Law & the Courts

Leaked Dobbs Draft Doesn’t Ultimately Change What We Know About Roe’s Fate

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Associate Justice Samuel Alito poses during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

When I first started reading Justice Samuel Alito’s draft Dobbs opinion (which Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed as authentic), my initial thoughts were that this was everything conservatives could have hoped for — an utter repudiation of the weak constitutional arguments in Roe and a rejection of the majority opinion in Casey affirming a bad decision on stare decisis grounds. But then, a combination of my lifetime as a Jets fan and PTSD from the Obamacare decision set in, and a dreadful thought came over me: what if one of the votes to overturn Roe has gone wobbly and this draft was released by an angry and disillusioned conservative rather than a resistance liberal?

The truth is, there has been educated speculation on who the leaker might be, and what it might mean for the future of Roe. But this was a draft that was circulated two months ago and the final decision may be nearly two months away, so, it’s hard to say. Another scenario is that at the initial vote following oral arguments, there was a majority at least open to overturning Roe, but not 100 percent committed. So, it was decided that Alito would write an opinion making his strongest case possible for going all the way, so anybody undecided could have a chance to weigh in. But we don’t know.

So, while the leak itself was egregious — as stated in our editorial — and the significance of the act should not be downplayed, at the same time, I’m not sure it ultimately changes the calculation of what we can expect once the final decision is in.

Put another way, were we having a debate today about what the Supreme Court is likely to do about Roe in the absence of a leak, the consensus would probably be something close to: There’s a good chance it will be overturned, there’s a chance a conservative will go wobbly, and Roberts is likely seeking a way to uphold Mississippi’s law banning most abortions after 15-weeks without fully overturning Roe. And I think that’s more or less where we still are.

Elections

How Likely Is Abortion to be the Central Issue in the 2022 Midterms?

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Anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights activists protest outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst)

Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, declared last night, “only Democrats will protect our freedoms. That is now the central choice in the 2022 election.” I can’t help but wonder how many gas stations with a price around $4.36 per gallon Maloney passed as he was typing that tweet.

A Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade is indeed likely to fire up the Democratic grassroots, at least to some degree. When all the votes of the 2022 midterm election are counted and tabulated, Democrats who support legal abortion may well be able to point to a governor’s race or two, some U.S. House races, and maybe even a vulnerable Senate incumbent or two who was saved because of Democrats voting on the abortion issue.

The problem for the Democrats is that the demographics who are most passionately supportive of legal abortion are by and large already supporting their candidates. Based on historical polling, including the Pew Research poll, women with college degrees and self-identified Democrats are the most supportive of legal abortion. About 80 percent of Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, women are slightly more supportive of legal abortion than men, and college graduates are more supportive of legal abortion than those who have not completed or attended college.

In the most recent NPR Marist poll, 26 percent of white women with college degrees strongly approved of the job President Biden was doing. That figure was 15 percent among white women without college degrees, 14 percent among men with college degrees, and 11 percent among men without college degrees. In the same poll, 57 percent of white women with college degrees said they intended to vote for the Democratic candidate in this year’s election for Congress. By contrast, only 46 percent of white men with college degrees said they intended to vote for the Democrat, as did 37 percent of white women without college degrees, and 28 percent of white men without college degrees.

In other words, the people likely to be most outraged by the overturning of Roe v. Wade were already planning to vote for Democrats in 2022. What’s more, pro-choice voters are more likely to live in blue states that already have pro-choice Democratic governors, senators, House members and state legislators. And pro-choice voters probably aren’t numerous enough to make a difference in heavily-Republican, pro-life red states. Once again, purple swing states will be the main battlefield of the culture war.

Oh, and in the last four monthly Gallup polls asking Americans, “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?”, abortion has not registered at even one percent. The Supreme Court decision will likely change that, at least for a while, but is it going to overtake inflation (17 percent), the economy in general (11 percent) or fuel/oil prices (4 percent)?

Note that back in February, the new Texas abortion law was a non-factor in the advertising leading up to this year’s primary: “Airwaves are not swamped with campaign ads focused on abortion access. Candidates spend more time talking about COVID-19, immigration and the reliability of the power grid. Some rallies and events come and go without even a mention of Texas having the most restrictive abortion law in the country on the books for months now.”

Maybe if inflation was under control, Americans weren’t groaning and gasping every time they looked at their grocery bill or filled up their tank, the supply chain issues were resolved, crime was low, the border was secure, American parents had faith in the performance of their local schools, Ukraine and Russia weren’t at war, and we otherwise enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity, then yes, abortion would probably dominate our public debate in a midterm election year. But it is likely to remain one controversial issue among many.

Culture

Enthusiasm for Abortion Is from the Depths of Hell 

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If you are a person who considers herself pro-choice because she knows a woman in a difficult situation, you are in the majority of those who describe themselves as pro-choice. I suspect we could find a lot of common ground in helping women and families. You’d be heartened by touring the many women’s pregnancy resource centers around the country. I would think we have more in common than you would with Gavin Newsom or Kathy Hochul or a lot of the other abortion enthusiasts we are hearing from in the wake of the Supreme Court leak in the Mississippi abortion case.

California governor Newsom and New York Governor Hochul are in a gruesome competition to make their respective states the abortion capital of the country. (New York is currently in the lead.)

In a tweet, Newsom erases pro-life women and seems to unintentionally acknowledge the demonic nature of abortion:

For not the first time, Hochul invoked the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of her goal to make New York an abortion destination:

And then, to again confirm the hellishness of abortion, she insists on her newly born granddaughter’s right to kill her children.

That’s why this debate is so insane. Because we are at war with science, law, history, family, the innocent, the human person, and, yes, women with legal abortion. If Roe is overturned, there will still be abortion. But we will have more of a fighting chance of protecting women and children in the states.

Politics & Policy

What Americans Really Think about Abortion

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A pro-life protestor holds a sign in the shape of the state of Mississippi outside the Supreme Court building, on the day of oral arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In defense of Roe v. Wade, abortion supporters often cite polls showing that about seven in ten Americans say they don’t want Roe overturned. This is an odd rhetorical strategy from abortion supporters considering that, if most Americans really do support the Roe status quo, they presumably would elect lawmakers to enact their pro-abortion policy preferences via the democratic process rather than by judicial fiat — but that solution is insufficient for abortion’s most vocal supporters.

That’s because public opinion on abortion is far more complex than they want to admit, and it cannot be captured by simply asking people if they want Roe overturned. For one thing, surveys suggest that many Americans don’t even know Roe dealt with abortion, as well as that a majority of Americans believe overturning Roe would lead to abortion being illegal across the entire country, a status quo that most Americans don’t support. In reality, if the Court does end up overturning Roe and Casey in a decision similar to the draft leaked last night, each state would be allowed to set its own abortion policy.

The public lack of knowledge about Roe — and its conflict with actual public opinion on abortion — was captured well by a Fox News poll last September, which found that 65 percent of Americans said they oppose reversing Roe. But, absurdly, the same survey found that respondents were perfectly split on whether abortion should be legal, tied at 49 percent. A substantial number of Americans, in other words, both want abortion to be illegal and want to preserve jurisprudence making it essentially impossible to prohibit abortion. This outcome was possible only because a sizable percentage of the population doesn’t know that abortion can’t be regulated at all until Roe is gone.

Meanwhile, polls that ask Americans for their views on specific abortion policies tend to find that most Americans disagree with the status quo created by the Court in Roe and Doe v. Bolton and bolstered in Casey — namely, that abortion must be legal across all 50 states, for nearly any reason, and at nearly any time in pregnancy.

For instance, a Gallup poll from a few years back found that only 28 percent of Americans favor allowing abortion in the second trimester, and only 13 percent of Americans favor allowing it in the last three months of pregnancy — compared to 60 percent who would allow it in the first trimester.

Polling from Marist likewise suggests that most Americans tend not to support elective abortion later in pregnancy. A January 2022 survey from Marist, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, found that nearly three-quarters of Americans would allow abortion only in the first trimester or in the so-called hard cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, if they would permit abortion at all. A mere 17 percent of respondents told Marist abortion should be legal at any time in pregnancy for any reason, and less than a third of Democrats agreed.

Public-opinions polls don’t tell the whole story when it comes to how Americans view abortion, but the best data certainly suggest that they are far less supportive of Roe and unlimited abortion than the Left wants you to believe.

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Appalling Statement on the Dobbs Leak

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President Biden enters the Rose Garden during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden has released a statement this morning, responding to last night’s Politico piece that contained a leaked copy of an apparent draft majority opinion overturning Roe and Casey in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

A few points of note. Nowhere does the president condemn the fact that this document — which Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed is legitimate — was leaked from the Supreme Court by someone whose duty it is to keep the Court’s inner workings private. It is astonishing that the President of the United States would comment on this document without so much as gesturing at how breathtakingly problematic it is that it became public — and it’s indicative of how wedded the left is to abortion on demand, mandated by the Supreme Court. This end apparently is so sacred that it justifies any means necessary.

Biden’s statement meanwhile evokes several common tropes about abortion and Roe, all of which are easily dismantled. Perhaps foremost among them: “Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned.”

Basic fairness doesn’t require any such thing. This complaint is typical from opponents of overturning Roe, a lazy man’s way out of defending either legal abortion or the decisions legitimizing it. But as anyone with even a modest knowledge of U.S. history knows, the Court has been wrong before, sometime egregiously so — and it has, thankfully, overturned some of its most flawed decisions. Those who insist on keeping Roe for the sake of consistency and predictability have never managed to explain how this argument applies to, say, Dred Scott, Plessy, or Korematsu.

Stare decisis has never been understood to require leaving every single Supreme Court ruling in place, regardless of egregious flaws, simply because it’s in place already. Whether it had been one year or one hundred since it was issued, Roe is bad law, an intentionally political decision masquerading as a judicial one. It imposed the moral-political views of seven justices on the entire country, perverted our Constitution, and upended the proper functioning of our institutions. Regardless of your views on abortion, Roe and Casey are inaccurate on numerous counts and have proven unworkable. Invoking stare decisis in their defense is laziness of the highest order.

