many hundreds of white dudes desperately jockey to be the good white dudes of media there still seems to be some residual value in showily renouncing white maleness as a white male. People tend to get all weepy about this, but I don’t know how any honest observer could deny it. In the contemporary progressive marketplace for personal brands, there is still some value in being the kind of white man who gets it, despite the crowded field of guys trying to earn that designation and “getting it” often includes engaging in very showy criticism of the categories you yourself reside in. (It’s essential that this criticism somehow does not implicate you personally at all. Tricky!) If you think it’s untoward to ascribe ugly motives to people based on their group associations while ignoring their professed motives, then you should take it up with Dave Roberts.
DeBoer calls himself a Marxist, yet he fails to adhere to a notable rule that applies to nearly all Marxists these days: He isn’t boring. His Substack is amusingly contrarian and highly engaging. I recommend it.
Via Charlie Cooke, I came across this deranged 2014 article in Politico purporting to show that modern religious conservatism began in opposition to racial integration rather than to abortion. It’s making the rounds again as Twitter users try to back the claim that opposition to abortion is really just cover for racism.
But Randall Balmer’s screed itself undermines that claim in at least three ways.
First, the argument requires that evangelical Christian voters be more hostile to abortion than to racial integration. Balmer is saying that evangelical leaders couldn’t mobilize people to support segregation but could mobilize them to oppose abortion. Which means that either there were many more evangelical voters who came to find abortion abhorrent than who supported segregation, or that voters who felt both sentiments felt the former more deeply, or both.
Second, Balmer himself shows that those evangelical leaders completely failed to defend the tax exemptions for segregated Christian schools that supposedly motivated them more than anything else — and had failed by 1983, with even the Reagan administration abandoning their position. At that point did they close up shop for the pro-life movement? Have they kept fighting ever since for the tax exemptions? No and no.
Third, Balmer notes that evangelicals came to oppose abortion in large part due to the persuasive efforts of Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop. To his limited credit, Balmer does not attempt to portray these two as anything other than sincere in their opposition to abortion. He does not claim that they were segregationists, let alone that they used abortion cynically to advance segregation. (Trying to persuade millions of fellow citizens to oppose abortion in order to advance segregation does not seem like a strategy that would recommend itself to anyone.)
So . . . evangelical leaders who found abortion abhorrent persuaded a lot of evangelical voters to agree with them. Take away the argumentative nonsense with which Balmer surrounds it, and that’s the core story he’s telling. Which is not much of an indictment, or an indictment at all.
A piece from the Washington Post over the weekend sets out the issue at the center of the American economy right now: “There are 10 million job openings, yet more than 8.4 million unemployed are still actively looking for work.”
There’s one obvious explanation for this imbalance, which is that the government is paying people to not work. As of yesterday, the federal unemployment-insurance supplement has officially ended. The expiration of that $300-per-week benefit should push some people currently on the margin into available jobs.
But don’t expect any massive swings in the employment numbers when next month’s jobs report comes out. There’s …
Texas pro-lifers had a legal strategy in mind when the state’s heartbeat law, also known as S.B. 8, went into effect on September 1.
They’d sue an abortion provider under the law to try to get the inevitable litigation about the statute going in the most favorable district court under the best circumstances for their side.
When the morning of September 1 arrived, though, they realized this legal strategy had a fundamental problem — there were apparently no abortion providers violating the statute to sue.
Abortionists had, as far as anyone could tell, ceased performing abortions after six weeks in the state of Texas.
This was an eventuality shocking even to the most committed proponents of the bill. “And so when we get two or three days before the effective date of the law,” recalls state senator Bryan Hughes, the chief legislative proponent of the law, “we’re talking to some of our lawyers about what to do — we’re filing our first lawsuit, we can sue them. And then we realized that we can’t sue them because they’re complying with the law!”
For the time being and at least for several days, much of the machinery of abortion had ground to a halt in Texas while Roe and Casey are still on the books, a truly extraordinary accomplishment.
The Senate Finance Committee’s list of tax hikes they’d like to include in their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend bonanza has leaked, and it has some real doozies. The menu includes an increase in the corporate tax, an excise tax on stock buybacks, an increase in the top individual income-tax rate, a corporate AMT, doubling the capital-gains tax and making death a realization event, phasing out the 199A exclusion, taxing UNREALIZED capital gains (“mark-to-market for billionaires”), doubling the size of the IRS, and these two gems. The full document can be found here.
Can anybody explain how taxing plastics and energy doesn’t break President Biden’s promise not to tax anyone making less than $400,000?
Democrats privately say they will be able to get away with that if they shower lower-income taxpayers with rebates for some of the higher prices they would be paying.
This is doubtful. The credibility of the Biden administration since the Afghan debacle is shot, and its reputation for transparency is in the tank. It shouldn’t be hard to convince Americans they’ll be hurt by the new taxes that could pass. The challenge will be to convince them of that before the tax hikes are voted on in Congress.
Shortly after taking office in January, President Biden issued an executive order to “restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens of the United States (“noncitizens”) who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, the Federative Republic of Brazil, and the Republic of South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.”
The executive order included exemptions for foreign diplomats and certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. But these travel restrictions are still in place, and unless a person is in those categories of exceptions, it is difficult, if not quite impossible, to legally enter the U.S. from those countries. A resident of one of the listed countries could, if they had the time and money, travel to a third country that isn’t on the list, spend two weeks there, and then fly into the U.S. with less hassle.
Biden’s list of countries appears to be based upon countries where a significant variant had emerged – the U.K., India, Brazil, South Africa, among others. But the list of countries has not been updated, and thus it is now easier to enter the U.S. from Russia than from any of the countries listed in Biden’s executive order. Even with its official figures of dubious accuracy, Russia has the fourth or fifth most cases in the world since the start of this pandemic (the United Kingdom is close). There are not similar restrictions for Turkey, which has the seventh most; Argentina, which has the eighth most, or Colombia, which has the ninth most.
This policy does not make sense, even if you look at the world’s current COVID-19 hotspots. The Philippines ranked fifth in the world in most new cases yesterday, with more than 22,000. Turkey ranked sixth with more than 20,000; Russia ranked seventh with more than 17,000, and Malaysia ranked eighth. None of these countries are covered by Biden’s executive order.
Nor do these policies make sense from the perspective of vaccination rates. The current policy of the administration is that it is easier to enter the U.S. from Egypt, where 3.5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, than Portugal, where 76 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. It is easier to enter the U.S. from non- Schengen European countries like Albania (22.8 percent vaccinated) than it is to enter from Malta (83 percent vaccinated).