The rest of Biden’s statement suggests that his administration is prepared to do everything in its power to impose the Roe status quo on the entire country, no matter what the Court does in its final ruling. It’s hard to see how, with such rabid activists breathing down their necks, Democratic politicians could get away with doing anything less — but if they follow through on these promises, they should expect to pay a steep political price.

Politics & Policy

Americans For Prosperity Action Endorses Ron DeSantis

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Despite his recent fights with big corporations, at least some of which have clashed with economic-liberty orthodoxy, Ron DeSantis just landed a strong free-market endorsement from AFP Action, the political arm of Americans For Prosperity:

“Gov. DeSantis has been a champion for Floridians through difficult and challenging times, and he has succeeded with his economic freedom-oriented approach,” said AFP Action Senior Adviser Skylar Zander. “His support for policies — from reducing spending to expanding school choice — have caught the attention of people across the country who want to live in a state where the government respects and empowers its people.”…During DeSantis’ first term, he signed several AFP priorities into law, including eliminating Florida’s certificate of need program on health care providers and vetoing more than $1 billion in spending in 2021 for local projects. He also has overseen massive expansions in school choice programs, a cornerstone of AFP’s agenda.

Politics & Policy

Masks Required, and Not, at Penn Station

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Travelers wait for trains at the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station ahead of the Christmas holiday in New York, N.Y., December 22, 2021. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Penn Station now sits at the center of the last, collapsing pocket of resistance to ending Covid theater. Formally speaking, masks are still required in the Long Island Railroad and New York City subway parts of the building under Kathy Hochul’s jurisdiction, but not in the Amtrak or New Jersey transit sections:

Amtrak says it’s following U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s order striking down the Biden administration’s mandate to wear masks on public transit nationwide. Hochul maintains that masks are still required at train stations around the Empire State. NJ Transit’s mask-optional regulation only adds to the mask madness…A strict reading of the rules presents commuters with an absurd scenario: Riders must wear masks when they get off LIRR trains at Penn Station, but the mandate evaporates when they enter any other area of the maze-like train terminal.

“How can I be up here perfectly fine and safe without wearing a mask but go down there and not be?” griped construction laborer Brandon Lorensa as he refilled his e-cigarette at Penn Station’s LIRR concourse while waiting for his train to Hicksville. “Cops were walking up and down the train yesterday reminding us all to wear a mask,” said Lorensa, 31. “I don’t wear it on the train. It’s not like they ticket anyone. I’m fully vaxxed. I did my part.” Hochul — who controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Long Island Rail Road and subway trains at Penn Station — said Wednesday masks will continue to be required in train stations throughout the state. MTA spokesman Tim Minton said masks are still required “on the Long Island Rail Road and inside station buildings, including the LIRR concourse at Penn Station.”

The rules are even more confusing across Eighth Ave. at Moynihan Train Hall. Both buildings have stairs to LIRR and Amtrak platforms — but Moynihan is run by a board consisting of the Empire State Development Corporation, Amtrak, the MTA and the real estate company Vornado. The confusion extends region-wide. Even the bi-state Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued conflicting mask rules. Travelers at LaGuardia or Kennedy Airports must be masked, while those at Newark and Teterborough Airports across the river do not.

I was able to ride the LIRR and walk through Penn yesterday without a mask and was stopped by nobody, so the will to enforce any of this seems to have dissipated on the ground. Hochul is under fire from both parties in the state for this nonsense and is trying frantically to distinguish herself from Andrew Cuomo’s heavier-handed lockdowns. It is past time for Democratic politicians to end the pretense entirely.

Trade

Even the Amish Are Having Supply-Chain Problems

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So says the Wall Street Journal:

With its furniture made by a couple of dozen rural American workshops and in-house craftsmen, Arcola, Ill., manufacturer Simply Amish would seem to be far removed from the global supply-chain strains that have hobbled most businesses.

But the seller of handmade tables, chairs and beds famous for clean, simple lines and old-fashioned sturdiness has seen its costs skyrocket as volatility in lumber markets has raised prices for the wood used to make its products.

Lead times for Simply Amish’s deliveries to dealers have also increased dramatically even though the company sources the maple, cherry and other woods from within 500 miles of its plant in central Illinois. The furniture also includes parts like knobs and pulls whose sellers import them from Asia, as well as table slides from Germany, items that have been caught up in bottlenecks at ports and other swamped distribution hubs.

The problems in such a seemingly pared-down domestic supply chain, one that harks back to an era before offshoring and other pillars of globalization, suggests how deeply embedded global sourcing has become in manufacturing. The issues at Amish furniture shops and sellers of their goods also highlight the challenges companies face in trying to get more resilient to global disruptions by bringing production closer to home.

The story goes on to point out that materials such as lumber are traded on a global market, so price fluctuations around the world affect prices at home.

The solution to global supply-chain problems is not unplugging from the rest of the world. There are reasons to rethink some specific aspects of supply chains, especially in China, and businesses are very much in the process of doing so all on their own. But those who advocate a more general withdrawal from global markets as insurance against disruptions severely underestimate how much international interconnectedness affects nearly every product in nearly every industry. The Amish produce top-quality, made-in-America furniture with craftsmanship deeply rooted in their traditional way of life — and even they rely on global supply chains.

Politics & Policy

Antonio Delgado Abandons Congress to Be Kathy Hochul’s Lieutenant Governor

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Rep. Antonio Delgado (D., N.Y.) speaks at a Congressional Black Caucus press conference on the importance of investing in Black communities at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2019. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

This is newsworthy on several levels: New York governor Kathy Hochul has announced that upstate congressman Antonio Delgado will be the state’s third lieutenant governor in less than a year, after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation amidst scandal elevated Hochul from the job and Hochul’s first choice, Brian Benjamin, resigned less than eight months into the job after a federal indictment.

For Hochul, Delgado adds diversity and, she must hope, a vetted progressive to the ticket. Hochul had a 40-point lead over Congressman and former Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi in late March for the June 28 primary, but the latest April 18–21 Siena poll, which did not test the primary head-to-head, had grimmer tidings for the governor:

Governor Kathy Hochul’s favorability rating, 44-34%, is virtually unchanged from 45-35% last month. Her overall job performance rating is negative 36-57%, down from 43-53% last month. On five specific job performance ratings, between 54% and 69% give her a negative rating, including 69% on crime and 63% on economic issues. Crime and economic issues (jobs, inflation, taxes, etc.) were by far the top issues mentioned by voters as the most important to them in deciding which gubernatorial candidate to support in November.

Pollster Stan Greenberg notes that “Hochul’s overall job performance rating [is] the worst it’s ever been” and “the last time voters were more pessimistic about the direction of the state than they are today was in David Paterson’s last month as governor, December 2010,” with even 42 percent of Democrats giving Hochul’s performance a negative rating. And Hochul’s not being helped by the top of the ticket: “President Joe Biden’s . . . job performance rating . . . took a major hit and is now negative 36-62%.” In New York.

For Delgado, who had $5.8 million in the bank for his re-election race, this move looks like an escape hatch from Congress after the state’s highest court struck down the Democratic gerrymander that turned his district, New York’s 19th, from narrowly Democratic (D+1 compared with the national average) to safely Democratic (D+10). That decision darkened the Democrats’ already-slim hopes of holding the House and was a blow to their morale, but more immediately, some of the new maps submitted to the court would make Delgado’s district more Republican-friendly. The Democrats’ proposal makes Delgado’s district R+1, and even extends the same partisan balance to the neighboring district of Sean Patrick Maloney (who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee). Both of the new maps submitted by an amicus would redraw Delgado’s district into a safe Republican (R+8) district, while shoring up Maloney. On Monday, Democrats filed a lawsuit in federal court to require the primary election to go forward with the gerrymandered maps even though they were illegal under state law, but Delgado could read the writing on the wall. His immediate departure gives running room to carve up his district to salvage other Democratic incumbents and will also, yet again, reduce the narrow margin the Democrats have available in the House between now and November.

Culture

Contrary to Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, Abortion Is the Abomination

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The leaked Supreme Court draft overturning Roe v. Wade is an “abomination,” says “ardent, practicing Catholic” Nancy Pelosi. “An utter disgrace” Hillary Clinton tweeted.

Our former First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State wrote: “This decision is a direct assault on the dignity, rights, & lives of women, not to mention decades of settled law. It will kill and subjugate women even as a vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal.”

Is there zero self-awareness?

First of all, the vast majority of Americans oppose unlimited abortion. The Democratic Party of today now routinely supports infanticide.

Kill and subjugate women? The Roe v. Wade regime has killed at least 62 million babies. Think about that for a moment. The empty schools. That’s evil. And its hurt so many women, so many men, so many families.

Can we stop and think for a moment about all these women — some with multiple abortions? Vicki Thorn, who just died, founded Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing ministry. She talked all the time about the biological changes that happen to a woman during a pregnancy that didn’t happen once an abortion is performed.

There’s also the trauma of an abortion that happens in a clinic and the barbarity of chemical abortions — pills to do away with the problem that happens to be a human life developing inside a woman.

We are a harsh, cruel country under abortion. And there’s something especially dark about women — and mothers! — lying about what women want and need. The most intimate violence of abortion — a mother against her own baby — is not the stuff of a civilized people. We have violence in our streets, we hate one another, men use and abuse women, and children get harmed because we don’t respect the most innocent.

We also don’t revere motherhood.

I’m reminded today, about a letter to women Pope Benedict once handed me:

At this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

. . .

Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.

We have work to do. It starts anew when Roe is history. And women adding to the violence and the lies aren’t helping. We have an added responsibility — to be nurturers in our communities and culture and even in politics.

Law & the Courts

After Roe

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About that Dobbs opinion — I’ll believe it when I see it.

The little devil who sits on my left shoulder has been enjoying the hyperventilating a bit too much. But I think he has calmed down overnight. Being a conservative, I am more closely connected to our crazies than to the other side’s crazies, but have a look at the discussion on Twitter right now, and you’ll get a good ugly look at how crazy their crazies are. “Crazy” doesn’t really do it.

That being said, there is no cause for hyperventilation on either side.

If the opinion ends up saying what it is says in the Politico report, then all that will do is confirm what many people — including many intellectually honest pro-choice legal scholars — have understood for a long, long time: that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, that there is simply nothing in the Constitution that empowered the Court to supplant the democratic lawmaking process in this matter, and that the lawmaking will return to the lawmakers.

The pro-abortion side will be disappointed at first with its symbolic loss, but it is very likely that the state legislatures in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, etc., will pass laws that secure abortion rights on those states. It seems reasonably likely that, for the foreseeable future, most Americans will live in states where abortion remains legal. A few big states, notably Texas, are likely to go the other way. Florida will probably enact some abortion restrictions but probably will not go as far as Texas or Oklahoma. The pro-life side will still have a great deal of work to do.

The needle will move in the direction of abortion restriction some considerable distance, as a result of which U.S. abortion laws will be less like those of China or North Korea and more like those of France or Denmark. The Dobbs case results from a Mississippi abortion law that bans abortion in most cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy; in Norway, the rule is twelve weeks. Progressive Europhilia is highly selective.

And if Roe is indeed overturned, it will go down as a model example of democratic political activism, one that took a tragically long time to succeed but succeeded in the right way, in accordance with the rule of law and our democratic traditions. That project comprehended more than abortion: It has to a considerable degree reformed American jurisprudence by creating institutions such as the Federalist Society and intelligent arguments that are so persuasive and now so embedded in our political culture that even Ketanji Brown Jackson felt compelled to pretend to be an originalist at her confirmation hearings. That will continue to bear fruit for a long time.

Business

When Conflicting Recommendations on ESG Are Not a Conflict

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The Financial Times’s Camilla Hodgson asks whether there is “a clash between ESG considerations and overall investor priorities.”

Only within ESG world could that be anything other than a rhetorical question. Of course there is a clash. ESG (a variant of “socially responsible” investing under which prospective or actual portfolio companies are measured against a set of environmental, social and governance criteria) is (with the partial exception of governance issues) the antithesis of what most investing is supposed to be about, which is the generation of economic return.

There is, of course, room for “socially responsible” investing, but that is a separate category of investing designed (to oversimplify things somewhat) for those prepared to give up some of the potential financial return from their portfolios in exchange for ensuring that their money is not put to work funding activities of which they disapprove.

Hodgson’s question was triggered by the response of proxy adviser ISS to a forthcoming shareholder vote at Bank of America.

Hodgson:

On a proposal to impose stricter fossil-fuel financing policies, ISS has advised sustainability-focused investors to vote in favour — while simultaneously recommending the opposite for shareholders in general.

The conflicting advice was published ahead of BofA’s annual general meeting next week, in relation to a shareholder proposal — filed by investors including Trillium Asset Management — asking the lender to align its fossil-fuel lending policies with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Almost identically-worded proposals have been filed at five other major banks, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Last week the $280bn New York State Common Retirement Fund called on shareholders to back the six resolutions.

In its guidance to “socially responsible” investors, ISS said voting for the proposal would “help ensure stronger alignment between the company’s net zero goals and its policies and actions” and “provide shareholders with a better understanding of the company’s management and oversight of related risks”.

But ISS’s benchmark advice for general shareholders went in the opposite direction, suggesting that they should be satisfied by “the company’s current commitments to low-carbon economy and expected goal setting”.

Leaving aside the question of whether any company with a majority of shareholders primarily interested in economic return should have commitments to a “low-carbon economy” (spoiler: no), ISS is doing the right thing here. It is simply recognizing that different investors have different objectives. The conflict is between the shareholders — not within ISS — and it can be resolved the old-fashioned way: by a vote.

Culture

The Importance of Being Ethical, with Jordan Peterson

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By any measure, Dr. Jordan Peterson is the most famous (now former — as is discussed in this interview) Canadian professor of clinical psychology in the world. He’s also a deep thinker and a best-selling author of multiple books, and has amassed a huge following through podcasts, YouTube videos, and public speaking. Today, Jordan Peterson is one of the most influential voices in the “anti-woke” movement, and this powerful interview demonstrates why.

Recorded on April 20, 2022, as part of a Classical Liberalism Seminar at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Elections

Not Exactly a Nailbiter in the Georgia GOP Primaries

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Georgia Governor Brian Kemp makes remarks during a visit to Adventure Outdoors gun shop in Smyrna, Ga., January 5, 2022. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

There is, er, other big news today, but another poll out this morning shows Georgia governor Brian Kemp not only leading his primary against former senator David Perdue, but well ahead of the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff. The ARW Strategies survey puts Kemp up, 60 percent to 22 percent. That comes after yesterday’s InsiderAdvantage/FOX 5 Atlanta poll showing Kemp at 54 percent and Purdue at 38 percent,  and a late April SurveyUSA poll showing Kemp at 56 percent and Purdue at 31 percent. The primary is May 24.

Trump endorsed Perdue and raged against Kemp, and this primary isn’t looking good for the former president. But another one of Trump’s favorite candidates, Herschel Walker, looks like a stone-cold lock for the GOP Senate nomination – and Walker is polling consistently closely with Rafael Warnock – sometimes a little ahead of the Democratic incumbent, sometimes a little behind.

Law & the Courts

The Justices Need Security

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Among other things, the leak is an intimidation tactic, calculated to cause an immense reaction that is building as we speak. The justices should be offered 24/7 security as soon as possible.

Politics & Policy

The Dobbs Supreme Court Leak

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Pro-life and pro-choice activists demonstrate outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

It’s shocking. Not that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe, but that someone would presumably leak a draft opinion (we don’t know if it is the current one) to change the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts reverences the integrity of the Court. That a decision was leaked is abhorrent — and one so critical to who we are as a nation! Someone was trying to undermine constitutional law by leaking it.

The Court has been wrong for nearly 50 years about abortion. Some cheap stunt should not change matters.

As a friend texted me tonight:

Pray that the Chief is maddened by the leak, investigates, but also stays true to this opinion.

There’s such a lack of confidence in institutions, and this leak will only serve to make matters worse. This is a bullying move. The Court should not succumb to bullies. It should investigate and make clear what a violation of confidence this was. This was an attempt to manipulate the Court and should be universally condemned.

I pray the result is to simply soften the blow in public opinion. The New York Times editorialized the weekend before Dobbs was argued spinning an overthrow of Roe as a win for the pro-abortion side — saying it would be an opportunity to make clear that the people want unlimited abortion. Polls consistently tell us they don’t. States such as New York will continue the evil and then some, but human rights will prevail elsewhere.

This is an awful time to be a Supreme Court justice. Pray for them all.

Also: Thank God for Justice Alito!

What to Make of Politico’s Report of a Dobbs Leak

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A pro-abortion rights activist holds a placard during a protest outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Politico has a report up tonight with a leaked copy of an apparent draft Supreme Court decision written by Justice Samuel Alito that overturns Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. According to the report, in a vote shortly after oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last December, justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett voted with Alito in favor of overturning the Court’s precedents, and that tally supposedly remains unchanged. The report suggests that it’s unclear how Chief Justice John Roberts will vote, or whether he’s made up his mind at all.

We certainly

World

India State High Court Rules That Nature Is a ‘Living Being’ with ‘Rights’

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People take shade under a tree in Mumbai, India, in 2016. (Shailesh Andrade/Reuters)

The Madras High Court in India, which has jurisdiction over the state of Tamil Nadu, has declared that nature is a living being with rights. From the Hindustan Times story:

“Mother Nature” as a “Living Being” having legal entity/legal person/juristic person/juridical person/moral person/artificial person having the status of a legal person, with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person, in order to preserve and conserve them.”

What a farce. Nature is not moral. It cannot have duties or liabilities. While being made up of sentient beings — as well as insentient life-forms, geological features, and atmospheric phenomena — it is not itself rational or sentient. I mean, if the monsoons flood a city, can the city sue “nature” for damages? Please.

But in parts of India, it now has rights that are, it would appear, going to be at least coequal to those of humans:

“They are also accorded the rights akin to fundamental rights/legal rights/constitutional rights for their survival, safety, sustenance and resurgence in order to maintain its status and also to promote their health and wellbeing. The State Government and the Central Government are directed to protect the “Mother Nature” and take appropriate steps to protect Mother Nature in all possible ways,” the court said.

Nature-rights laws generally allow anyone who believes that nature’s “rights” are being violated to sue to prevent the violation and to seek redress. That gives even the most extreme crank the ability to exercise a litigation veto over development, or a powerful club to use for “greenmail” extortion. Or, sometimes, panels of environmentalists are appointed to act as guardians. Whichever way it goes, this ruling will make people in the state of Tamil Nadu poorer and less able to extract nature’s bounty for their own well-being. And, to say the least, it furthers the cause of nature rights internationally.

It’s so frustrating. Despite the movement’s increasing successes and its subversive anti-human impacts and implications, people still refuse to take the threat seriously. But it’s high time for the pervasive “it can’t happen here” complacency to end. Nature rights is in the platform of Florida’s Democratic Party and is the law (or soon will be) in Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Panama, Bangladesh, and more than 30 United States municipalities. At least six rivers in the world have been declared rights-bearing entities, as have two glaciers.

I predict that before long it will become part of the climate-change agenda and will be embraced by most progressive political parties internationally, including the national Democratic Party. At that point, it will become very difficult to stop. When that happens — it may not be a matter of “if” for much longer — we can kiss our prosperity goodbye.

For those wanting to learn more about the nature-rights movement’s goals and methods, here is a debate I had with Thomas Lindsey, one of its founders. You may roll your eyes. But these radicals are very serious

Culture

BDS and Jewish Self-Loathing

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Supporters of the BDS movement protest outside the venue where the Eurovision song contest final is about to take place in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2019. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

In 1965, the New York Times profiled Daniel Burros, “a stocky blue-eyed, blond man” and “knowledgeable and virulent Nazi,” as the head of the struggling New York chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. An Air Force veteran, Burros had a long history of racist agitation, and violence. The Anti-Defamation League already had a file on Burros. The House Committee on Un-American Activities included him on a list of prominent Klansmen. For a few years, he lived in neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell’s “barracks” in Arlington, Va., while working for the Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

What makes Burros’s story interesting is that he hid a secret: He grew up in a religious Jewish family. When someone tipped off the Times‘ A. M. Rosenthal about Burros’s background, the editor sent three reporters to write the story. They soon confirmed the specifics and tracked down Burros, who had been living in Queens with his parents. Burros begged the reporters not to out him, as he would lose his friends and career. When that didn’t dissuade the Times, he threatened to murder one of the reporters. When the story was finally published, Burros, staying with allies in preparation for a Klan protest in Reading, Pa., shot himself first in the chest and finally in the head. (I first read about Burros in Gay Talese’s classic, The Kingdom and the Power.)

Burros’s story isn’t as weird as you’d think. There have been books written on the phenomenon of the self-hating Jew. The most famous is by Theodor Lessing in 1930, who grappled with the Jewish intellectual’s inclination toward self-loathing and the use of Zionism to incite antisemitism. In The Jewish State, published in 1896, Theodor Herzl already had warned that those who opposed a Jewish homeland were often “disguised anti-Semites of Jewish origin.”

It should be noted that “self-hating Jew” is also used as an antisemitic trope that frames Jews as the authors of their own horrible predicaments. For that we turn to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who, when asked by an Italian news station recently how Russia could claim to “denazify” Ukraine when the nation already had a Jewish president, answered: “In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish.”

This is ugly, ahistorical gibberish. There is no evidence that Hitler had Jewish blood, and even if there had been one Jewish grandfather, Hitler didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, and his venom didn’t spawn from self-loathing. It was based in the European pseudoscientific and ideological antisemitism of his day. The claim that Putin invaded Ukraine to “denazify” is so transparently ridiculous that it necessitates idiotic answers. Needless to say, there is no evidence that Volodymyr Zelensky is creating a Nazi state.

But that doesn’t mean that Jews never engage in antisemitism or ally themselves with their enemies. It happens today, still. In the United States, it happens when partisans feel some warped loyalty toward Rashida Tlaib or Paul Gosar. It happens when the editorial chair of the Harvard Crimson, Orlee Marini-Rapoport, brags about the paper’s support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — and then adds, “I am also Jewish,” as if this makes it kosher.

BDS is functionally the most antisemitic movement in the West. It targets the only Jewish state, not Russia, or the world’s many theocracies, or the slave-labor state of China, for delegitimization and economic ruin. BDS targets Israelis, no matter what they believe or which government they elect or how many concessions they support. “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” maintains BDS leader Omar Barghouti. Destroying Israel would leave Jews of the Middle East to the mercy of Hamas and the PLO. And if history tells us anything, a world without Israel is an assurance of genocide in the future.

While Burros’s hatred manifested in cartoonish stereotypes, he was rejected by most of the country. Marini-Rapoport’s loathing is wrapped in increasingly acceptable progressive idealism and the approval of one of the country’s most venerable institutions. Shameful.

World

Kinzinger Introduces Nuclear ‘Redline’ Ukraine AUMF

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) speaks during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., March 10, 2021. (Ting Shen/Pool via Reuters)

Representative Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) has introduced a resolution that would authorize the president to use military force to defend Ukraine in the event of a chemical, biological, or nuclear-weapon attack in Ukraine.

Kinzinger said in a statement announcing the AUMF (authorization for use of military force) resolution yesterday that he was following up on an exchange he had with Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week. “After speaking with Secretary Blinken and hearing his grave concerns over Putin’s use of chemical weapons, I’m confident that the United States will show the international community that we will not stand for senseless violence.”

Blinken told Kinzinger during the hearing last week that the U.S. had not been able to verify reports of a potential use of chemical weapons in Ukraine last month.

Per the text of the resolution Kinzinger submitted, the president would be authorized to use military force to defend and restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine after a determination that Russia had used chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

“I’m introducing this AUMF as a clear redline so the Administration can take appropriate action should Russia use chemical, biological, and/or nuclear weapons. We must stand up for humanity and we must stand with our allies,” Kinzinger said in the statement introducing the resolution.

President Biden has repeatedly ruled out sending U.S. service members to Ukraine, which he said could start “World War III.”

U.S. officials have warned that Russia might use chemical weapons in Ukraine, and Russia has raised the possibility of using a nuclear weapon in the conflict. President Biden has said that Russia’s use of chemical or biological weapons would trigger a NATO response.

Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.) said last month that the president and Congress should start considering when the U.S. would respond to Russia’s use of such weapons, or a Russian attack on NATO personnel, with a U.S. troop deployment. “If the answer is never, then we are inviting another level of escalation in brutality by Putin,” he said during an event hosted by the University of Michigan.

By introducing an AUMF, Kinzinger has staked out a position that few in Congress are likely to support at this time. In addition to overwhelming bipartisan opposition to sending U.S. forces to Ukraine, there has been widespread congressional support for proposals intended to revoke previous AUMFs, in order to claw back the war powers that had previously been granted to the presidency.

World

Scrutiny of China ‘Overdue,’ Lawmakers Tell U.N. Torture Committee

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Security cameras above the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in Dabancheng, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in 2018. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A group of Democratic lawmakers has urged the U.N.’s Committee Against Torture to review China’s human-rights record in light of the ongoing atrocities against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

That body is tasked with monitoring torture allegations around the world. Beijing succeeded in securing the election of Huawen Liu, an academic with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, to the committee last year, as National Review reported at the time.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Jim McGovern, the co-chairmen of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, a body established by Congress to monitor China’s human-rights record, wrote to the Torture Committee’s chairman, Claude Heller, late last month. The committee’s work had slowed significantly while the most stringent Covid restrictions were in effect, and the two lawmakers wrote to Heller in order to influence the committee’s expected return to a normal pace of work.

They noted that the Chinese government has recently escaped the committee’s scrutiny, since the most recent iteration of a review process took place in 2015. The lawmakers cited an “overdue country report” on China’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture, which Beijing was supposed to submit in December 2019.

“We likewise note that the PRC has not responded to the August 2018 follow-up inquiry made by the Committee Against Torture . . . which raised concerns over continued reports of abuse and harassment of lawyers, the lack of an independent torture investigation mechanism, and the lack of articulated plans for implementing ‘some or all of the remaining recommendations’ included in the 2015 Concluding Observations,” the lawmakers wrote.

They also cited a number of recent cases that they said feature credible claims of torture across China, including in Tibet, Xinjiang, Guangdong, and Fujian.

“The human rights situation in China has demonstrably worsened since the Committee’s last review in 2015, particularly in the XUAR, which prompted the United States government and policymakers of multiple countries to determine that Chinese authorities have committed genocide or crimes against humanity against Turkic Muslim and other minorities in the region,” wrote the lawmakers, referring to the Xinjiang region by an acronym.

In its 2021 human-rights report on China, the State Department cited “credible reports” that found that the Chinese “authorities routinely ignored prohibitions against torture, especially in politically sensitive cases.”

More evidence of Chinese torture practices is expected to come to light in the wake of the arrival of a Kyrgyz Christian survivor of the Xinjiang camp system to the U.S. last month. That former detainee, Ovalbek Turdakun, is expected to provide testimony to Congress and the International Criminal Court on torture and other practices in the Xinjiang camps in the coming months.

Liu’s election to the Torture Committee last October might prove to be an obstacle to any independent U.N. effort to scrutinize China’s record on torture.

Before his election to the Geneva-based body, he was affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences — a research center with ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. Liu has also taken the party’s line on the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and defended China’s human-rights record from U.S. government reports on Beijing’s atrocities.

The Biden administration celebrated the election of a U.S. expert, Todd Buchwald, an Obama-era State Department official, to the committee that month. “I am confident he will continue to bring the important perspective of American jurisprudence towards the goal of preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment internationally,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement congratulating Buchwald.

Liu’s presence on the body, and this new congressional pressure for an investigation into Chinese torture tactics, tees up a potentially significant clash at this obscure U.N. panel.

Politics & Policy

Top Men

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President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Is there anyone Joe Biden and his team didn’t infuriate during the quixotic quest to pass Build Back Better? Business Insider reports:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona almost walked out on President Joe Biden in the Oval Office during a tense exchange over the scope of his economic agenda, according to a forthcoming book from a pair of New York Times reporters.

. . .

During a meeting with Democratic moderates, Biden revealed that Sinema had set her Build Back Better spending limit at $1.1 trillion — roughly one-third less than Sen. Joe Manchin’s $1.5 trillion price tag.

Sinema appeared “visibly angry” at Biden for revealing details from their personal talks, Burns and Martin write. Biden aides had “feared that if Sinema drew a public red line at $1.1 trillion—a miserly sum by liberal standards—then the party would erupt in open war.”

The authors wrote: “‘Mr. President,” she said, ‘that was a private conversation.’ Sinema began to stand up. She asked Biden: ‘Do you want me to leave?'”

Biden’s staff also angered Joe Manchin:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday blamed White House staff for the breakdown in negotiations over President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and doubled down on his commitment to tanking the bill.

“This is not the president, this is staff,” Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval in a 14-minute MetroNews radio interview Monday morning.

“I just got to the wit’s end,” he said, adding that White House staff “drove some things and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is.”

Lovely stuff.

Economy & Business

The Pandemic-Driven Business Closures, Right Next to the Acela Class

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A northbound Amtrak Acela train rolls past commuters at the Wilmington, Del., station in 2002. (Tim Shaffer/Reuters)

Comparing Washington, D.C., and its surrounding suburbs to the luxurious Capitol of Panem in The Hunger Games has been in vogue for a while, and there’s no doubt that because the business of the capital city is government, the business of the capital city never really experiences a slowdown. And year after year, annual lists of the highest-income counties in the country usually include Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, and Stafford in Virginia, and Howard County and Montgomery County in Maryland. Yes, Washington, D.C., and its sprawling suburbs are largely insulated from national trends in the economy.

But the Covid-19 pandemic hurt the economies of every community, and the slow-to-reopen capital region may have suffered a little worse than the average county. In a year, Washington, D.C., lost at least 375 businesses. The city’s unemployment rate is still at 6 percent — compared to 3.6 percent nationally, ranking dead last, behind 50th-ranked New Mexico at 5.3 percent. Washington lost population during the pandemic, mostly young professionals who could most easily afford to move somewhere else.

When I arrived at Union Station today for the first time since before the pandemic, the massive train station looked like a ghost town in certain sections.

Most, but not all, of the big chains — McDonalds, Starbucks, Au Bon Pain — made it. It was the small unique businesses that didn’t make it. No doubt Union Station businesses had their economic troubles before the pandemic, but not having any travelers passing through for several months had to be a deathstroke. And it looks like retailers — already feeling pressure from online sales — are reluctant to move back in to Union Station.

Back in 2017, Salena Zito observed that for all the snarking about the Acela class, Amtrak’s northeastern corridor runs through some poor and struggling communities, with images more often associated with the Rust Belt:

Outside, a different Acela corridor rolls by — one roiled by isolation, decay and societal changes, a world ghosted by technology, corrupt politicians and bad city planning.

Shuttered machine shops, refineries, steel mills and manufacturing plants near Trenton and Philadelphia slide past the window like a kaleidoscope of sorrow; scores of once-charming century-old houses are now covered in graffiti and dot areas in and around Baltimore, Newark and Wilmington, Del.

Big cities like Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Newark have no shortage of problems. But a sluggish, plodding, foot-dragging lifting of pandemic measures and restrictions didn’t help. Until Valentine’s Day, you had to show proof of vaccination to enter a Washington business or restaurant. And a few of the measures are still in place; in Washington, D.C., you must still wear a mask while using a ride-sharing service like Uber and Lyft, while the movers and shakers party maskless at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Maybe Washington has the advantage of all of that federal spending and federal jobs, but it has the disadvantage of terrible leadership and local policies.

Media

Why Is the New York Times Ignoring the Disinformation Governance Board?

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Traffic passes The New York Times Building in New York, June 29, 2021. (Brent Buterbaugh)

Yesterday, the Washington Free Beacon’s Joe Simonson noted:

I just checked — the Times still hasn’t even acknowledged the formation of the DHS’s new Ministry of Truth. If you still regard mainstream journalism as an earnest, if left-leaning, profession that seeks to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable “without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved,” that discrepancy might be confusing. But it makes sense if you realize that today, America’s elite legacy media essentially function as an activist extension of institutional progressivism. Its job is not to hold the powerful accountable, but to serve as the attack dogs of the most powerful players in American life. It is an enforcement arm of the socio-political hegemony of the elite Left — the Public Relations team for the alliance of academia, Big Tech, the corporate HR bureaucracy, the culture industry, and the Democratic Party.

Just read some of the lines from last week’s Politico magazine feature, “The Rise and Fall of the Star White House Reporter”: “Washington reporters have long considered the role of White House correspondent to be the crown jewel of American political journalism,” Politico laments. “But during the age of Biden, a perch inside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room has become something altogether different. It’s become a bore.” Why? To be sure, “the dulling down of the White House beat is not due to a lack of reportorial talent in the room.” Of course not. “Rather, what is happening is the fulfillment of a central Biden promise. Running for office against Donald Trump . . . he pledged to make Washington news boring again. And, well, mission accomplished sir.” That’s followed by an absolutely jaw-dropping quote from an anonymous White House reporter:

“Jen [Psaki] is very good at her job, which is unfortunate,” one reporter who has covered the past two administrations from the room said. “And the work is a lot less rewarding, because you’re no longer saving democracy from Sean Spicer and his Men’s Wearhouse suit. Jawing with Jen just makes you look like an asshole.”

“For the vast majority of Americans, and even plenty of people in Washington, it’s all been a relief — the minute-by-minute churn of presidential politics is no longer so omnipresent and existential in their lives,” Politico subsequently notes. Of course, the Biden administration has been far from a relief for the “vast majority of Americans” — just look at the septuagenarian White House occupant’s approval ratings, which are now lower than Trump’s at a similar period in his presidency. But when progressives hand-wave about American majorities, what they mean is people who agree with us. It is a doctrine of progressive faith that the American people are on their side; if progressivism is ever and always on the “right side of history,” then it would be incomprehensible to conclude otherwise. Hence, every conservative victory is chalked up to cheating, ignorance or “disinformation.”

So why would the Times note the formation of a Disinformation Governance Board in the federal government? Those are their people. After all, the conservative media outlets that will undoubtedly be targeted by the new anti-disinformation push are the legacy media’s primary epistemic competitors; the right-wing news ecosystem, of which Tucker Carlson is a primary representative, is the preeminent threat to mainstream journalists’ power, prestige, and control of the national political narrative. The obsession with Carlson, and the silence regarding the Biden administration’s erosion of civil liberties, is a feature, not a bug. To use the fashionable left-wing neologism, “The system isn’t broken. It’s doing what it was designed to do.

Politics & Policy

‘There Is No Ministry of Truth,’ Minister of Truth Confirms

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Nina Jankowicz (@wiczipedia/Twitter)

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that Babylon Bee–style parodies often turn out to be prophetic. Yesterday, I jokingly wrote in a Twitter thread:

Turns out my joke was only slightly more extreme than a real Politico headline published around the same time: “Mayorkas cites misinformation about Homeland Security’s disinformation board.” (Or alternatively, as my friend Aaron Sibarium tweeted, “There is no Ministry of Truth,” Minister of Truth confirms.) Politico reports:

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday defended the department’s new disinformation board amid pushback from conservatives who say the effort is Orwellian.

“It works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech — protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy,” Mayorkas told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

Mayorkas in another interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” reiterated that the board will work on ways to address disinformation “in a way that does not infringe on free speech, does not infringe on civil liberties.”

“See? Nothing to worry about!” assures the man who’s overseeing the formation of a “Disinformation Governance Board,” whose newly appointed leader labeled the now-confirmed New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop “a Russian influence op.” “Trust us, we won’t be weaponizing this against Americans — our approach to policing disinformation will be ‘politically neutral,’” insists the employee of an administration that has routinely labeled inconvenient but factual news reports as “disinformation,” and is openly working with social-media platforms to censor content it deems as such. “Your civil liberties are safe with us,” says the White House who threatened to sic the feds on parents who protested at schoolboard meetings.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, etc. The problem with unaccountable government bureaucrats defining “disinformation” is that their definition inevitably encompasses true information that just happens to run contrary to their ideological priors. And if policing false or misleading claims is now the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, why shouldn’t the next Republican president use the new “disinformation” bureaucracy to go after the allegations of widespread voter suppression that will inevitably follow his or her victory? After all, disinformation about the sanctity of our electoral process is an existential threat to democracy . . . right? 

. . .Right?

Health Care

Rachel Levine’s Spectacular Mendacity (or Ignorance)

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Dr. Rachel Levine speaks after being sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Health in Washington, D.C., October 19, 2021. (Chris Smith/Department of HHS via Reuters)

Rachel (formerly Richard) Levine, the assistant secretary for health, told NPR that “there is no argument among medical professionals — pediatricians, pediatric endocrinologists, adolescent medicine physicians, adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, etc., — about the value and importance of gender-affirming care.”

This is an egregious falsehood. Whichever side of the debate one comes down on, it is a statement of spectacular mendacity or ignorance to say, “there is no argument.”

To anyone following this issue, in recent years there has been an unmissable and international debate within the medical profession.

As a result of this, much of Europe is moving in a more cautious direction. Whistleblower clinicians at Britain’s main gender youth clinic have warned of rushed evaluations and the wrongful transitions of autistic and same-sex attracted adolescents. Even in the United States, some specialists in medicalized gender transition — who, like Levine, also identify as transgender — have started to express their doubts. An editorial in the British Medical Journal said that “extreme viewpoints, either liberal or conservative, do not help the arguments or promote science.”

In claiming a consensus, Levine pointed to medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. Yet the official position of the AAP does not represent a consensus among its tens of thousands of members. Rather, it represents the views of the handful of authors of its policy statements and the committee members who rubberstamped their endorsement of “gender-affirming care.”

In 2018, Susan Bradley, a child psychiatrist with 40 years of clinical experience and research in gender dysphoria, who founded the Toronto Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, told National Review that:

There is no professional consensus on medical treatment of gender-dysphoric children and young adolescents. . . We do not know the long-term effects of medical transition in young people; these effects are mostly irreversible and include sterility and sometimes impaired sexual function. Watchful waiting, which was the treatment of choice for many years, has been dismissed as false and harmful with no evidence for this assertion.

Why say there is a consensus when there obviously isn’t one? One explanation is rhetorical. If there isn’t a consensus, then you’re forced to acknowledge that these treatments are medically controversial and experimental. Obviously, that makes them unjustifiable. Especially when the alternative, watchful waiting, worked so well.

Politics & Policy

Why Isn’t Joe Manchin Speaking Out against the Illegal ‘Cancellation’ of Student Loans?

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) speaks on Capitol Hill, December 1, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

If there were ever an idea that is guaranteed to annoy Joe Manchin, it’s this one. Manchin says that he can’t acquiesce to any policy that he can’t “go home and explain.” Well, this one is inexplicable — especially in West Virginia, which has the lowest percentage of college graduates of any state. Manchin says that he’s worried about see-sawing policy, and that this compels him to champion the Senate filibuster. Well, this move would involve the president of the United States making sweeping changes to the law on his own, in a way that the Speaker of the House has already confirmed is illegal. Manchin says he’s concerned about inflation. Well, this is an inflationary policy. Manchin says he’s vexed by the national debt. Well, this would add up to $1.7 trillion to it — without congressional input. Manchin says he’s alarmed by “careless spending and bad policies.” Well, this represents both. Manchin says he’s disturbed that the United States cannot “pay for the essential programs, like Social Security and Medicare.” This would make that problem worse. Manchin asks, “At some point, all of us, regardless of party, must ask the simple question — how much is enough?” Well, this is enough, and he should say so.

Politics & Policy

CEOs: Maybe We Shouldn’t Become the Next Disney 

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The revocation of the Reedy Creek district’s special status may well become a legal and policy morass, but this Wall Street Journal report suggests that it could indeed — as intended — provide an important countervailing incentive to keep corporations from getting bullied and cajoled into making themselves weapons in the culture war.

 

 

Politics & Policy

In Campaign Ad, Joe Manchin Boasts About Killing BBB

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How dead is Build Back Better? Joe Manchin is now using his opposition to it in campaign ads . . . for Republicans:

Culture

‘A Bite of Italy’

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The Grand Canal empty after Italy tightened lockdown measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak in Venice, Italy, March 22, 2020. (Manuel Silvestri/Reuters)

For a recent issue of the National Review magazine, I reviewed Stanley Tucci’s new memoir Taste: My Life through Food. I have to recommend my review especially to anyone who’s looking for a reason to get a new book, because several people have told me they finished my review and immediately bought the book for themselves or a loved one — I think when a reviewer loves a book, you can really tell.

I opened my review with this observation: “I occasionally joke that, when I’m with the Italian side of my extended family, the main thing we discuss at the dinner table is what we’re planning to eat the next day. It’s only sort of a joke.”

Over the weekend, I wished I’d had a few extra weeks to write about Tucci’s book, because I happened to come across this perfectly fitting passage in a cookbook by the late Marcella Hazan, who is often credited with being the first to teach Americans how to cook Italian food at home:

Cooking is ideal material for stories. The expression ‘cooking up a story’ is not an accidental one. The gathering and preparation of food is a tale without end, the oldest one in the memory of our race, perhaps the first use to which language may have been put at that prehistoric campfire. In Italy, when people meet and enter into conversation, even strangers, what they eat and what they cook is likely to be their number one topic. Anytime I happen to overhear such exchanges, whether I am on a water bus in Venice or in a suburban train out of Rome or on the air shuttle to Sardinia, it’s a nearly sure thing that that sooner or later—and it’s almost unfailingly sooner—the talk will be about food.

It turns out that, when it comes to Italians, my experience seems to be universal. I can’t recommend Tucci’s book highly enough, and while you’re at it, check out his CNN travel show Searching for Italy, which just started its second season last night with an episode on Venice.

Politics & Policy

Hey, Remember That Biden Polling Bounce in March That Supposedly Heralded His Big Comeback?

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President Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

If you look at the aggregate of polls regarding President Biden’s approval rating, it tells a simple story. Biden started out fairly popular and had okay numbers until the middle of summer 2021. His job approval really slid in August 2o21 during the debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it has remained low ever since. For almost all of this year, on the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s average approval rating has remained between 4o percent and 43 percent; his disapproval has remained between 51.6 percent and 53 percent.

Every now and then, some pollster will find a slightly better number for Biden, and it’s not hard to find media voices heralding those polls as a turning point, and that the Biden comeback is starting. Back in early March:

Biden’s favorability among registered voters has risen slightly to 45 percent, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted March 4-7. Although the president remains underwater, with 51 percent disapproving of his job performance, the survey marks a 4 percentage point increase since last week.

By late April, Biden’s approval rating was back down to 42 percent in the Politico/Morning Consult poll.

And Quinnipiac, around the same time, said:

In today’s poll, registered voters give Biden a negative 40–51 percent job approval rating with 9 percent not offering an opinion. This compares to a negative 38–52 percent job approval rating a week ago.

Biden’s job approval rating has been steadily inching higher since he hit a low in a January 12, 2022 Quinnipiac University poll when Americans gave him a negative 33–53 percent job approval rating and registered voters gave him a negative 35–54 percent job approval rating.

By April, Biden was still at 40 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval — perhaps an improvement from his lowest point, but hardly a serious comeback.

And finally, perhaps the poll that stirred the most false hope, back in March:

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey finds he is seeing a significant boost in his approval ratings across the board following his State of the Union address and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. . . Overall approval rating jumped to 47 percentup 8 points from the NPR poll last month.

Stuart Rothenberg declared that, “There is a chance that the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey may have found something more significant, not just a short-lived spike in Biden’s approval.”

Never mind. By late April, Biden was back to 42 percent approval, 53 percent disapproval in the Marist survey.

If you want to solve a problem, the first thing you have to do is see it clearly and completely and shake loose any lingering instinct to deny the existence of the problem. If you’re a Republican, you probably feel pretty good watching Democrats latch on to any slight polling movement — most of which is within the margin of error, and only a few percentage points better than other recent polls — convincing themselves that they’ve endured the worst of the storm and that everything is looking up.

Give CNN a little credit for telling its audience something it may not want to hear this morning: “The political environment is terrible for Democrats — and it may get worse.”

Elections

Beto Is Smarter Than I’d Thought

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Robert Francis O’Rourke, the puke-white Irish-American yuppie who is a perennial Democratic candidate in Texas and for some reason affects the Hispanic nickname “Beto,” first made a splash in national politics running against Ted Cruz in 2018. He lost, of course, but he didn’t lose as badly as expected, and so he became grandiose, running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Of course, he lost that one, too. Nobody expected him to win.

Hey, it beats working for a living.

During his short-lived presidential race, the signs and stickers for his failed Senate campaign became badges of honor among true believers in progressive strongholds such as East Austin, Montrose in Houston, and Oak Cliff in Dallas — a way of showing the world that you were into Beto before it was cool. You still see “Beto for Senate” stickers on Audis at Whole Foods all over Texas.

For his gubernatorial race — he is running for governor (of Texas) (really) — O’Rourke’s new signs and campaign material just say: “BETO” on them, rather than “Beto for Governor” or “Beto 2022” or whatever. That is smart. This way, after he loses the governor’s race, he can use the same signs for whatever race he plans to lose next time around. He ought to just get a lifetime supply printed up right now and take advantage of the bulk discount.

Hey, it beats working for a living.

World

Extraordinary People

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Savelii, ten, mourns his father, Ihor Krotkikh, in Irpin, Ukraine, May 1, 2022. (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

When Russian forces recently bombed Kyiv, they killed Vira Hyrych, who worked for RFE/RL. Those initials stand for “Radio Free Europe” and “Radio Liberty.” This organization is a jewel in the American crown. I have written about RFE/RL many times, most extensively in this piece four years ago.

The president of RFE/RL, Jamie Fly, said,

We are deeply saddened by the death of our Ukrainian Service staffer Vira Hyrych in Kyiv overnight. We have lost a dear colleague who will be remembered for her professionalism and dedication to our mission. We are shocked and angered by the senseless nature of her death at home in a country and city she loved. Her memory will inspire our work in Ukraine and beyond for years to come.

The Kremlin propagandists work night and day, and they have their echoers in the West — certainly in the American media. But there are people such as Vira Hyrych too (and no one can kill them all).

• Illia Ponomarenko, a defense reporter for the Kyiv Independent, wrote this:

What America is doing now in terms of sending weapons to Ukraine is a masterpiece of logistics. In all regards, starting from bureaucratic hurdles.

Americans can be proud of this.

• An interesting article from Jay Reeves, of the Associated Press:

Harrison Jozefowicz quit his job as a Chicago police officer and headed overseas soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. An Army veteran, he said he couldn’t help but join American volunteers seeking to help Ukrainians in their fight.

• A congressional delegation went to Kyiv, to meet and express solidarity with President Zelensky. Headed by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, the delegation was all Democratic. My worry is that Republicans, many of them, will regard Ukraine’s struggle as a Democratic concern: Whatever she is for, I am against. This would be tragic, and horrendous.

Said Boris Johnson, the British PM, “I’m more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and ensuring Putin fails.” Good.

• Here is a woman to know about: Lyubov Panchenko. She starved to death during the Russian occupation of Bucha. She was 85 years old. As Agata Tumiłowicz-Mazur says, “She was one of the artists who during the Soviet censorship revived Ukrainian art.”

• Mykola Kharchenko is from the village of Vremivka in the Donetsk region. He has now been evacuated. He is not intact, though. “I had to bury my daughter in the garden under a pear tree,” he said. “I speak Russian. From whom am I being freed? From my daughter?”

You may have heard this, before the war: People in the east of Ukraine are Russian-speaking and want to be with Russia. People in the west look to the EU and NATO. Some people repeated this ignorantly, and innocently; some people were maybe less ignorant and innocent.

There should be no ignorance and innocence now, however.

In December 1991, there was a Ukraine-wide referendum on independence. Ninety-two percent of Ukrainians said yes to independence. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and launched the Donbass War, almost 2 million people fled to other parts of the country: They are IDPs, or “internally displaced persons.”

People vote at ballot boxes — and also with their feet.

• “Lavrov compares Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to Hitler, who also ‘had Jewish blood.’” (Article here.) Lavrov is Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia. He is a sinister character, a fitting successor to Gromyko, and, before him, Molotov.

• In December 2019, I wrote the following:

On November 2, the Washington Post published a report headed “A presidential loathing for Ukraine is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.” It said that “Trump’s animosity to Ukraine ran so deep and was so resistant to the typical foreign policy entreaties about the need to stand by allies that senior officials involved in Ukraine policy concluded that the only way to overcome it was to set up an Oval Office meeting with Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.”

Such a meeting has not taken place. On December 10, however, Trump did meet Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. Lavrov is the Russian foreign minister. This meeting pained and bewildered many Ukrainians: Lavrov is not even a head of state or government. It is very rare for an American president to grant a one-on-one meeting with a foreign minister in the Oval Office. And Lavrov, of course, represents the country that has invaded and is warring against Ukraine.

On December 11, the day after the meeting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on what had taken place. “This is an important moment,” he said. “The very fact that the Russian minister was received by the U.S. president is an important point, of course.”

Oh, yes. If you were Ukrainian, what would you think? What would you conclude?

• In Ukraine today, Russians keep putting up statues of Lenin. This is to let the locals know: The old sheriff is back in town. (I think they know.)

• I recommend, if you can bear it, a report by Yaroslav Trofimov in the Wall Street Journal: “Russia’s Occupation of Southern Ukraine Hardens, With Rubles, Russian Schools and Lenin Statues.” The subheading of the article is, “Fearing conscription by Russia, Ukrainian men escape occupied areas with their families. ‘We are like aliens in the cities where we were born.’”

A nightmare.

• Here is a bulletin from the Kyiv Independent:

Mariupol mayor: Russian military killed twice as many residents as Nazi Germany. Vadym Boychenko said that in 2 years of Mariupol’s occupation during World War II, the Nazis killed 10,000 people. Russians have doubled the number of victims in 2 months of the Mariupol siege.

• Nazar Shashkov is an extraordinary person — another one. Three reporters from NBC wrote about him.

Facing potential conscription into Ukraine’s military, ballroom dance instructor Nazar Shashkov, 32, says he would be “useless” with a gun.

But the soft-spoken Shashkov has already faced more danger than some army recruits, having made repeated journeys behind enemy lines to rescue his students and others trapped in his besieged hometown of Mariupol.

A pro-Russia soldier “took a gun in his hand and told me to get on my knees in the corner,” he said, describing an encounter at a checkpoint in the city.

As he kneeled with his arms in the air, the soldier put the gun to his head and held it there for about a minute, Shashkov said.

“I was silent. I didn’t say anything,” he recalled, adding that the soldier eventually let him go but only after robbing him of his money and warning him that his next trip to Mariupol would be his last.

• From Glenn Greenwald, a tweet for our time:

Noam Chomsky, in an interview this week, says “fortunately” there is “one Western statesman of stature” who is pushing for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine rather than looking for ways to fuel and prolong it.

“His name is Donald J. Trump,” Chomsky says.

• Natan Sharansky once told me, “The biggest mistake the KGB made was letting Avital out.” When Sharansky was in the Gulag, his wife, Avital, campaigned for him around the world, with great effectiveness. Many spouses have been thrust into this role. Now it is the turn of Evgenia Kara-Murza, wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian democracy leader, who is in prison. See her here.

“I only emerge on rare occasions,” she says, “when my husband is either poisoned or thrown in prison.”

• A video that reaffirms humanity: A woman in South Wales greets the Ukrainian family she is taking in.

Politics & Policy

Another College Gets ‘Woke’

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Very few American college leaders have resisted the temptation to signal their “progressive” virtue by adopting various stances and policies. One that has clearly fallen for “wokeness” is Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C.

In today’s Martin Center article, Ashlynn Warta writes about the transformation of Meredith. It was founded as a women’s college with a clearly Christian focus in 1899. By the early years of this century, however, Meredith was starting to downplay that original Christian orientation, emphasizing instead its commitment to religious diversity.

And now comes the inevitable “antiracism” stuff.

Warta writes that, “The latest news from the school’s website points to the adoption of the ‘woke’ agenda. When referencing a university or college website, one would expect to see information about the degrees offered, how the school ranks among others, the rigor of its classes, and perhaps even some “perks” for attending the school (why should I choose this school over another?). Upon visiting Meredith’s website, however, one is met with announcements about its anti-racism initiative, the changing of a building name because of the namesake’s history, and the hiring of a new DEI coordinator. It’s clear that the school’s focus is shifting.”

Indeed so. Once you have a DEI coordinator, the plunge into the waste and folly of the great diversity obsession is inevitable. Such people always find ways to look busy and important with new programs and initiatives.

Warta rightly concludes that, “The university’s primary focus should be on educating students and preparing them for the challenges they will meet in the world. The job of a university is to teach students to be independent thinkers, provide them with opportunities for growth, and encourage them to be better citizens. There is no room in the university’s mission to pander to culturally expedient aims or to virtue signal its commitment to DEI while neglecting the true purpose of higher education.”

Politics & Policy

‘But You Can Make Decisions Too’

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Billy Joel at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., on November 19, 2014 (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

Have you ever boycotted, or otherwise stayed away from, an artist for political reasons? Or moral ones? (Often the political and the moral are related.) Have you ever decided not to listen to someone’s music, or read his novels, or watch his movies, because you objected to his politics or his moral conduct? Or do you make a strict separation between art and the rest?

This is the subject of a piece I have written, published on the homepage today (here). It is a personal piece, but one that everyone can relate to, I would think. The question has come up in recent weeks with the Russian assault on Ukraine and controversies surrounding Russian artists, especially strong and vocal backers of Putin.

I think of a phrase: “the bloody crossroads.” Lionel Trilling spoke of “the dark and bloody crossroads where literature and politics meet.” His student Norman Podhoretz wrote a book in the 1980s, using “the bloody crossroads” as his title. (Wonderful book.) Well, the crossroads where music and politics meet — and other arts and politics meet — can be fairly bloody as well.

In my piece, I quote two lyrics from popular songs, believe it or not. (Usually, I am quoting lyrics from unpopular songs.) Backers of Putin have made their decisions over the years. “But you can make decisions too.” That’s a line from a Billy Joel song. I have found many occasions in life to use it. And what are your priorities? What does your conscience dictate? It’s a pretty personal thing, isn’t it? I often have occasion to quote a Lyle Lovett song: “It may be no big deal to you, but it’s a very big deal to me.” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Now and then, you may take a private stand — a stand that’s important for you, personally, but that no one else knows about (or cares about). Otto Reich, the American diplomat and foreign-policy analyst, told me something a long time ago. In his early life, he avoided shaking the hand of Somoza, at a work event. Sometime later, he avoided shaking the hand of Pinochet. Born in Castro’s Cuba, he has always been anti-dictator, whether the dictator is left or right. Otto is a democrat. I myself arranged to be absent when a representative of an unsavory regime was present. I didn’t tell anyone else about it. I was just . . . not there. It mattered to no one but me.

Anyway, you might be interested in my piece today. It’s called “When Politics Invades Art.” I will quote a few lines, and then publish a letter that may make you smile.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the great soprano, made several films for Goebbels. What am I going to do about that? Schwarzkopf is sovereign, in hundreds of songs, and not a few opera roles.

My colleague Fred O’Brien sent me a note saying,

When I was growing up, and well into adulthood, my father would play his favorite recording of Messiah every Christmas. Once, knowing nothing about any of the artists, I decided to read the liner notes. The entry on Elisabeth Schwarzkopf gave a detailed account of her origins, her education, and the first few years of her career, up to a triumphant engagement (I forget in what piece) in 1939. Then the next paragraph began: “In 1945, she . . .”

!! Precisely so.

Politics & Policy

You Might Not Like the TSA, but at Least It Provides a Lot of Jobs

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One of the staple arguments the statists use for their prodigious programs is that they do good things and, at the same time, provide lots of “good” jobs with high pay, security, and benefits. Those of us who pay the taxes are supposed to think that such job creation is something to applaud.

In this FEE article, Professor Walter Block explains why that argument is fallacious.

Paying people to do unnecessary work has an opportunity cost, namely what other work they’d have done if the government weren’t absorbing their time.

As Block notes, private enterprise would undoubtedly figure out how to provide airline security at lower cost. Many of TSA’s 47,000 employees would have to find productive work if the feds hadn’t barged in with their solutions following 9/11.

Don’t fall for the claim that government programs are good because they “create jobs.” Instead, they waste a valuable resource — labor.

Elections

Trafalgar Ohio Poll: Vance 26, Dolan 22, Mandel 21

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A voter looks over her ballot at a polling station in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. (Jim Young/Reuters)

A new Trafalgar poll conducted from Friday to Sunday shows a competitive three-way race in Tuesday’s Ohio GOP Senate primary:

Trafalgar’s previous poll of the race was conducted just before former president Donald Trump endorsed J.D. Vance on April 15, and it showed Mandel at 28 percent, Vance at 23 percent, Gibbons at 14 percent, and Dolan at 12 percent.

The new Trafalgar survey the second public poll that finds Dolan surging and Vance leading in the final days of the campaign. An Emerson poll conducted Thursday and Friday pegged Vance at 26 percent, Mandel at 24 percent, and Dolan at 21 percent.

Politics & Policy

DHS Secretary Mayorkas: Nina Jankowicz Is ‘Absolutely’ Politically Neutral

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In a span of several minutes, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas insisted to CNN’s Dana Bash that the newly-formed Disinformation Governance Board will not monitor American citizens, that the DGB will lack “operational authority,” that the board’s executive director Nina Jankowicz is politically neutral, and dodged a question on whether he would be comfortable with a Trump administration running a similar board.

BASH: Let’s talk about a different topic, which is what you are calling, your department is calling the Disinformation Governance Board. You unveiled that this week.

Republicans are calling it Orwellian and comparing it to the Ministry of Truth in the novel “1984.” Can you clarify what exactly is this? What exactly will this Disinformation Governance Board do? Will it monitor American citizens?

MAYORKAS: Dana, I’m very pleased to do so.

It’s clear. I mean, those criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do. And I think we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do. The fact is that disinformation that creates a threat to the security of the homeland is our responsibility to address. And this department has been addressing it for years, throughout the years of the prior administration, on an ongoing basis, disinformation from Russia, China, Iran.

BASH: Right. We know the problems, but it’s still not clear to me how this Governance Board will act. What will it do?

MAYORKAS: So, what it does is, it works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech, protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy. And the board, this working group, internal working group, will draw from best practices and communicate those best practices to the operators, because the board does not have operational authority.

BASH: Will American citizens be monitored?

MAYORKAS: No.

BASH: Guarantee that?

MAYORKAS: So, what we do — we in the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens.

BASH: You don’t, but will this board change that?

MAYORKAS: No, no, no, the board does not have any operational authority or capability. What it will do is gather together best practices in addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries, from the cartels, and disseminate those best practices to the operators that have been executing in addressing this threat for years.

Notice Mayorkas repeatedly refuses to specify “the operators” and what the Disinformation Governance Board will want “the operators” to do. Presumably “the operators” means the social media companies who run the networks where people are posting disinformation. The Disinformation Governance Board will contact Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, and say that a particular post or video is disinformation… and then those companies will be expected to take it down? Suspend or terminate the accounts posting that disinformation?

When the administration will only discuss what the board will do in vague generalities, it is hard to begrudge anyone for not trusting it.

As for Mayorkas’ assurance that the Department of Homeland Security does not and will monitor American citizens… how exactly will DHS know that disinformation is reaching and harming Americans without monitoring what Americans are seeing, reading and hearing?

Mayorkas’ assurance about domestic surveillance is about as reliable as then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s assurance under oath that intelligence officials never collect data on Americans. “No, sir… Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.” The Edward Snowden leaks revealed that Clapper’s statement, delivered while under oath, was false. Clapper later wrote to Congress, “my response was clearly erroneous.”

Back to Mayorkas:

BASH: Republicans are criticizing your decision, the administration’s decision to choose Nina Jankowicz to lead this disinformation board. They say she is not somebody who is neutral. Your response?

MAYORKAS: Eminently qualified, a renowned expert in the field of disinformation.

BASH: And neutral?

MAYORKAS: Absolutely so.

BASH: Would you be OK, if Donald Trump were president, if he created this Disinformation Governance Board, or, if it is in place, and he wins again in 2024, that he’s in charge of such a thing?

MAYORKAS: I believe that this working group that gathers together — gathers together best practices, makes sure that our work is coordinated consistent with those best practices, that we’re safeguarding the right of free speech, that we’re safeguarding civil liberties, I think is an extraordinarily important endeavor.

Former NSA analyst John Schindler – about as far from a knee-jerk defender of Republicans or critic of Democrats as you can get – tears apart the DHS decision over at the Washington Examiner, pointing out that if this new board was not going to monitor Americans and was only focused on foreign disinformation, it wouldn’t be at DHS.

Placing this new board inside the DHS is the tell. This new shop clearly has a domestic mission since the [Global Engagement Center at the Department of State] is already handling foreign disinformation, while “Homeland” in the middle of the DHS title rather gives the game away. That unnecessary department was the worst accomplishment of former President George W. Bush that wasn’t called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Now, the Biden administration is injecting the DHS, a powerful law enforcement arm, nakedly into domestic politics.

The politics are rabidly partisan. For proof of this, we need not look any further than the head of this new board, Nina Jankowicz. A product of the NGO-Democratic complex, Jankowicz’s prolific Twitter feed offers a panoply of stridently woke takes on everything from proper pronouns to gender issues. More importantly, Jankowicz is herself a purveyor of disinformation. She pushed the now-infamous Steele dossier, which bona fide disinformation experts called out as fake not long after it appeared, while repeatedly presenting Hunter Biden’s controversial laptop as a Kremlin disinformation scheme rather than a legitimate news story.

Schindler concludes, “the Disinformation Governance Board clearly should not exist, particularly not inside the DHS. Congress must, without delay, remedy this threat to civil liberties raised by the Biden administration.”

Alas, with Nancy Pelosi running the House and Chuck Schumer running the Senate, that is unlikely to happen. But if (when?) Republicans take control of Congress in November, they can wipe out the funding for the Disinformation Governance Board, as well as grill Jankowicz in oversight hearings about what her board is doing.

However, this may be the one time in the history of oversight hearings that the majority party does not want to make the witness sing.

Ohio GOP Senate Poll: Vance 26, Mandel 24, Dolan 21

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A voter looks over her ballot at a polling station in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. (Jim Young/Reuters)

A new Emerson poll, conducted from April 28 to April 29, shows a very competitive race in this coming Tuesday’s Ohio GOP Senate primary, with J.D. Vance at 26 percent, Josh Mandel at 24 percent, Matt Dolan at 21 percent, and Mike Gibbons at 17 percent:

 

This is the first public non-partisan poll of the Ohio GOP Senate primary that shows Dolan in serious contention for the nomination. As I reported last Wednesday, Dolan has seen a spike in Google search interest in Ohio, and Trump attacked Dolan after a Democratic pollster found Dolan in first place, one point ahead of Vance: 

If Vance or Mandel (or less likely, Gibbons) wins, then the ready-made narrative about the Ohio Republican Party will be that the party of traditional Republicans such as retiring senator Rob Portman is dead and gone, and an Ohio Republican must become (or at least pretend to be) a true Trumpist in order to win a statewide election.

That narrative is complicated, however, by the fact that incumbent Ohio GOP governor Mike DeWine, heralded by the Atlantic as one of “The Last of the Establishment Republicans,” is in first place in his own primary (at 43 percent in the new Fox poll) — ahead of his closest opponent by nearly 20 points.

DeWine has earned Trump’s wrath for his condemnation of the former president’s role in instigating the Capitol riot. “President Trump’s continued refusal to accept the results without producing credible evidence of a rigged election started a fire that threatens to burn down our democracy,” DeWine said on January 7, 2021. “Yesterday’s acts were shameful and all Americans must denounce them, even those Americans [who] feel, incorrectly, that Donald Trump won.”

Yet the most likely outcome in Ohio next Tuesday is a gubernatorial primary win for DeWine and a Senate primary win for Vance, who, according to Trump’s endorsement, “has been a warrior on the Rigged and Stolen Presidential Election.”

The likely split decision in Ohio may be explained by something as unexciting as name I.D.: DeWine has been a fixture of GOP politics for decades, serving in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, Ohio attorney generalship, and Ohio governorship. In the Senate race, by contrast, the only candidate with a statewide profile before 2022 is Josh Mandel (who held a relatively obscure office as state treasurer).

A split decision, of course, isn’t the only possible outcome. If primary voters consolidated behind one of DeWine’s two challengers, DeWine could lose. And if three out of four of DeWine voters backed Matt Dolan, the only Republican who hasn’t embraced Trump’s stolen-election narrative, then Dolan would win.

While the outcome remains unlikely, I spoke to Dolan on Tuesday about his bid to pull off such a stunning upset.

“The undecided voter is still the winner,” Dolan said of the polls when asked about the view that the Senate primary is a two-man race between Vance and Mandel.

Dolan has campaigned as the only candidate who wants to move beyond Trump. When I asked him what it really means to move beyond Trump, he said: “We’ve got to focus on the crisis that the Biden administration has caused in our country, and the direction they’re taking our country, which is extremely scary. We’ve got to return to being constitutional conservatives.”

“The Trump policies are fine,” he added. “The Trump-Republican policies are what we have to be focusing on, not anything else.” Dolan has said he’d vote for Trump if he’s the 2024 nominee, and he committed to backing any Republican nominee in the Senate race against Democrat Tim Ryan.

Dolan got into the race late (in September), and while he has been steadily gaining in both Fox News and Trafalgar polls, Jane Timken, the Ohio state GOP chair who has been trying to straddle the MAGA-mainstream divide, has been slipping. “What does Jane Timken stand for? She has yet to find a message. You call it straddling. I call it searching for a message,” Dolan told me.

Dolan also knocked Mike Gibbons for suggesting that the middle class should pay more in taxes; hit Mandel for “putting his finger in the air” in his various campaigns; and called Vance’s Ukraine comments “a slap in the face to the Ukrainian Ohioans. It’s also a statement that Putin and Chairman Xi in China must love, that we don’t care anymore when dictators invade a sovereign nation.”

Dolan’s family owns the Cleveland Guardians (the Major League Baseball team formerly known as the Indians), and both Vance and Trump have gone after Dolan for the name change.

“I come from a big family, and my family made a decision and I’m going to stand by my family’s decision,” Dolan told me, adding that it has nothing to do with important issues like inflation, the border, or drugs.

Later in the day on Tuesday, Trump issued a statement hitting Dolan on the matter:

Anybody who changes the name of the “storied” Cleveland Indians (from 1916), an original baseball franchise, to the Cleveland Guardians, is not fit to serve in the United States Senate. Such is the case for Matt Dolan, who I don’t know, have never met, and may be a very nice guy, but the team will always remain the Cleveland Indians to me!

Was Trump’s decision to attack Dolan on Tuesday evening a sign that Dolan might actually have a chance of pulling off an upset? Before Trump issued his broadside, a Democratic pollster released polling that showed a four-way race in the Ohio GOP Senate primary, with Dolan one point ahead of Vance.

Blueprint Polling is the polling arm of Chism Strategies, a Democratic firm based in Texas. “It’s really a four-way race at this point,” says Brannon Miller of Chism Strategies. “Any of the top four candidates — Gibbons, Vance, Dolan, and Mandel — any of the four could win.”

Miller says the firm isn’t working on behalf of any candidate in Ohio and simply polled the race to “test our mettle.”

“I sort of expected that Vance would have surged following the Trump endorsement,” Miller said. He also thinks it is possible that Dolan could be closer to a ceiling because undecided voters skew conservative. “Dolan is drawing half of his support from self-described moderates, who make up less than a quarter of the Republican primary electorate.” says Miller. “He’s got a slight lead among those who say they’re somewhat conservative.” The Blueprint poll found that among the third of the GOP electorate that are undecided, 40 percent describe themselves as very conservative, 36 percent as somewhat conservative, 18 percent as moderates, and 5 percent as liberals.

Dolan’s backing among moderates likely has more to do with his disposition toward Trump than any particular policy issue. Prior to the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Dolan did vote against a “heartbeat bill” to ban most abortions on the grounds that it would be struck down in federal court, but that’s a tactical dispute that has divided pro-life groups in Ohio over the years. Dolan said in a 2020 state senate debate: “I’m pro-life, so if Roe v. Wade got turned to the states, I would vote to ban abortion with the exception of rape and incest.”

Another inkling of increased support for Dolan: Google search trends in Ohio show that Dolan has overtaken Gibbons, Timken, and Mandel but is still generating less interest than Vance. Too little, too late? Probably. But crazier things have happened in politics. And DeWine’s likely victory would prove, even if Dolan loses, that Dolan’s theory of the race wasn’t crazy at all.

PC Culture

The Disney Executive Who Donated $10 Million to Help Trump in 2020

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Mickey Mouse appears for Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in 2003. (Charles W. Luzier/Reuters)

A great irony that I believe went unobserved and unmentioned, in the recent controversy surrounding Disney, and its fight with Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Republicans in general . . .

In the 2020 cycle, America First Action committee was a super PAC dedicated to supporting federal candidates who back the policy agenda of President Donald Trump. When you add up all of the PAC’s donations received in the cycle, and sort the donations by donor employer, the single biggest employer is . . . the Walt Disney Company, at $10.5 million.

However, that does not mean that the Disney corporation is teeming with closeted fans of Donald Trump.

That $10.5 million comes from Ike Perlmutter, formerly the CEO of Marvel Entertainment and still the chairman of that entity; Perlmutter’s wife, Laura, also donated millions; she donated $22 million in total to right-of-center groups in the 2020 cycle.

The Perlmutters are still active donors this cycle. They have both donated the legal maximum to Georigia GOP senatorial candidate Herschel Walker, Florida congressional candidate Brady Duke and Florida Rep. Brian Mast, as well as large donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee and Valor PAC, a leadership PAC associated with Mast.